Quadruple? You’re having a laugh. And Haaland looks fed up

Published: Tuesday, 07 March 2023

That didn’t take long did it? Less than a week of celebrations and the wheels are off again at OT.

Well - that’s according to the newspapers that I’ve been reading this morning. There’s an angry reporter and pundit on every sports page I turned.

I get it. Of course I do. United were awful - and they committed the ultimate sin of giving up. None more so that their irritating captain Fernandes - but what have I always said about him? If he’s not scoring penalties - which he was every week until we alerted everybody to his and Pogba’s antics - he doesn’t offer enough. Anyone that compares him to Paul Scholes needs their head examined. Fernandes exposed himself at Anfield and I agree with Chris Sutton in The Mail  - he should never wear the armband again.

It was an amazing afternoon. I seem to say it every week, but just when you think you’ve seen it all something like that happens.

A word on Liverpool shortly, but let’s deal with United first. It’s tempting to weigh in like everybody else but I’m not going to. Although no-one could’ve predicted what happened I believe something like it was coming.

They are NOT the real deal. They’ve been getting away with a lot recently. Read last week’s blog when I said that they hadn’t played well at Wembley. Their best players were defenders. If Newcastle had scored in a very good opening 30 minutes they could’ve easily won that game.

It’s been heartening to see Rashford back in form, but his goals have been papering over cracks. There is no question that Seven Hag (I know, but it’s funny) has been making progress, but it’s been nowhere near as much as has been hyped. Talk of quadruples was nonsense. Absolute nonsense.

United are a work in progress and trophies are not ‘for ego’s’ as Solskjaer once claimed. They are evidence of the ability to win and supporters want to see their team do that. United have achieved that again.

So let’s not get too carried away by what happened at Anfield. Shambles? Yes. Capitulation? Yes. Embarrassing? Yes. But it was a one-off surely? Now comes the real test though. How do United react? Can Seven Hag get them ‘playing’ rather than sitting and waiting to mug the opposition with Rashford’s pace?

A quick word on the manager. He strikes me as very keen to take credit when things go well, but it’s always somebody else’s fault when they don’t. This time his players were ‘unprofessional’ and ‘didn’t stick to the plan’. In other words - don’t blame me guv’.

I’d have rather heard him say ‘it’s a one-off. It won’t happen again and it certainly won’t spoil the work that we’ve all been doing’. That would’ve been enough. Take it on the chin as a collective. He’s the one complaining that United ‘didn’t stick together’ but he’s distancing himself from it.

After all, it’s his decision to keep playing Wout Weghorst. It’s not Weghorst’s fault, but he has to be the worst player I’ve ever seen in a United jersey. He’s a bang ordinary No9, who couldn’t get in a struggling Burnley team, but what on earth possesses Seven Hag to think he’s a sumptuous 10? One who can ‘wear the tuxedo’ as the Americans say. Come on. It’s a joke and the manager has got to give up pretending that Weghorst has got something to offer. He’s not a ‘pressing monster’. He doesn’t ‘make runs’ because he can’t run. And he doesn’t score goals. You can’t start him - push Fernandes left and leave £80m Sancho on the bench. Too clever Erik. Far too clever.  

Finally Antony. Somebody has got to help him. All he’s got right now is a step over, roll the ball, step inside and try to find the bottom corner. Alisson was waiting for him all afternoon. He’s a one-trick pony and far too predictable.

Liverpool were terrific. They answered every question that’s been asked of them recently,  but Klopp isn’t daft enough to think they’re back. In an adrenalin fuelled atmosphere two of his ageing mid-field were fantastic, but Henderson and Fabinho can’t play at those levels every week anymore. Klopp has got to recruit in that dept. Elliott surprised me. Perhaps there is a player in there after all? And congrats to Salah, who has got to hit those heights every week again now if Liverpool are to make a CL place - and maybe turn round the tie against Madrid? Who knows? Well - we all do really! But why not dream a little?

As Nunez grabbed two more my mind went back to an early season blog I wrote when I said I really fancied him as a player - and that he might be a better long term bet than Haaland. The way the Norwegian started the season made that call look a little foolish, but I’m beginning to wonder if I wasn’t right after all. And notice I said ‘long term’

Haaland was magnificent early season at City. And he’s still picking up the odd goal here and there, but the power seems to have gone. The appetite. The hunger. Remember when he was banging in hat-tricks every week? Now it’s bits and pieces, but I don’t blame him.

He is awesome. He’s got everything you would want in a No9, but Guardiola is both frustrating and wasting him. If possession is your god - and it is Guardiola’s - then the coach will be happy with ‘team’ performances. If you live off goals - and the service to prove you’re the best at that difficult art - Haaland must be pulling his luxurious blond hair out. He needs chances. He needs balls into areas where he can utilise his strength and speed. It’s almost as if City want to starve him of those things.

He cut a very frustrated character again at the weekend. Are we seeing history repeat itself? Remember when Guardiola signed Zlatan at Barca, but couldn’t work out a way to get the best out of him? So he sold him after a season. Ah - there were ‘personality issues’ I’m always told. Of course there were. Zlatan quickly got fed up being starved of what he needed.

Was it just a co-incidence that Haaland’s agent, Rafaela Pimenta,  was talking so glowingly about Real Madrid last week? It’s the ‘dream’ move for players she said. I wonder.