David Moyes

Premier League Playback: Why Moyes should go, Mourinho’s rant, Liverpool close

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MOYES HURTLING TOWARDS UNITED EXIT

On Monday, rumors, reports and the realization arrived that David Moyes’ time in charge at Manchester United is coming to a premature end.

The Telegraph’s Mark Ogden first broke the news as the Glazer family, who own United, have finally given up hope that Moyes is the right man to turn things around at Old Trafford. I witnessed what could well be Moyes’ last game in charge of United, the abject and lackluster 2-0 defeat to his old club Everton on Sunday, and everything that has gone wrong during his time at United’s helm was showcased in a truly shocking display.

A lack of passion and ingenuity from his players coupled with a shortage of tactical nous and one dimensional instructions from Moyes was, and has been, a recipe for disaster for the Red Devils. Now, as has been the suspicion for some time, Moyes seems to have lost the dressing room as his players went down with a whimper at Everton. Then Moyes said the following in his post-match presser.

“I thought we played really well in the first half but we lacked the killer ball. I agree there isn’t much point having a lot of possession if you don’t create chances. And we didn’t do that well enough. I thought the two goals we conceded were rank, rotten.”

I feel some sympathy for Moyes. We all knew that succeeding Sir Alex Ferguson was a hard act to follow, yet the way United have been playing and the way they continue to spiral out of control is alarming. Did anybody truly think that the Glazer family would hand Moyes another handsome transfer kitty of over $220 million this summer? With no guarantee of success and the only track record to go on being 11 defeats in a Premier League campaign for the first time in their history… of course not.

(More: Moyes vilified on return to Everton, as United nightmare continues)

United are out of the UEFA Champions League, unable to attract big name players and they’ve been forced to pay top dollar for good, not world-class, additions. Chuck in losing your entire veteran leadership group and the Empire has come crumbling down during Moyes’ leadership. The Glazers want to put an end to the suffering. Whether or not Moyes deserved more time is a debate for another day but the fact of the matter is, he didn’t do enough with the time he’s been given to lead one of the largest global brands towards success. Everybody knew there would be a drop off from the Ferguson era, but this is a deep nosedive into a dark abyss that’s threatening to derail all of the good work from the last quarter of a century.

The low points thus far: 3-0 and 4-1 defeats to Manchester City, 3-0 and 1-0 defeats to Liverpool, losses to West Brom and Newcastle at home, then to cap it off Moyes was beaten by his old side Everton home and away. Even a brief foray in the Champions League, where they were knocked out by Bayern Munich in the last eight, failed to cajole his side into action.

Sitting in the press box high up in the third-tier at Goodison on Sunday, something caught my eye, near the technical area. ‘It can’t be…’ I thought to myself. ‘It bloody well is.’ How this was allowed to happen, I’m not sure, but as Moyes stood arms-crossed on the edge of his technical area, a sense of foreboding may well have taken over the Scotsman.

Behind him, a fan had dressed up in a Grim Reaper costume, complete with a black cape, haunting face mask and an inflatable scythe which he pointed towards the United manager. On three of four occasions ‘The Angel of the Abyss’ wandered towards Moyes (see above photo) before being asked to remove his costume after 15 minutes of the game by police officers.

That ominous feeling seemed to overtake Moyes throughout, as his side struggled to cope with Everton’s counter-attacks and the Grim Reaper has lived up to his reputation once again, with Moyes hurtling towards the exit at Old Trafford.

Premier League Schedule – Week 35

Result Recap & Highlights
Aston Villa 0-0 Southampton Recap and watch here
Cardiff City 1-1 Stoke City Recap and watch here
Chelsea 1-2 Sunderland Recap and watch here
Everton 2-0 Manchester United Recap and watch here
Hull City 0-3 Arsenal Recap and watch here
Manchester City 3-1 West Brom Recap and watch here
Newcastle United 1-2 Swansea Recap and watch here
Norwich 2-3 Liverpool Recap and watch here
Tottenham 3-1 Fulham Recap and watch here
West Ham 0-1 Crystal Palace Recap and watch here

MARTINEZ EMBARRASSES MOYES WITH TACTICAL NOUS

Since the 1969-70 season, Everton had not won home and away against Manchester United in the same campaign.They have now, and they thoroughly deserved it.

