United left feeling black and blue

Let’s face the facts, Manchester United have simply fallen short in meeting the standards set by the league leaders in this campaigns title race. Striving for a top three finish seems a more realistic target, and I am of the opinion that not a single competitor behind us is any closer to demonstrating the standard of football we’re witnessing from Manchester City so far this season. Having just watched my team being dominated for 90 minutes at Old Trafford, I have to say I’m at a loss in trying to piece together the reasons behind our failure. Having to surrender the championship midway through a season is a big ask for any Manchester United fan, but if I can be honest with myself, that is where I’m at. This article will touch on my take on why we’re so far behind our city rivals, and my theory behind how the evolution of the number 10 role is the main cause.

Pep Guardiola has guided his team to a remarkable 11 point gap, but is their squad that much better than ours I ask? They have a goalkeeper, once upon a time deployed as a left back, ticking that ‘ball playing ability’ box Guardiola craved so much so that he saw it necessary to push out a fans favourite and England’s number one goalkeeper, Joe Hart. A defence that again regularly focus on playing their way out of trouble. Attacking threats in Sterling, Sane, Jesus, and not to mention arguably the best striker in the game for the past few years Aguero – can’t complain there. With all this at their disposal I would still claim that above all else, their performances this season are elevated due to an excelling midfield. In them a group of world class players reaching the heights once displayed by a Barcelona of old.

I don’t have to remind you that this Barcelona team, led by Pep, entered an era of unfathomable superiority, during a period Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta and of course Messi pulled all the strings. Pep evidently has a unique style of playing, and with it a habit of leaving his competitors behind. Could we be witnessing the beginning of a similar era of dominance with Manchester City now?

If we shift our attention to the United squad, we possess a keeper in De Gea of whom I consider the best in the world (if not the best then not many could argue at the very least in the top three). A defence that features promise in the shape of Bailly and Lindelof, and an erratic Rojo to always call upon should you want to concede a last minute penalty. Correct me if I’m wrong but we statistically enjoy the best defence record in the league so far this season, and with it boasting an unbeaten run of 40 games at Old Trafford, which until the heart breaking derby result, denied us of a record breaking milestone of 41.

Attacking force in the shape of Rashford, Martial, Lukaku and Ibrahimovic, we’re not doing too badly ourselves at this end of the pitch either. Call me bias, but when compared to City’s front line I would personally only favour their number 9 for ours – albeit an absolute world of difference between Lukaku and Aguero. Touching on the Lukaku signing, the Belgian striker finds himself under constant scrutiny of late, and if you ask me, rightfully so. Lukaku has so far this season been a shadow of his expectation. I want to see fearless hunger, regularly displayed by the likes of Rashford and Martial (and even Lingard!). A desire to charge at defenders with intent on beating a man. His struggles are no doubt a consequence of the pressure formed around his price tag, and we can only hope he turns it around soon.

At present our ‘in favour’ midfield selection features Pogba, Matic and somehow, Lingard. This compared with City’s chosen three, Fernandinho, David Silva and De Bruyne. I would certainly agree that we have strength in Matic, and a world class rising star in Pogba. Considering the absence of Pogba, we used Herrera with Lingard – is it any wonder that we fell short on Sunday.

Label me deluded, or overly optimistic if you will, but I believe we’re much closer to matching our rivals than what the league table would suggest. Mata and Mkhitaryan, considered by many as highly effective number 10 players, find themselves out of favour with Mourinho and I believe I’ve figured out why. My theory is that the number 10 role has become extinct and the position has now evolved into something bigger. I remind you that Mourinho once sold the likes of Mata, labelling the playmaker as a ‘luxury player’.

When deploying a Coutinho sort of player, often neglectful of his tracking back responsibilities, you loose something in the teams balance. This perhaps influenced Klopp’s decision when choosing to leave the talented Brazilian star on the bench for the Merseyside derby. Our balance was lost the moment we tasked a frightened Herrera to the job of man-marking De Bruyne, and unwilling to join in any attack. I watched City’s two midfield stars run the show, cleverly alternating in their roles between the number 10 and the tireless central midfielder. Herrera was left confused and uselessly dragged all over the pitch, leaving holes at every end of the field. This imbalance left an incapable Lingard with too much to do, and an out of confidence Lukaku, alone, isolated and as ineffective as ever. We were doomed.

Manchester City are demonstrating this alternating of positioning in midfield regularly, and the results of it are clear. Every time Silva bursts forward in his intimidating fashion, I notice De Bruyne drop that little bit more to offer stability. They are chopping and changing their roles, and between them claim 21 assists, and 8 goals already this season. Statistically, with Pogba featuring in our starting 11 we create and score a lot more goals and ultimately have a better win ratio. It is also noted that we concede far more goals with his involvement too.

As Pogba pushes forward driving our team, eager to create chances for the front three, he naturally neglects his role as a central midfielder for that attacking phase. It is during this phase that you must envision a player tasked to alternate, such as De Bruyne doing so for Silva in the example above. By dropping in behind, he takes on the role of controlling the middle and thus the balance is restored. This necessary alteration of roles provides a stability to a team that I believe we lack at present and City posses in abundance. I call this role a number 8 and a half, and there aren’t many out there. Probably because I just made it up.

