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Manchester United v West Ham United

Filed: Friday, 11th August 2017
By: Preview Percy

A new work experience kid? Odd rants about pyjamas, pitch markings and Abba songs? It can only mean one thing. The return of Preview Percy. If you find anything interesting in there it's likely to have come from the good people of kickoff.co.uk by the way.....

So here we are again. A new season with our summer not, for once, ruined by our having to sit in the TV room here at the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered watching Spurs players wearing England shirts being given the runaround by a load of plumbers from Reykjavik. That’ll probably be next year.

The fixture computer this year required some extra tweakage thanks to us since our stadium is being used for some school sports, qualification for which is guaranteed if you have been caught cheating twice but not so guaranteed if you had a dodgy stomach the day before you were due to race. Top tip to any athletes wanting a gold medal? Just finish third and wait for the drug testing to award you gold 10 years later.

As a result of the egg and spoon extravaganza our first three league matches this season plus our 2nd round League Cup tie will be played away from home – just for once you’ll be telling the truth when you tell the missus where you are going then. The first of these matches will be held at the Theatre of Tacky Marketing Slogans in Salford where instead of a football club we will be playing a “brand” in the form of Manchester United.

To nobody’s surprise the match has been moved to 4pm Sunday for the benefit of tv. No engineering works to speak of as far as I can work out though the trains are likely to be busy as both sets of supporters converge on Euston to make the journey north.

At the time of writing they sit in 12th place, level on points and goal difference with Manchester City who they trail on alphabetical order. They are also level with us on points and goal difference though the failure of Wolves to get promoted last season means that we are rock bottom at the moment. We would be top of course but for the scandalous refereeing that makes us kick-off only once our opponents have arrived. Still, the good news is that by the time we do kick-off we will have gone up several places on goal difference, assuming those playing on Saturday can come up with a result or two other than a draw.

So, as tradition dictates, this is where I take a look at our opponents. As ever the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered has obtained the services of a youngster whose parents have been told will be learning all about the administrative aspects of running a modern day care facility. In fact this means that they will be given special responsibility for cleaning the toilets, that is when they are not assisting me with what little research I do into bringing this column to you every week.

This year I have been sent a youngster of as yet-to-be determined gender wearing a hoodie who seems only able to communicate with some strange grunting noises. Off I sent them to find out what they could.

This season will represent Mourinho’s second at the helm. Last term they finished in 6th place but qualified for the So-called Champions League by virtue of winning the Thursday Night League. Any thoughts that they might have had about winning the bigger cup this season may just have been put on the back burner after playing Real Madrid in the rather inaccurately-named “Super” Cup the other night. The match was effectively a training match for Real Madrid who looked so bored with the ease with which they were running through their opponents that one of them was heard to plead “couldn’t we go back to the training ground and play against the dustbins again?” only in Spanish.

The Special Needs One has been busy with the gob as usual. Now his comments on the signings we have made so far were flattering but then when you put it into the context of someone who believes that Pogba is on a level with Ronaldo, Messi, Neymar and the like, suddenly those comments don’t seem quite as flattering. It’s a bit like being praised by Piers Morgan. Nobody in their right mind wants that. Except Piers Morgan. In the meantime Mourinho can relax – there’s no way anyone will come in with a £200m bid for Pogba.

On the transfer front The M62 has been a bit busy this summer with expensive cars crossing each other halfway between Manchester and Merseyside. Spud-faced chubber Wayne Rooney went back home to Everton whose new owners have been busy, whilst in the opposite direction came Romelu Lukaku. The most interesting thing about the granny-bothering slaphead’s move was the revelation that he still wears Everton FC pyjamas. This sort of thing is far from uncommon in the world of football. It is well-known amongst those “in the know” for example that Mike Dean wears Man Utd pyjamas. When he’s not wearing Mike Dean pyjamas of course.

It is not known what Lukaku’s preferred choice of night attire is. You could always write to him I suppose if you’re that interested. What is known is that he cost a reported £75m plus a possible £15m in add-ons. Lukaku has been a perennial thorn in our side over the years scoring against us on nearly every occasion he played us. That particular sequence came to an end last season when Everton’s visit to the Olympic ended up goalless, much to the delight of Winstone’s The Turf Accountant who had paid out a fortune on the Lukaku bet over the years.

