Manchester United’s problems aren’t just managerial:
After such a convincing victory against Norwich last weekend, there were calls from certain quarters for Ryan Giggs to be handed the Manchester United manager post on a full-time basis. Sub-keeper Anders Lindegaard reckoned the Welshman could be the next Pep Guardiola.
Saturday’s loss at home to Sunderland has brought the Red Devils right back to earth, and highlighted the shortcomings on the field that will have to be addressed no matter who the manager is next season.
United have nothing but pride to play for at this stage of the season, but the ability to dominate sides in the midfield hasn’t been evident for quite a while. None of Carrick, Cleverley, Fellaini or Fletcher strike terror in the hearts of opposing teams the way Yaya Toure does for Manchester City, or Aaron Ramsey at his best for Arsenal.
Change may take place in the dug-out this summer, but personnel changes in the centre of the park are just as vital.
Jose Mourinho has a sense of humour:
In the aftermath of a turgid nil-all draw with Norwich on Sunday, Jose Mourinho complained that only one team had attempted to play football. Surprisingly, that team was Chelsea.
Norwich City have been absolutely awful in front of goal this season, and at Stamford Bridge they sat deep and attempted to catch Chelsea on the counter, rather than going gung-ho at a team that could punish them.
Sitting deep and hitting teams on the counter is something that Chelsea have done with varied results in the recent past. It worked against Liverpool and categorically didn’t against Atletico Madrid. It doesn’t matter if it’s pleasing to the eye, football is a results game and Mourinho’s teams exemplify that mind-set more than most.
The Portuguese coach knows full well the reputation his team has for playing negative football, and you can imagine him turning a corner after giving his post match comments about Norwich yesterday, and laughing his head off.
Sunderland’s detractors need to take a look at themselves:
A team that takes 7 of a possible 9 points against the two Manchester Clubs and Chelsea deserves to stay up. Sunderland have done just that and with Saturday’s victory at Old Trafford they look almost certain to beat the drop.
Going into the game against United, Gus Poyet’s team had a cloud hanging over them due to the threat of a points deduction. Norwich, Cardiff and Fulham had joined to petition the FA regarding Sunderland’s fielding of an ineligible player.
The Black Cats had already been fined by the FA for playing Ji Dong-Won in four games at the start of the season without international clearance from FIFA, but the three teams below them were desperate to drag Sunderland deeper into the relegation dog-fight.
Unfortunately for them, there is no rule that forces the FA to dock points in a scenario such as Sunderland found themselves in. Fulham and Cardiff were relegated at the weekend, and Norwich are favourites to join them next weekend.
Sunderland have fought their way out of the relegation zone with their results in the run-in. If the teams below them want to lay the blame for their relegation somewhere, they’d be best served to look at their own performances.