Now everyone dares to Zlatan

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has always cast himself as a strong lion.

When he was out with his latest injury, he mentioned that “lions take longer to recover”.

But speculation is rife that while his mental fortitude is there, his body may be letting him down.

 

And because of that, now everyone dares to Zlatan. Especially the Manchester City team who reportedly had a dig at him, provoking the post-match brawl.

 

It seems Zlatan is now playing the part of the hurt tiger in the commercial, being provoked – but unable to do nothing about it.


 

The ex-Barcelona man, who once said “If Mourinho lights up a room, Guardiola draws the curtains”, may soon find the sun setting on his career.

Oh well, there’s always the Chinese League for a big payday. And someone of Ibrahimovic’s reputation will always have a team willing to take him, not so much for his on-field prowess, but for his commercial value.

But considering his decline, maybe even the Chinese players may dare to Zlatan.

Ozil to Manchester United

As I mentioned previously, Ozil’s ex-Madrid links are too strong.

If he joins Barca, can you imagine him being booed by the Madrid fans, as well as the Barca fans if he has a bad game?

For a player sensitive to criticism about his body language, that would probably affect him too much in the big games.

A creative player like Ozil, with defensive cover from Matic, and all the youngsters around him … He should really join Mourinho at United.

Besides, the boss has big enough a persona to deflect the criticism away from him, allowing him to do his best and focus on the game.

Losing is a such a bitter pill to swallow

If you don’t want a visiting team to celebrate on your home ground, doing what you might perceive as rubbing it in your face …

 

… then don’t do it in the first place.

(Then-Porto manager Jose Mourinho sprints down the Old Trafford sidelines in jubilant celebration after Porto defeat Manchester United 1-0.)

Irony.

Strange headlines

My first thoughts were: “Whose head was thrown at Mourinho?” and “Why did Arteta cut it?”

Which row at Old Trafford was Mourinho sitting in when drinks were thrown at him?

Mikel Arteta cut? Wasn’t he cut from the Arsenal squad years ago?

Maybe it is all to do with disrespect.

Arsene Wenger must be rubbing his hands with glee.

He must be wishing for a road back to the Champions League via the Europa League win rather than a top four Premier League place.

Pity the tour bus still has to go via Atletico Madrid.

 

That may also be its last stop.

The case for video replay

This is why we need video replays.

In the local derbies on Sunday – the Mancunian derby featuring Manchester City and Manchester United, and the Merserside derby featuring Liverpool against Everton – all four managers found themselves discussing penalty decisions or ones which could have been given but were not, and which turned out to have significant impact on the game and the final scoreline.
In the game of two Manchesters, United manager Jose Mourinho fumed that a late clash of feet between Ander Herrera and Nicolas Otamendi, which resulted in the former tumbling in the box, was deemed a dive and resulted in him receiving a yellow card. The game’s other talking point was the dive by City’s Gabriel Jesus, one where no contact was made but he grimaced and fell spectacularly, more so than Herrera, yet received not so much as even a talking to.

The other game ended in a draw but the taking point was one in which the tying penalty had been attained. Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp was in an explosive mood, claiming Dominic Calvert-Lewin had gone to ground under the slightest of challenges. Everton manager Sam Allardyce of course defended his centre-forward’s actions, claiming that there had been a push in the box by Emre Can.

The referees were criticised in the post match interviews. Under Premier League rules referee performances should not be discussed, and both managers will pick up a fine for doing so. Klopp’s bitterness was apparent for all to see in his criticism of the referee and how he felt Everton had been let back in the game. Mourinho went one step further, criticising the referee by name and giving his own personal critique. “Michael Oliver had a good game but made a bad decision”.

But the managers were not the only ones questioning the referees. Players confronted the referees during key points in the game, and also after. Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson could be seen raising his arms and shouting “What??” when the penalty was given.

The speed of the modern game has increased, and also the intent to deceive. Players are now playing more to get an opposing player sent off, because one men less means a numerical advantage at set pieces and changes the intent on the team with less players. If you have ten players you are more defensive and less attack minded because the other team will have more players and you will soon run out of energy if you try to match them, which is when you concede goals. Some teams – hello, Jose Mourinho even play defensively when they have eleven men, let alone ten! At the Manchester United game, the City fans taunted the home fans with “Park the bus, park the bus, Manchester United” – which is what they were doing with eleven men in a home game at Old Trafford.

How would video replays be implemented? This is where football could take a leaf from its American cousin’s book. The American football has a referee, sideline judges, ball judge, video official among other officials to manage a game of 60 minutes. Each team is allowed three challenges and if a challenge is unsuccessful a team is charged with a timeout. The modern football game could implement a system where teams get two challenges over the whole game. And if they lose a challenge then perhaps one player in the team has to sit out for five minutes of the game.
Implementing video replays has wider implications outside the game.

