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Make De Gea captain next season after Rooney leaves. He’s a God amongst mortals. Also, he can’t leave then.
Monty (Interestingly enough, he captained Spain U21 to two Euro Champ titles), MUFC
Rooney lacks nous for midfield role
As soon as I saw Wayne Rooney lining up in midfield on Saturday, I knew that a good performance would lead to the media pushing for his inclusion as a midfielder for the Euros. It began at half-time with Shearer and Lineker and by Sunday evening, even F365 had joined in the fun.
First things first. Rooney had probably his best game as a midfielder for the club, not always resorting to Hollywood balls to the right-back and showed enough subtlety in his midfield role. The issue with Rooney playing in midfield however has never been about his ball-playing capabilities. It’s his positioning. Throughout the game, he displayed only two movements. One was running directly to the man in possession and the other was standing still. It is difficult to explain the problems with this in words but I think he only looked as good as he did due to the Everton midfield sitting back so far to let him play. Coupled with their frankly appalling backline, Rooney was able to send some sumptuous passes through with the pass for Lingard’s chance particularly coming to mind.
While playing him in midfield in the group stages could be hugely beneficial as the weaker teams are bound to sit back, the knock-out stages could be a level too high for Rooney the midfielder. In a congested midfield zone, Rooney lacks the positioning knack to find himself the extra bit of time required (a la Xavi, Pirlo, Scholes) and also lacks the acceleration and dribbling ability to skip past opponents like Dembele. Playing Henderson in midfield, although hugely uninspiring, would provide legs and solidity in midfield for the England team. A good base for the higher-skilled players much higher up the pitch. The second half, where United were overrun by Everton, also showed his poor positioning play in the defensive sense. The ability to spot danger developing which would be handy in the knock-out rounds with much stronger opponents.
Having said that, it would be hugely understandable if Roy Hodgson chose to play him there considering the scarcity of options beyond Jordan Henderson and the not-yet-fit Jack Wilshere. Just do not expect Wayne Rooney to be a huge revelation in that role.
Jeeva (Plastic MUFC fan, Malaysian in Germany)
The mata with Juan…
Let me get this established first and foremost: I’m a massive fan of Juan Mata. I’d classify him as a luxury signing when he was brought in (no real spot in the team, over-priced etc) but I’ve been delighted to have had him over the last couple seasons as he has provided a (mostly) boring team a vital spark (on occasion).
That being said, I think the last few United games (the semi-final being the epitome) have shown us two things:
1) First-choice striker role will/should never belong to Rooney again. Whether it’s Martial or anyone else, sticking Wazza up there alone is counter-productive to the potential of this team.
2) Rooney is really quite good playing centrally (as alluded to in 16 conclusions) when he’s fit (he’s looked sharper in the last few games than he has in the last couple seasons). He’s got great passing ability and, when partnered with two players who are responsible for winning the ball and moving it from defense to midfield, Wazza is a good and quick link forward.
Against Everton, United dominated for precisely the same amount of time before Rooney got tired. The correlation was simple: with willing runners like Martial, Rashford and Lingard (and Fellaini joining), Rooney always had ample mobile options. Once Wazza tired, United resorted to breaking on the counter, pushing Fellaini beyond Rooney. His ‘gimme the ball’ attitude is much better when he demands it from his own team (as opposed to his headless chicken-styled running of once upon a time). If anything, unlike Daniel Storey, I’d rather see Rooney shoot a bit more as he’s got a great shot on him too.
Which brings me nicely to Mata and his style of play. Mata is more of a scamperer who looks for pockets of space which would be deadly if his fellow midfielders could find him in said pockets. When Mata plays, he needs for one of the two ‘sitting’ midfielders to be an expert passer, or else Mata has to drop and make useless sideways passes around the halfway line. This is why Herrera and Mata combine so well due to Herrera’s ability to penetrate the midfield lines. This is also why Fellaini looks so much worse when playing the same position/role with Mata playing instead of Rooney. With Wazza, the two center midfielders aren’t burdened with creativity. Sure, it’s not ridiculous for Mata to hope for Manchester United FC to have a decent passer in midfield other than himself, but fact is: over the last two months, United have looked more threatening in three games since Rooney’s return than they have in two months without Wazza (and hence with Mata being one of the primary central attacking midfielders).
