Manchester City suffered their second top-flight defeat of the season at West Ham as Eliaquim Mangala's struggles continued. Will Demichelis return for the Manchester derby?
Tim Stannard looks at six storylines that could unfold in Saturday's clash between Real Madrid and Barcelona. Will Messi break Zarra's La Liga record?
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United 7-0 Conclusions
• LVG definitely wants to play this 3-5-2 formation, it was successful tonight but you have to wonder about the quality of opposition defending, especially when you let Ashley Young score against you twice.
• Reece James, our young left sided player (played both left wing and left back for reserves) scored two goals from a wingback position, LVG mentioned he played well afterwards and its possible he may keep him as cover for Shaw and instead focus on CB's, again commenting afterwards he didnt have enough and was forced to play Fletcher in defence in the second half after an almost full team change.
• Ander Herrera - WOW - i know it was just LA Galaxy, but this boy is getting me excited. So comfortable taking possesion and distributing, played deeper in the first half and was running the show with Mata just infront. Second half played further forward and got himself some assists.
• Smalling and Fletcher - without doing too much wrong definitely dont deserve to be near the starting 11. If we can get Vidal and have him alongside Herrera that will be a major game changer
• This formation bodes well for our strikers and players in the hole but it spells trouble for our wingers. with Luke Shaw first dibs at left wing back we now have Rafa, Valencia, Young and Nani all vying for that right spot, id expect one or two of them to be sold.
• Another noticeable was how high and how quick we were pressing up the field. having 3 defenders push up with two deep wingbacks suffocated Galaxy and they couldnt find any space, it could well work in the premier league but I would be wary playing anyone with pacy forwards, it leaves you vulnerable to a quick counter with a long ball over the top.
• All in all a good performance with many players adapting well to a 3-5-2, but lets not get carried away, it was LA Galaxy and the entire second half was played with Ashley Young and Nani as our two forwards, i cant see that happening in the league any time soon!
Just Give Us This
Before United fans get excited this morning and incur the wrath of the afternoon mailbox, can I just say that in pre-season last year we scored about 2 goals in all the games and looked as awful as we did for the actual season.
It's nice to be smashing teams again, whether it's pre-season or not.
Remember, They're Just Friendlies
I'd just like to say now, as friendlies season gets underway in ernest for Premier League clubs, that friendlies mean absolutely nothing. Not 'I know they're meaningless but', there is no 'but', they are meaningless.
Before we're subjected to emails with sentences like: 'X youth player has looked really good against Seoul City, he surely is destined for a great future, get him in the first team', or 'Y player we just signed looked poor against Toronto FC, I despair about the season ahead' please bear this in mind.
Friendlies have one purpose and one purpose alone, they're for players to gain fitness ahead of the season, nothing more, and I mean nothing more, you cannot judge how good a player or a team will be in competitive football from them, not even a little bit.
Fantasy Football? Meh
Upon reading the love for Fantasy Football during the Transfer Blog, I was compelled to share my disgust with this childish nonsense.
I have taken part in only one Fantasy Football season since its introduction. I duly resigned half way through the season when I realised two things, one; I was rubbish, and two; Fantasy Football ruins Football.
And how does Fantasy Football ruin Football ? Well, here are a number of reasons:
1) "That guy". You know him. Has no clue about football, why tactics work, what a player's role on the pitch is, yet wins the bloody league and is by default the all-knowing expert of football. Shadupyaface !
2) Begrudgingly cheering for a rival team's player just so he adds a couple points to my team. I feel like burning my clothes and crying in the shower.
3) Early Saturday morning alarms to ensure transfers are completed with most up to date team news. I'm such a loser.
4) RVP was useless last year .. because of me !! Top points scorer every year. My debut season and he sucks ! Who knew.
5) The absolute love hate relationship with tinkering. All day every day. Tinker tinker tinker. What's that, I just missed an entire game of football?
6) My manhood should not be questioned for propping up the league !
7) Who got the assist ? Who got the assist ? WHO GOT THE ASSIST ??? The single most repeated and annoying question. EVER.
And there are more.. loads more. But I daren't make this email too long. Attention span for the average person is only 8 seconds.
I shall end with a symbolic fist shaking towards Fantasy Football. What's that ? Remy is only 7.5 mil ? Hmmmmm
Another Breakthrough Star
Nice rundown of potential 2014/15 breakthrough talents from Daniel Storey, but he forgot this guy:
Hachim Mastour is only 16 but surely worth a run-out in the AC Milan first team when he is this good?!
