FBL-ENG-FACUP-MAN CITY-WIGAN

Roberto Mancini did himself no favors in City’s FA Cup flop

2 Comments

Manchester City’s manager bears a large portion of the blame for what happened today at Wembley, and with speculation about his job hitting a fever pitch prior to kickoff against Wigan, his team’s 0-1 upset loss may be the last chapter for Roberto Mancini on City’s sidelines. On a day that started with fans chanting support, denouncing the idea of replacing him with Manuel Pellegrini, Mancini did nothing to justify their faith.

His team came out flat, as if not grasping the occasion. To a certain extent, that happened two years ago, too, when a second half goal from Yaya Touré gave City a 1-0 FA Cup final win over Stoke City. But Touré, City’s hero over the last two years, hasn’t donned the cape year, and without that kind of mistake-erasing presence, the margins were always going to be thinner. Mancini should have used the last final’s lesson as a reason to have his team primed to play.

In the face of a Wigan team already setup to exploit the City, the lack of preparedness could have sent Mancini’s side down early. With Shaun Maloney falling back onto Touré and neither Samir Nasri nor David Silva positioned to help on Wigan’s wide man, City were always going to be exploited down the flanks. Add in a lack of energy from most of the team, and fullbacks Pablo Zabaleta and Gael Clichy were always going to have trouble, especially once Wigan left wingback Roger Espinoza showed so much aggression charging up his flank. Keep more of the ball, work harder when you lose it, and yes, City could have offset the tactics. But they weren’t of the mindset to do so.

City survived until halftime, when it seemed like Mancini would make a change. With James Milner warming up during intermission, it looked like Clichy would get some help containing MacManaman, who was having his way down the right. But when Milner came on for Samir Nasri, he was deployed on the opposite flank, and while City also needed to give more consideration to Koné, Milner was cast above Zabaleta. Clichy was in serious need of help.

That Milner wasn’t in the starting lineup to begin with hints Mancini didn’t grasp the Latics’ threat. That, or though his faith in Samir Nasri, he is so intent on salvaging what’s been a poor season from his starting winger that he let the French international try to redeem himself with silverware on the line. Instead of playing Milner – his best wide defender and one player you could count on to bring the right intensity from minute one – Nasri was again given the starting nod.

The next sub, midway through the half, also displayed a degree of stubbornness. Just as he was willing to stay with Nasri despite a lackluster campaign, Mancini defaulted to his favorite tactical trick: His continued dalliance with a three-man defense. Jack Rodwell was on and Carlos Tévez, of all people, was brought off. Never mind that score was still 0-0, and never mind Tévez has the ability to take any ball sent out of the back and make it into a goal. And disregard the fact Marcini was, in moving to a scheme that’s had marginal success this year, positioning his side to start going almost like-for-like against Wigan. Tevez was still making way for Rodwell.

Given that dissonance, it’s perhaps appropriate that Rodwell was beaten for the goal, with Ben Watson cutting in front of him at the near post before flicking past Joe Hart. One of a slew of offseason signings that never worked out (along with Javi Garcia, Scott Sinclair, Maicon), it was poetic justice that the man bought on to enable the three-at-the-back dream was beaten to complete Mancini’s nightmare.

That nightmare started yesterday, when reporting in Spain linked Pellegrini with Mancini’s job. It will continue over the next seven days, with the final week of Mancini’s season sure to be dominated by news of a possible departure. With nothing to play for next week, Mancini could sleep walk through the turmoil with no effect on his squad. He could also crack, as he did before leaving Inter Milan, where at one point in 2008 he hastily announced his eventual departure, decided to stay on, and was fired three months later.

On Saturday, City played like a team overwhelmed by the gossip, but it’s a manager’s prepare a squad that isn’t derailed by tabloid headlines and boardroom shenanigans. And if the speculation about Mancini’s job wasn’t a factor in City’s performance, there are even fewer excused for why one of the world’s most expensive squads lost a major title to a relegation candidate.

