With both English clubs in need of a Toca's Miracle away at Bayern Munich and Barcelona this week, Daniel Storey picks ten comebacks from Champions League history to inspire them¿
Arsenal's frenetic start in the first leg had Bayern rattled before Wojciech Szczesny's sending-off. Playing with the same creativity and fearless streak would engender real belief...
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Jones: Worthy Of A Slow Clap
Has Phil Jones has only just worked out that people want Manyoo to fail? So he really is as dumb as he looks!
This what the slow clap was invented for.
Adonis Stevenson, AFC
Arsenal The Bestest
Phil Jones said "People want us to fail because we have won the league so many times,"..."Everyone hates the best clubs, it is as simple as that, and United won the league long before I was here."
If I ever meet Mr Jones I'll explain to him that Manchester United fans want them to succeed and everyone else wants them to fail because they support an alternative football club to Manchester United and would like their football club to succeed in their place. Man U is like the Zlatan of football clubs. Jeez.
Just for the record, the best football club is Arsenal FC. For lots of reasons that are factually indisputable. If anyone wants a dossier of the facts then I'll be happy to provide it.
Cliff Mallinder, AFC
United Are Improving
I'd like to make a point relating to Matt Stanger's article (A False Start Or A False Recovery?), if I may .
While there are undoubtedly many points on which to criticise United's play and form this year; leaky defence, dodgy midfield, not enough cutting edge, etc., I don't agree that "making hard work of matches" is necessarily one of them - since when did United ever do it the easy way?
Ultimately the aforementioned shortcomings may end up costing United in terms of final league position. However, for all the sneering and joking about the players "running around a lot", it counts for a great deal. Effort and determination to win a game was a major theme of Ferguson's reign, and he didn't do a bad job. If the only positive that you can give about United is that they (mostly, certain exclusions aside) try hard, it's not that bad a situation, given the amount of genuine talent in the squad.
We're obviously lacking in a few areas and new recruits are necessary, but as long as the current squad keep giving 100% every week we can't really demand much more from them, especially in Moyes first year in charge. Granted, there was a disappointing lack of belief and even effort in the early matches, but things have improved in the last couple of months.
It's going to take a long time for teams to have the same fear of United, if it happens at all - Moyes (or anyone for that matter) will likely never garner the same kind of reputation as Sir Alex - so we're going to have to go about our business a different way now. I'd take another 27 performances like the one we put in against Arsenal - in terms of effectiveness and effort - and I'd wager that in doing so we'd find ourselves in the top four come the end of the season.
Kagawa Is The New Veron
This week's numbers and stats just confirms to me what many United fans have feared but dare not say out loud. Shinji Kagawa just doesn't fit in our team. To be dispossessed seven times is not just a case of being played out of position, it shows that after over a year of trying, Shinji just can't adapt to the Premier League. I know we're all desperate for a loveable creative force in the centre of our midfield but he isn't it and we need to accept it. He's the new Veron. Fancy taking him off our hands Chelsea?
Not The Mid-90s
Nez: United do not need a "striking partnership". This isn't the mid '90s, and almost every top level side that doesn't play a back three long since moved on from the idea of a pair of strikers. Shoving two players up onto the opposition centre-backs tends to leave the team undermanned in midfield, particularly in an era of three man midfields and full-backs who play level with midfielders, all of which makes a "striking partnership" colossally stupid for a team whose midfield options, Carrick notwithstanding, are poor. If United had Yaya Toure, Gundogan, Schweinsteiger (or, just possibly, Pogba...), two genuine strikers and two midfielders might work. But Fellaini, Cleverly and Jones aren't really at that level.
And on Kagawa, it isn't reasonable to suggest that he "prove himself wherever he's played". Kagawa, at Dortmund, played as a pure and genuine 10, whose offensive work was done principally as an focal point for attacks in transition. Pressing high, Dortmund recovered the ball, fed it to Kagawa, who then typically had two wide players ahead of him, Lewandowski in front, and at least one of the double pivot and full-backs running from deep. It's a system that rewards precise, quick passing, speed of thought, and agile movement, which are Kagawa's principal assets.
Playing him as a deep left winger is non-sensical, as it deprives him of the range of passing options that make him most useful, and require him to be a more orthodox winger, with greater sustained pace (rather than acceleration) than he has. If United played a more pro-active system, pressed higher, won the ball further up the pitch, and had more runners from deep, Kagawa would work on the left (as he does for Japan, when Honda plays centrally). But played so deep, with only van Persie to hit long balls to, United won't get the best from Kagawa. It's about as sensible as playing Riquelme as a deep wide midfielder, and wondering why he isn't making seventy yard, powerful runs a la Bale or Ronaldo.
