Man U Must Jettison Aerofloat

Aeroflot-Heathrow-High-Res-53(Photo, http://www.haystackonline.com)

The Russian airline, Aerofloat, official airline of Manchester United Football Club, should be removed from its ties to the club.

While Russian troops engage Ukrainian ones in an illegal and brutal takeover of eastern Ukraine, Man U should divest itself of ties to a company that rubbishes its reputation.

There are many other airlines in which it can offer sponsorship, but not a Russian one that threatens to further send the team into sporting oblivion with its tepid displays on the pitch.

Now, with Aerofloat on-board, decent minded folks and fans alike may ask – what is the club doing with a Russian company?

The stench grows by the day.  I know that effective CEO Ed Woodward is a master of negotiating and sales and bringing in sponsorship dollars to the club, but the Russian connect goes beyond the pale.

This is bad morals.

This is also a good test for the club to see where its priorities lies – with doing the right thing, or with simply grabbing the money, no matter how corrupt and evil it might be.

Ed, time to stand up, big boy.

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Man United Learns to Dance

FFCEBF81828744C4AFF437BC312F6636.ashx(Photo, Daley Blind, Manchester United Website)

It came fast and furious and apparently even after the transfer deadline.  Radamel Falcao is now, at least on loan, a Manchester United player.

Along with Daley Blind, and before that Angel di Maria and Ander Herrera and Luke Shaw, all new signings.

Yet, go to the Man U website and you’ll still see Shinji Kagawa and Danny Welbeck on the masthead.  Is someone behind the eight ball here? Or simply just another sign of how things are slow at the club these days.

So what did Man U get for its efforts?  While Chelsea, Manchester City and even Liverpool had settled matters long ago, Man U and Arsenal struggled to the end to find new talent for their operations.

The team’s very different from the one of a year ago, or even a few months ago.  Familiar, stable faces gone.  Replaced by talent but will they have the cahones to work hard under Louis van Gaal?

Games are won or lost in the mind first.  What Man U teams have lacked in the past year since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson is a killer instinct.

That’s what took an ordinary team of players to glory under Sir Alex. When he was lost, so was the vision to fight to every ball, and claim every tackle as his own.

The team today is nominally better, at least on paper, more telling will be the coming matches, particularly against the likes of the big four – Chelsea, Man City, Arsenal and Liverpool.

I can see wins against Arsenal, and maybe a draw against Liverpool, but not Chelsea and Man City.  Those are in a different league.

Even Liverpool seems a worthy candidate for the championship of the league.

The answers are fewer now then they were a few days ago.  There still lingers the bad taste in the mouth of a Man U management that simply cannot function under anything resembling normalcy.

Effective CEO Ed Woodward may look like a drummer to a rock star band, but he acts like a manager of a department store in Peoria, Illinois.

After four humiliating games at the start of the season – Swansea, Sunderland, MK Dons and Burnley – there is little that may change in the coming weeks.

At some point, the club must win.  Even the worst teams scrape a victory or two here and there.

But sitting in 14t place in league standings after three weeks is embarrassing.

That won’t change for a while.

 

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Slow War to Hell

Blake_A_Breach_in_a_City_the_Morning_after_the_Battle_c1784_Pen_and_watercolorAckland_Art_Museum_University_of_North_Carolina_at_Chapel_Hill(Photo, Wikimedia Commons)

Before becoming a United States senator from Illinois, Barack Obama taught at the University of Chicago Law School about the U.S. Constitution.

It was a safe job since he could talk theory in the halcyon, protected space of academe with a lot of smart, talented students who worshiped him.

The real world, so messy, was far removed.  Now that he faces the test of his presidency and his own personal mettle, the result is less thrilling and, well, academic.

He’s asked to step up to the challenge of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who’s on another real estate acquisition mindset in eastern Ukraine.

But unlike what happened with similar grabs in northern Georgia, the west – Europe and the U.S. – are not taking this mildly.

Putin can claim Russia’s been mistreated by the west ever since the collapse of the old Soviet Union. And he’s right.  But to now wage a rapid war with the west, he’s entered new and far more dangerous territory.

There is a rough solution to the mess in Ukraine, but it requires both sides back down from aggression and find something resembling a Swiss-style rapprochement between the regions of Ukraine.

