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All hail Rafa
For some time now managers like Guardiola and Mourinho have often had their achievements queried due to the resources at their disposal. The main argument made is how good would they be dropping down a division, or managing a club with fewer opportunities.
One multiple title winning manager (two time league winner and Champions League) has done just that. The chairman has scant regard for the supporters or heritage of the club. He has even less regard for the employees of his bargain basement empire. The players have often been referred to as Championship level and yet Rafa Benitez has Newcastle not only safe but comfortably so.
I’m not a particular fan of his, nor do I give much of a toss about Newcastle – I’m neither here nor there on both, but Benitez has done precisely what is often wondered of the aforementioned, and proven his credentials as a very astute tactician. Fact.
…With Everton, West Bromwich Albion and Watford to come in their next 3 fixtures you wouldn’t be at all surprised if Newcastle pick up a further 9 points. Granted the final 2 games are away at Spurs and at home to Chelsea but both of those teams may well have other things on their minds. Taking Newcastle beyond 50 points and possibly above Everton and Leicester would be an amazing achievement.
Harry, South Africa
…I know Pep and City have been unbelievable this season. But come on. How can you ignore the job that Rafa has done with Newcastle? I have more respect and admiration for him now, than when he won the CL with Liverpool.
Hands down manager of the year.
…The manager of the year award should be shared between Sean Dyche and Rafa Benitez.
Both have done the equivalent of squeezing blood from stone.
Mere Godled, MUFC, Nigeria (the actual management of their squads puts Jose to shame).
…I wonder what Benitez could achieve with this Man Utd squad.
As a Manchester United fan, I can say that conceding the title while playing at home against the team bottom of the league should’ve been more embarrasing than it was. In reality, it was depressing, but deeply predictable. Mourinho made his name at teams who were the relative underdog, and using a gritty siege mentality eked out title and cup wins. It’s why he ultimately failed at Madrid and why he’s failing at United – he has a small-team, small-minded attitude. With all due respect to David Moyes, at United, Mourinho is just another David Moyes – his approach simply doesn’t work at a team that needs to be, and should be (given the money spent), winning almost every game. If that sounds entitled, then it’s certainly true to say that United should be at least trying to win every game.
If Sunday proved anything, it’s that two of the current ‘Top 6’ teams have outdated managers peddling anachronistic tactics. Mourinho and Wenger may not get on, but in serving up inexplicably, self-destructively defensive football and a sterile passing game respectively, they’re both trading in brands of football that brought them great success a long, long time ago, but neither of which are effective in the modern game.
On a more quotidian level, I used to enjoy going to the pub with my mates to watch United. Under Jose, even when the team win it’s rarely even vaguely interesting. ‘Win at all costs’ might be a good approach for a job interview, or completing heart surgery, but when it’s something that’s supposed to be fun, like football, entertainment is more important. Perhaps Jose’s relentlessly risk-free approach is down to the fact that he never made it as a player and now suffers from impostor syndrome, worrying that without his precious 1-0 and 2-0 wins he’ll be ousted from football.
Dan, (congrats to City for the league, and for Liverpool/Spurs for playing proper football this season) Brighton
…You can’t say that this Man Utd side is no good because they are literally the second best team in the league but days like this make me wonder how that’s possible.
We’ll never really know if the way Mourinho set up at Liverpool that brought about a change in mentality which led to all those points dropped or if Man Utd just reverted to their own average but it’s crazy the way they dropped off.
The thing to wonder is where they go from here. It’s hard to know what De Gea is thinking this season but one would imagine that if Real Madrid come calling he’ll want a shot at winning the champions league. The way Mourinho sets teams out makes me feel as though he isn’t well set up to win the biggest competitions anymore. He obviously can still produce moments but he’s like the rest of his team; inconsistent and unpredictable. I think his moves are too well known so he can’t inspire his players to siege with him; they all doubt his staying power and know he’ll drop them like a bad habit if it suits him in the moment.
