Jose Mourinho is getting a fair amount of credit for what Chelsea did to Tottenham while Daniel Levy and Man City are defended. Oh and there are more penii...
Is it a sacking offence if Arsenal don't win the FA Cup from here? Is it the players, the manager or the board who should go at Spurs? We have a bumper mailbox...
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Never Let Rooney Play As A No. 10 Again
Well that was delightful to watch. The best display of the Moyes era? Try the best in the last three years. I know Leverkusen were awful but I feel last night's display of rapid and incisive counter-attacking was down to two things - Kagawa at number 10, and Rooney not at number 10. I've been banging this drum for ages now but Rooney's best position is not at 10. He thinks it is, and has many people convinced it is, but it most certainly is not. Every time Kagawa got on the ball things visibly sped up - a shimmy and gone, quick little one-two and gone, turned his man and well you get the idea. That is what you want your number 10 to do. It was beautiful to watch and showed us what we have been missing. Rooney does almost the opposite when in the hole - he slows things down, no quick thinking, often terrible close control. He just doesn't have the necessary attributes to play there. Having said that, did anybody else think he had his best game of the season last night? And where was he playing? Centre-forward. That's where he is at his best and that's where he is/can be world class. His problem at the minute is the RVP is ahead of him for this spot although on last night's form there's a case to be made for Rooney's inclusion there. To be honest I don't really mind which one of them starts up front, as long as Rooney never gets near number 10 again.
The New Veron?
I'm sure this question will have been posed already, but is Kagawa the new Veron?
Luxury playmaker shoehorned into a competent midfield at the expense of others, pushed out wide to accommodate said players after a few less-than-flattering appearances, excuses from the manager and crows for patience from the fans.
Given a chance in his preferred position in slightly lower-key European games where he shines, only to revert to norm in the following league game after getting fans' hopes up.
Repeat ad infinitum.
Where Are You Chris?
So I was wondering why we rarely see mails from Chris MUFC after big United victories, particularly those in which Rooney is a key figure. Is it because there's a deluge of celebratory mail from others, and poor Chris gets lost in the crowd? Or is it simply that he's a negative little twunt who has rarely has anything positive to say about his team, especially when we win?
Was This Chris?
Towards the end of the Man U game last night they showed a shot of the Man U crowd celebrating. In amongst them I noticed a rather solemn looking young fella who looked like he'd found a penny but lost a pound. I'd have thought they would have all been happy, but not him, he wasn't having any of it. I put it down to a potential Leverkusen fan, or maybe an ABU friend of a Man U fan tagging along on the off chance Leverkusen gave them a similar styled whipping. These things happen you know.
However, given he was conspicuous by his absence from this morning's mailbox, and having seen Man U inflict their heaviest away defeat in the competition whilst keeping a clean sheet in a game where Rooney set up four thus securing David Moyes progression into the knock-out stages, it occurred to me, that grumpy chap could quite conceivably be Chris MUFC, quietly contemplating the fact 'I may have to face six more years of this'. That could be tough.
Got me thinking, If misery loves company, maybe he should consider supporting another team, one small enough to fit in the Shire maybe?
Chris ITFC 'We're going on an adventure' (currently spanning 11 years and counting), Liverpool
Ah, Here's The Real Chris
One brief Shinji point: it was interesting how little United hit the ball long last night (and how much better they were for it), even against supine opponents. Without van Persie sitting on the back four to lump the ball to, and with Rooney and Kagawa moving laterally and vertically instead, United looked far more fluid. Their play involved full-backs and wingers better, they were harder to mark and press, they pulled Leverkusen out of position well, and overloaded on certain points.
I wonder whether Moyes' United don't suffer a little from Crouch syndrome when van Persie and Fellaini play.
Two United Observations
Couple of random points, which just jumped into my head this morning while reading the paper:
1) Moyes deserves great praise for the way he's handled Adnan Januzaj's situation. Gives him a few pre-season matches, gets a good look. Likes what he sees. The kid has a blinder in his first start. Scores two goals. Media frenzy. National debate whether he should play for England (what a joke). Contract worries. Pogba situation on the cards. Moyes plays the kid regularly, shows him he's part of the future but more importantly the present. Kid signs a new five-year deal. Safely tied down to a long-term deal, Moyes rests him and sits him on the bench to aid with his growth. Safe in the knowledge he's not going anywhere he allows Kagawa and Nani an important last-chance saloon match. Surely Fergie should have done similar with Pogba and Morrison? Game time is the key to these kids (and f*ck loads of money, of course).
