FOX Soccer Exclusive
Major problem for Man United
That was simply one of the wildest weekends we’ve seen in a long time in the Premier League. If you had told me that Manchester United and Manchester City would both lose — and against West Brom and Aston Villa, no less — I’m not sure I would have believed you! And yet, here we are, and it just goes to show what a wide-open Premier League race we have on our hands. Liverpool and Arsenal run out as the big winners, and the city of Manchester has two teams with problems.
We have to start at Old Trafford. The Theater of Dreams has become a nightmare for David Moyes. He is going to be under serious pressure after a dispiriting loss that in many ways felt worse than their derby defeat at the hands of City.
Let’s be plain: This doesn’t look like a Manchester United team, and the lack of belief, desire and ability we saw on Saturday indicates this could be a very long season if Moyes cannot turn it around. Teams do not fear United right now – and that is a massive problem for a new manager.
Give credit to Steve Clarke, he got the game plan absolutely spot on. Saido Berahino looks a real player, and every time Morgan Amalfitano got the ball, you saw how he lifted the players around him with his speed and his desire.
But once again, we saw United players pulling out of tackles. Once again, there was very little creativity or leadership in midfield. Rio Ferdinand has lost a step and was beat twice on West Brom’s goals. Last year, Sir Alex relied on a lot of the old hands, but the fact is, they have got old, as we all do. The players that are left look very dazed in their absence. There is no Paul Scholes to steady the ship, and Ryan Giggs has been an afterthought.
But United are not alone: I am astonished at how Manchester City threw away three points against an Aston Villa side without Christian Benteke! That loss comes down to a managerial mistake, and Manuel Pellegrini has to hold his hand up. When Samir Nasri was replaced after what had been an exceptional game, City lost their momentum.
City had many, many chances – and failed to convert them. They could have been up by six at the break, but when you miss that many chances, you will pay for them. But conceding two goals in three minutes, and in the fashion that City did? A team of this caliber and cost should not be gifting a team a Route One winner.
But Joe Hart had another suspect day, and helped gift Andreas Weimann the winner on the long kick by Brad Guzan. I’m happy for Brad, of course, but it’s no wonder that Pellegrini was a little speechless after the game. He has to learn that the games in England aren’t over until the final whistle, which I think he will do – but this was hard way to learn that lesson.
Tottenham and Chelsea was a far cagier affair, and while we saw flashes of good football, I’m beginning to think that neither team has enough to really break free of the pack. Christian Eriksen is a real find, and his performances have me thinking he’ll be a star. But Jose Mourinho’s decision to again bench Juan Mata was exposed as foolish – had Mata been in the entire match, and not just as a sub, this game probably would have been a win for the Blues. You see the difference Mata brings, and it’s good to hear Mourinho admitting, in a fashion, that he was wrong by saying the Spaniard will start midweek in the Champions League.
This big winners this week? Arsenal, who did something they have not been able to consistently do in recent years. Gifted an advantage, they took it, and even fielding another patchwork side, they shut down Swansea and got the kind of win good teams need to get.
Aaron Ramsey is putting on a player of the year type of show, and I have to remark again on what a difference Mesut Ozil has made. If you doubt me, go watch Real Madrid. They lost their first derby match against Atletico in 14 years, and the man who was desperately missed was the man they sold: Ozil.
If Arsene Wenger can go out in January and get another top-caliber player or two – a striker, a defender – this team has a chance of winning a trophy. Right now, they are still too thin. But you’re seeing some strength and desire finally from the Gunners, and that is very good to see.
The Champions League is back, and we have some huge games for you this week Tuesday and Wednesday. Arsenal have a tough game against Napoli, while Celtic face a Barcelona team that will be without Lionel Messi. Our coverage begins at 2 ET live on FOX Sports 1 – you do not want to miss it!
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