Sir Alex Ferguson turned up at Manchester United training this week and was talking about his special player Wayne Rooney. Sir Alex said that Rooney’s record tally of 249 goals for United will never be beaten in his opinion. The two are close and Rooney looks up to Sir Alex like a father. Rooney made his debut for Sir Alex and United in September 2004 and scored a hat-trick! He has now made 543 appearances for the team with more to come.
Sergio Aguero knows he is under pressure from new arrival, £27million Gabriel Jesus. The Brazilian youngster came on as a late substitute against Tottenham to gain his first taste of Premiership football and was immediately in the thick of the action and almost scored twice! However, Sergio has just signed a new extended contract until 2020 so he isn’t going anywhere soon and their competition will be intense.
I said at the beginning of the season that Leicester would find it tough and would be nearer the bottom of the Premiership than the top but even I did not think they would be fighting for survival. Now the talk around King Power Stadium, home of the champions, is “Will manager Caludio Ranieri get a statue or the sack!” Their 0-3 defeat at Southampton last week means they have played more matches than they have gained points. 21 points from 22 games! Only four teams have lost more often than Leicester. One of them, Swansea City, have just amazingly won away at Liverpool and are up for the fight under a new manager and fellow strugglers Hull City also have a new manager in Marco Silva so they are going to be more competitive. Crystal Palace are now bossed by that great relegation survivor Sam Allardyce. Ranieri is even talking about the possibility of relegation for Leicester - something the board and fans would not tolerate. This week Claudio was given an honorary Doctor of the Arts by the city’s De Montfort University for winning the were never going to retain the title but it is possible they could become the first club to win the title and then be relegated the following season since it happened to Manchester City eighty years ago! I mentioned to you in an earlier column that Claudio likes to ring a little bell during training to attract a player’s attention but frankly he needs a great big gong or a loud alarm to get his team going. Yes, they were the team of 2016 and Ranieri was the man who showed us all how to do it. But 2017 is a very different story and I can only wish them luck.
Liverpool manager, Jurgen Klopp, usually jokes a little in his post-training sessions...he is a very likeable man. However, his latest session was much longer and more serious than usual. Liverpool have earned only three points from the last three matches and he did not have a smile on his face when he said, “I can feel it around us - it is not that positive any more. It is our turn to bring everybody back on track. I need more from you players and more from the fans...they need to cheer us on louder.” He encouraged his players to kick-start their faltering season but also to retain their role as great entertainers and give the fans something to cheer about. Last Sunday, after that Swansea defeat, Jurgen addressed his players in the club media room, not for the usual five minutes, but for half an hour, pointing out in a formal presentation who did what right and wrong and he analysed the team’s performance, urging them to do better. This week they lost again and this time to Southampton in the Cup. On Tuesday the Reds are at home to Chelsea who are now ten points ahead of them in the title race and this will be a crucial match for the manager, the players and the fans. Three consecutive losses at
home is not acceptable to anyone at Liverpool. Even a gifted coach like Pep Guardiola is not fire proof. City’s Middle Eastern owners are not pumping money into the club from their rich oilfields so they can witness City trailing Chelsea by nine points and getting thrashed by Everton 4-0. One of Pep’s misfires has been John Stones, a real talent but who is playing poorly, making too many mistakes and is now being questioned by the fans. He has not settled into the back four because he has not had a regular partner in defence. The manager has fielded 13 different back four combinations and six different back threes this season! Pep needs two new full backs and a commanding centre half plus he needs to get more creative in midfield so that Sergio Aguero receives more support upfront. One problem pointed out to me was highlighted when City were trailing 1-0 to Liverpool. Pep’s City midfield were being totally controlled by Liverpool’s pressing tactics and they were overrun. But Pep did nothing about it during the match or after and still believed in his tactics and would not change the City structure. If Liverpool can do that to City then so can United, Spurs, Chelsea and Arsenal.
The Williams sister, Serena (L) and Venus embraces each other after one of their past encounters. They will clash again tonight in the finals of this year’s Australian Open.