The transfers between Salford and Goodison prompted one Man Utd tourist to tweet something to the effect that his “brand” had nicked Everton’s best player again and given them back a past-it has been. Fair play to the Everton supporter who pointed out that by dumping David Moyes on Old Trafford they had effectively brought down a 26 year dynasty in one fell swoop. I believe the phrase is “owned”.

Another £40m went on Chelsea midfielder Nemanja “Professor Matt” Matic (one for those of a certain age there!). Matic has been following Mourinho around a bit’ He had 2 spells at the Stamford Bridge money laundry, his first ending as a makeweight when they signed David “Sideshow Bob” Luiz for the first time. Matic’s price has been going up each time. His first move to Chelsea saw him valued at £1.5m. His departure was worth a nominal £5m as part of the Luiz deal. It cost Chelsea £21m to get him back and now that figure has been all but doubled. The arrival of Yoko Ono (are you sure that’s his name? ed) from Monaco potentially pushed Matic down the pecking order at the laundry so he hopped into Fireball XL5 and, making the same journey that thousands of Man Utd fans do every week he zoomed up from Surrey to Cheshire, where no doubt Mourinho will soon be announcing that Matic is better than Johan Cruyff ever was.

The third of the three signings made at the time of writing was Swedish defender Victor Lindelof. Lindelof came in for an “undisclosed” fee of €36m (£32.73m if you go to Thomas Cook) with a further €10m (£9.09m) in add-ons potentially to come (though if those add-ons involve winning the so-called Champions League I think the money is pretty safe if the so-called “Super” Cup is anything to go by.)

They have only made the three signings at the time of writing though Mourinho was making noises about trying to sign Gareth Bale much in the same way as I look dewy-eyed at the beautiful Victoria Coren (yes I am aware of the “Mitchell” bit) every time “Only Connect” comes on the box. Frankly I rate my chances with the beautiful Victoria higher than those of Mourinho with Bale.

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Before I take a look at our new signings let’s have a look at what new stuff can we look forward to this season. Well the authorities have finally stamped on one of the scourges of the modern game. There will be celebrations up and down the country at the announcement that we can all rest easy this season knowing that the tyranny of groundsmen who mow their pitches in fancy patterns has finally been ended. Supporters all over the country have been marching on Parliament demanding an end to this practice which has done more to damage the game than any amount of dodgy agents, illegal transfer approaches, diving, poor refereeing standards, stupid transfer fees, laughable “fit and proper” ownership tests and corrupt administrators could ever do. Probably.

Having got the important stuff out of the way (file that one alongside automatic yellow cards for shirt removal in the same match as two-footed career-threatening tackles go unpunished), as an afterthought the authorities found time before the pubs opened to look at a few other things. There are to be retrospective bans for players caught diving. A step in the right direction but only if the new disciplinary regulations apply to all. I suspect that Man City, Liverpool, Man Utd, Chelsea and Spurs will somehow manage to escape suspensions despite being the worst culprits for simulation, whilst some poor sod tripping over his bootlaces playing for Huddersfield will have a three match break quite early on in the season. The inclusion of an ex-Liverpool player on the panel that will judge such matters doesn’t inspire much confidence. Ultimately the correct application of the laws and the introduction of points deductions for serial offenders would be the way forward.

Talking of the correct application of the laws, we also saw the introduction of Video Assistant Referees in the Confederations Cup. Well sort of. The concept is fine but the introduction was a bit of a shambles if truth be told. Why it was almost as if the referees didn’t want it to work properly lest there be statistical confirmation of how many things they get wrong. It looks like this will be introduced to the Premier League for 2018-19 and may even be about for the 3rd round of the FA Cup onwards this season. Early days and all that but it would be a crying shame if something that could improve the game were to disappear in the name of protecting the backs of a few bent and incompetent attention-seekers. The likes of Dean would find themselves unable to influence the results of matches in the same way as they can now as, done properly, the VAR would reverse all the perverse decisions they are so fond of making at the time they are made. Could be a good time to retire Mike. Please.

