Cristiano Ronaldo stunts Bruno Fernandes for Portugal. Will he have the same effect on Manchester United?
Keep your mails coming to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ronaldo to stunt Bruno
Portugal squeaked past a determined Ireland yesterday by the skin of their teeth. And of course, all the rave notices will be around Ronaldo for scoring two and breaking the international goal scoring record.
However, if I was United I would be concerned. Portugal have a team stocked with attacking talent that play moribund football and don’t seem to get it together with Ronaldo as the main man. It’s all about getting the ball to Ronaldo. It completely stunts the now superior attacking drive of players like Fernandes, who has been an attacking tour-de-force since arriving on British soil.
A portent of things to come at United who will have two players to pander to in Pogba and Ronaldo.
Last night I got the last 20 mins of European football – Portugal vs Ireland. I heard Ronaldo had already missed a penalty. Portugal were down a goal and playing terrible, prosaic football. Then in the last 10 mins, Ronaldo tested the goalkeeper with a vicious freekick that needed a good save, and proceeded to score 2 headers to win the game.
Imagine, like a job interview, we weren’t allowed to ask his age. All you’re told is that he was the top goalscorer for Serie A while playing for the 4th placed side. He got 5 more goals last season than the 100m striker that Chelsea just signed. He’s the all time highest international goal-scorer, who has 6 goals in his last 5 international games.
And he’s going to cost you a total of some £70m over 2 years, (and 120m over 5 years were he to play that long), including transfer fees and salaries. Nobody knows how the future will pan out but you would have to be seriously high or deluded to not jump at that deal – and I would think that applies to any of the top 6-8 clubs in the Premier League. For reference, that’s less than what Grealish will cost City or Lukaku will cost Chelsea over 5 years. Ben White is going to cost Arsenal £80m over the next 5 years, and Nicholas Pepe is currently costing Asenal about £100m over 5 years.
And that’s completely ignoring brand value, t-shirt sales, fan sentiment and impact on other players.
Ved Sen, MUFC
Good Irish football?!
I sat down to watch Ireland against Portugal last night without much hope for victory, hoping for a decent performance to take us into more winnable games against Azerbaijan and Serbia.
What I witnessed was something I hadn’t seen in a long time, and actual good Irish footballing display. Phil Baab irked me in his reviews throwing out the same clichés about Ireland “frustrating” the opposition. After Ireland weathered the early storm, including Bazunu’s incredible penalty save, they were arguably the better team in the first half. Idah and Connolly ran the Portugal defence ragged, and if the latter had some shooting boots on we could have seen a different result. Ireland also had some great passing moments which we are not used to seeing. A far cry from the long ball tactics of many of our previous managerial regimes.
Did Portugal deserve to win? In the end maybe yes, especially when Ronaldo is around and they definitely scorned enough chances which could have made the result all the more convincing.
What I take from this is some real progression from this Irish side. We do not have the quality of a top 20 in the world side. If we did we would have definitely scored more than once last night as we had the chances. But what we have shown is that our players can maintain a strong defence and yet still play football. I’m an optimist but I am very excited with what Stephen Kenny is getting out of the team.
Pressure really is on for two good results in Dublin over the next few days. We won’t qualify for the world cup, but doesn’t mean we won’t go down without taking a few scalps.
Andy, London (I loved the 3-5-2 last night. Been waiting for us to play that for ages).
More Ireland optimism
To say I’m merely disappointed with Ireland’s loss last night would be an understatement. It was harsh on the Irish players and it felt undeserved. I know if you’ve just seen the stats of the game that that might be hard to believe, but even though Portugal had all the possession, Ireland played well and had Portugal reduced to trying shots from outside the box for most of the match.
The feelings that I, and many other Irish fans, have are different to much of what we felt before. We’ve gotten used to losing in the last few years. We’ve definitely gotten used to playing frantic, backs-to-the-wall defensive football, hoping to nick a goal from a set piece, but this felt different. There’s disappointment in the loss, not disappointment in the performance.
