BBC BLOGS - Phil McNulty
IN ASSOCIATION WITH
« Previous | Main | Next »

Phil McNulty Q&A blog

So this is Christmas. And what better time for another Q&A blog on the Premier League and England?

Just the odd thing or two to discuss - the shabby manner of Mark Hughes's sacking by Manchester City, Liverpool's awful season under Rafael Benitez and the fluctuating title race.

Thanks again for so many questions via Twitter and Facebook. I have not been able to answer them all and apologies to those who have not got in this time. As before, there will be another one along next month and no doubt the January transfer window will provide us with plenty of material.

Alan Bates via Facebook: "Do you think the events at Eastlands this weekend signify a return to 'business as usual' at Manchester City, in spite of the board's insistence that they were 'doing things differently' only a few weeks ago?"

Got to start with Manchester City - and sadly Alan, yes I do think it is a return to business as usual. Whether you think the sacking of Mark Hughes was right or wrong (I think it was dismally premature and he should at least have been given the entire season), I think most would agree it was shabbily handled and the manager showed more dignity than the Eastlands hierarchy in his final hours in charge.

What sort of behaviour is it that leaves a manager standing on the touchline when pretty much the whole world knows he will be sacked at the final whistle and it has all been set up beforehand? Martin Jol and Spurs anyone? Bad enough to be sacked, without being humiliated into the bargain.

hughesap595.jpg

And as for Monday's news conference? That was not much better, especially as Roberto Mancini confirmed he had met and spoken with - in "general terms" obviously as Gary Cook was most keen to point out - City's owners in early December. Cat out of the bag, cue embarrassment for Cook.

It is a club's right to line up successors if they are about to sack a manager, but this was poorly handled and not helped by Cook's wholly unconvincing performance in front of a media pack that I thought put the case superbly.

As for Cook using phrases such as "the trajectory of recent results" to explain the decision - what does that actually mean in a football context?

I presume it means, using the Eastlands template, that Randy Lerner was wrong not to sack Martin O'Neill on the opening day of the season because his "trajectory" of results looked pretty poor with Aston Villa losing at home to Wigan. This is not the language football fans relate to or care about, so this might be another lesson Manchester City may care to learn.

Of course Cook has been heavily criticised, but what of football administrator Brian Marwood? What was his part in all of this? And where was he yesterday - not to mention chairman Khaldoon al-Mubarak? I must confess I didn't realise Marwood was a figure of any serious significance at the club.

Mancini at least had a measure of calm, but he has been given a personal insight into how City work - and will know what will happen if he does not deliver the "targets" talked of so lovingly at Eastlands. Make sure you keep an eye on your trajectory, Roberto.

Rick Starczewski via Facebook, with Asikhame Oikeh also offering a similar question: "Phil, given the brilliant job that Roy Hodgson is doing at Fulham and his reputation in earlier managerial roles, is there a reason why he failed during his maiden introduction to the Premier League while at Blackburn?"

I think history has been a little hard on Roy Hodgson's time at Blackburn. He actually guided them into the Uefa Cup in his first season before it went wrong. Perhaps it was a case of a manager going into a club just when their fine title-winning team was going into decline.

I was at Fulham to watch them beat Manchester United on Saturday and they are a team built in their manager's image. Honest, hard-working and with a level of intelligence running through the side that is reflected in their results.

I should also add how gracious Hodgson was after the game, admitting it was a win against a below-strength side and offering sympathy for the injury problems Sir Alex Ferguson had. No gloating from a fine, experienced manager who - and this is no disrespect to Fulham - could grace most clubs in the Premier League.

Liam Baum via Facebook with amit327 via Twitter in a similar Anfield vein: "I'm sure that you have been asked this time and time again, but I was wondering what you foresee in Liverpool and Rafa's future?"

The immediate future is troubled Liam, I would suggest. I have been astonished at how poor Liverpool have been this season - as you might expect seeing as I tipped them to win the title.

Too many ordinary players to supplement the world-class stars such as Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard, while the acquisition of Alberto Aquilani to fill the hole left by Xabi Alonso has been, to put it mildly, a non-event.

I know I am accused of being over-critical of Benitez on occasions, but his team selection at Portsmouth was mystifying, almost the act of a manager now totally unsure of his direction. Too many defensive players and the return of Andrea Dossena? Dossena has been a poor buy and nothing is going to change that now - as he rather proved at Fratton Park. So there's your answer, Rob Howgate via Facebook.

