He might have been rendered 'unfashionable' even as they bought him, but Marouane Fellaini showed Manchester United why they bought him against West Brom, says Adam Bate...
In recent times Arsenal have appeared cowed against the better teams, so it was perhaps encouraging that they imposed their own game on Everton, says Nick Miller...
If you have anything to say on any subject, mail us at email@example.com
Really enjoyed the feature on the Top 10 partnerships. However as I scrolled further down the list I was amazed not to see Mertscielny anywhere? They have been immense not only this season but have been for quite some time now.
Mertesacker is a joy to watch. Despite him being 'slow' you rarely ever and I mean ever see him running at full pace such is his impeccable reading of the game. It is also dreamy watching him play his QB like passes out from the back which are always accurate and set up more attacks then you might think. He reminds me of Tom Brady. Extremely slow but his class means he doesn't need it as he picks out accurate passes from the back as well as tackling with minimum fuss.
The Mysterious Mr Atkinson Of Man United
If it's not too late for strange football shirts... A few years ago here in Kampala a whole heap of Manchester Utd shirts showed up all with the name ATKINSON 10 on the back. They were around the Ronaldo, Tevez, Rooney era, the ones with the white stripe that ran up the back. At first when I saw the first one, I thought that some lad named Atkinson had got his own name on the back and then donated the shirt, but then more and more appeared. Who was this Atkinson? A Ron Atkinson special edition? I looked through the youth team and reserves, players out on loan.. Nothing, no Atkinson.
When I managed to speak to someone wearing one of the shirts I got a better look and saw that his was actually a knock off, so not only were people wearing strange Manchester Utd shirts, they were that popular that someone had decided to start producing their own for the flood of demand!
I supposed that a bootlegger might produce shirts based on some huge expected signing like a Bale to Madrid sort of thing, had this Atkinson gone under my radar? Were the Kampala bootleggers so ingrained in their craft that they had infiltrated Sir Alex's contact sheet!?
I looked on Football manager and started a mass purchase of Atkinsons in the hope of turning around my QPR career. It led to the sack as I placed too much trust in my team of 4 Atkinsons, three of who were left backs. Who was he!?
All I can presume is that someone named Atkinson really did donate a genuine Man Utd shirt in around 2008 and whoever bought it from the Kampala markets must have assumed this was a real player and the word spread so much that people got their own printing done and eventually the bootleggers saw so many of them that they decided to cash in on this trend.
The shirts even today are everywhere, I usually see one or two per day. So, if you Mr (or Mrs) Atkinson are reading, you are around the 4th most famous person in Uganda.
Ric Duncombe, Kampala, Uganda
Thoughts On Nigeria v Italy
Watched a cracking game at Craven Cottage last night. It finished 2-2. Here are a few thoughts on Italy vs. my beloved Nigeria...
- To all you Balotelli doubters out there, please watch the boy in the flesh before you make up your mind. He was a monster last night. He has that natural ability to just do what he wants with the ball no matter how much pressure he is under. He combined technique, pace (he is way faster than you think), strength agility, intelligence and vision. He created Italy's first goal by outmuscling the defender and slipping a beautifully weighted pass for Rossi to finish with aplomb. He was Italy's stand out player, no doubt. If Mario gets his head down, he can easily be a top 3 striker in the world.
- Victor Moses really is Nigeria's brightest star and is on his way to eventually becoming a Nigerian legend. Technically he is possibly our best but it's his ability to hold the ball without panicking till he sees the right chance to dribble or pass that makes him stand out. He is a very confident player and I'm not sure my fellow Liverpool fans really appreciate him. If Rodgers ends up leaving him on the bench for most of the season and he decides not to permanently sign him, I think it's something he may regret in the long run.
- Both sides played a very technical form of football which relied on each player believing he didn't have to always take the easy option of sending it long. I (and most of the fans) panicked a few times when the ball was being passed from Keeper to CB with the Italians closing down quickly but it is a style of football that pays off as possession is kept. It is something we Premier League or British football supporters need to get used to and understand it is where footy is going.
- 10,000 Italians were out song by 5,000 Nigerians. Pavarotti, your boys took one hell of a beating last night!
- Certain players just get the love of any fan no matter what. Pirlo got a loud cheer and applause from both sets of fans (some Nigerian fans even did the arms in the air, bowing down gesture) when warming up and when subbed on. He came on and joined Mario as Italy's outstanding performers. He pinged the ball to players making runs he saw before the rest of us did. Like the Joker said in The Dark Knight - "It's maaaaagic!"
- Shola Ameobi scored a cheeky goal when he ghosted in to deliver a fine finish from a corner kick, something he should have been doing for the Super Eagles a long time ago instead of twiddling his thumbs waiting for England.
- Judging by last night's performance, it's evident that Nigeria is still one of those teams that only really step it up for the big teams. You will rarely see them whopping a crap side 4-0 but you can put a cheeky bet on them slaying a goliath. I fancy them to come out of the group they are drawn in come December 6th, even if there is a really big team in the group and another one their level.
On a side note, glad to see Adam Lallana getting another chance, he stood out for me in Friday's game.
Seyi (international football is still more inspirational to me than leagues) LFC
More Unusual Shirt Choices
I've not got many anecdotes from my time working as a checkout boy at Tesco - but I'll be damned if the one time I've got a relevant one, I don't use it.
