Tag Archives: Manchester United

Our rivals want, no—need—Man City to win the Prem. Why?

Okay, if you’re a Spurs fan, I understand. You’ve made poor life decisions. The last thing you want to see is Arsenal winning yet another Prem title. Hey, at least you don’t have to worry about us doing it at White Hart Lane again, right? For our other rivals, it’s a bit puzzling at first to ponder why they can’t seem to stomach the thought of us winning it all. Wouldn’t it be a refreshing break from the bland, sterile hegemony that Man City have imposed on the league lo these last five years?

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Rivals’ Roundup: Bums gettin’ squeaky…

Eek. While we can pretty safely assume that there are just two clubs vying to win the Prem, just who that will be got a lot murkier this past weekend. Spots three through eight could go any which way, not that any of those ways matter to us other than for spiteful reasons (wouldn’t it be nice to see Villa and Brighton finish above Tottenham? Mmm….).For as much as we look nervoulsy to our remaining fixtures, we also look regretfully to points dropped in the past. Is it too soon to start consoling ourselves on an amazing run, or can we still find a way to finish ahead of City? Let’s get to the roundup…

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Rivals’ Roundup—The wind that shakes the barley…

Okay, so I was going to go with a reference to Peaky Blinders. Sorry. No hits. Deep tracks only. The bigger problem with a Peaky reference is that we’re hardly a plucky upstart from northwest of London stepping on the big city folks’ toes, so let’s set the whole analogy aside. It’s business time. Conditions are perfect. That’s what I’m trying to say.

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Rivals' Roundup: We're through the looking-glass, people…

Another week, another win for the Arsenal. And for Man City. Man U, not so much. Well, they did win, but it was in the EFL Cup, which no one of any repute really takes seriously until after they’ve won it. Newcastle apparently felt bad enough about Liverpool’s quagmire of a season that they generously shipped not one but two goals but still look tenacious enough to cling to a top-four spot, despite Tottenham’s Conte-less rise. The less said about that the better for the digestive tracts of all concerned. Well, enough throat-clearing. Let’s get right to it.

1. Arsenal (18W 3D 3L: 57 pts.)
Our Gunners had to overcome a spirited Leicester side captained by Craig Pawson  and VAR, who decided that holding hands with the keeper in the box is worth denying a goal whilst dragging a player down in the box isn’t worth a pen. It’s no mean feat to overcome a squad fighting to stave off relegation, and that feat gets even…meaner? Larger? I’m not sure how to extend that idiom. Let’s move on. It’s a second consecutive away win, and it gives us 31 points from 13 away matches, eclipsing the 28 points we took from all of last season’s 19 away matches. We’ve emerged from our worst wobble of the season largely unscathed, still two points clear with a game in hand until Wednesday when we host Everton, whose new manager bounce lasted all of about ninety minutes. Maybe they’ll sack Dyche and bring in Pulis or Pardew to replicate the effect. It would be hard to decide which of the three brings more bile to the back of the throat.

2. Man City (17W 4D 4L: 55 pts.)
City have apparently decided that they win the Prem based on goal difference alone, putting four past toothless Bournemouth in what City defender Rico Lewis said, apparently with a straight face, “sends a message” to Arsenal. Um, Rico, I think I speak for all of us when I say that we still sense that yours is the better squad, and we know that you’ve beaten us twice in the last few weeks. We don’t need any messages, thank you very much. I have to admit to having shaken a few birdcages with this post lampooning the idea that Arsenal have simply copied what City have been doing. There might be some insecurity around the idea that Arteta’s getting more out of his thin squad than what Guardiola’s getting out of his deep, expensive, not-at-all-illegally paid-for squad. Is it possible that Pep’s obsession with winning the Champions League turn his gaze away from the Prem? Yes, but it’s not something we can count on.

3. Man U (15W 4D 5L: 49 pts.)
The Red Devils took a break from Prem play this weekend to win The Most Important Piece of Domestic Silverware in All of England. Maybe, just maybe, this will force the British media to finally, at long last, notice the job that Ten Hag is doing and start writing about the tentative progress his side have made. I mean, really. How overdue are the accolades? Where are the articles that overflow with superlatives? I really find it more than a bit scandalous that more isn’t being said about how superior Man U have been to any other club in history. The Home Office should announce an inquest. Okay, more seriously, Man U have looked much improved since the World Cup, something I’d warned about in previous posts. Rashford in particular seems to found his groove, and the squad do look capable of making this a three-horse race. Like us, they have a game in hand over City, and they could use that to narrow the gap to their noisome neighbors to just three points. Winning the EFL Cup might even give them a boost.

