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It’s not fear; it’s respect
Dave – Dublin asked why United fans are acting scared of Pep’s City. My first answer is because on a certain evening in Madrid, in 2010, Real tried to be expansive and were thrashed 5-0 by a Pep led Barca. Since then Mourinho has learnt better than to try and go toe to toe with his no.1 nemesis. Mourinho proceeded to employ the dark, evil arts of football, when facing barca and began a media campaign against Pep and Barca that eventually saw Pep step down as Barca coach. Apparently, it was too much for Pep’s health, and is said to be one of the reasons he quit Barca.
Barca were a behemoth, and despite having Ronaldo, Madrid as a team were a few levels below Barca. Mourinho employed whatever tactics he could muster to beat them. The head to head is 7-3, in Pep’s favour, but the 3 of Mourinho should not be scoffed at. He took on the best team in the planet, and managed 3 wins and 6 draws.
In the Manchester derby however, Mourinho has arguably the better team, at least on paper and Pep cannot call on the likes of Messi, Xavi, Iniesta. No one in city’s colors is a match for those three, Silva, De Bryuna, and Sterling while wonderful, pale in comparison to what Pep could throw at Mourinho before.
That said, I expect very professional performances from both, and Mourinho probably getting the win due to his experience in the PL. But if Mourinho goes ultra negative, he will have lost some of that goodwill he has received so far. A 1-1 works out well for both men, but Pep will come of the happier man, having beat Mourinho in Spain, and holding him in what is considered a league Mourinho has mastered.
Jose’s bus returns?
So the Manchester derby. Is it even possible to have that much ego on a football pitch at any one time? Each an every incident will have the collective horn of a billion news and TV reporters. Every moment will be analysed and re analysed with fancy giant touch screen tablets. Everyone will be predicting an exciting goal fest with Rashford scoring a last minute winner.
I can only see 2 outcomes.
The probable. Jose makes it all about him and delivers a turd inducing bore draw or
The possible. Jose makes its all about him and the resulting ego collision creates a hole in space and time.
H, (any nuclear bunkers in L4?)
Tomorrow will spell the end of Rooney
Against the quick, slick, energetic style of Pep’s City Rooney will stick out like a sore thumb. So, prediction time. Rooney will start. Rooney will be gash. City will win comfortably. Tomorrow will effectively spell the end of Rooney’s Utd career. You heard it here first.
Banjo, Prague (MCFC)
‘Near neutral’ view of the derby
Michael Cox (in the guardian) wrote a fantastic piece about the tactical geniuses that Pep and Jose are; the former tweaking his sides based on opponent’s weakness that ensures his best players get the space to play and the latter finding a solution to block big teams. Going in this trend, I’m going to narrate two games of Jose that are exceptions and provide proof that he is more than just a defense minded manager:
(a) Internazionale 3-1 Barcelona
This was a game where Jose’s Inter had no choice but to attack as they had already lost 2-0 to Pep’s Barcelona in the group stages and this was the first leg at home, so a win was a bare minimum. Jose did something uncharacteristic in this game – send out a team to attack Barcelona constantly! Despite Pedro opening the scoring, not only did Inter win the game, but the manner of their play was absolutely brilliant: dominance in the air and controlling space ensured Barcelona found life misreable at the San Siro that night. They bullied the Catalans throughout the game and it was a miracle that Inter didnt score a goal or two more.
(b) Manchester City 0-1 Chelsea
This was Jose’s first away game to City in early 2014. We were 3 points behind City who had the best squad and technically dominant team. As much as everyone expected us to park the bus and play for a draw, there was a surprise. Pairing Matic and Luiz in midfield, we ran the midfield of city that was painfully lead by Demicheles. It was an absolute pity that the scoreline didnt reflect our dominance in the game despite us having 35-40% of the ball. We hit the bar, missed chances and Joe Hart inevitably made the scoreline respectable.
