You might notice that we haven't included a single mail about teams in pubs, because most of them were terrible. Instead we have a disgruntled Fulham fan and Scouse maths...
Villa are the latest team to get the pub treatment, while the morning mailbox also includes missives on Tony Pulis leaving Stoke and Chelsea's future under Jose Mourinho...
If you have anything to say on any subject, mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Bring On The Champions League
Last night after watching Man U clearing the table by 12 points and the league is over now (no way Man U are cracking now that's for sure). Look at the rest of major Europe leagues there is no excitement left in them for this season.
Barca 12 points clear.
Juventus 5 clear.
B. Munich 15 points clear.
Celtic 18 points.
Do you fancy that those teams will crack? Let's turn over tension to UCL (the only source of entertainment and suspense left).
Majid, LFC (Race for fourth spot is worth watching)
Curtains For Mancini?
Surely, this has to be the end of the line for Roberto Mancini. To spend a king's ransom on admittedly decent players and then go 12 points behind your main (and skint) rivals only just over the season's half-way point, as well as getting absolutely shafted in the Champions League by a bunch of twelve-year-olds (Ajax) and some Germans, means he's simply not good enough. I have to say though, City fans have been a lot more magnanimous about their man's failures than their counterparts at, say, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal. Yes, he won them their first league title in eons but come on, Schteve McClaren could have done that with these players. You'd have expected your average Chelsea fan to have his angry A4 out at this point.
In any case, congratulations to United. I don't like their fans, I don't like most of their players or Suralex's weekly arrogant dogmatic proclamtations but to go 12 points clear over two teams with cheat codes for infinite cash is a stunning display of attitude and willpower. Never mind the fact that Giggs and Scholes have bus passes, that De Gea looks (and moves) like a stick figure with a beard drawn on it or that Valencia and Nani probably wouldn't get a game at Fulham (I'll take Duff and Kacaniklic any day of the week and twice on Sunday, thank you very much). They have this title in the bag and deserve a massive pat on the back for it.
Hopefully, the next few years will be much more exciting. Sir Alex must be retiring somewhere in the near future, and FFP will likely make things very hard for City and Chelsea. Hell, Arsenal might even win something again. For now though, there's only one great side in Britain and that's United.
Joe (We'd take Jonny Evans, though), FFC
With 12 games left in this far from vintage season, the fat lady isn't quite singing, but she's doing her vocal warm ups and the ventriloquist charged with warming up the crowd is about to come off stage.
* Chelsea have proved that they are becoming the basketcase club supreme. Beating Wigan convincingly isn't really something to hang your hat on, but to do so with such a flattering scoreline is a tad on the odd side.
* Surely the potential league, cup, and Champions League medals that Ryan Giggs could, theoretically, collect this year be enough of a reason for Chelsea to hold on to Frank Lampard. Then again, maybe he's tired of the shenanigans that are perpetually going on at the Bridge and would just like to spend his twilight years in the sun in L.A.
* It will be interesting to see whether any of the big boys (Real Madrid, Barcelona, Man Utd, etc.) decide to tempt Daniel Levy with a bid for Gareth Bale. I suppose a lot will depend on Tottenham's final league position. He's too good for the Europa League, and is getting to the stage of his career where he should be challenging for top honours.
* The first 45 minutes of Aston Villa/West Ham were some of the most boring I have ever forced myself to sit through. Misplaced passes, missed shots on open goal, etc., usually mean a pretty open game. That is, unless that game is played at the pace of an old man with two broken legs and a glass hip. The second half was a lot better, mind, and Aston Villa's unique ability to self destruct nearly made for a nailbiting finish.
* QPR will be missed, if only for the fact that everyone seems to love laughing at how much money they've paid to be bottom of the league.
* Should Liverpool win tonight (and they probably will) the race for 3-4 could actually become the most interesting part of the season.
* If Manchester City continue to implode that race could actually be for 2-4.
* Southampton will have turned a corner if they follow up their demolition of the champions with another win. They're playing some great fast-paced, high-pressing football. They will do well to keep hold of some of their better players next year.
* It seems a lot of people think that Phil Jones was auditioning for a position on Wednesday (as outlined by Nick Miller's excellent piece). With him limping out of the game with a calf injury, does it even matter anymore? Will Phil Jones' career mirror that of Micah Richards?
* Swansea are quite wonderful, aren't they?
Paddy Power have started to pay out on Manchester United winning the league. This is a near-identical situation to last year. The only difference, really, is that now people are saying "after learning from last year they won't cock it again" whereas they said "they have the experience to not cock it up". Both very similar statements, merely differentiated by age.
