McCarthy tips United to take EPL crown

SA’s most suc­cess­ful soc­cer ex­port em­braces Tale of Two Cities mythos in Eng­land Premier­ship

CityPress - - Sport - PET­ROS AUGOUSTI sports@city­press.co.za Augousti is the chief in­ter­na­tional sports writer at bet­ting site Eaz­iBet.co.za

South Africa’s lead­ing in­ter­na­tional goal-scorer Benni McCarthy is rightly con­sid­ered the country’s most suc­cess­ful player to grace the shores of Europe, while the former Uefa Cham­pi­ons League win­ner firmly be­lieves Manch­ester United will take the English Premier League ti­tle.

McCarthy, the new coach of PSL ti­tle contenders Cape Town City, has a vast trove of knowl­edge of the Euro­pean scene, with suc­cess­ful spells at the high­est ech­e­lons amid a cou­ple of frustrating years spent pick­ing splin­ters out of his Hanover Park-bred butt.

He has seen the best of times and the worst of times, and, like Charles Dick­ens, is an as­tute judge of the English char­ac­ter. Dick­ens en­cap­su­lated the bar­row-world of London with vivid raw­ness and, if he were alive and pen­ning today, would no doubt pick de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons Chelsea to win the ti­tle.

Ac­cord­ing to McCarthy, the up­com­ing EPL sea­son is a Tale of Two Cities, with London and Manch­ester the me­trop­o­lises with the stran­gle­hold on the ti­tle.

“I have played un­der [José] Mour­inho and he is the strong­est char­ac­ter in foot­ball today, and, apart from their re­cent sign­ings, he will be the rea­son they [Manch­ester United] win this sea­son.

“Mour­inho has this aura about him and he is an out-and-out win­ner,” McCarthy said, clearly in awe of the man­ager who took him and Porto to an un­likely Cham­pi­ons League ti­tle in 2004.

McCarthy was the most pro­lific striker in Por­tu­gal that sea­son and won the golden boot with 20 premier league goals, as he helped him­self to the Spe­cial One’s dose of magic elixir.

“The sec­ond favourites to win this sea­son will be Manch­ester City, while Chelsea and Liverpool will slug it out for third po­si­tion,” stated McCarthy.

The former Seven Stars idol bounced around the La Liga and Porto for a cou­ple of sea­sons as the fight for his sig­na­ture in­ten­si­fied. He fi­nally moved to Porto on a per­ma­nent deal for a then substantial £7.8 mil­lion deal.

The lu­cre might have been bet­ter on the con­ti­nent, but the lure of the EPL was too much for McCarthy and he found his way to the home of Black­burn Rovers, former English Cham­pi­ons and con­sis­tent league performers. Ewood Park has seen many great strik­ers, none more so than Alan Shearer, and it did not take McCarthy long to en­dear him­self to the fans.

He fin­ished the 2006 sea­son as the sec­ond dead­li­est striker in the country, eventually bang­ing in 52 Premier­ship goals for the club.

McCarthy, ad­mit­ting that Le­ices­ter City’s “un­think­able” league ti­tle was a fluke, be­lieves the fi­nan­cial clout of the big­ger teams will see a vast gap be­tween the likes of the top six and the rest.

“You can see by the qual­ity of play­ers com­ing into the big­ger teams that their dom­i­na­tion of the EPL will only grow.

“There is a mas­sive gap be­tween Ar­se­nal, who will fin­ish in sixth po­si­tion this sea­son, and Ever­ton, for ex­am­ple, who are the best of the rest,” he added, al­most rue­fully.

“My money is on Manch­ester United win­ning the tre­ble this sea­son. With their depth, qual­ity and, of course, Mour­inho, they will win ev­ery com­pe­ti­tion.”

McCarthy says their clos­est ri­val will not come from Chelsea or Spurs (first and sec­ond last sea­son), but from Manch­ester City.

“The other half of Manch­ester have the most rounded squad in the league – and my favourite striker in the world, Ser­gio Agüero – and they will push United all the way.

“If Liverpool can keep hold of [Philippe] Coutinho, they will be a threat, while Tot­ten­ham have not been ac­tive enough in the trans­fer mar­ket,” he said.

“Ar­se­nal are not what they were and al­ways seem to lag be­hind their ri­vals in the pur­chas­ing of star play­ers.”

The teams to bat­tle rel­e­ga­tion are un­doubt­edly the likes of Brighton & Hove Al­bion and Hud­der­s­field Town.

McCarthy adds his weight to the rel­e­ga­tion strug­gle and be­lieves the gap be­tween the haves and have-nots is so vast that seven teams can be dragged into the scrap at the bot­tom.

“New­cas­tle have a great man­ager in Rafael [Benítez] and will def­i­nitely stay up, while Brighton, Hud­der­s­field Town and Watford are likely to go down … and Crys­tal Palace and Burn­ley are also in for a tough time.” Check out the fix­tures on page 18.

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PHOTO: ED­DIE KEOGH / REUTERS PHOTO: ASH­LEY VLOTMAN / GALLO IM­AGES PHOTO: BORIS GRDANOSKI / REUTERS

FAVOURITES Mar­cus Rash­ford of Manch­ester United in ac­tion against Real Madrid’s Casemiro in the Uefa Su­per Cup fi­nal on Tues­day night PREDICTOR Cape Town City coach Benni McCarthy MAS­TER TAC­TI­CIAN Benni McCarthy says José Mour­inho has the goods

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