Benitez, Mancini and Wenger: victims of the English game or their own egos?

Originally published for The False Nine on February 28 2013.

As he held the League Cup aloft in victory, shares in Michael Laudrup rattled up the ranks of the managerial stock exchange. His worth had already soared far beyond and above the valuations placed upon him in the summer, and come the close of business in May, it looks likely that Laudrup will have all but confirmed his place as one of the most attractive managerial investments around.

Swansea’s first major trophy in their 100 year history; Europa League entry for next season; exquisite football; the likelihood of an entirely respectable final position in the Premier League; and named as the man fans most want to takeover the reins at Real Madrid – it’s an impressive end-of-season growth report to reflect on for the Dane who co-founded a free-market think tank in his homeland in 2004.

In almost every possible manner, Laudrup has made the perfect first impression on English football. Charming, charismatic and handsome, there is something almost Mourinho-esque about how the league has fallen under his spell. In tabloid speak however, he is the jovial Scandinavian to the Special One’s fiery Portuguese. No wild pronouncements or headline grabbing antagonism, just calm, cool composure and sincerity. Both present comfortable identities that play up to familiar English stereotypes and folk heroes – after all, Mourinho is the much anticipated belated successor to Brian Clough. Continue reading

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City are yet to become true modern rivals to United

Originally published for Can They Score? on February 23 2013.

For the majority of its existance, the Premier League title race has followed in the principles of The Thunderdome of Mad Max fame: “two clubs enter’ one team leaves… victorious.”

Genuine three-way title fights appear to have become extinct in the Premier League era (hence our focus), with each season framed around a duopoly of contenders. Of all the gladiators who have entered the league’s gruelling grand arena – Leeds, Blackburn, Newcastle, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, City – it is Manchester United who have remained the most persistent and dominant force throughout the past 11 years.

Riding high and heading into March 12 points clear, United are in excellent shape to go on and clinch a 13thPremiership title. However, the club’s detractors have denounced their position as false, claiming that the current United team and the league itself is bereft of quality. This season is said to be a low-point in the domestic game that flatters a side lacking in skill and substance – a drought lacking in good players, teams or contests. Continue reading

Tony Pulis vs The Premiership: reviewing the visit of the poncey foreign blueberries

A look at the weekend’s events from the perspective of the tracksuited one.

“WE ARE STOKE BOBOMB! ONE! TWO! THREE! FOUR!”

Arsenal. Arsenal. They’re no Valencia, are they?

I tell you, I was rubbing my hands with glee when I found out we’d have Arsenal so close to the start of the season. As were the fans, probably. Either rubbing their hands with glee, or shaking them around madly. Can’t always be certain which. He got his excuses in early as well, did the big French pudding, complaining that the grass was too long. I know! That man will whinge about anything. Continue reading

MUFC: Why have United purchased Robin Van Persie?

Rooney will enjoy playing with the multi-talented Van Persie, but without midfield reinforcements, will they ever get the ball?

It’s confirmed. Robin Van Persie is now a Manchester United player. Having undertaken the decision to begin fasting earlier this week after watching the Horizon documentary, Eat, Fast and Live Longer I’m now sitting here wondering whether my mind has slipped off into some food-deprived state of non-reality. Just why have United bought Robin Van Persie?

Little about the transfer makes sense. The Dutchman is no spring chicken and fast approaching 30 with an infamously poor injury record. Considering the struggles United have had to keep players fit of late, RVP’s arrival will do little to banish the voodoo curse hanging over the treatment table at Carrington.

Secondly, Sir Alex Ferguson’s squad is overstocked with attacking talent with Rooney, Welbeck, Hernandez and Berbatov, the victim of United’s last tilt at purchasing an “established” Premier League striker, taking up four forward spots in the first team. Add to this prospects such as the newly purchased and highly hyped Chilean Angelo Herinquez, Federico Macheda and Will Keane and United’s striking options look wastefully oversubscribed and busy. Continue reading

How Soon is Now? 8 points on how the Premier League’s perennial slow starters have become its early pacesetters.

Call it the ‘business end’, ‘the run-in’ or, god forbid, ‘squeaky bum time’, but Manchester United are usually the last team standing when at the climax of a football season, not the first team sprinting off from the blocks in August. With a 100% record so far maintained into September, and an impressive haul of 18 goals in four games, Sir Alex Ferguson looks to be taking the initiative early this year with a new-look side playing ‘fantasy’ football.

Anderson and his increasingly deadly eye for goal.

I’ll be looking at some of the factors, features, players and performances that could yet make this the red’s best start to the season in twenty years. Follow on after the jump! Continue reading

Could the Emirates be done for Arsene?

The number of dissenters in the Arsenal fan base are growing.

As Fabregas nudges towards passport control, and Samir Nasri readies himself for the drive up the M6 to Eastlands, Arsene Wenger is facing open revolt from gunners fans as his philosophy and methods appear to crumble around him. After six barren years without a trophy, ‘the professor’ as he’s often characterised by the press, seems to be falling back on old answers to new questions with yet more left-field signings rather than a search for the tried-and-tested Premier League veterans some quarters call out for. Continue reading