Champions League week, followed by the FA Cup. It's a great week, really.
Why Jones Is A Big 'No' For Madrid
One can easily see why Fergie would want to start Jones at the Bernebeu. He's been great in subduing Fellaini and helping out Rafael and his central defence, but this is Madrid we're talking about. Not to offer too much respect, but to man-mark Fellaini is one thing and to keep a lid on Ozil/Kaka/Modric is another altogether. All are much more quicker, mobile and clever than Fellaini, and granted they won't offer a similar aerial threat, but their ridiculous passing and ability with the ball at feet are sure to evade young Jones.
Another reason is Jones' ability WITH the ball. He's not good enough in and around the final third. Towards the end of the game against Spurs when United were one up, there were several instances when he got the ball in space with Van Persie ahead of him, and managed to give it away each time. That's not good enough against Madrid. Why?
That brings me to Madrid, as a team. A mate of mine made the point that in Madrid, United are facing a team whose levels of skill and energy are like nothing they've ever seen before in the PL. Last time they played such opposition was Bilbao, and before that Barcelona. United started very brightly in the opening five minutes against Everton, frantically closing down and keeping the ball in their half. One can't help but think that they have to do that for the whole 90 mins in Spain to give themselves a chance!
Madrid outdid City with that energy and skill. And were in turn undone by a ridiculously fit Dortmund side. Klopp acknowledged this after they beat City 1-0 at home despite resting players, saying that City would have done some damage, had we let them play their football!
Beyond Carrick and Cleverley, I'd like to see Anderson's energy, pace and strength start in there! Playing on the break is United's best option but they will have to put in one hell of a shift. And I'd love to see someone on here convince me otherwise.
Akshat Pande, United fan, Mumbai IND
United v Everton Conclusions
A couple of conclusions from the United game I attended on Sunday afternoon:
TV is a reality check: Having watched the game again tonight, it showed Cleverley and Jones both having really solid performances, the latter brilliantly marking the very dangerous Fellaini out of the game. At the match, (from where I was sat) it looked like both were rather wasteful and having very average games.
Tim Howard: - still a fantastic keeper, his save from Cleverley in the second half was amazing. De Gea gets better with every game. He certainly had a better weekend than England's number one...
Rooney: Changed to out wide left for the second half. Is there any other player who works harder and is more flexible at this level?
If Only: Vidic had been available in this same fixture last year, we probably wouldn't have surrendered that two-goal lead. He was superb again. In fact all of our defence played like their lives depended on it. One or two players at the Etihad should take note if they want to shed the 'mercenary' tag.
Everton: I've always liked them. Hard working, honest and strong team. I hope they get fourth place (or better) in the League. Their commitment, effort and quality deserve it. I'd love to see Leighton Baines at our place next season...
Everton fans: Yet again at Old Trafford around Munich commemoration time. Yet again, respectful to what was going on. (Still get tingles down the spine thinking of the respect they demonstrated when Sir Matt died, for which I believe they won an award). Classiest fans in the league.
Result: Flattering, but United were probably in control for all but 20 mins of the first half. I shouldn't say this but I honestly don't believe we'll throw this away now. More importantly, I have no confidence in City's ability to catch us. They need to be worried about securing second place after recent performances...
Madrid: I'd happily take a score draw on Wednesday. Looking forward to seeing Ronnie back at OT for the return.
Not a bad weekend to be a United fan...
Chris Wilkinson (MUFC)
And From A Liverpool Fan...
I liked your article about Man Utd-Everton and whether or not it would prove to be a dress rehearsal for Wednesday night. I think there are a few extra points worth considering which Man Utd can take heart from:
1. Everton controlled possession.
Everton had 53% possession of the ball which is fairly unusual for any away team at Old Trafford. I suspect Xabi Alonso, Essien, and Modric will all be fairly handy on the ball on Wednesday night so there's a good chance the same will happen then. Man Utd did allow a lot of shots at goal but over half of them were blocked and perhaps the defenders did a good enough job to ensure only two were actually on target. It was also interesting that Everton attempted nearly 50 more passes in the attacking third than Man Utd. While they didn't complete an enormous percentage of these passes, Man Utd can be pleased that they were able to soak up the pressure for decent periods of the game.
