Man Utd struggles continue
For a club that have won six times from 11 games you would be forgiven for thinking that they would be immune to criticism, but Manchester United will continue to be for now. Recent league form has improved for Erik ten Hag's side and they have won 3 of their last four games. But then you look at who they are beating: Brentford, Sheffield United and Fulham and only just edging past those clubs too. The reality is that United have still not been able to step outside of Sir Alex Ferguson's shadow a decade on. Yes that is quite a shadow to escape but they have invested billions of pounds in that time and witnessed some of Europe's most sought after managers in that period. The odd trophy here and there has been won, but the league and a proper league challenge has evaded them. But maybe it is the simple things that United fans crave which is a togetherness, fighting for every ball and what United did best under Ferguson, playing great attacking football.
If you ask most people who has been the best manager United have had in the last 10 years they may not like it but the answer would most probably be Jose Mourinho who did win the Europa League. But this is the same manager who never belonged in Manchester and seemingly never wanted to. He preferred to stay in a hotel for his two year tenure and of course had a fall out with Paul Pogba, this felt like end game for Mourinho and it could be argued that since then he has never been the same manager. But for United that is as good as it has got. There have been sparks and reminders in odd games and even Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was able to provide that. Ten Hag had moments last season where he seemed to have calmed the storm. One can point to recent form but where really is United's level? Because in between recent wins they were put well into their place when they lost 3-0 at home to Manchester City and City of course are the bar. United also lost by the same scoreline again at home just a few days later against Newcastle in the EFL Cup. Currently they find themselves 9 points behind league leaders Manchester City and six behind a top four finish. Six points doesn't seem a great deal but over a season that would amount to 20 points. The current top four teams look miles ahead of United and let's not forget the possible threats coming from Newcastle and Aston Villa.
The Champions League reminded us again of United's fragile state as they lost 4-3 against Copenhagen despite leading the game 2-0. Marcus Rashford was sent off to make this a forgettable night and United look very likely to be knocked out at the group stages. They are bottom of their group with just three points although they are just a point from 2nd they have to face Galatasaray away from home and then Bayern Munich at home. United could well be knocked out of Europe entirely.
Keeping with English clubs Newcastle who have been making positive strides in the Premier League over the past 18 months have perhaps found their level in the Champions League. Despite hammering PSG 4-1 and starting their campaign in excellent style they have now lost both home and away to Borussia Dortmund. The Magpies like Manchester United are bottom of their group and next up is PSG away which should be a very different game to the one they faced at home. Indeed lose that game and Eddie Howe's side will likely be out of the competition. Progress has been fantastic domestically but the Champions League takes no fools and Newcastle have been reminded that even this talented side is only the beginnings of what could be for them. So both English teams continue to struggle and it should not come as a surprise to find that Manchester United are 67.00 to win the competition and Newcastle are 51.00.
To win the Champions League: Manchester City 3.00, Bayern Munich 5.00, Real Madrid 6.00, Arsenal 9.00, PSG 15.00
The last few months have seen an increase in tragedy chanting, this is what the mainstream media will tell you. However this type of chanting has been a problem for a few years. Only seven months ago the FA consulted the police and the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) to little effect given that the chanting has continued this season. Normally Liverpool have been the victims as rival fans chant about Hillsborough, but Manchester United have also been targeted concerning the 1958 Munich crash. Tragedy chanting is sad and callous but how sad do you have to be to drag up an incident that happened 65 years ago? Of course the chanting has to stop, but for now the police look lost at how to do this. Chanting about a disaster is not currently a criminal act if it were then with CCTV footage available it could be possible to ban the section of supporters and let's remind everyone that with these chants it is only concerning a minority of fans. But could there be a positive spin on the chants?
That may seem a bizarre sentence but are the chants an evolution of racist chants? Let's be clear that racist language can still be heard in certain football stands but it is nowhere near as bad as it used to be and other fans have been more than willing to tell authorities when they have heard these chants. The English league is not perfect but is better and progressing compared to the Spanish and Italian leagues and is light years ahead of some of the Eastern European leagues who continue to spout their vile while UEFA continue to hand out measly fines. So in the Premier League have some dumb witted fans simply switched from racist chants to tragedy ones? If so, are we evolving? Is there a sense that once this chanting is able to be dealt with in the proper manner is that another problem that will hopefully disappear from the Premier League? Did this chanting need to rear its ugly head in the absence of racist chanting, because a certain section of fans will always be hateful, they feel the need to cling onto something so negative to scream out to opposing fans?
Racist chanting in the Premier League has been acknowledged as unacceptable, it will probably never be 100% cured but we need to get back to the basics in football stands. Those basics are criticisms or joy, but they do not have to include someone's colour, origin, sexuality and certainly chanting tragedy chants only tells the person next to you who you really are. Focus on the game, because for some fans the game only seems to revolve around them.