RAVEN MACK is a mystic poet-philosopher-artist of the Greater Appalachian unorthodox tradition. He does have an amazing PATREON, but also *normal* ARTIST WEBSITE too.

Thursday, August 1

25-Man Metaphysical Roster: MANCHESTER UNITED FC

[25-Man Metaphysical Roster is a football metaphysics methodology utilizing dork methodology of minutes played over the past 100 club competitive club matches to determine which 25 players constitute the strongest psychic force on a club’s current trajectory. Then intuitive analysis is conducted utilizing football metaphysics, performed from an un-American soccer fan’s perspective. We do this every 1st and 15th of the month, cycling through the 20 clubs currently in the English Premier League, because it is the top domestic league based in an English-speaking country, which as un-American miscreants, we were all born to be saddled with this limited, segmented tongue of the global colonizer, oppressor, and capitalizer. Also, it is what comes on TV here in the USA most prominently, where we live. And yet, it is really important we clarify we hate English, and also America. Maybe we hate ourselves. Our panel consists of chairman Raven Mack, director tecnico Paul Robertson, and director rudo Neil Bulson Our individual contributions to this 5000 words of gibberish will be noted by our name at the end of the blurb. If you enjoy this absolutely free internet content from an un-American soccer perspective, venmo us tips @ravenmack23. You may also enjoy the Sportsball 69 podcast.]

Let us discuss the football metaphysics of this here Manchester United Football Club, what which has colonized the globe in the Premier League era due to their rich history, as well as the domineering management efforts of Sir Alex Ferguson, who held them to the highest levels possible in the first two decades of Premier League, winning the league title 13 of 21 years. Since Ferguson’s exit, they’ve been 0 for 6. And the club has been operated as if the Ferguson successes were innate to the club itself, and their just destiny within football, rather than a combination of a singular managerial mind combined with deep coffers.

And yet, you cannot throw a Millwall brick in a circle of soccer aficionados without hitting somebody in a ManU top. They are the New York Yankees/Dallas Cowboys/Los Angeles Lakers of English football, meaning they have an oversized fanbase, including large amounts of minority supporters, and an equally oversized sense of expectation.

Thus, it is with great joy to watch them struggle and finish in the bottom of the Premier Premier League (last place among the Big Six clubs) last season as well as in three of the past six seasons. They never plummeted as far as Chelsea, who finished 10th one season a few back, but ManU has remained the clear favorite to finish last in the Big 6 again this season. And really that’s all that matters. Going to the Europa League means nothing to a club like Manchester United. Mourinho openly stated that at times during his tumultuous period in charge.

Now we get to enter the possible first full season of the Ole Gunnar Solskjaer tenure. (I am being too lazy to type the actual dipthong there, because it would be Eurocentric of me to start that type of shit now instead of having done Spanish enyas the right way all this time.) Mourinho was finally run off last December, and Solskjaer gave the club the initial dopamine boost you’d expect with a managerial change, but it’s hard to expect some level of continued success. He keeps the supporters happy, as their infamous Baby-Faced Assassin from the ‘90s period of roaring victories under Sir Alex. But this is a high-priced squad which has not lived up to expectations, and has not been able to draw in with the same unwavering appeal to players it once was. The addition of Daniel James, as a Swansea City supporter, was likely a good one, and I’m thankful they gave my favorite club loads of cash to squander on their previous poor choices recurring payments, but they hadn’t drawn the interest of a Pogba-level superstar since Pogba, who seems passively disinterested in remaining at the club, though does so. But just as it was with Mourinho, this current set-up is going to be about how do the manager and star player co-exist, and how will everybody else fill in around that?

Spoiler alert: it’s going to be a train wreck. Still though, for a Premier Premier League club, what’s the worst that could mean? Well, as mentioned before, recent history shows that to be 10th place like Chelsea landed. Are there enough non-Premier Premier League clubs to potentially push ManU that low? I’d say probably not, but I’m certainly hoping so. I am a heartless bastard about wealth inequality, at both human and club level, and would enjoy seeing every single Big Six club plummet to the Championship, and hate Manchester United even more than the rest, so if they became the new Sunderland, my dick would get hard. [RAVEN]