Moyes’ replacement at Goodison Park, Roberto Martinez, has breathed new life into the Merseyside club with free-flowing soccer the aim as his players express themselves at every possible opportunity.

Overloading on the right wing, stifling the opposition’s attacker, being patient and keeping the ball when needed, launching incisive and devastating counter-attacks; these are all of the tactics Everton manufactured superbly on Sunday as they defeated Manchester United 2-0 at Goodison Park.

(More: Martinez revels in Everton’s humbling of Man United)

On his return to Everton, Moyes was vilified by boos from the same fans who once adored him. As he stood in his white sneakers on the sidelines, arms crossed and a sour expression spread across his face, a familiar picture unfolded before his eyes; United being outwitted.

Everton loaded the right wing with Seamus Coleman bombing on and Kevin Mirallas staying high on United’s left back Alexander Buttner. It worked a treat. One small tactical maneuver from Roberto Martinez bamboozled Moyes as Everton out-thought United. Worryingly, which is one of the main reasons Moyes seems to be on the way out, Everton outworked the Red Devils. I asked Martinez after the game if their shock 3-2 defeat to Crystal Palace last Wednesday provided his side with a wake-up call to go out and beat United, as their race to finish in the top four intensifies.

“I think it was a very important defeat to digest and understand,” Martinez said. “I told the players we were magnificent going forward against a Crystal Palace team who are superb defensively. The problem was we conceded three goals, and you need to control that. You need to know how to win football games. Today was the first time we had something to lose. We were in a position where we weren’t trying to get something, we were trying not to lose something. I think this performance was the perfect answer. To go 2-0 up, then keep a clean sheet against the champions, it is as good as it gets.”

The best is yet to come from Martinez and Everton, as many would argue he has bettered Moyes’ decade of work at Everton in the space of just nine months. Martinez admitted Moyes laid the foundations for him to succeed, yet the real job was always going to be lifting Everton from a side who perennially finished in the top seven, to a team consistently challenging for the top four.

MOURINHO’S RANT

Speaking after Chelsea’s shock 2-1 defeat to Sunderland on Saturday, which put a mammoth dent in Chelsea’s title hopes, Jose Mourinho lost the plot in the post-match interview.

“No, [I am not shocked] I just want to say four things. I am sorry because. If you ask me more questions, I will repeat the same words. I have four things to say: Congratulations to my players because they gave what they have and what they don’t have… Congratulations to Sunderland, because they won… Congratulations to Mike Dean, because he made a fantastic performance… And congratulations to Mike Riley, because of what they did during the season was fantastic for the way the Championship is going. Congratulations to all of them. I’m sorry, I have nothing more to say.”

That was it. Mourinho’s 77-game unbeaten run at home in the Premier League was over, and there’s nothing like accepting defeat gracefully…

Mourinho was up to his old tricks again, as his thinly veiled conspiracy theory about the referees ganging up on Chelsea was a little embarrassing. Mike Riley, the head of the Professional Game Match Officials Board (PGMO) didn’t escape Mourinho’s wrath, as the late penalty awarded to Sunderland for a foul on USMNT forward Jozy Altidore (yes, he came off the bench) did look dubious. We’ve seen them given though, as Cesar Azpilicueta slid in rashly and Altidore went down leaving referee Mike Dean with no choice after his assistant referee waved his flag.

That said, Mourinho’s constant need to deflect the attention away from his players and on himself is starting to wear thin across the English game. Various columns were written about the Special One being too involved in his own self-importance and unable to lose with dignity.

(More: Mourinho’s sensational swipe at officials after Chelsea suffer shock defeat)

Chelsea have lost to Aston Villa, Crystal Palace and now Sunderland in recent weeks, as the Blues have come undone at the end of a largely inconsistent season. The UEFA Champions League semifinals prove the saving grace for Mourinho’s men, as they face Atletico Madrid in the final four of Europe’s elite club competition this week and next. Sandwiched in between that is a trip to Liverpool, in what was once billed as a title decider, now it looks like damage limitation for Mourinho’s men.

