The Lead

So the Premier League title race came down to Manchester United’s heroic, spiritual triumph against…Steve Kean’s Blackburn. A team on 28 points, currently in the drop zone with a manager still widely-hated by the club’s fans despite some middling success in recent weeks. Yet because it’s also the same team that managed to beat Manchester United at Old Trafford in December and because David de Gea had to make three big saves last night, everyone had the license they needed today to talk about “resolve” and “determination” and “Fergie’s winning attitude” for doing one at Ewood Park.

Even so, surely Sir Alex Ferguson wouldn’t resort to mind games with Steve Kean ahead of what could have been the title decider in the race against Manchester City? Mind games involve barbed insults or patronizing put-downs phrased as casual asides, at least according to the eavesdropping press. But could they not also involve well-timed compliments? After all, a mind games master would pick and choose his press remarks very, very carefully.

Last week, Sir Alex Ferguson praised Steve Kean, and the flattered manager subsequently backed up Ferguson over Patrick Vieira’s referee remarks. Because, you know, Steve Kean is one of the “good guys,” which in Premier League parlance means the clubs are currently separated by 48 points in the table.

Sir Alex didn’t bother doing the same with Martin Jol ahead of their game against Fulham of course, but he hardly needed to; the latter revealed that he had a warm relationship with SAF and took time to call him the “best manager ever.” Spirits were likely left un-dampened by the failure of the referee to award Fulham a stonewall penalty in United’s also heroic 1-0 victory.

In any case, Blackburn duly capitulated at home and the Champion Machine happily rolled on to a practically certain 20th domestic league title and the transformation of England’s top flight into the Ukrainian Premier League. But the race for third is still on. So…best league in the world. In case you’re not convinced, however, Sharman has some great advice:



Canada

Duane Rollins tweaks the numbers to point out Julian De Guzman doesn’t suck for Toronto FC.

Things may be okay because Adrian Cann and Jeremy Hall are back in the TFC line-up.

TFC fans away in LA. Spot Sean Keay checking his phone.

A tactical look back at the Montreal Impact’s loss to the New York Red Bulls.

A look at the Vancouver Whitecaps’ problems up front.

Nigel Reed somehow manages to conclude after this weekend soccer is on the right track in this country.

England

David de Gea’s quite good.

Hubris?

Chelsea fears late FA Cup kick off against Tottenham could lead to crowd trouble.

Former LFC great John Aldridge says Liverpool are in “crisis” and are an “embarrassing laughing stock.”

Here’s a fairly obvious news story.

Various Premier League players smoking the pipe.

Former Chelsea defender Alex trashes Chelsea egos.

Italy

Antonio Cassano given the green light to play!

Barcelona fear Ibrahimovic, and so they should.

Spain

Madrid to nab Aguero off City?

Barcelona feel the fear of failure ahead of tonight.

Germany

Robben the key to everything for Bayern, writes Jonathan Wilson.

Rhineland rivals falter in the Bundesliga.

Bits and bobs

What do we do about the diving?!?

Formation Geek with Gary Neville. Respect.

Comments (5)

  1. Is this the worst Premier League campaign ever?

    It would be easy to call this Man U among the worst they’ve put out in the PL era, especially when factoring in stars missing to injury. They were terrible in Europe, as was the second placed team. The only PL team left in the CL is currently 5th in the table. The leading scorer plays with basically no supporting cast, and if he were hurt his side would almost certainly be on the outskirts of midtable.

    I guess the unpredictability has been cool, but it’s really been poor for English football as a whole.

    • It seems to happen a bit lately, but I’m not sure why people are so quick to downplay the quality of the league these days.

      Clubs alive in Europe but faring poorly in domestic leagues is not uncommon. In other leagues, it doesn’t cause the same level of scrutiny / doubting.

      Somehow, despite not being “a very good” Manchester United, they reeled in a runaway leader, overtaking them in points and almost overtaking them in what was once a wildly lopsided goal differential.

      The “not very good” Manchester United are on pace for 93 points (and could very possibly get more wit the relative strength of their schedule), which happens to be the second highest total in EPL history, including the old 22 team Premiership.

      Despite being on course for a huge points total, they could still be caught by a club that has never won the Premiership.

      The duopoly of MUFC / Arsenal, MUFC / Chelsea has been smashed with Man City locked in to finish no worse than second. Only twice in the last ten years of the Premiership has the second place team not been named Arsenal, Chelsea or Manchester United.

      We have seen a major crack in the “Big Four”. Now, Spurs, Newcastle and Everton have all slotted in above the fourth of the Premiership giants.

      Despite spending over £80 million this season, and almost £100 million last year, Chelsea have not even secured a European (let alone CL) spot next year with seven games remaining. The last time that happened (the spot, not the hundreds of millions spent), nobody had heard of Roman Abramovich. Ken Bates (!) still owned the club.

      Liverpool, despite spending over £130 million in 2 years and bringing back Kop legend Kenny, are a .500 team.

      All three of the promoted sides are out of the relegation zone, two of them comfortably, and deservedly.

      For only the second time in Premiership history, a side at the foot of the table at Christmas could avoid relegation. Big clubs like Aston Villa – they type “too big to go down” could go down.

      For years, I hear people complain that the league is too predictable. Now, they complain because the lack of predictability must mean teams are shite. It seems that no matter what happens, it’s bad and the league is to blame. With all of the giantkilling, runaway leaders, swings and reversals of fortune, I’d be hard pressed to call this a poor season, let alone the worse season ever.

      SB

  2. hey whittall check out this response to dana white’s attack on soccer:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=kOGjyUGRPRU#!

    hahaha. (for the record my 2 favorite sports are MMA and calcio)

  3. I think the praise is due, largely given the timing of this game (i.e. with 7 matches left in the season) as well as United’s dour record of 2 wins from 11 visits to Ewood park in recent times, in combination with Blackburn’s recent run of form (4-1-1) AND taking into account the mental toughness required to capitalize on an opportunity to open up the gap over City to 5 points. Don’t downplay squeaky bum time Richard!

  4. Ugggggggggggggggghhhh… I like talking to my brothers during matches, they were to cheap to go, so I had to text them.

    Thats my story, and im sticking to it!

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