Man U Dying Slowly

22hughes1-master675(Photo, Paul Ellis/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images)

The photo says it all. There’s Louis van Gaal, manager of Manchester United, looking rather forlorn as his team ties West Bromwich Albion last Monday (October. 20, 2014).

The photo, by Paul Ellis for Agence France-Presse and Getty Images, published in the New York Times today, speaks buckets about the state of the club these days.

Sir Alex Ferguson is no more, and so is the club.  Against WBA, it managed a breathless tie.  Now comes Chelsea, Manchester City and, after that, Arsenal.

How will Man U fare against league leaders Chelsea and second place Manchester City?  It will lose to both, but the hope is that at least it will be a contest.  With Arsenal, the club has a chance, although with Danny Welbeck now playing for the London club, it might be another defeat.

Man U can no longer perform like it used to. The days of dominance are clearly over, the only question remains is how and when the new leader will come in to at least right the ship.

Will the club have to wait another 20 or so years for a savior?

When last year we trotted on how David Moyes, the Sir Alex replacement, was above his head, few believed us. When we wrote that effective chief executive Ed Woodward was above his head and shoulders, few cared.

By early Spring, Moyes was out and by summer, Woodward was on a disastrous shopping spree that several hundred million dollars of new signings but which has meant hardly any real improvement on the team.

As the Times article by Rob Hughes notes, the van Gaal team sits only one point above the same point last year as under Moyes.

It would be too much for the American Glazer family to sell the team to a more astute set of owners, that won’t happen for some time.

So long as Woodward can charm advertisers, marketing revenue will continue to climb.  But at some point, even that will stop when the club will be recognized for its moribund state.

So the rest of us fans must endure watching the animal slowly and painfully die, and not be able to do anything about it.  I still get goosebumps thinking about the old glory days and how far gone they are.

They won’t come back.  Not for a long time.  What to do meanwhile?

I’ve taken up American football. I tried switching my support to City, to Chelsea, to Liverpool, to Arsenal, even to Everton.

None worked.  It’s a disaster.

How very, very sad.

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Balkans Tensions Rising

FIFA boss Blatter condemns 'political' incident in Belgrade(Photo, Armando Babani/EPA)

The photo, by Armando Babani, appears in the Guardian online newspaper website.  On the left is Edi Rama, Prime Minister of Albania.  On the right is his brother, Olsi Rama, alleged to have started the melee that took place in Belgrade during a football match between Albania and Serbia.

Olsi reputedly guided the drone that appeared on the pitch showing a flag of “Greater Albania.”  It set off fighting between players, fans and even officials.  The referee finally called the match off.

For the past few years rumblings have been heard about Greater Albania, that is, Albanian-speaking territory to come under the control of Albania itself.

It was trumpeted by some elements in the country in relation to areas of northwestern Greece.  It did not go down too well with the Greeks.

Then recently Albanian nationalists drove to a small Greek village in Albania near the border with Greece and broke shop windows and damaged parked cars.  Only the Albanian police put an end to the rioting.

These tensions by themselves are worrisome, but they come in the context of a worsening political situation in the area.  Not just what happens in the Middle East with the fight against the Islamic State, but in Greece where the present coalition government may soon fall.

Next February, a new president must be chosen by the Greek Parliament. If no candidate receives 180 votes, elections must be called.

In this event, leftist SYRIZA would win handily (they are up about 6% over conservative New Democracy).  This would throw the memorandum with the nation’s creditors out the window.

Meanwhile, refugees pour out of Syria and take to rickety boats to Greece.  This has worsened an already bad economic situation in the country, with an increase in anti-immigrant sentiment.

The clouds darken.  Time to prepare for the rain.

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What We Can Do

1208_big(Photo, New York Times)

Matters may seem to be unraveling.  The Syrian War and the Islamic State’s expansion have the potential to drag many more countries into World War III, something we’ve said here before.

