Category Archives: The Panenka

Why Jose Mourinho would be perfect for Manchester United

So Jose Mourinho has announced that he is to return to England and the Premier League when he leaves Real Madrid and while he may deny that he plans to replace Sir Alex Ferguson when he eventually retires at Manchester United, consensus is growing that the “Special One” will take up the reins at Old Trafford.

Accepting Mourinho into Old Trafford would undoubtedly not be a universally popular choice. Firstly, Manchester United have long been committed to vibrant, attacking football – certainly not a style you would immediately associate with Mourinho’s teams. While the Portuguese’s philosophy has lightened somewhat at Real Madrid, it would perhaps have been difficult not to when Los Blancos can call on the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Mesut Ozil, Angel Di Maria and Karim Benzema. Additionally, Mourinho tends to disregard what has gone before him upon entering a new job, restructuring teams from top to bottom. Would fans want Mourinho to come in and completely obliterate all that Sir Alex Ferguson has left behind him simply to suit his wants and needs? And if he wasn’t allowed to, just how would Mourinho cope with this new problem in his managerial career? Indeed, we must also touch on the issues of the Glazers and their apparent financial constraints on the club. While United to do seem be alleviating this with their massive commercial contracts and having just splashed £24 million on a 29-year-old in Robin Van Persie, in recent years the club’s spending has been rather modest and Mourinho has almost always needed masses to spend wherever he’s been in order to strengthen his squad.

However, for all of those arguments, there still remains the overriding feel that of all the managers out there at the moment, Mourinho remains the best-equipped to take over the mantle from Ferguson. Firstly, there is no doubt that anyone who replaces the Scotsman needs to have broad shoulders and the character to take over from arguably the greatest manager of all time. It will be a job that would make some shrink but for Mourinho, it is a challenge that he would surely relish and rise to. Mourinho has often talked of his managerial projects as if they were simply checkpoints. England? Tick. Make Chelsea into title winners? Tick. Italy? Tick. Win the Champions League with Inter? Tick. Spain? Tick. Overcome arguably the best team of all time in Barcelona to win back La Liga for Real Madrid? Tick. The notion of possibly building upon or even improving Ferguson’s record would be the type of “tick” that would surely inspire Mourinho like no other manager.

Secondly, although it may be a controversial point, perhaps Mourinho’s destructive and short-term nature of management is exactly what is needed in the immediate aftermath of Ferguson’s departure. Mourinho often looks to buy players at the peak of their powers, squeezes every last drop out of them before moving on within two to three years and leaving behind a bedraggled outfit. Just look at the examples of Porto, Chelsea and Inter post-Mourinho as all struggled to cope with an ageing, fatigued group of players. Of course, this is hardly what Manchester United want to be left with but Mourinho does appear to have improved somewhat in this regards, with the team he is likely to leave at Real Madrid still relatively young. However, for Manchester United to hire another long-term “project” manager in the mould of say, an Andre Villas-Boas or an Ole Gunnar Solskjaer immediately after Ferguson would put immense pressure on the new man’s soldiers. Any failure would immediately be compared with Ferguson, particularly as such managers often get off to difficult and trophyless starts as they attempt to impose their new style on the squad. Mourinho however would ensure that the winning of trophies and thus continuation of Ferguson’s tradition of achievement would come above anything else. Manchester United may well be attributed to bringing in young players and to attractive football but above all else the club is summed up by it’s excellence on the football field and undoubtedly, Mourinho’s record of immediate excellence at his clubs is almost second to none.

Thirdly and perhaps most importantly, Mourinho would understand the very nature and ethos at the club. In his time at Chelsea the “Special One” had nothing but praise for the club and appears to be well aware of its standing in world as well as English football. Sir Alex Ferguson has often commented on the stature of the club that he manages and the importance in comprehending just what it means to its supporters. To have a manager in charge of United who may not completely connect to the fans or the values of the club would be suicidal to the post-Ferguson legacy. Mourinho connects with the supporters of his clubs like no other manager. At both Chelsea and Inter, the fans often still chant his name and considering that the two clubs have hardly endured complete collapse since the 49-year-old’s departure, that in itself is testament to Mourinho’s managerial class.

