After a disappointing end to his three years at Real Madrid, could Jose Mourinho struggle to bring immediate success if he completes his anticipated return to Chelsea?
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...
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Thoughts From A United Fan
Well that was a pretty good night all round for United. I'm sure loads of people will write in with their expert views on how Rafael didn't have the best game ever etc, but I'd like to mention two things that actually were brilliant.
Firstly the pitch. Holy cow it was immaculate - even in HD. I've never seen anything like it. Does anyone know anything about it? Is it a grass/plastic blend, or just unnaturally natural? The bog at Old Trafford may prove a bit of a culture shock to the men in white.
Secondly the replays. Again perfect. The director focused on the bits that needed to be viewed again; and when called for, slowed the action down to almost a frame by frame rate so we missed nothing - they clearly have the use of high speed cameras that Sky et al have not yet invested in. Total eye porn.
Anyway, here's a few very brief points on the football:
* Rafael didn't have the best game ever.
* De Gea's ninja-kick save on the hour mark was amazing, even if I thought he probably could've used his hands.
* Carrick was very Carrick.
* The applause from the home fans for Giggs when he came on was a lovely show of respect...it brought back memories of the real Ronaldo's ovation (when going off) at Old Trafford ten years ago in that moment.
* That tackle from Giggs was lovely.
* Van Persie should've scored...I thought he had and celebrated. Tw*t.
* There were 30 seconds left on the clock when that last ball went out for a corner, and (at least) five seconds left when the ref blew for full time.
* I think United will go through.
Man United = Stoke
Just finished watching the Man U v Real match as well as reading your match article and I can't help wondering why England's best team (runaway leaders) can scratch and claw a draw after getting outplayed for a vast majority of the game, attempt to score by earning free-kicks, corners or long balls and get praised for such a 'professional' display. When certain teams attempt that in league play (against the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal, etc) they get slated by many for 'ugly' performances and are branded a blight on the league.
Oh, and I think we can put to rest the idea that Rooney is 'world-class' whatever your measurement stick. He is capable of some decent displays but in no way has the ability that the world's best possess. His skill level is just not 'world-class' and I'm not sure how anyone can argue otherwise. On the other hand that Van Persie fella is legit.
Hang Your Head, Wayne Rooney
The 80th minute summed Wayne Rooney up completely. He was to fat to out sprint someone and then tried to hit a long-range pass, but instead proceeded to boot the ball out of play.
When Welbeck looks twice the player you are, it's time to hang your head in shame.
I bet Fergie regrets persuading him to retract that transfer request.
Toby 'CTFC' Hudson
Welbeck: Willing Worker
I hope last night's performance settled all the Welbeck discussions in the mailbox over recent weeks. Someone rightly pointed out that he is fast becoming United's Kuyt. Rather than play him in the out-and-out striker role, Fergie has been using him out wide as well as just behind. And he had performed admirably well. Last night, he proved Fergie's faith in him with a vital away goal.
He does not have the natural talent or vision to be someone like Rooney or RVP. But he uses hard work and relentless running to make up for that. Yesterday, he hussled and harried the entire back line throughout his stay on the pitch. Even his England performances have the same hallmark and characteristics.
Welbeck may not be the next Rooney but he is still a vital part of this team. And as he grows older, who knows - he may develop the rest of his game.
Praise For Young Defenders
I am sure there will be a lot of praise for David De Gea. Some may say he performed brilliantly and finally answered his critics comprehensively, others may argue that he did what we all know is capable of doing. He proved yet again he is a brilliant shot stopper. I for one just hope this wasn't just an audition for Real Madrid to come calling next year or whenever Casillas hangs up his gloves? (Are we settled on that yet?) I will wait for the genius of the mailbox to arrive at a conclusion.
However I would like to applaud Rafael and Jones. Sure some may same he didn't have the best of games but he has matured. Just as recently as 2010 Rafael was sent off vs Bayern after his second yellow. He was booked in the first half and I was praying it wouldn't be a repeat of that night. Fergie will keep his faith for the crucial game at Old Trafford and Rafael will have a chance to make amends for the Bayern tie.
Jones displayed an incredible amount of energy and he's just 20 did an incredible job the whole game last night. All in all a good game and as Jose said it still is 50-50.
