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Hughes And Bruce For United. Really.
In Manchester United's dreadful current season, one of the flimsy tries for credibility is to say that appointing David Moyes, and giving him a massive contract, signifies that United do things the proper way. Succession from manager to manager, building legacies, and not simply hiring the nearest available super-manager-for-hire. In this version of events, United's decision to spurn Mourinho, Guardiola, or any other top boss is a kind of virtue. That's not how we do things round here.
And yet apart from being from Glasgow and being Ferguson's mate, what does David Moyes have to do with any of this? He has no connections to United, as a player or manager, no history of playing football similar in style to United's, no affinity to that part of the country, and nothing else that could in any way link him with the traditions that the club prides itself on. And here's where Steve Bruce and Mark Hughes intrude on my sleep.
While Moyes is administering footballing mogadon to his new club and their supporters, two United legends are currently taking, respectively, Stoke to their first ever top 10 finish, and Hull to their first ever FA Cup Final, as well as securing them safety when they were widely predicted to go straight back to the Championship. Sparky was brought into Stoke to get them playing something less horrible than Pulis did before him, and has largely succeeded. Hull may not be setting the league on fire, but they are one of the better to watch sides in the lower half of the table.
Moyes has been criticised for being dull, managing the press badly, and failing to win the respect of the dressing room. Bruce and Hughes, as club legends, would surely have had a certain amount of respect, neither are as charmless before the cameras as Moyes, or make teams as tedious to watch. And - which the Glazers would no doubt have liked - they'd have been cheap as chips.
Yet if anyone had suggested them for the United job, they would have been locked in the nearest padded room.
My point, if point I must have, is not that either of them should now be managing United. But would they really be any worse than Moyes? So ah! That's my point. If two managers who would never have been considered for the job would probably have done the same, or better, than David Moyes, and are currently overachieving with their own clubs, how bonkers was it to contract him to the job for the next 6 years? And what a lot of hot air it is to suggest that Ferguson's whim in anointing him boss has to do with some mythical 'United Way' and not the final despotic decision of a retiring leader.
Having gotten that off my chest, now perhaps I can go to sleep.
Lionel "More Flair than Lionel Blair" Blair
Liverpool Fan Staying Worried
As a Liverpool fan I am struggling with the tension of this title race. Sunday was one of the most intense emotional experiences in all my years of watching football but I've always said over the last few weeks that the real test will be when Chelsea come to Anfield. I am dreading it. Say what you like about Mourinho, he's a pain in the ass, albeit a very entertaining one, but there are few better than him at making a tactical plan for one game that can outsmart anyone.
When Barcelona looked unbeatable he was the man to knock them out of the Champions League. When Arsenal were bulldozing everyone earlier in the season he played out a dull-as-dishwater 0-0 draw at the Emirates and denied Arsenal two points, while gaining one for Chelsea. And above all, he somehow figured out a way to win at the Etihad without conceding. While the loss at Palace has made some people take their eyes off Chelsea they are still right in it.
Palace away will be a very tricky fixture for us too and if we can't beat Norwich and Newcastle we can only blame ourselves but Chelsea is the big one. I allowed my self to sing 'We're gonna win the league....' yesterday for the first time but Mourinho might have other ideas. This is the best title-race in years. Despite it taking years off my life and potential of heartbreak it's a joy to be in the mix, for a change.
Richie (please, please, please, please, please let it happen) Dunne
Flash In The Pan?
It pains me to say this as a United fan but this Liverpool title challenge looks like it might well be successful.
The only question I pose to the mailbox is wether they think this is equivalent to Wolfsburg winning the Bundesliga a few years ago. I personally feel that as well as they have played, this is a one-off flash in the pan season for them and they will struggle next year.
Mostly because I believe they've been fortunate that a large number of their players have hit form at the right time along with their absence from cup competitions. However, this summer if Madrid come calling for Suarez and with the Champions League games midweek, they will struggle.
What do Liverpool fans think?
What Were Wenger's Targets?
Not a Gooner but this is one that is starting to get me. Many people have contributed recently saying essentially "Arsene has not performed, therefore Arsene must go".
Quite rightly, people are saying that in business, people in high managerial positions have (usually) clear targets and if they don't reach them - it's goodbye Sir.
Personally I am not in a managerial position, but I also get targets every year. I try to achieve them, and often slightly exceed them, but that's it. No more. If I see I'm on target and have some time to spare, then I kinda slack off and spend a lot more time on sites such as Football365 and others. Shoot me but that's me and I doubt I'm the only one.
Now as regards to Arsene Wenger, if his objective, as set by his paymasters, was to win the league or the FA Cup, then sure, he has failed in the last 9 years. No question.
But was this his real objective? The one agreed between him and the Arsenal board? I would say no, it wasn't. His real objective was probably to be in the top 4 at the end of the season, with possibly for added measure be in the hunt for the title at some stage during the season (which is a cynical objective whose sole purpose was to get the fans excited, renewing their season tickets at high prices). And by that measure, my friends, he has achieved, most years including this one.
I am sure year after year, the economist in Arsene has budgeted in order to achieve this at minimal cost - hence lack of heavy investment in the squad most years and broken-down negociations with his top players who asked for big money, didn't get it and so went elsewhere. If the objective had been the title, then Arsene might have thought he needed to keep his star players and attract some new ones for this and would have spent more. But since he saw that the objective was achievable without breaking the bank, well guess what - he didn't break the bank and yet achieved his target.
Unfortunately, unless we know exactly what the targets were, we won't know whether the board is to blame for setting the objectives too low, or Arsene for not reaching them.
In response to Paul, LFC, Ireland I think the reason versatility is seen as a good thing that Raheem Sterling, but not so much with Phil Jones. is that the positioning of a defender is much more important than an attacking player. A key part of the way that Liverpool play is the movement of the attacking players, making the runs that Brendan Rodgers means that players like Sterling aren't really nailed down to one position. However, positioning is probably the most important aspect of defending, so people believe it's important for defensive players to regularly play in the same position, so they are used to it and therefore know how to position themselves.
As a side note, when was the last time a player who wasn't in the first team at the start of the season went on to be so influential later on? Sterling's turnaround has been incredible.
...Paul, LFC, Ireland a great question about flexibility with a simple answer: Raheem Sterling has looked like a champion is nearly every position he has played this season. Phil Jones has looked a bit championship in nearly every position he has played this season.
In the former case, we wonder what he couldn't do on a football pitch, in the latter we suspect had he focused on one thing he might be a bit better at it by now.
Wenger > Pellegrini
If Arsenal win the FA Cup and qualify for Champions League after going out of CL to a team that made the semi-final, and Man City win the League Cup, qualify for CL after going out to a team that only made the CL quarter finals, does that mean Arsenal have had a better season than City?
I would say it does, if you compare the squads who from Arsenal gets into the City team.
A Biased Conclusion
Net spend debates I can handle. Endless debates about video refs are annoying but a discussion the game needs.
I bloody well draw the line at mails about 'penalty difference' though.
The fact is Liverpool have had a ridiculous amount of dodgy penalties, in particular earning them three points from Fulham a few weeks ago to keep them in the title race.
Can we also put to bed the whole 'we attack loads so we're bound to get more' theory. It's actually because your front four are diving little oiks who have, rather annoyingly, all come into form at the exact time and look to be scoring their way to a final day show down.
Luca James Sparks
I read Paul's email about Newcastle and got to the part where he describes Triple H as HHH. Isn't that a bit like saying someone has standards standards or needs to have a heart bypass heart bypass heart bypass?
Good mail besides though.