Adam Mazrani

Frimpong ready to make his mark (Video)

With all the attention on Jack Wilshere’s return to first team action and rightly so after 14 months without being seen anywhere near a football pitch, it’s somewhat gone under the radar that playing in the same Arsenal under-21 match at West Brom having indeed returned in last week’s league cup victory over Coventry was Emmanuel Frimpong.

The Ghanaian may never be the tidiest of footballers, particularly as an Arsenal player and indeed has seemingly become more famous for his youtube videos and use of the word “dench” rather than his ability on the pitch, but it must not be forgotten that before his injury last season, the central midfielder had shown some promising displays for both Arsenal and on-loan at Wolves where the fans really took to him before injury so cruelly cut his season short.

If Frimpong can re-find his form, then he can offer Arsenal something their midfield currently appears to lack: a true defensive presence. Mikel Arteta may have performed the role with some distinction so far this season but with Abou Diaby now missing for the next three weeks, the space is open for someone more defensively minded such as Frimpong to take their place in the midfield and provide protection for the mercurial Santi Cazorla to flourish ahead.

Many at Arsenal remember Frimpong’s first Premier League start to the club at home to Liverpool, in which the young midfielder was the one shining light in a dismal 2-0 home defeat at the Emirates. At times, Frimpong’s drive and passion looked like it was set to single-handedly deliver the game for the Gunners only for ill-discipline in the shape of a red card to bring the youngster out of the game and with that, hand the points to Liverpool.

That is perhaps Frimpong’s biggest obstacle to becoming a top player for Arsenal. For all of his admirable passion and commitment, it can often lead to ill-discipline on the football field and frustratingly, not even in the shape of bad tackles but more with regards to dissent to both officials and opposition players. However, let us not forget how young Frimpong is at only 20 and if he can rediscover the form the video below shows, then Arsenal’s bonus at having Wilshere back may become doubled.

Adam Mazrani

Nani doesn’t dive? Sure about that Sir Alex? (Video)

With all the furore Sergio Aguero has caused by saying that foreign players are the victim of domestic player bias from referees in this country, Sir Alex Ferguson has emerged from his lair to vent his feelings on the matter. While not quite in the manner of his “typical Germans” tirade of a few years ago, Ferguson did seem to point the finger at the influx of foreign players into the Premier League for the increase in play-acting and simulation.

However, according to him, Nani, who is often seen as one of Manchester United’s worst culprits when it comes to diving, “is not the type to dive”. Now, managers are always expected to back their players to the hilt and rightly so. Nobody is saying that Ferguson should come out and hammer Nani for diving but perhaps a quick youtube watch of Ashley Young would be best advised before the United manager comes out and makes sweeping statements, or more pertinently to his Portuguese winger, a watch of the video below.

Next time Sir Alex, perhaps it’s best just sticking to “no comment.”

Adam Mazrani

What to make of Aiden McGeady? (Video)

Aiden McGeady remains one of the enigmas of British football. Lauded in his days at Celtic for his twinkling, twirling, effervescent and goal-laden wing play in the Scottish Premier League, McGeady was judged to be one of the best prospects to have come out of the Celtic academy in years. Indeed, his decision to choose to play for the Republic of Ireland rather than Scotland is one that still rankles with the Tartan Army, particularly due to McGeady’s original hand being forced by a technicality of the Scottish FA, which refuses to allow a player who did not play for their schoolboy team to be considered for selection for the prestigious Scottish Schools selects.

However, such was McGeady’s supposed talent that many expected him to move south to one of the Premier League heavyweights when he eventually took the decision to leave Celtic Park. However, with no offers forthcoming, McGeady took the brave yet surprising decision to leave the British eye for Russia and Spartak Moscow.

