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Manchester United v West Ham United


Filed: Friday, 25th November 2016
By: Preview Percy


Preview Percy has written a few words on this weekend's visit to Old Trafford. We wish he hadn't but you can't have everything. Features some interesting and informative graphics from the good people of www.kickoff.com .......

Next up we face the first of a couple of visits to Salford’s biggest tourist attraction as we join the home support on the M1 & M6 to Old Trafford where we will be hosted by Manchester United. Kick-off on Sunday is a crowd-unfriendly 4:30pm. There doesn’t seem to be much in the way of engineering works to deal with but it is a Sunday and you know how they like to make it up as they go along so check, as ever, before you leave – and stay safe at Manchester Piccadilly station lest the authorities continue their habit of trying to cram thousands of supporters into confined spaces.

Mucho changeo in Salford this summer of course. Louis Van Gaal was shown the door in favour of the self-styled special (needs?) one Jose Mourinho. Mourinho has arrived on a three-year contract with an option for a year’s extension. However, on present form I’m sure you’d get generous odds against him seeing out the full three-year period. It seems that he is not enjoying life in Manchester, bemoaning the fact that his family are all still (understandably) based in London. He’s not happy with life in a hotel and was quoted with saying that it was tough not being able to go out to a restaurant. Which is a bit harsh on Manchester – it may be a dump but I’m sure there is a restaurant there somewhere that hasn’t got a red and white colour scheme with mechanically retrieved poultry as its signature dish. Maybe even two. Mourinho’s rant is of course more connected with the amount of photographers camping outside the hotel’s front door which always surprises me. I mean it’s not as if there isn’t a shortage of stock photos of him on file, is it? In the meantime some have suggested that he should buy an apartment up there which is a bit unfair – after all none of their supporters have done so, so why should he?

Mourinho’s unease with his surroundings has been reflected in their league position. Our hosts currently sit in 6th place with 19 points from their 12 games so far, the most recent of which came in the 1-1 draw at home to Arsenal at the weekend. Now watching the highlights of that one, a theory has arisen here at the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered. It runs like this: Traditionally our wonderful (yeah right) referees have bent over backwards to help Man Utd. Who can forget for example the total and utter confusion as the laws of the game were consulted when a referee forgot himself and awarded an away side a penalty at Old Trafford. The game was stopped for 4 days while reference books were consulted before the House Of Lords ruled that the penalty could go ahead. However, equally traditionally, referees don’t like Mourinho – he currently has an FA charge outstanding for the sort of referee-pressuring comment that “Sir” Alex Ferguson used to be allowed to get away with on a weekly basis. So referees are now confused as to what to do. Why else would they have denied them the rather blatant penalty in Saturday’s match that, unusually, was actually a penalty.

With a new manager on board one might have expected a few new signings to have come in. However, according to the Work Experience Girl wearing a Seekers t-shirt without knowing who they were, only four first XI arrivals turned up. Clearly that lack of restaurants in Greater Manchester makes it difficult to attract players as well as managers. £30m was proffered to Villareal in return for centre half Eric Bailly. The Ivorian defender did his knee ligaments in during September’s 4-0 defeat by Chelsea and, though recent reports suggest that his return will be earlier than originally anticipated, he still hasn’t gotten back to full training yet. Which means that he will be back just in time to depart for the African Cuppa Soup in January. Unless, of course, he picks up one of those Man Utd “injuries” that used to crop up whenever international matches were deemed to be too inconvenient for them to discover.

If you think £30m is a lot of dosh, think on. Bailly’s fee was about a third of that paid for Paul Pogba. Pogba has history of course with the Salford moaners, having been tapped up under seriously suspicious circumstances as a 16 year-old kid with Le Havre. It was alleged that illegal payments had been made to Pogba’s parents and, although Man Utd were cleared in an initial hearing, it was rumoured that extra evidence that was to have been produced at an appeal by Le Havre would have been pretty damning. Mysteriously, whilst Le Havre were considering their position, the whole problem “went away” with a quiet announcement that agreement had been reached between the clubs over the transfer. You might think that statement ought to have included the words “paid off”. I could not possibly comment. Pogba stayed between 2009-21 before signing for Juventus. Pogba’s departure did not go down too well with Fergie who accused the player of “disrespect”. On the player’s departure it was hinted that the player had been “tapped up” by Juventus. “He signed for them ages ago” moaned Fergie, oblivious of the irony. Pogba returned to Old Trafford after four years with the Old Lady costing the Salford moaners considerably more than the house that had (allegedly) been offered to his parents all those years ago.