Another innovation is the introduction of the new ABBA penalty system. We saw this in the Charity (yeah yeah “Community” if you like) Shield the other day. The traditional curtain raiser to the season (as the law demands I refer to the match) introduced the system which is analogous to the long-established tie-break system in tennis. Team A takes the first kick then each team takes two in a row. The idea is that the new system will negate the advantage of going first in the shoot out, which is a good thing. What is not a good thing is the temptation by lazy football writers and sub-editors to insert Swedish pop music-related puns into their newspaper reports. I would welcome the reintroduction of the death penalty for anyone who uses the phrase “Winner Takes It All” in relation to such shoot-outs. Or for suggesting that the losing team had “met their Waterloo”, though I might make an exception for “Dancing Queen” if only out of curiosity to see how that one would work. The system will be in place for the League Cup and play-offs but not, at the time of writing, the FA Cup as far as I can see, though it wouldn’t be a surprise if they did bring it in for that too.

Talking of the League Cup, congratulations to the authorities for somehow negotiating a sponsorship deal that actually gives the Cup a name that makes it sound even less important than it did before. The Cup’s new official name makes it sound like the not particularly coveted trophy played for by invitation to dress up a “prestige” pre-season friendly.

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Regular readers will know that I tend to eschew the mentioning of sponsors on the (to me) not unreasonable grounds that if anyone wants me to advertise their product they can jolly well pay me to do so. On this occasion though I rather think I will be doing the competition a favour by referring to it as the League Cup. The draw for round one took place in Thailand and was what one might call a “tour de farce”, with Charlton being drawn to play both Exeter and Cheltenham and various unseeded teams being drawn to face each other. The League apologised stating that “human error” and “third party technical issues” had been to blame. Presumably the “human error” was the decision to sell the sponsorship to a company that required the draw being made in Bangkok in the first place.

We still await the annual announcement as to which particular law of the game our wonderful (irony) officials will be choosing to enforce for the first month of the season. You know how this works. For the first few weeks of the season they announce a clampdown on, say, holding in the box. Cue four or five penalties as Dean tries to grow his profile ever bigger on live tv. Then, after a few weeks things return to normal and people get away with murder and holding in the box joins all the other laws of the game that referees can’t be bothered to enforce. With the exception of Dean, who will remember the clampdown in every match. But only once. The reputation of English referees is at an all time low amongst the rest of the world – with good reason. Remember that next time Riley and the rest of the PGMOL mafia tell you how great they all are.

Ok those are a few of the changes to which we can look forward How about us then? Let’s look at our new signings. We welcome Joe Hart twixt the sticks for a season. Or possibly more. We have him on loan thus guaranteeing Adrian at least two league matches this season thanks to the parent club rule. Hart hasn’t had the greatest of years over the past 12 months. He had a poor time of things at the disastrous Euro16 tournament when playing behind 5 Spurs players did nothing for his confidence. On his return he arrived at Man City to find that the new boss Pep Guardiola apparently wanted a different type of ‘keeper, one who could play out from the back. In came Bravo from Barca, who was so different as a ‘keeper it seemed that his skills did not actually include the art of making saves. Surplus to requirements, Hart headed off to Torino where, if you believe the tabloids you would be forgiven for thinking he had had a complete nightmare of a season, especially if you augmented your information sources by a cursory run through YouTube. In fact he was widely regarded as one of the top ‘keepers in Serie A, despite playing behind one of the worst defences in that league. So he will be well-prepared for playing for us then. As I have mentioned before in these columns he should get our respect if only for having overcome the tragic onset of dandruff to make it to the top of his profession.

Also in from Man City, this time on a free, is Pablo Zabaletta. Now despite his obvious qualities as a player I was not very impressed with him when he turned up at the Olympic last year. His rather blatant dive to “earn” his side a penalty was almost as bad as the hypocritical attempts of the City supporters to justify it. I welcome the player’s arrival – he is a quality addition in a position where we have been short for a couple of years now. I would just say though that the “going five miles out of your way to brush against an outstretched leg” thing is not the sort of thing we expect from our players and he will find his new home support a little bit more honest about things were he to repeat the act in claret and blue. Though I may well grant him a “criticism exemption certificate” should he do it against his former employers, if only to see what logical knots his former supporters can tie themselves into in trying to moan about it.

