Send your thoughts to [email protected] if you want a weekend Mailbox.

The tie everyone will be watching…
It is literally impossible for Dortmund-Monaco to be a stinker, surely? All plans have now been cancelled.
Craig Nye

And that my friends is the sound of a million football hipsters heads exploding.
Chris M (I’m only jealous)

More on the European draws
The four favourites are all up against each other, those are going to be some scorchers. At some point tactics aren’t going to matter and teams are just going to throw the proverbial kitchen sink at each other.Whoever goes through is going to have a bit more confidence.

The other two games are between teams of similar styles two counter attacking teams in the Leicester/Atletico game two exciting attacking teams used to selling their best players in the Dortmund/Monaco match

In the Europa league Lyon/Besiktas looks tasty Lazcaette and Aboubakar are two of the best strikers anywhere,expect to hear their names a lot this summer there are other fascinating players like Fekir and Quaresma . Ajax vs Schalke is going to give both an opportunity to go further, Ajax will provide one of the youngest teams while Schalke may need to win the trophy too play in Europe next year the other game (Celta/Genk) is between the outsiders i think Celta will have too much quality though and they have slowly been sneaking through the rounds .

As a Utd supporter if I had to choose an opponent I would probably have gone for Genk but Anderlecth of Ajax are also great options, as they’ve got skills but don’t strike me as having as much experience. I’m looking forward to seeing what Youri Tielemans can offer.

Overall a great draw and the semis for some are not too far off……

And on the Europa
Youri Tielemens against Marouane Fellaini. Jesus wept.
Chris MUFC


European underperformance
There has been quite a bit of attention turned to the Premier League’s European performances following yet another abysmal campaign for the majority our sides on the grandest club stage of all.

Arsenal were not just beaten but carved up into tiny pieces, put in an envelope marked ‘mental strength’ and tossed onto a Bavarian fire. City forgot that defending is quite important when playing a football match and Spurs decided to invoke the spirit of old Tottenham by staring into the jaws of defeat to only then, when all seems lost, snatch worst defeat.

Thankfully Leicester have bucked the trend by knocking out an excellent Sevilla side and United are making grim, grinding progress through their Thursday nights. My real hope for United is that we triumph in the final against a hipster-friendly underdog via a dodgy penalty and a last minute handball by Ander Herrera. I am not sure the internet could cope with that.

A point was made by an F365 author (apologies as I don’t remember which of you it was) that one of the reasons the Premier League has failed in Europe recently is due to its traditionally strongest performers in the competition (Chelsea, United & Liverpool) suffering varying levels of decline over the past few years. I think this is probably the crux of it. Without these sides at their strongest, the Premier League’s fortunes in the Champions League are unlikely to change.

However, for the Premier League to be strong in Europe, these sides would need to be back to their A-game and almost certainly be totally dominating the league like the top 4 cabal of 10 years ago, which reached its nadir in an all-English final. There would be no chance of a Leicester win, Spurs breaking into the top 4, United finishing 5th, Pool finishing 8th, a Mourinho-managed Chelsea side flirting with the basement positions or any of the more interesting things that have happened in the league recently.

The Champions League over the last 4 years has been won by; Bayern, Real x 2, Barca. All sides that absolutely dominate their leagues broken only by the presence of Atletico in Spain, who were two times’ finalists themselves and ditto for Dortmund, also finalists themselves.

I would say that, to have a strong European presence, we would need a league that was utterly predictable. That is the trade-off. We would need to bring back the traditional top 4 and suck a lot of the recent fun we have had out of the league. As a United fan I would happily accept that trade off but I suspect that most would not. There is a lot of ‘our league is better than your league’ rubbish being bandied around the comments sections and European matches are being used as a stick to beat the Premier League round the head with but I think that is missing the point a bit. Not many of us are saying the Premier League is the greatest any more but I’d say it’s more fun than it has been in years.

Yes, it would be nice if our sides did a bit better in Europe but now City can beat Barca then lose to Monaco, United can go on an enormous unbeaten run and still be stuck in 6th, Leicester can win the league and Crystal Palace can spend silly money on a striker who plays better with his head than his feet. It’s all a bit odd when you compare it with previous years and for many I suspect underperformance in Europe is a price worth paying for some genuinely interesting games and results.
Smyth, MUFC (although Chelsea are somewhat ruining that this year by becoming all good again)

Some tips for Jose
Given that Jose seems to claim that United will lose on Sunday, here is a tip sheet. There are some real gems in your squad that you are currently underutilizing.

