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Let’s talk about Mata…
Amidst all the criticism aimed towards Wayne Rooney (all justified) I think one man in this Man Utd team always escapes scrutiny. Maybe it’s because he’s Spanish and handsome and writes great blogs, but I for one am always frustrated with Juan Mata’s United performances.
If there is one word to describe this United team’s style under Van Gaal, I would say it’s ‘safe’. Always take the safe approach, always choose the safe pass, never try to beat a man or run behind a man, never lose possession, just be ‘safe’. And Juan Mata typifies this safe approach. He’s not quick and can’t dribble past a man, but his forte at Chelsea was being able to find the strikers or quick runners in Drogba, Hazard and Oscar. I know people will say he doesn’t play in his favoured No.10 position but many times during the match he does drift inside to the No.10 position and then just passes the ball sideways to either wing. To play as a No.10 you need to be an excellent finisher when the ball falls in and around the box a la Wesley Sneijder (Who is the archetypical No.10 in my opinion) and Mata doesn’t do that. For a guy who cost 38 million pounds (same as Aguero and much more than Silva) Mata fails to impress on too many occasions.
He had a good start to the season and great game against Wolfsburg where he single-handedly won us the game, but since then he’s being gradually sidelined by Jesse Lingard. Last night he had plenty of chances to put the ball in the box where Rooney and Fellaini or Martial were waiting, instead Mata kept switching the play to Lingard. Why? You’re the 38 million pound senior player, you’re supposed to create something instead you’re passing the responsibility to a youngster. This is why all of United’s attacks come from the left wing and now teams overload on the left to defend against us. Alan Pardew did the same on the weekend.
I really like Mata, but he clearly needs to step up his game. He would be under much more scrutiny by you guys if he was English. Also, regarding fan favourite Ander Herrera, after the Everton game he did absolutely nothing of note in the Manchester derby and against Crystal Palace, where he dived but escaped criticism a la Ashley Young. Rooney and all deserve criticism but these two Spaniards need to step up their game too.
Avant, Sydney (Mata did make a great music video though)
Depay and the goldfish
We’ve seen countless times how the media loves to denigrate the reputation of x player when he doesn’t perform. I will be the first to admit that any professional athlete cannot rest on their laurels, but price tags are already beyond astronomical. Take Depay. A solid player who, barring injury, will likely become a top-class talent. But at 21 he still has much to learn and had no say in his own financial valuation.
What concerns me is that nearly all British media (except you f365, keep doing yo thing boi) has lost its ability to comprehend the long term. Much like the humble goldfish, all that matters is here and now. How regrettable that these journos transfer their lofty expectations onto the masses.
If you’re not careful, Depay will follow many others who left the Prem for brighter pastures. One man’s trash is another’s gold.
Praise and other stuff
* Your content has changed a bit since you left Sky, but I think overall for the better. The series on icons is truly great writing and very informative. I was unaware of Baggio’s injuries.
* How can you leave out Laurent Robert from your top Frenchmen? Honestly I’ve never seen anyone kick a ball with so much force and so accurately
Admittedly, he didn’t have the longevity of the others and is nowhere near as good. But is highlight reel is an absolute cracker.
* Why was it ok for Man U to be ok under Ferguson but not under LVG? That’s what they are isn’t it?
* Mourinho is an amazing manager and has achieved more than most in recent years, but he seems to have forgotten that football is a tiny part of society. When he started messing with a doctor (a proper job not like footballer or manager) then he lost a lot of respect from his players, the wider media and the public. Someone (a journalist as they have the access) should have fronted up straight away and asked him in what kind of messed-up view of the world does he think is acceptable to criticise a medical professional doing their job? I can’t imagine him being there much longer.
* As a Newcastle fan, our recent performances have been improving (we played six of the top seven from last year in our first nine games I think). However, playing well and not getting a decent result isn’t going to get us far. We need more defenders both for cover and for competition in January.
* Last weekend against Stoke, I was both perturbed and distracted by the prominence of Shaqiri’s old chap. This was seemingly sorted out at half time, however, I thought he was going to have my eye out in the first half. Has anyone else noticed this or was it just me and my mates at the game getting ‘lucky’
More love for Baggio
When I first saw the ‘Portrait of an Icon’ feature, I hoped that it wouldn’t be long before the Divine Ponytail cropped up…I’d like to add my thoughts on my favourite player of all time!
Uninterested in the typical pursuits of the modern superstar footballer, this man was different to the others in so many ways. Uninterested in the latest fashion, he chose to sport a unique ponytail/goatee combo that became his trademark. As that rare breed of footballer who also had an inner life, he found his calling in Buddhism, which in Serie A was about as common as an openly gay footballer. He was the gifted outsider.
Compare him to the other recent Italian greats: Del Piero – Juventus Legend, Totti – Roma Legend, Maldini – Milan Legend. These players are known as ‘bandiere’, Italian for ‘flags’, because they became so synonymous with the clubs they represent. Baggio never attained ‘bandiera’ status. For one reason or another – often, because he came up against the likes of Lippi or Capello who stubbornly refused to show him the faith he deserved – his career was a nomadic one. No-one, though, can deny his ‘legend’ status. Baggio – Vicenza, Fiorentina, Juventus, Milan, Bologna, Inter, Brescia, Italy legend.