2) Ryan Giggs is the Welsh version of Anrea Pirlo these days. Do you see Juventus fans calling for him to be dropped because he's 34? Giggs is 40 FFS, and just bossed the midfield against the team second in the German League. Surely United fans have no right to ever slate this man again??
George (Should be working. Can't be arsed)
Jones In The Middle?
Have we finally found the right position for Phil Jones in the defensive midfield berth? Perhaps Moyes could have saved £27.5m on Fellaini and bought a shiny new centre half instead?
I was published earlier in the year discussing the merits of a 3-5-2 for United and still believe we should do this - it then accommodates Jones, Rooney, RVP and Kagawa.
Not In Central Defence Anyway...
Genuine question here: am I the only one that thinks Jones and Smalling have always looked a bit sh*t at centre-back? Not as a partnership necessarily but individually as well.
Keep hearing about how midfield and full-back are not their natural positions but from what I have seen (admittedly not a United fan) that's where their best performances have come from. Not outstanding - but certainly better than playing at centre-back.
What do we think?
Calm Down United Fans
Well talk about an overreaction or what? Man U beat a poor Leverkusen team who looked like a deer caught in the headlights and who were without their main threat in the pacey Sidney Sam and suddenly it's the second (or should that be third or fourth) coming.
Suddenly here's the proof Kagawa is this great number 10, however you are forgetting he was playing against a German team - you know the country where he built this reputation (well actually it seems more like the reputation comes through Kloop's endorsement rather than actual evidence of him producing that based on the fact there are cries of him not even playing in that position in England, therefore how do people know? - anyway I digress), so of course he should play well as he was playing against a style of football he is able to play against - so I'm not even going to use the tired, wet Tuesday night cliché and instead just say let's wait to see him do that against ANY English team in the Premier League because I sure haven't yet - that's despite him playing in that number 10 position before.
Now let's just wait for Sunday when Sp*rs roll them over and we go back to the hysterical Man U fans whining that Moyes is useless, Giggs is past it and all the other boring stuff no one cares about apart from them.
Jamie (gnileer meht ni) AFC
Let United Fans Have Their Moment
No doubt most United fans will be delighted at last night's performance and no doubt opposition fans will laugh at them for getting excited. However can we please share the love or something like that, let them have their little bit of happiness. They won 5-0 against a German team in Germany which is an achievement no matter how badly the other team played. They may not be the same team they were under Sir Alex, but they are improving and the constant attacks on them are going to make United fans terribly insufferable if they do actually manage to win something this season.
Andrew Worby (bring Bergkamp out of retirement!)
Bundesliga = La Liga?
So for the hype over the last few years about the German League, surely we are seeing now that it is basically no different to La Liga? One team to beat in Barca/Bayern, and the still pretty brilliant runner up who will beat everyone else i.e. Dortmund/Madrid.
On aggregate against Manu, Leverkusen lost 9-2. NINE! With a 5-0 loss at home!! That is shocking, the kind of loss you'd expect from the minnows of the competition, not a top four Bundesliga side. Factor in that Manu are obviously not the winners they once were, and it looks even worse.
Chelsea, also not playing particularly well, managed to beat Schalke 6-1 on aggregate. We did play well when we beat them 3-1 away from home, but at home we were so ordinary and still made them look s**t.
Don't get me wrong, this is not a jingoist attack on all football that isn't our beautiful Best League in the World¿. I love German football culture and think Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund deserve all the praise they get.
But give me a more competitive league any day, where at least three or four teams have the quality to win the CL. I mean, can you imagine Arsenal, Spurs, or Manu getting thrashed so humiliatingly in Europe? I can't even imagine Everton doing so badly.
Ollie, CFC, London
AVB Situation Is Crazy
People seem to have forgotten so I think it just needs reiterating how crazy it is for people to be calling for AVB's head or even speculating about it.
If, and I appreciate it's a big if, Spurs had won at City it would be they and not City sitting in fourth place. Recently they have been beaten by the same City side that thrashed United at home and the same Newcastle team who beat Chelsea.
Perspective people please. I'm neither a hipster or an oik, who thinks all you need in a team is more passion, but even as a Gooner I can see it's incredibly premature to be talking about sacking a guy who last season posted Spurs highest Premier League points tally in history.
The team currently top of the league is the team with the longest-serving manager and last term the league was won by the team with the longest-serving manager. It's coming to something when Newcastle have the second-longest serving manager. Stick with AVB and he'll come good.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London
No, He Needs To Learn Leadership Skills
Sorry Adam, but you have it all wrong with those rose-tinted glasses of yours.
