When it Rains…

How’s the season going so far?

  • Raphael Varane, Luke Shaw, Tyrell Malacia, Mason Mount are injured. Lisandro Martinez might be. Victor Lindelof left Sunday’s match, as well, which means we finished the match with Harry Maguire and Jonny Evans at central defense. Talk about a dream team!
  • We spent money on two new players (Rasmus Højlund and Sofyan Amrabat) who could have chronic back injuries.
  • We got rid of Mason Greenwood (temporarily— no team was going to shell out a fee for him) because of domestic violence, assault and sex abuse allegations. Now Antony has been accused of domestic violence by his ex-girlfriend. It took the club several days before they issued a bland response about taking the allegations seriously. We’ll see if they follow the Greenwood precedent and suspend him indefinitely, but I’m not holding my breath on that one.
  • Jadon Sancho and Erik ten Hag are feuding. Ten Hag claims Sancho wasn’t training hard enough so he was dropped for Sunday’s 3-1 loss to Arsenal. Sancho immediately hit back and disputed his manager’s allegations and now they’re at a standoff. Sancho, who’s been a disappointment ever since he joined United, had this issue last year and ten Hag tried the carrot approach by protecting him and sending him to the Netherlands for intense, private training. Looks like now, he’s getting the stick.
  • According to some media sources, The Glazers have decided not to sell. Of course, others have posited that this is just a ploy to wring even more money out of potential buyers. Nevertheless, the specter of the Glazers staying on was enough to see the club’s stock to tank.

Wasn’t this season supposed to be a step forward?

Did Daniel Levy Offer To Drive This Guy to the Airport?

Tottenham Hotspur chairman Daniel Levy has a well-earned reputation as a tough negotiator.

Manchester United certainly knows how much of hard ass he can be. The club endured long, protracted negotiations for Michael Carrick in 2006 and Dimitar Berbatov in 2008 — the latter was such an ordeal that Sir Alex Ferguson later said it was more painful than his hip replacement surgery.

In subsequent years, Levy seemingly went out of his way to make sure his players didn’t end up at United, playing hardball for the likes of Gareth Bale, Luka Modric, Eric Dier, and Toby Alderweireld. Just this summer, United abandoned their pursuit of Harry Kane because they figured there was no point getting into a long, drawn-out back-and-forth with Levy, who would probably just squeeze every last drop out of them and then try to get even more.

When it came to loaning out left back Sergio Reguilón, though, Levy barely put up a fight. Heck, if reports are to be believed, Spurs aren’t even getting a loan fee and United can break the deal in January if they wish. United are covering his wages, but at £53,000 a week, he’s not even making as much as Brandon Williams was.

So what happened to Daniel Levy, master negotiator? Did he get played by United’s crack team of brilliant, forward-thinking innovators?

Or was he too busy doing a celebratory dance and high-fiving his fellow executives for getting a rival club to take a completely unwanted player off their hands and cover his wages? If anything, he was probably trying to make sure he didn’t do anything to blow the deal.

So, the fact that Daniel Levy did everything short of pack this guy’s bag for him means we’re getting hosed right?


Occam’s Razor

There are lots of theories behind Manchester United’s poor start to the season.

The lack of a good goal scorer. Summer signing Rasmus Højlund has yet to see the pitch while Anthony Martial continues to be Anthony Martial.

Predicable tactics.

Casemiro’s lack of form and/or ability to cover large amounts of ground without help from Mason Mount and Bruno Fernandes, who have been instructed to play higher up the pitch.

Those all have merit. But there’s another, simpler and more obvious answer — at least when it comes to scoring goals. It’s possible that the reason they’ve struggled to convert their chances is because they’re still too reliant on Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford, and neither man had played well this season until Saturday’s 3-2 comeback victory over Nottingham Forest.


Not So Fast…

Manchester United have looked completely toothless in front of goal so far. They escaped with a 1-0 win against Wolves during the opening weekend of the Premier League season that had more to do with luck than skill.

