Let’s revisit the European Super League idea

Remember about three years ago, when several (or more) of the top clubs in Europe thought that they should leave their respective leagues and just play against each other instead?

That idea included six clubs from England, whose bosses thought that they were too big for the puny challenges of the domestic arena, and clearly needed something bigger and better.

And more lucrative.

But the project fell apart pretty quickly amid acrimony, recriminations and legal action. The six EPL clubs involved apologised, got a baby slap on the wrist, absolutely no-one got banned from the Champions League as threatened by UEFA, there were no points deductions as threatened by the FA, and we went on with life as usual.

As soon as I heard about it, I was immediately against the idea of the ESL. It was clearly formulated by the boards of the teams involved with no thought for the grassroots support of the clubs, and the traditional values and history of football. And while there’s still some rumbling behind the scenes, and the idea does seem to have gone away for the moment, I’m still against it.

But also, I’m actually not.

That idea that the ESL would ruin the tradition and values of football, and that the project was only about making money for “the suits upstairs” rings a bit hollow when you look at where we are now, three years on, because actually it’s happened anyway, just in the domestic league setting instead of a continental one.

The “Super League” ethos and its money already clearly exists within the Premier League.

Liverpool’s three goals last night (the first one gifted by our useless keeper, the second an absolute thunderbeagle after a very helpful clearance, and the third one just showing how squad strength in depth (via – *gasp* – money) is such a huge thing), came at a cost of £190,000,000.

That’s far more than our entire club is worth.
Not just the players on the pitch last night.
Not just the squad.
The entire business – the ground, the staff, the infrastructure, the training academy, the women’s teams, the name, the history, those solar garden gnomes in the gift shop: everything. All of it.
Versus three players.

Erik Ten Haag took charge of Manchester United less than 2 years ago. He’s spent almost twice as much on players in that time than we have in our entire 135 year history.

Arsenal shelled out just under a quarter of a billion pounds on three players this season.

Chelsea: it’s just billions. Billions and billions. A never ending pot of cash that is carefully spent over almost complete decades to avoid breaking the rules… maybe.

“It’s not sport if you can’t lose”, said Pep Guardiola, in his criticism of the ESL idea back in 2021.

That comment was about the limited relegation possibilities for ESL teams, but it’s steeped in irony now, given that his club are facing 115 charges for breaking financial fair play regulations. Charges which they will likely never actually face given that they have more money than the Premier League, can afford some ridiculously expensive legal teams and are already adopting a Stalingrad defence*.

And even if they ever do get punished, it won’t be in any meaningful form, thanks to new regulations conveniently just announced by the EPL.

How can we, or anyone else without money (or ok, yes, any sort of regard for the financial fair play regulations), ever hope to compete?

We can’t. And that’s why the Premier League is broken.

And before anyone points out plucky “little” Aston villa and their amazing league position, well yes, it is great, but even they’ve spent almost half a billion quid over the last 4 years.

The Premier League is clearly hugely divided. There’s absolutely no chance of relegation for the “Big Six”, they buy all the best players, they win all the trophies, and they have pots and pots of money. For them, most games are pretty much a foregone conclusion. The only interesting matches are when they play each other.

And that’s exactly what the ESL was going to give us.

But with added Bayern Munich and Real Madrid.

So actually, why not go and do that and make domestic football better again?

Why are we allowing our domestic game to be ruined by letting these clubs to do exactly what they were trying to do anyway by inventing their runaway league? If that’s the way it’s going to be, let them go.
It’s broken and it’s not going to get any better while they’re still here.

Sadly, of course, that will never happen.
Because of – you guessed it – money.

[sighs deeply – gets on with his day]

Bit unlucky?

A narrow defeat to the best team in the world. But still a defeat.

Ok. I thought we rode our luck a bit in the first half, and then everyone knows how the story ends when Citeh score after an hour.

Didn’t happen.

And then to get a goal, and then when they scored again, to almost get another one – I actually thought that we were a bit unlucky.

Still a defeat, but who expects anything else when they’re playing a billion pound team.

We keep fighting.

United’s Big Day Out

So. Today.
An FA Cup semi-final down at Wembley Stadium in The Big Smoke.

Weirdly, while it’s obviously a big deal to be in the semi-final, it’s not that unusual for us to be there.
In fact, given that we’re not one of the Big 6 (or even the Big 20 right now) and have spent a lot of time down in the third tier of English football of late, you might be surprised to learn that this is our 5th FA Cup semi-final appearance in the last 30 years. And you can add another 3 quarter finals to that, and a couple of League Cup semis in that time, as well.

Probably the best things about this semi-final are the absolutely complete lack of expectation, and the knowledge that whatever happens, and whatever it’s taken to get this far in the competition, this is unlikely to be our biggest achievement of the season. Hopefully, that comes later in the week.

And so, while the management and the players quite rightly won’t describe it as such, I think that most of the supporters see this as a bit of a “free hit”. We’ve got injuries (of course), key players that are ineligible to play, an expectant Dad. We’re 17-1 outsiders (go on, Ant – gooi twenty bucks on us!). No pressure, no expectation. Just an opportunity to go and play arguably(?) the best club side in the world at the moment – literally a billion pounds worth of talent – in front of a sell-out crowd, including 35,000 vocal United fans.

Of course, I’ll be ecstatic if we can win. But I’m completely at peace with any result already. I won’t be disappointed if we lose. Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened, and all that. All I want is us to give a decent – and fair – account of ourselves. Because the players and the fans deserve that. Apart from that one wish: just go out and have a good time amid a party atmosphere.

And hope that it’s just the warm up for an amazing week.

Post-match reaction

I always watch these videos. I never share them. But this one I am sharing, because it’s one that I will go back to from time to time.

Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder speaks about our 0-1 defeat to Manchester City last night:

Quotes of note:

You’ve got two clubs there tonight that are a million miles apart. One’s spent about a billion pounds and the other one is on its own journey, which I’m not embarrassed about… and we’ve gone toe to toe with them and left everything out there.

I thought they were excellent, outstanding. I thought every part of the football club was outstanding tonight.

And he’s right. It’s not often I feel this proud after the Blades lose. We went down fighting. We tried our best, but sometimes, your best simply isn’t enough and this was one of those times. Manchester City are undoubtedly the best team we’ve played or will play this season. The fact that the scorer of their only goal is probably worth more than our entire squad put together gives me some solace, even if it gives us no points.

A draw would have been wonderful, a win amazing. But we’ve clearly raised ourselves for this run of Big 6 games over the past month. We now need to keep it going as we head into a run of matches against the rest of the Premiership.

Onward and (hopefully) upward.