The virus of the media turns on Man U with a vengeance

By Tony Attwood.

Poor Man U.  For so many years the darling of the media.  A media so bewitched by what they are and what they might be, that not a word could be said against them.

And now those naughty fellows in the newspapers can write such things as, “Referees are not the only ones who need to up their game. That call extends to Manchester United’s Monday night divers, the England captain and the army of moral relativists who seek to erase every sin in their own team by pointing out everybody else’s.”

The Independent has a “10 point recovery plan for Man U” on the basis that the writer of the piece actually knows more about managing a big football team than your actual manager.  You don’t have to be a Man U supporter to think that is unlikely.  We’ve had that kind of stuff about Arsenal for years.

Mind you we are not off the hook totally as in another article, the Indy is still on its anti-Arsenal run, telling us that an in-depth analysis of Arsenal’s FA Cup form last year reveals that it is the same old same old Arsenal, beating Tottenham, Liverpool and Everton, only to stumble on meeting Wigan.  (Wow that is really “in depth”.)

So we can clearly see Arsenal are going to lose in the semi finals because a) we always slip up against little teams and b) the two matches we have lost recently were the most important matches – Monaco and Tottenham.

An interesting logic, and of course no proper analysis of why those two were the most important.  Given the way the league is shaping up if we had to lose to anyone in the league I’d chose losing to Tottenham over Man City, because I think Tottenham is not going to overtake us for a Champs League spot and just happens to be close by (a bit like Orient) while Man C are catchable, so knocking them back matters.

And what of Man U?

Well, Di María has come in for an interesting analysis.  Apparently he is “so frustrated” by the way Man U is being run “he ended up grabbing the referee.”

Now seeing inside a player’s head is an interesting skill, and anyone who can do it, could become a very good manager indeed.  But as always we get the assertion and nothing much behind it.

The argument is that he is a quality attacking midfielder who through mismanagement has become anxious and trapped.  ” This is a top-class, hugely experienced player who, for all his energy, has so often been composed when it mattered. And yet right now, employed as a narrow-focus inverted winger cutting in to produce cross after cross towards the back post – United’s goal came from a moment of Di María invention: a cross to the near post – he looks a little baffled at times.”

This is the same sort of attack that we have seen on Wenger week after week month after month from journalists who then ignore anything that doesn’t fit their view of the world, and pounce on the other bits.

On the surface that analysis above could be right, but I don’t know what the Man U manager is trying to sort out for next season – and I am not sure the press does either.

But I know that the sort of constraints Wenger had (primarily money) don’t exist for Man U, as there is cash in the bank and the owners like to draw their £100m or so each year to prop up their other ailing businesses.  But they also know that success needs investment, and they might want to sell some more shares soon (these luxury yachts are so expensive, and appearing at Monte Carlo with last year’s model is just so un-American) so they need long term profit.  So they’ll invest.  Maybe this is an experimental year before the big buying in the summer.

But long term strategy doesn’t excite journalists and editors (I know because I had loads of long term strategy articles turned down when I was a scribbler in centuries past).  So we get,

“Why has Januzaj featured so sparingly this season? Why was Fellaini employing his scattergun physicality in an advanced position in the first place? Fellaini is a fine, versatile player with a rare gift for controlling the ball on his Velcro-grade chest. It is legitimate tactic. But should it really be the chief attacking ploy of a Manchester United team at home to Arsenal?”

And then there’s an appeal to the past.  OK in the attacks on Wenger we didn’t get this so much – not many journalists remembering George Graham’s Almost Invincible season, and none really being aware of that amazing Chapman-Shaw-Allison heritage – but Man U can be hit with it.

“United are a fine, charismatic English institution, a club that have been a shared national sporting jewel since the great years of Matt Busby’s rebuilding after the second world war. The club’s current hard-won commercial success is a function of this style, a red-shirted romance that cuts across even the inane corporate claptrap of the modern global game.”