There is now the Ebola crisis, with a victim dying in Texas and one known case in Spain.  It may be spreading and already several infected people have aroused concern in Europe.

The stock markets crashed this past week.

George Clooney is married, for many eligible women, a disaster. Who are they going to date now?

We look around our world and things are not looking too good.  Have they ever looked good?  An interesting exercise in perspective is to find old newspapers and read them.

Perhaps your local library has copies of old newspapers.  Truck on down and give it a glimpse.  You may be surprised at what you find – stories that seemed so important at the time turned out over time not to be.

But how do we know that what happens today will fade into the sunset?

Well, we don’t exactly. And that’s the problem. The Islamic State’s butchering in the Middle East may turn out to be a temporary blip.

The point here is to realize that we live in the media bubble – we know what is important because of what comes to us as news.

The conflict in eastern Ukraine no longer commands front and center news.  In fact, there is not even a faint glimmer emerging from that part of the world.

The Hong Kong demonstrations? Well, there is an article or two in the back pages, but it’s over.

Lead stories, many of them, rarely have legs (staying power).

Meanwhile, our lives go on.  With or without us.  We need to focus on our own gardens while being aware of what goes on outside it.


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U.S. Polices the World, Badly

NickBergandFiveMen(Photo, Wikimedia Commons)

For those of us who stand outside the halls of government, we easily criticize never really knowing how complicated situations can be.

The fight against the Islamic State that has set up a caliphate in Syria and Iraq brings many chips to the table.  Few folks can really unravel the complicated history of the Middle East to dictate what is really going on.

We stare at shadows, and make wild guesses.  Sometimes, however, we are right.

The United States has taken upon itself the struggle against IS, knowing full well that it will not be an easy fight.  It is a army composed of guerrilla elements that defy standard operating procedures.

Bomb them from the air?  They just crawl under a rock, waiting for the bombing to end.

Even as we bomb, their offensive against Syrian Kurds continues.  Meanwhile, Turkish soldiers stand idly watching.  Turkey did promise to dislodge IS fighters.  Well?

If it were not so deadly, with beheadings and vicious brutality, this war might be almost comical.  Consider:

1.  Iran sides with Syrian government forces against moderate rebels supported by the U.S. and its allies, yet in the fight against IS they are all united.

2. IS fights against all governments and all rebels, that in reality should be an insurmountable battle, yet they are winning.

3.  Turkey, who should be leading the effort against IS fears Kurdish domination in its eastern border and, despite apologies, is in no rush to join the fray.  Negotiating trick?  They are telling the Americans:  Recognize Turkish-dominated northern Cyprus and we’ll join the battle.

4.  And what is Iraq doing?  What can they do.  Nothing.

Despite U.S. President Barack Obama becoming a war-time consigliere, it will take a lot to dislodge IS.  More than perhaps he is ready to give.

Why the sudden flip on the part of Obama?  Did he finally read the polling that shows him sliding down the slippery slope?  Did he finally wake up to the skullduggery of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Russian President Vladimir Putin?

We won’t know until many years ahead and many documents released, but for now, we watch as the U.S. stumbles along a war that will not go away.

What will it take?  More than the U.S. is prepared to give.


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The Sadness of Man United

Not so happy days at Man United these days!

Not so happy days at Man United these days!

(Photo, Wikimedia Commons)

There are few sadder moments in life than to see a formerly great personality end up being homeless and destitute.  Imagine Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos living in a cardboard box in downtown Seattle.

That is what has happened to Manchester United.  A formerly great team now on the edge of oblivion.

We can debate how this happened, and I’ve contributed my fair share, but the reality is that there are many reasons, too many to go over here.

This Sunday the team plays Everton at Old Trafford.  Missing will be Wayne Rooney, the team’s captain.

The fate of the season hangs in the balance.  If they lose, there is little chance the team will make a top-four dent this season.  Meaning, it will be two years without European-wide competition.

Recently it was announced that Man U, without Championship League participation, will be playing “lucrative” (I quote) mid-week matches in the winter around parts of the globe.