Conclusions From Across The Pond
1) Boy, games like these really makes you perceptive of time relativity. Compare the first half of this game, which was played at breakneck speed, to the first half of Aston Villa v West Ham. While I took a bathroom break, a nap and had text conversations with three people on three continents in the latter, I felt that I'd just settled in the couch when the half-time whistle blew at the Bernabeu.
2) First up, I really felt de Gea was flawless tonight, barring one flap in the first half. His shot-stopping was top-notch as always, and even his decision making was fantastic. He knew exactly when to come off his line and when to leave it to his center-backs, who both had incredible games. The BBC live text took the predictable 'good at shot stopping, bad at crosses' line, apart from Robbie Savage who bigged him up to insane levels (better than Hart? Right up there with the best?).
3) A couple of months back I'd written in comparing Jonny Evans to Gerard Pique, and how Fergie might have been right in keeping the former. I feel vindicated tonight. He was assured on the ball and heroic off it.
4) Phil Jones! What a beast! The rather flimsy Madrid forward line were just bouncing off his twisting hips. He seemed to be everywhere, tracking Ronaldo one moment, tackling Ozil the next, and brushing off Di Maria shortly after. This game signals his coming of age.
5) Benzema was so utterly disappointing. He was truly anonymous, largely due to his excellent marshalling by the United center-backs. Higuain was much better, at least he came up a couple of times on my TV screen whilst not sprawled on his arse. Benzema is a shoo-in for the worst performance on the night, but he had strong competition from...
6) Rafael. Jesus Christ on a motorbike. What is with him and tricky wingers in the Champions League? After his brain fade against the Robbery duo three years back, he seemed to have made so much progress, especially on the mental part of the game. To the guy whose friends thought he's better than Zabaleta, show them this match. Almost every single Madrid attack came down our right, and he was at sixes and sevens against Ronaldo and Ozil, when he drifted wide. After this horror show, Sir must be tempted playing Jones or Smalling on the right in the return leg.
7) My first reaction to their goal was to groan and shake my head. In real time, Ronaldo's leap over a stumbling Evra seemed too easy. The multitude of slow-mo replays showed me just how powerless the full back (who has a pretty impressive leap himself, as he's shown on multiple occasions this season) was against the, frankly, perfectly timed header. The magnificent Portugeezer almost stood still in the air while he lazily flicked his neck to arrow the ball out of the full-stretch goalie's reach.
8) Apart from the torrid time he gave to Rafael and the goal, I felt Ronaldo had a really quiet game. Maybe the emotion got to him somewhat, but he was not as influential in the Madrid attack as Ozil and Di Maria, who grew more into the game as it wore on.
9) Welbeck should take a lot of encouragement from his performance tonight and an excellently taken header. He followed the game plan to the tee and dominated his contest with the frankly woeful Alvaro Arbeloa.
10) Are all Spanish players with Sergio in their names whiny little cheats? Quite incredibly, my hatred of Ramos increased further with his gamesmanship tonight in getting Van Persie and Valencia booked.
11) While some of his decisions were a little bizarre (not booking Arbeloa, getting conned by Sergio Ramos), the ref had an excellent game overall. He let the play flow and allowed some fairly robust, but legal challenges, especially by Phil Jones and the last-man tackle by Varane on Evra.
12) Rooney and Van Persie had fairly quiet games but both put in solid shifts on a night in which they were feeding off scraps. Van Persie held up the ball excellently well, and his understanding with his fellow teammates, especially Kagawa, is a joy to behold at times. Rooney tracked back and helped his beleaguered full-back, especially after the latter was booked. His delivery for our goal was a peach.
13) Kagawa was impressive in the first half but gradually drifted out of the game. He was pushed off the ball too easily and tired very dramatically. Has he completed a full 90 in our kit yet?
14) Valencia was atrocious after he came on. Completely anonymous, apart from getting booked. He should've watched grandpa Giggs on the other flank, fighting and winning and running and creating, all at the sprightly age of 39.
15) If only the Van Persie air-shot was a proper strike...
16) That said, I (and I suspect a majority of United fans) would have taken a score draw before the game. So I'm happy. Bring on Old Trafford! I really cannot wait!
AB (Can we play you every week?) MUFC, Atlanta, Stateside
A Few Observations
* Van Persie is United's only truly world-class player. He was head and shoulders above every other united player on the pitch. Never lost the ball, skill and composure in both attack (well, except his wild swing and miss) and when helping out in defence. Pure class.