I appreciate at this point that you might need to visit the latrines for a moment, so please do take a pause.  But do come back as there is more…

The goal, even in moments of retrenchment, should be to build a team capable of challenging the best in Europe. This should be the guiding principle behind every decision. And yet nothing in United’s long-ball approach speaks to this. At Old Trafford on Monday Van Gaal’s outfield players launched 59 long passes and attempted just 11 dribbles all night (to Arsenal’s 23). It made for an abrasive spectacle that required some policing by the referee. But again the story here is United’s tactics, not the split-second responses of the man in yellow to the moments of raggedness they naturally generate.

So here we see it.  The awful virus that has infected the footballing soul of Arsenal for years has finally found another body in which to reside.  The children have found another entity to kick.  If we can introduce some good antiviral drugs now to the body and soul of Arsenal we might be able to get rid of the infection for good and we can then enjoy the suffering of others as in…

 “United on a night when, judging by the ambient noise, they finished a distinct third behind Arsenal and Michael Oliver,,,”

What is missing though is cause and effect.  The writing is very funny – the sort of stuff that Blacksheep comes out with on the journey to and from the game I am forced to it call “droll”.

“Inviting the headmaster of Dutch post-Total Football to admire a bustling English striker is a bit like asking a Frenchman to feast his eyes on a hunk of pre-sliced English cheddar. Yes, he’ll sniff and say all very well but it’s hardly Brie de Meaux. But in the end if it’s the only thing in the fridge he might just end up making a grudging soufflé.”

But why but why but why?:

That’s the bit I suspect the press will never go near, because their love affair with Sir Alec F Word still resonates.

Sir F clearly wanted that last championship win before he retired and he gambled everything on the last throw of the dice – including a fortune on a long term contract RVP.  The RVP gamble paid off – he got his year out of him, but at the cost of having to pay him for each extra year when he’s injured.

Sir F left no real emerging team for the future, and the handover to Moyes was a silly mess.  Changing managers is always tough, changing twice in two seasons is tougher.

The press won’t go back over this history because they won’t touch Sir F Word… so they need other things to hit.  For some reason they are not even attacking the board and the owners.  Man U’s manager is the current target of choice.

So just for a moment, we can relax.  Someone else is being hammered day by day, in a process in which all the right questions are never being asked.

Maybe this treatment could be shared around?  For the next year it is Man U.  Then it could be Tottenham, Chelsea, Man C, Liverpool…. If they had a year of the virus each that’s five years of peace for us.

Arsenal and Wenger secure the all-time semi-finals records


34 Replies to “The virus of the media turns on Man U with a vengeance”

  1. Yes – Chelsea seem to be getting it in the neck today – and deservedly so. Matic and Oscar appeared to pick up knocks – but the whole team seemed very jaded. They will have some opportunity to rest now, unfortunately, but you never know… Have a feeling that Chelsea’s ability to hang on at West Ham last week may prove decisive.

  2. LVG opened himself to criticism when he stated at the season’s beginning that he only needed three months to implement his system, which was rather a short time I thought.
    Then he changed it to six months, and as of now no one still really knows exactly what that system is.

    His league position is mostly due to getting results in spite of performances, for which the game against Arsenal at the Ems was a prime example. How we didn’t score four or five against them , I will never know.

    His substitutions are questionable and his excuses are wearing thin.
    His latest one was not having a 20 goals per season striker, which is kind a hard to get when his high priced summer acquisition , Falcao, spends more time on the bench than on the pitch.

    Playing a natural scorer like Rooney in a deep midfielder’s role , or pulling him out of the game when he’s just scored a goal , is a sure way of ensuring he won’t have a 20 goal striker this season.

    United players look confused and unhappy and there’s certain lack of creativity in the squad.

    Is it unrealistic to expect LVG to turn them around in one season?
    Maybe not, but those were his goals spelled out at the start of the term.
    I fully expect them to finish out of top four.

