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It’s all very exciting, isn’t it? Statistically the greatest premier league side ever, against the side who have somehow managed to try and usurp said greatest side the following season. 2 incredible managers. A host of amazing players. Playing a game which, should one team win, you can’t help but feel will be monumental in the title race.
Somehow, despite this incredible game I am contriving to write not about the 90 minutes itself but what it might represent to the victor.
Let me start by setting the scene; Manchester City have forged a dynasty over the last 7-8 years. This has allowed the club to grow from the quiet little brother of the red behemoth in the city, to the dominant force in British football. City were a club with great history, to the local fans that support it, but little of note to the more ignorant and Premier League focused masses. However, huge investment, combined with the natural end in the cycle of domination for the previously preeminent institutions (Man U, Chelsea) allowed City to climb to the summit and use that success to reinforce their dominion. With continued investment, not just in the playing squad but also in infrastructure, providing the club with the best training and youth facilities in the country, the best talent can be lured. That was not limited to the playing squad, but included the coaching and director of football roles. Txiki Begiristain and Pep soon provided the icing to the sky blue cake. Their incredible double last season was the reward for their exquisite planning.
For all intents and purposes, this manufactured excellence should have made them largely untouchable. They did everything right to protect their dynasty. It wouldn’t have meant guaranteed success in every competition forever, but would have allowed them the best platform for winning the League and Champs League for a decade further, reinforcing their brand around the world.
Yet from under the noses of one great empire another threatens to rise.
Liverpool, the once greatest dynasty in English football, now fallen giants, have been guided to the top of the table and seemingly threaten to undermine City’s dominance. It has not been produced on the back of such enormous levels of investment, though there has been significant funds made available for player purchases and infrastructure projects like the stadium expansion, new training ground development and improvements to the club shop/commercial operations. Instead, the seemingly impossible leap that’s bridged the gap to City was produced with inspired recruitment and incredible managerial guidance, allowing them to construct a squad with quality, commitment and depth. The enigmatic Jurgen Klopp has galvanised the massive supporter base in a way no manager has since the great Bob Paisley. Players are desperate to play for this charismatic German and his free-flowing football, while Liverpool are spoken about around the world with admiration and awe in a way they haven’t since the European dominance of the 80’s.
Yet, they have won nothing. For all of the forward steps, the recruitment, the improved infrastructure, Liverpool are trophyless. Dynasties aren’t built on nice stadiums and good squads, they are built on success, being the great challenger to the ultimate winners will win plaudits but short memories. To make that final step and stand rightfully alongside City, Liverpool need to win the title. Not the Champs League, a competition that can be won through 7-8 great games, but the league, where invariably the best side in the country gets crowned.
Regardless of the title’s ultimate destination, City will invest this summer. Spooked by the emergence of a genuine threat to their previously assumed exclusive crown, they will make a move to stamp out the upstarts. However, should Liverpool take the title, likely requiring a points total to rival City’s from last season, there will be a genuine quandary about which is the most exclusive location. And this is perhaps what these two sides are really fighting for.
If you are Jadon Sancho, winner of 2021 Ballon D’or, 50 goals in 40 games and best player on the planet, having decided its time to come home, you are going to the best team in the land. That’s the team with the best chance of providing the silverware to match your talent. Any of the best sides in England will find the money for the transfer and the wages. It’s a no-brainer whether you are the bank manager or the head of recruitment, the best player on the planet is priceless, especially if they are 18 – 24 years old. The difficult bit is attracting the player.
The best team in the land plus the best player in the world makes you largely untouchable. It makes you a dynasty.
Just ask Lionel Messi and Barcelona.
There *is* a middle ground you know …
Well f*** me with a fish fork, in these times of mental health awareness, I could swear my fellow United fans are predominantly bi-polar, either Ole is the next Messiah or we’re still s*** and it was only Newcastle, Bournemouth, Huddersfield and Cardiff.
Is it not possible that we’re playing a bit better, probably won’t get spanked by Spurs 3-0 this time and might even get a draw or sneak a win? Ole has the job remit of ‘basically, don’t be a c***’ and seems to be OK at that, while also letting the players play some decent footy and not relying on Fellaini (please Ole, he only gets on the pitch if everyone else is injured). I think the more stable United fans are glad to see someone smile in a press conference or post-match interview, allow the players to play and changes things if it’s not going our way in a game. While I don’t expect Ole to get the gig long-term, and obviously he’d love it, who wouldn’t?, he’s doing a decent job. Last night’s game was the first in the last four where we were in danger of reverting to Jose tactics against a stubborn opponent, lots of sideways passes and the work rate slowed right down. Ole was decisive in taking off Martial and Herrera and bringing on Lukaku and Lingard and it worked.