It is 2010, my final year of slopping through reduced price veg and ignoring old women shoplifting. I'm serving some probably underage girls a bottle of Irish Cream - I look up, and see England's new shirt for the first time. The first of the 'tailored by Umbro' and all that, and the first actually decent shirt we've had in years. The guy wearing it - a squat, white, acne pocked thirtysomething - walks past, to reveal the name and number on his back: VASSELL 20.
I've tried reasoning to this myself plenty of times. I live in Manchester, so he could've been a City fan - but he'd already left for Turkey at this point, and Darius had last played for England in about 2004. I'm still confused.
Tesco Boy (We hate Asda, we hate Asda)
...In response to Nigel Lim's splendid mail on kits in Asia, I once bore witness to a quite spectacular shirt worn by a quite sinister man when involuntarily held overnight in Japan's Narita Airport.
My mate and I had missed our flight back to Blighty and thought we'd take our chances and stay in the airport bar until the next day, perhaps hiding behind chairs and sneaking wasabi nuts like a loveable pair of nineteenth century rascals. Airport security had other designs on our evening however and we were soon dragged away and hauled into a sad little room containing a handful of armed guards.
There were several others sharing our new living space, including an anaemic Finn, a very tired looking chap from Malaysia and a Cambodian gentleman sporting what I later discovered to be Liverpool's third kit from the 99-00 season. A nightmarish green and blue trimmed number, which at some point had a gingham pocket sewn onto the chest next to the crest. Not only was the shirt greener than an American frat house on St Patrick's Day but it was so baggy that I am sure that he was engaged in people smuggling.
This man, presumable sensing that my mate was a Gooner and therefore soft and an easy kill, proceeded to stare relentlessly at Rob with a flicker of a smile. This went on for some time before one of the armed guards switched the lights out, the last thing Rob said he saw was this guy smiling at him before pitch blackness. After lights out we discussed Rob's new mate and I assured him that he would be the first to die whilst I, being a United fan, would be saved til last when he could really enjoy himself - we agreed that his pocket would soon contain our toenails.
Turns out he and his heinous shirt were both gone by the morning without a fuss. He was probably just being friendly.
...I was at Spurs at a fairly recent pre-season friendly, and I saw a gentleman wearing a shirt with Crouch 9 on the back. After Peter Crouch had just spent a whole season wearing 15, and Pavlyuchenko was still registered as number 9. I could not think of a single logical reason for this, not one.
Alex G, THFC (just for the record, everyone, it's first name who, not surname who. As in "Gareth who? Oh, Gareth Bale". Doesn't make sense otherwise)
...The sight of the name "Pacheco" made me smile. He was so immense.
I hope that Suso becomes the new Dani Pacheco. But not the Dani Pacheco that came to be, the Dani Pacheco that was supposed to be.
Suso is a bit more handsome than Pacheco and he has only one name so in those respects he's clearly the better footballer.
...I live in Nairobi, Kenya. The other day I saw somebody in a Real Madrid shirt with 'Bosingwa 11' on the back So many questions, so many questions...
Team Of Roos
If Steve McBain, Singapore thought the tabloids were funny with their Roo headlines, check out the work I've done building an England team of Roos:
GK: John Roo-dy
RB: Micah Roo-chards
CB: Roo-an Shawcross
CB: Ga-roo Cahill
LB: Kei-roo-n Gibbs
RM: And-roo-s Townsend
CM: Jack Roo-dwell
CM: Roo-ss Barkley
LW: Roo-heem Sterling
FW: Roo-kie Lambert
FW: Andy Car-roo-ll
Manager: Roo Hodgson
I just hope he was sitting down when he read it.
Matt Carr, Wickford
Right Of Reply
I know you don't normally do right to reply emails but it's international week and this is an important distinction so I would be really grateful if you did.
My comparison of Ruud/Ronaldo to Van Persie/Januzaj (who I'm well aware has scored just 2 in 6, I watched him win player of the season for the reverse that won the league and don't remember him scoring many if any) was used as a 'closest match today' equivalent to a story about Ferguson letting a proven (Dutch) goal scorer go at the top of his career in favour of a relatively unproven young lad.
So whilst Chris MUFC believes it utter platinum-coated b**locks that Ronaldo was relatively unproven, and that Ruud Van Nistelrooy was by then an injury prone (surely no comparison there...) immobile striker, he fails to realise the point is about the guarantee of goals they brought the side.
The knackered, immobile Ruud scored 46 goals in 68 appearances for Real Madrid over the next four years, taking the golden boot in his first as Real won the league. Ronaldo, whilst obviously much more proven than Januzaj at the time his bust up happened had a goal average of just 1 every 5 games (39 goals in 199) over 5 years. Whatever way you look at it, Ferguson was jettisoning a bloke who could guarantee goals (and continued to) for someone who at the time could not, which is a massive gamble considering managers always talk about needing strikers who can guarantee 20+ a season and Ronaldo was halfway through a season in which he finished with his highest tally so far: 12.
So I'm obviously not saying Januzaj is Ronaldo (and for the record I don't think he will ever get to those heights either) but it's a valid (though not to be taken sodding literally) comparison. For all our sakes, you'd also do well not to tempt fate about the historically very injury prone Van Persie...
David P, Manchester