This means a new constitution that takes into account the Russian speakers deeply embedded in the country’s culture.

What it does not mean is a take0ver of territory that clearly does not belong to Russia, and was not part of the original agreement that saw Ukrainian independence in the early 1990s.

This war heads towards greater confrontation that in the end can only end when one side backs down – and it won’t be Putin unless he’s deposed.

China would never allow direct confrontation with the West, it would be economic suicide, but Putin has no such fear.  He’s going full bore ahead with his muscular ideas, thinking that Obama’s too weak to react.

Obama’s weak, no doubt, but the memory of the Munch appeasement hangs over a lot of western memories.  Let Putin get away with his real estate ventures now and the world stops afterwards.

History is clear about this Less so is what the next steps are.  Both sides ratchet up the pressure and the threats.  War surges on the ground.  Ukraine has more or less declared war on Russia, who has yet to respond formally to the announcement.

But for all intent and purposes, her response comes from the ground – where Russian troops now take over the fight.

There is no neat way out of this mess. And whatever he learned in the classroom, Obama is not helped in this crisis.  Unless he wakes up to an internal toughness, there is the risk this low-war will escalate.

Let’s hope this is not the start of the third world war that so many have long predicted.

 

 

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World Edges Closer to Madness

Vladimir_Putin_with_his_mother(Photo, Vladimir Putin at 6 with mother, Wikimedia Commons)

As the disaster for Manchester United continues (draw at Burnley), the world around slips into a mental coma.

I predicted a loss for Man U, but in the end they drew.  So I was half-right when I said two weeks ago that the club will lose their first three matches.  In a way, they did.

Two points out of nine possible – is that a way to start the season?

So, what does a Man U fan do?  Root for another English Premiere League club?  What are the choices:

Everton:  Scrappy but hardly a substitute for Man U.  Roberto Martinez’s men look more and more wooden with each passing game.

Chelsea:  Roman Abramovich is rich and Russian and part of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s mafio inner circle. They are coached by Jose Mourinho who while a football genius, has some human behavior issues.   Yes, he acquired Diego Costa from Atletico Madrid, a brilliant buy, but  really, I might as well root for the Don Corleone family!

Liverpool:  The nearest team to the old Man U club, with Boss Brendan Rogers the closest to Sir Alex Ferguson, this is a team on the march.  Mario Balotelli, their new buy, is crazy but he can score and change games.  They are a real threat to win the EPL.  And the nearest for a Man U fan to cheer.

Arsenal:  Arsene Wenger.  There is nothing further to say.

Manchester City:  Stain Manuel Pelligrini is a decent person but this is not a decent team. This is the worst Beverly Hills cocky outfit possible.

Tottenham:  Forget it.  Owner’s crazy.  ‘Nuff said.

Okay, back to reality.  As the war in “Eastern Ukraine” continues its slow build-up, we face a growing sharp divide between east and west.  I can fault Putin for his tactics, but not for his taking advantage of a weak west.  With U.S. President Barack Obama sucking his thumb, it seems a passing fancy to think that anyone can stand up against the Thug of the East.

For those heavily invested in the stock market, this is a perilous time.

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Leadership in Peril

Busby_babes_1955(Photo, Busby’s Babes in Denmark in 1955, Wikimedia Commons)

A person’s leadership skills are tested not when times are grand, but only in severe storms.

The tsunami hitting Manchester United’s club at the moment is the worst it’s faced in the past 25 years.

The team rusted long before Sir Alex Ferguson retired.  The rot grew under temporary replacement, David Moyes, and now it’s fully cancerous under right manager Louis van Gaal.

Players grew comfortable during the past few years, relying on their fear factor from previous championship teams to carry the day.

But once this facade was exposed, as took place under Moyes’s leaky leadership, the game was up.

When it was confirmed under Sweet Lou (he has yet to win a game so far in this premiere league season), the alarm bells went off in the club’s offices.

Now suddenly the wallet has opened and new players sweep in.  This could and should have happened under Saint Alex’s watch, but he was more concerned about his post-manager biographies and Harvard University’s lectureship than the club.

LVG pays the price, and what a steep price it is.  The loss to MK Dons is a gate-crasher of stunning proportions.  It took a real emergency for the funds to fly for new players to be brought it.