There is it, my verdict on the derby and the miles between the two Manchester clubs could quite possibly be the difference of just a single player in an evolved, more advanced position. Now let’s go out and find one in January! In the meantime, Manchester United are left black and blue, and how very blue it feels right now.

Andy Andreas

sofasportsnews.com

Twitter: @sofasportspod

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Comparing Pep

When you think of a manager, you automatically think of someone who can manage people. I see the technical side of the game, formation and tactics etc as the coaches responsibility. Ferguson, Ancellotti, Sacchi, Mourinho and Clough have all built teams full of charisma. They wouldn’t always be considered fantastic coaches, although Mourinho being the first notable exception. The Portuguese manager has built his reputation by displaying his ability to assemble a winning mentality into every team he manages,

Which leads me onto another debate….Jose vs Pep.

People rightfully argue that Mourinho is purely a results oriented manager, organising his teams to get the desired result.  I am not doubting that Pep is definitely a good coach. A fantastic coach in fact. But he’s also always had a great team to work with.  The Barcelona team was the best club team I’ve ever seen so the distinction between “coach” and “manager” remains as interesting as it does blurred.

Pep owes a great deal of his accomplishments to the supremacy of the players available but should be hugely credited with the way he instills his artistic philosophy of playing the game into his teams, which for me counts heaps. Pep sets out his team to play with a certain philosophy and with results being a consequence of that style,  however, he hasn’t built a team. He hasn’t won the champions league with Porto, or indeed Inter Milan. He hasn’t taken on the task of managing a small club like Benfica or Uniao de Leiria.  I’m not saying he couldn’t, but I believe that to be held in the regard of some of the other men aforementioned in this article, he has to take on a team that doesn’t automatically have the best squad in the league.

Each manager is sometimes a victim of being painted with or tarred with the same brush as their history would suggest. There is no doubt that the Barcelona team were immeasurably talented, but a lot of them would never have become top class players without Pep, though undeniably Barcelona have been and always will be one of the big dogs in Europe regardless of which man is at the helm.

Despite the pressure to win trophies, Pep trusts youth and does not alter his philosophy. It’s a tough task to think of a group of youth players that Mourinho has moulded but let’s also not forget that Real Madrid averaged 2.5 goals under him. Not too much bus parking there…..

Pep innovation secures him the reputation as one of the world’s finest coaches but let’s see him relocate that vision to another context and test his managerial ability. A context that doesn’t come with a squad of world class players and hundreds of millions to spend on full backs alone. I believe if you gave everyone the same team in the world then Jose would come out victorious. In essence that makes him the best manager. Conversely, Pep plays the best football in the world, which is a unparalleled and consummate skill in itself…..so he edges it for me.

@Alavi_SSN

Premier League Review Show: Match Week 3

Our host Harry is joined by Football Journalist Dale O’Donnell (@ODonnellDale) and Memz (@FT_Reaction) from the FT Reaction. We discussed at length the problems around Arsenal Football Club, Manchester Uniteds title credentials and the futures of De Boer and Bilic.

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Premier League Review Show: Match Week 3

We won, get over it! – Manchester United

Don’t be fooled by our fluke performance against West Ham! Is what no United fan should be thinking right now, and here’s why.

4 goals, a clean sheet, and a more than convincing win. Are we back to greatness or was it merely a fluke against a poor opposition? It is maybe not so simple. The reality of it is, on occasions last season we would demonstrate a similar dominance, and would either scrape a 1-0 win or end up conceding late and dropping 2 points. If I recall in the league last season we managed to put 3 or more past a team without conceding on only two occasions, and drew 15 times. So what’s changed?

Well firstly we have a rapidly fast developing centre back in Bailly, who’s presence at the back is influencing the stability of our defence more and more as each game goes on. Secondly, we took our chances when they came. Lukaku, who has undoubtedly silenced a number of critics with his clinical performance today, does so much more than just score. He instills fear into defences. Possessing his pace and power is enough to scare any back four, but knowing he can lay off to a number of attacking midfielders equally capable of finding the net (to which we have many), is terrifying.

A key factor, as I keep banging on about, is balance. Could it be that our new signing Matic is the final piece to the puzzle – I’m convinced. Each and every time we lost the ball in the final third, he was there to pick up the pieces and re-distribute effectively. I hadn’t noticed in the past just how comfortable he is on the ball under pressure, and his composed performance rightly earns him the man of the match. His contribution and ‘replacement’ of Carrick has been talked down due his lack of passing ability – well when your job is to filter the ball back to a creative player, it surely nullifies this apparent weakness. I’ll go one step further in Matic’s impact. It plays a huge part in another game changing aspect – confidence. His positioning alone allows our creative players to express in the final third. They are offered the chance to play with freedom in knowing that they’re covered. Notably this cover allows the likes of Pogba to move into the channels and influence the game like we know he can.

A criticism I have was to deploy Fellaini in a deep role during the closing stages of the game. In this instance I want to see Carrick coming on and forming a wall in front of the defence with Matic rather than the Belgium international. Fellaini ought to be brought on as a nuisance in the final third when we’re trailing, rather than being relied upon to break up the play and create.

An additional positive – Martial. As a fan I want to see this kid succeed as I strongly believe in his ability to change games if given the chance. Despite only being offered 10 minutes to fight for his place, he remarkably managed to both score and assist – well done son, I hope you’re rewarded next game with a start.