* Rooney does not like playing out wide. His creativity and talent are being wasted just because Fergie knows he will work his socks off and give protection to his full-back. Wonder how he felt seeing his old partner in crime Ronaldo being centre stage and the main man at his team while he himself was shunted out to do a defensive job for his team.
* Jonny Evans has become a very good defender.
* While Rafael did have a nightmare of a first 45 minutes, Fergie didn't help him by not playing Valencia in from of him from the start.
* Giggs is a legend!
Neil (AVFC, Dublin)
...* For all the hype everyone gave about Madrid thwacking United (which I personally wanted also), it didn't turn out that way despite De Gea's phenomenal performance
* Madrid's defence was for the taking, very clearly. Why United didn't press much I don't know.
* Or perhaps United have the same problem as Madrid - What to do with the ball (i.e. building from the back).
* Talking about which, good lord, Madrid really know only to play counter-attack (most of their shots on goals were sprung from counter-attacking opportunities).
* Neville said Ronaldo is a bully who takes on the weakest defender of the opposition; he did that with Patrice Evra and what a magnificient goal that was.
* Would Casillas have done the clownery the reserve goalie did for United's goal? Something we'll never know.
* Overall, I had the feeling there was a discord with Real Madrid team as a whole; did not see a fire or will to take the game; maybe the off-field stories could be true after all.
Aravind, CFC, Chennai
Dear The Footballing Community...
Wayne Rooney is not world class. He has never been world class, he is a good player but not world class. Last night is just another example, hitting the ball out of play and generally just being trunks. I hope this ends the Rooney debate...
Gavin (how overated is Marcelo!!! Answer = Very) Higgins
Why Liverpool Should Stick With Rodgers
In response to all the bleating from my fellow Liverpool supporters (did some of you stop watching at half-time in the '05 Champions League final?), two points to consider before you call for Brendan Rodgers' head:
It took Bill Shankly two and a half years simply to get Liverpool promoted back to the old first division.
It took Alex Ferguson four years to win a trophy (1990 FA Cup) at United.
Please be aware that I am not trying to put Rodgers in their class. I am simply trying to make people stop and think what would have happened if Shankly and Ferguson had been given half a season in which to make an impression on their new club. If we chop and change, as some are suggesting, all that will happen is the club will become a dysfunctional mess like Chelsea.
This season for Liverpool was always going to be about building a solid foundation, getting the wage bill under control and ensuring that what cash was available was spent on players who are actually worth it. This approach always had the potential to lead to a drop in overall league position, but it appears to have the backing of the owners. Saying we've spent $250mil on players to get worse is short-sighted - the man who made the majority of those decisions (Comoli) has quite rightly been sacked, with Rodgers, Ayre and co now set about digging the club out of the sizeable hole Comoli put it in.
Yes, Allen and Borini have played below what the club require, but so did Jordan Henderson last season, and he seems to have come good in recent matches. Those who have followed football for more than 15 minutes will remember players taking time to adjust to new teams and leagues, particularly the Premier League. Think of the big deal that was made over how quickly Ruud van Nistelrooy (and later Fernando Torres and Sergio Aguero) adapted to the Premiership - it was seen as the exception, not the rule.
Those demanding immediate improvement need to calm down. This is a process, and I have no doubt this process will continue in the summer with further additions (new goalkeeper, a central defender not prone to brain fades, and an out-and-out winger for starters).
Immediate results are not going to come, and we'll only know which side of the 'Rodgers is a headless muppet' debate is right, ironically, by giving him time. And by time, I don't mean three games, I mean more like three seasons.
Reports from the owners are that he will get at least this amount of time to prove that his Liverpool 'project' is on the right track, so you might as well just come to peace with it.
Alex, LFC Down Under
Liverpool = Sharon Stone
I don't konow what to make of Diarm's (deflated) mail. I loved his analogy, but hated the fact that he used it to make a point about Liverpool - a club that has won nine major trophies since the turn of the millennium and were champions of Europe eight years ago. If Liverpool is the fat ginger kid, what does that make the likes of wee Southampton, who have won one trophy in my entire lifetime (the Johnstone Paint Trophy at that)?
Cut out the self pity, Liverpool fans. Your club is like Sharon Stone. Well past it, a shadow of what she once was but still, by all means, do-able.
Dela, 24, Bombay