This weekend’s results really shook up the Premier League, from the top down. The title race is as tight as ever, and the relegation battle has taken a sharp turn in Sunderland’s favor. The excitement never stops!
On Sunday, Jose Mourinho showed everybody that he can manage a game in any scenario, and will do whatever he needs to do to win it. I think Liverpool might have been a little naïve with their approach to the game. All week folks were talking about what Mourinho was likely to do – play conservatively and get players behind the ball – but Brendan Rodgers and his side didn’t prepare well enough to defeat his tactics.
A lot of people aren’t crazy about the so-called tactic of “parking the bus.” But isn’t defending an art, just like attacking is? We’ve got to try and educate some people. Defending doesn’t just come naturally. Mourinho and his team have worked at perfecting it. We tend to push defending aside and talk about how it’s a negative approach, but it’s a skill. You can’t be winning 5-0 every week. It’s flippant to say that playing defensively is negative or parking the bus. It’s tactics, and shows a deep understanding the game. In the end, it’s all about what’s a stake and doing what is necessary to win.
The result has made the race to the finish more exciting than ever. We’ve got a nervous couple of weeks until the end of the season.
That very much includes Manchester City, who are showing no signs of giving up. I think their win over Crystal Palace was a very good result today, especially since Tony Pulis’ team has been doing well. They’re not an easy opponent. I know Manchester City will go at it right up until the end.
Now, on the other side of things, it is just as exciting at the bottom of the table. Sunderland’s last three results have been quite breathtaking. I really don’t think that they’re going down anymore — they’ve got the confidence and momentum to stay up. Norwich, on the other hand, are in a total free-fall. There’s no doubt in my mind that they’re going down. And in the Fulham game – that’s when you know it’s just against you. Lady Luck is not on your side. I remember back with Derby we tied United 2-2, but right before the end scored a perfectly good goal that the ref disallowed. Sometimes, it’s just not your year – I had that sinking feeling then, and that’s the sense I get with Fulham now. The odds are unquestionably against them.
Finally, I have to say that I am delighted for Ryan Giggs. Having played against him for many years, swapped many kits with him – I just wish him all the best. My favorite quote of his ahead of the Norwich match was, “I expect my players to play like Manchester United players.” We haven’t seen them play like that in a long time. Whether it’s passion, enthusiasm or quality, United haven’t been themselves this season. But on Saturday, it was a great start to a new beginning.
Giggs made it look easy. I think the plan for United should be to groom him. If I were Manchester United, I’d ask Sir Alex Ferguson to come back for a year and oversee Giggs. I’d want him around, and I think Giggs could handle having him over his shoulder, guiding him. Giggs played for Sir Alex his whole career. He respects him and would be receptive to a mentor type situation. Or, even if it’s Louis van Gaal, I think that’s what’s needed. Groom Giggs for the future. He is the kind of guy who can thrive at United. For some people the pressure will suffocate you, but for others, it fulfills you and drives you on. I think Giggs thrives on that pressure and is the future of this club in a managerial sense.
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 each week. And don’t forget, you can always ask questions to us at @FOXSoccer. We’ve got an exciting set of Champions League semifinal first legs coming up this week, with Bayern Munich vs. Real Madrid on Tuesday, (2 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1) and Chelsea vs. Atletico Madrid (2 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1), so I do hope you’ll join us. Thanks as always for reading!