He couldn’t handle losing to Sunderland late on. How will Chelsea’s boss react to losing the title this season?

LIVERPOOL CAN’T DEFEND… CAN’T STOP SCORING EITHER

Last week in the latest PST Extra, myself and Mike Prindiville discussed Liverpool’s run in and if they are worthy title favorites. After Chelsea’s defeat, they are the red-hot favorites. One reservation myself, and many others, have had about Liverpool is their tendency to leak goals like an antique sieve.

(More: Latest Premier League standings)

In their 3-2 win against Norwich on Sunday – which has put them five points clear at the top of the standings with three games to go – leaks started to appear as Simon Mignolet came for a cross when there was no needed, collided into Martin Skrtel and Gary Hooper stood bemused, then tapped the ball into an empty net. Nerves will play a part in the three games to come, as Liverpool host Chelsea and Newcastle, with a tricky trip to in-form Crystal Palace sandwiched in-between. The Red have conceded 44 goals this season, have only kept three clean sheets in their last 10 matches and have conceded 14 in the time frame.

However, here’s the kicker; they’ve scored 33 goals in their last 10 games.

That is why Liverpool will likely win the Premier League title, baring a monumental collapse — only a defeat to Chelsea and Man City winning out may thwart Brendan Rodgers’ men — as the people’s favorite will prevail. If you had a show of hands amongst neutrals, journalists and fans of other PL teams, I’m 99.9 percent sure the overwhelming majority would want Liverpool to win the league, if their own team could not lift the crown.

A joy to watch, full of goals and drama, plus the true inspiration of the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster driving them on, Liverpool’s will soon be the Premier League champions, in my opinion. They also be the people’s champions, too.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR NOMINEES: ANALYSIS

It is awards time in the Premier League again, as spring time is here and the top six players, and young players, have been nominated by their peers for the Professional Footballer’s Association (PFA) Player of the Year award.

Here’s a quick rundown on the six stars in each category, as Eden Hazard and Daniel Sturridge have been nominated for both.

source: AP
Suarez and Gerrard both nominated for PFA award, as Liverpool dominate.

PFA Player of the Year nominees – Luis Suarez, Steven Gerrard, Daniel Sturridge, Eden Hazard, Yaya Toure, Adam Lallana

If Liverpool win the league, expect the winner of this award to come from either Suarez, Gerrard or Sturridge. I’d plump for Gerrard. Suarez and Sturridge, particularly the former, have banged in 53 goals between them but Gerrard has reinvented himself since the turn of the year and has been the heat and soul of Liverpool’s sublime title charge. 11 straight wins and counting to finish the season, are you serious? Of course, Eden Hazard has been a star for Chelsea as the Belgian international winger has finally realized his promise on the big stage. Yaya Toure has been a monster in the middle for City, scoring 22 goals and generally ploughing through opposition midfielders and defenenders. Adam Lallana is the wildcard. This season he’s become an England international, has captained Southampton towards what will likely be their best-ever PL campaign and has wowed neutrals with his mind-boggling skills on the ball. A real mixture of players is in the six-man shortlist, but Stevie G gets my vote for his inspirational leadership as Liverpool stroll towards the league title for the first time in 24 years.

PFA Young Player of the Year nominees – Raheem Sterling, Daniel Sturridge, Aaron Ramsey, Eden Hazard, Luke Shaw, Ross Barkley

Sturridge and Hazard both got on this list too, and it wouldn’t surprise me if either won the award after stunning seasons. Raheem Sterling has had a superb start and finish to the campaign, but fizzled out in the middle. That said, the 19-year-old winger has sublime talent, pace and has shown in recent weeks that he can finish when given a chance. Aaron Ramsey would have probably won this award had injury not curtailed his season and you have to remember how well the Welshman played in the early months of the campaign. The other two players on the list have both become full England internationals this campaign. Luke Shaw has excelled all season at left back for Saints, with many top clubs sniffing around him as the Saints starlet is set for a bright future. Barkley is a real talent in the middle, where he glides effortlessly into attack and plays as though he has years of PL experience under his belt. Two-footed, an eye for a pass and able to score spectacular goals, what more do you want from a young player?

