Screw a title race, everyone wants City to smash United…

Date published: Monday 4th December 2017 3:34

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It’s ironic that Johnny Nic’s column this week is about the suppression of emotion in footballers, because the article that introduced me both to his writing and to Football365 was one written after John Terry’s infamous penalty slip in the Champions League final, and equally infamous tears. The article was called something like ‘What John Terry’s tears say about us’, and essentially decried an overemotional culture that feels the need to go on ‘journeys’ and encourages somebody losing themselves completely. Something like that anyway, it’s been a while, obviously.

I’m not trying to call anybody out here. Attitudes change over time, and both the point made this week and the point made then are not in opposition. The repression of emotions can often lead to an inappropriate, over the top reaction to something less important, as the dam finally breaks. A healthy grasp of emotions is a happy medium between pretending to be a rock, and overdramatising everything as an ‘X Factor moment’.

It does make me think, though, that this fear of judgement, particularly of reacting ‘wrongly’, being overly emotional at the wrong moment and being chastised for it, is so strong, that it is far easier just to bottle it up than to become the subject of mockery. Who’s to say what’s right and wrong? Of course it’s appropriate to be emotional when a parent dies. What is the appropriate response to losing a Champions League final? A World Cup final? A match of FIFA? (put the controller through the telly, obviously)

Emotions will never be felt in a vacuum, so it’s an impossible question. What’s important is allowing people to express their emotions regardless of the context. To comment and judge is fine and normal, but personally I feel it’s important to give people more leeway to get it wrong (from your own perspective) as well as right. It’s one thing to say ‘it’s ok to cry’ to Rio Ferdinand, another to forgive John Terry for crying after a missed penalty, or any other form of emotion that is a bit embarrassing and undecorous to watch. If we’re going to encourage people to bottle things up less, we also have to be more forgiving when they get it a bit wrong, and not allow our own embarrassment and discomfort make it more difficult for them next time around.
Mark, Newcastle


…A word on Johnny Nic’s piece this morning.

Just wonderful.
Jon, (2 words then) Spurs.


How to stop City
Someone threw an interesting question about how do we stop Pep’s city (last year it was Conte’s Chelsea) – here are some methods that come to mind:

Method 1 – The Mourinho Approach. Have physically powerful players in midfield and defense. Pacy wide attackers/full backs. Keep Pep’s team at arm’s length and do not allow any shot from inside your box. In general, block attacking passes and play. By doing this for a large period, seed doubts in their minds, when the lapse in focus arises from Pep’s team, cash in with a goal, likely through route 1 football, classic pacy wing play crossing into the box for an unmarked midfield runner/CF to finish. Exhibits: Chelsea v Barca, Inter v Barca

Method 2 – The Pochettino Approach. For what is worth, I prefer this method as this feels psychologically better. Last season, City’s season derailed when they first lost at WHL. In the opening 45 minutes, Spurs harrassed Man City so much that the passing accuracy of City’s outfield players was abysmal by their own standards. The resulting turnovers led to two Tottenham goals. Of course, this means Spurs spent the whole second half with no energy defending their own box (with luck, but you create your luck).

Method 3 – The Italian Approach. I really liked the way Carlo Ancelotti annihilated Pep in Europe in the two ties vs Bayern. Also, the double by Conte last season. This approach at the outset looks like the Mourinho approach, but it is a lot different. For starters, this approach is centered on positional and zonal discipline. You have a midfield and defensive structure that is rigidly zonal and the ball circulation has set patterns. Of course, with Pep’s team pressing intensely, you won’t be so lucky with it, but the fact that there are enough personnel positionally, you ensure you don’t allow overloads at any zone. The key to winning Pep is to match the zonal pressure and ensure you have your own overloads in key moments. The big reason Chelsea lost to City earlier (apart from some personnel errors, unfortunate injuries, and scheduling related tiredness) is that Chelsea were over-loaded wide, in the middle resulting in attackers getting squeezed into submission. However, last season, our victories attributed to ensuring this did not happen much (though we rode our luck at the Etihad along with a CF display by Costa that is arguably one of the best I’ve seen). Carlo’s Madrid did something similar in spirit if not exactly same in the two ties in Madrid and Munich. Ronaldo and Marcelo ran riot in the left wide areas during turnovers and Bayern were ripped open.

