Author paul

Author paul

Rant writers on the year ahead

, , and January 1, 2015 Tags: , , Reads 24 comments
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Say goodbye to 2014. It was a year that started horribly for Manchester United with a home defeat to Tottenham Hotspur and ended with the club on the up, albeit with a draw against the same opposition. Hello, then, to 2015: a year in which United will, well, we’re not quite sure… but United Rant’s writers peaked into the crystal ball and had a guess…

In the end United will be short – well short – of the title contenders this season, although the improvement in results has been really good since November. By May United might be 10 points adrift of the title winners, which will probably be Chelsea, although José Mourinho’s side could suffer for lack of squad depth.

It’s been so long since United put together a decent FA Cup run. Surely this is the year for United to have a real crack at it, although the loss to MK Dons demonstrates that United’s trip to Yeovil Town next week is going to be no easy ride.

The summer market is critical, although it’s hard to see the Glazers signing off on another £150 million spend. That said few predicted last summer’s splurge either. Louis van Gaal could really do with a couple of high-quality defenders: a right-back as cover or replacement for the perennially injured Rafael da Silva, and an experienced central defender who is not prone to injury!

United could do with another combative midfielder. Marouane Fellaini was supposed to be it, but he’ll never be good enough at Champions League level. Kevin Strootman is the obvious name, of course, although Arturo Vidal would be the ‘gold-medal’ level signing. Then there’s the question of what happens with Radamel Falcao and Robin van Persie. It’s hard to see both at the club beyond the summer.

There will be some departures too. None of United’s defenders, bar Luke Shaw and Marcos Rojo, are safe. Neither is Antonio Valencia or, sadly, Ander Herrera and Juan Mata. It’ll be a very bleak day if David de Gea leaves for Real Madrid, but it’s not unlikely.

In the end Van Gaal’s philosophy will be attacking, possession-based football in which United dominate matches. The Dutchman simply doesn’t have the personnel for it to be fully implemented just yet. If that’s still the case after next summer the club will have let Van Gaal down.

United will push City and Chelsea much harder for the title in 2015/15. Expect United to be very close to the top by this time next year.

Second half of the season XI: De Gea; Rafael, Jones, Rojo, Shaw; Herrera, Carrick, Di Maria; Mata; Falcao, Rooney
Next season’s XI: De Gea; Aurier, Jones, Hummels, Shaw; Herrera, Vidal; Di Maria, Mata, Januzaj; Falcao

By May 2015 United will probably have secured third spot. Even though United has overtaken some pretty serious point differences in the second half of the season over the years the team will finish a dozen points behind City and Chelsea. A nice FA Cup run is overdue and it would be great to win it and break a good record for a change.

Next summer’s transfer market will bring one or two solid defenders. If the Dutchman delivers results this season United won’t return to Glazeronomics just yet, even though, sadly, it looks inevitable in the long run. There won’t be another Angel Di Maria/Radamel Falcao “holy s**t, that’s actually happening!” moment this summer, but it’s always welcome.

Some players will leave too and that’s looooong overdue. It’s not good to call United’s players ‘dead wood,’ but, unfortunately, that’s what some of them have become. Let’s hope Van Gaal shows strength of character and good judgement here. Whether David De Gea stays is more important though. Don’t break our hearts, Dave. Please, pretty please? It would even be worth paying Anderson to stay and be the fool to your king. Perhaps that was the plan all along!

In 2015 we will discover what Van Gaal’s philosophy really is… or not. The Dutchman can be quite pragmatic if necessary. Maybe there’s no philosophy as such; just pragmatism and some common sense. The greatest trick that our Devil has ever pulled was to convince everyone that the philosophy exists. The hope is that Van Gaal sorts out the defence – the transfer window should help – sticks with a specific formation, and gets some luck with injuries. And then “let it flyyyy.”

After all that next season United will finally become a title contender again – at least, that’s the plan. Of course, football can be cruel sometimes. As Liverpool demonstrated ‘up’ is not the only way after a good season. Fans should remain wary until the league is United’s again. It’s hard to believe that it has been only been two seasons since the last title, but so far Van Gaal looks like a man who can bring the “not arrogant, just better” attitude back. Here’s to that!