4. Tottenham (14W 3D 8L: 45 pts.)
Oh, now we’re into the dregs. Tottenham have climbed four points clear of Newcastle by somehow managing to score more goals than Chelsea, who really should consider bringing in some attacking players who can score goals. That’s just my two cents. Speaking of goals, Harry Kane managed to score goal #201, closing the gap to Alan Shearer to just 59, suggesting that he could surpass the legend by the end of the 2024-25 season. Of course, Shearer managed to win the Prem, highlighting the very unique and very Spursy skill set that Kane has of collecting individual honours while avoiding silverware like it was the plague. Spurs are very much still alive in the FA Cup with a trip to Sheffield United this weekend and have a bit of work to do in the Champions League after losing the first leg1-0 at the San Siro. I don’t think that even the most-optimistic Spurs fan sees them winning either of those, and the gap between them and Arsenal is simply too big to cross. Still, they’re in the top four, so I had to write about them. Done. I need a shower and a drink.

Below the dregs, it looks like the bloom is off the rose over at Newcastle. Turns out that scoring goals is an important part of the equation, and when you lose to Liverpool these days, well, you really do need to give yourself a good, hard look in the mirror and admit that you have problems. They have only played 23 matches, though, and could overtake Spurs by winning those two, but where will the goals come from? Hard to say. Elsewhere, Fulham, Brighton, and Brentford have stumbled a bit, and Chelsea closer to being rock-bottom than they are to being in the top four. We’re basically at the two-thirds mark of the season, and things are starting to crystallize. At a risk of sounding overly optimistic, I think we have a fair chance at finishing above most if not all of our rivals. 

Man U do Arsenal a massive Europa League favour!

Okay, so “massive” oversells it ever so slightly. A truly massive favour would have been to let the match go to extra time while also seeing at least one of Casemiro, de Gea or Fernandes getting a straight red and three-match ban for violent conduct (how Fernandes escaped a red card for blasting the ball straight in de Jong’s gut as he went to ground is beyond me. Oh, right. Old Trafford. It’s de Jong who escaped seeing red for rudely blocking the blast). At any rate, by knocking out Man U, those lucky devils eased our path into the quarterfinals ever so slightly. We can’t draw Man U in the round of 16, of course, but there are still some tricksy ties on the offing.

Barca, despite being in the worst shape it’s been in in recent memory, still hold a psychological hold over large swathes of our fandom and perhaps over some in our squad as well. They’re still Barca despite the fact that their current manifestation are only a pale shadow of themselves. There’s no Messi or Neymar or Suarez, and although the mystique and swagger still linger, much like the smell of a sweaty sock one finds in the back of the closet, that odour can still overpower. Well, I should have written “could have overpowered” because they’ve been bounced out. 

The fact that the second- and third-favored sides are now out of the way can only be a good thing for us. The only downside to today’s result is that the insufferable Antony scored the winner, meaning we’ll be subjected to days of “he’s better than Saka” claims. 

Scanning that list of potential opponents has to boost confidence in our ability to advance to the quarterfinals. I invite you to try out the quantum mechanics required to figure out who’s the tougher opponent based on their place in their respective league. Are Sporting Lisbon, fourth in the Portuguese league, tougher than Juventus, seventh in Serie A? Have at it. I’m not a numbers guy. I’m barely a words-talking guy.

At some point, whomever we and Man U draw, there’s slight, barely worth mentioning chance that UEFA might enjoy seeing a Man U-Arsenal final. Others, who peddle in baseless conspiracies and indulge bizarre notions, might even go so far as to suggest that UEFA might even engineer such a final to the best of their ability, using such underhanded tactics as rigging draws and encouraging referees to, um, give us and them certain “advantages” along the way. That’s what I’m suggesting. I’m the “others” I just mentioned. I’m not saying they’ll do it. I’m not saying that meeting Man U in the final would prove that they did it. I’m just insinuating that UEFA has a less-than-stellar reputation.

If we both draw minnows, we can enjoy the idea that the fix might just be in. All we’d have to do is make sure we go out and win against whoever it is we draw. At a risk of sounding overconfident, I like our chances.