So, Louis van Gaal, what exactly is your Manchester United ‘philosophy’?

March 16, 2015

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“Something very strange is happening at Old Trafford. It not so much that the grumbling is growing louder, despite Manchester United sitting fourth in the table having lost only twice in the league since the turn of the year, it is who is lined up on either side of the debate. On the one hand, unconvinced by a string of scratchy displays, is a section of the media and public arguing that the spectacle needs to improve. On the other, demanding we look at the results, is Louis van Gaal, a coach who for a quarter of a century has been dogmatically insisting that aesthetics are vital to football and that journalists and fans never look sufficiently at the process.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Ángel di María seems an uninterested bystander at Manchester United
“Manchester United’s defenders have committed some shocking errors this season, but the manner of the two concessions in Monday’s 2-1 FA Cup quarter-final defeat to Arsenal must have been particularly alarming for Louis van Gaal. The problems originated from United’s right flank, where they struggled all evening. The most dangerous player in the opening minutes was Alexis Sánchez, fielded on the left of Arsenal’s 4-2-3-1 system. Up against Antonio Valencia, a winger who has been fielded at right-back remarkably frequently considered he has never looked remotely comfortable in that role, it looked set to be a mismatch, especially after Sánchez cut inside easily for the game’s first half-chance.” Guardian – Michael Cox


The British influence on the Bernabeu – where it all began

March 16, 2015

“Real Madrid are, without doubt, a club with the most illustrious of histories in world football. Nothing confirms this more than the capturing of the long-coveted 10th European title in their history in 2014, lauded amongst Madridistas as ‘La Decima’. But, where do we come in all this? How can we savour just a small slice of this wonderful story for ourselves? Despite being the most Spanish of clubs, Los Blancos have had numerous British players litter their amazing history. Ask any knowledgeable football fan to name some of those players and they will rightly list names including David Beckham, Michael Owen, Gareth Bale and, possibly, Laurie Cunningham. While there have been varying degrees of success amongst those who have left these shores, Bale – the most recent export – has had a prolific first season and a half at the Bernabeu, including scoring the decisive goal helping to secure La Decima in Lisbon in 2014.” Football Pink


Harry Kane shows clubs should not discard players too early

March 16, 2015

“Many magic numbers are being thrown around about Harry Kane, adding up to why the Tottenham Hotspur striker is being feted as such a strong candidate for the players’ Player of the Year and the writers’ Footballer of the Year. Numbers like four. Kane has just become only the fourth man to win back-to-back Premier League Player of the Month awards, joining such illustrious names as Robbie Fowler, Dennis Bergkamp and Cristiano Ronaldo.” Telegraph – Henry Winter


The Barrabrava – Crusaders Turning Exploiters

March 16, 2015

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“As I read Christopher Gaffney’s Temples of the Earthbound Gods, one issue that particularly struck me was the excessive nature of the barrabrava, the fierce fan group that exists in most of the Argentine and South American football clubs. In the book, Gaffney suggests the unclear, shady relationships between the clubs and their barrabravas, or barras in short, and some of the borderline illegal actions that the barras take that is veiled under the name of passion and footballing identity. For instance, the level of physical violence that the barras have reached a point where the barras of each club have their signature means of violence – rubber mallets in San Lorenzo or umbrellas in Independiente, for example – and yet their clubs have remained reluctant, even sympathetic towards such acts.” Soccer Politics (Video)


Chelsea 2-2 PSG (aet): Blanc continues with starting approach despite early red card

March 16, 2015

“Paris Saint-Germain adapted excellently after Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s dismissal, and progressed on away goals courtesy of two headed goals from their centre-backs. The most surprising name on the Chelsea teamsheet was Oscar, who was preferred over his fellow Brazilian Willian. This hinted at Jose Mourinho’s preferred midfield format. In defence, Gary Cahill was selected instead of Kurt Zouma, who has recently impressed both in defence and midfield. Nemanja Matic was fit to return in the holding role.” Zonal Marking


When they mattered: Ipswich Town’s brighter days

March 16, 2015

“Ah, Ipswich! Famous for, well, not much. Being the 42nd largest urban area in the UK? Birthplace of Henry VIII’s Lord Chancellor Thomas Wolsey, extreme metal band Cradle of Filth vocalist Dani Filth, and 1980s pop prancer Nik Kershaw? Home of the world’s first commercially powered lawnmower, built in 1902? Winner of the Cleanest Town in England award in 2007?” Soccer Gods (Video)