However, one thing is key to all the three approaches – you need to find a way to break beyond Pep’s midfield. The first team that successfully turnovers Man City’s midfield zone (through the middle or wide) will halt them. Interested to see what other mailboxers have to say about this subject.
Aravind, Chelsea Fan.


…How will Jose beat Pep’s city?

Play 5-3-2 with a midfield of Herrera, Fellaini or McTominay with Matic.

1. Man Mark KDB. Man Mark Silva. Herrera on KDB. McTominay on Silva would be ideal. What we will get is Fellaini struggling against him.
2. Play Messi Lingard on the wide left. Play Rashford on the wide right. No Lukaku (I know what will happen).
3. Cede possesion. When you kick the ball upfield. Ask people to kick the ball out wide. If we succeed in finding Rashford or Lingard then the other drops to the middle. Fellaini comes running in from the middle. If you cannot find them, look for corners.
4. Avoid City running in behind. Valencia can handle Sterling. Young can handle Sane.
5. When all else fails, there is David. David will save.

Waste time. Fall around as much as possible. Be a disgrace. After all, a scrappy goal from a header will do the trick.
Sudarsan Ravi


Ginge Pogba 
Paul Pogba = Ben Stokes.

With him in the team, they look like potential world-beaters. Without him, hopeless.

Hoping we don’t get whupped by an innings next Sunday.
Roger Andrew {At least I won’t have to get up at 03:00 to watch} MUFC


Home and away
Someone needs to tell Phil the self proclaimed die hard United fan from Salford from this morning’s mailbox that not even Jose, with all his cunning and planning and bus parking will be able to arrange a “special master class 1-0 away defensive smash and grab”.

If for no other reason than the fact that United are playing at home in the derby………
Jon Cardy


Neutrals or ABUs?
Do neutrals want to see Man United topple Man City? If by “neutrals” you mean a large number of haters and supporters of loser teams, then no. If anyone is a true neutral, they would rather have a United win so that we can have a genuine title race. But everyone but real supporters just wants to see Man United lose so that they can find some meaning in their miserable lives…..
Johniec@m (For the record, not a neutral but a die-hard United)


…In response to Phil MUFC Salford, I’d rather City spank United because as a ‘neutral’ I love it when an individual destroys a media narrative against them just as Pep Guardiola and Raheem Sterling are doing.

Mou will sure pack his bus which us ‘neutrals’ hate seeing which makes him ‘anti-neutral’.

And the subsequent fawning from United fans in case they nick the win isn’t something to look forward to, even as a ‘neutral’.

F*ck, the mail doesn’t sound neutral.
Sommi (No-one is neutral) Nairobi


…Curious to know the % of non United fans who will be hoping City smash United next weekend because of their hatred for United vs the % who want United to win because they still believe they have a chance on the title 🤔
Sandy (MUFC)


…Surely only a United fan would be so entirely lacking in self awareness as to ask ‘neturals’ who they would like to prevail in the Manc Derby and, worse still, stupid enough to increase the sample size to include ABU’s…

I reckon he might get a few Gooners on his side who seem to have a problem with Citeh being a ‘Sheikh plaything’ and they’ll prattle on about finacial doping and all that but I, for one, will be cheering on Citeh to give Jose and his anti-football a good shellacking. And for once I suspect I will not be alone…

United fans really are an odd bunch, aren’t they? I laugh heartily at that “European Capital Of Trophies” banner. Is it versus the likes of Real, Celtic, Juve, Bayern etc or, as I suspect, yet another broadside at us? Or are we to include Everton in our count and they can have Citeh? Regrettably for the clowns that thought up the banner if we add Everton’s major haul or 9 titles, 5 FA Cups and 1CWC the gap only widens as Citeh have (only) 5 titles, 5 FA Cups and the same European haul. It’s just weird. If we compare only Liverpool Vs United they might have the edge over us in titles but our 5 big ones will always trump out. Just ask Fergie who readily admits it was his biggest failing to not be able to do in 27 years that which Sir Bob Paisley managed in just 9…

Anyway, come on Heemio. Run that expensive bus ragged!
Gregory Whitehead, LFC


…I would like to think that supporting a team who haven’t been in the Premier League since the previous century that I’m considered to be completely neutral/impartial when it comes to who I want to win towards the top of the top division.

