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Posts Tagged ‘Manchester United’

Yesterday (Sunday 23 October) former Chelsea manager José Mourinho made his first return to Stamford Bridge since he was sacked last December. His Manchester United team were thrashed 4-0 by a rampant Chelsea, with the first goal being scored after only 30 seconds.

By half time Chelsea were 2-0 up, and by 62 minutes it was 3-0. Mourinho’s humiliation was complete when Chelsea made it 4-0 in the 71st minute. The win takes Chelsea up to 4th place in the table, just one point behind leaders Manchester City. Manchester United stay in 7th place.

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José Mourinho’s Manchester United were thrashed on his first return to Stamford Bridge since being sacked by Chelsea last December.

Manchester City have not registered a win in a month, after flying out of the blocks in their first 6 games they have hit a speed bump. Arsenal and Liverpool are equal with them on points, leaving the title wide open with a quarter of the season gone. It is all to play for!

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The rumours seem to have been true. José Mourinho is going to be at Old Trafford next year. Or, at least, that is what the BBC is saying. But both Manchester United and José Mourinho are, so far, refusing to confirm what now seems inevitable.

 

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José Mourinho looks set to replace Louis Van Gaal at Manchester United, although no official announcement has yet been made.

 

As a number of people have been saying with tongue in cheek, what could possibly go wrong?! We shall see, but having the special one back in the English Premier League certainly adds to the entertainment value; his press conferences are usually great listening. His success will be determined by whether he can return Man U to their former glory, particularly in the Premier League and the Champions League.

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Tomorrow (Sunday 15 May) sees the final day of the English Premier League. Unlike every other weekend, when matches are spread out over Saturday, Sunday and Monday, on the final weekend all matches kick off on the Sunday at 3pm.

Leicester City have already won the Premiership title, which is a refreshing change and a remarkable achievement. Last season, Leicester were struggling to avoid relegation, and only a few years ago, in the 2008-09 season, they were in the third tier division (confusingly known as League One). From 2009 to 2014 they were in the second tier (the Championship), gaining promotion to the Premier League at the end of the 2013-14 season. Since the inception of the Premier League in the 1992-93 season, Leicester are only the second team outside of the ‘big four’ (Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal) to win the Premiership title; the other time was Blackburn Rovers in 1993-94.

Some of you may know that the team I support is Chelsea, who as defending title holders have had a terrible season. They look set to finish 9th, although if they lose and Stoke win they could finish 10th. Even if Swansea City win and Chelsea lose, Chelsea’s goal difference is so much better than Swansea’s (16 better) that it is nigh on impossible for Swansea to finish above them.

Fittingly, Leicester City play their final game of the season at Chelsea, last year’s champions. Another twist to this story is that Leicester’s popular manager, Claudio Ranieri, was Chelsea’s manager from the 2000-01 season until the end of the 2003-04 season, when he was replaced by José Mourinho. I expect both the team and Ranieri will receive a good reception at Stamford Bridge. Mourinho, of course, started this season as the Chelsea manager on his second spell at the club, but after a string of disastrous results he left in December 2015, and Chelsea have been managed since by interim manager Guus Hiddink.

But, probably the  most intriguing story of this weekend will be whether it is Manchester City or Manchester United who finish in 4th place and get the last Champions League spot. Manchester City play away at Swansea, and Manchester United have a home game against Bournemouth. Man U not only need to win their match, but they need Man City to lose to Swansea in order to finish 4th. If Man City draw and Man U win, both teams will finish on 66 points, but Man City have a much better goal difference. On paper, Man U should beat Bournemouth. Although Swansea are down in 11th place, they have won their last two games, so will be no push over for Man City. It is conceivable that Man U will get the dream results that they crave. 

 

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Leicester City were crowned as champions a few weeks ago, and last year’s champions Chelsea cannot finish higher than 9th, and could finish as low as 10th. The big fight tomorrow is which team in Manchester will get the coveted 4th place spot.

Should Man U fail to finish in 4th I anticipate that their manager, Louis van Gaal, will be sacked. They are in the final of the FA Cup, but this competition has become so much less valued in the last decade or so that I don’t think winning it will save his job. If, on the other hand, Man U do get 4th place then I think van Gaal will hang on to his job, even though he is quite unpopular with the fans. Since Mourinho was sacked from Chelsea in December there have been persistent rumours that he would be replacing van Gaal at Old Trafford. We shall have to wait and see.

