Moyes Sacked by United
It was somewhat fitting that David Moyes’ final match in charge of Manchester United – yes, he was sacked this week, if you had not heard then I apologize for not breaking the news to you more gently – was against his former club Everton, who appear to have taken a big step forward under the guidance of Roberto Martinez, while the Red Devils have gone from Champions to also-rans in the season after Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement. As had been the case on ten other occasions this season, Moyes oversaw a Premiership defeat for his last game, as Everton kept up their challenge for fourth place with a 2-0 victory and that scoreline was kind to the visitors, who were completely outplayed. By Monday, the rumor was that David Moyes was going to be fired and that came to pass by the following morning, a strange decision to take with only four matches remaining in the season and nothing to gain from a change of manager, other than a symbolic move that they could not even wait until the summer to get rid of the Scot. The only other explanation for the timing of the move would be if they wanted to have the opportunity to assess the interim manager’s suitability in the long-term, and the man in that position is Ryan Giggs, someone who has shown himself to be comfortable filling someone else’s shoes in the past (just ask his brother…). Alongside Giggs in the dugout this weekend for the visit of Norwich will be three other alums from the class of 1992, Phil Neville, Nicky Butt and Paul Scholes, so their success as players is likely to buy them good will with the fans who doubtlessly will be relieved that a change has been made. As for Moyes, his ability as a manager has not vanished due to one poor campaign – he had several of them at Everton as well, but managed to bounce back on each occasion and eventually got them back to the top third of the table on a regular basis – and he will likely turn up at Newcastle United by the beginning of next season, unless Spurs decide to make him the next coach they sack after 18 months in charge.
Mourinho Loses At Home
Despite their 3-1 victory over West Brom on Monday evening, Manchester CIty’s title hopes were dealt a blow last weekend when Sunderland beat Chelsea 2-1 at Stamford Bridge, marking the first time that Jose Mourinho had lost a home Premier League match in his 78th such fixture. The reason that loss affected City’s hopes of finishing first is that now the Blues are five points behind Liverpool – who held off a spirited second-half performance by Norwich at Carrow Road to beat the Canaries 3-2 last Sunday – and, with Mourinho’s men playing their Champions League semi-final either side of this Sunday’s trip to Anfield, the Portuguese manager has said he might put out a weakened team in order to increase their chances of progressing to the final of the European competition. While I take anything that Mourinho says with a grain of salt (I’m not convinced that he has given up on Chelsea’s hopes on winning the Premiership yet and would not be surprised to see him put out a very strong team against Liverpool), one thing he was correct about was that referee Mike Dean had a poor performance in the Blues’ defeat by Sunderland. Samuel Eto’o had opened the scoring for the hosts in the 12th minute, only for the advantage to be wiped out six minutes later by Connor Wickham’s third goal in a week and the match remaining at 1-1 until the 82nd minute, when Fabio Borini – on loan from Liverpool – converted a penalty that was awarded for a foul on Jozy Altidore by César Azpilicueta. That was one big decision that Dean got wrong – contact was minimal at best and Altidore was already on his way down when the Chelsea defender touched him – but the other favored the Blues, as the referee and his assistants failed to spot Ramires hitting Sebastian Larsson in the face with his elbow, a foul that has seen the Brazilian midfielder retroactively punished and suspended for the rest of the Premier League season.
In the Champions League tie against Atletico Madrid, Chelsea earned a credible 0-0 draw at the Calderon as they were able to hold the leaders of La Liga at bay, despite losing both Petr Cech and John Terry to injuries during the match. After the encounter, Atletico boss Diego Simeone complained about the negative tactics adopted by the Blues saying, “It’s very difficult to play a football match when only one team wants to play, very difficult. A match is about two teams playing. This match was only one team playing and another team not.” Oh no, wait, sorry, that was a quote from Mourinho after West Ham held Chelsea to a 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge in January – I guess in the last three months he has decided that football matches do not necessarily have to involve two teams adopting attacking tactics. However it was achieved, the stalemate means that the 2012 European Cup winners will be the slight favorites to progress heading into the second leg at Stamford Bridge, though they must be careful as a score draw would see Atletico advance on away goals. In the other tie, Real Madrid beat the reigning champions, Bayern Munich, 1-0 (also in Madrid, which was the epicenter of European football this season) and the Germans were lucky it was not a heavier defeat as Cristiano Ronaldo uncharacteristically missed a golden opportunity to add a second shortly after Karim Benzema had opened the scoring. Bayern are very unlikely to keep Real at bay in the second leg, especially as Ronaldo’s recovery from an injury will be further advanced and Gareth Bale will be available to start after having flu-like symptoms prior to the first leg, so in order to make their third consecutive final, Munich will need to score at least three at the Allianz Arena on Tuesday. Continue reading