I’ll end on a low, so not to give the impression of over confidence seeing as we’re only one game in – Lingard came on.

We played creatively, we scored goals and we defended well. I ask that we keep up the momentum and take our growing confidence into our next game away to Swansea.

Let’s stay top of the league!

Common United!

Andy Andreas

www.sofasportsnews.com

Manchester United for the title! Behave!

We welcome back the new season with open arms. We’ve all missed it dearly, and we can now begin our overly optimistic outlook on our teams chances to pose a title challenge. Manchester United’s transfer activity has been positive and importantly, we hope, effective. We were desperate for a strong CB, an influential CDM and a prolific CF – and we’ve hit every target (all the signings Arsenal needed if you don’t mind me adding). Having watched my team get ripped apart by an elite Real Madrid side in the UEFA Super Cup, the heights required to compete in Europe have become abundantly obvious and out of reach. On that note however, I certainly believe Mourinho is leading us in the right direction.

We’re capable of competing for the Premier League this year – fact. I may not be as confident as Tim who boldly tipped us as table topping champions in this weeks Sofa Sports Podcast. Unfortunately having this level of faith is an emotional rollercoaster I’d be scared to open myself up to at this early stage. I am beginning to believe mind you – but I need more convincing.

My three pillar reference from an article I wrote last year raised the need for the 3 important structures I chose to be required of a team to compete. 1) an effective spine 2) a hero to stand up and count 3) confidence to run high. With the arrival of Matic and Lukaku, I would edge closer to ticking this box, providing Lukaku can bang in 20+ goals. Our hero is yet to be identified, and I have the highest hopes for Pogba to step up to this role. Optimistically, in theory, with our current squad and manager, the confidence ought to flow freely. Only time will tell and I am eagerly looking forward to our opener this Sunday against West Ham. Let’s give our fans something to shout about at Old Trafford early on this season.

My predictions, often wrong, tip Manchester City’s Jesus to be the leagues best performer this campaign. I rate their young Leroy Sane highly too. I can see Chelsea’s Fabregas to be given a bigger role in the starting line up with the sale of Matic (which still baffles me). Speaking of Matic, I sense he will be the signing of the season in terms of value for money. His balance and calmness on and off the ball fills the void left by Carrick, who unfortunately cannot sustain a week in week out contribution, given his age. The role of protecting the defence, breaking up the opposing attacks and keeping our attacks alive will prove to be massively relied upon. It will undoubtably contribute to our title challenge. It’s a huge season for Luke Shaw, Martial and Mkhitaryan, and an exciting one for Rashford.

The supporter in me wants to give United the title – but the reality check suggests we will need another year to gel and develop before posing a true threat. This along with the acquisition of a wide creative right midfield player with some flair, which I feel we lack.

Common United!

Andy Andreas

sofasportsnews.com

The Race for the Title – You get what you pay for!

The transfer market has gone bananas.  Cast your mind back to 2006 and the sum of £38m could buy you one of the world’s most prolific strikers – Andriy Shevchenko.  Fast forward to the 2010/11 season and that kind of money would bring you…Andy Carroll!

The latest Premier League TV deals and an influx of wealthy foreign ownership have contributed to a transformation in the football landscape nobody could have foreseen.  July 2017, and the previously mentioned sum of £38m isn’t even enough to sign half of Romelu Lukaku.

The money men at City have spent in the region of £133m on full backs, Romans Chelsea have laid out a further £119m and the idea of FFP (Financial Fair Play) is beginning to seem like a fairy tale.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…You get what you pay for.

Arsenal smashed their transfer record this summer with the acquisition of French striker Alexander Lacazette.  The Gunners are known for keeping their cards close to their chest and although the fee was officially undisclosed it was believed to be around the £50m mark.

Having splashed the cash on Granit Xhaka and Shkodran Mustafi before him, the Gunners are still not competing financially with the likes of Manchester City, United and Chelsea.

To put it bluntly, the Arsenal specialize in second rate signings. The game’s elite players demand the kind of wages that would blow the Gunners wage structure apart.  The power is with the seller and Arsenal’s reluctance to be held to ransom and pay a premium means they’re being left behind.

The same can be said for Liverpool.  Another club who’s fan base are desperate for premier league success.  Ownership who seemingly won’t pay the top dollar and a manager who’s inability to defend will ultimately cost them.

Tottenham Hotspur have exceeded expectations for two seasons now, but that won’t continue.  The financial burden of a new stadium and the move to Wembley will see Mauricio Pochettino’s side struggle to compete on all fronts and I’ve yet to mention their lack of transfer activity.

Throughout recent history, with a few anomalies of course, there has been a clear correlation between the title winners and the most dominant in the transfer market.   The title race will be between the top 3 spenders and the sooner the Arsenal, Liverpool and Spurs fans accept this, the better.

So you can rest assure, the Arsenal Fan TV melt downs will be back next season, the Spuds will end up heartbroken and the Scousers will still be talking about 2005!

@HarrySymeou

sofasportsnews.com

Check out the latest episode of the SSN Podcast!

Steven Caldwell Interview

Wayne’s World – sofasportsnews.com

High Praise

Barcelona star Leo Messi says England fans should be proud of Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney. Messi says: “There has always been a great deal of respect between myself and Wayne Rooney.“ For me he is the great English player of the generation. What he is capable of doing on the field is very special. He is one of the few players that would improve any squad in Europe.”