Luke Shaw, Daley Blind, Martial (if he gets fit), Rashford, Lingard, Schweinsteiger?.

Let us throw caution to the wind and go attack. Get rid of the damn hand brake.

Shaw and Valencia bombing down the wings. If Valencia is tired (is he ever), play Darmian or Young.

Play Daley blind in midfield with Mata. Play Martial/Lingard on either side of Mikhi and play that rashford fella in the center. It will work out.
Sudarsan (That collective groan you hear is Fellaini starting)


Mourinho has a point
Wow – the outrage that comes with every Mourinho statement is off the charts.

Just to clarify – Mourinho comes out with some utter horsesh*t – as does every other other manager, especially those at big clubs who’s job is to manage expectations and be the public face of their club as much as manage the team.

Sure, some spin a yarn with the “affable-German-uncle-in-law” schtick of Klopp, some with the “Private school teacher in a state school bemused by the lack of intelligence of his new pupils” style of Guardiola and some with the “charming psycho you meet down the pub who is having a good day because he’s won big at the bookies, but god help you when hes not in a lucky patch” of Conte. I think I prefer all these to Mourinho’s “911 was an inside job” constant conspiracy theory style, (on the subject of lame conspiracy theories – the actual champions league draw compared with Micki Atttridge’s “UEFA ARE CORRUPT” mail prediction is hilarious) but that doesn’t make their statements any more true or worth listening to.

Does anyone actually disagree with the argument that if the premier league and FA scheduled fixtures differently our teams would have a better chance of succeeding in Europe, however slight? This would benefit all of the top teams in this country and also help us keep our coefficient high. I think its a perfectly valid point and one that other countries subscribe to.

There are also arguments of why this is difficult, chief of which is the money TV companies pay to choose the schedule – but that doesn’t mean its not a debate worth having.

So why not just pretend the same statement came from someone else than Mourinho, and actually discuss things?
Rory – London

Jekyll and Hyde
Jose Mourinho is an enigma. A fascinating, hate-fueling enigma.

There is part of me that secretly cannot wait until next season, because I feel we’ll see the return of the behemoth that is Jose Mourinho. I feel that Man United will walk the league, and give a great account of themselves in whatever cup competitions that they find themselves in next season. Despite being permanently glued into 6th place, United have been far from terrible this season (although certain individual performances have been) – they’ve just been missing a certain ‘je ne ce qua’.

I know “if’s and buts” and all that jazz, but if United had one five of the seven home games they drew (excluding the draws against Liverpool and Arsenal) they’d be 7 points behind Chelsea with a game in hand. They’re only missing one or two components from their team, and a successful transfer window in the vein of Diego Costa and Fabregas for his title winning Chelsea season, and United could be back on track. He has, at times, gotten United to purr, and with a couple of quality additions, this team could play some magical football.

Yet, on the other hand, Mourinho seems like he might have lost his marbles, and I equally feel that this could be the falling of a giant within the game. I think he got off extremely lightly following the whole Eva Carneiro situation, and while that may have hampered his final season in London, the hangover effects still seem to be lingering up in Manchester. His incessant ranting over anything and everything is far from the calculated attacks he used to make.

While he still might be trying to take the attention off his players, bemoaning the fixture congestion after almost every game is ridiculous. Every fan knows that to go all the way in all competitions requires a certain amount of games, so a manager expressing anger weekly reeks of either a lack of preparation, or his massive ego failing to accept United league position and reliance on these ‘smaller’ trophies for success. There are those who feel that United should be miles ahead of where they are now, given their squad, and the transfer outlay and obviously there are questions that should be answered here. A Costa and Fabregas might have to replace an Ibra and Carrick, not to mention the other reinforcements needed.

Either way, next season should be fascinating, and while my heart would hope for the crash and burn scenario, my head cannot help think Mourinho will be headed for success!
Néill, (On paper, the Dortmund v Monaco games should be absolute classics), Ireland


Everton and contract sagas
Everton seem to only be in the news lately regarding various player contracts, so as a fan I thought I’d weigh in my heart and head thoughts on the two big ones. Of course with the glaring caveat that I’m pretty bias in my opinions on this.