Also I have to say Benitez's sarcastic dismissal of "perfect" referee Lee Mason did him no credit. He may have been better training his attention on his less than perfect team.

As for Benitez's future, my belief is he must get into the top four to extend his reign at Liverpool beyond this season - especially after giving a publilc guarantee on this.

AlexVickers11 via Twitter: How highly do you rate Bill Shankly compared to some of the greatest managers ever?

Feel I should answer this given the recent 50th anniversary of Shankly's arrival at Anfield. It is quite simple - without his drive, determination and ability Liverpool's successes would not have happened. He laid the foundations for everything and deserves to be ranked with all the great managers.

Greatest for me? Purely personal but it has to be Brian Clough. Took two fallen clubs, Derby County and Nottingham Forest, from nowhere to greatness, and what he achieved at Forest, winning and retaining the European Cup, was the work of genius. Credit to Peter Taylor too.

Darren Stephenson via Facebook: Judging by Chelsea's and Man Utd's poor results of late, do you think that Aston Villa could possible challenge the top four or even the title season? They have made some particurlarly shrewd signings this season.

Strange one for me this, Darren, because when I have watched Villa this season they have not played particularly well, even in the win at Liverpool. Maybe I should keep away to improve their chances.

But what is beyond dispute is their right to be where they are in the Premier League and the fact that they have beaten Chelsea and Manchester United as well as Liverpool. I do not see them as potential title winners (which is great news for them given my track record of predictions) but they have to be taken very seriously as top-four contenders at present.

They faded badly after Christmas last year, so they need to guard against that, but where manager Martin O'Neill has done brilliantly has been in the reshaping of his defence.

Richard Dunne, James Collins and Stephen Warnock have been superb purchases, and given the pace and power Villa have up front and down the flanks, this makes them a tough proposition. I just feel they might need a little more class and creativity alongside Stilyan Petrov in midfield. But top four? They will feel they can and who can blame them?

Chris via Facebook: "What are your thoughts on the England peripherals? Are they making good cases to be in the England senior squad for the World Cup? Joe Hart, Bobby Zamora, Michael Dawson, Ryan Shawcross, Lee Cattermole, Ashely Young, James Milner, Stewart Downing and Leighton Baines etc?"

What I do know is that almost all of Fabio Capello's squad is pencilled in. Out of the players you mentioned I think James Milner has got a great chance of going and perhaps Joe Hart may take advantage of the uncertainty surrounding the goalkeeping position - although that's a long shot.

Bobby Zamora has been excellent for Fulham. I was really impressed with him when I watched Fulham against Manchester United, but I think Capello's mind is on other players in that area. Ashley Young is an outsider but may be crowded out, while I think this World Cup somes too soon for the likes of Shawcross and Cattermole.

I don't see Michael Dawson getting in, while Stephen Warnock has pushed ahead of Leighton Baines in the race to put pressure on Wayne Bridge's established position as understudy to Ashley Cole.

Stewart Downing may have a chance, but perhaps he might be denied by his Villa team-mate Milner.

Nick Jones via Facebook: "Michael Owen scored a hat-trick for Man United last month, should Fabio Capello include him in his England squad for South Africa?"

This is another one that gets me into trouble, Nick, as I have been accused of having some sort of private agenda to get Owen into the England World Cup squad. If only I wielded such power and influence.

I have said all along that if Owen is fit and scoring goals he should be in the squad. Not automatically in the team but in the squad. The hat-trick against Wolfsburg proved my case, although he was very quiet at Fulham on Saturday.

In Owen's hands really. If he is fit and scoring goals it would be a mistake on Capello's part to leave him behind for South Africa.

Shaneel Chetty via Facebook: "Do you think the three remaining Engish teams will again dominate the Champions league?"

Not sure they will dominate it, but they all have a good chance of reaching the last eight. I would say Chelsea have the best chance, followed by Manchester United if they can get all their players fit, and then Arsenal.

But given the flaws shown by all three in the Premier League this season, it is still tough to look beyond Barcelona as eventual winners. What fantastic games they will be in the last 16, though, with David Beckham going back to Manchester United and Jose Mourinho returning to Chelsea.

Phil Williams via Twitter: "Why was it always going to be a foreign manager that took over at Man City? The outstanding talents of managers such as Martin O'Neill, David Moyes, Roy Hodgson never get considered for the really big Premier League jobs."

