Liverpool have convinced me now. Like the Beatles said, I’m a believer. I remember being in their shoes back in the 1995-96 season. We played Manchester United near the end of the season, both of us chasing the title, and lost. It was the big turning point for us in 1996 – and ended up losing the title.
My biggest advice to Liverpool: just don’t get beat in that game. Don’t get beat against Chelsea. I’m a big fan of Brendan Rodgers and what he’s been able to achieve with the Reds. It’s been a breath of fresh air. He’s proven that being a shrewd manager who deploys good tactics can win a title without buying it. It’s good to see someone from the United Kingdom doing well in the Premier League as well.
Between Chelsea and Manchester City, they have both had the opportunities, but obviously not being able to do it – it’s almost like neither one wants to win it. Chelsea’s loss to Sunderland, a team that is dead-last and hasn’t been able to get hardly any results this season, may turn out to be the big tipping point of the season. But you have to give credit to Liverpool, as they’ve shown up every match, no matter who the opponent has been. They’ve grinded out the necessary results and if they continue to stay true to form, the title will be theirs.
After I tipped Sunderland to go down a week ago, they pick up a massive, massive win against the Blues. But, while that gives them momentum and confidence, I do feel they’ve still got too many results to get and not enough time to get them in. It will be a valiant fight to the finish, but I still can’t see them staying up.
The race for fourth is fascinating. Arsenal got the needed result Sunday against Hull – whom they will also play in the FA Cup final – and with the return of Aaron Ramsey, look set to lock down fourth. Everton have been giving them a run for their money, but with the midweek slip up last week, even the big win over United probably won’t be enough. Arsenal are in prime position now, and even with the FA Cup final looming, they can focus their energies on finally getting the much-awaited trophy in their cabinet. I do believe when the pressure is off, teams start playing to their full potential.
It’s a strange times we’re in now, where I don’t expect Manchester United to win the big matches. That’s quite unforgivable. In my soccer career, United have always been a benchmark, a team that you want to emulate. But now, I don’t expect them to win at tough places. I don’t expect them to go to Bayern and get a result. Those days are gone. If you look at the team, with Buttner, Evans, Jones, Smalling, De Gea and others, they’re for the future. This side needs 2-3 years before they come around. But Sunday, I was sitting here watching with my son (who is a United fan), and it didn’t surprise either of us to see them fall short yet again.
They’re just not showing that United spirit that we’ve come to expect over the years. David Moyes probably can’t wait for the end of the season so he can use the summer to change it around, and give the team an identity. Before, Manchester United was always playing with width. Now I don’t know where Mata, Kagawa, Welbeck, or even Rooney all play. There are lots of questions left to be answered about this team.
I want to take a minute to recognize Tony Pulis and the job he’s done at Crystal Palace. He’s shown that you can do a magnificent job without spending millions of dollars. Palace have found their success using loans, free transfers and smart dealings. That’s a sign of really good manager, where you have to do the best with what you’ve got. Such a huge credit must be given to Tony, who is not only an intelligent soccer mind but a good person as well. Congratulations indeed.
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 Atletico Madrid vs. Chelsea on Tuesday, (2 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1) and Real Madrid vs. Bayern Munich (2 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1), so I do hope you’ll join us. Thanks as always for reading!