Recent blog posts

Posted by on

It'll end in tears, but what a ride Manchester United fans are in for! In fact, what a time to be a football fan in Manchester now that, arguably, the best two coaches in the world are going head to head again. 

Arguably? I've got to reserve room at the top for Carlo Ancelotti. He's a class operator. 

Anyway, not before time, United have got it right. This is what they should've done when Fergie announced he was leaving. Mourinho's job application the night that Real tipped them out of the C Lge was wrongly ignored and they've paid a heavy price. Mind you, how many of us haven't f****d up somewhere along the line?!? 

David Moyes was the right man - at the wrong time. I advocated change when it was blindingly obvious part way through that first post-Fergie season that it was going wrong. I stand by what I said, but....

I strongly believe that he was a far better option to back than LVG. His two years have been little short of a disaster - and I don't like using that word. Disasters are what happened in Munich and at Hillsbrough. In that context, the sport of football is irrelevant. 

LVG ripped the heart out of United. He changed everything that was great about them. Little things, like splitting the dining room arrangements. The senior players were kept apart from everybody else at the club, instantly causing rifts and splits. Fergie, who I have been critical of in the past, never allowed that. He knew the value of the 'family'. 

The players tired of van Gaal's rigidity and dull training routines. A 5.15 kick off would require a training schedule to fit. Why? No-one else in the league adjusted like that. It didn't bother Leicester too much last year did it? Or United in the past. 

On the pitch United were awful - passing sideways and backwards while van Gaal tried to convince us about the value of possession. Nonsense - look at Leicester's possession stats last season. 

Deep in United's DNA is a need to entertain. How many times down the years did we hear Fergie say 'we never make it easy for ourselves'. I've been at Old Trafford when the place has exploded with last minute drama. It was fantastic. 

United is a wonderful football club. I know I haven't endeared myself to supporters over the last few years with some of my calls, but I never spoke without knowledge. I felt the pain of those who love the club. It was terrible to watch it going so badly wrong. I simply pointed those things out - but was I wrong? 

After Dalglish Liverpool never got it right. Well, the current version of Graeme Souness might have had more success, but not the one that turned up trying to fight everybody. I know that feeling. I've been there as well! What I would add is that Graeme cared deeply about the club. He still does. He wanted to fix things. He needed to fix things, but not in the way he tried. 

My point in mentioning Liverpool? Theirs was terminal decline. Klopp might get it right, but it's still a long way back. United, I believe, HAVE now got it right. 

I'm wondering what version of Mourinho will turn up? The Special One? The Angry One? The Happy One? Like I said, maybe he's just The Right One.  He'll have something ready for us that's for sure. 

Whichever it is, he won't change. There will be rows, tantrums and eventually it will end in tears. But he'll win things. And he'll bring back the fun. 

Remember the first team he put together at Chelsea? What a good side they were - Duff, Drogba and Robben up top. Lampard storming forward from mid-field. Yes, Mourinho can be pragmatic, but he knows how to entertain. His Real Madrid champions did just that as well. 

I wouldn't rule out Mourinho winning the title next season! Why? Well, he knows the course. He's smarting. He'll have the ammunition. He'll want to get one over on Guardiola early on. He'll be a man possessed. 

City fans will, of course, disagree. Guardiola is just as likely to prove me wrong. He too is smarting after - by his standards - a failure at Bayern. Failure it was, however you dress it up. Winning the league and Cup there is a given. His job was to win the C Lge. He failed. 

The task at City is even bigger than the one he inherited in Munich. Agreed, trying to follow what Heynkes left was always going to be difficult. Guardiola did win titles and Cups, with a really good team. Are City anywhere near as good? No. There's a massive re-building job to be done there. OK, there is at United as well, but I think Mourinho's knowledge of our game, grounds, systems, the whole package, gives him the edge. 

What about Chelsea, Leicester, Arsenal, Liverpool, Spurs? There's a lot of activity to come yet this summer that means I'm going to delay any further views. I'll deal with all this nearer to the start of the season. Right now, its fair to say the sun is shining in Manchester. Now, there's a thing........!

Posted by on

So we come to the end of the most extra-ordinary of seasons. I thought about waiting until Monday before writing - but with so little left to sort out, why wait? 

So little? Not if you're a Manchester football fan. There's the engaging battle for 4th to be sorted out this weekend. Think about that - both Manchester clubs getting excited about the race for 4th place. Oh how the mighty have fallen. 

LVG was talking this week about how it's 'unrealistic' of United fans to think that his team might be title challengers! Really? Why? That's surely the sole reason why this fading Dutch genius was brought into the club - to deliver the title? And why not after getting on for a spend of £300m?

