What are Manchester United doing?
Another mail complaining about Manchester United’s transfer policy. How original, right? I hope I can put a slightly different spin on it by not banging on about Sancho too much, and concentrating on sales a bit more.

I’ll start with a few positives. They’ve miraculously managed to shift Sanchez, they’ve found loans for two players who need to play senior football in Garner and Chong, and van de Beek is a quality addition that adds much needed depth in the creative department. They’re seemingly building the best u23 squad in the country.

Now the negatives. They have a week left in the window and Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo, Andreas Pereira, Diogo Dalot, Chris Smalling and Jesse Lingard are still at the club. They haven’t signed a creative wide forward to supplement the goalscoring of Greenwood, Martial, and Rashford. They look weak in the centre of defence, and there isn’t much creativity coming from their full backs. The promising Tuanzebe is not going to first choice so also needs a suitable loan. The ‘agreed’ deal for Stevanovic has gone quiet.

Smalling is 30, unlikely to play, and obviously available yet United seem utterly inflexible on the price. Yes, other clubs do this to them, and yes, 20 million Euros is not unreasonable but in the current climate, surely the 15 million Euros apparently offered is better than nothing. Selling Dalot seems daft to me but the club have made noises to the press that he isn’t wanted, and there are seemingly several suitors so moving him on should not be too difficult. Rojo and Jones may well be harder to shift but there doesn’t seem to be any urgency from the club. The post pandemic market isn’t an easy one to operate in but we have seen plenty of other clubs move unwanted players on even if it means taking a hit on them, to better balance their squads and free up some money. The major targets (Upamecano aside) are very clearly available too but with a week left they’ve still not arrived. The Sancho deal was expensive but he won’t be any cheaper next year and United are unlikely to get a free run at him in a year’s time. The rumoured back-ups (Dembele, Perisic, Douglas Costa) are no more cost-effective in the long run and each of them has drawbacks of some kind. At fullback, the Reguilon deal was probably right to be avoided as I’d expect Madrid to activate the buy-back clause the second that Marcelo looks to be declining. Alex Telles is available, cheap and wants very little in terms of wages but once again, a seemingly simple deal to complete is looking less likely by the day. At centreback, a man the club have tried to sign before, Skriniar is available. Pau Torres has a very affordable release clause, Ruben Dias likewise.

Having a number one target and settling for nobody else is not a good transfer strategy. It worked with Liverpool and Virgil van Dijk but it hasn’t really worked for them with Naby Keita It led to United massively overpaying for Maguire. Mo Salah wasn’t Klopp’s first choice yet nobody would argue that Liverpool would have been better served holding out another year for Julian Brandt instead. Who is to say that United will still be in Champions League next season? Looking at how much other clubs have strengthened, it is certainly not a given. Will Sancho still be interested in United if they’ve regressed back to the Europa League? I suspect he’ll have better offers. Woodward has tried this wait-and-see strategy several times and it has not worked. It didn’t work with Maguire, it didn’t work with Fernandes, it didn’t with Fellaini (it had the opposite effect in fact), and it won’t work now.Thai Wolf, HK

While I am not a Lampard out bridge, I do have some concerns regarding Lampard’s strategy as well as tactics. He are some.

1. Even after 1 full year into managing Chelsea, he has not nailed a single position in the team. For Ex. With Liverpool, we exactly know who is the right winger, left winger, right back, left back, center back etc. There is only a couple of positions which is up for grabs.
2. Tactical flexibility comes only after strategic solidity. You can’t keep changing players position every week and expect solidity.
3. It is stupidity to make the same mistake every and expect different result – example Alonso. We know he is not a full back. We know he has puts in horror shows week after week but still persisting with him?
4. Play players at their best positions. Don’t make Mount run like a headless chicken just because his work rate is high.
5. Give a run of games to your center back pairing. They may have a bad matches more frequently in the beginning but will improve over period of time. Patience is the key.
6. Bring back Kante to his best position, which is a CDM. He is the only proven world class player that you have. He will give more cover to your back 4 than you can imagine.
7. Use Havertz well behind the striker/s. He football is effortless and he glides through games. He is a gem in your hands, Don’t mess it up.

