"Ask me again if we can play midweek friendlies in the Middle East"
“Ask me again if we can play midweek friendlies in the Middle East”

Reports this morning have United’s managing director Richard Arnold honking that the club was “looking at” travelling overseas for some lucrative midweek friendlies because, well, we have nothing else to in between weekends and we’re strapped for cash. Said Arnold:

“That’s something we continue to look at, as always making sure that the preparations we do on the pitch come first. For many of our [pre-season] international tours, there is a plan to ensure we get that team building that goes together with getting the team all together in one place. That’s something that’s being looked at with regards to the future with Louis [van Gaal].”

The thinking is this: the club forecasts a 10% drop in revenue without the Champions League (about £40 million down according to a quick scan of reports) and the fact that we now have screaming-fan-magnets Falcao and Angel di Maria will mean the crowds will flock, the tills will ring and everyone will get soaked in champagne.

But Louis van Gaal suggested a while back that he didn’t give a shit about that stuff. Arnold’s bleat comes about three months after van Gaal’s ‘I’ll do it my way’ broadside at the commercial arm of the club during the preseason tour of the US. In July he said:

“When you have a lot of commercial activities also for the players, and you have to travel distances, you have to fly a lot, you have also jet lag, and that is not very positive for a good preparation. But the tour was already arranged so I have to adapt, I shall adapt…

“Within two days I know already how important Manchester United is, but also how important the sponsors are and I have to work and prepare a team and I have to adapt to this big club. It will not be easy.”

“Manchester United shall do everything to adapt to my rules for good preparation.”

Considering how intimidated Gary Neville felt having a discussion with the manager (I can’t get enough of that picture), what I wouldn’t give to hear a nervous, sweating Arnold proposing midweek jaunts to Qatar as van Gaal stares him down. It seems extraordinarily unlikely that van Gaal would sign off on the possibility of Falcao taking a shot to the knee from an over-eager defender looking to make a name for himself.

Ed Woodward’s determination to expand the brand to other continents has already been reported this month and this is obviously another attempt at global domination. But it’s a dangerous game to play, risking the health and harmony of a squad with midweek foreign trips to make up for the loss in revenue caused by Champions League absence. In short, if Angel di Maria twangs a hamstring in Saudi Arabia, how is he supposed to help us beat Everton the next Saturday to help us to get to fourth spot?

But, as Louis van Gaal made clear in the US, it’s a modern obligation that his team exists to maximise profit, not performance. If he is serious about the club adapting to his rules, he would do well to put his foot down and stamp out such a ludicrous proposition.


But these go up to 11

What was thought to be a back injury for Ander Herrera now turns out to be a fractured rib, which means the Spaniard will now be out for several weeks.

That means we now have 11 players out, as James Wilson limped off during an under-21’s game this week. Wayne Rooney is also out of course after his three-game suspension but Juan Mata will slot comfortably in to the tip of the diamond.

As for a replacement for Herrera, Darren Fletcher seems the most likely to sit on the right hand side but Antonio Valencia may also be considered. If van Gaal is feeling particularly adventurous, he might consider 18-year-old Andreas Pereira.

At this point the injury lineup is getting a little ridiculous. It’s hardly surprising that van Gaal has told fitness coach Tony Strudwick and masseur Rod Thornley that they’ll be going nowhere near the England team during the two-week break after the weekend, but staying at Carrington and greasing up Ashley Young.


Hummels is really, really not coming. Really

Credit to Matt Hummels who rather eloquently described why exactly he would not be leaving Borussia Dortmund any time soon, despite interest from us, Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Hummels first talked about how money wasn’t a factor, but it was this part of an interview with Bundesliga Magazin International that really stood out:

“People often speak about the Dortmund ‘project’ in that context but I don’t really like that word. It’s too unemotional and sounds so technical. I’ve been here for six and a half years and it’s simply more exciting and more difficult to win trophies as an underdog.

“Everybody can win things with 25 superstars in the squad. At BVB, every single player has more responsibility but also more opportunity. It’s difficult to win trophies with Dortmund but it’s always possible. And when it happens, the feeling is simply indescribable.

“When we won the championship for a second time in 2012, each one of us could have gone wherever we wanted. But I thought: ‘No, what we have here is something truly unique.’ I’m happy I felt this way. You don’t often find a team where people are really friends with each other. If you’ve got the chance to play at such a high level with your mates you have to hold on to that for as long as possible.”

Great stuff. He’s only 25 and of course he might fancy a change at some point, who knows. But this is different to the normal PR-smoothed ‘I am very happy at [insert club]’ quote.

The man is clearly a cut above the mercenary culture in which football has drifted and is committed to his club. I’ll look very stupid if he suddenly changes his mind in January or the summer, but it looks unlikely. Let him get on with playing for a club he clearly loves. For now, obviously.