I tend to find that the team I want to win stuff is the one that’s got the most likable players/manager at the time and allegiances therefore change over time, however there’s been one constant over the last few years, and that is in a game where one of the teams is managed by Jose Mourinho there can only be one team to cheer on, and that is whoever the other team is. I shall certainly be hoping that Pep’s boys can go to Old Trafford and win on Sunday.
Mark (I started to like Chelsea a hell of a lot more after Jose left and Terry became a bench warmer), Nottingham


…Picking between the two Manchester clubs is liking choosing between a kick in the balls or a kick up the arse.

I want neither to win the league – City are nouveau riche and I know way too many cockney United fans, who say ‘we’ when referring to United but hardly ever see them play in the flesh.

If I had to – I’d say City but I’d much rather Liverpool turned back the clock and won the league as I have always preferred the city of Liverpool to Manchester.

And while I appreciate we’re only a place behind Liverpool, I’d put money on Leicester winning the league before our lot.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London


…As a Forest fan and on paper at least, a neutral as far as the Manchester Derby goes, I would very much like to see City continue their phenomenal run.

Pundits and fans alike, continually drivel on about wanting a competitive title race blah blah blah, but when a team this good comes along (and I don’t believe any UK team has ever played like City have this season) why oh why wouldn’t you want to see them break every record going? Surely I’m not the only one who thinks the potential for City to win the league with record points/goals/games played is just as fascinating?

In fact, I think it’s incredibly fitting that they stand to set a new consecutive PL win-streak at Old Trafford, it could hardly have been written. Extra impetus (if any were needed) for City to go and beat United… And extra impetus (if any were needed) for United to end that run. What’s not to love?

Either way, it should be fantastic.
Andy, Nottingham. (Tin hat donned).


…As a Chelsea fan who would benefit from Man United winning on Sunday, I have to say I would absolutely love to see City destroy United! I cannot stand the negative tactics of Jose Mourinho, again as a Chelsea fan having to endure them in a horrendous title win in 14/15 season where he managed to suck all the joy out of winning the premier league, I really hope that entertaining attacking football wins because that is what football is all about, it’s an entertainment! In a sport that has become so much about money between 2 clubs who have spent a bucket load of it, at least Pep is showing that the money has been well spent providing the league with beautiful football and also passion! Jose Mourinho has always reminded me of a Gordon Gekko of football, think of the shareholders not the fans! I would love to see City win 8-0 and run away with the title, Mourinho win nothing and go to PSG (which is obviously going to happen) at the end of the season! He’s outdated and clearly Real Madrid sucked the passion out of him!……but I would also be happy with a draw, preferably 8-8
Russ CFC Fan


City could still go down
I have to call you out on the claim in Winners and Losers that Man City could stop fulfilling their fixtures now and stay in the Premier League.

Remember what happened to Middlesbrough in 1996, when they failed to show up for a game at Blackburn and were docked 3 points. Assuming that rule still applies, if Man City shut up shop for the rest of the season they’d have 69 points deducted and would end up with minus 26, which should be comfortably enough for them to finish lower than West Ham and Crystal Palace.
Martin, BRFC


What was Bellerin doing?
I’ll start by saying I can understand the red card, what I cannot understand is all the so called experts (Poll included) haven’t mentioned the fact Bellerin basically lay down where Pogba’s forward momentum was taking him, contrary to what Poll said Pogba did indeed get his toe to the ball and knock it over Bellerin’s leg what is really galling is Pogba is now missing for the biggest game of the season due to Bellerin defending like a five a side goalkeeper. So yes he was caught but the reason he was caught was due to his incompetence at defending, Pogba couldn’t plant his foot anywhere else as he was in full stride, who the fuck defends like that?
Paul Murphy, Manchester


Ref rumpus
Nice to see Mark Clattenberg making headlines for all the wrong reasons today . let’s see if the Premier League and their PGMOL cronies actually do something about the revelations that the laws of the game were ignored in favour of “ Game Management” in the Chelsea / Spurs , third in a two horse race season.