  3. In addition to not being touched, it might be a good idea to introduce a ban on speaking to the referee during the game. The complaining, advising and childish chattering by the gruesome Rooney on Monday night, towards the referee was an irritating aspect….not for the first time by the well-known cheating diver.

  4. It’s hardly a media frenzy against Utd. Just imagine for one minute what the reaction would have been if Arsenal had list 2-1 and it was Arsenal players diving and cheating to try and steal the result?

  5. Another interesting piece Tony.

    Man Utd are in limbo IMO and living on past glory. LVG seems to spend more time defending his tactic at press conferences than putting square pegs in square holes where they belong. Like @Tom rightly said, playing your best goal scorer who is a striker in midfield makes no sense when you have other players like Mata who can play that role. I hold a belief that Moyes would have done a better job with this team. At least the team with £150m less in transfer spending last season were not this bad.

    Meanwhile I say an article yesterday with the title 5 THINGS ARSENAL MUST DO TO BEAT WEST HAM and the 1st thing that came to my mind was, why is the writer not in football management if he knows so much. Its the rubbish we see everyday and it can be really annoying.

  6. Cant see them leaving off Arsenal really, does not stop them starting on others though.

    Chel$ on their way to messing it all up now. 🙂

  7. Interesting that the Sky commentators, notably Souness, were so openly expressing disgust at Chelsea’s approach. How long will it take for them to explain it as the direct product of Mourinho’s toxic approach to football?

    Perhaps the media adulation of this obnoxious man may then come to an end.

    I am sure that the criticism of Man Utd will be shortlived. In a way, it is a short term media necessity, in order to explain a defeat by Arsenal. After all, the result couldn’t have allowed them to give us credit, since we always bottle it against Man Utd et al, out team lacks leaders, our defence is suspect, our pretty passing football lacks an end-product, our manager doesn’t do tactics and our players don’t like it “up em”.

  8. Yep, Arsene Wenger and Arsenal are the whipping boys of what you at Untold call aaa journalists. As long as we at Arsenal continue to stick with our polished, patient and frugal? Manager, so long will they continue to target Arsene and Arsenal. We have not allowed Oil money and arrogant, overbearing Oligarchs to take over the soul of our club. So, we and our club are fair game. I am just thinking (just as an aside though) if Mourinho will survive this exit from the Champions league. He should be the next target for the aaa journalists. Then we will see how he handles them. LVG, welcome to the virus called sports journalism in the UK.

  9. Like Tom I can see United slipping up towards the end of the season. Frequently we hear about players being used to attaining a top 4 finish and being experienced in the ways of achieving it. United are not , it’s a thin line but they are used to fighting for the top , not scrapping for the also ran places. I think that they will run out of steam and struggle with their run in which contains a number of matches against teams in the top half of the table.

  10. well well well…Looks like Bale is coming back to England. IF, big IF. The media is to be believed. Does Walter know something…..

  11. In other events, after the stunning header David Luiz scored yesterday in the knock out of oil money Chel$, it’s IMO that Qatari rich P$G has recouped £25m of the £50m paid to Chelsea for his services.

    Meanwhile have you guys noticed that this is turning out to be the week where the rejected stones are becoming the corner stones. First Welbeck (Monday), then Klass-Jan Huntelaar (Tuesday) and now David Luiz (Wednesday). I wonder who next will be the player punishing the ground he use to walk with a goal. I sincerely hope it will not be Alex Song on Saturday.

  12. If you are to try hold the media to account. which I do on a haphazard level and this site does in a much more organised way, this week is about the richest bounty you’ll ever get. Not so much because things have been said which contradict so much earlier talk, though I’m sure it does, but because there’s been an unusual admittance of things which will make hypocrisy so clear, and so suspect, if ignored in the future. United hassle refs and go down shamelessly easily, Chelsea play Total Cynic Football, etc

    The United stuff was pretty amazing, the Chelsea match and all the commentary and punditry should be filed away securely and backed up on a couple of hard-drives.