Position

There has been much debate as to where Rooney should be played in recent years. I can’t make up my mind myself to be honest. Instead I believe him to be good enough to play pretty much anywhere that constitutes an attacking position. As a No.10 his skills translate into a player who possesses all the technical skill but ultimately lacks the required patience to simply wait for the ball to come to him and then drift into the spaces between midfield and attack, as someone such as my childhood footballing idol Baggio would do. Neither is Rooney a natural fit as a No.9.

When deployed in this position he is forced to curb his creative instincts.  He is no selfish taker of chances a la Van Nistelrooy or Inzaghi.  He has learned to be selfish, rather than having a natural predisposition towards it. Zlatan Ibrahimovic wrote in his autobiography, which I am currently reading,  that when he feels he is playing badly he simply tries less hard – reasoning he plays better when he’s relaxed.  Rooney’s contrary desire to be in the heart of the action leads to him being drawn towards the ball rather than being in the right place to receive it and hurt the opposition.

How to deal with a problem like Wayne Rooney

Criticism

Wayne Rooney condemned his treatment regarding the publication of photographs showing him holding a beer at a wedding several months ago as “disgraceful”, and I would have to agree. Why the media feel the need to bother bringing the Manchester United and England Captain down on every occasion possible I’ll never know.

The 31-year-old later offered an unconditional apology for the “inappropriate” images but he had been the subject of widespread criticism both on social media and in print, and was not shy to express how he really felt “I’m proud to play for my country and I’m proud of my achievements. It’s not finished yet. I think what’s been going on is disgraceful. It shows a lack of respect and I think enough is enough. It feels as if the media are trying to write my obituary and I won’t let that happen, as I have not finished yet.”

Class

Rooney’s footballing qualities have always been his vision, his technical ability and his work rate. But like many great English players before him (Hoddle a prime example), people seem to focus on his work rate rather than his vision or supreme technical ability. Instead of building the team round him you decided to make him captain 5 years too late and criticize his every move. Well done.

Although not surprising for a football nation that put Scholes on the left wing and failed to recognise the true talent of Robbie Fowler.

Personally, I’ve always had him in that “C” class, behind the “A” class of the golden two, and the “B” class of your Suarez, Modric and Iniesta. There’s not too many Englishman in that “C” class, and when they are, they tend to be appreciated on foreign soils more than here. Wayne Rooney is the best English talent since Paul Gascoigne, and if Gazza was placed in the top 3 at one point, would Rooney not be worth a place in the top 20 players in the world over the last decade?

It’s important to take stock of what he brings to the table, which is probably more than what he gets credit for.  His consistency is remarkable for one of the world’s great clubs. We’ve gotten to the point where your performance at the club level – in your domestic league and Champions League – should be more important in judging a player’s career than how you play for your national team.

There’s a bigger sample size, and the quality of play is higher at club level. Good players have their moments over one to three years. But to continue for well over 10  years the way Wayne Rooney has done is not easy.

When he played with Cristiano Ronaldo, I felt that Rooney was largely overshadowed and didn’t get the praise he deserved because Ronaldo was scoring all of the goals. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never seen a season performance like Ronaldo displayed in that infamous season of 42 goals, but Rooney was more than just a bit part player. Maybe only in time, after his retirement, people will fully ascertain the class I’m referring to.

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Credentials

Wayne Rooney recently drew level with Sir Bobby Charlton top the all-time  Manchester United goal-scoring charts after netting his 249th for the club. Bar an absolute miracle he will go on to be the sole owner of that accolade. Add to that : England’s highest ever scorer, Manchester United captain, England captain, 5 premier league titles, an FA-cup, League cup, a Champions league and a FIFA club world cup.

Of course, if that’s not enough for the ones who like to slag him off. Just remember….Lionel Messi thinks he’s alright.

Alavi

sofasportsnews.com

Half Time Team Talk – Manchester United

Half time team talk…

As we find ourselves sitting in 6th position and 10 points off the top spot, I can’t help yet again feeling an underlining sense of under achievement. We’re failing to compete with the number of goals scored, and undoubtedly we’re drawing far too often to consider ourselves as title contenders at this stage. Let us be frank, we’re not meeting expectations, far from it. I call for the sacking of Mourinho! Why wouldn’t I? What’s changed this year in comparison with last under Van Gaal, or the period before under David Moyes?

Well, quite a lot I would say. Shall we start with the fact that we find ourselves on our best run of form since 2009. Our level of consistency has finally reached the heights that I’ve been desperately waiting for. Before I list all the reasons why I strongly believe our run of form isn’t just a one off, I’ll spend a brief moment dissecting our surrounding threats. Arsenal have experienced a fantastic run of form prior to their recent dip, however as effective as their attacking prowess has been at times, they show clear signs of running predictably thin throughout their squad. Liverpool and Man City both leak too many goals and clearly have defensive obstacles to overcome.

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I truly doubt Liverpool will maintain their position, but of course with the amount of goals they create, they will likely still be up there come the finish line. Tottenham have a wonderful balance in their first eleven, and I personally rate them above their competitors due to their defensive maturity.