On a weekly basis I see Chelsea denied penalties , red carded for offences everyone else is yellow carded at best for and a procession of clubs rock up at the Bridge with the game plan to kick Eden Hazard as many times as possible as their sole tactic.

However, thanks to Clat the tw*t, we now know it’s because applying the laws of the game comes secondary to deflecting the spotlight away from the officials and that they really are doing it on purpose.

Perhaps we can get the money back from the FA for the fine we got for not controlling our players when the referee was ignoring his responsibilities ?

Also perhaps we will, like the West Brom manager at the time when Chelsea got a last minute (correctly awarded) penalty against them got an apologetic phone call from the architect of in game management Mike Riley, head of the PGMOL.

Refereeing has to be one of the hardest jobs in sport, however, it’s a lot easier if you aren’t cheating the “customers”.


Defending Sam
In the Winners and Losers section this week, you said that Everton had done a deal with the low-block, long-ball devil and will receive awful football and smugness in return.

I’m not an Allardyce fan, but I think that’s a little unfair on someone who I actually think has not had a fair chance at a particularly “big club” because of this reputation. He’s brought into clubs, plays turgid football to ensure survival, and then clubs get rid so they can employ managers with more attacking football, who invariably end up in exactly the same position 6-12 months down the line. His approach to football is exactly the same as Mourinho, don’t lose, but he’s never had the budget and chance at a bigger club.

– Took Bolton to Europe. Bolton Wanderers. In Europe. Even with Kevin Davies, they played some lovely football.
– Got less than a year at Newcastle and was ultimately sacked because the fans didn’t like him and Ashley is a terrible owner.
– Took over a Blackburn team with a shocking record under Ince, survived, and improved on the league position the next season, only to be sacked by terrible owners (again, see a theme).
– Likewise, West Ham, fans didn’t like him so hired trail blazing coach Slaven Bilic because he ‘got the club’ despite the fact that Sam Allardyce took them back up at the first time of asking and finished mid-table. Where’s Bilic now?
– Saved Sunderland.
– Saved Crystal Palace

The England job is a real blemish on his career, and hopefully that kind of PFM behaviour is on it’s way out.

Blackburn are in League 1, Bolton & Sunderland are in the Championship, West Ham & Crystal Palace could join them next year and Newcastle are clearly on the slide.

Everton have got a manager with brilliant man-management skills, as well as an eye for detail & preparation. There’s a lot of clubs who would love the organisation at set-pieces that Allardyce’s teams have.

If given time, I’d expect Everton to comfortably finish mid table this season, and be back up there next season.

Mat, Leeds


Seagulls wings clipped
Welcome to the Premier League Brighton. Ouch! Enjoyed watching the Coutinho show and Saturday showed what can happen when we come up against the top teams. Liverpool could afford to make six changes from the midweek game and still have a quality team. Brighton only made two changes and eight of starting line up were playing Championship football last season. Additions are needed in January to keep the momentum going, mainly a striker and midfield cover for Stephens and Propper who have played every minute so far. Still the 5-1 thumping makes the loses to Man Utd, Arsenal and City look kind of respectable! Back to focusing on getting points from the teams outside the top six.

And in response to this morning’s question, do neutrals want to see Man Utd topple Man City? No.
Danny, Brighton


Hypothetical questions
Arsenal have twice in the past reacted angrily to an early 0-2 deficit at home in games where bragging rights and pride were there to play for. Both times it was against Sp*rs and on both occasions the scoreboard read 5-2 at the end.

Now, I’m not trying to equate ManU to Sp*rs as both teams have different histories of success but the pressure situation in all these games are essentially the same and on any other day, Mourinho and his team would have left the Emirates soundly beaten with their tails between their legs like Sp*rs did. If wishes were horses , nearly does not kill a bird blah blah blah but anyone who is being sincere would admit it’s not inconceivable that United would have lost by a similar margin or even more on Saturday.