Anyhow, I desperately hope that Lampard succeeds at Chelsea but for that he has to change a lot of things, including himself.T P Ananth, CFC-Mumbai

Some transfer rumours I saw today have got me all giddy but for all the right reasons.

Alaba to Manchester, makes sense for all involved and hopefully to United. Left side centre back who can play left back and in midfield. Yes please. He fits in what we are could use right now in terms of pace, passing, leadership amongst other things.

But if we also add Telles as expected and let’s say went for Jimenez and maybe sell to add Kante in too, we would be set.

A 3-4-1-2 would allow Ole to keep his beloved Scandinavian in the defense but with more balance, and would also allow United to shift into a 4-3-3/4-4-2 fairly easy.

Up front you would have Jimenez, Rashford, Martial and Gwoodz with Fernandes and VDB in support. Midfield of Pogba and VDB/Matic/McTomz(or Kante).
Tell Wan B to just keep it simple with the forward play, Telles seems to have the attacking part down and the boys at the back get a Chamions league winner to help them out.

Jimenez as recent as this week said he is still open to a move and with a replacement already in place 40 mill, maybe even try put J Lingz in the deal.

Kante it persistently seems available for about 50 million and they would love Chips, or was it Rice?

All in thats about a Sancho and it solves a lot more issues than Sancho would or even could. These transfers would improve our defense, give us a player that can actually cross a ball and give us a player that can actually head a ball. They would give Pogba more protection, Harry some pace at the back and allow our strikers who can’t really cross play more central.

Add Kante into the mix to, you know, guarantee you a Premier League title, or at least thats what I’ve heard he does…Calvino

What’s in a team?
My son has moved into a flat with 5 other students. Within a month their characteristics were becoming evident. Of the 6 there are three that will tidy up, after themselves and the rest of the crew. There are three that don’t.

So what should they do? Should they demand that they pull their weight? Will that work, or will they quickly fall back to the previous behaviour? Should they just continuously ask the non workers to do things, which means the onus is still on the tidy ones to keep the place tidy by managing the other three? That is bound to lead to friction, and guess who will appear to be in the wrong, the ones that have to nag to keep the place tidy.

Handball rule seems stupid at the moment. Once upon a time the ref would interpret and generally get it right, it’s now poured over because the players are demanding the ref look at it. Then, all he can do is implement the rubbish rules.

I wonder if the answer isn’t necessary changing the handball rule but changing the penalty rule. It seems harsh that for a ball hitting an arm when the player is jumping and not looking gets a pen, the reward outweighs the offence. So why not award a pen when the offence is only a goal scoring opportunity. It would stop players also running away from goal and looking for contact as well. You can see a player running clear towards goal with just the keeper to beat and get fouled, they receive a freekick 5 minutes later when the defending team are organised and holding the advantage. Whereas a header going nowhere gets a pen because it happened a few yards closer to the goal.

So, that’s my radical idea, scrap the penalty box and award pens only if they prevent an obvious goal scoring chance……or let the ref ref and use VAR for the real glaring errors.Steve (THFC)

With that out of the way, I will now explain my take on the handball rule, which conveniently illustrates why our pen on Saturday was legit:

To begin, not a great deal in football chafes my nuts more than the subject of “intent” when it comes to handball in the box. If a player slides in, in the box, their intent is to win the ball; if they don’t, and they foul the player, there is NEVER any discussion about what their intent was before awarding the pen. The point was made in Winners and Losers that Ward had very little time to react – I refer once more to my previous point and the timescales involved in trying to win the ball before the attacker gets a shot or key pass off. Fine margins.

Many will argue that “if that was given against your team, you’d be furious.” Correct. Still a pen, though.