United also announced record profits this last week. Do you know what - I'm beginning to think that we're entering a new era at Old Trafford, where simply qualifying for the C Lge is enough. United are 'new' Arsenal. 

It's for that reason that I'm pretty convinced now that LVG will survive if United can pip City for 4th. An FA Cup win would be a bonus, but I don't think it would be enough to save him. Delivering C Lge football just might. 

Can they nick 4th? Sure they can. As any die-hard City fan will tell you, if there's a team capable of cocking this up then it's City.  

In truth I'm not sure either side deserves C Lge football. I think West Ham and Southampton could justifiably argue their efforts this season should be rewarded with that prize. Both have been entertaining. Both have been adventurous. Both have been a breath of fresh air. 

United haven't always been good - but I've never looked at them and thought 'they're not trying'. Week after week I have done that with City. Their last few games have been awful. They were  inept and impotent in their C Lge semi-final v Madrid and just  plain bad in the league.

What are we to make of the Pellegrini years? The 'holistic' years? What was it - one title success, with Mancini's team, and two League Cup final wins? Sorry - simply not good enough. And what does he leave behind that Giardiola will want to work with? Not much. Still the best players are those that Mancini bought. Would you say any of Pellegrini's are worth hanging onto? No - nor me.  

I've referenced time and again that rotten dressing room. That's where to start the re-building. Clear the lot out - except Hart and Aguero. Start again. Oh how they most regret pulling the trigger on Mancini - but I've argued it here before - it was easier to get rid of a failure after three years than it might have been Mancini after three more years littered with silverware. The hierarchy at City always believed they could deliver Guardiola, it was just a question of how and when. Now his arrival comes as a huge relief - which is what they always wanted. 

So, for me, I take United to finish 4th! We'll see. Perhaps City will surprise me and put on a show? 

It'll be great to see gentleman Joe Royle back in Everton's dug out. It's an unlikely - short term - return but it'll change the mood at Goodison from toxic to turbo-charged. 

I told you Martinez would go. He lost both the dressing room - as was evident from the pathetic displays at Leicester and Sunderland - and the crowd. His philosophy was flawed - pass, pass, pass, pass...... Oops, we've let another one in. You can't score a goal Roberto unless the ball is in the opposition box - not yours. Thank goodness this tedious era of possession being 'King' is coming to and end. 

But who next at Everton? As regulars know, I'd give it to Mark Hughes. Everton is a special club, one where having had a touch of the ball is important. David Moyes was an obvious exception to that rule, but he got it. Martinez never did. 

There's a huge re-building job to be done. The likes of Osman, Barry, Jagielka and Hibbert are all over 30 now. Lukaku will leave. So will Stones. It's a big job for someone with P Lge experience and a knowledge of what's required at that club. So - it's either Moyes or Hughes for me. 

I know Rafa's people are working like mad to land it - but come on. Rafa - at Goodison? No. Anyway - I couldn't ever see him working for a 'small' club. Evertonians wouldn't have it. Nor should they. Other than living on The Wirral, what qualifies Benitez for the job? 

I do believe he might have kept Newcastle up had he gone in sooner - but so far it's just 2 wins from 9 - one more than Alan Shearer managed in his doomed reign. 

Look deeper - what has Benitez actually won since he left Liverpool? I'll tell you - 1 Italian Cup. 1 Italian Super Cup - their Community Shield - so that doesn't count. Yep - the Europa league at Napoli and Chelsea. He won the Super Cup with Mourinho's team at Inter - and then promptly got sacked. He also got sacked from the other big job he landed - at Real. He manages for himself and his cv. If I'm an Evertonian I don't want him anywhere near my club - the 'People's Club'. A family club. No thanks. 

I noticed a line last week that I'm surprised hasn't grabbed the media's attention to a greater degree. Actually - at all! Celtic are going to introduce 'safe standing' at Celtic Park next season. Is there such a thing? 

Celtic, remember, were the first team Liverpool played after Hillsbrough. That's why the story leapt out at me. Then I saw many many of the Hillsborough victims families being honoured at a special day out just two/three weeks ago. I wondered if the plans had been run last the likes of the stoic Margaret Aspinall and what she would make of them had they been? Margaret is, of course, the Hillsborough Family Support Group chairwoman. She lost her 18-year-old son, James, in the disaster. 

I'd like to hear her thoughts on 'safe standing'. I've heard all the arguments that 'safe standing' might be a lot safer than what we've got now - especially at Spurs and United, where few if anybody sits in their seat. Supporters at those two clubs aren't alone in flouting the rules and I'm aware that at United they try very hard to make people 'sit' in the seat they've bought. 