#1: DAVID DE GEA (same as last time Manchester United was metaphysically ranked on 15-Aug-2018; his third METAPHYSICAL STAR) – Perhaps it is because de Gea plays for Manchester United, which is arguably the most overhyped football club in these United States, that I have never viewed him as the amazing-ass goalkeeper that the media swarm around his team wants the world to believe. He’s made some admittedly remarkable saves over his career, but I don’t think that anyone in good, clear-sighted conscience could call him consistent—and when he fucks up, man, he really fucks up (that absolute doing by Manchester City admittedly might have done in lesser “characters”). Taking a metaphysical approach (naturally), I’m going to speculate that what fucks de Gea is the focus that’s been on him since an early footballing age—something that should never, ever happen to a goalkeeper. You can ooh and ahh, and positively get tumescent over the next worldbeating striker, or midfield playmaker, or  winger. But the psychic weight of the keeper position demands that a successful goal-minder essentially live in the shadows, tucked away in their own pathological self-derangement. Notice how the best quality keepers outright despise acclaim from their teammates—maybe they accept a little hand tap/pat from their central defenders, but I love nothing more than a jubilant fullback trying to jump on his goalkeeper to congratulate him/her for some extraordinary save, only for the latter to shrug them to the ground and mouth “get the fuck off me” in their native tongue (ideally Polish or Serbo-Croatian). Try and hug a quality keeper, and he’ll look as if he’s contemplating wading into the stands to break your mother’s nose. In short, do not fuck with a keeper’s head by forcing him to engage with the world at large, particularly in regards to acclaim and hype. For all his awards and press, de Gea is particularly fucked by the transfer run around that happened to him in 2015-16 when he was all but out the door to Real Madrid (supposedly with a partial exchange for Keylor Navas, which just blows my mind because bland-ass de Gea is not half as good as him). Yet the move fell through under contrived circumstances and if you consider the whole situation of paperwork not being submitted in time, and some odd behavior on the parts of involved parties, someone was getting gamed (the money not going into the right hands, etc. etc.) Plus getting a big transfer to the bitter derby rivals of the club (Atletico Madrid) that reared you up is a platinum-grade psychic transgression. De Gea is obviously psychically done with Manchester United at this point—they may keep playing him for the coming season, but there’s not going to be some full-potential revelation and he’ll never be classed with Schmeichel, Trautmann, or Yashin—or that cyborg-bioengineered  Courtois someday . When a keeper checks out of club, as de Gea did with this Real move, he can’t really call his soul back fully if shit falls through. United are still in the wilderness after Ferguson’s retirement and the accursedness of Mourinho. De Gea is part of that. [PAUL]

#2: PAUL POGBA (up from #6 last time) – When Pogba came to Manchester United from Juventus, I really wanted to hate him. First off, it was Manchester United. Secondly, he was a French player, which is another personal bias, despite their multicultural makeup, it’s still the end results of rampant colonialism which often left original homes of previous generation broken and fucked up. Like, I’m highly influenced by Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth, and Fanon played football, so I’ve got all these fucked up tendrils of thinking in my mind based off imagining Fanon’s analysis of 21st century football culture. Part of that is not being hyped to tout the French World Cup team from 2018 as “the first African team to win the World Cup” which is what was done, in good faith, by certain segments. Human resource extraction under a national flag is still colonization in my opinion. But fuck it. All that said, when inspired, Pogba is a beautiful player, at both raw normal level and metaphysical level, and also rocks the power zone aesthetic of frosted tips on (partial) African hair too. So despite immediate thoughts of “man, fuck ManU, spending more money than anybody else can to get this ridiculously talented midfielder... I hope he breaks his leg,” I moved to at first a quiet and then an outright respect for him. He’s amazing. And also uninspired at United, which luckily, works well with my belief system of it being a soulless global corporate entity devoid of any true football spirit for decades but marketing itself as exactly the opposite of what it is. So it plays into my personal biases, where the young talent, one generation removed from Guinea (in fact so close his older brothers were born in Guinea proper, and one – Florentin – plays for Atlanta United and will cause you to do a foggy double take if passed out half-asleep on the couch watching American world football on the TV, and he’s put into the game), who simultaneously finds a wealthy new life in this new world of “western” culture, but also has lost direct connection to the roots of his existence. Pogba becomes at the same time the spoiled superstar who threatens to leave the club at the end of last season, as well as the exploited resource somehow. It doesn’t make sense to think a guy paid like Pogba is, and regarded as highly as he is, and pampered the way he is pampered, is still exploited in any sense. And yet he is exactly that. It’s completely fucked up. So it makes you wonder what’s next for him, when this season goes off the rails for Manchester United (as it will)... Where will he go next? There’s only one French club with that money, but there’s no competition nor realistic expectation that PSG will compete for UEFA Champions League title. Germany doesn’t seem a good fit, and a return to Italy would seem like perhaps a step backwards. That only leaves the big two in La Liga of Real Madrid and Barcelona, with constant rumors and hints of Pogba wanting to go to Real Madrid having happened all break long. But Real Madrid already sunk a ton of money on all the big signings, yet there’s still talk they’re ponying up huge money for Pogba still. And on the other side, the move of Lukaku to bring in Paulo Dybala is meant to keep the star satisfied. But with the transfer money, the club could sign a pair of young stars to make club supporters feel like ManU is still a pre-eminent location to go play, only to have the pair fail in pretty much the same way Pogba is considered a failure. It’s diminishing returns at this point, and I’d love to see Pogba get out and have passion (briefly) again. But ultimately I just wish guys like that would sink their money into purchasing and running African clubs in their later years. Imagine that, if all these African dudes who never got to play professionally in Africa reinvested all that “western” money into their parents’ native lands. I am not lying when I say I enjoy the African Champions League more than the European one, at least in the later stages, so having guys like Pogba be involved would be wonderfully enjoyable, and probably make Frantz Fanon happy. Then again, he was all about the lesson of how revolutions always tend to make the mistake of recreating the exact same power structure as what it's looking to revolt from. Lolol people are fucked. That means us – you and me. We’re so fucked. It’s hilarious. [RAVEN]

