The magic of Barney Ronay

The Article, as it is, is of little importance, Barney Ronay of the Guardian is a magician of the written word,

Sample this:

More recently José Mourinho seems to have decided the best approach at Manchester United is to spend his first few weeks standing on the touchline looking crumpled and sad and heroically betrayed, like a man on the hard shoulder of the M6 staring balefully across the nearside lines above his raised bonnet, rain gluing his shirt to his back, phone dead, credit card maxed out, kids living in Bicester, golf clubs repossessed, 800 units of polyester carpet samples scattered across the back seat.

And this

For an essentially unflashy footballer he remains an oddly compelling sight throughout all this, not obviously quick but mobile and relentless, not tricky but precise on the ball, and with a pummelling shot from a low backlift. He is also very dear and likeable, a man slightly out of his time, resembling as he stands to attention in the pre-match lineup the ghost of a kindly Victorian chimney sweep. Albeit with something steely and slightly frightening.

The Article is here.

Jose Mourinho, the football coach : the good and the bad

I would not talk about the pantomime villain act, or the eye-gouging antics, or the fawning by the media. This is what I think about Jose Mourinho, the football coach, in plain-speak football terms.

Jose is a superb reactive manager, one of the best. His best comes in setting up his team against attacking teams, nullifying the attack and knowing how to win, eventually. Only Rafa Benitez, of modern-day managers, compares. And Jose is better than Rafa.

Against weaker teams or teams that are playing on the counter against them ( or even, bless the term, parking the bus), his team’s always depend on individual talented players creating that one moment of magic – and his team’s always had such players- Deco, Maniche, Robben, Drogba, Duff, Eto’o, Sneijder, Cristiano, Benzema, Ozil, Hazard, Fabregas et al.

Most teams in the premier league have figured it out by now. Every team plays on the counter against them. And Hazard’s and Cesc’s poor form has made their attack rather impotent. Mourinho will not create great attacking movement, and set up his team to eviscerate opponent defenders. That is the reason his teams are floundering.

Is he a cheque-book manager, then? Yes and No. To win for Real Madrid or Chelsea, he would need a massive amount of money, as he is not much good in setting up to play attacking, winning football. But if you give him, say, a Stoke or a Villarreal to manage, he will overperform – he will have to be reactive then, and he is the best reactive manager around.

Note this, though. His team’s will do rather well against Man City, Man United, Arsenal and Liverpool. And in the Champion’s League.

And no, I will resist commenting about Jose Mourinho, the person.

Can it happen? Will it happen?

Cannot wait to know…

Barcelona: Valdes, Dani Alves, Pique, Milito, Keita, Xavi, Toure Yaya, Busquets, Pedro, Ibrahimovic, Messi.
Subs: Pinto, Marquez, Bojan, Henry, Maxwell, Thiago, Jeffren.

Inter: Julio Cesar, Maicon, Lucio, Samuel, Zanetti, Cambiasso, Motta, Eto’o, Sneijder, Pandev, Milito.
Subs: Toldo, Cordoba, Muntari, Mariga, Materazzi, Chivu, Balotelli.

Referee: Frank De Bleeckere (Belgium)

Click here to follow the often inane and banal Guardian commentary. I will be watching it over the telly.

[edit: it did not happen. Mourinho’s team wasted 70 minutes of the 90 minutes played. But Busquets… what a shame]

Andriy Shevchenko leaves for Milan

A chapter ends in the English premiership. A chapter that promised to be great, promised to be memorable,  but a chapter that ended up depressingly short, so much so that tunnel-visioned English and Asian fans of the Premiership (and nothing else) will end up remembering this particular episode with sarcastic humor.

And that is unfortunate. Andriy Shevchnko came into Chelsea as the best striker in the world, just returning from scoring the winning goal in a Champion’s league final. He was an expensive purchase, he was a personal friend of Roman Abramovich. He would be playing for Chelsea, the club with all the money in the world, the club on its way up, and the club with the inimitable Jose Mourinho. Andriy Shevchenko was almost destined to be a success.

And really, he should have been. He had it all, and in his peak, he could really be compared with the best of the best out-and-out strikers of this generation, Marco Van Basten and Gabriel Batistuta. Even Thierry Henry. Probably only Ronaldo (the gap-toothed original) could be considered better than him… Shevchenko was brilliant all the way. He was spectacular in his days of youth, forming a super partnership with Serhiy Rebrov at Dynamo Kyiv…. and he was absolutely unstoppable at times with Milan.

But then, somehow, he failed to kick on in Chelsea. The mistrust that Mourinho had for him, allied with Mourinho’s deteriorating relationship with Abramovich put Shevchenko at a state of unease. Also, Didier Drogba having the season of his life did not help much either.

Mourinho’s penchant for playing only one man up front, apparently, should have suited Shevchenko, for Milan used to play a similar game. But the difference was that with Chelsea under Mourinho, Drogba was expected to hold the long ball up front for the midfielders (Lampard, Joe Cole et al.) to have a crack at; while in Milan, the deep-lying creative genius of Andrea Pirlo linked to the further-up-the-pitch creativity of Kaka and Clarence Seedorf to create chances for Sheva. Both tactics work, it was just that Drogba was better than Sheva at Mourinho’s style of play.

Shevchenko really had everything. Pace, strength, headers, skill, control, temperament, poaching ability… even a mean free-kick. He had everything that would have suited him to every league in the world, and he would have suited excellently to the Chelsea of Ranieri or even Scolari. It’s just that in Mourinho’s Chelsea, Drogba, with his superhuman strength and ability to hold the ball off three defenders, was a better fit.

Adn yet, Premiership-watchers will remember Sheva as little more than a failure. And he deserves better. He is a winner. And who knows, he might do well again at Milan. Here’s praying for that.