I think it is the fashion, effectively. If you have big money and foreign owners they tend to look abroad for their managers I suppose. There is no evidence to suggest any on the three managers you mention could not do an excellent job at Eastlands, so you've got a point there.

O'Neill and Moyes, in particular, may already say they have big jobs and Hodgson has proved his worth abroad with Inter Milan and also in a variety of national jobs. Funnily enough, when news of Mark Hughes' sacking broke on Saturday night, I was still at Craven Cottage and quite a few of the media there suggested they could do worse than Hodgson, although we already knew it was done and dusted for Robert Mancini.

Shameer Razaak via Facebook: Theo Walcott looks out of his depth this season. Do you think he will be left behind in favour of David Beckham if his form doesn't improve? Should he move away from Arsenal to improve his chances?

Second question first Shameer. No way on earth will Walcott be leaving Arsenal nor should he. He is in the best possible hands in Arsene Wenger.

I am not sure he is out of his depth this season, but he has not been at his best, perhaps because of injury. I saw him at Burnley last Wednesday and he was very poor, eventually being taken off. It was a concern.

I would not leave him behind for David Beckham, but I accept his form needs to pick up in the second half of the season. He is a great natural talent and Fabio Capello will want him in his squad.

Theophile Gandolfo via Facebook: "Given Mick McCarthy's win over Burnley with Wolves, and the media/fan reaction when he fielded his reserve side against Manchester United, do you think there should be any remorse shown by anyone, esp the fans? Ultimately the final say will of course be on whether they stay up or not."

No I do not think there should be remorse shown by anyone, especially not the fans who paid good money to watch Wolves reserves at Old Trafford.

I strongly disagreed with what Mick McCarthy did, and the proof of whether he was right or wrong will come when the points are added up at the end of the season.

After watching an under-strength and off-colour Manchester United side lose easily at Fulham, it made me question even more why Wolves felt the need to play a second string at Old Trafford. They might have taken a point they could need at the end of the season.

Stephen Milnes via Facebook: What on earth can Steve Bruce do to turn Sunderland's recent bad form around? Seems we're doing the same this season as last after our derby win.

I agree Sunderland's recent slide has been disappointing, but the good news for you is that you have an excellent, experienced manager - and he will have the funds to make the changes he wants in January. Lee Cattermole's injury appeared to halt some of the omentum.

I have actually not seen Sunderland in the flesh this season (something I will put right quickly in 2010) so I will take your word for it, Stephen, when you say you need cover for Lorik Cana and Cattermole and a right-sided midfield player.

Lots of talk about Robbie Keane - so that will be one to keep an eye on.

Vito Valentine via Facebook: "Do you believe Arsenal are genuine contenders, considering their good run of three games despite injuries to key players.

It would appear we can't rule anything out this season, so yes they have to be contenders. I have my doubts, though, particularly if they suffer any more injuries. The loss of Robin van Persie playing for the Netherlands was a really unfortunate setback. Top four certainly, but not champions for me.

IN BRIEF

Bolarinwa Olajide via Facebook: Which Premier League manager has surpassed all expectations this season?

Birmingham City's Alex McLeish. Great season for him so far and with financial power to add quality in January.

Adama Sallah via Facebook: Who would you recommend to be the best replacement for Sir Alex Ferguson if he leaves Man Utd?

If United were kind enough to ask me I would recommend Jose Mourinho. 100%. Track record of success, big enough personality to handle Old Trafford's expectations and someone who knows how to win the big trophies.

tomwfootball vua Twitter: "Why do you keep bashing Heskey when England won nine out of 10 games and scored 34 goals in qualifying with him in the team?"

I'm not sure I keep bashing him, but I long for the day when England have an alternative to a striker who hardly scores at international level. If he can't do it, let's try something different. Joe Cole or James Milner on the left with Steven Gerrard tucked behind Wayne Rooney.

adamwilko89 via Twitter: "If he had chosen differently when he was a wee bairn, do you think Ryan Giggs would get into the current England squad?"

If David Beckham is a live contender then yes. Ryan Giggs has performed better at the higher level, in his case the Premier League, than Beckham has in recent years. Not a Beckham bash that by the way, just a fact.

foolhandy via Twitter: "Would Rafael Benitez still be in a job now if Liverpool had not won the Champions League in 2005? Is that still buying him job safety?"