There are green shoots of optimism there. This was a young Irish team. The starting XI had an average age of 25, with six being 25 or younger and only Coleman over 30. Seven of them had fewer than 15 caps, with the average caps being just 21. Even more importantly, eight of them play for top flight teams (6 in the PL, 1 in the SPL, and 1 in Belgium), with 2 playing in the Championship, and 1 in League 1 (on loan from Man City). The players looked like they were actually playing to a game plan, they knew what they were meant to do in each situation and, for the most part, they did it well. This is in contrast to the Martin O’Neill days when even the players didn’t know who was going to play until 90 minutes before kick-off.
In contrast, Portugal named a ridiculously experienced team. They had an average age of 29, with an average of 58 caps each. Ten of their starting XI are playing for teams in this season’s Champions League group stages, and the 11th is in the group stages of the Conference League. The Irish team have 1 guy who is playing for a team in the group stages of the Conference League and a second whose team got knocked out of the qualifiers for it.
While Ireland played well, I think it’s fair to say that the referee’s performance left an awful lot to be desired. I know it’s the easy way out to blame the ref after a match and it rarely holds true, but it definitely felt like Portugal were getting frees a lot easier last night. They were given a dodgy penalty early on, Ronaldo appearing to hit out at an Irish player was ignored, and right at the end, after Ireland cleared the ball he called it back for a hand ball after the ball struck an Irish player’s arm as his arm was next to his body. It felt like the ref really wanted to be the ref when Ronaldo broke the record and he was almost determined to help it happen, unfortunately.
Still, there’s optimism and we’ll go again on Thursday!
Crystal Palace improvement
I’ve never believed the transfer window is something that can be won, much in the same way as you cannot “win the internet”, despite what social media bores might suggest in the comments. However, measuring a successful transfer window is fairly easy: is the squad better at the end of the window than it was at the start?
In Crystal Palace’s case, the answer is a qualified yes. The manager has definitely been backed in the transfer market, in a way that Roy Hodgson either wasn’t or didn’t ask to be. According to Transfermarkt, more than £66 million has been spent on five players this summer, all of whom fit the club’s desired age profile and playing style. The two players who have arrived since the last match was played have apparently been on the club’s radar for a while, yet somehow also address immediate needs: a midfielder who can receive the ball under pressure and start passing moves to advance the play, and a mobile striker who can make runs in behind the defence. Will Hughes and Odsonne Edouard arrive capable of playing those roles to a high standard. However, there is still a suspicion that beyond the first team, the squad is light in a couple of positions; if Tyrick Mitchell is unavailable for any reason, Palace’s left-back will either be an inexperienced natural or an experienced defender filling in, neither of which are ideal.
Last weekend’s draw with West Ham United was further evidence of progress for Patrick Vieira’s team, but also of how much further there is to go. All in all, a draw with United is not a bad result, especially as a point briefly put United top of the table. Palace’s goals came through the team’s primary tactics: the ball worked up the field, crossed into the penalty area and put home after Conor Gallagher made mincemeat of one of the Eagles’ betes noires, Craig Dawson. However, United’s goals came as a result of a lack of defensive grit, at least compared to last season. Vieira’s defence has a couple of tough tests in their next games, against Tottenham and Liverpool, before Brighton & Hove Albion come to Selhurst Park.
While the general sense of transfer deadline day was of clubs doing sensible business, another club was walking a different path. According to the BBC, Manchester United believe that the return of Cristiano Ronaldo is “proof they are still capable of attracting the very best players”. I’d say it’s probably more proof that Manchester United recognise that a sizeable element of their fan base is Veruca Salt from Charlie & the Chocolate Factory and needs placating with a constant stream of shiny new toys or signings. It’s also probably an acknowledgement that Ronaldo himself had failed in his objective at Juventus, which was to turn perennial league winners into Champions League winners. His choice appeared to be the same mission at Manchester City or PSG, or to be worshipped whatever he did at Manchester United. Tough choice.