Mata has yo-yoed between the number 10 role and the right wing over the last two seasons but has he done enough in either position? He’s not an ideal option out wide (not consistent enough with crosses; not a touch-line hugger; not quick enough; doesn’t take his man on often enough) and hasn’t done enough this season centrally (or otherwise) to warrant automatic inclusion in the team. If anything, I’ve been left disappointed with Mata this season: he’s one of the senior most players in a madly young/newly-put-together team…he should’ve been (at least one of those) who carried us through this season.
With another summer of somewhat upheaval coming up, one could only assume Wayne Rooney will never leave unless China or America pull something out of the bag. So is there any point keeping Juan Mata if he’s second-choice winger and second-choice attacking midfielder again*? If there’s one thing LVG has done right, isn’t it getting rid of RVP, Nani etc to make room for Rashford, Lingard etc? So is Mata now clogging up squad space for a Januzaj or Pereira (wtf happened to those two?)?
He’s a great player and an even better human being (I think). But being a nice bloke who cost a few million too much really criteria enough for him to be at the club? When he was signed, I silently disagreed with all the ‘a player of his calibre will find a role at United’ and ‘United should do all they can to sign players like Mata when made available’. Rubbish, unfortunately. At this point, refer to the first two sentences of this email again, but I think United fans need to break their collective lingering gaze into Juan’s lovely eyes just long enough to say goodbye.
Emad MUFC Boston
PS: *people talk about the third season syndrome with Jose…is Mata beginning to develop something similar too? Despite decent form for two seasons, Mata was shown out of Chelsea and now has lost automatic-first-team-starting-spot at United too?
Why I want us to lose next week…
Would it be sacrilegious to wish that United (I have been supporting them for 15 years now!) lose to Leicester City on coming Sunday? Our entire campaign was on perilous ground from the day LVG started imposing his mind numbing, soul crushing and bereft of any logic football philosophy on our club. Losing to Leicester would mean that
1. We cannot get to that much coveted fourth place and subsequent marching orders for LVG.
2. Tottenham will finish second (oh what joy!)
3. Most importantly, give the world a glimmer of hope in the world which is ravaged by hopelessness and destruction
Leicester, in my opinion, would/could never be in the same position to win anything with Pep, Posch and Klopp starting to mould their teams. More importantly, football owes Ranieri a winner’s medal for all the good work he has done over the years. Tottenham can win next season, United will be better off without LVG and we all will be giddy with joy seeing Ranieri lift up the Premier League cup.
Please let us lose the next game to give hope to the entire world.
JM (Red Devil) Singapore
The Premier League is great
PSG have just completed the treble; Juventus have a win sequence that looks someone fell asleep on the ‘W’ key; Suarez has notched eight goals against two La Liga teams in a week, Bayern Munich are nearly 30 points clear of the team in third.
Meanwhile in England, the league is being contested between a team who were knocking about in the third tier of English football seven years ago, and an exciting young team who last won the league in 1961. Last seasons champions are a befuddled mid table mess; the all-conquering kings of the last two decades Machester United are a mirror of their captain – rich, out of shape, regularly injured and maybe a bit past it; their successful neighbourly upstarts are capable of the sublime one week, and the ridiculous the next.
Two of the promoted teams were favourites to go down, yet sit comfortably safe in midtable. Instead, a Premier League ever-present has gone down in their stead, and they could be joined by two north-east giants with stadium capacities of 49,000 and 52,000. That particular three-way fight looks like it’s going down to the last day. If the planets align correctly, the Spurs-Newcastle tie at St James could be the most high stakes final league game since Michael Thomas inspired Fever Pitch. All three domestic trophies will be in three different captain’s hands.
