Spe­cial Rooney

Weekly Trust - - Shot! - Hot ri­valry at City Ranieri fights for sur­vival Klopp urges on play­ers and fans Pep not fire proof

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.

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