So I watched Manchester United battle Leicester on Sunday for the Charity Shield on a dodgy stream. As you do J
This was United in all their pomp and glory taking on last season’s surprise title winners. United were rubbish and still managed to win. To be fair this was a United side sans the new best player in the world.
In case you wish to dispute the fact that Paul Pogba is the best player in the world, the irrefutable logic of football pricing 'out logics' you and strongly affirms that he is indeed the World’s best player for now. Perhaps until Lionel Messi tires of Project ‘Win Everything’ at Barcelona and decides to join Manchester City for £200m.
From what I saw during the Charity Shield game, United will not be winning the Premier League anytime soon. Leicester had loads of chances, more shots on goal than United and had 7 corners to United’s 2. Liecester should have won if they were a bit more clinical with their finishing.
But United won. From a brilliant moment by Jesse Lingard and Zlatan doing his Talisman thingy. This was despite the fact that the new god of Manchester barely had a kick all game. Yes winning is all that matters although as we learnt last year, the Community Shield is only a glorified friendly. And guess what, didn’t the Chosen One start his United career with a Charity Shield win too. The end of the season in May will reveal all.
I am convinced that if United play their next 38 games in the Premier League like they did during this Community Shield match, they will not make Top 4 talk less of winning the league. Although the arrival of Pogba will be a game changer. He certainly adds a ‘Vieraesque’ element to United and should make a difference in the Premier league.
However, what happens when Man U play Watford on Sunday 18 September and Mr. Nyom, if he is played by his new manager decides to kick Paul Pogba for fun like he did Ozil at the Emirates recently and “Mr. Refer Ree willingly allows the robust challenge go”. What happens on Saturday 01 October when Mr. Ryan Shawcross and his entire Stoke crew decides to do a ‘Welcome to the Britannia’ party for the World’s most expensive player? What will United look like when Paul is out of action for 3 months and Zlatan is banned by the FA for 10 games for mouthing off to Mark Clattenberg seeing as that one enjoys his time in the sun too? We shall see.
What about Manchester City. They are a different kettle of fish all together. Not that I have seen any fishes in a kettle before. City arguably have the best manager on planet earth. Neutrals love him. Ladies love. Guys adore him *MUSIC*. He has the laurels to add to his charming public persona. He might try to generously put on the Mr. Nice Guy display but he is no slouch. He however has a disadvantage when you weigh him up as a manager in the Premier League versus the ‘Motormouth One’. Pep will not change his attacking / ball playing philosophy to suit any situation or circumstance. If faced with adversity in the Premier League, he will persist. Whereas Jose will serve a generous offering of dross & London Bus Depot behavior to achieve his aim. I think this might be the difference between both men this season.
Like United, I watched City’s match too. They played a friendly against Arsenal on the same day. Thank God that was on terrestrial TV. I didn’t have to search for a dodgy stream. The Pep revolution was very evident. He is trying to do a Barcelona lite with Fernando & Fernandinho, as he’s center backs. Very revolutionary for the Premier League I dare say. I believe the idea is to dominate possession to the extent that you are playing the proverbial ‘half field’ with your opponents hence the need for midfielders as center backs. Pep & Barcelona have a remarkable record of converting midfielders to center backs – Yaya Toure, Javier Mascherano & Alex Song readily come to mind. Pep also did this with Javi Martinez at Bayern and has been quoted in the British media that “Fernando can play 10 different positions”.
Pep wants his center halves to play from the back and we saw this many times in Norway during the Arsenal friendly. I’m not sure it will work in the Premier League though. There are many teams who set up to play counter-attacking football or who park the bus and wait for the long ball opportunity to catch teams out. There are also genuine ball playing sides like Arsenal and Liverpool who will press you very high up the pitch. So I am not sure the Barcelona lite model will work in the Premier League.
I think you need proper defenders in the Premier League. The lowest rank opponent have genuine chances against the best teams. Unfortunately City are short in the proper defender department. Many pundits have commented about the lack of quality in their defence. I concur with these pundits. It appears City have spent loads of money on aspiring defenders like Mangala. Unfortunately Mr. Mendes sold them a pup on that one. Stories have emerged in the media that Pep wants to get rid of Eliaquim. I think the French international is ok but he is not worth the millions City paid for him. In addition, I suspect the reaction of pundits to his game has knocked his confidence. He now needs to take a step back, find a club with less of a media circus around it and hopefully rebuild his confidence and thrive once again.
I am not sure what is going on with Otamendi. There is nothing to suggest he is injured and he didn’t feature at all during the Arsenal friendly. Perhaps he will make a return when the season starts proper in a few days. Again like Mangala, City clearly overpaid for him although he has delivered a few more steady performance than his French teammate. Heart warming for me are snippets emerging from the City camp that Pep thinks highly of Tosin Adarabioyo. He is a natural center back but despite this ‘Pep sized drawback’ it looks like he will feature in Pep’s plans. He had a few shaky moments on Sunday but the run out would have done him a world of good.
All of the 3 players who played center back at different times for City during the friendly on Sunday gave the ball away carelessly as a result of pressure from the Arsenal forwards. If they repeat these in Premier League matches, they will suffer many defeats. It is unlikely that John Stones will make a significant difference or impact. Yes, Stones is for the future, but his present is very worrying. He over plays in his 18-yard box and doesn’t appear to want to make any corrections to his game. Maybe Pep can help him progress.
Like United, City are fortunate to have match winners like Sergio Aguero, Yaya Toure on his day and potential match winners like Kevin De Bruyne, maybe Raheem Sterling if he fulfills his potential and Leroy Sane if he adapts well to the Premier League. Acquisitions like Nolito appear lame to me. All I saw of Nolito on Sunday was a Jesus Navas wannabe. I don’t expect him to light up the Premier League.
Based on my observation during that friendly match, that City team is not about to win the Premier League. City fans and owners should be very worried. You have a manager with zero Premier League experience. A manager who if stories coming out of Munich are anything to go by, has a messiah complex. Messiah's don't do repentance & changing of ways.
So who wins the league if not City or United. I think any other winner including Arsenal will effectively be doing a Leicester. As an Arsenal fan, I am rooting for Wenger’s boys. Its time to end the hurt. I do not expect Arsenal to win because they are going to blow all opponents away or because the players are the best. I expect Arsenal to win the league because their opponents make more errors. Last year, Leicester were not the best club side player for player. But they were the best team. So may the best Arsenal win this season.