It's not harming him that's for sure, especially when it comes to retaining the affection of Liverpool's fans.

Declan McGuigan via Facebook: "What do you think Everton's chances are of getting a spot in the Europa League next year?"

Slim Declan, I would have to say. Start to the season not good enough, too many crucial players out injured and not enough money to make the big signings in January.

Aijay Wazzallette Usonwu via Facebook: "Do you think Fergie is making the right decision playing Fletcher and Carrick as defenders when he could blood some of the younger players?"

I think he is doing it because he wants their experience in those key positions, although they did not have a great afternoon at Fulham. He will know best whether the younger players are up to it and has obviously decided not. United have been very badly hit by injuries in that area.

Samson Alexander via Facebook: "Has Petr Cech become too much of a defensive liability to be the number one at a club like Chelsea?"

Not a liability but he is certainly not the goalkeeper he was. No need for Chelsea to consider change yet but I suspect Carlo Ancelotti is keeping a close eye on Cech's form.

S_M_Cliffe via Twitter: "Do you believe Arsene Wengers transfer system actually works?":

To an extent, of course, because he has enjoyed great successes with Arsenal in the past and continues to produce and nurture fine young players. The final judgement however, must be made by trophies, and Arsenal need to start winning silverware again.

Alex Vickers via Facebook: "Do you think James Milner deserves a place in Englands starting 11, or just on the bench?"

In his current form he would not be out of place in the starting 11, but I think his more likely destination is the bench.

James Holder via Facebook: "Fergie must buy in the new year... Do you agree?"

Don't think he's too keen, James. Ferguson insists he has not found any value and the Ronaldo money is not burning a hole in his pocket. Any more defensive injuries and I suppose he might have to reconsider.

joehmusic via Twitter: "I'd ask, having backed Liverpool for title at the beginning, who do you think'll win it now? And who else for the top four? Thx!"

It's the season of goodwill, Joe. Give me a break because that Liverpool tip has haunted me for the last three months! New Year resolution may be no more predictions. Have a Happy Christmas, everyone.


You can follow me throughout this season at http://twitter.com/philmcnulty and join me at Facebook (requires registration)

Comments

Page 1 of 2

  • Comment number 1.

    Good selection of topics, and honest and interest answers. As a Liverpool fan, living abroad, I have noticed a strong hostility, and an enormous amount of gloating from rival fans in the past three months. I don't know why Liverpool seem to be the most hated team, and I am surprised at this. I guess every individual has their own reasons, but when I compare the activities of some other clubs (Fergusons arrogance- or single mindedness depending on your perspective! And Chelseas purchasing of success) its an anathema to me why Liverpool draw such ire.
    Reasonable and thought out answers would be appreciated. The mindless wind up drivel I can do without.

  • Comment number 2.

    nice to have a balance of topics.

    pleasing to hear of this new England starlet, 'Leighton James'...

  • Comment number 3.

    Have to come back to you about Wolves and McCarthy. Let me state I think he should have gone for it lock stock and 2 smoking barrels. However you have stated that he put out a team that he knew couldn't win. My response was to ask what team could he have put out knowing it would win?
    However I checked the two team sheets for both games, about 9 of the players who played against United were on the squad sheet against Burnely. Admittedly they didn't all get a game, but I think what he did has been grossly misrepresented.
    I think Micheal Owen proved his credentials against Fulham, he is an impact sub when up against any decent opposition which clearly Wolfsburg are not.
    I can't understand how Benetez is still in a job given Footballs track record. The season is far from Over United Chelsea and Arsenal are stumbling to Christmas and are there for the taking. I would be surprised but I can Villa and Spurs in the top 4 this year.

  • Comment number 4.

    Oh and if there is any truth in the Rumours that Given will quit City, He should do a Tevez and cross over.

  • Comment number 5.

    Gunners 4 the title!!!!

  • Comment number 6.

    I don't see Michael Dawson getting in, while Stephen Warnock has pushed ahead of Leighton James in the race to put pressure on Wayne Bridge's established position as understudy to Ashley Cole.

    -----------------------------------------------------------

    Interesting Phil. How do you rate Leighton Baines's chances, though? ;)

  • Comment number 7.

    Leighton James?

