Analysis Opinion Insight

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Winter of Discontent

With our serious ambitions in Europe over for another season, I don't think LvG will take the Europa League seriously, even though I think we should try to win it, given it'll help us keep the players in form during the spring, give the club enough games to give the younger players a forum to impress; I think it's time for the club to make some tough decisions in regards to regeneration. With 6 players now over the age of 29, I think it's time to actively reduce the average age of the squad, trust in the leadership of Smalling, Jones, Blind, Mata and Schneiderlin.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Manchester United vs Newcastle United

With the news that Pedro signed for Chelsea and that we aren't looking for a new striker this transfer window, many fans are on edge in regards to our trophy winning prospects this season.

Rooney's poor form has been acknowledged by both the player and manager, and his self awareness is said to be crucial to recovering his good form.  

Having won 3 from 3 this season and having kept 2 clean sheets in the league already, we should be pretty confident taking on Newcastle at Old Trafford.

 ESPNFC produced this nice infographic summarizing the issues

They also reported on the fact that Schweini might start and DeGea isn't

The predicted line-ups from the Guardian's match preview

I'm predicting a 3-0 win. 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Saving England from the Scribes

Fleet Street's impact on the Three Lions 

After what was deemed to be a "poor performance" against Norway, ( Ironically, they did win 1-0 with a bunch of kids, in what was an otherwise meaningless friendly) has got the British broadsheets and tabloids bemoaning the recent performances of the players, the results at the world cup, the talent of the manager and the relatively low percentage of English players playing in the Premier League. Fans are apathetic, even those that prepaid for tickets didn't turn up. Any hope that the national side will end what will be 50 years of trophy-less tournament participation in France in 2016 is very low if not non-existent and with performances not entertaining; fans, pundits and journos alike are impatient for improvement and are eager to see change.

Consider this speech from one Dolores Umbridge from Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix and apply it to football.  

"The Ministry of Magic (Football Association) has always considered the education of young witches and wizards (Footballers) to be of vital importance.The rare gifts with which you were born may come to nothing if not nurtured and honed by careful instruction. The ancient skills unique to the wizarding (football) community  must be passed down the generations lest we lose them for ever. The treasure trove of magical (football) knowledge amassed by our ancestors must be guarded, replenished and polished by those who have been called to the noble profession of teaching.Every headmaster and headmistress of Hogwarts (coaches, managers & administrators at the FA/St George's Park) has brought something new to the weighty task of governing this historic school (organization), and that is as it should be, for without progress there will be stagnation and decay. There again, progress for progress's sake must be discouraged, for our tried and tested traditions often require no tinkering. A balance, then, between old and new, between permanence and change, between tradition and innovation because some changes will be for the better, while others will come, in the fullness of time, to be recognized as errors of judgement. Meanwhile, some old habits will be retained, and rightly so, whereas others, outmoded and outworn, must be abandoned. Let us move forward, then, into a new era of openness, effectiveness and accountability, intent on preserving what ought to be preserved, perfecting what needs to be perfected, and pruning wherever we find practices that ought to be prohibited." 

It's not that the English journalists want to see the side or the manager fail, it's just that, for me, they don't ask the right questions of the FA or the manager. Instead of "can we win the world cup in (insert tournament year) " they should be asking, "how can we set up the football system to win the world cup in ..." It's how you can get the FA to get rid of the MBA/CA/Lawyers out of the upper echelons of the football side of the organization. the Media should also be pressuring ex-football players, both men and women to get into football admin like in other countries. People like Sol Campbell, David Seaman, Tony Adams, Paul Ince, Paul Scholes, Gary Linekar, Butcher, Paul Parker, Ray Wilkins, should be involved in the planning and football side of the national administrative body, and should be the ones coming up with football development plans.

On the short term front, after a game for instance,  instead of asking what did you think of the game tonight Roy, it should be, "what were you trying to achieve and did you achieve it Roy?" 

it's all well and good hounding the manager/players about the lack of attractive football and blowing supposedly poor sides away with pass and move, flowing football and scoring 4 goals a game to make decent headlines, but if they really care about progress, they should be asking what exactly the manager is trying to do and whether or not the players carried out those instructions/plans; that's what really matters.

With  upcoming games against minnows that England should be winning  comfortably, the expectation game is almost unwinnable, with a solid 2 or 3 nil victory the minimum acceptable outcome, and if they do go to score 5 or more unanswered goals, the level of the opposition will be used to discount their achievements. 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Manchester United Shirt Sponsorship

It was not that long ago, relatively recently in the greater history of football, that Soccer Clubs started getting money from apparel manufacturers for the privilege of using their club's crest on replica match shirts, shorts, socks, caps, scarves, beanies and a whole host of other items. It's hardly believable that there was a time when Clubs would have to pay a company to print them a few shirts, to put their own crest on a simple shirt or socks. We've come a long way in a very short period of time.
Danny Welbeck in the last
of Nike's United Shirts

In the Premier League era, Manchester United shirts have been sponsored by Adidas( who had sponsored us throughout the 1980s), then Umbro (now owned by Nike) most noted for the 1998/9 treble shirt, and most recently Nike who've sponsored United for the last 12 years, with one final season of shirt sponsorship concluding next June. For that privilege, Nike paid a mammoth $519 million USD. Given Nike make $28 billion USD in the last financial year, up from $9.89 billion USD in 2002, one can argue that its been a great investment.  With news that Adidas are lining up to pay $128mil a year for 10 years to sell United branded shirts to the world,  I believe that United are making the easy, safe choice by accepting a deal with Adidas, who have deals with Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Chelsea, AC Milan and a whole host of other clubs. I'd rather United take a bolder move and create a unique deal with a relative small player in football apparel, Under Armour.  
 With the club crest and
a better Chevrolet badge,
this could become a classic shirt