Everyone raved on about Alli after his match winning performance against Chelsea but I have to admit I analysed is differently. Erikksen stole the show for me. His vision to create the goals outshone the young talented man at the end of them and I would value his input far greater than Alli’s to their team. As for Chelsea, despite Costa’s goals and Hazard’s rejuvenated form, I would still consider their new signing Kante as their stand out player. They win when they should draw and draw when they should lose. This is how you win titles.

Are you ready for a bold statement readers (if you exist) – Manchester United will finish the season in 2nd place. Yep, you read that correctly. I saw a change in the tide after we beat Tottenham during the festive period. We managed to close the gap to the top four to six points. Since then we find ourselves three points behind 3rd. One position north and suddenly you realise you’re five points off a leaky 2nd placed Liverpool. It is for this reason I’m absolutely licking my lips at the prospect of meeting them at Old Trafford on Sunday. This is the stage that we have set for ourselves to show our rivals that we believe in what Mourinho is building at Manchester United. This game is more than just a derby, it needs to be a statement for our club, especially if my prediction to finish 2nd can ever materialise. It’s half time, and the second legs are amongst us. Probably the most exciting time of the season for most fans, unless you support West Ham.

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Building on why I believe Mourinho deserves his position in our dug out far exceeds our fine run of form alone, but is truly much more to do with our style of play and the sense of greatness I can see creeping back into our players minds and their performances. Seemingly we have settled using a 4-3-3 formation, which favours our attacking options and importantly is a set up that allows Pogba to show case his class. The back four we’ve stumbled upon is far from the finished article. I would question whether the brave insanity Jones possesses (which let’s face it is one more challenge away from yet another time on the side line) and Rojo’s erratic stupidity is a partnership that can ever win you titles. I’ll quickly move on.

Statistically alone, you have to take a moment to appreciate Pogba’s contribution to the team. He is having the most touches and passes throughout our squad dictating our moves as we shift through the gears, and even providing the odd goal. This season undoubtedly is a case of trial and error for him, as we’ve watched the boy ineffectively used as a DM and an AM at times. Either he is too deep, too isolated or he has his back to the goal and can’t dictate the flow. When he is offered the opportunity to view the game and create the pass himself, the results are staggering. The answer of where to use his talent remains quite simple; the most influential position is all of them. If you deploy Pogba as a box-to-box midfielder, with the freedom to assist the team in all aspects a midfielder can offer, you will see results. We find in Herrera now a strong starter, and deservedly the case.

A little Cazorla-esk player in the heart of our midfield who’s engine offers a ball winning trait accompanied by his composed and creative technical ability to find a pass. His intelligence allows Pogba to express, which is key to the balance in our team. These traits were those that Schneiderlin evidently couldn’t compete with as he now finds himself on his way to Everton, conveniently before their match against Manchester City may I add – common mate, do us a favour would ya.

Despite Pogba’s outrageous ability, and Herrera’s unquestionable work ethic, believe it or not without the input of another certain squad member I wouldn’t actually have much faith in the pair. If I were to look up the word ‘balance’ in the footballing dictionary, I would see one word. Michael Carrick. Aged 35, we have a complete player that has such trust in his own ability. If Mourinho is guilty of anything this season it is that he took too long to identify Carrick’s influence. We have ourselves a rare skill set in him, and one that can dictate the speed of a game, intercept, link up the play, and find the killer pass, all in one move. If he possessed goals in his arsenal, I wouldn’t be surprised if he would have been considered one of the best around. I am astonished as to how a player of his calibre has managed to go almost his entire career as an unsung hero – an absolute dream to watch. It seems a shame to not mention Zlatan Ibrahimovic when praising our current form, seeing as he has just won the player of the month award and is our top goal scorer with 18 (one behind the leagues best, Costa with 19).

With the stability of our team standing firm, it is allowing the freedom and goals to come from all areas. A 4-3-3 formation allows our midfielders to do their jobs, but ultimately the top three in our line up (whoever they end up being) must be effectively scoring the goals. Mata has 7 goals, Martial 6, Rashford 6, Rooney 4, Lingard and Mkhiki are both on 3 – not to mention Pogba finding the net 6 times as well. Needless to say the goals are coming from all angles of the pitch. The talent throughout our squad is there, and the balance has finally been found. A cemented spine is yet to be identified which I believe is the next stage in our new evolution.

The surrounding teams will certainly drop points, and as we kick off with the second half of the season, we’re boastfully singing loudly with nine consecutive wins in all competitions, fifteen matches unbeaten. Let us not get too carried away; I am under no illusions that we will also drop points. But our confidence is high, and we’re aiming even higher. Big, Big match Sunday, and we’re ready.

Common United!

Andy

sofasportsnews.com

EPL Round up – Week 13

Burnley 1-2 Man City

Another exciting weekend of EPL action kicked off with Burnley hosting title chasers Manchester City at Turf Moor.  Sean Dyche’s side took an early lead through the former Spurs midfielder Dean Marney, a lead the home side fully deserved having made an impressive start to the game.  It wasn’t long before the EPL’s hottest striker Sergio Aguero arrived at the party and with goals on 37 & 60 minutes his brace proved to be the difference.

Liverpool 2-0 Sunderland 

Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool faced a stubborn Sunderland side at Anfield this weekend and 75 minutes passed before they finally broke the deadlock.  Belgian striker and substitute Divock Origi broke the Sunderland resistance with around about 15 minutes to go and a late penalty sealed the victory as James Milner calmly dispatched.

