This is the business end of the Premier League season. Most clubs only have ten games left and the races up and down the table will be decided in this stretch. Manchester United keeps on winning in impressive fashion – I think they’ve got the title nearly secured – but the races for European spots and for survival are wide-open, meaning each week brings a set of can’t-miss games.
But let’s start with United, who are having a super week. Ryan Giggs stole some of the headlines by signing up for another season on Friday, proving that age isn’t an impediment to ability or class. I’ve always said he was the finest player I’ve had the pleasure of playing against, and all the accolades are firmly deserved. He didn’t get his 1000th senior appearance – I think we will see him Tuesday in the big game against Real Madrid — but United didn’t miss a beat as Shinji Kagawa tore Norwich apart with a fine hat-trick. Kagawa became the first Asian player to score a hat trick in the Prem, and he serves as yet another example of what an eye for talent Sir Alex Ferguson has.
Luis Suarez also claimed a hat-trick over a very poor Wigan side, showing the intelligence and power he really has. Forget the off-field drama – I think Suarez has made a case for being Player of the Year, because really, where would Liverpool be without him? He’s a super improviser and I thought his linkup play with Coutinho was just magnificent.
It was disappointing to see the feuding at Wigan, however, with Emmerson Boyce and James McCarthy needing to be separated. I remember a similar instance at Newcastle when Kieron Dyer and Lee Bowyer got at it, and while it’s a passionate game, that’s not what the fans or the club wants to see, ever. Roberto Martinez can take a loss, but he has to get his team all pulling in the same direction, otherwise it will be a very nervy few weeks.
Things look bleak for Arsenal after their loss to Tottenham on Sunday. Arsenal’s back line was a complete shambles in the game and I think you have to blame Arsene Wenger for failing to give Gareth Bale the respect he deserves. Give great credit to Spurs. Bale is a world-class player and they had the right game plan: absorb the pressure and then counter and exploit the back line. It worked to perfection, and Andre Villas-Boas deserves the applause.
But it is painful to see the decline of what once was a great club. Arsenal are now miles away from the likes of the Manchester clubs, Chelsea and Tottenham. That distance has grown every year. You have to ask questions of the manager and the ownership there, too. No other top manager would come out and say, as he did, that the goal is to finish in the top four. You should be wanting to win everything every season. It’s a shame because I don’t see that changing any time soon. They’ve become a selling club, and it is costing them and their fans dearly.
I do want to congratulate Harry Redknapp and QPR for a big win this weekend. You could see and feel the relief from all the way across the ocean after that one! The key is keeping Loic Remy healthy: he’s got the top-flight pedigree and he is a scorer that the other threatened teams don’t have. I think if he can give QPR five goals in the run in, it might be enough for Harry Houdini. But they have to go on a run, put together three, four games and build on this.
Tuesday we’ve got a massive game here on FOX Soccer. Don’t take my word for it: Sir Alex said it’s the biggest game in the world, and he’s right. That’s Manchester United – Real Madrid (live from 2 ET) in the Champions League, and I’ll be with Gus Johnson in Manchester to bring it to you. It’s tied 1-1 after the first leg, but both teams look capable of winning it. Real Madrid is hot after two big wins over arch-rivals Barcelona; United has been running over opponents for several weeks now. I’m thrilled to be there and be able to bring it to you, and I think it will be a classic.
Before the big game, you can chat with me via my Twitter, @warrenbarton2 – or just ask a question on @FOXSoccer using the hashtag #heywarren. I answer as many as I can and I enjoy hearing from all of you.
I hope to see you all on Tuesday, and thanks as always for reading me here and watching us on TV!