It’s rare for a British player to take the risk and upheaval that comes with moving abroad and so simply for that, McGeady deserves to be applauded. However, his performances for Spartak have hardly been indicative of a man in mesmeric form. His statistics indicate that he is hardly setting the Russian league alight, despite an impressive assists ratio since his arrival in Moscow. Indeed, despite the talent shown in the video below, there has been no indication of a move back to Britain and the Premier League. Without getting too bombastic about our league, surely that is where McGeady dreamed of showcased his talents, rather than often half-empty stadiums in Russia?

His performances for Ireland have also often flattered to deceive with his big chance to show the Europe what he could do wasted at Euro 2012, where McGeady, possibly stymied by the tactics of manager Giovanni Trappatoni, often looked one-dimensional and unable to beat his man, only succeeding in putting in a raft at crosses with varying accuracy.

However, there is no doubting that within McGeady is a player of real potential and as he lines up against his former club Celtic at the Luzhniki Stadium on Tuesday, the winger has the perfect opportunity to ram the questions of any critics down their throats.

Adam Mazrani

Just what is Manchester City’s best strike partnership?

While Manchester City’s defensive problems and particularly Roberto Mancini’s inability to settle on a consistent partner for skipper Vincent Kompany have grabbed the headlines, City’s striking problems have been ignored somewhat. To be frank, to suggest that there are any “problems” is a bit far-fetched. City do often look capable of scoring at will and possess four top-level strikers in Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez, Mario Balotelli and Edin Dzeko.

The problem is, just who does Mancini call upon as his regular strike partnership? Yes of course, the chosen two cannot play every game and rotation, particularly in the forward positions where fatigue can often hit is key, but when the pressure games come around just who will Mancini turn to? It’s safe to say that Aguero will be one of the two. The Argentina international is a favourite of Mancini and scored 30 goals in his debut season in England, the last of which dramatically giving the Citizens the Premier League title at the expense of local rivals Manchester United. Aguero’s pace, vision, low centre of gravity and ice-cool finishing at pressure moments makes him a certainty to start if fit.

But who partners him? Based on early-season form one would have to say Carlos Tevez would deserve a run in the team. A newly-streamlined Tevez seemed to be playing the best football of his career before the first international break, as he scored four goals in City’s opening four matches in all competitions and generally looked to be back to his hustling, committed best for the club. However, Tevez’ spell away with Argentina seems to have not only sapped his confidence but also some of his sharpness and since then, Mancini has rotated and left him on the bench more often than not.

Mario Balotelli may have starred in the summer for his country, scoring three goals as Italy reached the final of Euro 2012, but it must be remembered that the moody Italian hardly enjoyed the best end of seasons under Mancini. Having endured a barren run in front of goal, Balotelli’s red card at Arsenal in April left him sitting out of the majority of the Citizen’s final league games, although he did return to provide an assist for Aguero’s title-winning moment. Indeed, Balotelli has barely featured in the City team this year and in his few appearances has been peripheral to say the least.

At this moment in time, it ironically appears as though arguably Mancini’s least favourite option could be the best to partner Aguero. Edin Dzeko has not always enjoyed the easiest of times in Manchester. His performances range from the superb, as shown by his four goal destruction of Tottenham at White Hart Lane early last season to his long run without a goal in the winter months that saw him relegated to very much City’s fourth choice striker at the beginning of this season. However, Dzeko has emerged as a big-game player and has notched crucial goals against QPR on last season’s final day, against Real Madrid in the Bernabeu and on Saturday, the late winner at Craven Cottage to give City their first away win of the season. Dzeko may have his faults, such as his often erratic finishing and inconsistent first touch but appears to very much be a man in form.

It seems simple then? Surely at this moment in time, until either Tevez or Balotelli re-find their top form, then it must be Aguero and Dzeko to start? The problem is however that those two seem to struggle to form a coherent partnership between themselves when played together and indeed Mancini has only started both the Argentine and the Bosnian a handful of times this calendar year. Aguero wants quick interplay with his forward partner, the type that Balotelli and particularly Tevez are so adept at. Dzeko however lacks the technical ability to deliver to Aguero’s needs while the Bosnian, at his best when finishing instinctively, can often find his preferred positions, particularly in the penalty box, taken up by the predatory Aguero. Indeed, the last time the two were partnered, in City’s underwhelming 1-1 draw with Arsenal, both struggled to make an impact.