The only consistent thing is likely to be Arsenal finishing in fourth place, but they may well finish in third.
Next season looks like it could be even more exciting, with the Premier League perhaps having the best managerial line up in the history of the sport, especially if Jose joins United and Benitez keeps the Toon up.
Yes, I’m sure Spain will still have six representatives in the Europa and Champions League quarter-finals. Yes, I’m sure the usual semi-final triumvirate of Real-Barca-Munich+special guest will resume in 2017 after this year’s minor blip. I don’t care. The European Cup has lost its exotic lustre since the deck was stacked against the smaller nations anyway. That said, good luck to City and Liverpool.
It’s entirely possible that all three promoted teams will go straight back down in 16/17, replaced by the three teams that go down this year; that the dull hegemony of Chelsea, City, United and Arsenal will be top in October and never shift from that standing as Leicester and Tottenham are picked apart like an old carcass by Europe’s super clubs. I hope not, but at least we will always have 15/16 – the year the Premier League was the crazy, crazy king of the football world.
Just wait until next season…
Despite my pulse rate continuing to spiral in this fantastic season, I can’t help but cast my thoughts towards Premier League 2016/2017. I think in some respects it will be ‘normal service resumed’ with the anomalous displays of Teams such as Chelsea and Leicester not quite as pronounced as this year but it would still be foolish to stick your neck out for who exactly will be champions.
Man City – Pep factor. Will surely bring in a couple of the world’s Top 20 players to accompany Aguero and De Bruyne from that list. The latter, as you suggested last week, could well be POTY for next season.
Man United – With a new manager, a ‘war chest’ of a trillion pounds and a hatful of exciting youngsters already blooded they’ll be up there next year.
Liverpool – Klopp’s impact entirely evident. Give him a pre-season and a couple of players that he chooses and they’ll be challenging.
Spurs – one season further on than Liverpool. Team are young and fully trained in MoPo’s ways. They’ll challenge again. Could have more clout in transfer market with Champions League and the feel good factor rife with a new stadium on the horizon. Everybody loves a ‘project’.
Chelsea – Conte is an unknown for the Premier League but has the worldwide reputation. Some very good players still and despite Mourinho’s ‘little horse’ protestations a fair wedge of cash behind them. Will depend on how well they recruit this summer…they’ll want summer 2014 rather than Summer 2015 (£21m on Baba Rahman???)
Leicester – Who knows? Makes no sense for them to compete on a consistent basis but it makes no sense for them to be up there on the verge of the title right now so I’m not going to write them off for next year. Either way, I’d love them to be up there. Whatever happens now, they are fully responsible for the greatest Premier League season since its inception. More of the same? Yes please, Claudio.
Arsenal – Will come fourth. Obs.
So with Arsenal guaranteed a Champions League place there’s only three up for grabs to share between six teams who are good enough to compete for them. Exciting.
A shout out for West Ham. New stadium, Bilic, Payet and a feel good factor. I’m not sure that there’s quite enough to break into the group above but they could well be in there in the future. That leaves my team, Southampton, battling it out with Stoke and Everton for the ‘best of the rest’ trophy. Could do with them bringing back the Zenith Data Systems Cup back, just to give the mid-tablers something to cheer.
That was a Leicester victory for the fringe players
After all last week’s silliness, that, like Spurs on Monday, was a thoroughly champion performance.
How refreshing is it to have two teams chasing the title with managers who act like gentlemen, players who love their club and not angling for moves, fans who have never experienced such highs and don’t act as if they are entitled to the title. Both teams work so hard for each other and give their all every game. This is even true of bit-part players – Gray, Schlupp, King, Son, Wimmer, Trippier – have all had their moments to contribute to their respective teams. This has been a momentous year for both Leicester and Spurs, whichever way the title goes.