Whether it is Man U or Man City who fail to qualify for the Champions League, it will be deemed a disaster for the club that misses out. Man U have the most prolific record of any English team over the last few decades, and Man City have won the Premier League title twice in the last few seasons, and this year got as far as the semi finals of the Champions League. The rivalry between the two Manchester clubs has been intense over the last few seasons, but this weekend one side of the city is going to be very disappointed and the other side will be relieved, if not elated. 

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Ryan Giggs turned 40 last week, and is still going as strong as ever. Many newspapers celebrated his remarkable career. He has been playing top-class football since the age of 17, playing all his games for Manchester United and Wales. As of the writing of this article, he has appeared an amazing 953 times for Manchester United (including 611 appearances in the Premier League, which is a record), and 64 times for Wales.

I thought I would include links to two of the many many articles that have been written about this remarkable Welshman in the last week. The first is from Wales’ national newspaper, The Western Mail. The link to the actual story is here.



The Western Mail, the national newspaper of Wales, ran several articles celebrating Ryan Giggs turning 40.

The Western Mail, the national newspaper of Wales, ran several articles celebrating Ryan Giggs turning 40.



But, just to show that it is not only the Welsh press who have been celebrating his career, here is a link to a story about Giggs’ enduring career from The Guardian, an English newspaper.



This article, from The Guardian newspaper, celebrates Ryan Giggs' enduring career.

This article, from The Guardian newspaper, celebrates Ryan Giggs’ enduring career.



It will be interesting to see how much longer Giggs carries on playing. Although he has lost a little of his phenomenal pace, he still seems to have the hunger to play top-flight football, and has looked after his body very very well so shows no sign of his body breaking down as so often happens to sports players once they reach their mid 30s. Let us hope that he continues to light up the football stadia of Europe for as long as he still enjoys it.

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It was the kind of drama usually reserved for the pages of Hollywood blockbusters. Yesterday (Sunday the 13th of May 2012) was the last day of the English Premiership football season. As I have blogged recently, the title had come down to a two-horse race between Manchester United, the most successful football team ever in the history of English football, and their cross-town rivals Manchester City.

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“Fergie time” is a reference to the number of games Man U have won in the dying seconds

Manchester United were playing away to Sunderland, and Manchester City were at home to Queens Park Rangers. QPR were in their own battle for survival in the Premiership. Both City and United went 1-0 up in their respective games quite early, and City also gained a one-man advantage after QPR’s thug player Joey Barton was sent off. But, with only 10 men, QPR not only equalised, but went one goal ahead, to lead 2-1 away from home.

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The winner of the title swung from being Man City to Man Uni and back to Man City as the drama unfolded

Manchester United held on to their tenuous 1-0 away lead, and finished their game with a 1-0 victory, enough to secure them the title unless Man City should win their game. As the final whistle was blown on Man U’s game, the score at the Etihad Stadium was still 1-2 to QPR. With Man City’s game going into added time, surely the title was going to elude them and go to Man U for the 20th time.

There then unfolded possibly the most dramatic 3 minutes in the history of English football. Deep into added time, Manchester City first equalised through Dzeko, but this equaliser still left the title in Man U’s hands. Less than 4 minutes later they unbelievably scored a third goal to win the game 3-2, and hence to win the Premiership title on gaol difference. Alex Ferguson, and the other Manchester United personnel, went from thinking they had retained the title to realising their “noisy neighbours” had stolen it from them in the death, in the space of 3 minutes.

As a Chelsea supporter, I’m pleased the Premiership title has gone to a club that hasn’t won the top prize in English football since 1968. Having either Man U, Chelsea or Arsenal win it every year has not been good for English football. With Man City possibly on the verge of rivalling their more famous neighbours, and Spurs also finishing in the top four this year, I’m hopeful we may see the Premiership becoming a 6 or 7 team race, rather than the 3-team race that it’s been of late.

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Alex Ferguson plays down his City rivals’ achievement

Earlier in the season, Alex Ferguson referred to Man City as their “noisy neighbours“. After having the title snatched from his hands yesterday, Sir Alex made it clear that Man U are still THE TEAM in Manchester, with Man City still a long way from rivalling the Red Devils’ success.

Roberto Mancini with the Premier League trophy

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The Man City team and fans celebrate their first league title since 1968

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It is going to be the biggest night of the season for the English Premiership

There is a joke that the unofficial greeting in the US state of New Mexico is “red or green?”, implying that each conversation opens with asking whether someone would prefer red or green chilli peppers. Is the unofficial greeting in the northwest England city of Manchester “red or blue?”, to determine the allegiance to one of the city’s two football teams, Manchester United or Manchester City.