Bottom line, for me, is that the ball was heading into the path of Richarlison’s run in the box and Ward’s arm diverted it from that path. A potential goalscoring opportunity was denied, therefore it’s a pen. If the powers that be insist that “intent” be considered, then ONLY intentional handballs (saving goalbound shots, etc) should be penalised. As it is, if a defender’s hand denies the attacking team a goalscoring/creating opportunity then it’s a pen – intent and reaction time be damned.Dave (That James Rodriguez, though, eh?!) Allen, IOM

Just thought I might share a thought on the criticisms of the handball rule, with particular reference to the Palace Everton game on Saturday.

Thing is, in that game there were two occasions on which VAR was used. In the first, the penalty was not given because despite the fact Palace certainly gained an advantage from the ball coming off Ward’s arm, that arm was right by his side. No penalty.

In the second, his arm was sticking out (I do think maybe for balance). It was not as Winners and Losers seemed to say, ’10cm from his body’. And Palace gained an advantage. That’s a penalty.

The ‘new rule’ is not in some way hader on defenders: it’s the same rule there always was (a player must not gain an advantage from connecting with the ball with his hand) updated to the defenders’ advantage by adding that if the defender’s arm is not in a position where it unfairly expands his physical proportion, a penalty should not be given.

I have seen an argument which says that ‘attackers will just kick the ball at defenders’ arms’ and that should certainly be dealt with if it happens, but a) that is not at all what happened in the Palace Everton match and b) even then, if the defenders’ arms are in a normal position, the penalty still wouldn’t be given. In fact, the rule literally wouldn’t allow such a penalty to be given as there would be an even clearer reason to conclude there was no advantage gained by the defenders’ team from the arm connecting with the ball.

And managers whining is really neither here nor there. Managers have always complained about penalties given against their sides. They will never stop doing so, so: so what?

The only real issue with what happened at Selhurst Park was that there was an extraordinarily long time between the incident and the penalty being given. That’s unfortunate, but all it really meant was that Ward thought he had got away with it for longer than he should have.

If it’s any consolation – and I very much doubt it will be – Palace look an awful lot better than they were last season. Maybe Roy knows what he’s doing after all, eh?Rory O’Keeffe, Thessaloniki

A couple of random VAR thoughts to get the debate going… (as if the bear needed poking)

For free kicks where the wall is standing in the area, surely it’s easier to score by hoofing it at a players meat and two veg to get the inevitable penalty when defenders inevitably try and protect said crown jewels?

And on a polar opposite side of the scale. Given how outraged managers are, even stating they don’t like to be given these non-sensical penalties, why don’t they instruct penalty takers to just miss in that event?

Either of these 2 events above hapenning a few times would surely see a rule change? Complaining about it won’t.Jon, Cape Town (BTW, saw an interesting fact about the team who has received the most penalties in the premiership, yes, it’s that team in red, but no, not that one, it’s Liverpool)

1. Any and all handballs outside the box result in a free kick. It’s FOOTball after all.
2. If it happens accidentally in the box, like it happened all over the place at the weekend, then it’s an indirect free kick (remember those?). Otherwise it’s a penalty for denying a goal/goal scoring opportunity.

Football isn’t just for you. it isn’t just for your club and it isn’t just English / British / Premier League etc. Football is for everyone.

Now I think that VAR is a farce. I think that most people born in or before 1980 probably agree with me. As you age, the thing you love will become loved by people younger than you and the older you get the more people younger than you there will be and the more of a say they will have over how the thing you love is run.

I know that I am an old man shaking my fist at the clouds. I also know that change is not a good or bad thing. Change just means things will be different, some people will like it, others will not but change is inevitable and you can either go along with the ride or get washed away in the torrent.

I have said it before and I will say it again VAR is not for me and other people my age and older. The people who will decide if VAR is a success or failure are most likely now younger that me and understand tiktok.Simon, Woking

I have watched top level football for over 50 years now and I have never been more confused as to the rules or, should I say, laws of the game.

