I want to start this week off the field, with one man who towered over sport and meant so much to us around the world.
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The great Nelson Mandela passed away this week, and I think all of us have to stop and reflect on what he meant to this world. His courage, his message and his sacrifice changed our planet for the better, and that’s why people from all walks of life this week are remembering him. He had a great impact on me, and I believe his passing is a huge loss for all of us.
On the field, I came away from Sunday’s game shaking my head. That performance by Arsenal against Everton is exactly why they will not win the league this season. Champions win those games. Champions take advantage of their rivals’ slip-ups and put their foot on the pedal. I give great credit to Everton – and we’ll get to Roberto Martinez in a moment – but that draw is why the doubt is there for the Arsenal.
People say Arsene Wenger knows how to win titles, and that’s fair enough – but I’m not sure his players do. I remember in 1996, with Newcastle, when we slipped up: Arsenal came in and beat us, and that proved to be the nail in our coffin, as Manchester United went on to take a title I think we all thought we would win at Newcastle. Believe me when I say I know how damaging a result like this can be. It is early yet, but psychologically, this draw is damaging. It reveals some cracks in Arsenal and it gives hope to their rivals. I think Chelsea and Liverpool and Manchester City are all thinking that they’ve got a chance now against this Arsenal team.
Credit to Martinez for getting the game plan right, but did Everton fans really think the Toffees would be this good this year after losing David Moyes? I think not. His signings have been great, and with Gareth Barry and Romelu Lukaku, you are seeing a team that retains the steel and spine of the Moyes era – Tim Howard, Phil Jagielka –but with a little more pace and culture. They used to be a one-dimensional side, but Martinez has made them more creative and more athletic. I think they will push teams for a Champions League place.
And that brings up Moyes. What a win for my lads Saturday, and what pressure that puts Moyes under. I don’t think the United board is on his back yet – I think they will stand behind him — but the fact that United are mid-table is a burden. How can United be so inept, and so fragile? They cannot hang on to a lead, they never look like getting a win and the mystique that this great team used to have is gone.
David Moyes’ United don’t look like their usual selves. (Photo: Richard Heathcote/Getty)
The fact that you hear Jonny Evans say that his team is lacking in confidence is staggering. I cannot remember ever seeing a United team that was anything but confident, and I’m wondering if Moyes needs to take a page out of Sir Alex’s book and get out the hairdryer. His livelihood and his reputation are on the line. I think the fans still like their manager, but they will not stand behind him for much longer if this keeps up.
For my boys, of course, that win was phenomenal. I talked to John Carver after our derby loss, and I know there was a meeting where some hard truths were said. Since then we’ve gone on and done very well. Normally that manager of the month honor is the kiss of death, but for us to win like that, for the first time in so long, is just great for the fans. It’s something I never managed when I was there in the league, so I’m just so pleased for the club.
Now, the World Cup has dealt both England and the USA some very tough draws. I was joking with Eric Wynalda that he’s going to be there two weeks and I’m only going to be there three! I think it could have been worse for England, but I don’t see how it could have been any more difficult for the USA. And when you look at Mexico, scraping into the Cup with help from the States, and see that they have a real chance to get out of that group, well, it hurts. I’m not saying it cannot be done by the USA – you go to the Cup to play against the very best – but it’s going to be difficult, no doubt.
I love chatting with you guys, so do take a moment to follow me on Twitter at @WarrenBarton2. It’s a lot of fun to be able to banter with you guys all week. And don’t forget, you can always ask questions to us at @FOXSoccer or @FOXSoccerDaily.
And we have some big games Tuesday and Wednesday this week as the Champions League wraps up, so please join us on FOX Sports 1 from 2 p.m. each day! And last but not least: our coverage of the FA Cup kicks off January 4 and 5, and we’ve got a treat with Arsenal being drawn against Spurs in the third round. That is going to be a thriller.
Thanks as always for reading, and I hope you enjoy all our coverage this week on The One!