The Premier League season has only been over for about 20 hours and already we're well into the summer-type Mailbox. Plus, a shout for the 2014 player of the year...
Arsenal fans are largely positive after their top four finish, whilst one wag suggest buying Bale from their rivals. We also have an interesting final mail. Enjoy...
If you have anything to add on any subject, mail us at email@example.com
This Silly Old Boy Called It First
As I mentioned it earlier and the Mailbox published it on Thursday, Rooney and Van Persie accounted for all three goals, Tevez introduced by Mancini after 50 minutes (Okay, Balotelli started instead of Dzeko as I predicted), Evans and Ferdinand kept the clean sheet till Evans had to go off and most importantly, the victory for United. After getting slaughtered by City and even United fans except two, it feels good to call it right. Here is my analysis of the best game of the season so far
1) Rooney and Young were outstanding from the start till the end. Young probably had his best game of the season, hopefully he finds form. Valencia and Van Persie did just about enough (what a shot that was hitting the post). With four outstanding players on attack, I for one did not miss a defensive or a creative midfielder.
2) Kompany injured out inside the first 20 minutes was the biggest blow to City. He is their leader, and inspiration and City just lost the belief while United got the belief.
3) Why does Mancini does this to himself and the City fans? Even the boy selling peanuts at Mumbai railway station knows Tevez and Aguero are City's best strikers. In such games, you play with your best players and hope they play to your tactics. Ferguson learnt that from last season and credit to him that he did enough to coax Mancini to start with at least one of Balotelli/Dzeko.
4) Ferdinand and Evans were sublime in the first half. Perhaps the best team defensive display for United. On the other end, Zabaleta was awesome for City. His goal just added to the fantastic work he did after handed over the captain's armband. Hard to believe he is still below 30. Where was Nastasic all day?
5) Yaya Toure was through and United got saved by Mr. Atkinson in second half, but United also had a valid goal disallowed. I guess the match was even as far as referee's performance was concerned.
6) De Gea has to start every game from now on for United. Period.
7) Although the game saw five goals, but it was also a tactical masterpiece. With United employing 4-4-2 (4-5-1, Rooney is always there when defense needs it) through out the game and Mancini changing tactics midway through the game from 4-4-2 to 4-5-1 (4-3-3) it was a delight to watch two brilliant managers at work. For the first half, United managed to get two defenders on Silva, Aguero, Balotelli and Yaya (Nasri didn't even need one) whenever they had the ball. City did that to Van Persie. Alas, they forgot Rooney.
8) Shame on the City fan who injured Ferdinand, shame on the fan who ran on the pitch. It was a class game and a select few let their team and the other fans down.
Sagar Deo, MUFC, Mumbai
Buy That Man Wilkinson A Beer
I would like to buy Chris Wilkinson and his son a beer. I hope to God United see the advantage of making sure that Chris and his son are in the away stand for every major away match. That might go a long way in helping United win the league.
And Here He Is
I was in the away end at the game today with my ten-year-old son. The fact that he was with me has an influence over many of my conclusions:
Maybe I was naive but I thought that Man United cap-adorned son would be spared aggressive comments from any City fans outside the stadium given his tender years. Unfortunately, they were commonplace and on a number of occasions really quite offensive - he's a child lads, for heaven's sake!
The Manchester City staff were excellent. From programme sellers to security people to stewards to drinks servers, all were really friendly and welcoming. In stark contrast to a large minority of their supporters, they were a credit to their club. This is often overlooked by many visiting fans but there was a distinct lack of abuse aimed at the staff and that is due to their professional and friendly approach. Credit where it is due.
The game was played in a good spirit with the exception of Yaya Toure and Carlos Tevez, both of whom could have been sent off. Just for balance, I think Rooney had a few 'red mist' moments in the first half too and could easily have been booked after five minutes and subsequently sent off later.
I think the ref did well. Apart from the disallowed goal which wasn't his call, I feel he was good.
As soon as City scored, I only saw one winner and it wasn't us. RVP thank you for that sublime moment of joy, only curtailed when I was smacked in the mouth by my son with his over exuberant celebrations...coins were thrown, the rest you already know.
Finally, I have to comment on the crowd. Once the RVP free-kick was scored, mayhem ensued and none of this really comes across on the TV. Fighting broke out in the far corner where the fans were closest, resulting in some pretty awful scenes and some hefty injuries to a number of people including a couple of pensioners - no matter what colour you wear, if you were involved in that you are a disgrace. Then some numpty decided to run on the field towards Rio Ferdinand. As he approached, he slipped and fell on his backside to the amusement of the United fans. I was more worried because at this point there were no stewards or police stopping him. Stand up Joe Hart. He approached the 'fan' and stopped him from getting anywhere Rio. You have to respect to him for that. Nice one Joe, your stock went up a few points with me today.