On Saturday, their magic ran out. United lost 2-0 against a Tottenham Hotspur team that had just lost their best goal scorer to the transfer market. Despite out-shooting Spurs 22-17, United didn’t have their finishing boots on and squandered several good scoring opportunities. Their ongoing problems in midfield (Casemiro had trouble covering so much ground on his own without help from Mason Mount) meant that one goal was probably going to be enough to condemn them to defeat.

With only the unreliable Anthony Martial and the unproven (and unfit) Rasmus Højlund in reserve, United could use a proven goalscorer and natural finisher.

That person was supposed to be Mason Greenwood — until today’s announcement that he will never play for the team again.


Who Says The Magic is Gone From Old Trafford?

Erik ten Hag said he wanted to turn Old Trafford into a fortress. Maybe the one he had in mind was the Magic Castle?

How else to explain Manchester United somehow coming away with all three points in their season opener against Wolves? For most of the match, Wolves waltzed through the midfield as if David Copperfield had made Casemiro, Mason Mount and Bruno Fernandes disappear. Mario Lemina and Matheus Cunha looked the second coming of Ronaldo and Rooney, slashing through our defense like a saw going through a woman in a box, helping their team generate multiple chances that, on any other day, would have netted them three-to-five goals at the very least. CBS Sportsline had Wolves’ expected goals at 2.23 compared to 1.46 for United, and even that seemed to flatter the hosts.

United managed to pull a rabbit out of the hat to score the lone goal, as Aaron Wan-Bissaka, of all people, provided a great cross into the box for Raphael Varane to head home. For the much-maligned Wan-Bissaka, it was either a sign of his improvement as a playmaker or some sort of magical intervention that he managed to float such a perfect cross into the box in the first place.

And, of course, there was the penalty no-call on Andre Onana during second-half stoppage time that made us all wonder if the officiating crew had been brainwashed or deceived by a wizard or warlock of some sort. (Or maybe it was Sir Alex Ferguson, who did the old “Fergie Time” gesture during the match which, surely, exerted some sort of influence on the refs, right?). Onana, who otherwise had a great match and made several match-winning stops down the stretch, barreled into Sasa Kalajdzic with such force and strength that the Wolves’ forward could have filed charges for assault and battery. It was such a clear and obvious error — the kind that led to the introduction of VAR in the first place — that it made you question if you had been tricked by some sort of illusion.

In any event, there are plenty of reasons to be concerned. But it’s just one game. And the hallmark of a good team is they find a way to win even when they don’t play well.

And hey, this time last year we were getting beat down by Brighton at home, so I’ll take the magical three points in a heartbeat. Hopefully, we’ll play better this weekend against the Harry Kane-less Spurs. Penn & Teller can play in the midfield, right?

Do you believe in magic? (Do you, do you, do you?)

Backup Plan

Casemiro deservedly got lots of plaudits for his impactful performance for Manchester United last season.

So much so that it’s easy to forget that, at the time he joined the club from Real Madrid, there was plenty of skepticism as to whether he really fit into Erik ten Hag’s tactical scheme. Could a defensive shield like Casemiro thrive in ten Hag’s system of high-pressing, quick-passing and ball retention?

Instead, Casemiro seemed more like a band-aid — a quick fix for a team that got ripped apart by Brentford in ten Hag’s second match in charge. It only seemed a matter of time before ten Hag dumped him from the lineup in favor the guy we all knew he had wanted all along— Frenkie de Jong.

But then Casemiro had to screw that up by showing off different facets of his game and proving his worth to the club. In games where he didn’t play last season, United missed the control, security and playmaking abilities he brought and looked like an inferior version of the team that finished third and won the League Cup.

So, perhaps it’s a testament to just how good and valuable Casemiro has been that ten Hag has decided that he needs a better backup for him.


