Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Scary Salah, hilarious United, and the IfTWGX scale

It’s a bank holiday here in Ireland so a quick blog for you today.

I can only start at Old Trafford after what was an extraordinary game there yesterday evening. First things first, Liverpool are scary good. We play them in a few weeks time, and I might start lighting candles that Mo Salah picks up a 24 hour bug or eats a dodgy lasagne something because he is unbelievable right now.

The finish for his second goal was just so good, the kind that only a player at the very, very top of his game can produce. The precision to just knock it in at the near post, with the little poke of power to get it beyond David de Gea, unreal. He must be the best forward in the world at the moment, and as much as I’ve been impressed with Gabriel, Ben White, and the rest of our defensive unit, they are going to be seriously tested when we visit Anfield on November 20th.

It was really all about United though, because while the Mugsmashers were really good, they were really, really, really bad. I’ve long been a Harry Maguire skeptic but man alive was he terrible yesterday. I know he’s recently come back from an injury but that doesn’t explain the complete lack of defensive awareness or organisation. It’s like watching a boy who was created in a lab and brought to life by a mad scientist, but every bit of him is just 18% too large for him to function properly.

He should have been sent off too, how he only got a yellow card for taking out Diogo Jota as he went through on goal is a mystery to me. But it was just one of the three red cards United ought to have had yesterday. All of the incidents were very high on the ‘IfTWGX’ scale (If That Was Granit Xhaka) of measuring the seriousness of a foul.

Cristiano Ronaldo literally booting a player in the chest/stomach while he was on the ground: IfTWGX: 100%. He only got a yellow because of who he is and because Anthony Taylor bottled the decision.

Maguire deliberately tripping Jota who would have just had the keeper to beat: IfTWGX: 97%. This was this Liverpool against that Man United, the goalscoring opportunity he denied couldn’t have been more clean cut, but the England international and United captain – haha, when you say that out loud it’s hilarious – was given special dispensation that a Swiss player making a similar foul would not get.

Then there was the Paul Pogba foul on Nabby Keita: IfTWGX: 1000000000000. Holy shit that was a terrible foul. Shades of Xhaka at Man City earlier in the season – which I thought was a red by the way – but whether you agree or not, on that day the referee saw it and dealt with it in one moment. Taylor bottled it again, issuing a yellow card before someone in the VAR cubicle whispered into his ear-piece ‘Nah, I don’t think you’re going to be able to get away with this one, it’s genuinely awful’. So, he had a look to make it look like he’s open to being a referee receptive to the idea he might have made a mistake, then changed it to red.

That aside, United getting beaten by that margin at home was both hilarious and kind of sad at the same time. Hilarious because United got battered at home by Liverpool, which compounds the the misery. Ronaldo’s face was a picture because you knew he was more hurt for himself than the team or the club or the fans, and while I know these might be famous last words that come back to bite me at some point during the season, signing him was a clear indication that United is being run as a marketing franchise first and a football team second.

The sad part of it is that it must surely push Ole Gunnar Solskjaer very, very close to the exit door, regardless of how much we keep hearing he’s got the backing of the United hierarchy. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have zero sympathy for him – I mean who among us could have predicted that a man who couldn’t cut the mustard at Cardiff City might not be up for one of the biggest jobs in world football? – but his departure raises the prospect of United getting a good manager and that would be annoying. Their squad building has been weird, and there are some very obvious deficiencies, but there’s no shortage of talent in it either

I’d love Solskjaer to stay forever and ever and ever, but when you preside over that kind of loss, and when some of your players do things which can only be understand in the context of them having little to no faith in their manager, your time is surely limited.

I realise I’m saying all this when there are still questions and doubts over our manager, but at least there’s some sign of a clear plan when it comes to squad building and how we’re trying to reshape our squad. It might work, it might not, but clarity of purpose is comforting. We need to see performances like the one on Friday night against Villa become more frequent, especially in terms of commitment and energy, but that doesn’t mean we can’t look at on at what’s happening elsewhere and take some enjoyment in the misery of others. Football would be very, very boring if we couldn’t do that.

Also, Sp*rs went to West Ham yesterday and lost, having been beaten in Belgium the Netherlands in midweek.

Everywhere. Literally everywhere.

Right, let’s leave it there for now. James and I recorded the Arsecast Extra for you yesterday, so if you haven’t had a chance to listen, all the links you need to subscribe etc are below. Have a good one.

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This Arsecast Extra was recorded with ipDTL

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