After the game, it's fair to say the atmosphere was 'moody' to say the least. I was suitably nervous walking back to my car. The knob-heads who were intent on trouble didn't discriminate between those that were 'up for trouble' and normal scarf-wearing football fans. It isn't big and it isn't clever boys. I've never felt as threatened at that even at Anfield. Liverpool is still the biggest game to me but it's always good to beat City. Imagine what might have happened if we'd adopted those tactics at the Etihad last season Alex...?
Chris Wilkinson (it felt like an away game in the '80's today) MUFC
More Derby Thoughts
Credit to City for a great fightback but United deserved that win, United were far more clinical in attack and wrongly had a goal disallowed, plus a penalty claim not given. Both of these decisions on replay were shown to be wrong. If they had happened going the other way the ABUs would be out in force moaning about conspiracies.
Back to the football, as a United fan I am proud of all of the players especially the much maligned on this website Evans, Carrick, Cleverly and Young. They were all excellent. So much for the idea that Balotelli would terrorise Evans again, hopefully his injury isn't serious.
I wonder if any humble pie will be consumed today by the people who laughed at the notion of United beating City at the Etihad. I especially look forward to seeing what the clown 'Chris MUFC' has to see, since you guys love printing his pessimistic rubbish, I guess according to him United should spend money like City and Chelsea, or in the case of Ozil every player should automatically just come to United. I wonder if he remembers that Ozil turned down United for his dream move to Real Madrid.
Rio's twitter response to getting hit by the coin was quality.
...Fergie finally played a line-up that many supporters have been pleading for. Cleverley was fantastic in the middle of the park and it was refreshing to have a central midfielder whose first instinct is NOT to find a nice sensible pass to Rio/Evans but rather look forward and take the game on.
Easily Ashley Young's best game in 12 months. Looked threatening all match, linked well with Rooney. This performance actually showed why Utd forked out the cash for him - just need to see it far more consistently.
What next for Balotelli? Looked disinterested for majority of the match and only emotion he showed seemed to be negative towards his manager. City look a far better side with Tevez and Aguero up front. Not sure Mario will take sitting on the bench consistently all that well. Also not sure many (if any) other sides would like to pay those wages for such an enigmatic striker.
Rio ought to thank Joe Hart for his best save of the season.
The lack of a left foot on Valencia is starting to become a real issue - got into some really dangerous positions but then stopped and had to wait for Rafael to go past him as he lacked the confidence to cross/shoot on his non-preferred.
Man Utd showed they look far better as a counter-attacking side. Unfortunately there are very few games that they don't dominate possession.
How did Tevez remain on the pitch? Thought he was lucky to escape with a caution when he clipped Raphael. The lash out at Jones was certainly worth a second yellow.
Thought the United players did well to hold their nerve in such a hostile environment. Would have done even better to pocket all those coins and put it towards our debt.
Shame Evans had to go off with injury. Hopefully it's not too severe. Has come along leaps and bounds since his nightmare against City at Old Trafford last year. As long as he behaves himself at the Xmas show he should be Utd's first picked central defender for 2013.
Kolo Toure came on for Vincent Kompany and was largely unnoticed. Probably the way he likes it. May need to consider selling Motors for real in the not too distant future though.
The way big physical players have bossed United this season (Dembele, Fellaini, Benteke, Holt etc) I feared the worst coming up against Yaya Other than the goal he was pretty ineffectual. Something doesn't seem quite right there.
Glad RVP was able to get on the scoresheet (even if it was somewhat fortuitously). Deserved to be after that glorious piece of skill that culminated in him hitting the woodwork. Still feel as though he doesn't touch the ball enough during the match. Far too valuable to be only touching it 10-15 times a half. Would like to see Fergie incorporate him more in the general play.
All in all a cracking Derby. Worth staying up until 3am for.
...It's days like this that make you feel special to support United. Just when you think they threw away a two-goal lead and were clinging on for dear life they come up with something. A lot of credit to Arsenal for the winner though. Clichy, Nasri and RVP of course. What I'm most surprised at is why nobody is questioning Tevez's role in that wall. Surely every wall should have at least four men in it so close to goal from that angle? There's no way that shot gets past the wall if Tevez stays instead of strutting off to the D, not that I'm complaining.