This win was a victory for the unsung heroes of Leicester City and proof, if it was still needed, that we are far from a one-man team. There was a lot in the media about Leicester not being able to adapt without Vardy, and, to be honest, I was worried. Vardy hasn’t missed a match in over a year. But, I needn’t have worried, Ranieri got his team selection and substitutes perfect. Schlupp was a constant menace and Ulloa was able to play as a centre forward, rather than his usual role of coming on to help maintain our win, almost as a defensive forward. Gray looks some player as well, with another impressive cameo, expect to see more of him next season. Swansea just couldn’t compete, and like Stoke on Monday, played like a team looking forward to this season ending.
I’ve never been so proud of my team. Spurs will push us to the wire and will be even stronger next season. Their wait for a title won’t be too much longer I’m sure. But we’ll be going to Old Trafford confident of three points, now that’s a phrase I never imagined I’d say.
Toby (top of the league) Mitchell
…What a way to answer our critics. Not just those who want to doubt and dismiss us but also the nervous ones amongst the supporters (myself one of them). This result felt absolutely huge.
Credit to Claudio. Swapping Albrighton to Schlupp turned out to be a masterstroke. Without Vardy’s pace Schlupp did an amazing job. Ulloa filled in up top admirably. This was a complete performance that demonstrates the depth that we do have in our squad. Fantastic!
More importantly that was the first enjoyable Leicester game I can remember sitting through for a couple of months, lovely.
Anticipating a mailbox full of moany spurs fans who have already forgotten how bad Stoke were last Monday.
Ben (Over to you, Mr Pulis), LCFC
..Just when you thought you have seen it all as a Gooner, in the 61st minute you could see a certain Olivier Giroud attempted to bring the ball down in the six-yard area. Picture this, the front man of a so-called title-chasing club, attempted to bring the ball down after an overelaborate style of play due to this delicate philosophy of the man at a dugout.
Now I don’t blame Olivier Giroud completely (Just 95%, hugely by not scoring since…I don’t know 1980?), because intricate passing is not really his style of play, but really could you just recall for a second is there any other front man that do this? Are there other strikers that thinks about other than attacking goal, especially when you are so close to it?
Seems like there is so much room left for this lower bar to descend.
Syfq Amr, a bias Gooner
How abour #WengerUp?
So like any true Arsenal supporter, I’ve decided to come out full guns blazing in my keyboard warrior style, to attack my club.
Arsene Wenger has transformed Arsenal but the longer he stays as manager, the further he tarnishes his legacy. No disrespect to Spurs or Leicester but given the performances other clubs at the beginning of the season, we should have used this to seize the opportunity to win the league. Instead, Leicester and Spurs have outperformed all of us and Arsenal ‘Arsenal’d’ yet again.
Wenger rather than go into what he’s done wrong and what he’s done right, Arsenal Football Club stand at a crossroads now:
Keep Wenger for one more season and continue to lose ground on those challenging for the title and top four.
Replace Wenger with a ‘world-class’ manager (Diego Simeone please!) and begin the rebuild sooner rather than later (I know, I know: see Man Utd-post Fergie).
Move Wenger into the Director of Football role and allow a less experienced Manager a chance to step up.
I realise Arsenal will choose the 1st option, but I would go for option 3 with an audacious idea of making Steve Bould and Mikel Arteta our manager and assistant (either in either role). With Wenger as Director of Football, it keeps his legacy and reputation intact and allows him to have a role in the way the club is ran. It would also allow to two ‘inexperienced’ people a chance to focus on the first team and tactics.
I know people would say about Henry but I just feel Arteta, coupled with Bould’s defensive astuteness would be a fresh alternative for Arsenal to development internally.
So rather this debacle with our fans saying #WengerIn or #WengerOut, how about #WengerUp?