Then to the defining moment – the 1994 final. The penalty has been missed. The camera focuses on Baggio, who drops his head. In this instant, Baggio alone carries the misery of a nation on his shoulders. Baresi and Massaro, who missed penalties before him, are exonerated.
At the age of 27, with many years of great football ahead of him, his fate has already been sealed. The gifted outsider has become the tragic hero. His career must now be defined by this image.
The injustice that surrounds this is almost palpable. In football terms, he could almost be seen as a martyr. The terrible injuries, the stubborn managers. His entire career, with all its outrageous goals and generous assists, was to be dominated by this one moment of imprecision.
Baggio’s story has a certain logic against the backdrop of a sometimes unjust Italian society, where the good guys do not always win. Italians understand this, which is perhaps why the affection felt toward him can be even stronger than for Maldini et al.
James Bruschini (sorry about the ‘et al’)
…thank you for that piece on Baggio, a touching ode to an ineffably unique player.
As an Arsenal fan, I’ve always said, Bergkamp made me fall in love with Arsenal, but Baggio made me fall in love with football.
Coming from a country that’s not really know for its football heritage, Italy are something of an adopted team, and it’s all down to Baggio.
My earliest memories associated with football come from USA 94, watching Italy’s games late into the night with my father, on a crackling TV which had a penchant for losing the signal at inopportune times.
HD being nothing more than a distant dream back then, the action was often nothing more than a hazy blur. But all that faded into insignificance as I would be transfixed by this bobbing, weaving, mesmerizing magician with this distinctive ponytail, flicking out behind him as he danced through defences and turned the ball into his play-thing. In my mind, it was an epiphany, an understanding of just how beautiful this game could be.
Those are the memories I take away from that tournament, not that missed penalty, heartbreaking as it was at the time. Maybe it’s because I’m a plastic Italy fan, but maybe it’s also because when it comes to such special players something as transient as a World Cup, doesn’t really seem to matter.
…’The angels sing in his legs.’
I wasn’t quite 10 when he missed that penalty and I was devastated for him. I still am. What a player.
Aidan, EFC, Oxford
Remembering the law man
Denis Law (The King) remains a legend more than 40 years after his last game for United. The man was an absolute genius and those of us who saw him in his prime were fortunate to witness a true character, scorer of breathtaking goals and an eternal great. A prolific scorer, famous for his spectacular diving headers and overhead kicks he was a colossus in his time. Truly World Class, he was the only British player in the Rest of the World team that played England to mark the 100th anniversary of the FA in 1963 (and scored). None who saw it will ever forget his reaction on scoring against United for City, a goal that confirmed United’s relegation…he was devastated. We don’t hear much of him these days but I am always struck by his good humour and honesty Last night Rooney equaled Law’s tally but he will not be remembered fondly like the King.
Another 16 goals to overtake Bobby Charlton? I don’t think Rooney will make it..
Denis Cohen, Cambridgeshire
Schmeichel > Cantona
I knew someone was going to submit the 1995-96 run-in as evidence of Eric Cantona’s greatness sooner or later (thank you, Lewis), so I’ve had a name tucked up my sleeve in readiness:
For all Cantona’s undeniably vital goals that spring, they would have been worthless without Schmeichel’s superhuman form in goal over the same stretch. For me, Clive, he’s Fergie’s REAL best-ever signing.
Richard (not saying Cantona wasn’t brilliant, but…) Pike
Having his 50 cent…
I was having a look at JT’s comments the other day, and I think I may have spotted another sly dig in there. As well as suggesting that Robbie Savage isn’t fit to offer critical analysis on JT’s performances, the below sentence is also informative. It follows standard football protocol of pluralising single players names, but to my mind what is most interesting is the act of not pluralising the one name where a plural would be relevant.
‘You take it as a footballer. I’ll take it from the Rios, Carraghers and Neville.’ Not Nevilles. Just the one, singular Neville is deemed worthy.
Has the man never seen the F365 England Ladder? JT isn’t on it, but if you look closely at number 50…
Terry Hall, Switzerland
Damn you Emad…
Damn Emad MUFC for his mail in which he says Terry should not consider himself as an equal to the Nevilles, Carraghers and Rios of English football. As unlikeable as Terry is you can’t dispute what he has achieved in the game and what he contributed to that success. Emad’s mail is going to lead to the inevitable.
There’s going to be lots of people from other clubs now writing in, begrudgingly listing all his achievements, and then feeling really really dirty about themselves isn’t there? It’s going to be a grubby afternoon mailbox, isn’t it? Urrggh, its making me cringe just imagining it. Damn you Emad for what you have done. Damn you to hell.
Chris ITFC, Liverpool
(We got the mails and we ignored them. We don’t need to encourage so much self-loathing – Editor)
We had a few of these…
The Richard Keys quote in Mediawatch points out that his fondness for John Terry is at odds with most people’s views, but he’s ‘allowed that opinion in a democracy…perhaps [he’s] drawn to rebels?’
Richard Keys lives in Qatar. Not sure that really counts as a democracy. Incidentally, other people who are ‘drawn to rebels’ are the Qatari authorities. So keen are they in being drawn to rebels that they even sometimes allegedly forget all about their human rights.
The literary Ed Quoththeraven
Thank you for The Set Pieces
Just a thank you for pointing me in their direction on Mediawatch. I’ve been following them on Twitter for a while but never really checked them out.
Really nice, like a less Hipster IBWM/ ess heavy Blizzard.