Backing United For The Champions League

It's a view, for sure. There's some spirited, mature and sensible debate in the afternoon Mailbox, plus one chap who just laughed at the latest Cleverley/Xavi comparison...

Last Updated: 19/02/14 at 14:21

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Alexis Sanchez: Really Not THAT Good

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The backlash has begun: Why are Barca letting him go if he's any good? We have mails on Alexis Sanchez, Luis Suarez, the World Cup and the wonder of F365...

Stop Your Sobbing And Man Up...

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Oh and honey, put the kettle on. We have more World Cup mails but it's mostly an orgasmic explosion at the signing of Alexis Sanchez. Could this be Arsenal's year?

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United For The Champions League
Pelligrini's statement isn't out of turn. The English clubs have found themselves at the wrong end of the stick against continental opposition quite a few times in recent years. The red card given to Nani last year completely changed the complexion of the match. I'm not suggesting that there's some conspiracy at play, but clearly the refs haven't improved at all considering how clean the English players have chosen to play in the past few years. And that's where they feel the pinch.

I also believe that this might well be United's year in the Champions League. Consider how they seem to play away from home and how we are far less predictable and you'd know that it makes sense. It's only when they come in with this "we are a better team and we have to win policy" is when they've come unstuck. A slightly conservative approach and a few opportunistic goals and you might see them in the semis. That's how you might, with a bit of luck (considering they've had very little in the league, I think they might get their fair share here), see United in the CL come 2015. Get's rid of all this pain i've been feeling recently.

Caught Up In City-Bashing
While I agree that City have spent - to give it it's technical name - a shed load of cash to assemble their squad, I think a lot of people seem to be overlooking the fact that Barcelona have done the same.

Blah Blah Blah La Masia, Blah Blah homegrown players etc.

But the 14 players who represented City last night cost £202m combined. The 13 players who represented Barcelona last night cost a combined £167m. City may have spent a fortune, but Barcelona aren't exactly shy about splashing the cash either and have been doing it for a lot longer.

I don't want to get into net spend / source of money / lottery winner debates. But it seems to me that sometimes people get so caught up in City bashing they forget that other clubs spend onscene amounts of money too.
Doug, ( AFC ) Belfast

...Writing in to defend Manchester City feels like the gravest of sins, being a fan of one of the teams they leapfrogged overnight, using the cash of an oppressive regime that hates gays and oppresses women.

So that fact that I'm doing it tells you something about what rubbish Richie the Celtic fan was spouting in your mailbox this morning.

As a neutral, I wanted City to lose. But they put in a really impressive performance with ten men for half the game and had several great chances to equalise. They continued to play pretty attractive football and Pellegrini admirably refused to shut up shop in a bid to keep the goals down even when down to 10 men.

I sat down to watch the game hoping to see City thrashed but ended up rooting for them. Had to shower afterwards, mind.

In short, Barca did not make Man City look like Celtic. They made them look like Man City with 10 men.

To compare that performance with Celtic's, who are of course made to look like Man City every week by the dross they compete with, is one stop short of Sauchiehall Street i'm afraid Richie.
Rob Davies, THFC

Blues Views
Ouch. This morning's mailbox was a tough read. But expected and quite eviscerating, like pulling a plaster off or biting the chubby bullet at the end of the night.

A lot of nonsense from gleeful rags (someone on twitter actually suggested Pellegrini was evens with Moyes to be sacked before the end of the season) and the normal 'if you spend millions you should beat everyone' from just about everyone else who seem to think their own team are cast in the image of the Lisbon Lions (Gooners, I'm looking at you).

It's that last point I'd like to address; I would be interested to see how much Barcelona have spent cumulatively on La Masia, the staff and coaches to manage it and the youth teams, the numerous contracts for young players who never made it as well as the wages for the players who currently appear in the first team , all in the last 7 years playing their style of tiki-taka. Whilst it probably wouldn't be as much as it's taken the Sheikhs to get us where we are, I doubt it's buttons either. If anyone can provide some figures I'd appreciate that.

Anyway, the quadruple is probably off now. We'll have to settle for the treble instead. Boohoo.
Blue Tim

...If this morning's Mailbox is anything to go on then it seems a lot of people got quite the kick from watching City lose to Barcelona last night. That's absolutely fine by me, you're welcome to derive enjoyment from football in whatever form you see fit and I'd be lying if I said I hadn't indulged in a fair amount of schadenfreude myself this season (*cough* David Moyes *cough*).

It seems the majority of the derision aimed at City stems from the amount of money which has been invested in the club over the last five years and that's also understandable to a point. It can be irritating having to listen to people bang on about how vulgar it all is and how City should win every game with a squad assembled at such expense, as if football isn't even sport played by humans anymore and matches just consist of wads of banknotes blowing around on grass, but I'm used to it now and I realise that a lot of football fans are fickle hypocrites who will alter their opinion to suit whatever's going on at their club (see United fans leaping to their club's defence following criticism surrounding Rooney's new contract this week, for example).