Manchester City fans sang their support of Mancini during the final’s opening moments, but after a tepid display on one of the biggest stages, you wonder if they’ll change their tune. And if those fans don’t think another man could do better after watching today’s loss, will they ever concede their team’s made for more than this?

VIDEO: Mexico’s Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez scores 100th goal in Europe

MONACO - SEPTEMBER 27:  Javier Hernandez (R) of Bayer 04 Leverkusen celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the UEFA Champions League Group E match between AS Monaco FC and Bayer 04 Leverkusen at Louis II Stadium on September 27, 2016 in Monte Carlo, Monaco.  (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Javier Hernandez continues to do what he does best: score goals by the bucket load.

[ MORE: Pulisic in dreamland ]

On Tuesday the Mexican national team striker, 28, scored for Bayer Leverkusen at AS Monaco in the UEFA Champions League and that brought up a big milestone for Chicharito.

The goal below was his 100th since moving to Europe in 2010.

What’s even more impressive is that he’s reached that milestone in 237 appearances in all competitions for Manchester United, Real Madrid and Leverkusen over the past six years. Don’t forget, most of his appearances for United and Real were off the bench too.

[ VIDEO: Corden takes charge at Arsenal ]

The El Tri star has been reborn since moving to the Bundesliga last summer and he now has 32 goals in 47 games for Bayer, including four goals in his past two games for the German club.

Fans of the U.S. national team will be hoping Chicharito uses up all his goals in the next few weeks and his scoring streak ends for the crucial 2018 World Cup qualifier between the USA and Mexico in Columbus, Ohio on Nov. 11.


On Tour With Watford’s Biggest Fan… Not Named Elton

INDIO, CA - APRIL 14:  Musician Brian Fallon (L) and Ian Perkins of the band The Gaslight Anthem perform onstage during day 3 of the 2013 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival at the Empire Polo Club on April 14, 2013 in Indio, California.  (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Coachella)
Leave a comment

We don’t want to name names or point fingers, but some people occasionally label Watford as a cookie cutter club. The fact that the sterile confines of Vicarage Road look like a big box store from the outside does not help. But the truth is, if this season’s Liverpool play Heavy Metal Football, then Walter Mazzarri’s Watford is at least Rock N’ Roll. Only Liverpool, Arsenal and City have scored more goals through five games than Watford’s 10.

But The Hornets’ rock ethos extends off the pitch beyond Étienne Capoue, Troy Deeney and even Harry the Hornet (we see you working, Harry). The club’s most famous fan is the Rocket Man himself, Elton John. One of Watford’s biggest fans on these shores is an English guitarist who now makes his home down the Jersey Shore. Ian Perkins is the guitar player for Brian Fallon and The Crowes, one of JW’s favorite bands. He’s also one of the gents behind Asbury Park FC clothing line. In honor of Watford’s back-to-back wins, including last week’s 3-1 thumping of Manchester United, we asked Ian how a musician copes with the ups and downs of Premier League fandom on the road. We wanted to know his Three Best Football Stories from The Road. His No. 1 is below. Numbers two and three (Three is Jay DeMerit-themed!) are available HERE. Rock Stars. When it comes to football … they’re just like us.

Ian Writes: Easily my favourite recent memories of watching Watford on tour have been the last two weeks. After finishing a European tour up at Reading/Leeds festival and being so close to Vicarage Road for the Arsenal game, not going was nearly as heartbreaking as the result. I got to stay home with family for a week or so, but it lined up with the international break so no Hornets for me.

We then flew back to the West Coast to start our U.S. tour, and after a shaky start to the season, Watford were back with an away game at West Ham’s new stadium. Anyone who follows the Premier League on the West Coast knows the drill. Waking up at 6 a.m. and watching your team lose is no way to start the day, so when Watford were 2-0 down my day was already over. Then the goals start flowing, we win 4-2 and I’m walking around like I own LA.

Two days later we play the Late Late Show with James Corden. We know he’s a huge Hammers fan so our friends at Fender manage to find a Steve Harris signature bass for us to give him. It has a huge West Ham badge on the front and he looks genuinely happy when we hand it over to him, calling his mate into the room to show it off. His face then changes as he says, “We were awful at the weekend though!” That was all I needed to hear, the perfect setup that any underdog football fan dreams of. I replied, “Yeah, I know. I’m a Watford fan. We were just too good.”