Why can't Ashley Young deliver a performance like that every week. It was more like what you'd expect from his caliber of signing instead of his usual antics. I think the most disturbing event of the weekend is Rafael's haircut. I mean just because it looks like he wearing a black hard helmet now doesn't mean he'll now become all structured and defensive. Two assists proved that thankfully. Also how it took Lindegaard's missus to have a child for De Gea to start again is disturbing. I'm definitely in the De Gea camp. You can point to his double save in the build-up to Toure's goal to prove his ability but for me it was that save with his shoulder that makes him special. Why use your hands when a strategically placed shoulder blade can do the job just as well.
How we're six points clear is well and truly beyond me. Imagine if we could sort out the defensive problems. Jonny Evans really is maturing well and was no coincidence that City managed to take advantage of his absence. Smalling made some good challenges when he came on to be fair to him. Hopefully we can get Rooney and RVP firing together now over the winter months, if we can get them working in tandem then we may have the buffer we need come the return of European football. Although that sounds a little too optimistic.
Evan (Rafael must feel so lost without his curls, or is that just me?) Ireland
Balotelli: Most Overrated Player Ever?
I honestly don't think I've ever seen a player where the difference between his perceived and actual ability is as great as with Mario Balotelli. To me, he epitomises the way that football has become about style over substance. A player's reputation is made in the media rather than on the pitch. Because he's got an interesting back story (adopted; the first - I think - black player to play for Italy; regular victim of racism) and a strong and controversial personality he generates huge media interest. Because he is does some spectacular things on the pitch - tricks, flicks, overhead kicks, the odd very nice goal - he is the perfect highlights player for those who know relatively little about football. And as a result, he has been branded a world-class player before he's even achieved anything (in response to the inevitable comments that he's won four league titles, was he ever an integral part of any of those teams?).
But if you actually ever sit through a match and focus on what the guy does, he's completely useless: awful touch, sloppy passing (that's when he passes the ball at all, rather than losing it while trying to beat five opponents on his own), hits as many shots into Row Z as on target. If he worked hard, you might forgive him, but he's got a terrible attitude: lazy, uninterested and petulant (early on during the derby today he lost the ball after trying a cocky nutmeg, then predictably responded with a nasty foul on Evans, injuring him in the process). By all accounts he is no better in training. I watch a fair amount of live football, and I can't remember ever seeing him have an outstanding game (even during the Euros I felt that his goals masked some average performances).
There was a rumour in the summer that someone, I think it was PSG, was willing to pay £40m for Balotelli. At the time I would've bitten their hand off if I were Mancini, and even now I'd still happily take £20m for the guy. He's been playing at the top level for far too long to still be regarded as having 'potential', and in fact he seems to actually be regressing. I'd be interested to know what City fans think. Would you be happy to see him go?
Where's The Barry Love Now?
Great and somewhat expected responses from the inevitable pro-Barry team on Friday. It was interesting to read, in particular Chris MUFC's comment that he is a quality 'water-carrier' in midfield, where 'water-boy' may have been more appropriate. After all the Barry love I decided I'd give him another chance and watch him closely in the derby, putting my prejudices aside and judge him solely on performance.
Safe to say my previous thoughts were confirmed, as he was one of the worst players on the pitch, often giving the ball away by either under/over hitting his passes, and his touch was simply comical. Also with no Ji-Sung park (thank God) United had genuine width on the field, which stretched play and allowed them to counter effectively. Not sure what Chris was on about saying our 1-0 loss at the Etihad last season was the best tactical display ever, considering we did not have a single shot on goal that game but that's in the past now.
City looked a lot more dangerous when Tevez came off the bench and made a right nuisance of himself and created the first goal well. I wonder if Mancini opted for a big, tall, powerful striker after Ferguson's comments (mind games?) earlier in the week.
All in all a great game, shame about the moronic behavior from the fan at the end though.
LOH, Basle (do you really expect every single Utd fan to live in Manchester?)
It's Gone Well For Nasri
So Samir Nasri gets booked for telling the referee to 'shut the f*** up' and then cowers behind his teammates in the wall to cause the deflection for the winning goal. Arsenal fans, I wouldn't be too fussed about losing him and if I was Mancini I would have greeted him this morning with a well-deserved punch in the face.
Ryan (spent the second half screaming at United's elementary mistakes) Callan, Sunderland
Harsh On Hart
I think Matt Stanger was a little harsh on Hart's performance in the derby.
Yes, he conceded from Man United's three shots on target, but I don't think any of the goals could be attributed to any goalkeeping error. Rooney was allowed far too much space for the first two, and from that range it's hard to see what Hart could have done differently.