…Was anyone truly surprised by that result? Unexpected and surprising are very different things. I thought Utd would win, but wasn’t surprised to see them lose like that. Lumping ball after ball into the box and getting nowhere. Amazing comeback to restore pride and send a message to City for next season, is then entirely blunted by losing to rock bottom West Brom. Just like Liverpool from last year, we can beat the big boys and sh*t the bed against the minnows..
I am also not bitter in any way that a Utd win and over 2.5 goals was the only game I needed for a €400 accumulator. But tip of the hat to Degsy for Tiger Roll at the Grand National!
Peak Mourinho post game, doing his best to be a good loser whilst reminding everyone how many times he has been a Champion, lovely stuff indeed, thinking about himself as an individual and not the manager of an under performing team. He also claimed the team made things more complicated and played too slowly.
They have played slowly all season, that’s been the problem and it has to come back to how they are coached. The games we have played particularly well is when we have gone behind early and need to chase with some intent and forced to play non-defensive football. Leave it at 0-0 and things are too slow and cautious, that is down to Jose.
I leapt for joy when we brought Pogba back, but he can officially do one now. The most embarrassing hand ball of the season, summed up how he approaches the game. He was also garbage today and was rightly hauled off. If we got Coutinho type money for him, I would drive him there myself, his attitude stinks. Good riddance. If Marcus Rashford also wants to kick up a stink at the age of 20 because he is behind Lukakau, Sanchez, Mata and Lingard he can share a cab with Pogba. His shooting and passing are so wayward at times it is shocking. A couple of goals in big games is not enough to justify his inclusion when he plays poorly now more often than not.
Foster made some great saves, but all too often Utd fans and managers have used this excuse. Goalkeepers seem to be the root cause of Utd’s profligacy and always have their games or saves of the season against us. I don’t buy it. Any team that decides to park the bus, Utd have no keys to unlock the door. They are too slow, passing is not crisp and can do nothing through the middle, so they start swinging in long balls to Lukaku to make up for it. I am starting to think, if Young and Valencia have off days, the supply is reduced hugely and our number 10’s aren’t on the same planet as City’s.
City winning the title was inevitable, but to hand it to them after we wrestled one of their hands off the trophy last week is awful. A tonne of money has been spent since Ferguson left and we have a League Cup, Europa League and F.A Cup to our names after €600 million spent on 22 players, which is pretty appalling. There is the makings of a very good team there, but many players need to be moved on, perhaps with Mourinho included.
Rowan, Red Devil Dub
…That was a Mourinho team reverting to type. Last weekends first half was similarly terrible. The comeback against City was due to the players realising at 2-0 down the shackles were off and they could essentially do what they wanted. The comeback wasn’t down to Mourinho and that’s why I for one didn’t get too excited about the end result. That second half was an aberration. As long as Mourinho is managing United this sort of tripe will be served up.
The players won’t be given license to do anything entertaining on Saturday and that’s why Spurs will compete at Wembley on May 19th. He doesn’t trust the players. He doesn’t trust anyone. His methods are long since out of date. He’s a pox on the club. And since the day he signed, I can’t wait to see him gone.
Shane Tallon, ManYoo fan, Dublin
…Well played to City. The football played this season probably merited a celebration in front of the home fans as-it-happened, but I doubt the victory is actually any less sweet.
Jose needs to re evaluate the squad now with his support team, and we need a coherent plan with a complimentary first 11 next season, and a suitable supporting cast.
The team that cannot win a game all season, winning at Old Trafford suddenly?
So what type of a performance does that indicate was given by that united team today?
The sort that doesn’t give Man City any sleepless nights for next year, what warning shot Chris?
Really man, this is the kind of insipid performance that can make a fan very angry and send in a rant of sorts.
Manc In SA ( can we please pick an identity for the team on the pitch and then actually commit to it guys?? Please.)
…I said it before, in an unpublished mail, Alexis Sanchez will be the undoing of United. By bringing on such a star player, midway into the season, United screwed up the chemistry of the team.First of all Sanchez isn’t exponentially great, he left a team sitting 6th, joined a team sitting 2nd, but had to be accommodated due to the price tag. Sanchez is not the go to guy for a winning team, he is a component, but by buying him at such inflated prices, United have to accommodate him.
