Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal discovers harsh reality after Swansea loss – and there’s no quick fix

August 17, 2014

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“It risked being lost in all the debris of an opening-day defeat for Louis van Gaal, and amid the understandable calls for urgent reinforcements, but Manchester United’s new manager kept returning to a vital theme, namely the need for players to be ‘not only running, but also to use your brain’. Welcome to England, where physics is still one of the main sciences. Van Gaal spoke after this deserved 2-1 loss to Swansea City about players making poor choices in their decision-making, especially in the first half. He also wrote in the programme about ‘I always train in the brains and not in the legs,’ adding, most pertinently, about an issue he had noted in training that ‘a lot of players are playing intuitively but they have to think’.” Telegraph – Henry Winter

Louis van Gaal endures Manchester United debut to forget
“It is a new season with a new manager but for Manchester United fans the 2014-15 campaign began in all-too familiar fashion – a depressing home defeat. ‘Things can only get better’ and ‘King Louis is here – United are back’ was the message on some of the many scarves and T-shirts on sale outside Old Trafford on Saturday showing United’s new boss Louis van Gaal’s face as their main design feature. Sadly for the United supporters who saw their side suffer seven home league defeats last season, Swansea would prove those statements to be mostly inaccurate, for now at least.” BBC

Van Gaal needs reinforcements
“Over to you, Ed Woodward. Time is slipping away; there are 16 days left of the transfer window. Manchester United’s opening defeat to Swansea City offered almost indelible proof that the club no longer has the personnel to compete to win the Premier League. Louis van Gaal had warned that these things will take time. David Moyes, watching in a Doha TV studio, ought to have allowed himself some schadenfreude towards the executive vice-chairman who sacked him in April. Indeed, the former Old Trafford boss urged time for his successor.” ESPN

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World Cup Expectations Rankings: Brazil’s over- and underachievers

July 15, 2014

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Cesare Prandelli
“Teams come to the World Cup with their own expectations. For some, just being there is enough, reaching the last 16 an almost impossible dream. For others, so exalted were their ambitions that even a quarterfinal feels like a disappointment. This is an attempt to grade teams according to how they did against their own expectations, looking both at results and at how well they played…” SI – Jonathan Wilson


World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi shines after tactical change

June 16, 2014

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“On the eve of the Argentina-Bosnia game, a Brazilian newspaper came up with a cruel statistic. In one World Cup game, Neymar had scored more World Cup goals than Lionel Messi had managed in his entire career. The Brazilian was leading by two to one. The little wizard has now levelled the score, and did it in style in his first ever game in Rio’s iconic Maracana stadium. His strike, which turned out to be the winner in Argentina’s 2-1 victory over Bosnia, is the moment a packed crowd will guard in their memories of Sunday’s game. It was Messi at his best, cutting in with the ball tied to his left foot, exchanging quick passes with Gonzalo Higuain and curling a shot in off the post. Without a slight deflection off a Bosnian defender the ball would probably have gone just wide, but few would complain – apart from Bosnians, and some Brazilians.” BBC

Lionel Messi lights up World Cup with stunning strike in Group F victory as Argentina triumph against Bosnia
“Messi at Maracana: what an event. This was part-homage to one of the game’s greats and part-launch of Argentina’s World Cup campaign. The two themes were inevitably intertwined as Lionel Messi embarked on his mission, using his phenomenal footballing capabilities to try to guide his country to victory in these finals that are already being hailed as one of the finest ever. The tone of the tournament has been on attacking and here it was Messi’s turn. He was short of his highest standards, short of the brilliance that has defined his Barcelona career but he still created Argentina’s first and then scored their second, giving the feeling of a special cameo being performed in front of an audience of 74,738, the majority enrapt by his work. It was astonishing to think that this was only his second ever World Cup goal in nine games.” Telegraph – Henry Winter

World Cup Tactical Analysis: Argentina 2-1 Bosnia
“In a game that was expected to be Argentina’s announcement of intent in this World Cup, the favorites met stern opposition in the form of Bosnia and Herzegovina. And though Argentina certainly did the business by walking away with the 3 points, it may have been Bosnia and Herzegovina who perhaps made the bigger statement.” Outside of the Boot

Argentina vs. Bosnia in GIFs
“Messi strikes in Argentina’s opener at the Maracanã. What else could a fan ask for? Argentina and Lionel Messi in Brazil’s greatest stadium, the Marcanã in Rio. Will Argentina be there on July 13? Maybe, maybe not, but it would start today for Argentina against talented World Cup first-timers Bosnia. Let’s look at our favorite GIFs.” Fusion (Video)


World Cup 2014: England Squad Selector – pick your 23 then compare with our choices

May 6, 2014

“Ever wanted to be Roy Hodgson? It’s a common condition. His is a life of easy charm, muted bookishness and lovely warm coats. But there’s one unenviable task looming for the England manager ahead of Fifa World Cup 2014 in Brazil, and that’s picking 23 men to make up a squad capable of avoiding humiliation. With Hodgson set to announce his provisional list of players on Monday May 12, we’ve cast the net wide for potential England squad members, from the players who are on the plane barring a late metatarsal injury (Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard, Joe Hart), the youngsters who may or may not have done enough to impress (Luke Shaw, Ross Barkley) and the longshots (Rio Ferdinand, John Terry, ideally both at once).” Telegraph – Henry Winter


Arsène Wenger at Arsenal and Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United prove the value of the ‘manager’

December 22, 2013

“Some self-admiring owners invade the dressing room, diluting the power of the manager, a damaging trend. If Arsène Wenger guides Arsenal to glory in the Premier League it would be a wonderful, well-timed triumph for the managerial profession. Managers are not just for Christmas. Even Wenger’s rivals would surely acknowledge privately the long-term benefit for their industry of the success of a manager who will have been in his job almost 18 years, who alone decides recruitment and loan policy, whose influence is so all-pervading at the Emirates that he even chose the wall colours.” Telegraph – Henry Winter


Burnley manager Sean Dyche eager to take Championship leaders into the Premier League

December 15, 2013

“Sean Dyche strides from Burnley’s training pitch on the banks of the River Calder, having taken his Championship-leading players through a detailed and energetic session in advance of Saturday’s trip to third-placed Leicester City, and marches into a modest building that resembles a Lancashire village hall on the outside but Nasa on the inside. It is all sports science, mission statements on the wall and borrowed hi-tech running machines. It is clear there is far more to Dyche, the 42-year-old former centre-half, than the general perception. His shaven-headed, physically imposing presence belies a sophisticated approach to the game, a hunger for knowledge and a determination to change critical views of English coaches.” Telegraph – Henry Winter


World Cup draw set to reveal unique magic

December 1, 2013

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“Day after day, reports from the land of the next World Cup send shudders through the soul. A collapsing crane claims the lives of two construction workers at the stadium in Sao Paulo. The Brazilian FA, the CBF, makes the sad announcement that the legendary left-back Nilton Santos has passed away after a lung infection. Concerns rise over local companies fleecing visiting fans over accommodation and internal flights. Anger at socio-economic problems is expressed through protests. The 2014 World Cup is currently associated with many issues, few relating to the promise of an on-field spectacle.” Telegraph – Henry Winter (Video)