So Long Slabhead?

Life comes at you fast.

Four years ago this summer, Manchester United paid £80 million to secure the services of Harry Maguire, a record transfer fee for a defender that still stands.

Sure, it was a lot of money, but at the time, it seemed like he was worth every cent. The club desperately needed a good center half and back line leader and Maguire had long been considered one of the best in the league. Pep Guardiola had tried to get him to replace Vincent Kompany while Jose Mourinho was so upset that United didn’t sign him in 2018 that he was still complaining about it a year later.

During Maguire’s first season at United, he made that fee look like a bargain, playing every minute of every match in the league and bringing a level of authority, skill and stability not seen since the heyday of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic. When he was given the captain’s armband after only a few months at the club, it seemed like a no-brainer.

This weekend, when Maguire announced that he had been stripped of the captaincy, it seemed like another no-brainer for United. Maguire has been a liability for several seasons now and had lost his place under Erik ten Hag. He’s been so bad that even politicians outside the UK are taking shots at him. A departure seems inevitable— the only question is whether it will be a permanent or loan move.

So what happened?


What A Difference One Week Makes…

Going into the FA Cup Final, things seemed to be looking up for David de Gea. Despite an uneven season, the longtime Manchester United #1 won his second Premier League Golden Glove award and looked set to sign a new contract— albeit for less money.

He wasn’t guaranteed to be the starter going into next season, but by accepting a hefty pay cut, he was set to stay at United and either compete for the top job or transition into a role as a backup and locker room leader.

But the seven day period between the FA Cup Final and the Champions League Final might have changed everything.


The Next Haaland? Or Just Someone Whose Name Sounds Similar?

When Journey decided to part ways with longtime lead singer Steve Perry in 1997-98, they hired a guy who not only sounded like him but whose name was kind of similar: Steve Augeri. I like to think that they did it so that when they did interviews, they could talk about him and if listeners weren’t paying close attention, they would think the band was talking about Steve Perry and they would be none the wiser until after the show started.

Similarly, Rasmus Højlund has long been compared to Erling Haaland. Let’s hope the likenesses go beyond the fact they’re both blonde Scandinavian strikers whose last names sound similar — because Manchester United desperately need a goal scorer.


Some Pittsburgh Sports Coins for Yinz*

* Yinz – A western-Pennsylvania bastardization of the phrase “you ones”, which addresses more than one person.

With 17 professional championships, Pittsburgh may not be Titletown, USA (that would be New York City, with 65 as of early 2023), but it’s definitely punching above its weight. Yinzertown has won more titles than several much larger cities and markets, including Atlanta, Denver, Houston, St. Louis, Washington, D.C., Dallas, Miami, and Baltimore (suck it, Ravens!). Not bad, considering Pittsburgh only has three of the four major sports (although an old ABA franchise, The Pittsburgh Pipers, did win a championship in 1968 behind the legendary Connie Hawkins).

Obviously, the bulk of these championships have come from the Steelers (sorry Stillers), Pirates (Buccos) and Penguins (Pens). Between the Steel Curtain Steelers of the 70s and the modern-day teams under Bill Cowher and Mike Tomlin, the “We Are Family” Pirates teams of the 70s, and the Stanley Cup Penguins teams of the early 90s and 2010s, plenty of titles and many legendary players have passed through the Steel City. And, thanks to various mints, there have been plenty of coins made honoring said teams and players.

Here are a few of the ones I’ve collected over the years:


Welcome Betinho!