This has to be one of my biggest pet peeves with Mourinho. Sanchez may be marginally better than Rashford and Martial, but overall, R&M represent bigger potential why disrupt that progress. Sanchez is a sweet rotten apple, why bring that into the dressing room? Mourinho also seems to have chosen Sanchez over team, he keeps subbing Pogba, who is the spiritual leader of the team over an outsider.
With this kind of decision making, I don’t see Mourinho surviving next season.
The mandatory paragraph, Mourinho can set up a best 11, Mourinho cannot build a team. If United want to kick on, they must, MUST, get rid of Mourinho.
Dave (manager 3/5, 2 more managers to go), Somewhere
…Move over Arsenal, we have a new clown in town. May I introduce, Peak United!
We might as well have allowed City the satisfaction of winning it on their own turf instead of going full clownish and handing the the title on our own turf.
This s**t sure does write itself. Absolute disgrace that was.
Congrats to Manchester City, who managed to finally secure the title after being on top of the table for 28 consecutive weeks. They went on top after the 5th round of fixtures and have remained in the top spot ever since.
Here’s a fun roundup for a season of less-than-compelling title races in Europe, listing when the champion (or presumed champion) took top spot and never gave it up:
England: Manchester City – week 5
France: PSG – week 3
Germany: Bayern Munich – week 10
Spain: Barcelona – week 3
Italy: Juventus – week 27 (assuming they win the title)
Trent Hergenrader, New York, USA
What Arsenal can take from the bottom three
Riffing off Tim’s previous email, and in light of another woeful Arsenal away performance (no away points in 2018 is quite frankly astonishing), I was thinking how Arsenal could be considerably improved (if through squad depth at least) just from the current bottom 3 this summer.
I would take any (and possibly all) of the following players, and reckon they’d bring a damn sight more prove-ourself fight (I call it the Wijnaldum effect) than some of our current phoners-in:
Stoke:Butland, Shaqiri, Ndiaye.
West Brom: Evans
Throw in some exciting young talent (Burke, Sobhi) and you have a) a shocking indictment of the managerial incompetents managing those 3 clubs this season (special props to Mark Hughes and Alain Pardieu) and b) some quality prospects on the fire sale market this year.
Tom, (now move Wenger upstairs and bring Tuchel or Silva in) Not West Hampstead
Fifth era of Wenger
Wenger 1996 – 2006 : buy players with exceptional technique, power, nastiness, swagger – win titles, go close, every season – teams fear you, the media has a collective orgasm about how you go about playing football.
Wenger 2007 – 2011 : the power has gone, however you’re still assembling teams with superb technical ability – Pires goes, no problem, Hleb great replacement, Hleb goes, no problem, Nasri comes in, there was still a plan, not quite the bottle to win the league but good enough to go close.
Wenger 2011 – 2014 : lose 8-2 – yes 8-2, at Old Trafford, the ‘Arteta’ era begins – your players think scrambling 4th on the last day merits an open top bus ride around Islington, but even then there was still some sort of plan.
Wenger 2014 – 2017 : the shape has gone, now you’re winging it relying on Sanchez or Ozil to turn up and carry the team for you – if it’s a glitzy cup final, great – you’ll turn up, Bournemouth away – forget it. But you can still turn it on if you fancy it.