Further forward we bid welcome to Marko Arnautovic for whom a fee of up to £25m including add-ons may eventually be payable. It is said that the fee was slightly inflated by Stoke’s need to cover profit payments due to Werder Bremen from whom he was signed for £2m a few years back. Whenever I had to write these things in advance of us playing Stoke he always seemed to their top scorer and he once had the ball in the net 3 times for them against us only for two of the efforts to be (correctly) ruled out for offside. The third was a 95th minute equaliser, damn him. Some sources quote him as being the “bad boy of Austrian Football” and indeed his final season at Werder did see him pick up both club and police fines for speeding. Good luck with that in the rush hour in E20 mate.

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And, after a two-year wait, we also have Javier Hernandez in the fold. This appears by current day standards to be a bargain at £16m (insofar as anything costing £16m can said to be a bargain). As is well known he goes by the name of Chicharito which translates as “little pea”. As I always say it’s nice to see footballers doing their bit for the less fancy charities. What with Hart’s sterling work to eliminate dandruff and now Hernandez highlighting the waterworks problems that many of us who are of a certain age don’t like to discuss in public, (not to mention Pele’s sterling work for the impotent) all we need is for someone to publicise the dreadful time that athlete’s foot sufferers have and we will have the lot.

All being well Chicharito will debut against his old club. Things were going well for him there and he had the distinction of scoring the last goal of the Hypocritical Tax Dodger’s dictatorship. However, neither Moyes nor Van Gaal seemed to rate the player. A season on loan at Real Madrid failed to inspire a permanent move and he returned (nominally) to Old Trafford for a nanosecond before moving on to Bayer Leverkusen. On the international front he recently became Mexico’s all time leading goalscorer, his current tally being 48. Dare I say it this is the sort of player that the team has been crying out for, a short (5’9”) nippy poacher type who will get on the end of things in the box. The sort of player that we haven’t seen since, well probably Craig Bellamy. Since that time we seem to have signed big guy after big guy and, as an old fashioned sort, I miss the days of playing two up front with a little ‘un feeding off a big ‘un. It remains to be seen how we line up but this is probably the signing about which I am least displeased.

We have also shelled out a reported £2.7m for another “wonderkid” in the form of Sead Haksabanovic. The Swedish-born midfielder seems to have a bit of cockiness about him if YouTube is to be believed. Although capped at age level by the Swedes, his ancestry has seen him capped at full international level by Montenegro in a World Cup qualifier which means that there should be no more Swedish caps for him, unless the rules change again. Meanwhile the people who make the letters that go on the back of shirts will be hoping he makes it so they can put a down payment on a new company yacht.

Of course the big worry is which of the new signings is going to fall victim to the traditional pre-season curse. Every year one of the new boys gets injured early on and misses half or more of the season. Keep everything crossed guys.

Through the out door we say ta-ta to Darren Randolph. The early part of his career at the Boleyn saw some fine performances but it’s fair to say that his form dipped a bit towards the end of last term and many observers thought Adrian should have come back into the side a few games earlier. Still £5m for a freebie is a good deal and he goes with the best wishes of most in these parts as he disappears to Smogsville in search of first team football as we come into a season followed by a World Cup.

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And also ta-ta Havard Nordtveit. Last season’s transfer policy seemed to be based on signing a number of players who could “do a job” in the squad rather than pushing for first XI selection when all were fit, if you can imagine such a concept. Nordtveit fitted into the former category. He had a few games in his preferred central midfield berth where he didn’t look too bad but most of his first team outings seemed to see him slot in wherever the latest injury had left a vacancy. With predictable results. He was recently seen to go into print telling anyone who would listen that the Bundesliga was much better than the Premier League anyway. Yeah Havard – like you saw enough of the latter to be able to make an informed opinion.

And adieu also to Enner Valencia. Undoubtedly talented, he weighed in with some impressive goals – his effort at Hull a couple of years back and an odd-looking free-kick down at Bournemouth leap to mind. However bad injuries and another dip in form saw him shifted out to Everton where, although he found the net a few times, he failed to impress enough to see the Toffeemen want to make the deal permanent. He’s off to Mexico for a fee of about £5m – which is about £9m less than Everton’s option was worth. Allegedly.