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Click to enlarge – Relegation picture with three games to go.

PLOT THICKENS AT THE BOTTOM

Last week it was Cardiff and Fulham… this week it was Sunderland and Swansea who gave themselves a shot in the arm against relegation. We’ve already discussed the Black Cats’ shock win away at Chelsea, as Gus Poyet’s side are now just three points from safety with a game in hand over all the teams around them.

(More: Relegation Watch – Sunderland gain ground in tight table)

As for Swansea, Garry Monk’s boys beat Newcastle 2-1, with a Wilfried Bony double (including a last minute PK winner) edging the Swans towards safety. As we’ve seen too often this season, you can’t say they’re totally out of danger. Almost, though. Fulham went down bravely to Tottenham, after dominating large spells of the first half and looking like a team full of confidence as they fight for their lives, As for Cardiff, they hardly battered Stoke, and could’ve easily lost the game late on but held onto a 1-1 draw which they really doesn’t help them.

With three games to go for most of the teams down the bottom, Norwich seem to be the team everyone thinks will slip into the bottom three. With Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea still to play, the Canaries certainly have a tough task on their hands.

It is a case of three from five to be relegated, but who those three teams will be, it’s anybody guess at this late stage of the campaign.

Premier League Playback takes an alternative look at all the weekend’s action from the PL, it comes out every week.

Cantona claims ethnicity played role in Benzema, Ben Arfa France snubs

SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 14:  Former Footballer Eric Cantona of France speaks during a press conference at the Shanghai Grand Theatre prior to the  Laureus World Sports Awards  on April 14, 2015 in Shanghai, China.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images for Laureus)
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Eric Cantona has made the headlines again, this time making some bold claims against France national team manager Didier Deschamps.

Cantona, a former Manchester United legend and French international, questioned whether Deschamps excluded Karim Benzema and Hatem Ben Arfa from the team due to their North African origins.

[ MORE: Skrtel set to leave Liverpool ]

Speaking to The Guardian, Cantona calls Benzema and Ben Arfa two of France’s best footballers, both of whom will not be playing for the national team this summer.

Benzema is a great player. Ben Arfa is a great player. But Deschamps, he has a really French name. Maybe he is the only one in France to have a truly French name. Nobody in his family mixed with anybody, you know.

So I’m not surprised he used the situation of Benzema not to take him. Especially after [French Prime Minister Manuel Valls] said he should not play for France. And Ben Arfa is maybe the best player in France today. But they have some origins. I am allowed to think about that.

One thing is for sure – Benzema and Ben Arfa are two of the best players in France and will not play the European Championship. And for sure, Benzema and Ben Arfa, their origins are north African. So, the debate is open.

Cantona’s view doesn’t hold much merit as Deschamps did not even have the option of selecting Benzema, the country’s active leading goalscorer. The Real Madrid striker is suspended by the federation, embroiled in a blackmail sex-tape scandal involving French teammate Mathieu Valbuena, who was also left off the EURO roster.

[ MORE: Three battles that could determine the Champions League final ]

France is an extremely diverse nation with a large North African population, Benzema of Algerian descent and Ben Arfa’s father a former Tunisian international. Both players were born in France and have received prior call-ups under Deschamps, with Cantona’s quite ridiculous comments likely to cause a stir before the EURO.

FA Cup will no longer have quarterfinal replays

HALIFAX, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 09:  The FA Cup is seen prior to the FA Cup First Round match between FC Halifax and Bradford City  on November 9, 2014 in Halifax, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
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Starting in 2017, the FA Cup will no longer have replays in the quarterfinal round.

The decision was made in an effort to combat the congested English fixture list, which has been a topic of debate for years now.

[ MORE: Lukaku wants out at Everton ]

This season, Manchester United defeated West Ham in a quarterfinal replay before going on to win the competition.

In a statement released by the FA, these changes aim to add drama to the matches while eliminating an extra matchday needed for replays.

The revamped competition will see eight clubs battle it out over one weekend with each tie to be played to a finish on the day, adding to the drama and impact the competition has enjoyed in recent years.

