Are Manchester United ripe for a Cruyff-style refresh from Ten Hag?

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Ten Hag could be Manchester United’s Cruyff
When Johann Cruyff joined Barcelona from Ajax as manager in 1988, the club were in a mess. They’d won just one league title in 14 years, the club was in debt and the fans were disheartened. Sound familiar?

Cruyff went on to win four league titles in a row and Barca’s first European Cup, but more than that he introduced a revolutionary philosophy that still runs through the club to this day. A strange 343 formation with a diamond midfield, the introduction of small technical players replacing a focus on physique, and a focus on possession, short passes and overloads in each phase of the pitch.

Bringing us on to Ten Hag, the similarities are there. While he sets the team up in a traditional 4231 on paper, note how he uses one of his centre backs to push into midfield and create an overload in numbers, like Cruyff. The signing of Martinez, with his technical proficiency and intelligence, is far more important than people realise. The instant and dramatic change in the side’s rhythm and patterns of play in the club’s pre-season friendlies is there for all to see, and this is just the start. This is a man with a vision, a defined and single-minded way of how the game should be played.

Ten Hag isn’t just important to Utd’s present, the effects of his appointment could be felt in generations far beyond our own, both at Man Utd and more widely in English football.
Super Sancho


Predictions time
Some bold predictions for the new season. Wouldn’t bet my house on all of them, but one or two will no doubt come to pass;

Everton to finish rock bottom. They have the exact same whiff as Villa did in the seasons leading up to their own relegation. Circling the drain with a revolving door of managers, bad signings and the money eventually running out. If DCL misses as much football as last season, there’ll be no one to score and Tarkowski alone won’t fix that defence. If it’s not this season, it feels like it’s coming soon.

Arsenal improve but stand still. The new signings, Jesus especially, represent a big upgrade on what was there previously. They win more points than last season. But United and Spurs are vastly better too and both come above them.

Chelsea implode. Given the ownership change, there’s some behind the scenes turmoil and if you’ve seen anything of Tuchel in his previous roles, he can be a spiky c**t when things don’t go his way. They might be fine and finish third, they might have a meltdown and Poch is in before January is through.

Spurs mount something like a title challenge. The likelihood of this is less to do with Spurs and more to do with if City and Liverpool drop off. The former have made more changes than the last couple of years and the latter might be drained after the four frontal assault of last season. If one or both posts 90+ points again, forget it, but if it’s mid-80s, Spurs may be in the conversation (without actually winning it)

Leeds’ signings all flop. They’ve really rolled the dice and backed Marsch with the proceeds from the big money sales. Could work out, could easily be a disaster.

Bruno Lage is Roberto Martinez ii. Bobby brown shoes succeeded in his first season at Everton because the players still had Moyes’ defensive drills ringing in their ears. For Moyes read Nuno. Doubt they’ll go down, but a bottom-half finish with a mid season managerial change?

Forest stay up.

Scamacca flops hard.

Gerrard & Lampard both get sacked by Christmas, Gerrard goes first.
Lewis, Busby Way


…For a change I thought I’d make some predictions on players not just at my own team.

Haaland will get the golden boot. Salah will be close but no cigar.

Grealish will get the reward for his efforts that was denied him last year by his teammates’ profligacy. A real striker will finish them and unfortunately they have the real deal. Good chance to win the Playmaker of the Year as well as getting a load of goals himself.

Sterling will flatter to deceive with lots of good running, decent passing and some wonderful dribbles that end with little result. He’ll continue to get into great positions and miss good chances. As Chelsea fans are saying, like Hazard but without the end product. Any criticism will be called racism.

Saka will do ok as will Jesus, and be over-hyped – Saka especially (career best 19 goal involvements; FYI Rashford had 22 at same age) – because London media love Arsenal (and Liverpool).

Sancho will deliver on his talent with numerous goals and assists but, critically, excellent play to prove his (mostly Scouse) critics wrong.

Rashford will also score and create a good number of goals as he gets back on track, but still get abuse because that’s what we do here.

Nunez will do ok but not great (first season and a big step up after all, although Haaland won’t have the same issues). Any criticism will be flamed by the usual suspects.

Kane will score a lot of penalties and learn to dive better.