    Carragher, Sounness, Neville, Mourinho, all said things which if they were to stick consistently with would change the dialogue in the country, or in Mourinho’s case make it harder for the tenaciously dim and truth-averse to go along with the pretense he doesn’t have all the time in the world for gamesmanship.

    Problem for me is keeping a lid on it and dismissing my hopes things could be changing a bit for the better. That’s dangerously hopeful.

  13. It’s been a good week. Two of the games giants reduced to the most cynical play have ended their respective games, humbled.
    Yes, Utd are getting it in the neck, and just look at today’s comments about Chelsea! But no, Mourinho is a genius, it would never happen to him!
    Hilarious stuff really.
    Watched much of the Utd game for a second time, have to mention the ref again, his second half performance, it was clearly frustration with Utd players tactics, but almost seemed a pent up fcuk you to Mike Riley? Was there more in that performance than meets the eye?
    As for Chelsea, with PSGs business model, I cannot sit and say that football won, but they did stand up to Chelsea’s dark arts, they played much better football, and deserved what they got over both legs.
    Just hope we can join them, have a feeling the boys are going to give it a real go.

  14. Pretty sure that if Diego Costa wasn’t a footballer, he’d be serving at least 30 years in a prison right now.

  15. Diego Costa is a spoilt five year old stuck inside the body of a 65 year old heavy smoker

  16. Juan Mata not Fellaini who supposed to be their play maker. ManUre suddenly short of this player type. Cleverley, Januzaj (he’s too young) simply not good enough. This is the main reason why ManUre attack as good as a rumble in the bar. So shitty. LOL!! I got the feeling that this FA result was just a start of another spiral down move for ManUre. Boy, your doomsday are coming red devils!

  17. Tony
    Fantastic article!
    I was forced to read as some “friend” emailed the link to me and asked me to read it.
    If I had written anything like this for a writing contest in French, I would have gotten UN GRAND ZERO.
    The whole article is pretentious and not based on any evidence whatsoever.
    We should look into evidence-based (or “evidenced / based” as other say) football journalism and blogging.
    Another amuseur, LeG… is asking for Arsene to stick to plan B for the rest of the season.
    This when (after Chelsea’s hilarious exit from the CL) they just realize that AW does do tactics…
    Back to the horrible article you reviewed, a small “hint” showed the utter ignorance of the author.
    A cheese expert should never bring up BRIE DE MEAUX as an example of fine (pr even average) French cheese.
    No, Brie is a good export, but you have to at least go with a vintage Roquefort to show some knowledge.
    Brie is just a neutrally tasting camembert. Miles (well, kilometers) away from the real good cheeses:
    Roquefort, Banon, Bleu d’Auvergne, Bleu des Causses, Fourme de Cantal, Forme d’Ambert, Livarot, or Laguiole.
    Once again, elated to read your superb deconstruction of this “article” from the mainstream ignorant media.

  18. Mandy Dodd

    “It’s been a good week. Two of the games giants reduced to the most cynical play have ended their respective games, humbled.”


    A match and an ensuing week I was dreading has indeed turned out in a fashion I could not of predicted in a Million years.

    It started with Liverpool. I fully expecting them to get a helping hand through to the next round and they got anything but. A very decent Refereeing performance to get the ball rolling.

    Old Trafford. A Refereeing performance I could not of foreseen in my wildest dreams. Another very good performance. United reduced to there cynical worst.

    Chelsea. Looking knackered, clueless and graceless. A cesspit of a match, but at least with the correct outcome.

    And finally the media, or at least the bits I’ve seen and heard, have finally aimed there vitriol at the correct targets. Cynical, cheating United. Cynical, cheating Chelsea.

    Now it’s a bit early to draw too many long term conclusions, but.

    The Referees:

    Yes they where much better, but it was the FA CUP. Is that relevant? Will we see similar performances under Rileys direct glare in the PL? I truly hope so. Only time will tell.