Shouldn’t this have happened without the water pouring over the ships hull?

I’ve watched Sweet Lou in these past few difficult and dark days.  The man speaks slowly, carefully, wisely.  No panic on his face.  He perhaps knew the situation even before taking on the helm of the club.

You have to feel for his case, and even pray for victory tomorrow (Saturday) against Burnley.  I still expect a loss, but if the team can make a decent showing, then all will not be lost.

If they play as dead cats, next May will come around in ten years.  A long, long way away.

Once victory does come, it will taste sweet indeed.

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Man U Enters Swamp

Louis-Van-Gaal-Press-Conference(Photo, Wikimedia Commons)

A few days ago, I wrote a lengthy piece about Manchester United and its woes.  I wrote of upcoming loses to Sunderland, MK Dons and Burnley.

Thinking that I was harsh, I went back and deleted MK Dons.  It seemed impossible to lose to a small team, and by a score of 0-4 no less.

Of course, in retrospect, I looked prescient. When Man U loses to Burnley I will look like a genius.

That is not my goal in life.  I tried to explain in previous blogs that the trouble with Man U is more than just the coach, or the need for players, or for a new CEO.

The problem lies with a club that has lost direction and does not know what to do anymore.  It is the equivalent of the inmates being let out of prison and wandering around lost in the nearby village.

I guarantee you the club will lose to Burnley this weekend.  It is impossible to recover from such a humiliating defeat as happened on Tuesday evening.

There’s a scene in “Hoosiers,” the movie about an unheralded basketball team playing for the state championship.  The team arrives for the big moment and in practice, the coach, played by actor Gene Hackman, does something interesting – he goes to measure the hoop.

“Ten feet, boys,” he tells them.

Meaning, the basket is the same height for them as it is for the other team.  In other words, the teams are equal.

In football, the goal mouth measures the same.  MK Dons know it, obviously Man United does not.

The humiliation at MK Dons sent shockwaves in the Man U offices.  This is like the New York Yankees losing to the Renton Bluejays.

It simply does not happen.

The rot within Man U is greater than one coach or a few new acquisitions to fix.  It is a rot that starts from internal confusion and frustration at where the team heads.

The pre-season tournament in the United States hid these defects, but once the real season started, the disease could ot be covered by a band-aid.

Man U is a team struggling to right itself and this cannot happen until players decide what to do with their playing – and if they can work together as a team.

Louis van Gaal can say the following to the team:  “I’m only here to be your manager.  You’re the ones in charge on the field.  If you want to kick this season away, that’s your privilege, but you’ll face the firing squad as much as me.  You’ll be humiliated as much as me.  I may be fired, but if you stay and continue in your ways, your careers will be blighted for ever.  You must decide what you want to do – keep playing like children in a playground, or grown men who are hungry, driven, determined and anxious to work together as a team to make this work.  I can’t help you beyond giving you strategy and telling you how to make your playing better.  This is not about me. It’s about you.  You decide.”

On Monday, when Burnley will gloat with victory, the music in the Man U dressing rooms will finally be faced.

Good luck, gentlemen!

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Man U Rescued?

Louis-Van-Gaal-Press-Conference(Photo, Wikimedia Commons)

Did Manchester United’s angel arrive in the form of the $100 million man Angel di Maria?

And who may follow?  Daley Blind? Arturo VidalSuperman?

The mind reels in anticipation, but we must step back and assess the situation.

If you’ve watched the team play Swansea and Sunderland, you can see the limitations in the back defense.  Young charges are asked to step up to fill the weakest holes of the team.

This is too much to ask of any player, even a potentially great player like Markos Rojo, newly arrived himself.

Man U is a team in transition  and that transition is not an easy one.  The hidden cracks finally expose themselves to be huge tremors, and this is too much for any one person to solve, even a great coach like Louis van Gaal.

The man may be a miracle maker, but he’s also smart and down-to-earth enough to know miracles happen in Hollywood but not much elsewhere.  If they did, last year Atletico Madrid would have beaten arch-rival Real Madrid in the Champions League final.

We should give up this season as lost and no expect much, not even a top four finish.  Unlikely.  Perhaps next year the results will improve.

Meanwhile, the hunt goes on for angels and perhaps even a demon or too.  Too bad Mario Balotelli is no longer available.

 

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