Maguire will be hailed as a man reborn because Martinez spends the season digging him out of holes. Think Terry and Carvalho, but even more so.

Southgate will be faced with a tough decision on squad selection which he will bottle by playing favourites as usual: Grealish and Sancho will be obvious first choice picks but he’ll stick with Sterling and Saka, in spite of output. He’ll endeavour to find any reason not to take Rashford, probably because he’ll say something against the human rights abuses in Qatar. Even if he scores more than Kane before Christmas, and is somehow picked, he won’t start. He still won’t take TAA even though he’s the best partner for Sancho for England.

Great to see Jack back in the mailbox; nostalgia and making me feel old, wrapped up in a single positive post.


MAW, LA Gooner I think I caught the glimmer of a point in there somewhere…

Then you essentially asked the collective footballing world to forget ‘the past 10-12 years’ of Arsenal being a bit shit. Odd.

That’s all.


…To MAW, the LA Gooner.

(who apparently likes to spend more time talking about Tottenham in his missive about Arsenal than they actually did talking about Arsenal).

You asked ‘Do Spurs even have more aggregate points than us in the league in the last 10 years?’

The answer is yes. Yes, they do. Over the last ten years, Spurs have accumulated 701 points. Arsenal have chalked up 692. You are welcome. I’m pleased to be able to clear that up for you. It’s been a full six seasons since Arsenal finished above Spurs in the league so perhaps not surprising to be losing on aggregate.

Of course, Arsenal could have ended that streak of six seasons in May and could have retaken the lead in your ten year aggregate score too, but they completely bottled the last few games of the season and lost fourth place.

Fr Dave (THFC, Maidstone)


…Got to credit ‘MAW, LA Gooner’ for his original piece about the Arsenal transfer narrative. Which as far as I could tell just went ‘boring boring boring, Spurs haven’t won trophies recently, Spurs/ trophies, Arsenal used to be better nanananananah’.

I actually think that Arsenal will be better and Jesus will bag a lot of goals. But when it comes to the crunch, Arsenal will crumble just like they did when it mattered at the end of last season. Which quite frankly was as hilarious as it was expected.
Dave (Winchester Spurs)


Heads up?
I coach my daughters u12s team, and am in a coach whatsapp group for the club she plays at along with coaches from the other age groups etc. We have just been told this evening that the FA are enforcing a ban on heading the ball at all u12s next season due to a link to dementia, and I was fascinated by the reaction of my fellow coaches via WhatsApp.

Generally speaking, most are outraged at this concept and some are claiming that they will actively be rebelling against it (?) and telling their boys/girls to head the ball come what may.

We are unsure at this stage as to what this means rules & tactics wise on the pitch (for example, if a player heads the ball off the line, is that a red card offence, much like handball? And what happens if a player deliberately heads the ball? Just a free kick I assume? What about corners? How will these evolve I wonder?)

Anyway, heading was a major part of my game when I played and so I don’t necessarily agree that an outright ban is correct, but if the science really does suggest that heading the ball could lead to dementia, then why wouldn’t we want to protect our kids?

Personally, my daughter has never headed the ball in her life on the pitch as always ducks (much to my disdain!) and so will be thrilled by this development, but I was wondering if anyone else who coaches/has kids at this age group has an opinion on the subject?

To my simple mind, the balls are lighter now, and heading rarely happens at youth level, so is this just a bit of an over reaction by the FA?
Chris, on a hill, somewhere


Shouldn’t we be excited about England?
I don’t agree with people who are complaining about women’s football being called morons. Never the right approach.

To English football fans who aren’t following Euro 2022, I will say this, though: there’s a chance of an English national football team winning a tournament. Surely it’s a shame to not get at least a bit excited about this?

Yes, the quality isn’t as yet high as the current men’s game. But should that really matter so much?

Please take a moment to compare the goals in the two videos below. One is, quite rightly, recognised as a huge part of our sporting history: a massive achievement we’re immensely proud of. But which style of football would you prefer to watch today – be honest? Look at how much time attackers have in and around the box; and the quality of the passing, and the goals themselves.



I know it’s an unfair comparison – the pitch quality; the ball; decades of development of tactics and fitness regimes. But if we can, and should, remain hugely proud of the 1966 world cup win; shouldn’t we also be able to get excited as England progress to the semis of Euro 2022?

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