Second half of the season XI: De Gea; Carrick, Jones, Rojo; Rafael , Blind, Herrera, Young; ;Di Maria; Falcao, Rooney
Next season’s XI: De Gea; Rafael, Hummels, Jones, Shaw; Bale, Blind, Herrera, Di Maria; Rooney, Falcao

United will have made the Champions League by the end of the season. City will probably win the Premier League after fatigue catches up with Chelsea given the Londoners’ lack of rotation so far. The winter transfer window might bring United a solid right-back, which may help a push for the title, though probably not enough. United has produced in big games this season and other ‘big’ clubs are either in a free fall or still in Europe. Van Gaal has historically done well in cup competitions and an FA Cup victory is definitely possible this season.

Next summer’s transfer market will bring a classy right-back and a world-class winger. All that Gareth Bale talk is indicative of something and Borussia Dortmund’s Marco Reus is also available. Herrera may end up in jail and Fellaini is no long-term option – expect Van Gaal’s golden boy Kevin Strootman to come to Old Trafford. Despite popular opinion a new central defender is not priority next summer. United will defend with organisation and not personnel and there are few established defenders to suit van Gaal’s high line anyway.

Anderson and probably Chris Smalling will leave the club – the Brazilian’s contract is up anyway. Jonny Evans will probably survive given his ‘left-footedness.’ Up front Ramadel Falcao will leave – James Wilson is promising. United will have to cut back what has become one of the biggest wage bills in Europe to clear for new arrivals. Falcao simply hasn’t performed. Antonio Valencia will be free to leave as well, though his high wages will be a stumbling block. Ashley Young will probably survive since he can fill in at any position on either flank.

In the next year Van Gaal’s philosophy will emerge and it’ll look something like Bayern Munich’s when he was manager there: a 4-2-3-1 with a focus on the flanks. It is indicative that Van Gaal has heavily relied on width despite playing winger-less systems, with Young and Valencia used as wing-backs. Wayne Rooney is very much like Thomas Muller. The German isn’t all that gifted technically. Van Gaal may even start playing a Bayern style 4-2-3-1 this season if Adnan Januzaj can find some form.

Next season United will win the Premier League. There will be no screwing about when the 2015/16 season begins. That extra 10 points in first 10 games of 2015/16 will bring the trophy back to Old Trafford. United probably won’t have the defence to hold off Barcelona or Real Madrid, but a new world-class winger may see the Reds sneak into semi-finals of the Champions League.

Counterattacking is in vogue and van Gaal is one of ‘counter-counter’ pioneers. Van Gaal will certainly relish the challenge.

Second half of this season XI: De Gea; Coleman, Jones, Rojo, Shaw; Blind, Fellaini; Januzaj, Rooney, Di Maria; Van Persie
Next season’s XI: De Gea; Coleman, Jones, Rojo, Shaw; Strootman, Blind; Januzaj, Rooney, Di Maria; Van Persie

United will finish the season, probably, in third place. Maybe second. As Ed said on the podcast last week, expectations have been reset and finishing fourth from here would be kind of disappointing. We’ll have seen a number of much better performances, and won the derby at Old Trafford. The FA Cup tie with Yeovil is slightly worrying – we might lose in the third round!

Next summer’s transfer market will be a slight anti-climax after last season’s. There won’t be a marquee signing to rival Di Maria or Falcao, but United will add sensibly in defence and midfield. Right-back is the position that most needs to be addressed with Rafael injured all the time. At least the injured centre backs have cover.

Some will leave too, including, sadly, Falcao. I have rarely wanted a player to work out as much as Falcao at United, but it seems not to going that way. He’s got four months to save the dream. One of Smalling, Phil Jones or Jonny Evans will leave — each good enough for United, none fit enough for United.

In 2015 we will discover what Van Gaal’s philosophy really is … and it’s that Christmas really is the most wonderful time of the year. Grinning from ear to ear when lighting the tree, giving the players the day off on Christmas, handing out presents. He loves it. Seriously though, his philosophy has changed over the years, and the best short hand for where it currently sits is something along the lines of ‘play the best, most attractive, football you can with the players at your disposal.’