Wenger 2018 ?? : your star players can’t even function anymore as there is no semblance of anything left, so where do you really go ? Ok it’s been dead rubbers going back to losing at Spurs in February – so wouldn’t you blood the kids properly, or try and get a new pattern of play in place for next season ? Do you understand the concept of a ‘clean sheet’ ? And will the Elneny/Xhaka midfield surpass even the virtually telepathic understanding Zico and Socrates had in Spain 82 ? (admittedly that’s a 50/50 call…)
It’s foolish to write him off, and Athletico is the final out that you would never totally discount Arsenal to turn up in – but it does really feel like the last chips are going into the middle of the table now, and we’ve dropped one of our cards on the floor and already spilt a pint on the other…
So Burnley, well played – our mega battle for 6th is going to the wire and may the best team win… you deserve it, if it’s us – we really are sorry – the flowers are in the post…
Round and round
Can Liverpool fans please calm down a little, I’m 30 years old and i honestly can’t remember a time they weren’t just about to turn the corner. I don’t know if they’ve been on a roundabout but can they please shut up until they actually do something
I was at one of the few Premier League games I’ve ever attended at the weekend – Spurs v City. Having not seen much of City this season (no subscription T.V. and work seem to dampen football enjoyment) but read a lot about their mastery. As a neutral at the game just there for the craic, I figured I’d have a bash at some objective conclusions. 16 is way too many so here’s five things I learned:
*DeBruyne is fantastically talented. Sane and Sterling are absolutely rapid and seem to have endless energy. However, David Silva is the key for most of City’s good work. His intricate passing is immeasurably better and seeing him work live actually made it seem even better. There were a good number of times where I was annoyed that I couldn’t get a replay to see what he’d actually done which is testament to his skill.
*Spurs were overawed for some reason. Stringing simple passes together seemed almost impossible in the first half and the number of times they lost the ball around the halfway line was embarrassing. Conversely, City seemed to be able to walk through Spurs midfield at will. The discernable difference seemed to be that City moved the ball a bit faster and closed a bit quicker. That seems so simple to me and Spurs showed they could do it in the second half and the last 10 minutes of the first half. It’s not a difference in skill, it’s a difference in confidence which should have been reversed given recent form.
*City being able to cut through Spurs at will was helped by two things, one of which was highlighted in 16 conclusions. Spurs played a ridiculously high line. Against the pace of City’s front three that, in hindsight, seems silly. Maybe if they held the ball better it would have worked but they should have dropped a bit deeper as soon as City started getting success. The second thing, which hugely shocked me, was that City play 11 behind the ball. The number of times City had every player in their own half with Jesus the furthest forward inside City’s side of the centre circle astounded me. Is this a tactic they do a lot? It led to two things – 1) the space was crowded so they could close Spurs midfield quickly and 2) when they won the ball, there was space for the wingers to run into. And boy did they take advantage.
*Which brings me to Sterling. He’s a hindrance in my view. I think the fact he gets in to so many good positions might blind people to the fact he does nothing 90% of the time. The amount of chances he missed was unbelievable, to the point that whenever he got the ball there was an audible sigh of relief as everyone around us knew he was going to waste it. The fact he scored was luck more than anything else. I know that City wouldn’t have as many chances without him and wouldn’t get in to as many good positions but I believe that someone who could convert 1 of 5 chances instead of Sterling who is 1 of 10 then City would be even more dominant.
*Lastly, the fact that I could hear sighs of relief was due to how quiet the atmosphere was. I was there with a Spurs fan and another neutral (although as neutrals we were both supporting Spurs for the purposes of this game) and we managed to sustain a normal level conversation for the entire game. Mostly about the football but we could easily have had a chat about movements of the FTSE without anyone batting an eye. Coming from Scotland I’ve only ever experienced quite raucous football grounds (admittedly only with diehard fans generally) so this was a bit of a shock. The most animated I saw anyone was after the game: we left early to avoid the crowds and about 10,000 others had had the same idea. People were literally sprinting past us to try and get on the tube first – maybe if they’d put that energy into supporting the team the atmosphere would be better!!
Alex, (I thought Degsys backing was a nail in the coffin of my big fancy for the National: I’ll never doubt him again!), Ayr
One question. What the f*ck is going with Henry’s beard?
Glen, Stratford Spur
I think he we just experienced peak 365. Man City win the league and your first article to follow is slamming Utd. Fair play though I preferred it to whatever Guardiola w*nkfest Storey has planned, it made make me chuckle at least. Humor still is alive on this site even if it isn’t intentional!
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