The title contenders - it is a two horse race

The red half of the city has long been dominant over the blue half. Mahchester United became the most successful team in English football league history in 2010-2011 season by wining the Premiership a record 19 times, surpassing Liverpool’s record of 18 league titles, which they had achieved in 1988. In 1988, Manchester United had only 7 to their name! The 12 titles since 1992 have been largely down to the most successful manager ever in English football, the Scottish (Glaswegian) Sir Alex Ferguson.

A few years ago, in 2008, the Manchester City football club was bought by one of the richest men in the World, Sheikh Mansour of Abu Dhabi, who has given the club nearly unlimited money to buy the best players in the World, and to recruit one of the game’s up-and-coming stars of management, Roberto Mancini. One of the stated aims was for Manchester City to be able to challenge their neighbour’s dominance of the domestic game. 3-4 years on from his buying the club, Manchester City are now vying with their more successful neighbours to win this year’s Premiership title, a title Manchester City have never previously won (they last won the old English League title in 1968).

Where the title goes this season will probably all come down to the match this evening between them. Going into the game, Manchester United have a 3 points advantage over Manchester City, but if City win tonight at home in the Etihad Stadium, Manchester City will go above United on equal points but with a better goal difference. With only two matches remaining for each club after tonight, if Manchester City can win all their 3 remaining games including the derby with United this evening, the title will be theirs.

The Premier League as of Sunday evening

There has not been a closer race for the title in several years, and to have one between such bitter rivals is what sporting contests are all about. The English FA are expecting viewing figures for tonight’s game to be over 650 million people worldwide, which will probably be a record. I will be in running club, but by the time I finish the game should still be on, so I will listen to the 2nd half on the radio.

Who will have the bragging rights on Tuesday morning, the red half of Manchester, or the blue half? As my team is Chelsea, I am neutral. Who do you want to win?

****UPDATE****
Manchester City won 1-0, in a tense game. The title is now theirs to lose.

The front page of the BBC Sports website

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This Sunday morning saw the final of the Rugby World Cup, between New Zealand and France. My son needed to be in Barry by 8:30am, so I decided to go for a run along the Heritage Coast from Llanilltud Fawr (Llantwit Major – how did the name “Illtud” become “twit” to the English??). I watched the game later via the internet on ITV’s “catchup” service.

My run was very different from last week’s Cardiff half marathon, where I ran with more than 12,000 others. I saw barely a soul during my 10 mile run, and only had the sound of the sea off the coast for audio company. Meanwhile, in Eden Park Auckland, 60,000 odd rugby fans were watching the New Zealand v France final unfold. France had gone into the final as heavy underdogs, having just beaten Wales 9-8 in the Semi Final match last weekend, whereas NZ had looked impressive in all their matches.

To say that France raised their game for the final would be an understatement. For most of the game they were by far the better team, and it ended in an 8-7 victory for NZ. I would imagine most Kiwis had bitten their nails down to the bone in the last 15 minutes, as France were very much in the ascendency. But, NZ clung on, and so won their 2nd rugby World Cup, having won the inaugural one in 1987 against the same finalists.

Closer to home, Manchester to be precise, was the scene for another sporting contest, the Manchester football derby. Manchester United have dominated English football for the last 20 years, in fact last season saw them overtake Liverpool to become the club which has won the most league titles in English football. But, a few years ago Man City were bought by an investment group from Abu Dhabi, which has led to their having basically unlimited financial resources and many World-class signings. Yesterday’s derby was at Old Trafford, Man U’s fortress where they rarely lose, and had not lost for 18 months.

The final score was 1-6 to Man City. Yes, six-one to Man City! This is, apparently, Man U’s heaviest home defeat in several decades, their largest since the English Premiership came into being in 1992. Alex Ferguson, Man U’s manager, described it as an embarrassment and the worst result in his playing or coaching career. To say Man U were thrashed would be an understatement, they were annihilated.

As a Chelsea fan, this is all very interesting. Unfortunately Chelsea lost too over the weekend, to QPR, but surely Man U’s confidence must be in tatters after such a defeat. With Chelsea in 3rd, only 1 point behind Man U, surely 2nd place beckons for the Blues.

The weekend just shows that one can never predict sport, which is one of the reasons I find it so compelling. I only hope Wales manage to outscore Australia by a factor or 6 when we play them in Cardiff on the 3rd of Decemeber!

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