I know that Under Armour is a much smaller company when compared to Adidas, but strategically,  UnderArmour would grow massively if they agreed to sponsor us, back end the deal and increase payment amounts over the length of the contract, start off with $70m a year and growing by 10mil a year for 12 years (totaling about $1.5bil). I think it would give UA a massive boost in their market share and worldwide reach, really "putting them on the map" in Asia and in the football world, as their first global club, we could demand much more than Spurs and would allow United to differential themselves from the other major clubs who are either Nike or Adidas clubs. With a relatively large market share in the US retail and sports industries and a growing global reputation for quality goods, as well as a savvy product placement team that has seen Under Armour featured in movies & multiple TV shows (prominent on Friday Night Lights and seen in multiple scenes of Chicago Fire and Chicago P.D, as well as Batman:The Dark Knight Rises, Multiple Marvel Movies, Lone Survivor, Fast & Furious 6 etc.)  

Just think it would be a great move for both parties, United can really show themselves to be above the Nike v Adidas petty rivalry and be in a class of their own. Additionally, a deal with a relative outsider to the football world can help United secure image rights related commercial deals for their players when they get them to do ads for club sponsors which don't put individual player sponsors' noses out of whack. So Rooney(whose contract specifically includes a clause related to earnings from commercial promotional actities run by the club), RvP, Kagawa, Mata, Shaw and Herrera and who-ever else has image rights deals, can get decent money from a deal which reduces MUFC's wage bill growth while keeping them competitive in the transfer marketplace and  remain an attractive employer while keeping their wage bill to turnover ratio below 50%.  

An interesting idea that the club might be contemplating in regards to the United merchandising business from the  telegraph.
Interesting piece on football kit culture by John Devlin here

Thanks to the Pride of Manchester for having an awesome website with so much information. 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Sir Alex's biggest influence

The rapid decline in fortunes suffered by Manchester United this season has got many pundits, fans and hopefully the players wondering where it has all gone wrong. Multiple factors have been analysed by fans and ABUs alike, with many holding Mr Moyes solely responsible for the poor results and lack luster performances. The attitude and performance of the players has been scrutinized, the transfer dealings during the European summer and MrWoodward's part in them, the pre-game and in-game tactics and strategies employed by Mr Moyes  and his decision to replace the coaching staff with those of his own choosing, have all been found to be lacking in comparison to the expected quality.

Obviously the poor results and performances are a result of all the above factors as well as the simple fact that between the injuries, and the general decline in pace and acceleration that comes with age, the players we relied upon to win the league last season are no longer up to that herculean a task. No doubt, there are some things Mr Moyes has not got right. At times, his natural tactical instinct runs in contrast to what is expected of his United side by fans, as most fans would rather win 4-2 than 1-0, and his predilection for using wingers and playing through the flanks, though very much a United tradition, is seen by many to be a fruitless exercise as the wingers currently employed by the club are not performing as expected.

Although there are some tactical errors being made by the manager, I think the players have got to take more responsibility for their performances and the collective output that has led to the results.

Comments like these only scratch the surface on what I believe is the problem.

I think the problem is more mental than tactical, especially in terms of winning attitude and spirit.

Coaches like Sir Alex and Jose Mourinho get their players to play "for them", and manage to replace the internal determination and drive for success with a yearning for approval from "the boss". For so long, our squad of players have been mentally conditioned to perform for the boss, and I believe that such a drive is based on a fear of failure and punishment, rather than an urge to please or satisfy. (call it pop psychology, but i think it might be at play in this situation). Just as Jose Mourinho's old sides always seem to take time to re-build, i think Sir Alex has had an even greater effect on the mental fortitude of his players. England's failure to perform in the last few tournaments can also be partially attributed to the influence Ferguson and Mourinho have had on England's leading players, with Rooney, Lampard, Cole, Terry, Ferdinand, Cleverley, Carrick, Jones, Cahill, Smalling and Welbeck all performing well but never to the level their club fans have enjoyed.

Changing the manager relatively abruptly, without a corresponding change in the playing squad, has left Moyes with a bunch of players who seem to be playing without a purpose. On the other side of the touch-line, Moyes also looks like he doesn't know what to do or say to motivate his players to play to their previously showcased capabilities.  At Everton Moyes had only ever worked with what football journalists love to call the "honest pro", professionals who get the job done for the sake of the work, who are playing to extend their contracts and work towards personal goals, like getting a pay raise, earning an international cap or a move to a bigger club. It's therefore not hard to motivate players in these frames of mind.  But motivating players to perform at their peak when they have either won everything there is to win in the game, or think they've "made it" in football isn't the easiest of jobs. Doing what Sir Alex has done, for so long, is a truly remarkable feat, but if Moyes is to be a success, he to must learn that art.

If Moyes is to become such a mentally influential manager, and personally I think he must firstly get rid of the players who are no longer good enough for Manchester United's lofty ambitions. For me, this includes Vidic, Ferdinand, Evra, Giggs and potentially RvP, whose on field attitude since the managerial change doesn't merit his high salary and position as 1st choice striker.

Making his own mark on the squad as soon as he can will increase his power over the club, which will only improve his influence over the players on-field performance. I think it's the first step that he needs to take to get the United empire back to its position of power.