And also Arbeola, who retired at the end of the season and not, as most of us thought, halfway through it. Who can forget his performance in that 90 minutes against Accrington Stanley in the League Cup last season. Or more accurately, who can remember it? Will we see his like again. Sadly, I fear we probably will.

So on to injury news. On the “definitely not available” list we have Carroll (Groin, again - ETA Mid September. Year Unspecified), Antonio (Hamstring - ETA Newcastle), Kouyate (knee - ETA mid September) and Sakho (back, ETA Southampton). On the “major doubt” list we have Feghouli (Hamstring – ETA unknown) – though if noises out of Turkey prove to be correct, by the time you read this he may have left for Galatasaray anyway.

Lanzini was listed as “slight doubt” but that’s now been downgraded to “definitely not available” though the noises emanating from the club suggest that he ought to be fit for the trip to Southampton. Cresswell was similarly listed as “slight doubt” but it sounds like he should be ok for Sunday.

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On the subject of Lanzini, in the event that Coutinho goes to Barca and Liverpool use their usual illegal approach method of trying to sign the player I trust that we will stand firm and hammer them with every legal complaint going. Too long have they been allowed to get away with murder on the transfer front. Maybe a ban on signing first XI players (as well as the one they have at academy level for all their dodgy dealings) might make them think twice. That’s assuming the authorities can tear themselves away from checking to see if the pitches have been mowed in an approved manner, of course.

Right where were we. Oh yes prediction time. Well it’s always difficult to get a result up there, especially when against them you are perpetually playing against 12 men. Who can forget that Cup quarter final up there a while back when we beat then 2-0 in terms of legal goals scored only for the match officials to decree the game a 1-1 draw. Or last season’s usual bent performance by Dean at the Olympic that even had Sky’s commentators (never ones to normally bad mouth their cash cow) cringing in embarrassment. So I will pop down to Winstone’s The Turf Accountants and place the traditional £2.50 (liberated this week from the amount I had saved up towards getting “Haksabanovic” put on the back of a shirt) on a 2-0 home win with an offside goal and a handball being the difference between the sides. Again.

Enjoy the game!

When Last We Met In Salford;Lost 4-1 League Cup Quarter Final (November 2016)

A few days previously we had gained a merited point in the league with a 1-1 draw during which Mourinho got sent to the stands for kicking a water bottle after Pogba had, amazingly, been correctly booked for diving. At home. Presumably Mourinho was annoyed at his player being caught. This time, with a few changes things were different. Payet, not to put to fine a point on it, was an absolute disgrace. If he moved more than 20 yards in the game I’d be surprised. I pointed out at the time something was seriously wrong. I was right. It happens occasionally you know.

Referee: Martin Atkinson

Sent off Cresswell at Palace last season for two yellow card offences that he had a clear view of. There was no appeal for Cresswell thanks to the “two yellow” rule (aka “two wrongs make a third”). Meanwhile Atknson was not asked why he deliberately gave two incorrect decisions when he had the clearest of views. Cresswell was suspended whilst Atkinson escaped any sort of punishment because it is an accepted principle in English football that PGMOL can p*ss all over the game with impunity. Oh and have a guess who was in charge in that Cup Quarter Final mentioned above, handing the home side a thoroughly undeserved replay on a plate. Yup.

Danger Man: Romelu Lukaku.

Hopefully the curse that meant he was scoring against us without trying is lifted. Or only applied to the Boleyn & Goodison. I’ve included him as danger man just in case and because old habits die hard.

Percy’s Poser

Yes it’s back. Partly due to popularity and partly due to the fact I couldn’t be bothered to think up a new feature, this column will be giving away a top prize* every week for the first correct answer out of the digital hat to our poser.

For this week’s poser we ask you this: Manchester United are one of only two top flight clubs in England to have been found guilty in the High Court of match fixing. Our two part poser this week is: a) Who was the other club involved; and b) Why were both clubs not expelled from the league at that time.

The first correct answer out of the digital hat will win a copy of “A Referee’s Guide To Away Penalties At Old Trafford” (Please note that this book has an expected publication date of 2099)
#Good luck everybody!

(*ed – no we won’t.)

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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