As for the third, it's not unreasonable that Hart expected RVP to try for the near post, as he has done on many occasions. Also, the deflection took the ball right into the corner, which made the save that much more difficult. I would rather place most of the blame on Clichy, who chose to dither on the ball instead of booting it upfield.
But then again, it was nice to see former Gunners showing some marvellous teamwork. We had Clichy contributing to the freekick, RVP smashing it goalwards, and Nasri putting the finishing touches on a winning goal that has its roots in north London.
Aaron, Singaporean Gooner
Death And Taxes
If it pleases the great mailbox I would like to add the following to the list of certainties in life:
Man U are never going to lose after going 2-0 up, no matter what.
Spurs aren't going to win four on the bounce, no matter what.
Greg (Life as a smaller club may not be so bad after all) Judelson, YNWA
To all those so-called Arsenal fans calling for Wenger to go just stop and take a reality check - we currently sit two points outside fourth spot which is relaistically what we are aiming for at the start of the season. Yes, it would be nice to be six points clear at the top but we are not a club in crisis. Get a grip please.
Darren, Wenger can stay as long as he likes, Frost, NZ
In a typical Villa vs Stoke game, filled with bad tackles and very little proper football, the one shining light was Ashley Westwood for Villa. He is superb.
The best way to describe him is like Michael Carrick but can go drive with the ball, can pass forward, can tackle, has heart, decent in the air and has good positional sense.
Alex (jokes aside, Westwood's the dog's) Sheedy
West Ham v Liverpool Conclusions
First of all, what a cracking game of football. This is why I love the game, and anybody who didnt enjoy that needs their head examined. It had everything - makeshifts, defending, aggression, classy finishing, own goals, and bubbles. Here are my views:
* Let's accept that Big Sam is a good manager. He has proved it before, but today was another example why he belongs to this league. His West Ham team was quite brilliant honestly - aggressive, passionate, committed and skillful - and he will be wondering how they came back empty handed.
* If ever a game was made for athleticism and 'good engines' this was it. From Liverpool's point of view, losing Enrique so early was a real miss. I also think this was tailor made for Henderson, and I wish BR had brought him on sooner.
* This was honestly the toughest test Liverpool have been put through this season, despite all the losses. And guess what, they passed the test, providing yet more evidence that Rodgers plans are progressing.
* People will suggest that Shelvey up front, Downing at LB, and Cole coming on may have been mistakes on BR's part and complain that Suso, Assaidi and Wisdom should have been considering. Under the circumstances, however, I think BR had no option. Anyone suggesting that reserves like Morgan or Yesil would have had a better shot against the likes of Collins cannot have thought it through. Likewise, Enrique was forced off and although it may have been tempting to shift Johnson to RB and stick Wisdom on, Johnson needed to be at his natural RB position to contain the lively Jarvis. It had to be Downing moving back. Also, witness the way Sterling was kept out of the contest in the first half - I suspect the game would have completely passed Suso or Assaidi by.
* About Sterling, I thought he needed to be subbed at HT as he was really not having a great time of it. But he kept going and finished strongly - he and Shelvey really contributed mightily to seeing the game out for Liverpool after the winner.
* Shelvey too - I thought he battled up there manfully but his touch isn't great and he is not a natural striker, but he improved second half too. The bit of skill at the end when he slalomed into the penalty area should have earned him a pen.
* Although the defence were severally stretched and conceded twice, I really think they did a good job. It was more about the players in front of them exposing them to so much pressure I thought.
* There seems to be a little confusion in terms of Gerrard and Allens roles now - Lucas was pretty effective as always but the other two less so - Gerrard seemed deeper today, as opposed to against S'Hampton. BR needs to figure out how to utilize these two best now.
* lthough some moves were enforced, I wouldn't absolve BR of blame entirely - I thought Henderson needed to be brought on much earlier, and Gerrard pushed forward.
* I snickered when Carlton Cole was linked to Liverpool during the Hodgson days - but if that is what Cole brings to every game (and I believe it isn't) - then Liverpool could do a lot worse.
* It truly was a game for the old boys/
* Joe Cole - quality finish. Can he build on that before January and the inevitable signings come?
* If Stoke are cowardly bullies then West Ham are just athletic jocks. There was nothing wrong with their play today, which was what this league is all about.
*D iame - what a beast. I genuinely felt sorry for West Ham to see him do his hammy. Will be a big loss - Liverpool's midfield just couldn't contain him.
Ved, Japan (Top half! Heady days...)