...and they did. David Moyes can afford to smile a little after his United side got noticeably stronger over 90 minutes. That's not happened enough times this season...
As long as there is both football and human weakness, there will be allegations of match-fixing. But a decent start would be an independent, national body...
If you have anything to say on any subject, mail us at email@example.com
Zlatan v Ronaldo? Yes Please
So the World Cup qualification draws throws up some interesting matches and so some possible views from those not taking part, or more accurately, me.
France v Ukraine. There by the grace of God went us. Republic of Ireland fans would have mixed feelings on this I think, had it been England and not Ukraine they would have preferred France to go through, but now I think we all want to see a shock and Ukraine will get the most backing despite the questionable integrity of some of their support. Ukraine to take a 1 goal lead to France and hold it as Frances va va voom goes boom spectacularly.
Greece v Romania. Probably the one with the least appeal, no disrespect, its just the other ties seem to be a bit more spicy. As such I think this plays into both these teams hands, they would both admit the tie could have come out more difficult for them. Given their trouble I see Greece going to Romania needing a win or holding a slender advantage, and I suspect the away tie for Greece will be too much. Romania to go through, probably meeting us at the first knock out stage in a match that goes to penalties, assuming we both get there.
Iceland v Croatia. 'We can't make it can we, surely?' asked HB, Iceland from Team Iceland. F*** Yeah comes the response. Croatia, managerless and having lost to an (albeit improving) Scotland side, dare to dream HB. I'm sure you look like something off Vicky the Viking, your opponent is Adrian Chiles. Why yes HB!, of course you can take your sword (although the HB pencil may be mightier). Can't picture how this could go HB, goalless draw at home, 1-0 away win. Get someone to look over them volcanoes just in case, you may need to catch an earlier train.
Portugal v Sweden. Undoubtedly the tie of the draw, and the one with probably the greatest amount of analysis that can be done. However, it comes down to one thing. Zlatan Ibrahimovic v Cristiano Ronaldo. Zlatan v Cristiano. Him v him. Zlatan to score the winner in the second leg, from the half way line, after he told you he would, and gently rock a tearful Cristiano post match telling him, 'you know you can never be like Zlatan'. Europe nods sagely.
Chris ITFC, Liverpool
Possible World Cup Squad
Surprised I've not seen anyone's World Cup Squad so far, so as it's a slow lunch time at work (Mediawatch aside). Gone for a mix of youth and experience, heavy emphasis on speed up front:
GK - Hart, Ruddy, Forster (obvious choices)
RB - Johnson, Walker (again, obvious, but do we need to take two RB if we're also taking Phil Jones?)
CB - Cahill, Jagielka, Caulker, Jones (I'd give Caulker some experience in the run up to the WC, rather him than Lescott, Smalling doesn't play enough at CB for Man Utd, Jones can cover RB if needed)
LB - Baines, Cole (again, obvious, Baines should start but no manager would have the balls to drop Ashley Cole)
CM - Gerrard, Carrick, Wilshere, Barkley (no Lampard, too similar now to Gerrard and Carrick (slow etc), after a long season with Chelsea will he be able to play every 3 days for England (no), Wilshere and Barkley will offer more speed in CM if we wanted to change things)
Wingers - Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Townsend, Sterling (obviously this will depend on how much game time/form Sterling and Townsend get over the next 8 months, the Ox can also play CM)
FWD - Rooney, Sturridge, Welbeck, Lambert (depends on Lamberts form and how many games he'll get, please don't take Defoe)
Stuart (Bergkamp is the greatest player ever) Willshere
Following another top performance from Ozil, I asked a friend which other transfers were comparable in terms of a single player completely changing a clubs fortunes.
He suggested Ronaldinho to Barcelona. I laughed (as any sane man would) and pointed out that whilst Ronaldinho was/is a fantastic talent, Barcelona could realistically have attracted most superstars to their club. I argue Barcelona would have risen again with or without Ronaldinho.
Arsenal, by contrast, have bought a player who is not only significantly better than their current squad but significantly better than any signings they have made in my lifetime. Ozil has completely reversed Arsenal's momentum and could possibly help them win footballs most competitive competition (a competition they arguably would have finished 4th/5th in without his arrival).
Which fortune reversing transfers are a better comparison to Ozil's?
Alistair LCFC (Already mentally preparing for that moment a Frenchman steps up to take a penalty for us in the playoffs.)
The Sultan Of Brunei
One of the more bizarre news stories of the weekend was seeing that Steve Kean is to manage Brunei DPMM when their season starts in February. Admittedly I know nothing of the Singapore S-League, but this raises three questions:
1) how desperate are Brunei DPMM to even consider him after the Blackburn debacle?
2) how bad were the other candidates?
3) what's the Malay (official language according to Wikipedia) for "Kean Out"?