#3: ASHLEY YOUNG (up from #7 last time) – Forever young until you’re not, which is where Ashley Young’s psychic energies have brought him, to ManU where he has signed on for another year, but no one is gonna get excited for Ashley Young, who is pretty much just taking up space until they can smuggle in some hairless wunderkind the scouts found roaming the beaches of Brazil. That has to be tough to face, when you’re no longer the golden boy, just another dude who floated down the river starting as the new young boy, all fresh and hopeful and cocky and ready to show everyone why you were worth getting plucked from the Aston Villas of the world, and then you spend all your time on the river diving for no good reason and then one day you’re old and no one really likes you any more, mostly because of all the goddamn diving, which has upset the river’s ecosystem and now people just want you to get out of the fucking river. It has to be tough to face, but at least you didn’t drown you goddamn fool. Get out of the fucking river, its people are tired of watching you make a diving ass out of yourself. [NEIL]

#4: NEMANJA MATIC (same as last time; also previously ranked #22 for Chelsea on 01-Sep-2018) – A Serb born in the far western parts of that territory when it was still Yugoslavia, who by the age of 12, after Yugoslavia had fallen apart in chaos and ethnic-based turmoil, was youth player at Red Star Belgrade. Strangely moved to their bitter rivals Partizan briefly around the age of 16, and then on more. Only brief period of professional time in Serbia was for small Kolubara, before moving onto a Slovakian club and then to Chelsea in his early 20s. Spent two spells at Chelsea as well as doing a couple seasons in Portugal for Benfica, and is entering the twilight of his career perhaps, but has been solid figure for United, enough so that the dudes I know who mark for the club were once always meme’ing about how they pulled one on Chelsea by getting Matic. For me personally, he is: A) a Man U player, and B) a dirty Serb. Thus I am thoroughly like whatever about his existence. [RAVEN]

#5: CHRIS SMALLING (down from #2 last time) – Dude of Jamaican descent who was a poor kid growing up, and spent a few years of his early teens, before the age of 16, at Millwall youth academy. That whole sentence makes me wonder the stories this dude must know. And in wonderful “poor kid who came up through sports” fashion, he’s married to a lily white Page 3 model, and now of course is also a vegan who promotes that vegan lifestyle. I bet he and Jay Electronic have played whatever the rich fucker version of Cards Against Humanity is, which I guess is probably just actually destroying humanity. That’s why when poor kids become successful like Smalling, it’s so important they do good community service shit like promote veganism, because it helps reinforce the illusion that anybody can become great, which keeps the rest of complacent enough the wealthy can finish destroying humanity in peace. [RAVEN]

