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Don’t bet on it
I remember when I read my first John Nicholson piece about betting. I felt it was good for someone to finally get back at the system. It was what it deserved. Now, which each new article complaining about the ills of society, I started to go through various emotions. At first I felt sadness for those who suffer from addiction, but, after repeated tales, one starts to feel numb and then, finally, you start to wonder why does everyone blame the system. We should take responsibility for our actions. I have been watching football and tennis for a long time and I have never felt even a tiny urge to bet, despite the repeated advertisements, friends doing it.

No one blames porn websites for their addiction to porn, why should it be different from betting. The FA is allowed to be sponsored by betting companies and demand that players not bet on a game they can influence. That sounds very logical. And fair to non-players.

Yes we all need help, but let’s not forget we make the decisions, not some silly ad or friend.

By the way Heineken and, from the repeated advertisements, Guinness are major sponsors in football. Yet, no one blames them for alcohol addiction.
Victor A. (still wondering how people are influenced by adverts).

Liverpool deal a Given
Just going through the completed transfer list and one thing stood out. After Alex Manninger was released (he’ll be eternally revered for his contribution) and it seems a bit harsh to keep Danny Ward for being a third choice I suggest the least spectacular signing of the season…

Shay Given to Liverpool. Partly because I’m Irish and love the guy and secondly because it could be genuinely hilarious to see him as first choice by October.

Go on Jurgen, ya mad b*stard.
Derek, Ireland.

Matic debate
As a Chelsea fan I really don’t understand the current narrative surrounding Nemanja Matic. Why is it suddenly decided that he is past it and a bit shit? He has been a regular in a team that has won two of the last three league titles. Yeah he was terrible during Mourinho’s last season but so was every other member of the squad except for perhaps Willian and Aspilicueta.

You could say Kante carried him last season, but I don’t think that’s really true. But then explain the season where he played in a two with Cesc Fabregas (who could not run) and carried him to his best season in English football.

His price is a reflection of the market, it’s inflated obviously but he’s not a bad player. He will improve that team, when did he suddenly become a figure of fun when he’s played consistently well for 9 months in the best team in the league. It’s just really weird.
Dan, Ireland.

…As we engage in yet more collective hand-wringing about United’s transfer fees and recruitment, it might be worth exploring the Matic transfer in more depth before deciding it’s a waste of money.

Matic might be 28, but he’s a young 28. He’s played 352 games; Lukaku has played nearly 320 at 24. Add in a lack of major injuries, and his playing in a position that tends to suit older, more experienced and intelligent heads, and you could make a solid argument that United can expect to have at least five years of the best of Matic.

Mourinho also knows, and trusts, Matic. Whatever the merits of his doing so, Mourinho plainly likes to have a core of trusted, senior players with whom he has history, and Matic fits this perfectly. He can be expected to be the rock upon which a midfield of Pogba and Herrera are built, and to be consistently selected by Mourinho. He also knows English football, and has height and power.

But the crux of this is simple; the point of Matic is to give Pogba a platform to excel, and who else is available and could do this on day one? Verrati would be expensive and is a playmaker rather than a holder, Bakayoko is Chelsea bound, Vidal is injury prone, Kante is unavailable, and Mourinho wouldn’t trust Ruben Neves, Renato Sanches etc. with a role of this importance.

Fabinho might still arrive (he can play at right back), and for all that it isn’t desperately exciting, Matic looks like the kind of boring, sensible transfer United should have prioritised years ago.
Chris MUFC

…Reading this morning’s mailbox about how Matic is not good enough/he is bang average. I would like to think that Jose knows Matic exceptionally well and knows exactly what job he will want Matic to do.

We are always too quick to judge a player by his age, we would rather sign a 23 yr old over 29, Why ? Do we think the 23 yr old will finish his career at our club ??. Juventus signed Pirlo at 32 and I think we will all agree that worked out quite well. Now I am not for one minute comparing Matic to Pirlo but what United need is a player to join and perform his job from the start in order to compete for the league and have a decent showing in the Champions League.

United historically signed players that perform at a consistent level in the Premier League and I am happy to see United return to that transfer policy, it is less risky and the player settles into the squad much quicker. Before Kante was in the league Matic was credited as the man who won Chelsea the league, if Matic can find that form again I think he will prove to be an excellent signing.
Paul (It’s only Tuesday) Dublin

…When did being 29 years of age become old? According to some mailboxers, Matic is only one birthday away from donning his pipe and slippers.

Players taper away from their mid thirties, not their late twenties. Relax.
Eoin (40 is the new 30) Ireland

…I used to believe the bulk of United fans are level headed and don’t react to nonsense and rumors, but Ted, Ben, Tim Sutton & Daniel are making me question that belief.

So we are “rumored” with Matic? Does that mean anything? Last week we were close to signing Ronaldo, Fabinho, Morata, Belotti. Ousmane Dembele liked a United tweet, so anther done deal.James Rodrigues has already signed half a dozen times, with Bale on his way as well. Maybe next week it will be Messi’s turn, as anyone can start a rumor and state “unnammed source” or “source close to team/player” like that means anything.