The common factor behind both games in my opinion was that unlike his natural self, Jose actually allowed his full backs to go up and join the attack in numbers. In both games, the full backs scored (Maicon and Ivanovic). I felt while watching both games, that Jose was clearly pushed to the wall and finally let the brakes off his full backs and set up a system that doesnt cost his defensive structure, yet allow the FBs to attack. This also reminds me of Sudarsan Ravi’s email yesterday, and he had a point that I agree about how United can attack city – the wide areas. Jose has probably the best left back in the division (shaw) who is a natural as an attacking full back. He also has limited experience of beating superior sides by actually attacking them through space control and counter-attacks. Will he allow Shaw/Valencia to go up the pitch? Pep also has a lot to think – Zlatan to me is the best CF in the division along with Aguero in terms of single-handedly impacting games. If Jose drops Rooney, and sets a midfield of Pogba, Fellaini and Herrera, Pep is in trouble. I dont think City can have it easy handling the midfield of United+Zlatan as easily as they might think and maybe Pep might come up with a surprise like an inverted goal keeper actually.
Aravind, Chelsea Fan (having followed Jose for many years and now beginning to understand Pep, fascinating game ahead)
Calm down on Eric
Can we ease off with the Bailly praise. He has been really good so far, but he definetely has a mistake in him. Against Southampton for example, they had two chances which were both from Bailly switching off and letting Long almost go one on one with De Gea.
I just wanted to pen a quick note about fans and media blinkers. Obviously we’ve all witnessed it in managers… Wenger and forwards/defenders, Sir Alex and midfielders, Klopp and left backs, Jose and self awareness / dignity.
But fans and media (one and the same surely?) are just as bad. I won’t dwell on the obvious because both sides are reasonably accused of refusing to see the opposing. But look at Januzaj. There seems to be a collecting forgetting of how stunningly good a player he looked under Moyes, before Van Gaal shipped him for not being defensively wiling and having a ego. He was brilliant, and two managers treating him shabbily shouldn’t make us forget it.
I don’t know what I really expect from this but I’m sure there must be other players who are harshly and incorrectly remembered by their own fans, and I’d be interested to know who I’ve falsely remembered. Ramsey seems to experience the ups and downs if this within every season!
Call off the Griezmann rumours
So Atletico Madrid have a transfer ban for the next two transfer windows. Can we assume this is the end of all those transfer rumours linking Griezmann to Man Utd & Chelsea? Or shall we have a guess which newspaper runs the story first and completely fails to mention the ban?
The only way he leaves now is if the €100m buyout clause is met and even then I’m not sure Griezmann would want to damage Atletico by leaving whilst they have a transfer ban.
Mark B, MUFC
Three games to watch this weekend
Arsenal-Southampton. Both sides need to improve. Southampton have taken 34 shots from outside the box, 10 more than any other team. Arsenal have taken only 17 shots inside the box, half as many as leader Man City and one fewer than Hull. If Claude Puel sticks with the diamond, central midfield should be very crowded. Look for Mesut Özil to operate in the half-spaces to the sides of Oriol Romeu, who has been inconsistent, and for Alexis Sanchez to drift to the left. On the other side, there’s a potentially excellent matchup between Dusan Tadic and Granit Xhaka. I’m betting both DM’s get at least one yellow. Ryan Bertrand will hopefully be back to provide much-needed width for the Saints. In light of Arsenal’s poor second-half defensive showing against Watford, there’s no time like the present to put Shkodran Mustafi in the lineup.
Liverpool-Leicester City. With both sides having settled modes of play, there should be few surprises. Daniel Amartey played well in front of the back four against Swansea, but will he be risked against the Liverpool press? There’s a rumor Liverpool have a left-back problem, but Riyad Mahrez will be cutting inside where others can pick him up. Could Claudio Ranieri shift Marc Albrighton to the right? Wes Morgan has been the weak point in the Leicester defense, but the Reds don’t have the aerial threat to exploit it. Roberto Firmino should be effective, though, dropping back a bit into the middle, and if Philippe Coutinho can be convinced to stop shooting, he might use the space in the channel well. In this fixture last year, Liverpool reduced the Foxes to an abysmal 56% passing success, and won 1:0 — but their goalscorer now plays for Crystal Palace.
Burnley-Hull City. A relegation six-pointer, even in early September. The key will be whether Hull’s extra man in central midfield, where we might see Ryan Mason, outweighs Burnley’s extra man up front. Sam Vokes’ aerial prowess will be a crucial part of the Burnley attack, but Curtis Davies has won 79% of his aerial duels so far. Will new signing Jeff Hendrick start for the Clarets, and where? For Hull, Abel Hernandez may have to be rested after the international break, so could Will Keane, who has impressed in training, actually get a start? It might be too early for new signing David Marshall to grab the keeper spot, but he’s a step up in quality on Eldin Jakupovic, currently deputizing for the injured Allan McGregor. Burnley must get three points, and with Hull due for a little bad luck, I’ll go with the Clarets.