Manchester United restarted its Premier League campaign with a stirring 3-0 victory over hapless Nottingham Forest. There were plenty of talking points before and after the match, most notably:

  • Marcus Rashford’s continued run of great form and the re-emergence of his once-dangerous partnership with Anthony Martial. Rashford scored the first goal and assisted Martial on the second, giving hope that they can make up for United’s lack of an established, proven center forward.
  • Raphael Varane bravely and selflessly volunteering to play after illness sidelined the club’s only two available senior center halves, Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire. Despite being excused from the match due to his country’s run to the World Cup Final, Varane felt his team needed him and stepped up.
  • Luke Shaw volunteering to play center back to help ease said defensive selection crisis. Like Varane, Shaw played well and gave his manager something to think about moving forward.
  • Casemiro’s ongoing brilliance. The Tank dominated in his usual role after filling in at center half against Burnley in the League Cup the previous week. He also showed off his playmaking skills, turning two defensive stands into quick counter-attacks that resulted in goals. He even got a slick assist on Fred’s goal late in the match that sealed the three points.
  • Jesse Lingard’s first match at Old Trafford since leaving in the summer for Nottingham Forest. Say what you will about JLingz and the way he left, but Lingardinho scored some big goals for his boyhood club and always gave his all on the pitch. After leaving early in the second half with an injury, Lingard finally got the warm send-off he had been denied the previous spring, as Old Trafford gave him a nice ovation thanking him for everything he had done.

But the one that got the most attention was the sudden addition of a forward named “Betinho” to the club’s active roster. Was it a purported clerical error, as the club later claimed? Or did someone jump the gun before a transfer became official?

And who was this mystery man, anyway? Was it the Portuguese forward currently playing for S.C. Espinho who made one appearance with Brentford in 2014? Was it a heretofore unknown nickname for Atletico Madrid’s misfit playmaker Joao Felix? Was it a new, tongue-in-cheek identity for in-form Brentford striker Ivan Toney, who could face a long ban for allegations relating to betting on Premier League matches?

Or was it this man?


Runneth Over: A Few World Cup Coins

The upcoming FIFA World Cup will make history in several ways.

It will be the first tournament to take place in November-December, disrupting the European club season.

It will also be the first World Cup to take place in the Middle East, and the first to take place in an Arabic country.

One thing that won’t be a break with precedent? There will be plenty of coins issued to commemorate the event. FIFA, the Central Bank of Qatar, and various countries have already made some available for sale and there are probably a lot more out there.

I’ve acquired a few World Cup coins over the years. Read all about them below:



In 2016, when Paul Pogba returned to Manchester United in a then-world record deal, they coined the hashtag “#Pogback”to mark the occasion. United, Pogba’s social media team and sponsor Adidas even worked together on a slick promo video featuring UK rapper Stormzy that was designed to get tons of views and likes.

It was a rollout fit for a king — and appropriate, given how important social media has become in the marketing world (to say nothing of how much elite athletes like Pogba have come to rely on it).

It also underscored just big a statement of intent this was from United. That summer, the team also brought in goal machine Zlatan Ibrahimovic, defensive stalwart Eric Bailly, exciting winger Henrikh Mkhitaryan and hired serial winner Jose Mourinho. Together, this quintet helped deliver the League Cup and the Europa League during their first year together. Surely, more trophies, to say nothing of the league title, would be coming, right?

It’s been five trophyless seasons since then, and on Wednesday, United cut ties with one of the last remaining members of that group (Bailly is the only one left, and he could be leaving this summer, too). This time, they went the complete opposite route, releasing a plain old written statement announcing Pogba’s impending departure that was devoid of any hashtags or guest rappers.

In other words, United #Pogbade him farewell without resorting to cheap social media tactics. Maybe an anti-climatic statement was appropriate, given how long his departure had been a fait accompli. Pogba had never really settled back in and he and his late agent, Mino Raiola, had constantly #Pogbatted their eyelashes at other teams, especially Barcelona, Real Madrid, PSG and, most unforgivably, Man City. When Ole Gunnar Solskjær took over, Pogba seemed happy with his expanded role and even expressed interest in re-signing in 2020. However, the board chose not to engage at the time, and when they finally did offer him a new contract, he #Pogbalked. The club’s current situation made his departure a no-#Pogbrainer.