    Torontored - yeah, me too, I know that the Utd fans will always be ready for a pop (especially when we had the temerity to actually challenge them last season - which is when I started getting it in the neck from Utd friends of mine, as soon as we were a threat), maybe Birmingham Blues have just cause this season, but otherwise I can only guess that a lot of the abuse is coming from fans of clubs who are looking to supplant us in the top four (or Chelsea fans who just want to get top billing on an ECL night for once :P).

    The ridiculousness of it all is the cliche-ridden method they all seem to take, I've never even bothered to discuss net spend, but have had it brought up to me on multiple occassions this year and as for this squad of ordinary players idea, yes Voronin, Dossena, Plessis, Kyrgiakos and Babel are not good enough (and others who I don't think it's fair to say - jury's out on El Zhar), but the reason why we are in such dire straights is because our big players (Reina aside) have had poor seasons (by their standards).

    Gerrard pops up once or twice a game but he has not commanded the ball like in previous seasons, Carra has been off the pace (although he has improved greatly of late), Mascha has been gunning for a red for weeks, Torres has whinged and kicked his way through matches since returning from injury, Yossi disappears against small teams, I haven't seen Agger have a shot yet - a sign of his wavering confidence, Kuyt has been lost without Aurelio providing him service, Aurelio is out of position or dropped (not his fault, this one). Lucas, Insua and N'Gog have improved over the year because they have played more than they should have and all have potential, although Insua's form fluctuates at an alarming rate (another reason why Aurelio needs to start more games back there). Aquilani, I can understand not playing him against Everton, it would maybe have been a baptism of fire to far for a touch player, but he should have at least played against Blackburn and Wigan.

    Biggest disappointment for me over the last few weeks is the lack of Pacheco on the bench... an attacking midfielder/striker who had a lively, energetic and enthusiastic cameo in the ECL (and linked brilliantly with Torres), give the kid a chance Rafa, he could liven up the place!

  • Comment number 8.

    Leighton James!! Dear oh dear - showing my age there! Leighton Baines of course. Sorry Leightons.

  • Comment number 9.

    Thanks for ignoring my question once again!

  • Comment number 10.

    Torontored:
    don't underestimate the amount Rafa winds people up by refusing to speak reasonably post match ("the referee was perfect") and acknowledge his team's failing (poor performance, blatant red card). He seems incapable of admitting he's wrong. In addition, I suspect most people just don't rate hime given his poor return of silverware and negative style of play.
    Arsene is respected because of his attacking philosophy and transfer policy, I guess SAF is respected because of his success (even if his 'arrogance' and mind games can get a little waring) BUT he can acknowledge when his team fall short and are beaten by a better side on the day (champions league final, Liverpool this season to name a few.
    I think people have stopped being so annoyed by Chelsea since Mourinho left, and they stopped buying every player they fancied (and, no doubt, since they haven't won the league in 3 years). I suspect we'll get annoyed again if they ever win the Champions League.

    Just my thoughts, for what they're worth...

  • Comment number 11.

    @#1

    For me as a United fan it's just a love of seeing your biggest rival doing so badly. You got mighty close last year and I think a lot of people thought Liverpool would go one step further this time around. What is most baffling for me is the team selections by Rafa. When Torres and/or Gerrard have been injured he seems to pick his teams with a real negativity. Yossi has been the stand out player at Liverpool this season and will play a wonderful game and then find himself stuck on the bench in the next? It almost seems that Rafa does these things on purpose. Like he's trying to get back at someone. I honestly have to ask why Liverpool fans keep such faith with him. The whole Robbie Keane affair last season which Rafa seems to be replicating with Aquilani this term. Was it not Rafa's choice to sign Aquilani?

    I wonder how much longer Rafa's behaviour and performance will be tolerated by the owners. They have given him plenty of money, he has bought badly when perhaps development of the youth players is what was required and then one major big money signing coming in.

    An example being. Buying David Villa and then not wasting the money on Johnson and the bench warmer. Stephen Gerrard would've just slotted back into centre-mid and the balance of the team remains but with the addition of a superb striker.

    Anyway my team are not really setting the world alight so i'll leave it there and wait to be put in my place. Happy Christmas one and all. See you Boxing Day.

  • Comment number 12.

    This should've been handled better and the whole press conference was a joke. However, football clubs and other businesses only need to explain themselves to their stakeholders. The national furore which has engulfed this situation is ridiculous.

    Why does MCFC have to answer to every Tom, Dick and Harry about who is employed there? Hughes was there before they were, they wanted a change, they made a change.