Thoughts soon turned to the next game, Manchester United at home. I spend the whole day before telling everyone who will listen how we are going to get beaten but I’ll still wake up at 5:30 a.m. to see my boys play some of the world’s best players. Hopefully we can get one goal and make a good game of it. Six a.m. rolls around and I’m awake in my new home shirt, drinking coffee and hoping for the best. As the game starts, we are driving from Texas to Oklahoma, so I’m relying on tour bus WiFi. But right after kickoff we hit a huge storm and the signal drops. Thankfully I have a good support network. There’s so few Watford fans that we all know each other. I have family at the game giving me updates, the NYC Hornets are sending me videos. Then Capoue scores and my phone goes mental. We pull out of the storm during half time and regain signal so I can watch my boys put on an epic display, winning 3-1, with Deeney smashing home a penalty in injury time and everyone knows it’s beyond United. I’ll be talking about this game for the rest of the season and maybe, just maybe, it will take the place of my Liverpool story from when we beat them last season. Watford fans have never had it so good.

Mourinho reveals Man United Europa League teams news; Rooney struggling

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 07: Wayne Rooney of Manchester United shakes hands with Manager of Manchester United, Jose Mourinho during The FA Community Shield match between Leicester City and Manchester United at Wembley Stadium on August 7, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Jose Mourinho has a massive squad at Manchester United and he is using the UEFA Europa League to give minutes to those who need them.

[ MORE: Pulisic in dreamland ]

As well as giving his squad player a run out United’s manager confirmed he will start Zlatan Ibrahimovic on Thursday against Ukrainian side Zorya Luhansk at Old Trafford, while captain Wayne Rooney is in the squad but Mourinho is unsure whether he will start.

The Red Devils could really do with a win in the Europa League after they lost 1-0 to Feyenoord in their Group A opener and after this clash on Thursday they face a tricky double-header against Turkish side Fenerbache.

Crashing out of the Europa League at the group stage may not be the worst thing in the world as Mourinho and United chase the Premier League title, but it would be very embarrassing nonetheless.

Speaking to the assembled media, Mourinho revealed that Luke Shaw will be missing for the game against Zorya Luhansk after falling ill but both Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Anthony Martial are available for selection after recovering from injury.

On Rooney, Mourinho said that the England international has injured his back and he may not risk him in the Europa League ahead of United’s Premier League clash with Stoke City on Sunday (Watch live, 7 a.m. ET online via NBC Sports).

“Wayne Rooney is selected,” Mourinho said. “I haven’t decided yet if I start with him. He didn’t train yesterday, he did just a little bit of the session on Monday. He had a back problem so today [Wednesday] was the first time that he had a training session with the other players and today is the training session where the intensity and the complexity is obviously reduced because we have a game tomorrow.

“So I was completely convinced of playing him tomorrow from the beginning, but with this situation in the last couple of days I am not sure I’ll do that. Because with the situation that you create for him I think he really can’t afford to have a performance that is not really good. I am here to protect him and not to put him in difficult situations. I have to analyse if the best thing for him is to start the game and if he is not totally ready for it. So I am going to discuss that with him and the medical staff and decide if he starts or if he is on the bench.”

Intriguing quotes on Rooney, especially the part about him not being able to afford to have a bad performance. Let’s see if Rooney can get out on the pitch and get back scoring goals after losing his place in United’s starting lineup last week in their 4-1 win over Leicester City.

Three Questions on Danish Football and Nordic Culinary

meyers
Leave a comment

Danish Football and New Nordic Cuisine. Both regular topics on our other Podcast, “Scando-files Today.” But in this crossover edition of Three Questions, we delve deep into both issues with the restaurateur who serves as flag bearer for the aforementioned food revolution. Like all great moguls, he owns a football club.