It easy to blame VAR. While we know it’s more than VAR, it has been since the introduction of VAR that we have seen a greater degree of micro management by the referees. The PGMOL act like a sporting Illuminati, a secret society with arcane laws and rituals only known to members.

Their post match missives are Trumpian in nature, arguing that the most inconsistent of decisions was made in order to be…consistent.

We saw several times this weekend where one ‘deflection’ off the arm was considered a handball but another wasn’t. We saw a free kick that was given that preceded the penalty incident that was incorrect. We had a full time whistle that ended the game, except VAR wanted its 5 minutes of fame to re-open the game and award a penalty to Utd. Did the ref not hear that VAR was being reviewed before blowing the whistle and, if he did and still blows, does that not make the VAR issue moot?

VAR should have improved the game. We had UEFA commanding the PGMOL to follow their rules this season but things appear worse. The IAFB modifies the handball rule while refs have not fully grasped the best and right way to use VAR. We have a PGMOL that feels it is above the ‘law’ and does not need to honestly account for itself and instead cover up inconsistent decisions.

The result is that no one – refs, managers, players, media, pundits and clearly not those in charge have a clue what is going on. If the PL were a COVID patient it would be on a ventilator with only a few minutes life left.

I am not a fan of any team that has been wronged by these decisions but was still outraged.

Having watched 8 of the 9 games this weekend wondering whether I should bother watching the ref sh*tshow that the PL has become.Paul McDevitt

I don’t agree with Johnny Nic on much (being a libertarian vs his socialist democratic style), but I’ve never really complained about his writing until his article this morning.

“Ward had not deliberately moved a hand towards the ball and ‘deliberate’ is in the law and is supposed to matter, but in the era of VAR only what the camera can film matters and you can’t film deliberate, you can only interpret it.” – This is exactly the fucking problem John, the new handball rule as of this year does not include the word ‘deliberate’. It was changed specifically to remove the judgement from referees on what constitutes ‘deliberate’ vs ‘accidental’. Without this rule change Ward’s foul would not have been given a s a penalty. I don’t agree with the new rule but surely as a football writer you should be aware of this rather than writing as if the old rule was still in place?

“But we are not playing sane football any more. We’re playing VAR football. If you wanted it, you got it. Sorry, but this is all on you. You put the wrong people in charge of the game.” – I just don’t get this point. I didn’t put anyone in charge. FIFA has always been in charge of the damn game John. How exactly was me, a random dork from Berkshire wanting correct decisions in place made any change to the way the game is run? I want accurate decisions so that teams don’t lose due to the incompetence’s or natural human failings of referees. Without VAR Man Utd don’t get the absolutely correct penalty in the 100th minute and draw that game unfairly (maybe the win was ‘unfair’ in a sporting sense, but by the rules it was totally fair and just). The new handball law (the primary cause of issues since the start of the season) has literally nothing to do with VAR. VAR was in place last year and we didn’t have these issues, just a different lot on offside which I’ve written many emails about and still have reservations about.

Rail at FIFA/IFAB for having bad laws John, not the fans for wanting games to be determined by what happened on the pitch, not in the referee’s head. It is 100% on them.Calum, MUFC, Wokingham

Almost every time I read a John Nicholson article I find I get quite annoyed.  I often think I am quite progressive, strongly left wing and am passionate about a sport I want to see improvement in, but then I read a JN article and realise that apparently I am not any of these things.  As always each article is a dichotomy, there are two sides, one represented by JN and according to his articles the sane and empathetic side of the world, and one representing the other side.

I originally wanted VAR in football.  I always thought that with the amount of pressure on refs, the reaction they would get from fans and players and the increasing speed of the game giving the referring team more assistance would help them in some cases.  The idea of a huge game, 2 of the top 6, 2 teams in the relegation zone etc. being ruined by the ref not seeing an incident correctly and giving a red card early on shaping the whole match seemed like something that could be improved.  There was a strong reaction against goal line tech and (the mistake last season not withstanding) that worked smoothly and greatly improved the game.  A binary technological result was put in place that helped us focus on the football and not on replays to see where the ball was.