It was with good reason that Lord Justice Taylor recommended all-seater stadia after the Hillsborough disaster. We haven't had trouble since - so why go looking for it with the move to 'safe standing'? Once Celtic have done it - be sure that it's something that will creep into the English P Lge. I'm yet to be convinced that it's a good idea. Far from it in fact. 

Posted by on

It was a pretty good weekend. Not because I particularly enjoyed the football - more because I couldn't stop laughing when I was watching The Saturday Club on beIN Sports. They ripped into me for my pre-season prediction of impending doom at Leicester following the appointment of Claudio Ranieri! 

It's something I've addressed a number of times, so there's not much point in re-visiting it. The only consolation is that I wasn't alone. The great and the good from our business were a unified voice about Ranieri. We were ALL wrong. When you are, the best policy is to hold your hands up and admit it. I admit it - again! 

What makes being wrong all the more pleasurable is that Leicester haven't just survived - they've flourished under Ranieri. I repeat - for me their title success (at least I was one of the first to be convinced by them!!!) is the greatest football story of all time. 

Now, I appreciate there will be many good arguments to the contrary. I don't mind that. I said 'for me'. It's just wonderful. I actually thought they'd get over the line at Old Trafford. Wouldn't that have been perfect? To do it in United's back yard!  

The point might yet be enough. It all depends now on whether Spurs beat Chelsea tonight (Monday) and beat them they MUST, or it is all over. 

I hope they do because, having missed the chance at United, the best option now is that Leicester do it in front of their own fans. They'll beat Everton, don't worry about that. 

It was a battling point at United. I thought they showed nerves early on, almost for the first time this season. But they recovered well and put in a dogged performance after equalising. It was mature. It was a champions' performance. In the end it was a very well deserved point. 

So to my tweet, which stirred so many of you up on Sunday afternoon. I'm not having Marounne Fellaini - not at any price. He's a disgrace to the United shirt. Never mind that he was provoked by Robert Huth. He had his hair pulled - diddums. Get it cut then. If there's nothing to pull - no problem. The way he reacted was scandalous. He's got previous as well. I've lost count of the number of times this season that I've argued with Andy about his flailing elbows. What he does is dangerous. It's not an exaggeration to say that he could end up killing someone the way he goes about his business on the football pitch. Huth actually did him a big favour by staying on his feet, but Fellaini will get done anyway and rightly so. 

What he did was indefensible, so why did LVG try? He should've condemned Fellaini's action straight away and pledged to get rid of him - condemned him publicly - acted on the latter privately. 

I said this on Sunday as well. Sir Bobby Charlton - a gentleman and fine human being - a Manchester United man to the core - is worried about Jose Mourinho turning up at Old Trafford and eventually besmirching the good name of United. He's got a point because we all know it will end in tears if it's the route United are going. Tears and trophies I might add. 

But what about Fellaini? What is he doing in a United jersey behaving the way he does on a pitch? If he stuck his elbow in somebody's face, like he did Huth's, on the street he'd go to jail. It was the behaviour of a thug. There's no place for it in football. There's no place for it in society. I repeat - it's indefensible. Get rid United. 

Fellaini will get banned, for three games. Think about that - three games. What did Suarez get for his now infamous 'bite'? Oh yes, just short of a life time ban! Seriously, what's the more dangerous of the two acts? Exactly - Fellaini's flying elbow, delivered with intent - and that intent was to seriously injure an opponent. Get rid United. He's not worth it. Oh, and I hope he misses the Cup Final. 

My revelation that Sunday's ref, Michael Oliver, has been given permission to take charge of Wayne Rooney's testimonial caused quite a stir! Now, I'm not suggesting any decisions Michael made were in any way connected to that decision.....but. Why put him

I'm the position where the allegation can be made?

My information is that Oliver was given permission to take charge of Rooney's game, on the basis that he wouldn't ref United again this season, so somebody at PGMOL HQ has obviously thought about it. So why was Oliver at Old Trafford on Sunday? I can only imagine the answer is because Martin Atkinson is currently injured. Atkinson would almost certainly have taken charge of the Leicester game had he not been. His late withdrawal last weekend caused a quick re-shuffle of the refs. My guess is that the same thing happened this weekend. 

I'd also like to know why it's been decided that only current refs can take charge of these testimonial games? Why put them in the firing line? Aren't there enough retired 'experts' capable of putting on their boots and having a run out? It's not as though these games are taken seriously is it? Where's Howard Webb? Why can't he do it? 

It'll be interesting to see if Oliver is allowed to take charge of the game now, or whether he's pulled. Keep your eyes open.