Pogba’s fee was £89m more than they paid for Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who arrived as a freebie from PSG at the end of his contract with the French moneybags. It was recently revealed that Ibrahimovic is to have a statue erected in Stockholm in honour of his winning the Swedish player of the year for the 10th year on the trot. In fact the 2016 title was his 11th “Goldenball” (behave) in 12 years, the other one going to Freddie Ljungberg who, presumably won his “Goldenball” for services to underwear modelling. Ibrahimovic is not the only player to have had a statue erected to his honour recently. The England side had one of Jordan Henderson installed on the Wembley pitch for the last two matches. It was still more mobile than the real thing. Except during the damned mannequin challenge, when it fell over with nobody near it and asked for a free-kick.

The other signing to arrive was Armenian national captain Henrikh Mkhitaryan. The midfielder hasn’t featured much since his arrival from Dortmund for somewhere between £27-30m depending on how generous Thomas Cook are feeling with the exchange rate. Mkhitaryan’s goalscoring exploits have seen him likened to Frank Lampard junior, something that has put those two poultry “restaurants” on high alert standby. There is a (very) tenuous Hammers connection with Mkhitaryan. His Dad Hamlet played for Ararat Yerevan, who we played in the 75-76 Cup Winners’ Cup, though that was well before Hamlet’s time. Sadly Hamlet passed away in 1996 from a brain tumour at the tragically young age of 33. Meanwhile Mkhitatyan junior is feted in Armenian circles in much the same way as Ibrahimovic has been in Sweden. He is the top scorer for the national side and has been a regular winner of the Armenian player of the year award. Interestingly, his family had to flee their home country for France when he was a youngster. A spot of bother with the Armenian mafia was the problem apparently. So mabe comparisons with Gerrard rather than with Fatboy might be more appropriate, though as far as I’m aware Mkhitaryan never went missing with a mystery groin strain that kept him away from any football-related premises for a period of exactly six months. Gerrard has, I am told retired which means he can now relax and not worry every time the guy turns up with a plastic bottle at random test time. Mkhitaryan made a rare start in Thursday night’s Thursday Night League match against Feyenoord and looked quite lively. His early withdrawal may be a hint of his possible involvement this weekend, though it could also be a reflection on how his match fitness is viewed. Or both.

There has been much debate about Wayne Rooney who, now Lampard junior has retired from international football, has taken on the title of resident chubber in the “Three Lions” squad. Apparently he was caught staying up late having skippered the side to a win over Scotland the other week. Now I’m not about to slag off the spud-faced one for having a beer in his position as England captain – lord alone knows that dear old Bobby used to enjoy a sherbert or two in his day. However, when Bobby used to play against Scotland they were a side who, if never actually that good, could at least give us a game once in a while. Unlike the current lot who relied on some dodgy refereeing even to get past Malta. Frankly the 3-0 win wasn’t anything to really celebrate – a bit like going on a three day binge to celebrate getting a lucky dip in the lotto which then fails to win anyway. Of course the one thing that was more over the top than the redtops’ reporting of the event was Rooney’s own blubbing that he was being treated disgracefully. Still at least they didn’t catch him hanging around the post office on pension pay-out day I suppose. Rooney was feted by the commentary team for Thursday night’s Thursday Night League match for the goal which made him the club’s all-time top scorer in European competition. He’s also close to surpassing the overall club record held by Bobby Charlton, though he’s way short of it if you subtract goals scored after shoving a defender in the back off the ball iduring the build up.