Looking at the world cup the VAR worked fairly well, not great but definitely room enough to improve on and add genuine value to the game.  But apparently seeing as this is a change to something technological it is solely to responsibility of ‘all these poindexters sticking their noses into the game’(is this THE game, OUR game or JN’s game), something that seems a whisker away from the ‘laptop guru’ comment on Liverpool’s scouting that frequently come up on mediawatch.

Each article pushes harder that ‘our game’ can only be real if it is built directly in the opinion of JN, usually anyone on the other side of the argument is described in terms that imply essentially all they care about is the glitz and glamour of the Premier League, whereas if you fall into the JN side you are a ‘real’ fan who loves football for joy and passion and when the wrong decision is made about their club a wry smile falls on their lips and they simply say ‘ce la vie, this is the human condition comrade that things go wrong.’  Frankly I think the tone of a lot of these articles are becoming more than just unfair on a huge amount of fans, but genuinely disrespectful.  Being on your specific part of the left doesn’t make you right, it doesn’t make you better and it doesn’t mean you should talk down to anyone on the other side of the debate.  Did you think that the pressure on 4 referees around a pitch trying to watch the actions of 22 of the most elite sportspeople in the world, fathoming which of them were done to cheat an advantage, might be improved by giving the referee more time and perspective to make their choice ‘If you wanted it, you got it. Sorry, but this is all on you’ according to JN.

I understand the point of if you don’t like someone’s articles you don’t have to read them, and you certainly don’t have to write in to disagree, but deliberately fuelling the fire that tries to split the country (or any group of people) into two and naming one the right and best (and often only acceptable opinion) and one the luddite view of people who don’t know what they’re asking for is just another thread of everything becoming a culture war.  In fact those of use that thought better tech for refs had a place where ‘the officious minds can’t accept that’ as our control of our mental reactions aren’t as strong as those who live solely on love and passion.  You can be a passionate football fan, who loves the club as a social institution, that thinks distribution of wealth needs to be enforced and that football has changed in a way that it lost a huge amount along the way but still think that improving the ability to ref a game that has becoming quicker and harder was a useful idea.

Picking Lineker’s tweet to back up this point shows another problem, everyone has their 2 cents, but the coins are different each time.  Lineker literally said “If it hits your hand anywhere, give it.  Either that or don’t give it at all. If it hits it, there’s no argument.”  That was in 2018, we’re now in a position where we can do what Lineker wants, but suddenly this is a crazy idea that has taken away his game?

Most fans love this game.  In a different way, from a different place and for different reasons.  If you think your game is the only way to love it, and other opinions are not, then you really don’t support The People’s Game, you support Your People’s Game.  If you think the debate is enhanced with snide comments like ‘sweaty bloke in the fetid Stockley Park Tactics Truck’ to talk about professionals doing a difficult job with changing rules but still see yourself as a constructive part of the conversation that’s your opinion, but if you ask me cooperation doesn’t come from lines like ‘It was the triumph of officiousness over reason and practicality’ it comes from trying to understand why people made different decisions to you.  I’ll just leave JN’s shortened line without comment ‘charged with righteousness… arrogantly assuming they know what is best for the game.’DBM (It was always supposed to be a ref checking an IPad, not a van of refs) MCFC

There are no coincidences in this world. The recent flurry of high scoring games, easy spot kicks and the once-in-a-lifetime-event penalty after the ref blew up, were a directive from Vought I mean the FA. In these times, something has to be done to keep people glued to those tvs, and a 0-0 game is not it. This season, we need a lot more fence-sitters and channel switchers to stay with football.

Already, we are looking at a loss of 500 mil. The FA will not allow fans drop off to continue and will do anything to create an aura of exciting football.

NB – An unrelated aside, Ted Lasso is more a reality show than All Jose Or Nothing.Vinnie Pee

*Grantham losing 2-1 at home to a goal from the spot lent my Saturday afternoon a certain theme.