After all that, next season, United will win the league. AGAIN!

Second half of this season XI: De Gea; Rafael, Jones, Rojo, Shaw; Herrera, Carrick, Di Maria; Rooney; Falcao, Van Persie
Next season’s XI: De Gea; Rafael, Godin, Jones, Shaw; Strootman, Herrera, Rooney; Di Maria, Falcao, Bale

Rant Cast 215 – Non denominational winter festival of your choosing special

December 22, 2014 Tags: The Pod 5 comments
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Ed and Paul get together to discuss all the festive football fun, or at least the slightly underwhelming draw against Villa. But hey, it’s nearly Christmas and Falcao scored, so it’s not all doom and gloom for United.

They look forward to games against Newcastle at home and Tottenham away, predict two United wins (obviously) and answer all the questions that the good people of Twitter have thrown their way.

Merry Non-Denominational Winter Festival of Your Choosing, everyone!


Stream this episode using the player below listen on iTunes or catch us on Stitcher. The podcast RSS feed is available here.

Rant Cast is donationware. If you really love the pod you can always show your appreciation by making a small donation and remember to leave a review on your platform of preference.

Hit us up with any feedback below or follow the pod on Twitter: Paul – @UtdRantCast, Ed – @UnitedRant, Tom – @Teejsound

Rant Cast is produced by Tom Jenkins at TEEJSOUND

Rant Cast 213 – better to be lucky than good

December 9, 2014 Tags: The Pod 4 comments
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This week on Rant Cast, Paul and Ed try and keep a straight face whilst discussing United’s convincing win over Southampton, and look back on a slightly better United performance against Stoke.

They discuss Marouane Fellaini in terms that will be more familiar to long-time listeners than the recent praise he’s received, resurrect the reverse-curse-of-the-Rantcast and veer off on a massive tangent about whether or not Wayne Rooney has fulfilled his potential.

Finally, Ed and Paul look forward to United absolutely smashing Liverpool at the weekend, take a load of listener questions, and run a competition to win a really, really lovely mug.


Stream this episode using the player below or listen on iTunes and leave us a review! The podcast RSS feed is available here.

Rant Cast is donationware! If you really love the pod you can always show your appreciation by making a small donation!

Hit us up with any feedback below or follow the pod on Twitter: Paul – @UtdRantCast, Ed – @UnitedRant, Tom – @Teejsound

Rant Cast is produced by Tom Jenkins at TEEJSOUND

Rant Cast 212 – Mauling the Tigers

December 1, 2014 Tags: The Pod 15 comments
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This week, Ed and Paul look back on United’s stroll in the park at Old Trafford against Hull City. United completed dominated the game, which saw fine performances from, well, pretty much everyone.

They debate Van Gaal’s “Philosophy”, pragmatism, and the fundamental nature of faith, before taking listener questions and previewing the upcoming games against Stoke and Southamption, Can Mark Hughes’ side spring a surprise against United? Can Louis van Gaal’s side spring a surprise against Southampton?

All this, and probably some more, in this week’s Rant Cast.


Stream this episode using the player below or listen on iTunes and leave us a review! The podcast RSS feed is available here.

Rant Cast is donationware! If you really love the pod you can always show your appreciation by making a small donation!

Hit us up with any feedback below or follow the pod on Twitter: Paul – @UtdRantCast, Ed – @UnitedRant, Tom – @Teejsound

Rant Cast is produced by Tom Jenkins at TEEJSOUND

Rant Cast 192 – the kids are alright

May 9, 2014 Tags: The Pod 7 comments
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On this week’s Rant Cast, Ed & Paul look back at the damp squib that was defeat to Sunderland and the testimonial-like victory over Hull City, which featured a couple of exciting début appearances. They also look forward to the season closer at Southampton, talk Ryan Giggs and Louis van Gaal, and do an extra large helping of your questions to make up for the lack listener input last week!

There’s also a brief chat about transfers, and an outline of plans for World Cup Rant Casts.