Of course, there are those who would simply argue that for Aguero and Dzeko to be able to form a partnership then they must simply be given greater playing time together on the pitch in order to forge a connection. However, Mancini will know as well as anyone that with the difficult of balancing City’s Premier League title defence as well as their challenge for the Champions League, he does not have the luxury of allowing his two most in-form strikers several disappointing games in order to form a connection.

Fundamentally, perhaps Mancini would be wise to accommodate to his star man Aguero. The ex-Atletico Madrid man seems to perform at his best alongside Argentine compatriot Carlos Tevez and judging by the latter’s impressive early-season form, perhaps his manager should just have a little bit more faith in his abilities.

Adam Mazrani

Jimmy Bullard will be remembered as a joker but was once a fine player (Video)

Today the news was announced that ex-Wigan, Fulham and Hull player Jimmy Bullard had retired from football with immediate effect just five weeks into his spell at MK Dons. Bullard cited his failure to truly recover from the original knee injury he suffered at Fulham, only for it to reoccur just minutes into his Hull debut, as the cause for his career’s downward spiral from those heady days at Wigan and Fulham to the mediocrity of League One football.

Bullard will forever be remembered as football’s “cheeky chappy”, a joker, one who did admittedly always bring a smile to the faces of those both around him and those who watched it. A typical Bullard moment would be his re-enactment of Hull manager Phil Brown’s famous half-time team talk on the pitch at Manchester City, after Bullard had scored a penalty at the Etihad almost a year after the original incident. The incident was classic Bullard and will be remembered long into the future.

In truth towards his latter days at Hull and Ipswich, particularly after the knee injuries, it was often quite sad watching him play as he tried to drive forward with his old panache and crunch into tackles in the way that once came so easy. However, the knees had just given into him and perhaps in truth, today’s announcement came a couple of years too late.

However, let’s not forget that once Bullard was a fantastic midfield player. Having lit up the Championship for Wigan in their promotion campaign with a series of long-range strikes, Bullard was simply sensational in Wigan’s debut Premier League season with some superb goals and performances against some of the country’s biggest clubs. The video below highlights one such goal against Arsenal in a 3-2 defeat to a Thierry Henry inspired Gunners at what was then called the JJB Stadium. His performances for Wigan earned him a move to Fulham where he had began the 2006-07 season impressively before his knee buckled under him up at St James Park. It was a cruel blow for a footballer that seemed to have so much ahead of him but credit to him for fighting back and returning to form to help rescue Fulham from relegation in the 2007-08 season.

So when we remember Bullard, as funny and as charismatic as he was, let us also remember his talent as a professional footballer.

Adam Mazrani

Can Everton qualify for the Champions League?

Everton continued their superb start to the Premier League season by dissecting a far too open Southampton side at Goodison Park to move above Manchester United into second place in the table, just three points off league leaders Chelsea. Indeed, if the Blues had fallen to defeat at Arsenal earlier in the day, then the Toffees remarkably could have been sitting pretty at the summit of the Premier League after six games.

Talk of competing for the title is of course premature in the extreme but there definitely seems to be a wave of optimism rising that the Toffees could make a genuine challenge for Champions League qualification for the second time under David Moyes. Aside from Everton’s own performances, which bar the defeats at West Brom and Leeds in the League Cup have been nothing short of quite magical, it is the early displays of their rivals for Champions League qualification that has given their supporters hope. Chelsea have been impressive but the two Manchester clubs have both endured shaky starts to the season. Elsewhere, Arsenal have had an inconsistent start while Tottenham, despite their victory at Old Trafford last night, remain a work in progress under Andre Villas-Boas. As for Merseyside rivals Liverpool, the focus at the moment is to get into the top half of the table let alone challenge for the top four.