Firstly, Lukaku. I dead set expected him to leave last summer so I’ve spent this season relishing every minute he’s played and every goal he’s scored. He’s been crucial to what’s been a relatively successful season, but it does feel like borrowed time and a countdown to his inevitable departure. While publicly discussing it maybe wasn’t ideal, I don’t blame his reasons for wanting to leave. While what Koeman says also rings true, that the club has ambition and is moving in the right direction, I also understand that Lukaku is ready now for a higher level and would likely walk into the starting lineup of many elite clubs. Of course he knows that and wants to pursue that.

That being said, I think he should stay. Not just for the 15-20 goals he almost guarantees a season, but I honestly think it would be good for him. It’s easy to forget how young he really is, and if the club can convince him to give it one or two more seasons, he can always leave at 25 and still have many good years at the top. But with a bit of luck he might find in the meantime he gets his wish with the club he’s at. That being said, realistically I think he’ll leave in the summer.

Secondly, Barkley. First of all, Koeman really made it clear in his Press Conference that there was no ultimatum on Barkley. He simply referenced Clyne at Southampton and the fact that after he didn’t sign a new contract the club saw fit to sell him and that might make sense in Barkley’s situation too. Now I’m a big fan of Barkley and have always wanted him to do well. The fact he’s an Everton boy that’s come through the youth system and is subsequently loved by the fans adds a touch of romance to things. So the heart says convince him to stay. However the head looks at it a bit differently. He’s clearly very talented and in a purple patch, but nowhere near the asset Lukaku is.

Personally I think, purely business wise, that if they can get north of 30 million for him they should more than consider it. If the Sigurdsson rumours have any legs, the club could probably sign him for around 20 million. In that case, not only have you bought a player who, at this point in time, I would consider an upgrade on Barkley, but you’ve made a healthy profit on the whole thing. Every chance Sigurdsson breaks his leg in his first game and Barkley goes on to become bona fide superstar, but none of that can be seen at this point at this time.

Anyway, hope they both stay, but that’s what I think.

Will (business, always business) Wymant, EFC

Alternatives to Livermore
Jake Livermore picked for England. I actually think Southgate took a leaf out of Trump’s playbook by diverting the focus that would have been on his finishing of Rooney’s international career by doing something so outrageous at the same time that it got all the attention.

However – assuming it was for footballing reasons, did he not consider these more viable alternatives?;

1. Jack Wilshere – yes, injury prone but England’s most talented player. Period.
2. Tom Carroll – massively underrated and a U21 success
3. Harry Winks – promising to say the least
4. Nobody.

And by nobody, i mean – if Livermore’s all you got, why not just pick 22 players? Save money on kit, hotel rooms, food and also there’s an extra seat on the bus that the other players can put there wash bags on.

Its just occurred to me that I’m in total agreement with my Hull City supporting mate when he said to me “nobody in England’s midfield is better than Jake Livermore.”

Johnno. ” I blame Wenger.”

Even better
I’m so disappointed in you Jon (genuinely had no idea Cleverley was at Watford!) NUFC, Guangzhou, China, you should have known that Chuba Akpom is also a realistic target for Blackburn in the summer.  Akpa-Akpro-Akpam-Akpom.  Perfect.
Matt, AFC (If you say it out loud it sounds like you’re conjugating a verb in another language)


You don’t want to know
Only one thought lingering in my mind after perusing Big Weekend.

What is Steady doing with his bananas on Thursday nights that leave him so breathless?
Chris, SAF Stand


Oh, Micki
I quite enjoyed Micki’s conspiracy-laden email from this morning’s mailbox.

This was probably because I’d read the draw results before reading it. Hindsight is wonderful in that respect, almost as wonderful as Micki getting all 4 matches wrong.

Go put your tinfoil hat back on and have a lovely weekend chap. And stay indoors – it’s probably best for everyone.
Robbo Robson

If Micki Attridge has the lottery numbers then please can he keep them to himself.

Cheers Oracle.
Joe, AFC, East Sussex

In response to Micki. The only thing the draw proves is that UEFA read the mailbox.

Under 2.5 @ The Calderon?
Alex (are we not doing brackets anymore?)

Spot on Micki Attridge… Spot on.
Sood CFC ( the conspiracy is real dammit)

Micki Attridge looks a bit of a berk now, eh?
Chris (I bet he wears a tin foil hat) Springham, Spurs

And the man himself…
Maybe UEFA don’t fix them after all…

Atletico Madrid v Leicester City

Borussia Dortmund v Monaco

Bayern Munich v Real Madrid

Juventus v Barcelona

What a fantastic draw though!
Micki Attridge