#6: VICTOR LINDELOF (up from #14 last time) – A young Swede, Lindelof cut his teeth with Benfica before ManU decided to take a shot with him, and so far he hasn’t really impressed too much, which doesn’t really mean anything bad on a metaphysical level because he’s still young and on the big club now and probably living bigger, although I see he just had a kid with his Swedish wife so now that’s gonna be weighing on him as he tries to make a name for himself in England, where they admire you for your Nordic sensibilities, a deep perversion owing to their cuckolding by Vikings a thousand years ago. But admiration is one thing, and being the hot young boy is another, and if you can’t get your Nordic dick hard when it counts, you’re gonna be on your way back to Sweden, probably via a stay at Aston Villa or some other dump, and your Swedish wife will ask why you don’t just come home and you’ll remember when you were in Portugal before she had the baby, and things were good then, better, and these are the pressures of being counted on to grow up quickly on a huge club that won’t think twice of selling you off to some Turks or whoever is in need of a fresh Swede to show off to Arab slavers. It’s not Victor Lindelof’s fault that he’s been sucked into the hedonistic hellmouth of Manchester United, but the only way out is to become a full-on Aryan fuck machine and then what are you gonna do with a Swedish wife and baby when you’ve got dick rot and you can already see some younger dude eager to take your spot and send you back ruined to the North? I don’t know, but that’s why you don’t play for Manchester United. [NEIL]

#7: MARCUS RASHFORD (up from #8 last time) – Rashford is #10 by default, only 21 sure, but I don’t know man, I just don’t know. It has always felt like he will never live up to the potential expected of him as United’s highest profile youngster superstar. It is somewhat unrealistically expected he be the absolute best in the world, and that’s just not really possible most likely. So no matter what he does, it won’t be the best on Earth, so he’ll get shit on. But then again at least he’s actually playing for his parent club instead of suffering endless loans to lower level clubs. He did get 10 goals last season though, and I’m sure even more will be expected this time through the PL fixtures cycle, but he feels sort of doomed somehow, even though so good. [RAVEN]

#8: LUKE SHAW (up from #19 last time) – Luke Shaw does not receive the same ManU hatred from me as much of the rest of the club, for a simple dork reason – Football Manager 2015. I still play the same FM as I have for years because fuck capitalism, I’m not buying new shit every goddamned year, fuck you. So about a third of the time I decide to start a new career in classic mode, I manage a sixth-tier English club, and decide to only sign the best English players age 20 or under. Then I romp my way through a few tiers before having to start signing non-English players, unless some nextgen wonderkids develop into fake ass English Messis, which has happened a couple times actually. But this method which I always seem to go to every now and then has meant that I’ve pretend managed hundreds and hundreds of matches with Luke Shaw, often with Havant & Waterlooville or Halifax Town. (Hahaha, actually the only reason I’ve actually contemplated buying a new Football Manager is so I could do the exact same stupid shit, but while managing Dulwich Hamlet and playing in pink kits, which I generally change my club’s kits to pink and lime green stripes anyways. So all this is to say most of my personal Luke Shaw memories are of him performing really well in a pink and green striped kit, and helping me lift a shitload of FA Trophies, so the IRL Luke Shaw is of no real concern to me, other than when I go, “oh, hey, that’s that guy from my team,” and then I end up feeling halfway motivated to sim my way through another half season, hoping to lead Halifax Town to the Premier League title in 2042. I hope to get to 2069 eventually, before the IRL Earth ends. [RAVEN]

#9: ROMELU LUKAKU (down from #5 last time) – I personally love me some Romelu Lukaku, and his final seasons at Everton plus his performances for the Belgian national team during their golden era apex were some beautiful times. As you may have gathered, most of my footballing loyalties have been applied in English football to the Welsh club Swansea City. Wilfried Bony was at one point an unstoppable PL force while with Swansea City, which led to him being sold to Man City. Anybody with a single ounce of footballing metaphysics sense new this was going to be poison for a man like Bony, who would not excel in a crowded environment like that club, and the time sitting on the plus leather sidelines would only ruin his desire and love for the game. That’s exactly what happened with Bony, and somehow Swansea City were stupid enough to transfer him back after he was ruined. Lukaku going to Man United had the same possibilities, and to this point, to some extent, that has played out. He’s still a threat, but lacks the passion and dominance he had with Everton, and that’s transferred over to his national team performances as well. Thus, the news that he’s agreed to a transfer to Juventus is welcome reading in my opinion. Lukaku’s only 26, so far from past his prime, and hopefully a move is going to invigorate him. It might not though. But you know what? If his passion is still waning and he sort of goes through the motions in Serie A as well, that’s okay. You know why? LUKAKU FENERBAHCE 2021 KIT BABY! LET ALL THE GREAT STRIKERS OF AFRICAN DESCENT HAVE THEIR SEASONS OF PROMINENCE IN INSTANBUL! (And then let the jerseys be available for cheap on one of those football shirt outlet websites, so I can get one.) [RAVEN]