    The Media:

    Hmmmm. Yes they are having a real go at United, but is that more to do with there reluctance to give Arsenal/Wenger the credit deserved rather than a true desire to turn on United. I cant imagine there hatred of Wenger has abated one iota and I fully expect the full force of there bile to be turned on him once again at the earliest opportunity.

    And yes they are giving it to Chelsea with both barrels, but following last nights debacle they could hardly do anything else. Is that the end of the Jose love in? Not a chance.

    Still, it has been a very strange and enjoyable week for an Arsenal fan.

    I feel like I’ve been living in some parallel Universe where everything is back to front. Did I transport down some kind of Worm hole on Friday Night? The big question is, was it a one way ticket or a return, in which case I could find myself back in the old Universe come 3 O’clock on Saturday. I really hope not.

  19. Good post , Jambug.

    Hopefully the presence of Anthony Taylor on the touchline on Saturday isn’t some portent of being dragged back from that parallel universe into a real, less pleasant one. Wenger actually has some tough calls to make selection wise, given it’s a Sat,Tues, Sat week. I’d be extremely confident otherwise, but now it seems tricky to manage. Kos surely can’t play the three.

    Super Sunday should be fun this week. I think both United and Chelsea have tough fixtures. Well, what do they do, teams who are extremely reliant on dirty stuff in clutch situations, on the back of painful defeats and heavy criticism of their behaviour, do they try play it relatively clean- which for me increases their chances of losing/drawing by as much as 10 per cent- or do they stick with their normal ways?

    Chelsea have a cushion at least, Utd really can’t afford to drop any points. Will they really resist trying for cheap pens and free-kicks and all the rest, despite the rare spotlight shone on them this week?

  20. United’s play over many years has been based on dropping like stones within first, Beckham’s and then Ronaldo’s range . Having compliant referees has helped too.

  21. This sort of stuff has been going on for many years, its just that under the stewardship of Ol’ Purple Nose, no-one dared to say anything. During Manus 20 years of trophies, it was abundantly clear to all football fans (who were not deluded Manu fans), that there was more going on than simply winning football matches by playing football, or by playing within the rules. Diving, cheating, intimidating the referee, officials and media personnel, bullying tactics on the field and off, more off-side goals than other premiership teams, bizarre refereeing decisions, and all manner of eyebrow-raising events not in the spirit of fairness. Their fan base was built on the Munich Air Disaster, and a general air of “we deserve every trophy every season regardless of whether we merit it or not”. Ol’ Purple Nose appeared to have some hold over officials and the media, and it won’t surprise me if some revelations come out in years to come, from various people in the game or the media about him. All this resulted in Manu becoming a truly hated club because of the tactics and aura over the way their success was reached. When Liverpool were winning all their trophies in the 70s and 80s, there was not the same aura about the club. Yes, every other team and fan of every other team were fed up of Liverpool winning everything, but there was no hatred among fans in general, because Liverpool played the best football at the time, and the economics of the old first division did not promote mafia-like behaviour from the biggest clubs. Now, without the stewardship of Ol’ Purple Nose, when Manu players attempt the same tactics, they are suddenly found out, and look ridiculous. Suddenly, referees are making the decisions they should have done over twenty years, suddenly, the media are commenting on the shameful cheating behaviour, however, the deluded Manu fans are still deluded, sending racist tweets and death threats to Arsenal players. Apparently, diving and cheating is still part of the perfectly acceptable armoury of Manu, legitimately scoring against them deserves death?
    In the entire history of the Premiership, all winners of the Premier League have, with the exception of one team, won the trophy by spending huge amounts of money. Manu, Chelski, Man City and even Walkers Millions at Blackburn. You can’t, it seems, win the biggest trophies without hundreds of millions, or at least more millions than the other clubs. Arsenal are the only club to have won their trophies without spending huge amounts each season. Wenger may be tactically naive sometimes, and too stubborn, but no-one can argue that his success was bought. Arsenal have never been given huge amounts of pocket money by a rich relative, so they can skip down to the corner shop to buy their trophies. The Premier League was always going to turn out like this. Sport loses its integrity when tainted by the economics of privilege. The economics of privilege encourages bullies into the game, and then the normalisation of cheating begins.
    Chelski and Man City are two other examples of what happens when economics takes over. When Maureenio was sacked last time, did Chelski stop being successful? No. Put any manager in charge of a team that costs a few hundred millions and he will achieve some success, even if he spends his time asleep.
    Perhaps we will now see Manu in their real light, without the leadership of a school-yard bully on and off the pitch. I look forward with interest to see what the media unearth about what really went on over the first twenty years of the Premier League.

