FOX Soccer Exclusive
Drama unfolds twice at Old Trafford
What a massive week we’ve had on FOX Soccer, and I want to start off by saying how proud I am to be part of bringing it to you. We had two huge games at Old Trafford this week, and it just keeps going with two more big games this Tuesday and Wednesday in the Champions League.
We have to start at Old Trafford, and I want to give credit to Rafa Benitez for seeing the situation on the ground and making the changes to shore up his team and to exploit United’s weaknesses. The subs worked: Eden Hazard was brilliant tonight, but so much of the cleaning up in the back is due to the steadiness of John Obi Mikel. With Mikel in there, David Luiz is freed up to pop the ball forward and get the attack moving. One more thing: I know Benitez is not popular, but I don’t see what point is served by having the club's fans boo him on the road. All that does is get the club down – and I think it’s time it stopped.
United, I thought, looked tired from a difficult and emotional week. Sir Alex Ferguson admitted as much, and I don’t think it was an excuse. There was so much around that Real Madrid game and the hangover from the red card – which I still think was wrong, mind you – hurt them today. When Nani had to come out injured, United lacked that spark to get forward, and they got punished for it in the second half. Sir Alex will be hoping Nani’s hamstring injury isn’t serious because they need him in their lineup.
The big shock this FA Cup weekend was at Everton, where Wigan put on a clinic. Give credit to Roberto Martinez, though. He got the tactics right and knows that a solid cup run can spark his team to Premier League survival. They deserve their first ever semi-finals slot and if they can keep playing like that, are sure to stay up.
But it was a disaster for Everton and David Moyes, who came right out and acknowledged how poor his team had been. I think you saw how much they missed Tim Howard in the net, because without him organizing the defense, they were very sloppy on the goals. I’m worried about that not only for Everton but for the USA: Howard is such a key component of both teams that all I can do is wish him a speedy recovery.
Manchester City made very easy work of Barnsley at the Etihad. The gulf between the two teams is huge but it was a very professional performance by City and in particular Carlos Tevez. He was involved in virtually every goal, and Roberto Mancini joked after the game that he wished his striker could be stopped by the police every week!
Back in the league, five teams came into the weekend with only ten games to get the job done in the Premiership. Two of them – Aston Villa and QPR – did; several others did not.
Let’s first give a round of applause to Harry Redknapp, who has QPR finally on the winning track. I said last week right here that Loic Remy could be the difference for them, and that’s how it went, with the Frenchman pouncing on a loose ball to tie the game up. They’re still at the bottom, but they have a bit of momentum and if they can keep it up, they will make things very interesting indeed.
Aston Villa also got a big win – only their second in 2013 – and showed some of the character that Paul Lambert’s been trying to instill in that side. The key is to get Gabby Agbonlahor on the board: when he scores, they win. They have some talent – I think they will struggle to hold on to big Christian Benteke in the off-season – but what they have lacked is a steady head. If Lambert can build off this win, they can stay up, but they have four very tough games coming up.
At the other end of the table, we saw a thriller between Liverpool and Tottenham that really keeps that race for a top four spot alive. You have to take your hat off to Luis Suarez: he has made a case for being player of the year with his work on the field, and today his goal was a thing of sheer class. But the game was lost by Spurs due to their defensive mistakes, and Andre Villas-Boas will have to address that going forward. These are mental mistakes that a top club cannot afford to make – because a top club like Liverpool will punish you for them.
I hope you join us on Tuesday and see if Barcelona can overturn their deficit in Milan. I expect that to be a fine game as Barcelona look as if they may have turned things around on the weekend. And if you want to banter about the game, follow me on Twitter at @warrenbarton2 – or ask a question to the @FOXSoccer account with the hashtag #heywarren. I love hearing from you guys.
As always, thanks so much for reading and for watching! I’ll see you right here again next week.
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