#10: JESSE LINGARD (down from #9 last time) – Jesse Lingard always makes me think of the kama sutra. Appropriately enough, he caused a controversy for sharing a snapchat video of himself pretending to fuck some hotel pillows earlier this summer. I am mostly disappointed he felt the urge to pretend to fuck pillows and record it for social media, rather than being confident enough in both his self and his sexuality to actually fuck hotel room pillows with no regards for sharing it in social media. That’s what I would’ve done, except in a motel, not hotel. And by “motel” I mean sitting in my car at a rest stop, hoping the caffeine pills wear off and I can sleep a few hours before sunrise. [RAVEN]

#11: ANTHONY MARTIAL (up from #12 last time) – You would think all the angels of heaven had ordained young Anthony Martial, once proclaimed all of Europe’s Golden Boy, but it hasn’t quite played out like that yet for him at Manchester United. He’s still the hot young thing to a certain extent, but to be honest, he was at his best in his first year with the club and hasn’t really built on that success like everyone thought he might. But he is still young and still valued by the club and this upcoming campaign is probably critical in determining whether he will be the next Thierry Henry or just another flash in the pan. Life is still good for Anthony Martial, but ManU will be looking for scapegoats before too long, and no one is gonna have any sympathy for a French dude who looks like he could spend a lifetime hustling cougars in Monaco. Anthony Martial got sucked into the ManU Hellmouth at a particularly bad time in their history, and it’s not his fault, but that hardly matters when it comes time to start handing out guillotine sentences. [NEIL]

#12: ANDER HERRERA (down from #11 last time) – Amazingly enough, Man United found a sucker to take on Herrera, in Paris Saint-Germain, which is the Man United of France, meaning they have tons of money and enough history to pretend it’s their tradition not their wealth that causes them to be successful. PSG is also one of the great money mark clubs in Europe right now, so congrats to Herrera for bouncing from one money mark to another, where he can reunite with Angel Di Maria to reform their hugely expensive and highly overrated midfield. Unfortunately, nobody will notice with Neymar rolling around all over the place up front. [RAVEN]

#13: JUAN MATA (down from #10 last time) – That dude Mata got a late penalty against a shitty Norwegian club to give Man United a thrilling 1-0 away victory in a pitiful test of their preseason fitness. This club has all the build of a huge letdown, but man they also have a pretty great press manipulation machine, full of more false information and hope than a U.S. Presidential election. It’s gonna be fun to see this shit come crashing down this season. [RAVEN]

#14: PHIL JONES (down from #13 last time) – Token prominent white Englishman on defense, to keep the marks happy. It doesn’t hurt that he’s a large, brutish player who in this day of position specialists can actually play a few different roles on the defensive end of the line-up. A “throwback” player, which is a dog whistle sort of way to say an old school pre-diversity English player to keep the club from being all guys that would make Morrissey feel angry. [RAVEN]

#15: SCOTT MCTOMINAY (up from #21 last time) – One of a very promising group of Scottish central midfielders coming to prominence at the moment—such that I’m almost about to make it another national archetype position, a box-to-box ball-hound with that non-stop “engine” that I think we here in America refer to as “diesel”. Used to be Scottish central mids excelled due to a single-minded (some might justifiably call it “brainless”), barbaric “BALL MINE!” mentality, running around the midfield like a pitbull with a broken chain still around its neck, and smashing shins before powering forward and nailing a rocket that usually flies about 10 yards over the goal because only poofs pass the ball. See old school hard scumbag Billy Bremner, ugly-ass Hun-lord Barry Ferguson, and Celtic’s Scott Brown for examples of the type. But of late we’re seeing some culture in this position, some really impressive tactical control and ball usage (actual footballing intellect, in other words) and McTominay seems to exemplify this. Probably my one fear for our boy moving forward is more of that hype mentioned with de Gea above—is he really that good? Or is it just because he came through the setup at an EPL team and therefore he has to be good until the media says otherwise? As a follower of Scottish football (the league, they players, the national team), I’d hold up Oliver Burke as a cautionary example of this—Scottish repping lad with an impressive physical presence, a gifted natural ability (ridiculous speed), and the blessing of an English club background and thus worth millions and millions of pounds in transfer fees on the basis of pedigree and that English-kissed potentiality alone. And yet….Celtic got this dude on loan for half of last season because he’s now struggling to cut it in the English Championship…..because he has no first touch whatsoever, and might (*might*) can get a shot on target if he’s two yards out from the goal-line. McTominay looks solid, and I hope he succeeds, but I’m just not quite sure yet. [PAUL]

