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Top four or a trophy?
I believe this inbox will be flooded with mails from fellow Liverpool fans enjoying the FA Cup final. To be honest, unlike Man Utd fans who cannot wait to see Real Madrid beat us, we cannot really be bothered if the FA Cup ended in London or Manchester. So long as the European Cup returns to Anfield. La Sexima.
One of the oldest cup competition in the football world, the significance of winning the FA Cup has diminished over the years. Arsenal won it in 2017. Chelsea won it in 2018. But if you ask both sets of fans, managers and players, I believe most would swap their positions with either Tottenham or Liverpool, teams that have secured Champions League football for the next season, but have nothing tangible to display in their trophy cabinet (yet, because Liverpool will bring back the trophy to Anfield this Sunday). For the past ten years, Arsene Wenger delivered Champions League football to Arsenal year after year. Some fans were critical of him and wanted the team to win actual trophies, not the “fourth-place-trophy”. Wenger duly delivered the FA Cup for two years running, but in the end was ousted from the club for not securing Champions League football. Conte will soon find out whether winning the FA Cup is of any good, especially if there is no Champions League football to go alongside it.
Back in the old days, we have Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea. Four big teams gunning for three (or four) Champions League spots. More often than not, the big four teams do not miss out on Champions League football. At least not in consecutive seasons. However, with Tottenham and Manchester City crashing the party now, unless UEFA decides to expand the Champions League to a 64- or 128-club competition, two or at least one if that team wins the Europa League, of the abovementioned six teams will miss out of Champions League football for the following season. Well in that case, are we about to see one or two managers from the big six teams sacked every summer?
For next season, imagine Mourinho finishes outside the top four without winning the Europa League. Let’s give him the FA Cup and the League Cup for goodwill sake. Do you think the Man Utd fans and board will give him another season? Klopp at Liverpool and Pochettino at Tottenham will face the same issue if they cannot deliver Champions League football. Let’s not even discuss if Guardiola will be sacked by the Man City board if he has to lead his team out to play Europa League football on Thursday nights. For that matter, whoever is going to take over at Arsenal (and probably Chelsea, respectively) will face the same pressure.
Unless something drastic happens, like the English FA decides that in the future, FA Cup winners and the team finishing fourth in the league will have to play a one-game playoff to determine who gets the Champions League spot, teams will continue to put their focus solely on the league, and rightly so. Returning from Wembley with the FA Cup is indeed a memorable experience that most footballers dream of. But for now, that should only be the icing on the cake. You definitely do not want to sit at home admiring your FA Cup moments on Instagram when your rivals are playing continental powerhouse teams under the floodlights on Tuesday or Wednesday nights.
Winning FA Cup is the icing, but securing Champions League football for the following season will always be the cake.
Allez Allez Allez! YNWA.
That is the first time in 50 years that I didn’t care that United lost any match let alone a Cup final. That man has to go before the club uses up all the good will of supporters who have devoted their football energies to United. His cynicism has no limits, and his players are having the talent managed out of them. If Sir Alex has a last hurrah, let it be going to a Board meeting and saying enough is enough!
…if 150/200 million is going to be spent in summer, it needs to be on a whole new back line. I don’t know if I can do another season of Chris Smalling turning his entire body like a bus before hitting a pass, Valencia’s famous stop-shuffle-pass-back when he gets the ball, or Phil Jones’ face when he makes a blunder. I’d break the bank for Alderweireld if he wants to leave Spurs and two actual full backs. And please Jose, just play Bailly.
-On that note, what has Eric Bailly done to Mourinho? He’s certainly not perfect but is by a mile the best defender at the club, and Mourinho bought him. Baffling that he doesnt play.
-Jones and Smalling need to be sold to avoid the option of even using them. They’ve had far too many chances and are the same players that they were in 2011, get rid.
-What is infuriating about this United team is the potential. I’d maybe add another midfielder especially with Carrick and Fellaini (thankfully) going, and add someone to replace the gap if Martial (not thankfully) goes. Apart from that in the midfield and attack I don’t have any issues, the talent is there and when they want to play well they can, is it the attitude or the manager that’s holding them back? Going forward they have the potential to be brilliant but just look like they’ve never played with each other before.