In other words, now Man U has sunk to being the Harlem Globetrotters of football/soccer.  They will be playing for pure entertainment and money, not for competition’s sake.

How sadder can this situation get?  No player worth their manicured nails will be able to put up with this for long. No wonder many players (Thomas Muller, et al.) refused to even entertain the idea of moving to Man United.

Likely, Man U will either win or eck out a tie, probably the latter.  In previous years, such competition would have been easily dismissed, but not now.  Although Everton this campaign is not the same as last year’s model.

Meanwhile, its stock price continues to do relatively well.  Whatever happens on the field does not affect its New York Stock Exchange listing.

It does not yet know the truth about the club.

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The World as It Stands

Isis(Photo, Wikimedia Commons)

It’s been a while since I last wrote here.  Life can be a whirlwind, and to be honest, I had nothing really to say.

I realize that once you start a blog, you must maintain it, like feeding a dog.  But the fact was, I dropped the ball.

So, now I’m back. And what has happened since I left?

1.  Manchester United beat a pathetic Queens Park Rangers, only to lose to Leicester City, who were 1-3 down.  Did I mention how deep the rot of Man U goes?  It’s telling that anyone can still believe in this team.  Despite nearly $200 million in acquisitioned players, the heart of the team remains weak and indifferent.  It still has no defense and no real vision.  Look for this team to continue to twaddle.  ‘Sweet Lou’ Louis van Gaal fumes now.  Man U fans, time to switch to Arsenal!

2.  Putin is not done with his real estate acquisition. The Phoney War in Ukraine continues, and will for some time until someone puts a stop to Putin.  He will be a thorn on the side of Europe and the United States for some time to come.  And no amount of pleading from the Ukraine president in the Congress to get help will change the equation.  U.S. President Barack Obama fears Russian President Vladimir Putin, so he will not really come to the rescue of Ukraine.  This war will endure for some time.

3.  Middle East got muddier.  If I were to say that World War III has started, few – if any- would believe me. But in fact, it has.  And may have had ever since the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003.  The war escalates now, caused by the madness of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.  Look for this continue for some time to come.  In the photo, please note the ISIS fighter with the Giorgio Armani T-shirt. How is it:  ISIS rails against the West, cuts off the heads of its reporters, yet wears its clothes?

4.  Scotland did not break off from England.  This should not surprise anybody, since most of the time people vote with their pocketbooks.  Independence would come at a high price, initially, but in the long run be better for Scotland.  But few wanted to pull that trigger. So the status quo remains.

So what has changed since I last wrote here? As you can see, not much.  So you did not miss anything!


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Clipping Aerofloat’s Wings

Aeroflot_Manchester_United_Trophy_Tour_in_Tokyo_(13049137133)(Photo, Wikimedia Commons)

Nice smiles.  Good teeth. Plenty of bonhomie to to all around.

Beneath the cheer lies the brutal reality of Russia today.  They have attacked an innocent nation, taken over a part of its territory (Crimea) and now gun for more.

Literally gun for more.

Meanwhile, the nation’s main airline, Aerofloat, ferries Manchester United players around the globe.  As sponsors of the club, they can do that.

But Man U is made of sterner stuff than this, right?  They are a moral club, who look after the ethical bottom line.

Why have they not abrogated their deal with Aerofloat?  Or at least, made a statement about it?

So long as the carnage continues in eastern Ukraine, this is the only just thing to do.

It’s a shame that Man U lacks the courage to do the right thing.  It’s a shame that a club of its stature does not have the heart to lose a few million quid in exchange for a conscience.

It is within the power of chief executive Ed Woodward to stand up for justice and decency.  Russian President Vladimir Putin should not be allowed to get away with this blatant land grab.

We stopped Adolph Hitler in World War II, we can do the same now.

Man U’s action against Aerofloat fits perfectly with this goal.

Here’s to you, Ed!

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