However, even if the league’s big guns were firing on all cylinders, Everton have already shown this season that they are capable of mixing it with the best, showcased by that balmy night at Goodison Park where the Toffees and Marouane Fellaini overpowered Sir Alex Ferguson’s team to claim a famous victory. Indeed, since then it’s arguable that David Moyes’ team have gone up a notch in terms of their performances. Their displays in wins at Aston Villa and Swansea saw them rack up six goals that should have been closer to 60.

Fundamentally, Moyes at last seems to have a squad that is well balanced in all important areas. Often, Everton have had a solid defence and goalkeeper but lacked a potent striker. Or they’ve had the goalscorer but lacked the creativity to supply him. However, look through this Everton team and ask yourself: where is the real, genuine weakness? In goal, Tim Howard has been outstanding for many years now while the defence contains the likes of Phil Jagielka, Sylvain Distin and the irrepressible Leighton Baines influencing matches like no other left-back in the world. The Toffees’ midfielder sees Darron Gibson partnered by the monstrous Fellaini while Steven Pienaar, an inspired re-signing from Tottenham, provides the flashes of inspiration and creative nuance for the predatory Nikica Jelavic to score goals galore up top. That does not even the mention the likes of Kevin Miralles, Phil Neville, Victor Anichebe, Leon Osman or Seamus Coleman.

Full credit to Moyes for finally, after 10 long years, assembling the best squad of his time at Goodison Park. However, he will know better than anyone else that this is an opportunity that is unlikely to rear it’s head again. Aside from the inevitability that their rivals are sure to improve, his squad is unlikely to improve beyond this point, certainly while the club remain under its current ownership. Rather, Fellaini has already signalled his intentions to leave at the end of the season while Jelavic and Baines are sure to catch the attention of the bigger clubs if their form continues. Elsewhere, Jagielka, Distin, Neville, Pienaar and Osman are all ageing. They are now at the peak of their powers and one has to say that if Champions League qualification was not achieved this season, you would struggle to think that Everton will get a better opportunity.

So will they? It has to be said that it is still very early days in this Premier League season which is only six games old and bar their home clash with United in their opening game, Everton have yet to be truly tested. The clashes with Liverpool, Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham lie ahead and it is these matches which will tell us where Everton are challenging this season, rather than wins against struggling Aston Villa, Swansea and Southampton sides. What is clear however is that at the moment, the Toffees are arguably playing the most attractive football in the Premier League and that in itself, is an achievement in itself for Moyes and Everton, who have for so long been attributed as a side of pure perspiration, rather than real inspiration.

Adam Mazrani

Klose reminds us all that sportsmanship does still exist in Football (Video)

Modern footballers are often castigated for being mercenaries, professional, money driven and ego-centric with their sole motivation primarily being the advancement of their own self rather than engaging in so-called sportsmanship.

That is why we must applaud the adherence to sporting ethics when we see it and so: a very hearty well-done to Miroslav Klose for his decision to admit to the referee that he had hand-balled, rather than headed, the ball into the net for Lazio against Napoli. It would have been very easy for Klose to simply claim the goal. At the time, the score was 0-0 and Napoli, with Edinson Cavani in irrepressible form, would certainly be tough opponents in their own back yard. For Lazio to go 1-0 up at that point could have changed the whole complexion of a game that the home side eventually triumphed 3-0 thanks to a Cavani hat-trick. The Napoli players and fans certainly showed their appreciation for the veteran striker’s honesty and gave him a standing ovation.

It perhaps says everything about what we expect and think of modern footballers that this story has gained so much publicity with genuine shock that a footballer would be so honest. Unfortunately, the majority of players would do no such thing. Just look at Demba Ba yesterday for example, who deprived Reading of their first three points in the Premier League with an equaliser he essentially punched past goalkeeper Alex McCarthy. The sad fact is that in their heart of hearts, no one criticises Ba for not owning up to his crime; he is of course a footballer, and with the prizes for winning and losing so stark, the boundaries between what is and what isn’t acceptable on the field of play have certainly been blurred.

Adam Mazrani