Also, make sure to stay tuned to the very end of the show to hear details of a contest to win a fantastic prize, courtesy of @TatianaMUFC.

Hit us up with any feedback below or follow the pod on Twitter: Paul – @UtdRantCast, Ed – @UnitedRant.

Rant Cast is donationware! If you really love the show you can always show your appreciation by making a small donation!

Stream this episode using the player below or listen on iTunes and leave us a review! The podcast RSS feed is available here.

Rant Cast is produced by Tom Jenkins, TEEJSOUND


Rantcast 188 – Moyes parks the bus

April 4, 2014 Tags: The Pod 19 comments
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In what was ostensibly a good week for David Moyes, Ed & Paul contrive to record their most ‘Moyes-Out’ show yet. It was hard work ladies and gents, but somebody has to do it!

The show covers the win against Aston Villa at Old Trafford, and Manchester United’s brave, plucky, up and at ’em bus parking performances against Bayern Munich. Also on the pod: your twitter questions, a preview of the dead rubber against Newcastle United, and a look ahead to quite how bad the damage could get next week in Munich.

After last week’s overuse of the word “dichotomy,” the word of the week this time around is “conflate”.

Hit us up with any feedback below or follow the pod on Twitter: Paul – @UtdRantCast, Ed – @UnitedRant.

And if you really love the show, you can always help cover our rising bandwidth costs by making a small donation!

Stream this episode using the player below or listen on iTunes and leave us a review! The podcast RSS feed is available here.

Rant Cast is produced by Tom Jenkins, TEEJSOUND

Rantcast 187 – Aspiring to Football Weekly

March 28, 2014 Tags: The Pod 1 comment
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Following the ray of hope that was the game against West Ham United, and the full blown downpour of dooooooom that was defeat to Manchester City, Ed and Paul cover all the stuff that matters in the world of Manchester United, provide some analysis, and ending up spending ages talking about ol’ David Moyesey.

With a preview of Aston Villa and United’s inevitably glorious win over Bayern Munich next week, and all of your twitter questions, this week’s podcast comes to you from opposite sides of the Atlantic. Which is still closer than Moyes and Giggsy sit to each other on the United bench.

Hit us up with any feedback below or follow the pod on Twitter: Paul – @UtdRantCast, Ed –@UnitedRant.

And if you really love the show, you can always help cover our rising bandwidth costs by making asmall donation!

Stream this episode using the player below or listen on iTunes and leave us a review! The podcast RSS feed is available here.

Rant Cast is produced by Tom Jenkins, TEEJSOUND

Rant Cast 185 – We’re gonna win the league

March 14, 2014 Tags: The Pod 4 comments
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On this week’s show Ed & Paul look back on United’s triumphant victory over the might of West Bromwich Albion, compliment the genius of Marouane Fellaini and look forward to United lifting the title in May…

Or perhaps not.

There’s a look ahead to the games against Liverpool and Olympiakos, and chat about the investment made in Manchester United by Baron Capital. Finally, there are your twitter questions and all the news that’s fit to chat about on another episode of the Rant Cast.

Hit us up with any feedback below or follow the pod on Twitter: Paul – @UtdRantCast, Ed –@UnitedRant.

And if you really love the show, you can always help cover our rising bandwidth costs by making asmall donation!

Stream this episode using the player below or listen on iTunes and leave us a review! The podcast RSS feed is available here.

Rant Cast is produced by Tom Jenkins, TEEJSOUND

Review: “The Class of ’92”

November 27, 2013 Tags: Reads 8 comments
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It’s ridiculous, when you think about it. Six mates, two of them literal brothers, the rest of them brothers in all but blood are possessed of a profoundly driven will to win and a deep personal love of a football club. They learn their trade together, bonded forever by their experience, and then they set about winning absolutely everything. How appropriate, then, that the people behind the “The Class of ‘92” have set about making a cinematic documentary out of the story, given that it could so easily be the plot of a perfect Hollywood ‘sports’ movie.