Foodies world over will know Claus Meyer as one of the minds behind Noma, the two-Michelin-star establishment that The World’s 50 Best Restaurants has rated the No. 1 eatery in the world four times. Recently he brought his brand of Nordic culinary swag to American shores, opening up a litany of spots here in New York City. The Great Northern Food Hall in Grand Central Terminal. Agern, right next door to Grand Central. And Meyers Bageri in Brooklyn.

When he’s not overseeing his restaurant empire, Meyer is focused on second-tier Danish club Nykøbing FC, of which he is part owner. In this issue of The Raven, we talk food and football pairings with one of the most powerful people in the restaurant industry.

MIB: Explain to food neophytes, like us, who subsist strictly on Guinness and Pie what exactly New Nordic Cuisine is.

Claus: I grew up in what was considered the darkest period of Danish food history, the 60s and 70s. I spent one year in France as an au pair in the mid-80s and it radically changed my life. I wanted to bring the spirit and virtues of French food culture  – enjoyment of food and deliciousness – back to Denmark. It felt like a calling. My parents divorced at the sound of a microwave oven. Coming from a broken family, I had the feeling that with a greater food culture people would have better and more joyful lives.

That was 1984. Fast forward, 19 years later, that’s when I decided to open Noma with the goal of reconnecting cooking to the nature that surrounds us, using 100% local ingredients and working with the principles of time and place. We formulated a manifesto, a set of guiding principles that would apply to the French concept of “terroir” in a Nordic context – unlocking the potential flavors of our land. We invited all major stakeholders on the food scene to come together in that process to create this new paradigm with us. That was the foundation for creating a new culinary language and a great cuisine in its own right with dishes the world had never seen before: Dishes like langoustine, horseradish, dill and buttermilk; beef tartare with roasted bread crumbs, wild cress, pickled lingonberries, cep mushroom mayonnaise and cep mushroom dust; and pork cheeks with bacon, apples, sunchokes and thyme.

MIB: Your role in this culinary revolution has allowed you to fulfill every football fan’s dream: to own a club of their own. Tell us about football’s place in your life, how you came to purchase Nykøbing FC, and a little bit about the team.

Claus: I fell in love with the team thanks to my grandfather. He was among the club’s biggest fans in the 60s and 70s, when they played under the name B1901. We were consistently top five in Denmark and regularly played in Europe. I went to the matches with my grandfather and drank it all in. The club is located on the island of Lolland, where I grew up. It’s one of the poorest parts of Denmark and, over the years, the best players kept getting scooped up by bigger clubs. As a result the club dropped to the fourth division. In 2006, they merged with B1921 to form Nykøbing FC. In 2015, I purchased part of the club.

Having a little budget, trying to get the best out of the club, and growing organically, sometimes feels likes playing a family game. But first and last: when NFC wins, I forget all problems in my life for a while. I love the club and its victories makes me much more happy than I can rationally explain.

MIB: Talk about the similarities and differences between operating a restaurant and owning a football club?

Claus: There are definitely similarities between my dream of taking Nykøbing into Champions League before 2025 and the dream I had of creating a world class restaurant like Noma in the food desert that was Denmark. When the idea has a utopian character and is executed in a way that is generous and inclusive, suddenly the restaurant and/or football club can become the epicenter of a movement of avalanche proportions. To set the agenda, you need to make sure that a lot of things are right: the ownership structure, the values, the stakeholder relations, the vision. That has been my primary role in most of the things I have been involved in. Generally speaking, it’s all about making sure that everyone exposed to the restaurant or the club gets more out of it than they had expected.

MIB: You’re now living in New York City. How are you following Nykøbing FC?

Claus: In three ways: Livestream on TiFoSport or ViaSat. Listening to the matches on Radio Sydhavsøerne or simply following the matches on LiveScore. It was magical to follow the final match of the last season live in Vanderbilt Hall, Grand Central, the day we opened Great Northern Food Hall. Nykøbing scored the decisive goal in the last minute of the match and I screamed so loud that four policemen came running towards me to make sure everything was okay.

MiB: What is the perfect meal and drink to accompany football?

Claus: Beer and roast pork sandwiches with crackling skin, raw apples and pickled red cabbage.