Chelsea 2-1 Spurs

In the days late kick off, in-form Chelsea entertained a Spurs side fresh off the back of their Champions League exit midweek.  Many predicted Chelsea to cruise through this one but that certainly wasn’t the case.  An impressive first half performance from Spurs capped by a fine strike from Christian Eriksen had Antonio Conte’s men with their backs to the wall.  Pedro’s curling effort leveled it on the stroke of half time and from then on Chelsea’s superiority was clear for all to see.  Victor Moses’ goal just after the break proved to be the winner and propelled the West Londoners back to the top of the pile.  With Spurs having suffered defeat there are no longer any unbeaten teams in the division.

Arsenal 3-1 Bournemouth

The Gunners ended their run of three straight draws with a far from convincing win at the Emirates.  Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth side will feel hard done by and probably deserved at least a point from the game.  Some contentious refereeing decisions left the cherries feeling aggrieved, Alexis Sanchez’s brace and Theo Walcott’s header were enough to seal the points for the Gunners and ensure they kept in touch with the leaders.  This Bournemouth performance was further evidence that Eddie Howe is a fine manager and has a bright future in the game.

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Man Utd 1-1 West Ham

Jose Mourinho stole the headlines once again when he appeared to lose it on the touchline and was subsequently sent to the stands for the second time this season.  Man Utd got off to the worst possible start when Diafra Sakho gave the hammers the lead just 2 minutes in.  Summer signings Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic combined to draw the home side level around about 20 minutes later but neither side were able to take all three points.  Yet another frustrating result for Jose’s side who now find themselves 8 points behind the current top 4.

Game of the Week:

Swansea 5-4 Crystal Palace

Bob Bradley celebrated his first win as Swansea manager but oh boy did they leave it late!  Two goals in stoppage time from Spanish striker Fernando Llorente turned the game on its head and ultimately decided this 9 goal thriller.  It looked as though Palace were going to return to South London with all 3 points when Benteke netted on 84 minutes but sadly for Alan Pardew it just wasn’t to be.  Having invested heavily in the squad over the summer there is no doubt Alan Pardew will now be under immense pressure.  Both sides find themselves in the midst of a relegation dogfight and it’s no surprise with that sort of defending!

Elsewhere…

Watford suffered a home defeat at the hands of Stoke.  A Gomes own goal and Mazzari’s refusal to shake Mark Hughes hand post game were the major talking points.  Ronald Koeman’s return to St Mary’s was an unhappy one as his Everton side suffered a 1-0 defeat.  Debutant Josh Sims impressed for the Saints and he may be a player to keep your eye on for the future.  Hull City managed to salvage a draw versus an in-form West Brom side leaving both slightly frustrated.  Champions Leicester City  needed a couple of penalties to deny Middlesbrough a win at the King Power.  Leicester’s form may have completely changed this season but the dodgy penalty awards they were getting certainly haven’t, check that out on MOTD.

Click on the image below to listen to the latest episode of the sofasportsnews.com official podcast.

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Harry

sofasportsnews.com

Article 5 | Man U Deluded!

Article 5 | Man U Deluded!

Football fans are a lot of things. Emotional, passionate, irrational, proud and unthinkably stubborn – I too on occasion demonstrate some of these wonderful traits. I usually base the validity of my opinion on whether Gary Neville agrees. I stay furthest away from Jamie Redknapp’s views, and even further from Paul Merson’s. I do entertain the brutal honesty from the likes of Paul Scholes and Graeme Souness, despite their often clumsy delivery. As far as the fans go, I usually just rely on my own opinion. Seeing as most of you cannot argue that we possess the personality traits listed above, my reluctancy to take on board your views shouldn’t come as too much of a shock to you.

So let me be clear on some hard facts for the sake of those who have allowed their emotions to once again dictate their footballing brains. Jose Mourinho is one of the best managers on this planet. It’s pretty simple really, and I’m not even his biggest fan. I needn’t fill this article with all the reasons why, rather I ask you to simply Google his illustrious career for yourself. Take special notes when reading about all the trophies he’s won, the teams he’s managed, the home records he holds and importantly the age at which he has achieved it all by. We’re questioning the ability of a manager who didn’t go a single calendar year without winning at least one trophy between 2003 and 2012. Yes, you read that correctly.

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As a United fan I share my own opinion as to why our team is under performing. If you cared to deter your attention away from the manager being the cause, whom as we’ve now established possibly possesses one of the most decorated CVs in the game, I’ll share with you my thoughts. Recently I’ve witnessed a strike of balance in our line up with the use of Carrick, Herrera and Pogba down the spine, with Mata pulling strings and setting up whoever is willing to run in behind.

My main concerns however present themselves at the other end of the field. At the point in which we were seemingly striking a growing confidence in our performances, we lost Smalling, Bailly, Valencia and Shaw. Take a moment to think about that – four starting defenders, one of which put in a man of the match performance against Arsenal last weekend on his return.

The dilemma we’ve faced is that our foundations have been rocked and our movement through the gears has been hindered. It all starts from the back, my second article – a good read. Confidence is low, our spine is dented, and our stability further falters. If the cement isn’t set, the wall will sink. This, cannot be denied.

