Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “This is a boost. Of course, if United’s lead was just four points it would be very close, but they do still have that game in hand. But it’s clear that, after Saturday’s unexpected result, the tension has come back in the league. If we want to keep tracking them, we have to keep on winning. That’ll give tension to the end of the season, which is good for everyone. The door is a little bit open.” – Guus Hiddink.
Runner-up: “He is under pressure every time he plays. There’s an expectation every time he plays. But all our attackers struggled, so it is unfair to pinpoint Robinho’s performance. You can’t just expect one player to carry the team. We have other players who have to stand up to the plate and be counted. This wasn’t Robi’s day. We played really well on Thursday [in the Uefa Cup]. I think that may have taken a bit of the sharpness out of them. Not just Robi… The sunshine affected both teams, not in a negative way. It didn’t shine too kindly on us.” – Mark Hughes.
Today’s overview: Having lost the Battle of the Billionaires, Man City, and Robinho in particular, find themselves panned in the press this Monday.
Robinho’s poor performance at Stamford Bridge is dissected by Dominic Fifield. “Robinho is clearly a player who can serve up jaw-dropping skill when he chooses though, in this City side and away from home, he appeared a luxury that even the richest club in the world could not afford.” Jeremy Wilson continued the Robinho bashing writing “the contrasting performances of Essien, who scored Chelseaâ€™s winning goal after 18 minutes, and Robinho, who was virtually anonymous, certainly supported Hiddinkâ€™s pre-match theory that it is not the size of a clubâ€™s bank account that counts, but the way they utilise their resources.”
And there is more. Oliver Holt wrote “[Robinho’s] body language was absolutely appalling. When his team-mates struggled to find him, he showed no appetite to drop deep and force himself into the game.” Sam Wallace penned “the real embarrassment for Mark Hughes was a desperate performance from his moody Brazilians, Elano and Robinho, both of whom were substituted long after they had effectively given up.” And Matt Hughes twisted the knife further into City barking “City offered nothing in return, to leave Hughes searching for excuses… Sheikh Mansour, the City owner, may wish to consider installing a retractable roof at the City of Manchester Stadium just in case, as well as signing some players with character.”
The effect of United’s defeat to Liverpool is assessed by Patrick Barclay. “Fergusonâ€™s latest United are a work in progress. If last seasonâ€™s heroic achievements are repeated, the work will be complete and greatness assured. But there is no need to be greedy.” While Oliver Kay makes public Fergie’s sour grapes from the weekend, writing “Sir Alex Ferguson refused to speak to Sky Sports after Manchester Unitedâ€™s 4-1 defeat by Liverpool on Saturday in protest at the 12.45pm kick-off time, which he believes gave the Merseyside club an unfair advantage.”
Oliver Holt picks up on the criticism on United’s backline. “United are vulnerable. Benitez said their defensive might was built on sand – their record is only so good because they don’t actually have to do much defending. On Saturday, the triumph belonged to Benitez.”
On the Reds, a typically biased Alan Hansen argues the the title race is back on bleating “the result against Liverpool was not just a defeat, it was an annihilation. When you are in a championship race, your attitude and mentality can change so quickly. For United, it was not so much complacency that affected them as over-confidence.” Jim White points out that “Liverpool’s problem will now be keeping [Fernando Torres] fit. They have no one else even close to his quality in reserve.” While the final topic to emerge from the United-Liverpool match was a discussion of Wayne Rooney’s “hate” comment, with Sam Wallace concluding “players’ hatred of rival clubs is justified by unspeakable abuse they receive.”
In his second article this Monday, Patrick Barclay argues for shirt-pulling to be a red card offense. “There is, quite simply, too much grappling in football. Too much for referees to stop with yellow cards… This is not to say that life should be made too easy for attackers, just that a balance should be restored. Those who actually like wrestling can then retune to the appropriate channel.”
In a standout article, Martin Samuel flags up Michel Platini’s hypocrisy in targetting the financial problems in England but not Spain. “Throughout Spain, there are six clubs, including the recently relegated trio of Real Sociedad, Celta Vigo and Levante, in bankruptcy protection… [Real Madrid’s debt] were top with Â£488m, then Atletico Madrid with Â£399m and, in third place, Barcelona with Â£360m. And yet Platini had absolutely no problem with Real Madrid’s attempt to seize Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United for a small fortune last summer, despite his love of the level financial playing field. It must only be the indebted English clubs that are destroying fair competition in the transfer market.”
Gabriele Marcotti looks at how managers can become great. “We anoint managers as geniuses, too often forgetting that many of them got their opportunity through some twist of fate, some imponderable stroke of good fortune that allowed them to go to the next level, the one with the resources to win silverware. This is not to criticise the ones who have made it, rather the point is that there may be many who do not make it precisely because our ability to spot their potential is so flawed.”
Like the boy who called wolf,ur reputation has been made worse by all the faking that goes on. Weâ€™ve all seen those incidents when a player goes down and starts convulsing as if someone is prodding him with an electrode and next thing you know he sprints off and scores just like it never happened.”
In other news,“to be reclaimed and accepted into the pantheon of managerial greats… up there with Clough and Shankly and Busby and Ferguson, but he has been written out of history as damaged goods.”