Ed Quoth the Raven (I thought he had a reputation as a decent coach before he became a manager), CPFC the Glaziers, Notts
United Fans: Sore Losers
For years now I've been bored to death of Manchester United. They are among the worst set of fans in the country, nay, the world. Sore losers, yes, but sore winners also. Until recently we've mainly only seen the sore winners side, but now we're seeing just how spoilt they have been by the years of success.
TheGuru's letter was pretty similar to a Facebook rant I had about Arsenal last season. In the 20 years after my team, Sheffield Wednesday, took on Arsenal in both cup finals the clubs took very different paths. Whereas Arsenal fans got to see European finals, an unbeaten season, FA Cup and Premier League success, a brand new stadium and the likes of Bergkamp, Henry, Van Persie and Vieira our greatest achievement would have to be a couple of promotions to the second tier, something it seems like we're going to have to look forward to again.
I found it disgusting that Arsenal fans wanted the man majorly responsible for those successes out of the club whilst I watched my team toil at the arse end of The Championship. "We won't be able to sustain the club if we don't play in The Champions League", "No players will be interested in coming to us", my heart bled. In the end it transpired the man they wanted out managed to get that Champions League finish and now, well, now I don't think any Arsenal fan would have any other manager.
Sir Alex Ferguson's achievements have outshone even those of Wenger and, if what we're led to believe is true, played a major part in choosing his successor. However, it now seems that after around 20 years of great decisions, one of his final acts as manager is deemed as the one that's brought the club to ruin. I say 20 years because for his first few seasons he hardly set the world alight. In fact, he led the club that Big Ron took to a top 4 finish in each of his five years at the club to the lofty heights of 11th. By that virtue would backing a manager who's started with 6 wins, 3 draws and 3 losses not make sense after all most fans have known is success under a manager who started with 5 wins, 4 draws and 3 losses?
I've sold it well haven't I. A quick rebuttal to 'TheGuru' if I may. I can't really be bothered to reply to your mail in much detail because it only then goes in to another rant about the state of affairs at Man Utd, and far too many trees have dies already to that end (or indeed internet pages that could be better used not boring everyone to death) - besides, I don't think I can summarise better than F365 have already in the feature 'Moyes driving a racing car like a skoda'.
Anyway, I digress, the jist of it is this: Just because it's ok for Sunderland to be sh*t, it doesn't mean it's ok for Manchester United to be sh*t.
Ok? I hope that clears things up.
AS Camden (looking forward to seeing the Januzaj pass and this arsenal goal) MUFC
...I'm a Leek Town fan*
It really gets my goat when 'fans' (and I use the term loosely) of Premier League teams like TheGuru write in complaining about their woes. We have our best players poached by the likes of Port Vale, Stoke, Newcastle Town, the Dog & Duck 11.
What right does TheGuru have to complain when his team is at least in the Premier League and capable of spending millions? What right does he have to moan when his team has been in the PL for 6 solid years?
During Sunderland's time in the Premier League countless teams have struggled to maintain their very existence and would give their right arm to be struggling in (successful) PL relegation battles. Coventry, Portsmouth, Plymouth, Darlington....but oh no, TheGuru has had it worse because he's had to watch his team play some bad football and be involved in a few battles.
In his 19 years of woe, has TheGuru ever considered that there are numerous teams below Sunderland who actually have it worse? And listening to a Premier League fan crying about the standard of their play is a bit like listening to a millionaire complaining about the lining of his suit not exactly matching his socks. He might not be the worlds richest man...but...you know.
You see TheGuru, it's all relative. And you still have it better than most. Moaning about Utd fans not being happy is idiotic. Of course they're not happy. Each club has it's own expectations and goals. Should Utd fans be happy because 'at least they're not as bad as Sunderland'? Should Sunderland fans be happy because 'at least they're not as bad as Morpeth Town'? Should Morpeth fans be happy because they're playing football and not fighting for their life in some war-torn hell hole?
Would TheGuru challenge the CEO of Coca-cola because, Hey, you're outselling My-Mums Shandy, why the hell are you complaining?
I hate this ridiculous argument. It's childish and stupid. It's the same as when clubs moan about their players being poached by bigger clubs, oblivious to the fact that in turn, they've taken them away from another club.
Lets just grow up and stop it now.
Marky B. MUFC. *I'm not a Leek Town fan.
Thoughts On Fellaini
I'm looking to find the opinion of others out there on Marouane Fellaini at Utd. My impression at the moment seems to be that the problem with Fellaini is that he is only half the solution.
In recent years Utd have played in centre midfield Michael Carrick plus someone else - Scholes, Fletcher, Cleverley, Anderson but Carrick always has (and rightly so) been the main man. He is an effective defensive screen as well as the best passer of the ball at Utd (and England too). Most attacks start with or go through Carrick. But for Utd that isn't enough plus Carrick is 32 and while not reliant on pace can't be expected to continue with the volume of games he has played the last few seasons. This was and identified by Moyes. Look at his attempted (ok and botched) transfer targets - Alacantro, Herrera and Fabregas, all attacking minded creative central midfielders, and De Rossi and Khedira - defensively minded midfielders. It looks like Moyes wants that balance in midfield that Utd haven't had in a long time.