– Pogba wasn’t THAT bad against Chelsea. The miss was a howler and it unfortunately is what he’ll be judged on, but he looked dangerous and no Chelsea player could get close to him. Not a 10/10 performance by any means, but not a 5/10 either, he could have played better but was by no means part of the problem at Wembley.
-Martial has been very frustrating recently, hasn’t fully taken any chances he’s been given but he’s the most talented player I’ve seen at United for years. He could be a superstar so I really hope he stays.
-Don’t think Mourinho will (or should) be sacked, it’s the best season since Sir Alex and the team is better than when he took over. However he has a lot to do. He needs to sort out that backline, and get a system that can suit the attackers. That attack has potential to be great, and I think he knows he’s gonna have to change his ways to catch City.
-To finish, Hazard is brilliant, He’s hateable, he could fall over due to a slight breeze, and has that face I’d love to punch, but my god is he good at football. Hope Real Madrid make a double swoop for him and Salah.
C, from Belfast (will have to move to a remote island next weekend)
…As a Chelsea fan, I will always have the utmost respect for what Jose achieved at the club. In his first spell, he brought in some tremendous players, developed a great team and created a title winning club. In many respects, he laid the foundations for the ongoing success of the club. In his second spell, again he achieved success, but ultimately threw it all away by burning bridges with players, the boardroom and the clubs respected doctor, whom he treated appallingly.
However, he has always been a bad loser and hearing his comments yesterday reinforced that view. Saying that Chelsea didn’t deserve to win, that Man U were the better team and that the only thing that De Gea had to do was to pick the ball out of the net is a nonsense and a smoke screen for his own shortcomings.
Conte played a smart, but high risk game. He pressed for an early goal, and got it. In the opening 25 mins of the game, Chelsea were absolutely the better team. After that, Man U came at Chelsea but only had one clear cut chance – the Pogba header – and were held at arms length by the excellent Kante and Rudiger. Chelsea however threatened on the counter, with Alonso forcing a good save from De Gea and Man U never over committed players for this reason – they knew that Hazard was dangerous and Giroud an excellent out ball in the counter attacking approach that Conte had taken.
Had it been a backs against the wall performance from Chelsea, Mourinho may have had a point, but it was not. It was’nt even total domination from Man U laying seige to Chelsea’s goal. Sure they had more possession but only turned that into 2 more shots on target than Chelsea did and by and large Chelsea looked comfortable.
Mourinho’s complaints fall on deaf ears and blind eyes – he would be the first person deploy the exact same tactics had Man U got an early lead and everyone – including Mourinho – knows it.
Where Mourinho could have said “Congratulations to Chelsea, they played a great game and defended like Champions” instead he said “We were better and i’d have been criticised had i won playing like that”. This is a nonsense and a lie – he knows it is all about results in cup finals and he strikes me as a man trying and failing to meet expectations at Man U.
All of which bring me to the point that I wanted to make all along – Jose Mourinho only really knows how to play one way – Avoid defeat first and foremost. This can work well – really well sometimes – but when the onus is on his team to attack and take the game to the opposition, it often looks laboured. You can throw all the money and attacking talent in the world at the playing squad but it wont mean a damned thing if the manager cannot use it properly.
Afterall, this is the man that sold De Bruyne, Salah, Robben, Cudaudro and Juan Mata and the same man who turned Joe Cole from one of the brightest attacking talent in the game into a hard working winger.
The problem, Man U, is not the players, it is the manager. We’ve seen it at Chelsea, seen it at Real Madrid and now Man U.
He is simply not the man if you want to play expansive, attacking, free flowing football. He was the man to get results and deliver silverware, but now, even he is struggling to do that so competitive is the top end of the game.
Although “only” the FA Cup, it feels like a watershed moment to me for Mourinho – no trophies, team playing appalling football despite the investment, miles behind city in the league and a last 16 exit in the champions league to a non elite team (Sevilla).
By his own measures, the club’s measures and those of the fans of the best, he has failed.
