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John Nicholson and Alan Tyers look at some of football's pundits and commentators and try to pin down what makes them good, what makes them bad, and what makes them ugly. This week, it's rock of the North West, Jamie 'Carra, la' Carragher...
Wears an unchanging haircut as an expression of lack of interest in the flim-flam of fashion. Solid suits for a solid frame which are never out of fashion and yet never really in fashion. The sort of suits which are designed to say "have I got a suit on? Oh I didn't notice." Favours a slightly scruffy or unfastened collar, even with a tie. Cut Jamie in half and it would say "unpretentious" right the way through him. Would not look out of place at a wedding reception in Bootle where a lot of Stella has been drunk and in which things, as a result, had got a bit out of hand. We can imagine him saying "c'mon lads, we've all had a drink," while removing a traffic cone from an unconscious man's bottom.
Liverpool Football Club. What Stevie G might do in any given circumstance. Also, sloppy defensive work, especially from needlessly fancy or showy foreign defenders with statement haircuts and, worst of all, coloured boots.
Strengths and Weaknesses
As a result of his almost classic Scouse accent, many took the mick when it was announced that he would be stepping up to a major Sky punditry gig. They were the sort of people who assume that a regional accent means you're thick, so who cares what they think? The reality is that he has been a delight to listen to. The hint of phlegmy disdain that is every Scouser's linguistic birth right is perfect for delivering scathing remarks on poor defending.
Took a little time to get to grips with the big iPad business and initially suffered in comparison to The Neviller. But he soon got up to speed and they are now a formidable pairing that other broadcasters must look upon with great envy.
The articulate working class voice has authority on two important levels. It is both of the people and yet more well-expressed than most of the people. Carragher is an excellent example of this. He seems an exceptionally straight arrow and entirely without side. We imagine the Carra we see on TV is the same one we'd meet down the pub. A real WYSIWYG man.
Tactical genius or tactics truck?
Clearly a student of the game and seems to be a coach-in-waiting. Reads the game well and can communicate his ideas. Not afraid to put the boot into a player - such as his withering assessment of David Luiz on Wednesday night - or indeed a manager, as seen with his trenchant view's on Mourinho on the same evening. Because he's only just finished playing, he's gone toe-to-toe with a lot of the players he's asked to cast judgement on. This gives him crucial insight. For example, he told us that Zlatan Ibrahimovic, a man he'd had to actually mark, was the sort to "have words with you if you left a tackle on him". Lovely understatement.
We imagine Carra has a lot of such anecdotes to give us and wish presenters would coax more of them out of him. These are the newly ex-pro's unique qualities, after all.
Leg squeezer geezer?
Carra seems like a good bloke who's comfortable in his own skin. He doesn't seem especially voluble, nor outlandish. We haven't met the man but he strikes as the type who would have a horizon beyond football - appreciative of what the game's given him, and willing to accept that his life could have been very different had it not been for football. We also suspect he'd not have held out for the odd extra five or ten grand on his contract, understanding that he was being paid at a level beyond the dreams of avarice. Feet on the ground at all times, in short, we reckon that he isn't the sort of ex pro who thinks that only ex pros are worth talking to and that he'd be disparaging of those who do.
Carra seems like quite a serious grown-up really. A man, not a superannuated, emotionally stunted boy. But that being said, he does have access to the famous Scouse sense of humour, which when combined with football culture may occasionally lead to a bit of tie-snipping. But even so, we feel he'd be the one telling off the naughtier, nastier boys and generally being a top-notch prefect.
Low. Knows what he wants to say, and says it, without falling back on waffle. This is interesting to us because so many have the same grab-bag of stock phrases which Carra must surely have also grown up hearing. However, because he knows about football and wants, actually wants, to communicate his ideas to us, somehow, he's evolved away from them and just talks like a sentient human who hasn't been programmed with the usual football-speak software.
Why does he get gigs?
He knows a lot about the game and, crucially, he can communicate that to the audience. His sentences actually make sense and are part of his personal outlook, not just re-hashings of Things What You Say On Programmes Like This. He is still close enough to his own playing days to know the players on show, and know the current tricks of the trade. Seems like a straight up and down, decent guy. Was a one-club man so has some moral authority over some of today's money-grabbing little sods. Comes across as being his own man and, like many people, we really enjoy his work and wonder where we'd be without him.
John Nicholson and Alan Tyers
See extracts from Alan's new book 'Tutenkhamen's Tracksuit: The History of Sport in 100ish Objects' here.
Check out John's new series of crime novels about life, death, sex and UEFA Cup football, here.