Last night's result was disappointing for a number of reasons but, regardless of the cost (which isn't necessarily the same as "value") of our players, there's no disgrace in losing to a huge club like Barcelona who have a great team even on a bad day. I felt City more than matched them up until Demichelis was sent off (and weren't exactly outclassed with ten men either, despite what the detractors would have you believe) and had the game finished 1-0 I'd be feeling pretty confident about getting back into the tie in the second leg. 2-0 is far from insurmountable but it's obviously going to be extremely difficult to get a result without conceding at Camp Nou in two weeks time and I'm not expecting us to progress to the next round.

I'm a little bit disappointed in our manager's post match comments regarding the referee as I'd hoped he was above that sort of thing really. I agree that it was a poor night for the officials which made for a frustrating game but I think it's fair to say both sides had decisions go against them and suggestions of bias sound too much like paranoia for my liking.

To conclude this collection of random thoughts/therapeutic exercise I'd like to write a few words in defence of the man who surely has the most frequently mis-spelt surname in football history, Martin Demichelis. It seems a lot of City fans and the wider football populace have chosen poor Martin as the natural successor to Per Mertesacker as English football's figure of fun, possibly because of his lack of pace but more likely because of his girly hair. Whatever the reason, it seems the bloke can do no right and it's reached the stage where, when picked, he's written off before a ball has even been kicked and anything good he does (such as the first 53 minutes of last night's match) is completely disregarded by those who had already made up their minds.

It was actually Vinny Kompany who was caught out of position last night in the build up to Demichelis bringing Messi down and in hindsight he probably should have just let him try and score (although I suspect he probably would've been roundly criticised for that as well) but you can't really blame him for doing what he did and it's extremely unfair to pin all the blame for the result on him. He isn't the best centre half in the world (that accolade belongs to the aforementioned Big Bad Belgian in my humble opinion) but he isn't nearly as bad as some would have you believe either. You don't earn 37 caps for Argentina and play for Bayern Munich for seven years if you're crap, so let's cut the guy some slack please.

Even if we do somehow manage to turn things around in the second leg I feel winning the Champions League is a bridge too far for the "most expensively assembled squad ever" this season and we have plenty of reasons to be cheerful domestically so it's not too disheartening. To concur with the esteemed Sarah Winterburn, this club has plenty of time to learn to be challengers in Europe and won't be brooked easily. We've arrived at the top table and now we're making ourselves comfortable.
Dan (still amused by the caller on BBC Radio Manchester last night who was incensed that "Djokovic" didn't play) MCFC

Kompany v Demichelis
Why is no one talking about Kompany's role in the first Barca goal?
Demichelis is the easy scapegoat, he has previous, he committed the foul, he got red carded yes.

But the entire scenario would not have arisen if it wasn't for Kompany's lack of awareness and poor positioning that allowed Messi to run through on goal.
If you watch it again, you'll see if Kompany had simply stood with his defensive line and not panicked when Navas lost the ball and started rushing back towards his goal ten yards behind the line then Messi would have been miles offside. In fact Messi actually stops and waits for Kompany to play him onside!

Don't get me wrong, Kompany had a really good game, but the fact that Messi was through on goal was his fault not Demichelis.
Malcolm (Don't get me started on Clichy's "movement" for the 2nd goal) S

Well, it was mentioned here...

A Xavi Riposte
To that fella on about Xavi, how about that pass for the offside goal? Commentators didn't mention it as they (and you, probably) were distracted by the ball going in that big white thing, but I was jizzing my pants.
Silvio Dante

Giving And Taking
I don't disagree with Manc in SA necessarily: I think an enormous part of Xavi's appeal in the 21st century is that he's successful without actually doing a great deal; thus on the surface people say 'I think Xavi is amazing', whereas what they're actually saying is 'I recognise stuff about the game you don't because I'm cleverer than you'. Some Mancunians might call this the 'Scholes effect'.

However, while Xavi's giving of passes might not be much to write home about, it's more the, er, taking that's the big deal. As we all know, Barcelona bore everyone to death through passing, wait until the opposition are far enough out of position, then boom - through ball to Messi/Neymar/Alves/etc. and that's that.

For that to work, there is a fair bit of dull sideways fare required, but most importantly you've got to have somebody who can receive the ball - and 99 times out of 100, this is Xavi, and as he receives it he knows where the next pass needs to go. Usually to someone not more than 20 feet away, granted; but the fact he's permanently in space and can make these functional passes without f***ing anything up means that several times a game, straight away one pass becomes three or four at least, which is how they want to play.

Whereas next time England are playing, watch when centre backs/Gerrard have the ball, there won't be a white shirt within 25 yards; and so what happens next? Booming 70 yard pass into touch. Obviously, suggesting Xavi would be a good enough player to play for England isn't really an argument for anything, but the reason he's more than Carrick/Cleverley is because those two want to see enough of the ball and don't move it around quickly enough; the fact they all make pointless passes isn't the issue.