Simply put nobody knows who we are after and surprisingly United have managed to keep their transfer targets under wrap and I for one quite like that. So until United actually sign someone, might we wise to assumed the “deal done” means nothing and not make a fool about themselves.Also prices quoted for Lindelof started from 40 mil to 60 mil and he ultimately was signed for 30.5 mil so best not to react to made up prices as well.

Secondly this ridiculous statement from Ted made me laugh “I don’t understand what the problem is; identify the players, ascertain the asking prices, pay it. Done.” Yeah that strategy is how you would end up paying 100 mil for every transfer target. Why negotiate and get a fair price, just pay whatever a team demands. Hopefully for your employer, you don’t work for the purchase department.

Last season we had a perfect transfer window with four fantastic buys and again we are off to a good start with the Lindelof signing. Pre-season hasn’t started as yet, but one would assume the transfer window is about to slam shut, judging from the desperation of some of the mails.

Best part of the off-season is being entertained by the baseless/made up rumors, while waiting for the actual signing.
Jarron Borges, (Relax and enjoy the rumors, just don’t take them seriously) MUFC

…I wrote in a couple of weeks ago (unpublished) suggesting that Mourinho would most likely target existing Premier League players this summer. Why? Because his reputation dictates that he has to achieve success (specifically, the league title) in his second season. To do this, he’s not going to gamble on players with no Premier League experience – he will target players who are proven performers in the league he’s working in. Even if Matic only gives a solid 6 or 7/10 every week, that’s much more a reliable foundation for a title push than a player new to the league, who may well blow hot and cold as they acclimatise (see: Pogba, P; Mkhitaryan, H).

It makes a degree of sense (although of course the proof will be in the puddin’ with United’s league performances next season) – bring in players from abroad ahead of the first season, then buy players from the domestic league ahead of the second. You then begin the second season with a group of players all of whom have Premier League experience.

On another topic – I saw a ‘tweet’ listing the heights of some of United’s players, including Matic, highlighting the fact that the lintels at Old Trafford are likely to need repainting fairly regularly. It made me wonder – why are there still only very few shorter defenders? Only a few teams still try relentless crossing or lumping the ball into the box from open play – this tactic is usually only employed at set-pieces, when taller players (including midfielders and strikers) can make their way back to defend anyway. Given the rise of the small, nippy, nimble forward/winger directly attacking central defenders (rather than traditional wingers sticking to the flanks and only engaging the generally smaller full-backs), why are there not more relatively short defenders who can match the attackers’ ability to swiftly change direction and speed?
Dan, (Javier Mascherano is 5 foot 7 and is blazing a trail) Brighton

…Reading this morning’s Mailbox makes me realise why opposing fans hate United’s entitled bunch of whiner fans, Matic is being bought to free up Pogba and Herrera, it’s not difficult to understand, yes buying all the shiny new things like Bakayoko and Fabinho would be lovely but it doesn’t guarantee a thing. What Jose does it set a team up to win, he buys players for a system and most of the time it works.

Real Madrid and it’s Galactico policy although exciting didn’t mean they went out and won everything, they basically had a side of wonderful individuals that sometimes clicked yet other times frustrated, Jose is trying to put a side together that is first and foremost hard to beat then he can work on the attacking flair when the back is sorted.
In summary stop fu*king whining and get behind the team you are meant to support. Boo Hoo we haven’t signed (insert Ronaldo type name here).
Paul Murphy, Manchester (£40m is a p*ss take though)

Unsure over Bakayoko
Why does everyone automatically think Bakayoko is going to be a success story? How many times have we heard of the new Vieira coming over from France and not being quite as good as he was in that league?

Don’t get me wrong. He looks a good player but this was only really a break out season for him. Your esteemed colleagues at Planet Football have done an article on him where his previous managers all stated he has all the talent but he doesn’t have the application. Who’s to say he won’t come over to London and get caught up in the bright lights and hey presto he’s a flop. Obviously he might not but with Matic he has proven that he is a top quality midfielder in the premier league and fits the Carrick whole for probably 3-4 seasons giving United more time to maybe find another younger player. I also agree though that the fee is high but he’s won the league twice in the last 3 seasons so I’m not sure what we expect in todays market?
Chaz (Essex)

United’s last good deal?
Q from Ted, Manchester: when was the last time we (Manchester United) got a really good deal on a player?

A: King Eric, for 1 million? Or was it Ronaldo, a bit later, for 12 million? Given Ronaldo’s sell -on value, he’s got my vote.

It’s a fair question though and we’re being stitched-up all the time simply because United are sometimes desperate (Fellaini?) and sometimes we have inept negotiators.
Jonesey Melbourne

All part of the process
It seems to be a regular whinge in the mailbox that clubs are not ‘doing their transfer business early enough’ or are slack and let others steal targets from them. Putting aside the argument that we don’t truly know which targets the clubs are actually given permission to approach in the first place (assuming they’re not all tapped up which is by no means unlikely), there is a hell of a lot that goes on behind a transfer.

