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

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

Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now: an in-depth look at where it all went wrong at the weekend

There are no silver linings to a massacre; no extenuating circumstances in a 6-1 defeat to City at Old Trafford; and no excuse for heads floating away to their million-pound Cheshire mansions in with time still left on the clock.

Sir Alex Ferguson may have had Barcelona in his sights in August, but after Sunday's demolition derby, City have confirmed their casting as this season's primary antagonists.

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Thrills ‘n’ Spills and Derby Day Bellyache: United humiliated as City silence the critics

Neutrals and the fans of both Manchester clubs alike had hoped for a game to remember as the Premier League’s top two sides battled it out for local and national supremacy. The match, in the most unforeseeable way possible, certainly did not disappoint with a 1-6 away win for City that will stick long in the minds of supporters and followers of football alike.

No smoke without fire: Could bathroom suite bonfires become an unorthodox norm to Super Mario's match day preparations?

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Don’t look back in anger: why I can only wish Hargreaves well in the colours of the laser blue

With Owen Hargreaves looking likely to sign up with City before the transfer window sews itself up for another few months, I’m left with a belly sloshed to sickness with mixed emotions. Hargreaves was a player that instantly won me over with his tenacious appetite to compete and dominate in the middle of the pitch. He was a true midfield dynamo.

Owen Hargreaves has been sorely missed for the last three seasons

I use the past tense not to disassociate my attachment to him as a favourite player of mine, or to hint at some sense of partisan betrayal and personal bitterness against his prospective move to City, but due a sense that he’s now an ‘unknown quantity’ to some degree. After three years out of the game, its hard to tell what’ll be left of Hargreaves’ on-field abilities. Continue reading