#16: ALEXIS SANCHEZ (same as last time; also previously ranked #16 for Arsenal on 15-Sep-2018) – There was a moment, not too long ago, when Alexis Sanchez was primed to be A Really Big Fucking Deal, occupying places only the Messis of the world had access too, and while he is still A Big Fucking Deal, it’s clear that that moment has passed and he probably won’t be anything more than a dude who almost touched the sun. He’s 30 years old now, his first year with ManU was spent half coming off the bench, and while he may be a beloved icon in his native Chile, the English swine are not so forgiving and will not balk at burying him in drunken beratements. You should have chosen Liverpool Alexis, but you didn’t, and while you were hot shit with Arsenal, you didn’t win anything and now you’re with ManU and the whole thing is starting to come off as a little desperate. Maybe he takes control of this thing and both he and ManU recover some lost glory or maybe he just fucks off to China or some place where he can be Alexis Sanchez, Chile’s favorite son, and not just another big money disappointment in the Manchester dirt rags. Either way, this thing is coming to a head and you can never be quite sure where the metaphysical energy of this thing will bust loose at, and that will probably go a long way in explaining where ManU is or isn’t in the next few years. [NEIL] 

#17: DIOGO DALOT – I like Diogo Dalot because his name sounds like doing drugs. I don’t do drugs any more, at least not good drugs, as I’ve gotten older, and when you get older you deny yourself pleasure because the general meritocracy myth has been hammered into your head and often combined with growing debt to make you believe there’s some point to existing as a human being within the societal structures we currently have. But there’s not. So instead of getting lost in an endless fog of comforting opiates, you pretend not doing that is somehow better, but end up writing ridiculous blurbs about Portuguese football players that just show how much you with you actually were wasting your life high as fuck babbling at the sky. (And even referring to that as “wasting your life” is sign of how meritocracy and purpose has poisoned my thinking. As penance I’m going to do 150 mgs of hydrocodone by this time next week. I’ll eventually learn.) [RAVEN]

#18: FRED – My grandfather’s name was Fred. He was the son of Polish immigrants who came through Ellis Island. He never appeared to give a fuck about soccer, but he also never talked a whole lot about his early life until he was older and I’d go visit and sit on his porch with him, which was a pretty raggedy porch to be honest. Like you’re probably thinking of young me being like a kid sitting with my grandfather on a nice old Southern American porch, with steps and a light blue ceiling and shit like that. But actually I was grown and had a ponytail and goatee, and he was old and frail and the porch was just concrete laid out outside the front door and likely I might’ve even used a cooler as my chair. He told me how he fell in love with a creole woman in New Orleans but got sidetracked up to Chicago where he met my grandma, who was widowed and living in a car with her two young sons, so he ended up marrying her and adopting the boys (my uncles). But he never talked about soccer. [RAVEN]

#19: ANTONIO VALENCIA (down from #3 last time) – A true footballing story the way you expect it – young wonderkid in Ecuador grows up with raw talent and becomes domestic league hero, makes his way to one of the big European leagues through post-colonial linguistic channels, and after establishing himself on the European continent (with Villarreal), gets a big money move to THE major club in England, where he spends a decade consistently leading the club to trophies, and earning the captain’s armband eventually. After being all used up at that level, no Chinese or American tours – just a free transfer back home to Ecuador, where he will surely be worshipped (and need a security detail). Part of the reason for this move back to L.D.U. Quito is because they are making a run at the Copa Libertadores, where they just advanced to the quarterfinals where they’ll face Boca Juniors, who also have a former European superstar who has returned home in Carlos Tevez. Tevez left Man United for Man City in the same transfer window that Valencia came to Man United. A decade later, in a few weeks, these two guys are gonna have South America hyped as fuck for a two-leg quarterfinal. [RAVEN]

#20: ERIC BAILLY (down from #15 last time) – Because of Kolo Toure, I will always love Côte d'Ivoire central defenders. Poor Bailly seems especially injury-prone, though still the premier central defender for the national team. In our stupid social media age, where people think it’s super important to put one or more (usually three) emoji flags on their bio-profile, some Celtic-supporting dude invariably fucks up and has a Côte d'Ivoire flag instead of a Republic of Ireland flag in his profile. And then cue a bunch of stupid call-out chatter, etc. etc. and concern that the orange comes first in that particular tri-color configuration (and then admitting that I’m psychically bothered that Côte d'Ivoire home strip is orange and I’m relieved when they wear they’re green change top). Now I feel pretty damn stupid because 1) I have goddamned flags in my twitter profile and 2) I let exclusively Euro-centric color-connotations (white-ass protestant superiority Orange Order shit) detrimentally affect, even to a small degree, my affection and support of an African team made up of Francophile mostly Muslims and Catholics. [PAUL]

