Tag Archives: manchester united

Centre-back analysis of Manchester United vs Chelsea (I’m sorry, I couldn’t think of a pun-y title)

It – Manchester United against Chelsea – was not a match filled with attacking prowess. It was a midfield battle which yielded just 3 shots on target in the entire 90 minutes, all of which were taken by United. Chelsea had one shot in the first half. It was a midfield battle where the defences dropped to absorb pressure too. United completed 94 passes into the final third (which is a lot; 62 in the first half and 32 in the second), and Chelsea completed 101 (24 in the first half, 77 in the second, showing how Mourinho treated going 2-0 up).

As a result, there wasn’t an awful lot for the United centre-backs – who I’d originally been planning on focussing on – to do. Mourinho’s man-marking job of Herrera on Hazard worked perfectly, and after a couple of moments of confusion early on, defending in the right-back area, United worked out how to deal with occasionally having twin full-backs on that side.

Bailly and Rojo made for a good, if rather sheltered, partnership. There was a small difference apparent at some times in the second half, where Rojo wanted to keep a higher line than Bailly, but this may hint at part of why they worked well together. Rojo is a bit of a jumper-inner; Bailly sits back and backs off a little before choosing his moment to challenge. Continue reading


Playing with RoJones – The All-Conquering Last 7 Games (or thereabouts) of Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones

One with a face as mocked as the other’s toast-making skills, Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo have been playing so blisteringly competently recently that they’ve started to receive compliments. However, trust once placed in a footballer can be quickly betrayed.

A good midfield in front of them can make a centre-back look deceptively good (or vice versa), and it should be noted that Jones and Rojo have rarely been meaningfully tested during their recent spell.

An actual swan, let alone eleven of them, would put up more of a fight than current Swansea; Arsenal were well below their best; West Ham have been so unexpectedly poor this season that they were called ‘Blunt Hammers’ on Match of the Day last night, despite the fact that being blunt is literally what hammers are meant to be; Everton have been stuttering after a good start (albeit, bar Spurs, a fairly easy one). Continue reading

Every Team Needs A Ro(o)n(ey) – maybe?

Throw catch throw catch throw catch throw catch throw catch. I’m juggling (semi-competently), by the way. When I was a kid, my Dad could juggle and it looked cool so I wanted to learn how to do it myself. I’m going quite well, the throws are all at a good height and good space away from my body, meaning that I don’t have to be waving my arms about to catch the ball which then throws the throws out of place which in turn makes where I’m catching them go everywhere etc etc.

I start to think about throwing good throws to keep the run going. Throw catch throw catch throw catch throw. I’m losing it. I can feel my arm tighten, it’s movement now limited as I stress to it where it needs to go. The trajectory of the throws are getting messier now, and with my other arm I try to compensate, and end up over-compensating. Too high. Too far to the right. Not far enough to the right. Throw catch throw catch throw bump drop. Continue reading


Put your money where your hindsight is – week 4 of 4: The Predictions

It is, to be honest, a terribly miserable day outside as I write this. It is raining consistently and the sky is a light grey that can’t even be given the virtue of looking angry and threatening. There is a link to be made between a dull and depressing day and this weekend’s round of Premier League fixtures, but it would be best to just get on with making my final round of predictions in this trial ‘Put your money where your hindsight is’ series – a title which is something of a misnomer as I never put any money anywhere to begin with.

If you’re reading this, you’ll probably have read the previous posts, the first of which is here. I make predictions and give them a rating of 1-5 based on how confident I am about them, and then after the games have been played I rate how I did. I have not done wholly well thus far. If the weather is anything to go by, life’s pathetic fallacy, then I am probably unlikely to do well this week too.

Here are the confidence rating grades that I’ll be using:

1 – Guess. This is a hunch that I have. If I’m giving a 1 for a prediction though it probably means that it’s either very speculative but based on what I feel like is a good gut feeling, or it’s a filler.

2 – Hunch. A hunch I have based on a little more knowledge than a 1. Unlikely to just be a filler prediction, but may still be a little speculative.

3 – Waver. This means I’m wavering about whether I’m confident or not, I’m probably about 50/50 on whether I think it’ll happen.

4 – Confident. Quietly confident. Anything could happen, of course, but I certainly think this is more likely than not to happen.

5 – Bet. Not *dead* certain, nothing’s really a dead cert, but as close to one as I would be willing to say. I’m not a better, but I’d bet on this.


Prediction 1: Sturridge plays a more central role against Tottenham than he did against Burnley

Confidence rating: 2

This is a bit of second guessing Klopp here. Sturridge complained about being played out wide against Burnley, understandably saying that he prefers playing down the middle (and, unlike Theo “I’m a striker boss” Walcott, has the history to back it up). Sturridge playing as a left-hand side wide-forward didn’t really work last weekend, though the blame for this may well lie as much with Sturridge as it does his manager.