Football managers always blame the referees after a game because it is way of taking the heat for the team, deflecting the press. But it is not the reason for implementing video replay. The real reason is to stop a whole generation of youngsters challenging officials in game, copying what they see on the pitch from their idols, and developing a disrespect for authority, not just in the game but outside of it.

Video replay has implications outside of football. And that is why we need it.

Keeping football separate from other things

Has fame got to Pep Guardiola’s head? The Manchester City manager, always portrayed by the Spanish media as the quiet one of the two giants during his reign at Barcelona – the other being the louder articulate Jose Mourinho – aired his political views ahead of the  Manchester derby today. Even Mourinho, for years seen as brash, cautioned against the mixing of football and politics. He also added that if it had been himself, he might not have got away with it.

The truth is that Guardiola could not really avoid this kind of question put to him. Born in Catalonia, he is such a high profile manager that he would have been asked that sort of a question anyway. And evading an answer would have been interpreted by Catalans as a failure to speak out, and pounced on by Spanish media as a chance to lambast the Catalan cause. So the Manchester City manager had no way of deflecting the question, however he would have wanted to. He has always worn a yellow ribbon as a mark of solidarity but it is arguable that a suitable response might have been, “It is an important issue that must be addressed in the correct place.”

Barcelona’s Gerard Pique learnt a lesson on the same issue. Pictured casting his vote for Catalonian independence, he was booed by  Spanish fans when he turned out for Spain. Even his Spanish centre back partner, Sergio Ramos, cautioned against airing of political views in public. Ramos and Mourinho, both together at Madrid, have reputations for being loudspoken individuals but perhaps both strangely realise the value of biting their tongues at times.

Perhaps some things shouldn’t mix. Football, religion, politics or any other areas that cause sharp differences of opinion should best be kept ambiguous or in the background.

Either way, it is blue against red at Manchester. City against United. Guardiola against Mourinho. And for the Spanish media, it is the Mourinho and by indirect association, Madrid and Spain – contingent against Catalonia. An already charged up Manchester is only more fired up by more external factors.

Fattening up the calf for slaughter

Is Manchester United defender Luke Shaw back in the manager’s good books again? The left back, who has been prone to injuries for much of his career and had his attitude criticised by manager Jose Mourinho, had a good game against European opposition on Tuesday. He played the full game after having only played 48 minutes all season. It was his first start since April, and the left back, who became one of the world’s most expensive teenagers when he joined Manchester United, helped the Red Devils beat the Russian team CSKA Moscow 2-1 at their home ground Old Trafford. Summarising Shaw’s performance, the Portuguese manager offered praise in saying “He was very dangerous”. There was also optimism for the left back for the future as the manager declared that if he continued playing like that he would get more games.

The relationship between Shaw and the manager has not often been the best. It was reported a couple of times that they were not on speaking terms. The player found his mental attitude the subject of the manager’s criticism on more than one occasion. “The problem is in his head,” Mourinho once famously declared, likening the player’s attitude to his rehabilitation of his injury to be a poor one, one that did not honour the red shirt he put on.

It seemed as if Shaw was on his way out, with clubs such as West Ham reportedly interested. The latter are suffering from a weak defence that is leaking in more goals than they are scoring, and had been seen as one of the clubs where Shaw’s talent, previously on display at Southampton, would shore up the backline. The Hammers would have also benefited from a player hungry to prove himself and his doubters wrong.

It is difficult to remember that Shaw has many good years ahead of him. He is only 24, in a sport where players hit their prime around three or four years later. Like many others that came through the ranks of the southern coastal club, such as Theo Walcott of Arsenal, the players of the club seem to be peaking early and find trouble recovering their form after injury. Like Walcott, Shaw is seeking to get enough playing time in order to make with headway at an England call-up.

Should the often injured left back expect to invigorate his previously fading Manchester United career?

This website says no. In fact, this site would gamble its life savings that come January, Luke Shaw will no longer be with the Red Devils.

So why did Jose Mourinho give Shaw hope for the future then? Make no mistake, just like a used car salesman buff shines a car liberally with wax, and then boasts about its supposed qualities to attract buyers, Jose Mourinho gave Luke Shaw a full game to demonstrate to potential buyers that he can last the full outing, would be a potentially safe buy – considering his luck with injuries – and he hopes to attract a bid for him in the January window.

What would happen in January if Shaw found himself on his way out and confronted Mourinho about this? He’d be told it would be good for his development, more playing time might get him back into the England team, and he’d be sold promise and hope.

The Manchester team has weaknesses at the back. They have a potent midfield and potent attack. They need to spend money in January to shore to the backline. And who will fund the purchase of incoming players?

The new and improved, dangerous Luke Shaw. According to Mourinho, he’s that good – so good he wants to get rid of him.

Is this only speculation? Check back in January. Shaw might be funding the sales of another team’s kit.