And he's better-looking.
Neil Raines

...Manc in SA rather misses the point about Xavi not making 'killer' passes. Barca's whole philosophy is to retain possession, work their way into the opposition half and eventually the opportunity of a 'killer' pass will present itself as it did last night. Think of Barca more of a beautiful V12 engine and Xavi is the premium oil that lubricates it.
Ed Mountifield

...Manc In SA,


*pauses for breath*


Hop in the bin. There's a good lad.
Kris, LFC, Manchester

A Letter To The Broadcasters
I'm sure you're going to get millions of these, but...

Dear ITV,

- I'm aware that Barcelona like to keep the ball for extended lengths of time, so you don't need Clive and Andy to keep reminding me.

- That said, if they do keep the ball for 10 minutes yet fail to register a shot on target, they might need a plan B, despite Clive's insistence that their plan A is foolproof.

- Some teams are aware of Barcelona's style of play and set themselves up specifically to counter it. Therefore, if a team sits back and, again, fails to allow them a shot on target for 30 minutes, that might actually be good tactics, not pure luck in the face of such footballing godliness.

- Stringing 2 passes together isn't 'better', Andy. It's the bare minimum expected of players in the Champions League knockout phases.

Jamie W (A fan who has seen more than one team play football)

Couple Of Points
Scott (the real CFC) suggests that Arsenal's highbred (sic) Desso Grassmaster pitches may be to blame for their injury problems. It's not a crazy notion, but a quick look on Wikipedia indicates that at least 20 league clubs (10 of which are Premier League) are currently using a Desso surface, so it's probably not the the case.

Also, Tom (there are countless more but I don't want to bore you) Goldenballs - I think you mean Chris Samba as opposed to Cherno Samba. Chris Samba is the lumbering defender 'Arry signed for QPR and then sold a few months later. Cherno Samba was THE wonderkid in CM01/02. There is a parallel there in that they both turned out to be rubbish, so I'll forgive you.
MC in DXB.

On Realism/Pessimism
Malcolm, AFC, I read your e-mail this morning and my immediate reaction was "I know who this guy is, I had exactly the same conversation with him on Arseblog yesterday".

Without wishing to go over the ground we've already covered elsewhere, my immediate priority is to find out if it was you. So, are you MTZ, the algorithm worker on Arseblog?

Now, to your question. I wholeheartedly believe we can beat Munich. Do you know why? Because football is unpredictable. Because we have already beaten them once in the last twelve months. Because we got to a champions league final in 2006 with Flamini playing left back for a vast amount of the games. Because if we all subscribe to your *realistic* view, then we should just hand the trophy the Bayern now and be done with it.

Your view is inherently pessimistic because it assumes the worst and doesn't allow any room for variables. I suspect this may have a lot to do your character, if you are indeed the algorithm worker I mention above. The trouble is, people aren't computers and you can't just crunch numbers and get the results you expect like you would working with computers. If you could, bookies would no longer exist and Degsy might actually be contributing something useful to society.

Arsenal are a great club, with some fantastic players and are capable of beating anyone on their day. It is not optimistic to think they can beat Bayern, as it is an entirely plausible outcome. Allow yourself the opportunity to believe that and you might extract something more from football than you currently do. Come on buddy, allow yourself to get hurt a little.
Patrick Dalton, AFC (Unnecessarilystupid)

On Mediawatch
Unfortunately, but for an odd break from the norm one day a few weeks ago, Mediawatch does not have a comments section and so I will have to attempt to use the mailbox to give a response. Although there is more than one story/comment worthy of rebuttal (are you only allowed to use phrases in German when referring to a German manager?), I will, of course, address the story closest to my heart. That being the response to Matthew Syed's column defending my beloved Manchester United. I have a rather desperate need to call F365 out on the whole 'even his relatively banal statements are treated in this manner'. The author, surely, is aware that every utterance of David Moyes' Manchester United career thus far has been analysed, criticised and thrown onto the F365 front page? And yes, this has included stories that infer meanings that were not necessarily intended ('I find it hard to believe that's how the balls came out of the bag' - of course it's hard to believe, the chances are pretty slim, much like you might say 'I can't believe Wigan beat Manchester City in last year's FA Cup Final'. It happened, it just seems so unlikely that it's difficult to believe) as well as ignoring parts of his quotes (the whole nonsense about Moyes saying Rooney was backup to RVP, despite Moyes stating in the very same interview that he wanted to play them together). Now I like Mediawatch, but something needs to change because the hypocrisy is getting too much!
Tom, Manchester

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Mail Box

Alexis Sanchez: Really Not THAT Good

The backlash has begun: Why are Barca letting him go if he's any good? We have mails on Alexis Sanchez, Luis Suarez, the World Cup and the wonder of F365...

Stop Your Sobbing And Man Up...

Oh and honey, put the kettle on. We have more World Cup mails but it's mostly an orgasmic explosion at the signing of Alexis Sanchez. Could this be Arsenal's year?

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