The striker didn’t look like he knew how to play in his role. Klopp’s desired system (as he mentioned in his response to Sturridge’s comments) is more like a rolling mass of advanced midfielders-cum-forwards than it is a defined formation, and Wijnaldum, Firmino, Coutinho, for example, seem to look like they understand it. Sturridge looked out of place for most of the match, coming too deep and looking lost. Of course, you could also say the blame lies with Klopp for not training Sturridge up well enough for this role and/or playing him in a role he isn’t comfortable with.

What Klopp says about players in the press doesn’t always tally with what happens on the pitch. After the full-back’s iffy display against Arsenal, Klopp supported Moreno publicly, saying that he was only doing what was asked of him. And yet Moreno didn’t play against Burnley or in the unusually strong line-up which faced Burton in the EFL Cup.

To my knowledge, Klopp didn’t say that Sturridge would continue to play out wide, but instead just defended his choice, but it may not be surprising to see a change for Sturridge. The likelihood of the striker playing as a striker may be increased by the strength of Tottenham’s defence, which may increase the necessity of a more conventional spearhead (or just for players to play where they are comfortable). Of course, Klopp may just decide he’s sick of Sturridge alternating between being injured or moaning and stick him out wide again.


Prediction 2: Manchester United scrape past Hull and there’s an awful lot of fretting about the wheels coming off the Mourinho bus (not, surprisingly, an intentional reference to it being parked).

Confidence rating: 2

Manchester United, although having won 3-1 and 2-0, have not quite been as convincing as their two results so far have suggested. While they created 1.9 Expected goals against Bournemouth (per Michael Caley’s map), a large chunk of this came from Simon Francis’ backpass-bad bounce double backfire, and the team only created 0.7 xG against Southampton (at home). The Zlatan header and gift of a penalty from Jordy Clasie also masked some vulnerabilities on the defensive side for United, looking a little unsteady when facing counters (although Southampton never produced many actual good chances).

Hull, meanwhile, looked genuinely good and well organised defensively in their win against Leicester, and won again against Swansea. Fill-in manager Magic Mike Phelan (now there’s an image for you) also knows United, having been assistant manager to Sir Alex Ferguson for the five years before the Scot’s retirement. He may not be an expert of Mourinho’s system, but he will certainly have a lot of useful knowledge about a good number of the players. I don’t expect them to win, but I do think that there is a strong possibility that Hull could give United a hard time.



Yeah, that’s all folks. Tune in on Monday to see how I did.


Put your money where your hindsight is – Week 3: The Results

A reminder of how this goes. I make predictions and give them confidence ratings 1-5 (5 being most confident) – this week’s predictions, made last Thursday, are here. Then, after the weekend’s games, I assess my judgement. Firstly, I give them a rating based on how ‘expert’ my knowledge had to be to make that prediction (for longer definitions check out the first week’s results here).

1 – Coin-flip.

2 – Basic.

3 – Some.

4 – Advanced.

5 – Expert.

Then, I give the predictions a rating based on how accurate they were.

1 – Nope.

2 – In my defence… Continue reading


Put your money where your hindsight is – week 3 of 4: The Predictions

After scoring an average of 4.5/10 in my first week and 2.33/10 in the second, I need some better predictions. Sadly, they probably won’t radically improve this week (well, they’ll probably improve on the 2.33). Watching lots of football is actually hard sometimes, so there’ll only be two predictions this week. As always, I’ll give them a confidence rating out of 5 based on these criteria: Continue reading


Manchester United’s “huge contribution” to women’s football

“The decision was taken some years ago to concentrate on girls’ football as a community activity.  We have since developed that to include elite girls’ development through our Centre of Excellence.  The Club has made a huge contribution to the game through its top level coaching of girls.  At the moment, the Club has no plans to extend that activity to a senior women’s team but the situation is under review.”

– Response at recent Manchester United Fan Forum

“At Manchester United we provide opportunities for girls to play football at the highest level, with the aim of developing international players.”

– Club website, Manchester United Foundation


Manchester United generally respond to questions about why they don’t have a team for women with the line that they have a girl’s centre of excellence. They, I quote, have made a “huge contribution to the game” and aim “of developing international players”.

This is a list of the youth teams of 28 England internationals who’ve featured in the squad since the 2015 World Cup, along with the number of players who passed through that club. Due to some players moving from one youth team to another, the numbers add up to more than 28.

The information is taken from Wikipedia, but with these being international players the information is likely to be quite accurate. Manchester United are on the list, and are in bold.
Man Utd centreofexcellence

“Huge contribution” of a Centre of Excellence “Developing international players” are the reasons given for why Manchester United don’t have a women’s team.