We all know the story of the class of ’92, but we have never seen it told quite like this. We may have had front row seats as it unfolded, marvelling in their triumphs as they gave us most of the greatest moments (and unquestionably the single greatest of all of them) of our football supporting lives, but this is essentially a backstage pass – finally free of the media machine, the film shows them more relaxed than they have ever been allowed to be, in public.

I am deliberately avoiding sharing anecdotes from the film in this review, as for those of us who know every iota of the plot details already, the anecdotes are the draw, and what a draw they are. They are beautifully captured – one-to-one talking heads with each of the players, with some genuine personal moments, and quite a lot of what people mean when they say “banter” in a non-pejorative way.

The dinner table scene, returned to again and again as the story plays out is an absolute joy to behold. I think most of us know that Paul Scholes is secretly funny, and he really is, but Ryan Giggs steals the show. The devil might have all the best tunes, but the Red Devils have all the best lines.

When speaking with one of the Directors, Ben Turner, for this Friday’s podcast, he said that the filmmakers were concerned with ensuring that the story would be cinematic, and accessible and interesting to a non-Manchester United supporting fanbase, as well as providing a deep enough experience to satisfy hardened reds. They are mostly successful; for those of us who lived through the story the first time around, it is nostalgic bliss, and for those unfortunate enough to support other football teams, the film looks lovely and the soundtrack is perfect.

There are a lot of efforts to set the rise of the class of ’92 into the wider context of 1990s Britain, and the sense of youth and optimism that genuinely pervaded at the time. The best aspects of this cultural contextualisation take the form of the soundtrack – heavy on the Stone Roses, as it very, very much should be. The worst come in the voices from outside football. Perhaps understandably, the bits not aimed at hardened reds are the bits I enjoyed least.

I have heard Danny Boyle talk about the sense of optimism in 90s Britain enough not to find it of particular value here, but at least that was not offensive. I found the inclusion of Tony Blair somewhat more dubious. Turner made the point that Blair represents a huge turning point in the relationship between British politics and football, and this is fair enough, but there is something painfully ironic about watching Blair talking about an optimism that he essentially destroyed in throwing our lot in with the Bush regime. Much as documentaries about the optimism of the sixties end with assassinations and the Vietnam war, so nineties optimism ends with Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Class of 92But enough about politics. There is mercifully not that much of Blair. Who wants to listen to him when you can listen to Eric Cantona talking about the joy of seeing the greatest crop of United players for forty years coming through the ranks together? When you can listen to Mani talking about trying to get tickets to the ’99 final? When you can watch the people who wrote the greatest sporting story of the modern age together look back and laugh and tell you what they really think of each other and the people around them?

The Class of ’92 is a wonderful film, it really is. It wouldn’t be quite as wonderful if I wasn’t a Red (but then again, what would?), but there is definitely enough in there to keep anyone with a passing interest in stories of profound human triumph involved. And for those of us who have been with the class of ’92 since rumours of a player who might be “better than Lee Sharpe” started to emerge from The Cliff, the fact that their story has been told with such love and respect makes for an unforgettable 90 minutes. Something that Giggs and Scholes, David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Phil and Gary Neville know about only too well.

The Class Of ’92 is out in selected cinemas on the 1st December and DVD on the 2nd December.

Dear Sir Alex, Thanks

May 9, 2013 Tags: Reads 43 comments
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Football serves an odd function – and if you are reading this there’s a good chance that you really care about it. I am endlessly fascinated by what football represents to those of us who become so invested in the outcome of a few men kicking a ball around that it is transformed into drama, beauty, frustration, sadness, joy, love, hate (more’s the pity), escape, togetherness. Family.

Manchester United are often called a family club – a massive global enterprise, at the centre of which, administratively at least, are a bunch of the same people that have been around long enough to remember the first Sir Alex Ferguson title win.

[Of course, United are literally a family club, in the worst possible way, given that the club is run by a family of financial parasites, leeching millions away to line their own nest eggs, where presumably they nest their next generation who will grow up to do a leveraged buyout of a club in a developing market somewhere.]