Other new initiatives will be explored to ensure The FA Cup retains its status and appeal. These plans also form part of The FA’s commitment to help ease English football’s congested fixture schedule.

There will still be replays in the earlier rounds of the tournament, which allows lower level clubs the opportunity to earn a nice financial boost should they force a second match at a Premier League ground.

The Premier League is the only top league in Europe that does not take a winter break, a schedule that has been criticized by multiple managers, including Jurgen Klopp.

Judge hears arguments on US women’s team strike rights

HARRISON, NJ - MAY 30:  The United States team poses for a team picture before the match against the South Korea during an international friendly match at Red Bull Arena on May 30, 2015 in Harrison, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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CHICAGO — A federal judge in Chicago has heard arguments whether the world champion U.S. women’s soccer team has the right to strike for improved conditions and wages before this year’s Olympics.

Lawyers for the U.S. Soccer Federation told Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman at a Thursday hearing that a no-strike clause is implied in a still-valid 2013 memorandum with players.

[ MORE: All of PST’s USWNT coverage ]

But a lawyer for the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team Players Association balked at that claim. Jeffrey Kessler said the federation had “screwed up” by not securing a no-strike clause in writing and can’t argue three years later that such a provision is implied.

The union wants the option to strike before the Olympics start in August, but hasn’t said it will. Many players have voiced concern over gender equity in soccer.

Three battles that could determine the Champions League final

MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 14:  Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid CF is tackled by Koke of Atletico Madrid and Mario Suarez of Atletico Madrid during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final First Leg match between Club Atletico de Madrid and Real Madrid CF at Vicente Calderon Stadium on April 14, 2015 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
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We’re just two days away from the Champions League final, as Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid prepare to face each other in Milan on Saturday.

The tie is a rematch of the 2014 final when Real Madrid won 4-1 to claim a record tenth Champions League title. Atletico led that match 1-0 in stoppage time, only to concede a late equalizer before collapsing in extra time.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s UCL coverage ]

With Real one of Europe’s best attacking teams and Atleti the best defensive side, two completely different styles of play will clash at the San Siro this weekend. Below, we take a look at a few key matchups that could determine who leaves Milan as champions.

Keylor Navas vs. Jan Oblak

In the Champions League this season, Navas has kept nine clean sheets in ten appearances (tied for the most-ever in a single campaign), while Oblak has kept eight in 12 appearances. Oblak was named to the La Liga Team of the Year after a stellar season for Atleti, and his massive double-save on Thomas Muller’s penalty kick in the semifinals helped Simeone’s men reach Milan. For Navas, the keeper’s strong play is often overshadowed by Real’s attack, but the Costa Rican international has proved massive for the club all season long. In what will surely be an extremely tight match, one big save could prove the difference.

[ MORE: Ranking the Copa America Centenario contenders ]

Luka Modric vs. Gabi 

These may not be two “superstar” names in the sides, but Luka Modric and Gabi may be the most important men on the pitch for Real and Atletico, respectively. When Real goes forward, it starts with Modric in the midfield. The Croatian playmaker is confident in possession and spreads the ball all over the pitch, seemingly always in the right place at the right time. On the other side, Gabi epitomizes what Diego Simeone wants in his Atletico squad. The hard-nosed midfielder sits right in front of the back-line, in charge of clogging up and holes and making sure the rest of his midfield tracks back and keeps shape, which will be vitally important against Real. A product of the Atleti youth system, red and white runs through Gabi’s veins, and having already experienced a loss to Real Madrid in the Champions League final back in 2014, Simeone’s leader on the pitch will want to turn the tides this time around.

(Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
(Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)

Atleti back-line vs. BBC

When all is said and done, the biggest battle will be between the stout Atleti defense and Real’s potent attack. Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez have become the best center-back pairing in Europe, while Real’s BBC trio of Bale, Benzema, and Cristiano combined for 119 goals in all competitions this season. Atleti have already kept clean sheets in the Champions League against Barcelona and Bayern Munich, but both of those matches were in front of a home crowd at the Vicente Calderon. Expect a few heavy challenges to come in early, as the Atletico defense will look to keep Ronaldo & Co. honest.