I am honest enough to openly concede that I am not a big fan of Mourinho’s tendency to repeatedly behave like us. By that I mean to let his emotions get the better of him far too regularly. As I said, I am not his biggest fan yet, and I am certainly not claiming his methods are perfect. What I am claiming is that he is a winner, and our recent results do not reflect what I believe he is building at our club. I am probably amongst only a few when I say that I am a firm believer that if given the time, which I believe he deserved, he would have turned his bad fortunes around at Chelsea. The first thought that came into my head when he lost his position there – when will he become our next manager.

As I keenly play my part as the voice of reason, I’ll happily ignore my instincts as a proud stubborn fan and not deny the abundantly obvious question – would a dip in form to such a degree have occurred under Sir Alex Ferguson. You cannot shy away from this fact, however fickle I choose to be, that even with a weakened back four featuring the likes of Carrick and Evans, we would still perform. What a frustrating reality. I stand firm and deflect any blame away from Mourinho. The bar has been set higher than the sky, and this achievement is a tribute to the manager we had, rather than finger pointing towards the manager we have.

Time, belief and consistency will bring confidence and results. The true outlook on our current situation is that the world watches on hoping we fail. The thought that our current manager and squad can still achieve greatness in the short term sickens our rival fans. They would never admit this, as that would relieve themselves of their duties as stubborn, proud maniacs. But it’s the truth. I say in response to this attitude, just keep watching. Whether it’s this season or next, something at Manchester United will click and you’re all dreading the day. You cannot stop greatness reaching its potential when it’s already written in the stars. I’ll end on that, which I feel suitably introduces an additional and final personality trait of a true fan – delusion.

Common United!

Andy

sofasportsnews.com

Brand New: The latest edition of the sofasportsnews.com podcast!

The latest edition of the SSN official podcast. Harry & Alavi are joined by the last editions popular guest Andrew to discuss the latest footballing topics. As well as answering YOUR questions they discuss Spurs v WHU, Man Utd v Arsenal, The Milan derby, The Madrid Derby and the latest refereeing howlers. Sponsored by TagPay! www.sofasportsnews.com

EFL Cup – Betting Tips! (Wednesday)

Liverpool, Arsenal, Newcastle, Hull and Leeds all secured their places in the last 8 of this season’s EFL cup.  There are three more places up for grabs and tonight see’s arguably the clash of the round with Pep’s Man City travelling just down the road to neighbors Man Utd.

A Manchester derby on a Wednesday night is always a treat no matter what the competition and with both managers being questioned at the moment it promises to be a fine encounter.  Elsewhere we have the small matter of a London derby with West Ham taking on Chelsea at the London stadium and Southampton entertain Sunderland at St Mary’s.

Betting: EFL Cup

Manchester United:  31/20   Draw:  5/2   Manchester City: 19/10

West Ham:   15/4    Draw:  16/5   Chelsea: 3/4

Southampton:  2/5   Draw: 19/5   Sunderland: 17/2

Odd’s from Bet365 online…(subject to change)

De Luca’s Tip: “Southampton will win most likely but with the value being so tight I’d back them at -1.

Man City at 19/10 is the best value, especially if both managers go with weakened sides.”

Alavi’s Tip: “For me, backing Chelsea at almost even’s is the one!”

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Sofa Sports News

The Most Exciting Title Race in Years! EPL Week 9 Review.

EPL Week 9 Review

After another weekend of unpredictable results this is shaping up to be the most exciting title race in years.  Of the top eight only Liverpool and Chelsea were able to take all three points from their respective fixtures.

Jurgen Klopp’s side continued their fine run of form with a narrow victory over West Brom.  Having been held to a draw vs Bourinho’s United last Monday the title talk around Anfield had somewhat evaporated, at least temporarily.  Saturday’s victory which ultimately drew them level on points with both City and Arsenal has set the Liverpool band wagon rolling once again.

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Are Liverpool EPL Title Contenders?

Any team joint at the top of the EPL must be considered as contenders.  However, let’s not forget it is only October and so if I was a Liverpool fan I wouldn’t be getting carried away just yet.  Sorry Liverpool fans but I just can’t see you going the distance for a number of reasons.  Two dodgy keepers, the inability to defend any form of set piece and a lack of strength in depth will ultimately cost you.

The Return of the Special One…

Jose returned to the bridge this weekend and prior to kick off it was all about him, just the way he likes it.  Having gone to Anfield last week and parked the bus it was pretty obvious he was going to try and do the same thing in the hope of avoiding defeat.

I’m a huge critic of his ‘anti-football’ approach especially when you are the manager of such a prestigious club and spending hundreds of millions of pounds on ‘top players’.

Nothing pleased me more than to see his game plan go out of the window inside a minute and their vulnerability was clear for all to see.  Chelsea continued to stick the knife in on their old boss and were far superior in every department.

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“I know you sold me the wrong Pogba”

In a poor attempt to deflect the headlines away from his teams awful performance Jose reportedly whispered in the ears of Conte something to the effect of “you don’t celebrate like that at 4-0.  You can do it at 1-0, otherwise it’s humiliating for us.”

Despite his side being horrendous and Chelsea completely out playing them he still had to make it all about him come the end of the game.  He had an issue with the current Chelsea manager celebrating?  That’s rich coming from this man…

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Jose slides on his knee’s in celebration during his Real Madrid days.

City without a win in five…

Once again individual errors cost Pep Guardiola’s side dearly and John Stones’ decision making doesn’t seem to have improved just yet.