Us? Well apart from the general disappointment of letting in two goals late on to a decidedly average Spurs team there was the resigned depression over the fact that the point at which they were allowed back into the game hung yet again on another refereeing decision from Mr Dean. Watching Janssen catch the ball with both hands in the lead up to the first equaliser summed up the rather lopsided performance from this most irritating of officials. Sadly if you propagate a climate whereby officials have no incentive to act properly there will always be those who abuse that position. Just Imagine if, all those years ago when Dean first started to disgrace the game we all know and love, someone had taken him to one side and said “stop deliberately making perverse decisions to make yourself look important or we will sack you” he would either be an honest and efficient referee or, more likely, at his local jobcentre. One day it will happen that an official will be caught out getting involved in a corruption scandal – it’s naïve to suggest that we should be any different from other countries it that respect. When it happens everyone will throw up their hands in horror and exclaim “how did this happen?” and some of us will say “well, remember when we called for proper and independent assessment of match officials and you all said we were being too harsh on referees? You reap what you sow”. Interestingly, the Confederation of African Football has only this week suspended two referees and an assistant for three months for poor performances. If only someone would exercise that power over here. One can but dream.

As a result of Dean’s usual self-aggrandisement we will be without Reid this weekend whose second yellow was an absolute joke – especially in view of the dangerous challenge on Kouyate from Janssen that left Wile-E in the dugout. That was apparently worth only a free-kick. And so for the second time this season we will be without a player thanks to dishonest refereeing against which there is no appeal. Diego Costa? Still no suspension by the way, just for comparison purposes. Reid will be a big miss given that he was by far and away the most outstanding player on the pitch last weekend – notwithstanding the hilarious decision by Glenn “Two More Braincells I Would be a Plant” Hoddle to award that honour to a player who touched the ball twice all game. On watching my recording of the match when I got back to the rest home and listening to Hoddle’s ignorant and incredibly biased commentary it occurred to me that only one of us really ought to be living in a home for the bewildered and that it was probably not me.

Injuries? Well this time last week we were looking at the possible return to the squad by Arthur Masuaku. That’s now been put back a couple of weeks to 3 December, by which time Reece Oxford should also be about. Carroll is 11 December still, but the way things have gone my breath isn’t being held too much. Tore is due back this weekend though. Reid’s absence will probably see a return to the starting line-up for Mr Collins who will most likely slot into the three-man central defence alongside Ogbonna and Kouyate both of whom are impressing in that role.

Prediction? Well there was enough in last week’s performance to suggest that there is enough about the team to give it a go. However, getting something out of this depends on us getting a ref with enough backbone to cancel out the written standing order that the home side at Old Trafford shall be given all assistance legal or otherwiseand replace it with the officials’ own standing order relating to sides managed by Mourinho. Unfortunately, having seen who is in charge, evidence of an official with his own spinal column is going to be in even shorter supply than usual. I will therefore be popping into Winstones The Turf Accountants on my way to the Swan And Superinjunction for a livener and placing the £2.50 I was going to send to buy diving overrated DJ beating cheat Gerrard a retirement card on a home win – 2-1 with the ref being credited with assists for both home goals.

Enjoy the game!

When last we met at the Theatre Of Patronising Marketing Slogans: Drew 1-1 (FA Cup QF March 2016) A typical free-kick goal from Payet gave us a first half lead. This was followed up by a typical Man Utd late equaliser that owed everything to the blatant foul on Randolpgh that was seen but ignored by “ref” Atkinson.

Danger Man: Wayne Rooney – assuming he’s selected he has that Lukaku-like record of scoring against us when he’s not nagging referees into submission.

Referee: Jonathan Moss – If he had been African he would probably have got a 6 month suspension for his handling of our away match at Leicester last season. He’s the one who is so bad that even his fellow officials look down on him.

Percy’s Poser: Last week we asked why Spurs laid claim to inventing the phrase “As sick as a parrot”. The story goes that after the First World War, when some dubious bribery and corruption between Liverpool, Man Utd and Arsenal led to Arsenal taking Spurs place in the top flight, Spurs had a club pet parrot which is said to have keeled over and died on receiving the news of Arsenal’s duplicity. First correct answer out of the digital hat was received from Mrs Agnes Thomson’s-Gazelle who tells us that her great great grandfather was actually the attending vet at the parrot post-mortem, which established that the parrot had in fact died of shame having discovered it was the property of Tottenham Hotspur FC. Well done Agnes.

For this week’s poser we look at our opponents and ask: How did the foundations of the modern conglomerate that plays at Old Trafford arise from the profits gained from poisoning the schoolchildren of Greater Manchester? First correct answer out of the digital hat wins a copy of the no.1* bestselling book “The Socialist Hypocrite’s Guide To Tax Avoidance” by “Sir” Alex Ferguson.

Good luck!


Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.







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