I negotiate deals through my work and even a contract of a few million usually takes up to ten meetings between the parties, numerous iterations of paperwork and many changes in contract values. I’m sure football clubs have a team of legal bods working on their behalf but when you consider that they may have to contend with the following, it’s not surprising these things take time: Player value, existing sell-on clauses, wages, structure of the transfer (up-front, add-on clauses etc), player exchanges, length of contract, future sell-on clauses and a myriad of other things.

Any deal done early in the transfer window probably started weeks or months ago, so you can blame the clubs for not being pro-active but in the case of replacing players the board decide to sell or who force a move, it is no surprise that the deadline day is busy.

Paul, Man Utd

Sign of the times
Interesting Top 10 this morning. Unfortunately, these valuations are a clear sign of the times now, meaning more of these ‘mega money’ moves will simply become commonplace.

Don’t get me wrong, £50m for Dier and Barkley and the £30m for Gibson are mental fees, but the difference now is that pretty much £20-30m needs to be spent to get what you’d call a serviceable Prem player. There are of course exceptions, how Spurs got Wanyama for £12m (or any of them for peanuts for that matter) I do not know, but mostly we’re all just going to have to get used to these inflated fees now.

Xhaka for £35m, Matic for £40m, Lacazette supposedly (gulp) for £60m – this is just football in 2017 I’m afraid.

And yes, I do still use £15m for Shearer as the yardstick for any transfer. But it’s time to move on….
Joe, AFC, East Sussex

Can I just say this about Matic’s transfer? In response to James Warren this morning…

Nothing makes the transfer of Granit Xhaka, the Swiss Robbie Savage with the tackling ability of Paul Scholes, look good. Not even Moussa Sissoko for £30m.

He’s utter p*ss.

Thanks for listening.

Worst goals
Last night I had the usual post-season discussion on which was the best/most-memorable goal of the season, etc…

However, we then moved on to the topic of the worst goals of the season – those comically bad goals that are so terrible that they become memorable and looked back upon fondly.
Problem is, none of us seem to remember any really, really crap goals from this season past.

Was it just an average – good year for goals, or are we just getting too old to remember such gems in amongst the 427 hours of televised football we watch weekly?

Mailbox – please help. What was the worst goal your team scored, and the worst it conceded, this past season?

Elias (own goals don’t count), Johannesburg

Barkley stuck
Can we stop this running joke on Barkley’s imaginary valuation? Let’s say Everton were willing to sell him, (apparently they are) which club will stump up that amount to sign him? I’m guessing it has to be a club that finished above Everton last season so let’s see

Chelsea: They don’t make use of a CAM in their system and I don’t think barkely can dislodge anyone on the pitch and bench. He could be put on the bench incase the coach needs to change his system midgame that needs a player of his skill set. (Oscar couldn’t survive so I don’t think Barkley will survive)

Tottenham: Probably the most realistic of options barkely might have to move up the table but won’t dislodge Alli or Eriksen from the starting line up and Tottenham won’t break their transfer record to sign a player who is likely to seat on the bench, they already have an expensive bench warmer (cc:Sissoko)

Man City: not Guardiola’s type of player hence will not be mentioned in the blue half of Manchester

Liverpool: Klopp already has Coutinho, Firminho, Lallana who can all play effectively in Barkley’s role and Barkley won’t fit in Liverpool’s pressing game.

Arsenal: Arsene will NEVER pay that amount for Barkley. If he’s dilly dallying over paying £57M for Lacazette and will only pay an extra £1 for Suarez, there’s no way he’ll pay 50M for a player he has surplus options in the player’s position.

Man Utd: not a mourinho kind of signing and mou won’t have the patience to withstand Barkley’s occasional brain freeze on the pitch.

So we’re back to Everton. Except PSG, Real Madrid, Bayern, Barca, or Juve deem it fit to look into his case (HEY stop laughing at the back). This leaves us with only one option: CHINA

Traore disappointment
Slightly sad to see Bertrand Traore go. I genuinely thought he might have a role to play next season because of his versatility in those front three positions. I know it’s the Chelsea model and £8.8mil is a bloody great return, but I still think he could’ve fit in.

Oh well, maybe the next one will stay?
Sood CFC

In’t football brilliant
Is this the most intriguing (read bonkers) summer in Premier League history? The number of players moving and the amounts of money are simply ludicrous. The piece on top ten fees was eye watering!

But all that aside, it’s bloody brilliant isn’t it? United taking Matic and looking to spend Scrooge McDuck money on seemingly everyone, Liverpool getting Salah and not getting Van Dijk unless they pay 5 billion pounds because Southampton are fed up of their sh*t; City and Everton getting their business done early, promoted clubs smashing transfer records, Arsenal doing who f*cking well knows what? Have Lecister done anything?!

And on top of that that, Rafa back in the Premier League managerial mix! Next season is going to be fantastic.
Alan, Córdoba.

Lady in red and blue
Unless I have missed it, why have none of the tabloids gone with this stinker:

Crys De Boer

I’ll get my coat,
Rishi Sharma