City were held at home by an in-form, well organised and resolute Southampton side.  Credit to the Saints but there’s no doubt the blue half of Manchester will be somewhat disappointed with the nature of the goal they conceded.

It appeared to be a mix up between Stones and Vincent Kompany but none the less a goal that could have been avoided had a bit of common sense been applied.  It wasn’t to be City’s day in the end but the results around them gave them some breathing space, a draw this weekend wasn’t as damaging as it could have been.

A constantly changing formation and  a lack of confidence are certainly contributing to City’s bad run but there’s no need for an over reaction, they are top of the EPL!

Arsenal & Spurs stutter…

Neither North London club were able to take all three points this weekend and I would put it down to both suffering from a Champions League hangover.  It’s been years since Spurs have been able to use that excuse!

Spurs failed to dazzle at the vitality stadium and Bournemouth could have nicked it late on. Perhaps the biggest talking point was the moment of madness from Moussa Sissoko where he appeared to throw an elbow at Bournemouth midfielder Harry Arter.  The Frenchman was lucky not to see red and I expect him to face retrospective action in the coming days.

I was at the Emirates on Saturday and the Gunners were simply off the boil.  A leggy Arsenal side struggled to create as many openings as they would have liked against a stubborn and well organised Boro side.

The absence of Santi Cazorla in the middle of the park was a big miss for the Gunners.  He plays a vital role in Arsenal’s midfield, a player who is so good at both collecting the ball from the defence and play making from deep was always going to be missed.  The man who normally makes us tick wasn’t in the side and it disrupted our fluency in possession.

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Arsenal missed their deep lying playmaker on Saturday.

It’s worth noting had it not been for Petr Cech Arsenal could have ended up losing that one.  Adana Traore was a constant threat down the right hand side and its hard to believe that he spent last season sitting on Aston Villa’s bench!

Boro were good value for the point.  Both North London clubs suffered a minor stutter but it’s nothing to worry about at this stage, I expect both to be there or thereabouts come May.

EPL Results:

Bournemouth 0-0 Spurs, West Ham 1-0 Sunderland, Swansea 0-0 Watford, Leicester City 3-1 Crystal Palace, Hull City 0-2 Stoke, Burnley 2-1 Everton, Arsenal 0-0 Boro, Man City 1-1 Southampton, Chelsea 4-0 Man Utd.

Click here for the Premier League Table!

Harry

Sofa Sports News.

Jose ‘Bourinho’ makes his point!

Liverpool 0-0 Man Utd: ‘Bourinho is at it again’

Well that was an anti-climax to say the least.  A miserable Monday in the office and only the thought of MNF got me through the day.  The game being hyped as ‘the biggest of the season so far’ – the coming together of England’s ‘two greatest clubs’ proved to be a complete and utter disappointment.  Now there’s a surprise…

I got caught up in the pre-match hype and it was naive of me to expect an entertaining game seeing as Jose ‘Bourinho’ was involved.  Liverpool have been in great form, cutting teams open with ease of late and Jose’s team selection was the first sign of his intentions.

Negative from the start

The return of Fellaini and the inclusion of Ashley Young gave us an indication pre-match that ‘Bourinho’ was a) concerned about the physical aspect in midfield and b) felt he needed to nullify the attacking threat of Liverpool’s adventurous right back Nathaniel Clyne.

Giggsy, Carra and Neville stood there pre-match telling the world Fellaini was included from the start because of his threat in set piece situations.  If you have no intention of attacking and only win one corner in 90 minutes as a result of this – surely it’s pretty obvious he was only in the side to disrupt play and take his inevitable yellow card for just being a classless thug.

In plain English, his team were set out for a point and nothing more.  I can remember them creating just  the one opportunity and in 90 minutes they failed to force a single save from Liverpool’s ‘dodgy’ keeper Loris Karius.

Klopp’s side dominated the possession with a huge 65% share, but i guess that’s useless when your opponent opts to just ‘park the bus’.  It’s ironic that the very expression ‘parking the bus’ came from ‘Bourinho’ himself when he was criticizing somebody else for adopting the same approach.  Jose being a hypocrite!? I never thought I’d see the day!

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out my stance on ‘Bourinho’, his dull tactics and horrible personality.

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(Jose looks like he’s just woken up after watching his teams performance at Anfield)

Lack of Ambition

Don’t get me wrong, to come away with a point from Anfield when Liverpool are in great form is a solid result.  My problem is with the managers attitude and approach.  For someone who is constantly pointing to the fact he manages, in his words “The Biggest Club in the World”you’d expect to see some sort of ambition.

A man who has spent £156m and is in charge of ‘the biggest club in the world’ has an approach to the big games which is no different to the likes of Stoke or West Brom!  At least try and win the game, show some ambition, take the game to your opponent and if you only manage the point you can be proud of it.

‘Bourinho’ faces his old club Chelski this coming weekend and I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a repeat performance.  Maybe I’ll be watching Downton Abbey instead, there will probably be more action (just ask Alavi).

Man Utd are a club that down the years have pride themselves on playing good attacking football, winning in style and they always carried an awe about them that let the world know they could go and win anywhere.  They’ve abandoned their principles and their identity is being sucked out of them by a classless, negative and gutless manager.

Glory, Glory Man United is no more and Boring, Boring Man Utd is whats in store.

Harry

Sofa Sports News.