  22. Imo the main reason for LVG getting a hammering is because he often treats the media like the idiots they are, and as well all know the all wise media dont like to be challenged

  23. Captain hindsight

    You may have a point. Even though I don’t always agree with some of the ‘twaddle’ he comes out with, he certainly doesn’t cow tow to them and has the balls to call them out when he doesn’t agree with them.

    But as you say, they don’t really like that

  24. @jambug – you do know that he actually had shown his balls to his players at Bayern to make them sure he can make tough decisions regardless of the player’s name? 😀

  25. 10 things in golf that sound dirty

    1. Look at the size of his putter.

    2. Oh, dang, my shaft’s all bent.

    3. You really whacked the hell out of that sucker.

    4. After 18 holes I can barely walk.

    5. My hands are so sweaty I can’t get a good grip.

    6. Lift your head and spread your legs.

    7. You have a nice stroke, but your follow through leaves a lot to be desired.

    8. Just turn your back and drop it.

    9. Hold up. I’ve got to wash my balls.

    10. Damn, I missed the hole again.

  26. Tony: I am re-posting the following with two corrections, please forgive me!
    Fantastic article!
    I was forced to read the article reviewed by Tony, as some “friend” emailed the link to me, and asked me to read it.
    If I had written anything like this for a writing contest in French, I would have gotten UN GRAND ZERO.
    The whole article is pretentious and not based on any evidence whatsoever.
    We should look into evidence-based (or “evidenced / based” as other say) football journalism and blogging.
    Another amuseur, LeG… is asking for Arsene to stick to plan B for the rest of the season.
    This when (after Chelsea’s hilarious exit from the CL) they just realize that AW does do tactics…
    Back to the horrible article you reviewed, a small “hint” showed the utter ignorance of the author.
    A cheese expert should never bring up BRIE DE MEAUX as an example of fine (or even average) French cheese.
    No, Brie is a good export, but you have to at least go with a vintage Roquefort to show some knowledge.
    Brie is just a neutrally tasting camembert. Miles (well, kilometers) away from the real good cheeses:
    Roquefort, Banon, Bleu d’Auvergne, Bleu des Causses, Fourme de Cantal, Forme d’Ambert, Livarot, or Laguiole.
    Once again, elated to read your superb deconstruction of this “article” from the mainstream ignorant media.

  27.’s best England jokes –

    Q. What would Glenn McGrath be if he was English?
    A. An all-rounder.

    Q. What’s the English version of a hat-trick?
    A. Three runs in three balls.

    Q. What advantage do Eoin Morgan and Jonathan Trott have over the rest of their teammates?
    A. At least they can say they’re not really English.

    Q. Why don’t English fielders need pre-tour travel injections?
    A. Because they never catch anything.

    Q. What do you call a Englishman with 100 runs against his name?
    A. A bowler.

    Q. What do Matt Prior and Michael Jackson have in common?
    A. They both wear gloves for no apparent reason.

    Q. What is the most proficient form of footwork displayed by English batsmen?
    A. The walk back to the pavilion.

    Q. What is the definition of optimism?
    A. An England batsman putting on sunscreen before going out to bat.

    Q. What is the difference between an England batsman and a Formula 1 car?
    A. Nothing! If you blink you’ll miss both.

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