If you scan google for the outcome of the Basel game, you will see that most of the headlines lead with 'Mourinho takes blame...', so clearly the media took him at his word - that he didn't think or recognise that the team were tired from their international and returning Prem league fixture. Yes, he is saying his team were not at their best but the manner in which he did it put the blame first on his shoulders.
On the point of giving away six to Man City, listen to how Ferguson handled that loss. He doesn't 'blame' the team, but puts it down to United's instinctive reaction to attack, continue to chase the game. Yes, he says it is a bad defeat and the team themselves will be and feel embarrassed and expects that they will respond to that. In his biography, he says when he went into the dressing room he called them a disgrace that it was a comedy, that he felt it showed Rio was on the wane, etc. So clearly a huge difference in how he handled the media right after the game - to what must have been a galling defeat - and what he said behind closed doors.
Now let's look at AVB. He has blamed the fans earlier for not being behind the team - not acceptable. Has blamed transfers not having time to bed in yet - yeah, a valid excuse I suppose but whose responsibility is it to bed in the players?
In the case of the defeat to Man City, it may be in the fact that he is speaking in a non-native tongue - although he speaks English fairly well - but it is the manner of the words he chooses. He is saying similar things to Ferguson but saying them in a way that critiques the team not having it that the team will be disappointed with themselves or that perhaps he could have set out the team better or reacted better to what was happening on the pitch. Either way, his history of criticising or blaming others or other things for impacting the team's performance creates the context for future comments. So AVB has laid his context bed as one of half empty, of it always being elsewhere.
AVB needs to act as a leader, not a victim. Mourinho and Ferguson's teams would go through a brick wall for them if asked. AVB needs to take a quick lesson in communicating as a leader if he is to ever get a top-class gig again. He is losing this one fast.
Analogy From The Stands In Spain
When presented with a locked door Barcelona assess the hinges, obtain the make and model of the lock and produce a set of implements designed specifically to pick that lock. It's inevitable they'll get in, they know it, you know it, it's just a matter of time.
Meanwhile, they send a member of the crew on a walk around the complex to see if they can identify an alternative point of entry. Maybe a window can be opened; maybe one already is.
Once inside they're mindful of not drawing too much attention to themselves, one of them has sensibly disabled any security system or silent alarm, but still they're quiet as a mouse.
Real, meanwhile, are stood at the door mindlessly, persistently and admirably, it must be said, shoulder-charging it - on the hinged side. Just hoping to hear a crack. Then, should the opening be wide enough, they'll all attempt to pour through at once.
Failing that they'll strap on a helmet and throw themselves into the impediment head on. If they're still outside someone will throw Bale or Ronaldo a sledgehammer and they'll do what they do best.
Once they've breached the door no one will stand guard, no one even knows where the silent alarm is (the players charged with knowing that sort of thing didn't do any reconnaissance) and they'll throw a bit of a party to celebrate their achievement, making them extremely vulnerable to detection or capture.
If Barcelona are the doctor, Real are the monster. If Barcelona are the hardworking, dedicated and studious teenager who'll get results come exam time because they prepare and care, Real are the reasonably intelligent one who'll have a good time along the way, be well liked by their classmates because they combine talent with jocularity and do pretty well because of it. One is methodical, the other wildly unpredictable.
That's my explanation of tiki taka vs long ball based on a week in Spain, having seen both Barcelona and Madrid in the flesh (without their superstars, admittedly, but still interesting to see how they function in their absence). I understand without Ronaldo, Alonso (until the hour mark) and Modric Los Blancos lacked a bit of finesse and imagination, so maybe the Galatasaray game is a bad example.
I think I just might prefer the Madrid approach, if only because of how bafflingly mad it can be to watch.
Quirky Traditions Please
The revelation of all Arsenal players wearing the same length sleeves actually blew my mind! So this got me thinking about what other strange or relatively unknown traditions are around at grounds. Any favourites?
The main one for us I reckon would be every opposition Goalkeeper gets a standing ovation from the Kop when they come out towards the Kop end. Yes, even Man United and Everton's goalkeepers (although they get booed if they don't acknowledge or return the favour).
Michael D'Arcy, LFC
Deep And Meaningful
Nice story about emailing from a plane...Do you remember that 'Radiohead song titles as footballers game' that surfaced briefly in mid 2009?
I sent one in and it was published. That letter was sent from a deep sea living chamber which was pressurised to 650ft. The same depth of water we spent several hours a day for several weeks repairing the legs of oil rigs (via a diving bell).
Bet I get black catted by an astronaut.
D. Pitt, Aberdeen