Steve, realistic Gooner, London
Agreeing with Redknapp Jnr…
Jamie Redknapp said that the best long-term result for Arsenal this season would be to miss out on a Champions League place, to not win the Fourth Place Trophy. I’m inclined to agree. That’s worrying as I think Redknapp the Younger is little more than a well-dressed idiot but for once, the facking geezer is correct.
Leicesters success has proven to be a double-edged sword for the Gunners this season. By doing so well with an inexpensive squad, Ranieri has exonerated Wenger and vindicated his opinion that spending vast fortunes on players is not the only solution for a club.
Unfortunately for Arsene, Claudio has also shown that it is possible to actually compete for the title by coaching and managing the players at your disposal in a pragmatic, effective manner with a style that is still reasonably pleasing to the purists.
Maybe non-qualification for the Champions League will provide the jolt that both Arsenal and Arsene require to move on. Maybe Redknapp Jnr is right.
God help us all.
Eoin (Touted remake of Groundhog Day should feature Bill Murray as an Arsenal fan) Ireland
Fool if you think it’s over…
There is an ancient saying round these parts…
Fool me once, shame on you
Fool me twice, shame on me
Fool me year after year, I must be an Arsenal fan.
We need another Henry…
There has been a lot of talk about Ozil breaking Thierry Henry’s assist record of 20 in a league season. This is looking less likely as he has been stuck on 18 for a while and Arsenal are playing like dog-sh*t right now but even if he does, what hasn’t been mentioned is that in that same season, Thierry scored 24 league goals as opposed to Ozil’s six. That’s direct involvement in 44 goals which is pretty phenomenal.
I like Ozil. He is a graceful player with fantastic vision but even if he does break the record, he will still be nowhere near the same level as Henry in terms of effectiveness.
I know it’s not easy to find a Thierry Henry in the transfer market but we really could do with one right now.
Adonis Stevenson, AFC
With all due respect, I hope Daniel Sturridge is shipped out of Liverpool next season.
First it was selfish claiming Coutinho’s goal against Everton.
And on Saturday, he was a disgrace on the pitch…holding on to the ball when other players were in scoring positions..dribbling on simply when he could have just passed…drifting out of position when he should be in the opponents’ half attempting to affect the game as a centre-forward should..
You could see disapproval in Coutinho’s eyes ehen he was playing.
Dear Jurgen, I hope you have already seen this one over the horizon…sincerely hope you do what is right for the dressing room.
Amith LFC (get well soon Divock)
Congratulations to Mahrez
He has been an absolute joy to watch this season. Thoroughly deserved his PFA award. If there is any justice in the world he will get the writers’ award too.
Exceptional player and I hope he stays in the Premier next season.
H, everybody dance the Liverpool – two steps forward, one step back
Weekend thoughts from our pet Palace fan
I’m back from holiday now.
* It’s been a strange couple of weeks for Crystal Palace. We’ve had results in the league that, in isolation, were not all that bad, and yet we’re still running through treacle trying to escape relegation. Then we went and won an FA Cup semi-final.
* Listening to the game on the radio, I was incredibly nervous, and convinced we would lose. There was no lack of effort on our players’ part, but a combination of refereeing decisions going against us and good chances going begging made me think that Watford would find a way back into the game. Palace could have had two penalties, and on other days, Britos and Suarez could both have been shown red cards – as could Scott Dann, whose reprieve can only be put down to the sort of evening-up decisions referees claim they don’t make.
While I appreciate the point in 16 Conclusions about BT Sport being allergic to red cards, this leniency did at least mean the game was won and lost on the merits of the players, rather than any perceived injustice.
* That said, Watford clearly weren’t at the races in the first half, and when their equaliser came, it was against the run of play (despite them having more possession overall). They really went for it at the end, putting a lot of people in the uncomfortable situation of agreeing with Chris Sutton, in wondering why they hadn’t had that urgency earlier in the game.
* The last four games between these two sides have been decided by a single goal, with the Glaziers winning three of them. As better teams than either of these have shown this season, winning in tight games requires a high degree of nerve, discipline and a little bit of luck.