I’m enjoying having a Manager I don’t hate, moving in the right direction and watching the team deliver something that doesn’t make me want to pour salt in my eyes. I don’t think we’ll make top four, we probably won’t beat Spurs and this season is pretty much dead but let’s enjoy it while we can.
Paul, Man Utd
Man City v Liverpool predictions
City to win 2-1 and then Liverpool to lose the next 4 games in the league and then we can go back to our lives free of hope filled tension for remaining 4 months of season
Hugh, LFC, Cork
Why football needs Solskjaer to succeed
I read with interest the letter about why it’s better for United for Solskjaer to fail. While I’m not going to challenge what our friend from Singapore said – although I fully disagree with it – I believe the counter argument is much stronger. Solskjaer absolutely needs to succeed, but for the good of football, nay the universe.
Why? Because Jose Mourinho needs to be driven from managership at top clubs and our TV screens like the scourge that he is.
If that seems a little harsh for a bright and freezing new year, remember the intolerable negativity he has brought to every club. Directed his Porto team to cheat and dive their way to an albeit still impressive (like Greece at Euro 2000) achievement. Did ok at Chelsea (mostly because I don’t really care about Chelsea) apart from the petulant child routine at the end and of course the sexism. Ditto Inter (without the ‘excitement’ of the sexism). Ruined the El Clásico derby with negative football. Almost broke Chelsea a second tome. Almost broke an already reeling and flimsy United before yet more petulant child behaviour
Do we need this in football or our screens anymore? We already have EastEnders and politics bringing unnecessary negativity into our lives. His routine was funny briefly and when he was the youngish upstart with some of Bobbie’s legacy charm still making him glitter. Now he’s just an older, grumpier and destructive bringer of doom with no charm or humour
If Ole can show that, with exactly the same team his predecessor complained about, good football could be played, it might make the money men realise that doors should be barred from Jose rather than blank cheques and an ear-marked £24m payout for his inevitable acrimonious departure prepared.
South American football myth busted
Does anyone remember that tiresome old myth that South American footballers couldn’t cut it in the Prem because the game was too rough and the climate too cold for them? Notice how this stereotype isn’t perpetuated anymore, not even by the punditocracy.
It existed because previously people remembered Forlan and Robinho but they forgot about Edu Gaspar and Gilberto Silva. And then along came Tevez, Aguero, Willian, Coutinho, Sanchez, Fernandinho et al who obliterated the myth.
Vish (AFC), Melbourne
Either Simon, MUFC is a dentist or he is woefully wide of the mark accusing Der KloppMeister of having ‘yellow, mishapen bottom teeth’. Perhaps (more likely) he is yet another Man United fan living in the past*. Jurgen has had his hair and teeth done so I am not quite sure what photos he is looking at, though there is a funny one of Jurgen from his playing days if you search online. Say what you like about our gaffer but his lid and chompers are unimpeachable.
*The irony of this is not lost on an LFC fan.
Not quite football related but there you have it. What did Simon think about Mourinho’s increasingly receding hairline and the day the fast growing combover was revealed after a wet and windy game…?
Sorry, yeah footie. I am quivering like a shitting dog about how tonight might go. Biggest game we have played for 20 odd years I’d say. #MakeUsDream (to borrow the hashtag from the Stevie Me documentary).
Gregory Whitehead, LFC
I enjoyed Simon MUFC’s mail this morning about The Moment Jose “Lost It” and while I agree with his focus on the Eva Carneiro incident + backlash, I think he isn’t remembering the incident entirely accurately.
The Eva Carneiro incident was signficant and different from other instances of managers misbehaving, because it was not a moment of madness. Jose blamed Carneiro in the moment, he blamed her afterwards in post-match interviews, but moreover he continued to try to have her removed from his staff and escalate the situation. He removed her from matchday duties, in response to her doing her job. This is why she sued the club for Constructive Dismissal and this is presumably why the club settled with her for more than 1.2MM GBP.
There is no parallel with anything Guardiola, Klopp and other contemporaries.
Those wondering about the moment Jose lost it really need to look no further than Diego Torres’ book(s) on the subject. You take what he writes with a grain of salt, given that his sources are clearly anti-Mourinho members of the Real Madrid playing staff and management team, but it’s too on-the-nose to disregard. Real Madrid cracked him psychologically and ever sense then, he has been a different person, desperate to win an argument (with who? who knows!) about the merits of his anti-football tactics. This is why he managed United with the handbrakes on, for seemingly no reason, as OGS is helpfully demonstrating.
Oliver Dziggel, Geneva Switzerland
1. She was a first team doctor not a nurse
2. As a team doctor her obligation is player welfare, she is not a member of playing or coaching staff.
3. If you acted as is required within the remits your job and then are subjected to a public lambasting for no other reason than your boss not getting a favourable result then getting subsequently dismissed from your job, you would be more than entitled to sue for at least unfair dismissal. There is a case to be made for gender discrimination considering there can only be a very small portion of cases where a team doctor has been publicly criticised for doing there job, I certainly can’t think of any others.