If Moyes prefers Rooney behind van Persie, fine. It's a more reliable choice, he'll probably run about more, he provides an aerial passing option from deep, and in a team whose wide options are f**king terrible and whose midfield is scarcely that of Bayern or Dortmund, it makes sense in a depressingly practical and cautious way. But it's a choice that holds United back tactically, and makes them reliant on an extremely good shots-to-goals ratio, and on moments of virtuoso genius from one of van Persie or Rooney.
p.s. Rooney was a triumph of fruitless industry on Sunday. Utterly impotent in attack.
Just to answer your question:
'Ah, you mean Arsenal's players aren't as good as United's... OK. Now based on what scientific, fact-proven approach do you make that statement?'
United bench on Sunday: Giggs, Hernandez, Nani, Cleverley, Fellani, Januzal and Lindegaard
Arsenal bench on Sunday: Wilshere, Monreal, Fabianski, Bendtner, Jenkinson, Gnabry, Hayden.
Now I am not sure you need a scientific approach to know who's bench is stronger.
But if you want to go down the 'fact-proven' approach we could look at trophies won, premier league appearances, premier league goal scored, international appearances etc (I really could go on).
If it was a game of substitute top trumps, Arsenal would have lost 6-1. Minus Wilshere, not one of the Arsenal subs would get on the United bench, let alone starting 11.
Will 'Substitute top trumps could be fun' Brackley.
Don't Make Them Speak
Am I the only one who doesn't get the point of post-match interviews of referees? In recent years, there has been increased scrutiny of refereeing decisions, which meant that an increasing number of debatable incidents have been picked out, leading to heavy criticism of referees. One of the solutions proposed is interviewing referees after the game so that they explain their decisions. Why? People who have seen the replays have already made their mind up. A referee admitting he got something wrong will not change anything whatsoever (what it can do is trigger legal issues and even more headache for referees). Even if the referee does have a case for his decision, it will still not stop debates about the decision as some incidents can be open to various interpretations (and the old adage of everything eventually evening out will be wheeled out by one side of the debate).
Most importantly, it will not lead to better refereeing, because referees will be even more reluctant to make controversial decisions, even if they are warranted, which is not desirable and will prompt even more protests.
Sometimes, instead of helping referees, we are just undermining their authority. I am a supporter of video replay refereeing, albeit only for clear-cut critical incidents (as I wrote that, I am not sure what such an incident would be like!), but I can't help feeling, sometimes, that that could also undermine the referee and make it even harder for him to make tough decisions. Okay, video replay can help in certain ways, but it won't be long before teams are continuing to push and shove the referee to surrender to the higher authority of the video replay, even more often than he should. Why respect the referee when the video replay can overrule him?
I can't believe I am going to say the following, given I have been incensed by referees in the past. But we should just get over it and accept that some decisions are going to be controversial every weekend., especially ones that are very debatable. Even that ridiculous Ramires penalty could probably be spun into a definite penalty somehow (using innumerable angles and 3-D heat maps). Football can be unfair and imperfect at times and refereeing is part and parcel of that. We should make the referee's job easier, and I don't think post-match interviews can achieve that.
Jay (even if they do have training, it's amazing how referees can get certain decisions right at normal speed of play), MUFC
Every day people make claims in the mailbox that they can't back up. Normally, I'd let this go, but today I've had enough.
Steve Mahoney in Coventry: If you're watching in double speed, gravitational acceleration will appear to quadruple (to 39.2m/s/s) rather than double. Think about it.
In the future, can everyone stick to objective facts, like how Paul Scholes is the greatest footballer ever? Thanks.
Names In Reverse
Here's one for the recent novelty names trend in the mailbox. It's footballers names that make sense forwards as well as backwards:
GK - Howard Tim (Everton)
LB - Clark Ciaran (Villa)
CB - Terry John (Chelsea
CB - Bruce Alex (Hull)
RB - Kelly Martin (Liverpool)
LW - Jarvis Matthew (West Ham)
CM - Anita Vurnon (Newcastle)
CM - Faye Abdoulaye (Hull)
RW - Ben Arfa Hatem (Newcastle)
CF - Carroll Andrew (West Ham)
CF - Gayle Dwight (Crystal Palace)
Can you imagine the fear that would be struck into the heart of opponents, when they realised they were coming out to face a side whose spine were named Anita, Faye, Carroll and Gayle? Because it's a well-known scientific fact that males given typically female names grow up to be double-hard b*stards.