#21: MAROUANE FELLAINI (up from #22 last time) – I’ve always loved Fellaini because when inspired he covers so much ground, and is such a huge presence with giant hair and amazing heading abilities with that giant hair and really he’s just a pleasure to watch despite having been in stupid red Chevrolet kit the past five and a half years before going to China. Obviously his best days are behind him, but at age 31, he’s still got a few good seasons of cashing in on his fame in places like China and America where they pay good money to pretend their soccer is relevant. Fellaini’s also one of numerous players who had to choose between European and African identity, picking Belgium over Morocco, as he was born in Belgium, and has been key figure in that nation’s golden age (along with Lukaku). Fellaini’s pops was actually a GK for one of the top clubs in Morocco (Raja Casablanca) who was denied time playing in Belgium after his family moved due to his former Moroccan clubs not releasing the proper paperwork. Instead of going back to Morocco, Fellaini’s pops chose to retire from playing and drive a fucking bus, later on retiring early to help oversee his son’s pro career. In that sense, it’s easier to see why somebody would choose Belgium over Morocco as national identity, when the bureaucracy crushed the previous generation’s hopes already. Also, there’s mad money out here, which is why Fellaini is now in China. But the thing I’ve always loved is his somewhat goofy yet competent demeanor. His time at United was never as dominant as it was while he played for Everton (again like Lukaku) but he never seemed bummed, even if he was apt to do something physically violent from time to time and catch a red card. In fact, is there anything wrong with giant goofy fuckers who are apt to just get a stupid red card at any time? I say no, not at all, and in fact this a true footballing spirit that can’t be capitalized on correctly by an international magnate like Manchester United. Fellaini was bound to do nothing more than help sell jerseys. God bless him. I anxiously await his first MLS red card next year. [RAVEN]

#22: ANDREAS PEREIRA – Andreas is one of those players identified very young, in their early/mid teens, and then stockpiled by top tier EPL clubs. I suppose the debate is such an acquisition gives such a player access to world-class development resources and that they can blossom accordingly. Yet the counterargument is that they never really get a chance to settle with their senior home club, being funneled through an array of U18, U21, and reserve team bullshit before embarking on a piecemeal tour of mid-table clubs in major non-English European associations—so that I imagine said yung dude’s Burberry/Vuitton/Guicci suitcase is covered in stickers like in the old Warner Brothers cartoons of Bugs Bunny tunneling his way over the globe. Andy P’s loan soujourns at Granada and Valencia remind me of the symbiotic/parasitical/competitive relationship between the EPL and La Liga (which factors in to de Gea’s career as well). Liverpool may be upsetting the apple cart with their recent Champions League win, but for the past decade or so, despite English (and probably their white-ass American cousins) howling to the contrary, the Spanish League has been the dominant force in world football, to the point of causing a legit derangement syndrome in EPL partisans. I don’t LOVE Barcelona, because at level they’re just another rich-ass club hoarding talent and banking on a brand empire. But, I have default supported them as the best bulwark against English dominance—which I guess if we were to get all geopolitical-historical comes to down to battle between two evil ass Colonial European powers. And yet still, I have to factor in that at least two cinder block auto-repair shops on Jefe Davis Highway near me, run by some amalgamation of Mexican/Central American dudes, have amateur-painted Barcelona crests as murals and integrated into their business signage. [An aside—Jefferson Davis Highway, or US Route 1, is the non-interstate way for me to travel between my shitty, dilapidated, “ruin porn” small Southern city and the big, financial-hipster-university-amenities city in which I work; as Confederate president Davis is probably the closest thing America has to a hard right Latin American dictator along the lines of Trujillo or Pinochet or Videla AND the portion of the highway I drive through is hella populated with Latinos to the point of a full-blown praise God white genocide takeover—so I’ve defaulted to non-self-consciously calling it “Jefe” Davis, which might be kinda fucked up and unwoke, but at the fringes of wokeness, I don’t even know anymore. Predictably, I engage in stupid brain-over-heart debates on my commute about whether this demographic shift is a big middle finger to Davis and the heinous American white-assedery he represented, or if an impoverished community of brown people subsisting on the fringes of a regentrifying metropole is exactly what he wanted.] In other words, I ain’t seeing no autobody shops anywhere around here with Manchester United crests painted from a can of Rustoleum and a stencil—which is a short segue into admitting that I even rooted, in a true heart vs. brain moment, for Barcelona over Liverpool in the Champions League semifinal. Because my sincere joy in Salah and Van Dyk and a player with my last name playing like spirit warrior poets could not surmount the existence of those autoshops. R.I.P. the deep manly love that existed between Neil and me. Anyway, Andy P. looks like he might be that rare example of an EPL youth stockpile player that really does make the steady first team breakthrough—I see he just signed a new fat contract and should be sniffing around the first team. Good luck to him, and props for choosing Brazil over Belgium to represent. [PAUL]

