What did we learn in the break? United are still poor and Newcastle have got it all on.

Published: Monday, 07 February 2022

A break? Well, a PL break. That’s what it was supposed to be, but it didn’t feel much like it - not with all the Afcon and FA Cup drama.

First of all - congrats to Senegal on their triumph - but Mane was a lucky boy eh? That dive was something I thought we’d seen the last of from him and Salah. It’s Grealish and Sterling who’re the main offenders these days. Oh - and the usual suspects at United, although I didn’t have any complaints about the challenge on Pogba, that led to Ronaldo’s miss against Boro.

While we’re on the subject - well done Chris Wilder. Anyone would think Brit coaches knew what they were doing. Wilder and his boys put on a master- class to leave one of the most highly rated euro coaches (I’ve still no idea why) absolutely baffled. Granted - the handball interpretation is a nonsense. Of course Boro’s goal should’ve been disallowed, but they earned their slice of luck.

United return to action in the PL this week with even their most optimistic fan now realising that they’re not very good - surely? I read a piece from Ollie Holt the other day arguing that United have been going downhill ever since Fergie left. Not so Ollie. They were on the slide during his last few years.

I’ve said this many times - that last title team were eight short. They got over the line thanks to van Persie’s goals and the very timely return of Paul Scholes. Fergie was allowed to stay too long. He had the club in a vice-like grip - operating as he wanted - and while they stagnated, everybody else was moving forward. It’ll take them another decade to catch up.

An ordinary looking 4th round turned out to be very good didn’t it? Kidderminster, Plymouth and Coventry were terrific, but pride of place goes to Boreham Wood. My mate Pipes couldn’t muster a response when I enquired how the Cherries had got on yesterday (Sunday). Oh what joy. 😂😂

I hope people are beginning to realise that we don’t need replays anymore. The argument that a one-off tie doesn’t produce the same drama doesn’t wash anymore. Both the 3rd and 4th rounds have been brilliant.

What else did we learn in the PL break? Well - that Newcastle are still in big trouble, that’s for sure.

Their spend in January was interesting I mentioned Wood in the last blog. He’s a solid citizen. Trippier is too, although he’s not going to win you many games. Dan Burn? Underwhelming. So was the addition of Targett. Guimaraes is the wrong man, at the wrong time, at the wrong club for me. Is he really going to dig them out of trouble? I don’t think so. He’s got quality that’s for sure - but he might just be ‘new’ Dmitri Payet.

You can see why Newcastle bought him. They just had to land a big one (big-ish) to prove they could, but they came up well short. They were nowhere near the ones they really wanted. All the money on the world doesn’t guarantee success.

I don’t see enough goals in them to survive. I was texting a Geordie legend on another matter this week and he agreed - although he mis-understood my question - which was ‘do you think they’ve got enough to come straight back up?’ 🤷‍♂️😂.

Another problem which has emerged for the Toon is that two of the other strugglers are going to give it a right go.

Norwich are finding some form under Dean Smith - whose been the course before - and Roy Hodgson will get a tune out of Watford. What a great start - their first PL clean sheet in two years and six managers - at Burnley! Hodgson will have been delighted with the result. Yep - if Newcastle are going to stay up they’ve got it all on.

I can’t wait for the game against Everton this week. What a difference in the attitude and atmosphere around Goodison for the tie against Brentford. It was as if a stiff breeze off the Mersey had blown the stench of the Benitez era away. I’ve spoken to people who suffered the pain of the Spaniards time with Everton. Three words keep coming up - distanced, difficult and destructive. Three ‘d’s. Here’s another - dunce.

Good luck Frank. It’s great to have you back in business. Taking Paul Clement is a smart move. Listen to him talk on KeysandGray The Podcast @keysandGraypod. He’s worked with the very best all over Europe. He’s a smart guy.

I’m not suggesting it’s going to be easy for them - quite the opposite - but it was a great start and I think they’ll win at Newcastle this week. Everybody at Goodison looked refreshed.

What happens next at Leicester is going to be interesting. What a turn-around in fortunes for Brendan Rodgers. Early in the season he was being linked with all the big jobs - now there’s talk of him getting sacked.

Leicester should be careful. Rodgers is as good as they’ll ever get. He’s had them punching well beyond their weight. The title win will never happen again. Rodgers delivered the perfect season last time round - a trophy and Europe. Either/or should be their target. Both was a bonus. They’re not equipped to mount a serious top four challenge and the sooner they lower expectation the more likely it is that they’ll make sensible decisions. Sacking Rodgers now would be madness.