It isn't hard to find an opinion on Manchester United. Seemingly everybody has one, and they'll gladly share it with you without provocation. I'm no different. While the nature of British and soccer media in general can make things more of a soap opera than they truly are, Manchester United is a club facing an identity crisis, and it will not be solved by throwing money at it until it works. They've done that plenty.
The problem the club faces stems from ownership. It's not how much money the Glazer family has or hasn't spent. The Glazer family bought the club because it was one of the most recognizable brands in the world. Slap a United logo on something, and you could sell it to somebody. And they have. The problem is that the Glazers thought the best way to maintain the brand was to buy expensive toys that kept people talking about Manchester United without any thought as to how those toys would fit within the team or what the team was supposed to be.
Last summer's Cristiano Ronaldo signing was the culmination of many bad ideas. All United saw was the name and the links to Manchester City, and they forced themselves into action to their detriment. Now the club is again in crisis, and new manager Erik ten Hag is quickly coming to the realization of just how difficult a job he's facing.
How does United fix it? First of all, United have to figure out what the hell they are and what they want to be. They need an identity for what kind of soccer they want to play, and they need to find players who fit that style, regardless of how many Instagram followers they have. And they need time. Whether it's Ten Hag or another manager, that person needs to be given a chance to implement the style and build toward it. It will be rough, but it already has been, and the one thing the Glazer family needs to realize is the greatest brand has always been "winner." Without the winning, Manchester United are just one of the hundreds of other clubs in Europe.
Shiny new toys can only cover up mediocrity for so long.
Speaking of mediocrity, after a 2-2 performance last week, Corner Picks is 4-4 on the season, but we've made money! Let's add to our winnings this weekend. All odds are via Caesars Sportsbook.
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Bournemouth vs. Arsenal
Date: Saturday, Aug. 20 | Time: 12:30 p.m. ET | Watch: NBC | Stream: fuboTV (try for free)
So we're only a few weeks into the season, but I've identified two core principles on which we might base our entire season. The first is that we're going to fade Manchester United at every opportunity, but with them playing Liverpool Monday, there's no value to be found there this week. The second is Arsenal Overs. Arsenal have been one of the most entertaining teams to watch so far, as Mikel Arteta's vision is finally beginning to bear fruit, but there's a long way to go.
As fun and electric as Arsenal have been in attack with Gabriel Jesus and company, they are also a mess when they lose the ball and have proven to be vulnerable at the back. Last week Arsenal allowed Leicester City to score twice despite an expected goals (xG) allowed of only 0.6. But it wasn't luck for Leicester as much as players being left alone in areas they shouldn't be and some shaky goalkeeping from Aaron Ramsdale, who strikes me at times as a newborn fawn in net. Arsenal could get this over on its own, but considering the struggles Arsenal have had defending set pieces and that Bournemouth's size makes them dangerous on set pieces (they've already scored two goals on them), I won't be surprised if The Cherries nick one themselves. The Pick: Over 2.5 (-130)
Fulham vs. Brentford
Date: Saturday Aug. 20 | Time: 10 a.m. ET | Watch: Peacock
This is an odd line to me. I understand Fulham are at home, but they're a newly-promoted side, and they probably shouldn't be favored against Brentford, at least, not as much as they are. My initial thought was that Fulham were being overrated after managing a 2-2 draw against Liverpool to open the season, but Brentford just beat Manchester United 4-0 last weekend. If either of these teams should be overrated this weekend, it's Brentford, but that's not the case, and that's fine with me.
Brentford were impressive in their first Premier League season last year and have four points in their first two games this season. It doesn't look like a sophomore slump is coming, which isn't a surprise. Brentford is a club that doesn't have world-class players but have an identity and players who fit the roles they're asked to play. Brentford also have an outstanding manager in Thomas Frank, who can figure out an opponent's weakness during a match and make the proper adjustments to exploit it. In other words, Brentford is an excellent team to back as an underdog, especially against a team that will be fighting off relegation all year. The Pick: Brentford (+190)
Napoli vs. Monza
Date: Sunday Aug. 21 | Time: 12:30 p.m. ET | Watch: Paramount+
We've only had one week of Serie A action, so it's far too early to come to conclusions, but I have two theories about Napoli. First, this club was written off far too quickly based upon the players who left, without nearly enough attention paid to the talent that replaced them. This team is still good and will compete for the top four in Italy. The second theory is that Napoli could be the Arsenal of Serie A in that they will score a lot of goals while probably allowing plenty too.
That was certainly the case in last week's 5-2 win over Hellas Verona, and we'll see something of an encore this week against Monza. We bet Monza last week, thinking they were a good value against a Torino side that had lost its two best players, but while Monza were threatening in attack, they were awful defensively. The 2.6 xG allowed last week was the most of any Serie A team, and that was against a Torino side that isn't likely to light the world on fire this season. So if Torino could put together that kind of performance, what might a Napoli side that scored five times last week do? The Pick: Over 3.5 (+130)
After dominating the parlays last season, we're off to an 0-2 start this season. So we're either regressing hard, or we're due for a win. Until proven otherwise, I'm rolling with we're due. This week's parlay pays +168.
- Tottenham (-260)
- Inter Milan (-650)
- Rennes (-235)
- Bayern Munich (-570)