I, like most people, probably assumed that Fellaini would be used as an attacking midfielder but it is obvious from the games that he has played that Moyes is using him as a defensive midfielder, maybe in the long-term to become a replacement for Carrick. He has a physical presence to screen the back four and is obviously useful at set pieces, can do basics of recycling the ball and is clearly handy if needed upfront. But he doesn't have Carrick's ability to pick out a pass i hear people cry. True, but Moyes was looking for someone else to provide the creativity i.e. Fabregas, not Fellaini. Fellaini is just part of the solution in Utd's midfield with more to come in the next (summer) transfer window.
This all could just be a bollocks interpretation of Utd's cm at the minute but i was wondering what others think.
Kevo2424 (people who cite Zaha's preseason form as reason for his much needed inclusion in the first team don't seem to call on Lindgard for some reason)
Paul UEA brings up a good point about the potential use of inverted full backs. Oddly, I have a hazy memory from back when Alan Pardew managed West Ham. They'd beaten Arsenal at Highbury and Pardew had used Clive Clarke, a left footer, at right back claiming this was designed to nullify Pires and Henry cutting in from the left.
To be honest, I don't really think Pardew has that kind of tactical analysis in him. He probably just didn't know Clarke was left footed.
Anyway, I'd say it might be a good tactic for teams setting themselves up to defend. If you have a player more comfortable tracking players as they cut inside, more likely to put in a clean tackle then that could severely limit players like Arjen Robben (because of course he just cuts in and shoots, right?).
However, I'd say this wouldn't work for a team looking to exert more attacking pressure. At Arsenal (and I don't have the stats) we will rarely play a left footer on the left wing and right wing tends to be something approaching a second striker when Theo is available. This means the majority of our crosses come in from our full backs, who are able to get forward often because of the space left by our wandering wingers. If our full backs had to cut inside to put in a decent cross then we would end up even narrower than normal.
United Fans To Blame?
After another frustrating trip to Old Trafford I thought I'd see how many others recognise the following issues: Quiet start, no urgency, no unity, not imposing themselves, taking the result for granted and only raising themselves in the penultimate minutes once in trouble.
Yep, that's right, I'm talking about the majority of my fellow United fans and I'm calling you out.
Saying the atmosphere at Old Trafford is pathetic is nothing new. Fergie consistently asked for better support, especially in Europe, and was consistently ignored. The club itself is so concerned that they have had to take embarrassing measures such as hiring sound technicians to improve the acoustics and introducing a singing section. In the programme notes for the weekend's game Moyes made a point of thanking the away fans, while mention of the home support was conspicuously absent. I had a mail printed on these very pages, on the same subject, about 5-6 years ago.
So why chose now to complain again? Well I think it is blatantly obvious the Fergie fear factor is gone and after years of a sense of entitlement and an expectation to be entertained, the team really needs support. We see away teams coming and playing without nerves and taking the game to us - guess what, if you greet them with silence and provide no backing for our own team then they will hardly be intimidated.
This behaviour is certainly not unique to OT (Emirates anyone?), but places like Germany make a mockery of the claim that the best atmosphere is in England. I wonder if there might just be a connection between an apathetic home crowd and the slog we often see the team go through in our Champions League group games? After the 07-08 season, the only teams we've beaten by more than a single goal at Old Trafford in the group stages are Celtic, Otelul Galati and Leverkusen - 3 games out of 16.
Arsenal managed 10 and Chelsea 8 in case you were wondering. We've also drawn 7 of those 16 games. Teams are getting a relatively easy ride when they come here as they've experienced much worse in their own leagues.
I move around the ground quite a bit so I'm aware that the Streford end is the only place you expect to hear any frequent support, and even then, by the time you get to the halfway line you only hear them a few times a match. A typical example of the problem was the person I was beside who was permanently leant back, arms folded and silent, looking on with disdain anytime anyone might actually try to start a chant. Not only was he not contributing but his attitude made sure that everyone in the vicinity was also hindered. The only time he roused himself was when he told an opposition fan to pipe down because we were Utd and we'd see who was laughing at the end. Well, we never did get that opportunity as the Utd fan left while the Saints corner was being placed, along with a steady stream of other "fans". I've seen the same guy shouting away while selling t-shirts at festivals - he is hardly the shy, retiring type.
For all those having a go at Moyes, it is time to have a look at yourselves and ask what you've done to help the situation. We shouldn't have behaved that way when Fergie was here and we simply can't afford to behave that way now that he has gone. 26 years is a long time to form habits but they need to be broken fast as this ridiculous sense of entitlement is doing much more harm than current scapegoats like Young, Fellaini or Moyes.
Just Around The Edges?
I know it's Monday night already (in Kiwiland anyway), but I really can't get over Jack Wilshere's goal. His interplay with Giroud made me really quite wet around the edges.
Just had to tell someone.