That case can’t be used as an excuse for Mourinho’s inability to interact with seemingly anyone around on a human level
What? What are they?
Ok… Just 1 question that surely only the mail box can answer
WTAF is a half space? Surely its a space or not a space..
I am seeing being referred to more and more (I blame Jurgen) But now others are taking the mantle and using as if its an actual thing, and like its an actual thing that everyone knows about and understands…
I am 47.. I am not a hipster.. and I dont have a bloody clue what a f*ckin half space is!
Worst way 4pts AHEAD of City after tonight, I would have bitten your arm off for that at the start of the season by the way!
Al – LFC – Calling a space a space!
Anyone with even a passing interest in Premier League finances, and how the teams assets are used/owned should check out the Swiss Ramble’s superb tweets today on Prem club cashflow.
Some superb insights and really interesting observations; as an Arsenal fan in particular the confirmation that Kroenke has put £0 of his own money in since acquiring a stake.
I think I’ve said this before here, but I’m glad for this state of affairs (the lack of personal investment that is, not Kroenke’s behaviour in upsetting club shareholder guardians/stonewalling fans). I think all clubs should be profitable or at least sustainable under their own finances (which can include long term loans) rather than unrealistic inflation with constant injections of shareholder capital.
It does make it difficult, admittedly, for smaller teams to grow to a larger size quickly/break out of their tier without cash injections, but I do fear for the long term sustainability for clubs and there are at least as many horror stories (through overreaching or the simple fact a lot of rich people are really quite unpleasant) as good ones.
So yeah, give it a read, you’ll likely find something most interesting to your own club or maybe even someone else’s (like Crystal Palace extricating themselves from a particularly sticky situation).
Morning Mailbox responses
* To the sour Man U fan in Singapore I think you underestimate Ole,Sure he has put an arm around the player’s but he has hardly been laissez faire,He has scolded Martial for coming back from Christmas late,knows we aren’t moving as quickly as we could and has shown he is not afraid to change tactics when things aren’t going his way (Lukaku) and is taking his team away to work on their fitness at least wait till he fails to tell us you told us so.
*The grass is not necessarily greener with Poch ,show me a member of this mailbox who knew extensively about his managerial career pre Southampton and I’ll show you a liar.Ole knows the standards required and will demand they are met if this works he could have the same effect as all the ex players who have managed Barca and Real.
* Avoid defeat against Spurs and Ole would have gotten at least half as many points as Jose did in in 17 games in just 3 I don’t about you but that is making this look a very good gamble , Relegation is hardly a threat anymore. staying in he hunt for a top 4 place is now a lot more feasible as Utd aren’t that far behind Chelsea/Arsenal anymore.
* It must however be mentioned that Ole or whoever is chosen as Manager should still be the 1st step the sooner a DOF is appointed the better.
* I know it’s just 4 games but the following still need to be moved out within the next two (The current and next summer) windows Valencia ( Awful yesterday) , Darmian (best for both parties Rojo ( A bit too injured) Matic (Still playing ,Still slowing down play) at least one of Jones/Smalling
Ole has worked wonders so far but we do still need a new Centre back,Quicker Central Midfielder ,Right Winger I’m open to seeing how Tuanzebe,fosu Mensah and Mitchell get on in the team as back ups next year
* Sage Humphrey Onitsha where were you when Man-u were appearing in the losers section every week under Jose , Quoting the quality of opposition is also a bit rich when you then bring up Arsenal 22 game unbeaten streak which was against primarily teams of a similar standard. You might get another chance to see us in the early losers someday but for now ….we revel.
What do other clubs do for their halftime entertainment? I’m generally interested.
At Arsenal this season the club has introduced a penalty shootout where young gooners and kids in the away end get their chance to take a penalty against Arsenal mascot the Gunnersaurus.
I really love this addition – not least because the latest round of penalties saw a young gooner score his second penalty after an initial miss. On a day in which it literally felt as if it was just me and three other gooners in the Clock End attempting to sing during the actual match, the young lad’s redemptive penalty was roundly cheered by Emirates faithful, prompting an amusing celebration from the lad.
It’s a simple concept but it really works.
I’d happily watch club mascots take each other on in penalty shootouts – this actually happened this season when Filbert the Leicester City fox showed up at the Emirates. Or perhaps a Royal Rumble involving all the mascots – think of the alliances between the London clubs being initially formed before Gunnersaurus betrays Stamford the Lion by shoving him over the top rope prompting a feud.
Come on Neflix! commission this! Or at least cover the mascot grand national.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London