FOX Soccer Exclusive
Mancini puts himself before his team
Let’s start with United: there’s no doubt in my mind that this Saturday’s meeting with Arsenal was the easiest win for the Red Devils in at least a decade. Sir Alex Ferguson said it himself: it wasn’t physical, it wasn’t difficult, it wasn’t demanding and it certainly wasn’t what everyone expected from a clash of two giants. United dominated this game from the start and the result ultimately was flattering to the Gunners.
Robin van Persie, as we knew, would make the difference – but I did not expect him to make a difference after three minutes! It’s clear he has lifted the entire team, and as Rio Ferdinand told us, his arrival and performance have helped take away the sting of last year’s disappointment. Rivals should be worried: United get better as the year goes along.
Arsenal, on the other hand, are in real trouble. This is their worst start ever under Arsene Wenger and they don’t seem to have the desire or the drive. Case in point was what we saw before and during the game on Saturday. I was astonished to see Andre Santos swap jerseys at the half – what is going there? This is supposed to be a bitter rivalry. I’ve got lots of good friends in football and am all for sportsmanship, but all this friendliness and back-slapping before a big game isn’t what the fans demand or expect, and with good reason.
There’s some chatter this weekend that Steve Bould has said some things about this situation to the players – and more chatter that Arsene Wenger isn’t happy about his assistant’s words. Wenger’s got a right to insist that the manager speaks for everyone, but I can really sympathize with the frustration that Steve — and a lot of the other Arsenal legends — is feeling. This wouldn’t have happened back in the days when he and Tony Adams were playing, in part because the players knew how much the club mattered and what they stood for. The current team needs a reminder of that. Mediocrity – and the Gunners are very average right now – is just not acceptable. Look at their record: Arsenal have lost to Chelsea, United, Norwich and Schalke. Wenger may want to speak with one voice, but he’s also got to take responsibility for this as well.
But the real poor performance of the week came off the field. Roberto Mancini’s actions this week smacked of arrogance and illustrated just how far apart he is from his own team.
Mancini is supposed to be the leader and the head coach, and when you come out and claim that you had “seven or eight” conversations with other clubs about taking over, you undermine your credibility. That’s not a manager I would want to play for, and I cannot see what good such a statement does for Manchester City.
I’m a realist – in the modern game everything is for sale. The owners of City had to know this was going on; after all, that’s probably how they signed him up in the first place. I still don’t like it, and it told me a lot about Mancini as a person. City are still trying to take the next step in Europe and repeat as champions in England. This is not a settled, established club. If I’m a player, well, with words like that, he’s just lost me. Now, you may disagree – if you do, tell me about on Twitter (@warrenbarton2) or in the comments below.
Some quick takes from our other games this weekend:
Mark Hughes bought himself a little time this week. QPR showed some signs of improvement but they also looked very nervous against a Reading side that, let’s be candid, they had to take all three points from. Hughes has only got six wins in 28 games and I have to think he’s got the highest ratio of ties for any Premier League manager. It’s not enough. They have to get wins.
It was surprising that Robert Di Matteo played so many of the same players against Swansea ahead of their European game midweek. His team looked tired. The Clattenburg drama and those two games against United really took a toll. (And it doesn’t matter that one was in the League Cup – that’s a game against United.) You also saw how the Premier League slaps you in the face if you switch off at the end of the game. Credit to Michael Laudrup and Swansea, who played to the whistle, and are playing the game the right way. The Blues will bounce back, but it’s time to see a bit of rotation in the squad.
It was great to see another contender for goal of the season this weekend. Luis Suarez showed magnificent poise and vision – even if it was against my old club. Goals like that are what we want to be talking about when we talk about Liverpool.
We’ve got a huge week coming up with big Champions League games Tuesday and Wednesday; Clint Dempsey and Steve Cherundolo among the Americans in action in the Europa League on Thursday; and then a big weekend as City host Tottenham and Chelsea face Liverpool. Thanks as always for reading and for watching FOX Soccer!