Well that week was a little unexpected. Word is that Ed Woodward is still standing atop the Hilton Hotel, arms spread, screaming “are you not entertained mother f*****s?” at passing cars and pedestrians. Indeed we were entertained. Gripped. Thrilled. Who knew the dark horse had it in him? And so we have a really high-class central midfielder and a young, prodigious left back to fill some of the gaping holes in the United team and squad. The key word here is, of course, ‘some’. Like that first hit of crystal meth, once the thrill has worn off users just need some more. Ander Herrera and Luke Shaw are all well and good, but what about a centre back and holding midfielder? Rumour has it that the former will be Thomas Vermaelen. Let’s hope that’s not correct, because if there’s one thing United don’t need right now it’s Arsenal’s third choice defender gone lame.
But then I suppose that Louis Van Gaal and his gonads have earned the right to play Julian Clary in goal if he so desires. The way in which he’s dragged an average Dutch squad kicking and screaming to a World Cup quarter final suggests he could make Vermaelen and Clary look far more competent than any other coach currently active in World Football. Holland’s late turnaround against Mexico was pure Fergie: play badly, coach takes off his star striker and two late goals, including a penalty won by a dive, win the game deep into injury time. One of the major failings of David Moyes was his inability to boil the p*ss of the rest of the football world by winning in such circumstances. He couldn’t even master the winning bit. Next season is going to be so briiiiiilllliiiant.
Speaking of Moyes, his Sunday Times column truly is the gift that keeps on giving. This weekend’s gripping instalment was possibly the most ‘Moyes’ 1500 words ever written. Entitled ‘The lost art of defending’ it is Chapter Four of the lengthy tome about why the Scot should never have been appointed as Manchester United manager. He sets the tone by getting the mantra by which he lives his footballing life out of the way as quickly as possible:
“It’s easy to be seduced by scoring.”
Scoring being the one and only purpose of Association Football. Still, that’s Moyes’ gravestone eulogy sorted.
“History tells you the team who end up winning the World Cup are often the best at defending and this one may prove no different.”
The great Brazil sides object, but point taken. History also tells us that it’s necessary to score a few goals to win World Cups too.
“What I would question is whether it is a World Cup of great defending.”
Of course you would, Dave. Amongst all of the compelling, wonderful, dramatic technical excellence and the avalanche of beautiful and plentiful goals you are most compelled to write about the paucity of the defending. In fairness, I suppose a man so renowned for his success in coaching defences has every right to criticise the approach and performance of others in that area…
“I look at certain modern players and think that in the last decade coaching has encouraged defenders to be very good in possession…. but maybe not focus of the defensive basics. Simple stuff.”
Yes, coaches everywhere have just simultaneously stopped coaching defenders to defend. It’s a good job you’re around to keep the dream alive.
“Look at the first goal Neymar scored against Cameroon….. the ball was played across Cameroon’s goalmouth and the box was almost empty. Cameroon had two players in there, the defenders were not filling the spaces.”
He’s got me yearning for the space-filling, watertight defence that he so brilliantly coached at United.
I could go on. I can’t be ar*ed. You get the picture. It’s all in there, filling space, the dark art of defending, blah blah blah. Basically everything he did at United and everything he wanted to do, in direct contradiction to the ideals of the club and the trends within the modern game. This week’s Sunday Moyes could just have easily been called “I’m a dinosaur but I’m the only one who can’t see it shocker.”
Moyes, interestingly, spent a part of the weekend in Istanbul, having talks with Galatasaray about their vacant manager’s position. The Turks would provide a nice footballing backwater for the Scot to rebuild his image. Their fans are a notoriously patient bunch who will embrace defensive solidity and give him time to get things right. They are particularly known for the way in which they and their club favour crossing as a means of attack and will forgive failure and defeat to local rivals as long as they know that the new manager has a six year contract and a plan to put things right, which will be implemented at some point in the future. I’m sure at interview, Moyes will look confident and composed and not at all like he’s about to evacuate his bowels if anyone makes a loud, unexpected noise. So I’m certain that, if he gets the job, all will go well.
Monday’s papers collectively went heavy on the story that Manchester United were offered everyone’s new favourite wunderkind James Rodriguez for £5m before he moved to Porto, as his club at the time, Banfield, looked to cash in on their child prodigy. This story seems a little contrived to me. Are we to believe that the Argentine club, wanting to get their hands on some loot, only offered the lad to one club? Or do you think he was maybe hawked around most of Europe until they found a buyer? I’m going the latter. And when was the last time an English club got a work permit for an 18 year old signed straight from South America? But yeah, apart from that, what a f*ck up, United. And hey, they bought Bebe soon afterwards for £7m. Look at what you could have won were the employment laws of the country totally different. Coming on the back page of every paper tomorrow: ‘Chelsea could have signed Rodriguez for £5m but bought Yossi Benayoun for £500k more instead.’ No? ‘Arsenal could have signed Rodriguez for £5m but went for Marouane Chamakh instead.’ No? ‘Real Madrid could have signed Rodriguez but bought Pedro Leon and Sergio Canales instead.’ No? You get the picture.
Anyway, I can’t concentrate. I’m in withdrawal. Can somebody please get Ed down off that hotel roof?