Oh yeah, almost forgot. Manchester United 1:1 Manchester City (Ibrahimovic 27; De Bruyne 71)
Peter G, Pennsylvania, USA
Setting the record straight
As an American football fan I have a natural interest in the development of young Christian Pulisic and sentiments like Brian’s, though undoubtedly well-meaning, make me a little queasy.
But, it should be noted, in reposte to a certain part of his mail, that Freddy Adu was never one of the world’s top teenagers, and certainly not “easily” so. Adu signed with DC United in 2003, leading up to America’s 10 year anniversary of hosting the World Cup (and the dozens of “progress report” articles that would produce). Being the youngest ever American professional athlete was an impressive feat, but let’s also remember Cristiano Ronaldo, Leo Messi and Will Grigg would have also been teenagers back then, too….
It’s also the same year Lebron James jumped from high school to the NBA. It’s hard to overstate how big a deal James was, and how much sneaker & (purported) sports “journalism”-fueled hype (driven by the respective dominant corporate entities who shalt not be named) there was around teenage athletes in the US at that time. I was at university at the time and remember the sensation around the fact that E*PN was showing Lebron’s f*cking high school games in prime time.
And all that time, it was “Lebron James in basketball, Freddy Adu in soccer!” Everywhere in America… Every-f*cking-where.
Also in 2003, it’s easy to forget that Michael Jordan’s successor as N*ke’s golden calf, Kobe Bean Bryant (yes, his real middle name) went on trial for raping a woman in Colorado. Kobe had been Adidas’ first major basketball coup and stayed with them until just before the rape allegations came to light and he jumped-ship to N*ke.
Before this, N*ke had prematurely crowned (ahem) Anfernee Hardaway, Vince Carter and Grant Hill (and more) as Jordan’s heir-apparent before missing out on Kobe Bryant (to Adidas). This early part of his career included helping Shaquille O’Neal lead the Lakers to three consecutive NBA Championships.
Sensationally, all of Kobe’s sponsors dropped him after the allegations, with the notable exception of N*ke. This was huge (in Trump voice: huuuuuuge) news at the time, and Kobe would go on to be something of a (well-compensated) lightning rod in American sports for years after (though, oddly, it seems to have “quieted down” since).
Before I fall down a rabbit hole of conjecture, conspiracy and libel, let me just wrap up by noting that Freddy Adu had a couple wonderful youth tournaments. He signed a professional contract at age 14, at a time N*ke was looking to make a “comeback” of sorts as the monopolistic entity with the signing of the best two American (population: 300+ million) teenagers in the two most popular sports in the world. He got a lot of undeserved hype and has probably had to live down more grief than it’s been worth.
If James Bond is ever pitted against an evil genius with a shoe company who aspires toward an “omni-sport” strategy, it will be based on Ph*l Knight and N*ke… And, let’s face it, Bond has already (bizarrely) had to rescue part of Bolivia’s water supply (unless a really spicy taco made me dream Quantum of Solace?), so an American sneaker monopoly can’t not, not, not, be (not not) on the table.
Christian Pulisic has the makings of a domestic star, he’s even on record with that red meat patriotic quote, the: “I’m from Pennsylvania, it’s pronounced Poo-li-sic” line that we Americans tend to eat right up.
Also, Brian, one thing to point out, even as a Liverpool fan, it’s weird to see someone call LFC a “step up” from Borussia Dortmund. I’m not sure where you’re from, but I spent the entire 2014 World Cup visiting friends and family in Germany and, let me assure you, football is quite the big deal in Deutschland.
Let’s keep things in perspective, the “greatest ever” American soccer player is either Landon Donovan or Clint “Deuce” Dempsey (my pick). The bar is not high. You might even be safe calling it a pipe. And, with regard to Freddy Adu, let’s follow the example of football clubs in Europe and leave him alone.
Ian, LFC (the Anfernee Hardaway N*ke “Lil Penny” commercials from the 90’s, featuring Chris Rock, are still my favorite commercials of all-time) Hartford, CT USA
Not any more, no
Am I the only one who reads USMNT as ‘United States Mutant Ninja Turtles’
Kev (Better than the Dolphin team on Red Card)