2. Man Utd not only did a job on Fellaini but also kept the threat of the left side of Everton to a minimum.
Have a look at where the tackles and interceptions occurred on the pitch. Lots of Man Utd tackles on the right side of the pitch (i.e. Everton's left attacking side) and lots of interceptions/tackles deep in their own area. In fact it's somewhat peculiar they attempted only three tackles in the opposition half. Perhaps this is an indication that SAF will want to sit deep and absorb a lot of pressure? Maybe he's worried about playing too high a line given how obscenely fast Ronaldo is and how Rafael has made a few mistakes in the past when under a lot of pressure.
3. Man Utd conceded quite a few positionally strategic fouls.
I might be speculating here, but Man Utd conceded 13 fouls yesterday, with a large concentration (5) of them occurring in a cluster on Everton's left side around the half-way line. This is a great place to concede fouls as you generally won't get a yellow card until you've committed quite a few niggly tackles in this area and it may have helped to stop the play building in a threatening way down this side. This could be a great tactic to employ to cope with Ronaldo on Wednesday night.
So glad European football is back! Combined with Monday night footy it basically means I don't need to bother having friends anymore until the summer.
Worried About The Wingers
Let me start by saying it's a good thing Fergie played a strong team after seeing the City result because if City had won he would have played a different team and this was United's chance to strike a blow to City and their title defence.
Now Man United have a problem at the wings with Young, Nani and Valencia all out of form and if there's one thing Madrid's full-backs hate its pace which is an area United should exploit but we have slim pickings. My biggest problem is Valencia not knowing how to use his left foot. Even Gareth Bale and RVP use their weaker foot (chocolate foot) every now and then but Valencia just won't do it. As a pro footballer getting paid major pounds a week he should be able to use both his feet for dribbling and crossing but instead he decides to pass the responsibility to someone else. He would be way more threatening and would strike fear in the other left-backs.
I'm hoping for a huge turn around in form from all of the wings as United should be ruthless in the remaining 12 games leaving nothing to chance.
Zaphetha (Zaps) MUFC in South Africa
Thoughts On Saturday's Games
* Roman Abramovich is known to be a man without patience; still can't figure out how that virtue is present with Rafa Benitez (with whom I'm not happy at all not b'coz of his statements against Chelsea earlier, but I just don't like his tactics/managerial style).
* Lamps - another goal, amazing distribution and a 8/10 performance; whadda playa.
* Luiz was an important player against Wigan; his ball retention and forward passes were key to the win.
* Talking about which - why do Chelsea play so many slow back passes when they're up front giving opposition time and space to win the ball back (a key reason they lost points while they were up front; the funny part though is Luiz does not care to bother to Rafa's back pass instructions I guess as Chelsea's fourth goal was a result of Luiz playing a forward ball from defence).
* On Man city game - I have not seen Yaya Toure bossed in midfield like this in my life; Jack cork was amazing (the whole of Saints team were).
* City did not look like a title-winning team - no cohesion in passing, errors in defence, forward line misfiring and outrun in midfield; more to do with Saints' hard work and tactics I suppose.
* An interesting question to Mancini - I am a fan of math, how exactly did you arrive at the 10% chance of winning the title from now (probability)? Would love to know if there is a new method of computing probability and thereby enhancing my knowledge in the subject.
Aravind, CFC, Chennai
Saints Fan Mad About Coverage
First impressions last. Journalists are lazy. We are lucky.
A few facts:
* After 10 games of the season Southampton had let in 28 goals (hence journalists are now hard-wired to say our defence is rubbish for the rest of the season - no need to watch us).
* Over the last 16 games we have conceded 17 goals (1.06 per game), only Manchester City have conceded at a lower rate so far this season.
* Over the last 16 games we have gained 23 points. A rate over the season which would currently put us seventh.
But of course Saints have just been lucky recently, because as we are rubbish (see first ten games), when we have subsequently got a decent result it is because our opponents have played badly (see match reports for Arsenal, Chelsea, Everton, Manchester City etc.). Clearly our opponents had all read the papers (the managers, not the players obviously - they just listened to Lawro) and become complacent and assumed that they would score a hatful of goals against us. Lucky for us.
An alternative view might suggest that it took us a while to adjust defensively to the Prem, scoring goals was never a problem. It should also be noted that the 11th game was the first start of the season for both Luke Shaw and Jack Cork.
Back to the journos. They all say that under Pochettino nothing has changed. It is the same players playing in the same formation as under Adkins. Well yes it is (sort of) ... except we now play 20 or 30 yards further up the pitch with a high-tempo pressing game (which I am just loving).