#23: SERGIO ROMERO (up from #24 last time) – Among my many stupid footballing prejudices is a tendency to mistrust goalkeepers from countries renowned for their attacking players—like Argentina. But I like Sergio here. His career to date seems like one of hard graft and quiet, under-the-radar confidence that stands in stark contrast to de Gea. Plus, in true goalkeeping eccentricity fashion, Romero broke his hand punching through a wall because he fucked up in a match. That’s what you want from your goalkeeper—and I bet all the other players in the locker room had the good sense to not say a word to him before, during, and after this act of self-mortification. The goalkeeper situation at Manchester United highlights a convention that I keep seeing in world football, and from which even my beloved club that I follow closely is subject to. I’m sure it’s a much more complicated interplay of player £ £ £ valuation and psychological man-management than my hillbilly brain can compass, but I hate seeing a manager/club persist with a premium costs-a-lot-of-money, media-hyped player when a cheaper non-hype player obviously performs better, more consistently. I get that even if you’re like “this dude kinda sucks, we need to get rid of him”, dude still get played because you have to keep their value-hype up for when you find someone fool enough to offload them on for at least (or close to) what you paid. I see this countless times with outfield “flash” players like strikers, attacking midfielders, and wingers in the stupid-ass financial feeding frenzy that is the English League system. But up until this contemplation on Romero and de Gea, I’d never really seen it played out in regards to the usually undervalued (financially anyway) goalkeeper position. In short, Romero seems like the much better player—doesn’t fuck up as much, has a quiet but potentially volatile self-confidence, and has a commendable unkempt dirtbag look about him. De Gea makes huge fuck-ups to go with his “television saves”, has an entire media apparatus telling you he’s world-class, and generally looks like he’s putting on a hipster grooming show, with the bushy-beard-but-not-really, the undercut, and that stupid white boy top-knot thing. But shit, it’s Manchester United, so it shouldn’t be the least bit surprising which player they’re gonna stick with. [PAUL]

#24: MATTEO DARMIAN (down from #17 last time) – For a club with so much star power, it’s shocking how many of these dudes have been on the club’s books for four or five seasons, all while being considered a flop. Darmian is one of the more for-real flops, but fuck man, it’s all highly touted dudes who came in and don’t end up winning the entire Universe and a piece of the literal sun as a trophy, so they’re all bound to be flops. Kinda bums me out for Daniel James to be honest. Anyways, there’s SHOCK TRANSFER talk this week of Barcelona taking on Darmian as cover on defense, but who the fuck knows. Darmian’s only played in Italy and with ManU, and he’s always seemed uncomfortable in England. Maybe a move to Spain would help shake things up, but he’s also turning 30 in December. Why the fuck just not go home to Italy? Wouldn’t one of the Milan clubs want a hometown star to come back? Then again, that’s one of the greatest things about Man United – they boost people’s price so high that nobody but them can afford to fuck up and sign the dudes. [RAVEN]

#25: MARCOS ROJO (down from #23 last time) – Like almost everyone else associated with ManU, Marcos Rojo is kind of an in a wait and see place in respect to metaphysical energies, which is not a bad thing necessarily, but more an indication that things have gotten out of hand over there and no one knows quite how this shit is gonna sort out. Marcus Rojo, for the most part, is an innocent bystander in most of that, doing the best he can while fucking his Portuguese lingerie model wife and fending off the advancements of club rats while ManU just sort of drifts in the wind, nobody knowing whether it’s gonna find its way back out to sea or just crash on some rocks again and leave everyone on board bloodied and ruined. For now, nobody really knows and that’s just the way of things. Live big while you can, Marcos, and if people remain unimpressed, fuck it, go back to Argentina with your hot wife and be happy that you don’t have to try to impress these swine anymore. [NEIL]

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