* Everyone and their mum has compared Yannick Bolasie’s header to Alan Pardew’s famous goal against Liverpool, albeit that they would rather spend time with Bolasie than his manager. Mainly because they’d worry Pardew would try it on with their mum.
In fairness to Pardew, the way he set his team up clearly had Watford rattled, and managed to shoehorn Bolasie, Jason Puncheon and Wilf Zaha into the same side. They also benefitted from the work of Connor Wickham. He was a huge, but underappreciated, factor in the Glaziers starting the season so well, and looking bloody brilliant as we did it, through the space he created for the aforementioned trio.
Midweek conclusions speculated whether Zaha had found his level following his side’s underwhelming showing against Manchester United. Maybe he has, and so has Wickham. If that is the case, where their industry is tireless and they show up in Palace’s biggest games, then I’ll be pretty chipper.
* Maybe this City title dream is getting real – I don’t know all the reasons behind it, but Leicester Tigers, long at the top of Leicester’s sporting tree, played their mega-important game of rugby union in Nottingham yesterday, presumably for policing reasons with the football being moved to Sunday for TV.
The only downside to this is that when I went out in Nottingham last night, despite being at least two miles from the ground, I ended up near a huge group of about 30 c###s bantering at the top of their voices. It was horrific.
* What’s happened to City? Should we add Mark Hughes to the list of managers who might be out of a job come the end of the season? Manchester City were imperious, but the Potters have been thumped in each of their last three games. Something’s gone wrong in Stoke.
The literary Ed Quoththeraven
Crystal Palace fans should probably be pretty happy with their season, right?
Greg Boston (on fire)
Some more weekend thoughts from Peter G
* You can talk tactics all you want – and I’ll do it all day if anyone lets me – but sometimes it really is just a matter of belief. In the first half at Anfield, Newcastle weren’t just second-best, but third-, fourth-, and fifth-best as well. Under McClaren they might not even have come out of the locker room again. But this is a very different team now.
* Every once in a long while a game goes exactly as you would expect, and such was Sunderland-Arsenal. Sunderland got a 0-0 draw against the Gunners in last year’s relegation race, even without Sam Allardyce. So it was nailed on here. One of Allardyce’s best decisions so far has been to unequivocally hand Vito Mannone the keeper spot, by no means an obvious move. The ex-Arsenal man looks back to his form of two years ago.
* A few weeks ago Daniel Storey called Steven Cook the most underrated player in the league, and he might be right. Cook has improved dramatically over the course of the season, particularly in his reading of the game. Unfortunately, he was pretty much on his own in the back line against Chelsea, and since Cesc Fabregas has also improved dramatically in recent months, Bournemouth got shredded.
* Stoke’s defense has been a mess ever since Jack Butland got injured. It isn’t just a matter of taking their holidays early – it’s like they have no idea anymore. Philipp Wollscheid has gone from the most improved player in the league to a complete novice. And where are Ryan Shawcross’ famed organizational skills? I’m not a Mark Hughes fan, but I would never have expected this kind of capitulation from his team.
* The referees’ general refusal to call handball has been ridiculous for some time now, but if you’re not going to give the Nathan Aké handball — where he had enough time to stick his arm out, reconsider, and try to bring it back — you might as well not bother.
Peter G, Pennsylvania, USA (Martin Skrtel with hair!)
Bolton: PFM heaven
Are Bolton Wanderers building a home for PFMs?
Our current chairman is Dean ‘Deano’ Holdsworth of Bolton and Wimbledon fame. On top of this, temporary manager Jimmy Phillips is being advised by none other than Peter Reid.
In addition to this, Bolton have just appointed Andy Townsend in an advisory role to help determine the next manager. It can’t be long before Richard Keys and Andy Gray come back as the kit men and Merse gets brought in as Director of Football.
On the flip side, Bolton’s ailing night club scene may get a shot to the arm.
Dave C, BWFC