*Everton were good value for their win against Crystal Palace, who made them work hard for the points. The home side pressed from the front and had spells of dominance, but for the most part the Toffees had the upper hand.

*Last week the Eagles won through teamwork and a series of partnerships throughout the team. This week, there were some good individual performances, but it didn’t quite come together collectively. Tyrick Mitchell, his role in the first Everton goal aside, was solid; Eberechi Eze also looked  good from the first moment, when he caught Seamus Coleman cold and won possession in a move that ended with a foul. However, they didn’t quite click and they weren’t as effective a partnership as Mitchell and Schlupp were last week – the Ghanaian missed out with “a slight strain”.

When Patrick van Aanholt is fit to play again, it would be interesting to see how he, as a more experienced full-back, would work in partnership with Eze. Hopefully it would be similar to Mitchell and Schlupp, but an option for games where Palace would be expected to play on the front foot.

*Typical Palace, part 427: if that ball doesn’t hit Joel Ward’s arm and reaches Dominic Calvert-Lewin, the Toffees striker would have been flagged offside.

*After the match, Roy Hodgson called for the handball rule to be changed so it only penalises deliberate attempts to play the ball with the hand or arm, instead of any time when the ball hits the arm. Generally speaking the easiest way to tell if an outfield player has deliberately handled the ball is not the shape of the arm but the direction of the palm – towards the ball indicates deliberate, away suggests inadvertent. It’s an exaggeration but compare, say, Ward or Eric Dier giving away penaties versus Chris Wood, who stopped play by handling the ball after he believed he’d been fouled.

*For Everton to make an impact, they need James Rodriguez. He’ll look great when Everton are drawing 0-0 away against a side proving difficult to break down.

*Amazon’s broadcast was annoying. The camera work for throw-ins was weird, and they spend far too long showing replays of goals when play is going on. If you have to do that, use a double feature or something.

*5 – since the start of the 2019-20, Brighton & Hove Albion have dropped five points after one of their players has been caught on camera pretending to cry.

*Patrick Bamford may yet prove to be a flash in the pan, but it’s worth pointing out he was previously written off as a Premier League calibre player when he failed to impress in the top flight while on loan in teams managed by Alan Pardew, Alex Neil and Sean Dyche. Two good coaches there, but in contrast, it’s hardly surprising he’s thriving in a team managed by someone who plays a very different season.Ed Quoththeraven

Felipe Anderson, Andriy Yarmolenko, Manuel Lanzini and  Sebastien Haller have not started a single game for West Ham this season. I watched West Ham’s game vs Arsenal and felt like they were unlucky to loose. David Moyes has basically picked the same starting 11 for all their games so far and is reaping the rewards of his convictions. Winners and losers said “That must set a precedent for David Moyes: Forget the reputation and the transfer fee and pick your team on personality and recent form”. Well, Moyes clearly doesn’t need the advice. Commend his efforts and move on.Lawrence, CFC, Abuja

Any deal for Sancho had seemingly reached an impasse with Man Utd refusing to meet the asking price…

If people criticising someone while asking when they will be criticised is your jam, then the Mailbox is here.

Man United have made a ‘surprise enquiry’ for N’Golo Kante and will throw money at Dortmund.

Who will blink first when it comes to Manchester United and Chelsea for Mauricio Pochettino?

One Mailboxer can’t understand hate directed at Mourinho. Plus, worst transfer of all time, first live football and more…

“If you sign Jadon Sancho, I think you still have the same problems as last season.”

The handball farce is the fault of the Premier League, not IFAB. How did we get here?

It’s too early to pick the Premier League flops, but the bargain buys have already come to the fore.

If people criticising someone while asking when they will be criticised is your jam, then the Mailbox is here.

Premier League winners and losers has the same old most-hated club.

Handball and VAR get an absolute shoeing from John Nicholson. He is awful angry.

Source: https://www.football365.com/news/mailbox-man-utd-transfers-sancho-jimenez-kante-telles-alaba

News – £140m quartet would make bigger impact at Man Utd than Sancho