How would we have interpreted the collapse? How would the media have reacted to Jose’s team shipping in five against this Arsenal side? What would it have meant for the title race? What effect would it have had on the derby this weekend?

They were almost surrendering a three goal lead to Watford and Arsenal should have clawed back the two goals and essentially buried them before they knew what hit them. Sadly, the gift wrapped three points have put those very valid questions away (for now anyway).

As for Arsenal, it’s safe to say normal service will resume this season and they are good value and nailed on for a top four finish.
bdotm (I’d be ashamed if I were a United fan)

Confused red

What a weekend of football, that was an amazing game to watch on Saturday evening, with De Gea just cementing his place as the best ‘keeper in the world for me Clive, it is a true pleasure to have such a player between the sticks for my club.

That said, is that meant to paper over the fact that on another day that could well have very quickly become United 2 – 4 Arsenal? (5,6,7 even with 15 shots on target)

Our defence was abysmal, this is why Jose sets up the bus against fellow top 6 opposition guys, that is quite apparent after we somehow escaped Anfield with a point, when a vulnerable Liverpool rightfully tore us apart seemingly at will, since we refused to attack them at all.

And again on Saturday, we were just opened up with ease, you cannot give away 15 shots on target and be a water tight defence, yet a quick glance at the defensive records suggests that we are one as we are not conceding.

So where lies the truth?

Well, in that quality opposition can, if they so choose, seemingly rip us part right through the middle every time they press forward with intent, with Matic the eternal firefighter, but he can only be in one space at any given moment in time.
And so, Jose sets up defensively when faced with these teams, rather than risk a handful of shots on target for us versus a dozen plus for a team like City/Chelsea etc. with perceived higher quality attacking players.

Just why this is an actual issue, with the squad we have, is something that the coach needs to accept responsibility for.

I struggle to merely accept that Mikhi and Mata are just not good enough as playmakers with Pogba behind them and our young guns blazing out wide with Rom down the middle, for United to create as many chances as top 6 opposition.
If Jessie our Messi hits the post there, and Arsenal convert one of their early chances…where does the game from there, with Arsenal apparently able to press us ruthlessly when they decided, yeah lets play fellas.

At Liverpool we had no early lead (or any lead of course), so I do not subscribe to the line that we were 2-0 up, and so were expected to sit back from there.

Really? After just 10 minutes away from home at traditional rivals?
They do say that 2-0 is the most dangerous scoreline and perhaps this is an example of why, but I don’t agree then with such an early change of tactics, even whilst racing into a 2-0 lead.

Because even while we leaked shots on goal, the plan was to apparently keep on doing that and only that?
I do not buy it, we would have happily conceded only 2 shots on target, if we were capable of that containment, surely?
Manc in SA (Strange times, we so often feel so close but so far from a finished article)


Weekend musings
Having just watched the weekend action, here’s a few thoughts.

Was that the most Arsenal goal ever? Ramsey knocking it back to Lacazette from that position. The very definition of “always trying to pass the ball into the back of the net.”
Dominic Calvert-Lewin did a silly dance after he scored. He’s officially a promising, young English forward.
After being asked about the world cup draw Hazard responded, “I spoke to Gary Cahill, I said good luck against Belgium.” Oh the bantz.
The real question with Sam Allardyce’s appointment is if there’s room for both ‘Big Sam’ and ‘Big Dunc’ in the Everton dugout.
Good lord but Shaqiri is a cube of a man.
John Motson is the greatest. My favourite was his excitement over Richarlison keeping a fairly standard ball in play.
Owen Davidson


The Serie A Sorcerers
After Timi, MUFC clickbaited me this morning with news of a Goalkeeper scoring a header, I felt compelled to go in search of said goal. Fortunately BT Sport covered it, and here it is in all its glory. Simply magnificent.

Unfortunately I couldn’t find one with Italian commentary, which would have made it 1000 times better. Still, what a moment for Alberto Brignoli and the rest of Benevento Calcio.

Incidentally, I ended up on Benevento’s Wikipedia page, and it turns out their nickname is ‘The Sorcerers’.

Lee (Quietly content Liverpool fan), LFC

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