…VAR was in full focus in the final and what a wonderful job it did. Called everything correctly, to a tee, but the refs made everything look awkward. It’s the humans that’s the problem, not the AI. On to the match, I knew United were in trouble when Lukaku didn’t start and that is not a slight on Rashford. Rashford is a good striker, but the system Mourinho insists on playing does not suit him. But the real surprise came when it was announced that Jones and Smalling were starting in defence. Mourinho decided to give Conte a parting gift before the match started, most managers choose to do it after. Chelsea didn’t even need to do anything special to beat United because Jose beat himself, by overthinking the problem. Conte won by just showing up.And as expected, one of the duo made a mistake that directly led to a goal. It’s not the fact that Phil Jones looks unintelligent, it’s that he acts unintelligent.He is a decent instinctive defender but when it comes to decision making, he falls flat in his face,no pun intended. It was telling, that at the end of the game, the camera captured him with a head band around his head. I think he had injured his head thinking too much.
With football, a team can win, draw, or loose, but sometimes a team is capable of beating one’s self. That’s what United did. It maybe the manager, but the players themselves aren’t setting the world alight. Rashford was poor, Martial came on and was poor, Sanchez was incredibly invisible, I think the only united players that came out with any sort of credibility are Pogba, Herreira, Matic and DeGea off course.
Dave(that match wasn’t worth the wait, and thank god the wedding overshadowed it), somewhere
…What went well
2nd Place: Highest position since Fergie left nothing really left to say….
Matic and Lukaku: they came and they were Jose’s two big Lieutenant’s
De Gea: Dave Still saves (for how much longer)
Some of the early football: We spent the First few games winning teams and scoring 4 goals a game
Biig game record: from 10 points last year we ended this season with 19 including defeating each.
What was crap/What went Less well/Why did people laugh at us
Jose’s Excuses: Dude just accept when your wrong
Trophyless: The FA cup became our great hope and we flunked it
The Gap:The highest ever although lets not forget there have been big swings the other way in the last 3 seasons.
Sanchez: His party trick is now enthusiastically receive the ball run a bit before passing to the opposing team .
Youth Development: Memphis ended the season with two hat-tricks and scored as many goals as Neymar, Martial May follow that example next season, Rashfords now’s less developed than Sterling the fear is we may all be watching Sanchez play next season and wonder how it came to this.
Valencia and Young: They’ve convinced some people they are really good fullbacks, they really aren’t.
Some of the defensive selections: In what way did Eric Bailly did offend Jose,that Jones got so many games.
Most of the rest of the football: Not as bad as the last 4 years but still ……
Consistency: mainly an issue with Pogba Awesome one day,couldn’t be arsed the next.
Overall it was an Okay season I believe Jose has earned one more crack but this time he’s got to get everything right otherwise the tide will finally turn for the few still willing to give him a shot.
Is Rashford any good?
It’s a question that’s been bugging me for a while, but particularly recently with the England World Cup squad announcement. I’m sure I heard a pundit saying England had a handful of very good players – listing Kane, Sterling, Alli and Rashford. But is he actually very good yet? I’m not dismissing his undoubted potential and he’s had some fantastic games, but his stats (poor shot conversion etc) back up what I thought when I watch him – he’s inconsistent and in my opinion wouldn’t be near first choice for Man Utd if he weren’t English. And wouldn’t be near the England team if he didn’t play for MU. Is this just me? Or do others agree that this is the latest in a veeery long line of young English players to be overhyped before they put the work in to become as good as they could be?
Champions League final fear
Liverpool fan getting in early on Champions League comment.
Since we made the final I’ve been unable to shake the feeling that it’ll end on penalties and Ronaldo’s will be decisive.
I can see him smash it and it hits the woodwork. I just can’t see what way it goes.
Anyone else stupidly worry about games like this?
Aidan, Lfc (incorrectly predicting results since ’89)
I’ll keep this short n sweet because I’ve literally just thought about this and it’s made me mad, but do you know what I can’t stand in football punditry? The phrase, when talking about a referee’s decision: “if you’re not sure then you can’t give it”.
Hate that phrase. Hate it! It’s so smug and so wrong, and it makes the pundit look like an ignoramus in my eyes.
To confirm: the referee WAS sure and that’s why they gave whatever decision they gave. They were 100% sure in themselves. They were just wrong.
Aaaah, all better now :’)
Dale May, Swindon Wengerite