Like all football clubs, United are also something families share, passed down from mother or father to son or daughter, from your uncle who cares about football when your dad doesn’t, or your best friend’s dad’s wife, since this is the modern age. Football has long been regarded as a place where it is acceptable for men to show emotion, letting out the tears that are borne of a deeper loss, but that manifest in the delight or devastation you experience because of the good or not-so-good kicking of a ball.

Somewhere in this mix, where the human unconscious is given an escape valve for emotions that can’t be expressed elsewhere, profound attachments form. And there can’t be many sporting attachments greater than that between United fans and Alex.

Forget the Sir, not just because it’s a weird relic of the feudal age, but also because it’s a latter day addition, it’s a millennial thing, arriving in time to make a handy three letter acronym for the internet age. Before he was Sir Alex, he was Fergie or Alec, and he represented something to me, to us. He was our family club’s dad.

It started straight away. Alex came in and replaced ‘Big Ron’, an avuncular, friendly figure (how little we knew…), and he was quite scary. I was nine, so I didn’t have a drinking culture, but United did and Ferguson put a stop to it, making the club professional, hitting some stumbling blocks, but building, always building.

I never lost faith in him, but I was only 12 when there were “three years of excuses” and living exiled in Zimbabwe, climbing rocks and preoccupied with working out if I could design a hoverboard. By the time I really really cared about football, he became the best dad ever, buying Eric Cantona and winning the league in the year I started sixth form college.

Ferguson brought through a whole generation of kids, and the surrogate father bit was given a whole new dimension. Those of the class of 1992 who became the heart of Ferguson’s team must surely be the players with the deepest relationship with him – David became the black sheep, Ryan, Paul and Gary stayed loyal. Little brother Philip was sent to live up the road with Uncle David so he could come back a few years later and tell us it would all be ok.

Then came the knighthood, and with it the passage to grand-parenthood. Cristiano Ronaldo certainly needed a father figure, and another generation removed, Sir Alex became one. We all watched on, as Fergie became an elder statesman, this great manager becoming the greatest of all time in front of our grateful eyes.

Like all families, there was betrayal and tragedy. He sided with the Glazers rather than the supporters, perhaps because he felt it was in the fans’ best interests to act as a buffer between them and us. Perhaps for less noble reasons. Fergie said that if we didn’t like it we could go and support Chelsea. (Or – we could go to our rooms without any supper, as it were).

Like all dads he embarrassed us, not with his bad dancing – the fist pumped goal celebrations were joyous, not cringeworthy – but his ruthlessness could grate on those with a more sensitive bearing. Jaap Stam, Ruud van Nistelrooy, the weird goalkeeping blind spot. But as you grow up you learn that your parents aren’t perfect, and nor is your football manager.

I’m in my 30s now, and I try to keep the level of emotional investment in men, with a certain colour top, who kick a football, to a manageable level. But Fergie pre-dates my attempts to do that.

I’m so sad that he’s not United’s manager any more, even though I’m happy he gets to retire. I didn’t cry at the montages or the announcement, but I did cry when I recorded Rant Cast and I tried to list all his positive qualities as a human being. A day later, I realise why that was the trigger for me

It’s because it’s complicated. Fergie has been ruthless, and leaves our club registered in the Cayman Islands. He hurt a lot of people. But that’s not the full story.

There has been so much human goodness – the generosity to those in need, the support to other managers in hard times. He is a trade union man, after all. The thousands of letters of condolence and congratulations, done without fanfare.

And whilst there have been times of apparent obstinacy, and masses of footballing frustration, Sir Alex has brought joy to those of us lucky enough to be United fans that no other club anywhere in the land has been even nearly slightly close to experiencing.

I love my dad, even though he is not perfect, and I love Ferguson, even though he is not either. So, thank you, Alex, for dedicating your life to doing something which has made the fans so happy, so often. It’s been absolutely amazing and I honestly cannot believe that it is over.

I understand that impermanence is the fundamental nature of the universe, but I sort of thought you’d be the exception. I am going to remember the joy you brought for the rest of my life, and the pain will fade.

Most of all I will try to remember a mantra I try to live by, something which gives perspective when that inevitable impermanence shows itself: don’t be sad that it is over, be glad that it happened.