Moreover, after only three games under Pochettino the result against City was already coming. Whilst our goals against City were all lucky, the result wasn't. We should have scored a hatful against both Everton and Wigan. Even Sir has noticed we can play a bit (57% possession at OT anyone).
But really we have just been lucky, with our only plan being to trick our opponents into playing badly against us. Quite a good trick though.
Gareth Bale And History Repeating Itself
Okay, so the odds of this happening are slim (perhaps SkyBet can work out the odds), but what if the table finished (in order, 1-5)
And then, Arsenal somehow wins the Champions League, and takes the fourth spot away from Tottenham...how would this sit with Bale and his 'ambitions', and would he want to leave in order to play Champions League football elsewhere?
Hey, if Chelsea can win it with the squad they had last year, why can't Arsenal do it this year, even with Bayern Munich in their path?
Bryan (First letter ever, so 1 for 1 if published), New York, USA
Is Bale The Most Valuable Player In The League?
I posed this question last week to no avail (still love you MC) but feel it needs to be asked again after this weekend's performance.
Who is the most valuable player in the Premier League?
For sure there are many different ways to justify your answer. You can compare statistics (too circumstantial for my taste), game footage (extremely subjective based upon the viewers eye) or awards (largely influenced by ulterior motives).
But historically speaking, free markets have always been the best way to properly measure the worth of an asset (aside from today's never-ending government/central-bank money printing ponzi scheme). Now from time to time, teams over/underpay for assets (just like in business). But let's put the outstanding exceptions aside, and pretend that the transfer market is a nominally rational and efficient model as I ask this one last question.
Can anybody else see a PL player going for a higher transfer fee than Gareth Bale right now?
Brad, THFC, USA
Revelling In A Villa Win
Seeing as Villa don't win very often, I'm getting my smug money's worth with a an F365 email. So a few points from my footballing weekend:
- God it's nice to win a game of football again. Unfortunately I'm expecting something big to go wrong at any second.
- A massive hand to West Ham fans; all the ones I met over the weekend were top people, without exception - good-humoured, sympathetic for Villa's plight, mostly blind drunk, and respectful for the Petrov clap.
- But how the hell are they 11th?! Their home form must be good because they are literally the first team that have deserved to lose to Villa this season.
- Christian Benteke is far too good for us. That penalty was an absolute joke. It was like the music from the old Hamlet adverts was playing in the background when he rolled that sucker in. All the best wherever you end up next year, big man.
- Is it time to think about increasing the number of teams who go down? Don't get me wrong, if we stay up I'll be putting David Pleat in the shade - and it's looking like a Wigan-Villa play-off on the last day - but for the good of football we should be going down. Seriously, would anyone rather see Villa in the prem next year than Brighton, Palace, Cardiff (assuming they choke again)?
Revelling In Nigerian Win
Dear MC, please allow me share my Joy with fellow mailboxers as Nigeria Just lifted the AFCON for the third time in its history , after setting a record of most third-place finishes (we have reached the semi-final in all but two of the last six editions). Our last victory came in 1994, and the captain who lifted the trophy that day has delivered it to us 19 years later as a coach.
I must admit I was one of the many who did not expect much from the team yet I harboured a hope akin to that of the chronic gambler, an after watching our victory against the Ivorians, I knew 'this was our year'. I wanted to share my premonition with the good people of the mailbox however, I somehow did not get to send in the mail I wrote (the dog did not eat it). So please accept my a posteriori submission.
I have another premonition I have to share with you though, this is the year Arsenal ends the trophy drought. Yes I said it and you can hold me to it at the end of the season.
Woyin (Been a long while since I celebrated winning anything, either with Arsenal or Nigeria) Tianjin, China
Big-Ups To Tisdale
I expect by now you are bored witless with reading mails on United strolling to the title, City/Mancini imploding, ecstatic Southampton fans, Nigerian fans going loopy after beating Burkina Faso 1-0 and the like. Fair play, there was a fair plethora of notable footballing events over the weekend.
However, in the hope that a change is as good as a rest I thought I'd chance my arm with a mail to sing the praises of Paul Tisdale, who this weekend oversaw a classy 3-0 victory in a grudge match away to Morecambe, who beat us at our place by the same scoreline on the opening day of the season, and also beat us in the Conference play-off final a few years back to set up on of football's more unlikely/least local rivalries. Not only that, but this was our 10th away win of the season, which breaks our club record of most away wins in one season (9) which was also set by Tisdale back in 2008.
That said I am still quite looking forward to all the mails on the above topics that will keep this one out of the mailbox. Ah well.
Terry Hall, Switzerland