Jim G (It's fair to say the man likes a cheeky double drag-back)
La Liga Rules (Not) Ok
"The Premier League is a great league but we are attracting the best players to La Liga" says Gareth Bale. While he should be reminded that, despite appearances, 2 clubs don't make a league he has a point about the top players in the world being vacuumed up Barca and Real.
Ronaldo, Bale, Rodriguez vs Messi, Neymar, Suarez. You can put Rodriguez as a newcomer but other than Zlatan, Reus, Yaya and Falcao, 6 of the top 10 category players play for 2 teams in Spain. Now while this makes for great marketing material, the average quality of football decreases across Europe. Barca and Reals power stems from a number of issues, but one that can be put right is their ridiculously lop-sided TV-rights sharing deal.
Losing Ronaldo, Fabregas (in his prime), Suarez, and Bale from England to Spain, while their hand-me downs Sanchez, Ozil and the like come the other way re-affirms that until parity is not achieved in some sort in Spain, these two clubs will continue to rather unfairly suck up the best talent across the globe.
What we're left with is watching 8 Classico's a year, which is becoming tantamount to watching the All-Star games in the NBA: fun to see all that talent on the same court, but the games are rarely that good. It's not only in the interest of the other Spanish clubs but in the interest of football in Europe as a whole that this TV-rights hogging cartel is stopped.
Stan Millworth, Portland Timbers
James And Real
To be completely honest, I was a little surprise there haven't been any mails yet on James' transfer to Real Madrid. After the transfer, Real Madrid and Barcelona can now boast having the eight best players in the world between them. While having more attacking options is always nice (I'm sure any premier league team would take James in a heartbeat), I can't help but feel bad for Ancelotti and I'm afraid Madrid will suffer from having to accommodate James and Kroos.
If you look at Madrid's side they have James, Ronaldo, Bale and Benzema that all play in the attacking third. Then they have Isco and Kroos that both like to play as the attacking midfielder in the front 3 behind the striker, which means Ancelotti will likely be forced to move away from the 4-3-3 that brought Real so much balance back to the 4-2-3-1 that didn't work last year. Switching to that formation will be a mistake because they don't have anyone to play in the midfield 2; the only options are Alonso (who's 32 and clearly in decline), Khedira (who is apparently moving to half of the teams in Europe) and Modric.
Since James has to play in the number 10 role (Madrid politics) that moves Kroos back and he also has to play because he's one of Perez' new toys. With Kroos having to move further back, we could either see Modric and Kroos having to protect the defence (not pretty). The other option is pairing Kroos with Alonso or Khedira, but that leaves out Modric who in my opinion was the best midfielder in Europe last season. Tough, tough choices.
I honestly don't know how Ancelotti will be able to accommodate all these players into a team that can defend properly and win games. I knew coaching Real was one of the toughest jobs in Football, but Ancelotti really has his work cut out for him.
Karl (hoping Isco comes to the Prem), Real Madrid
Lovely stuff to see Ledley King again. Top kind of guy for a man who has gone through the other-wordly-ego-distortion exercise that is being a footballer.
It's just great to see him return to his ' family business' immediately, bringing through the next generation. He clearly loves the club that stuck by him, and Is keen to return that love in the way that his knees didn't allow him too....
And the type of lad who is respected and appreciated by a lot more fans than just his own. That isn't a cheap or easy trick to pull off.
Manc in Sa
We Had A LOT Of These
I'm sure you might get a few emails about this Dave fellow who isn't really much of an Ibe fan because his claim that Ibe was an unused sub in Birmingham's last game of the season is not true. He came on in the 60th minute when Brum were 2-0 down and by all accounts he helped turn the game around for the very nearly relegated club with the Birmingham Mail gave him 8.8/10 rating (what's wrong with a 9?) in their match report.
Dave also thinks that Ibe doesn't actually do anything, has he been watching the same player? According to Squarka Ibe created a rather impressive 1.70 chances per 90 minutes during his spell at Birmingham. At Liverpool this preseason he has looked a constant threat, regularly producing an intelligent pass at the end of his driving runs, which has resulted in him providing 3 assists in 115 minutes on the pitch.
And on him being hyped, if anything Ibe's progress occurring in Raheem Sterling's glittery shadow has helped him to stay much more under the radar than I think might otherwise be expected of a very talented young English player.