Don’t lump Spurs in with Arsenal
Steve Sanders makes some interesting points but also seems a little premature in lumping Spurs and Arsenal together as being at risk of being part of a big 6. Obviously financially they both remain there (Arsenal ahead of Spurs) but on field their situations are quite different. Arsenal have not finished top 4 for 5 years, and have come 8th 2 years in a a row. Last season was the first time since 2009 that spurs have not finished top 6. West Ham finishing above them once is probably not enough to declare they have taken their place. Similarly Leicester don’t have a ‘vastly superior’ squad, otherwise why did they only finish 4 points above spurs last year despite the poison of the Mourinho decline.
Spurs have started the necessary rebuild of their squad, and should be competitive for the top 6 while that takes place. Creativity in midfield is correctly identified as the major concern, but others are deliberately overblown. Saying Spurs would have had 7 full backs if Aurier had stayed is both irrelevant (he didn’t) and not really true (Tangana isn’t a specialist full back, and Sessegnon has never played a game at left back for Spurs that I can recall).
Liverpool are the most vulnerable of the top 4 because their squad is thinner, but unless they have injury problems again i expect a competitive battle for 5th to 8th this year, but unless Kane and Son miss substantial time I’d be very surprised to see spurs finish at the bottom of that particular pile. Next summer will be critical to whether they can then look up or down as the next step.
Square pegs in round holes
Why do most people get so worked up with where a coach decides to play a player? Over the years, I have seen fans being worked up about numerous players’ positions such as Pogba, Firmino, Foden and Kante to name a few.
I get that we as fans watch games and like to form our opinions. But to say that a player such as Kante should be playing purely as a DM is a little disrespectful to both the coach and the player in my opinion. When Sarri tried to play him more as a box to box player, there was uproar, when Lampard persisted with him in a similar position, there were debates. But now fans seem to realize just how good he can be in such a dynamic role.
The same goes for Pogba as well. He has always been protected by coaches in every team he has played. Conte played a back 5, a regista and another box to box player to let Pogba shine. France won the world cup with Pogba in a midfield two but Deschamps always played another player with a high work rate on one of the wings to help the team and provide a balance. I remember it mostly being Matuidi and sometimes Sissoko. Now Ole is trying to utilize Pogba in an inside wing position and I am surprised to see fans saying how he needs to be playing in a midfield 2 with two attacking wingers on either side. This is happening in spite of Pogba consistently producing almost world class performances in this position, surely more than he has ever shown such form playing in United’s midfield.
I am just saying that every player has a wide array of strengths and weaknesses. Coaches generally see qualities in players that we as fans do not. And when a coach plays a supposed “square peg in a round hole”, I really wished fans would try to see the coaches’ perspective more and support them more.
Meaningless Mbappe money
I’ve seen quite a lot of articles and people calling PSG idiots this week for rejecting the £170m that Real offered for Mbappe.
With some saying PSG didn’t bother returning their call because they knew Madrid are broke and were … Proving to mbappe that Madrid aren’t serious?
Firstly that doesn’t make sense the easiest way to prove Madrid can’t afford mbappe is to accept the bid and wait for the cheque to bounce.
I think the reason PSG didn’t accept the bid is far more simple – they think they can win the champs league this season so they’d rather keep mbappe for the extra year to help them do it. Let’s be honest, they don’t care about the money. it’s utterly trivial to them. It is a club that washes images of its owners.
All the signings they’ve made have given them the belief the elusive champs league will finally end up in Paris, but they’ll need mbappe to do it. Mbappe is leaving and PSG had to choose let him leave for free in one year and have a hail Mary at the champs league by signing a bunch of players who are proven winners (see: free agents signings) or sell him now, demoralise the team and significantly weaken their forward line to receive money they don’t really need.
There is only one candidate for the most outrageously effortless goal ever scored. The mail this morning was right to namecheck the great Dimitar Berbatov, because it is of course that ludicrous man, for Monaco against Nice.
I would heartily recommend finding a compilation of Berbatov’s goals for Monaco, he scored a fair few quality goals and never looked like he was putting in any effort at all. A true hero to us all.
Harry (whatever happened to that Dimiflop Berbaflop guy?) THFC