  • Comment number 13.

    Good blog Phil, I realise you keep being asked about your top four but what about just the race for fourth? Who out of Aston Villa, Spurs, Man City and, in my opinion an outside chance, Liverpool will get the final CL place? I'd love to see Villa and think on what we have seen so far that they are better than the others competing for what has become the second title.

  • Comment number 14.

    Is is Hughes's sacking ? Or Hughes' sacking ?

    Is it Torres' Goal ratio ? or Torres's goal ratio?

    In recent days this simple english - so many 'big' news outlets doing one or the other and it has baffled me - and here in this piece we have it both ways!

  • Comment number 15.

    Interesting blog. As a Liverool fan this has to be the worst time I have ever supported the club. Absolutely terrible. I'm in fact bored of saying similar comments and watching the games down the pub!

    But Rage got number 1 and I have a new job which means I am just about happy!

    Merry Christmas all.

  • Comment number 16.

    To footballs-coming-home-maybe...sorry to cop out, but the inconsistency of those involved make it difficult to predict, but no-one can argue Villa deserve their current fourth place, particularly based on recent form.

    Villa, Spurs, Manchester City and Liverpool could be fighting this one out until the bitter end, but I'm just delighted to see such a scrap developing over the top eight places at the moment - don't forget Birmingham have muscled into that group for now.

  • Comment number 17.

    dan spendler - Keane played, not really the same thing.

  • Comment number 18.

    Who else wants to see us buy Murphy in January... maybe I'm just being sentimental.

  • Comment number 19.

    Good blog again Phil, although not sure you quite answered my last question (joehmusic) with a straight answer! Probably best you didn't give a proper prediction mind given all the schtick you received recently...

    If you're asking the question back though I'd say on current form...:
    Chelsea (the fact we have a comparitively easy run during the African Cup of Nations is the clincher for me)
    Man Utd
    Arsenal
    Tottenham
    Aston Villa (methinks it'll be just like last season and they'll fall short in the latter months - haven't suffered any bad luck with injuries yet)
    Man City
    Liverpool - with a sorry Benitez to finally get the boot come the end of the season?

    Only a personal opinion, thankfully I won't get taken to task on these things... finally Merry Christmas & Happy New Year to all on here, all the best come 2010!

  • Comment number 20.

    I see you are still in denial over the Mick McCarthy affair Phil!

    Can you please tell me why smaller teams should not be allowed to rest their players, particularly when they have 2 tough away games in a week. One might imagine such a team would be even more fatigued than a top side, with the amount of running required for such tough games.

    Fulham beat Man Utd at CC last year, it's not a massive leap to suggest they beat an under-strength side this year by a bigger margin, it proves nothing. If you genuinely feel Wolves had a chance of a point at Old Trafford fair enough, but I find that a pretty remote rationale to adopt. Wolves top side would've adopted exactly the same tactics at OT.

  • Comment number 21.

    Has any Italian coach ever actually won anything in our leagues? If the city board that obviously knows diddly squat about football had checked they'd realise this. Mancini's record too is not that great when you scrutinise the titles he won at Inter it was during all the match fixing scandal when two of their biggest competitors were out of the picture.

    Not that I've got anything against Italian/foreign coaches, I thought Capello was the right man for England, but it seems City have bought the whole we must get a foreign coach to give us more kudos. Hughes was doing a good job of making City hard to beat. Turning the draws into wins was the next step, and if they had been more patient, who knows?

    I'm just disappointed they didn't take Rafa off our hands...

  • Comment number 22.

    Phil Williams via Twitter: "Why was it always going to be a foreign manager that took over at Man City? The outstanding talents of managers such as Martin O'Neill, David Moyes, Roy Hodgson never get considered for the really big Premier League jobs."
    .................
    MON and David Moyes are foreign.

  • Comment number 23.

    Why did I just have to register with the BBC again?


    Can't really remember what I was about to write. Cheers.

    Oh that was it, you said if Fergie has any more injuries to defenders he may sign in January? So you think the rest of the season will be o.k with just Evra fit?

    Mark Hughes' Sacking was wrong, I think he should have been given at least until the end of the season. How has Benitez kept his job (pre season title favourites in 8th place out of the Champions League) and Hughes (building new team fighting to break into the top 4 6th place two losses all season) be sacked. Football is a mad mad world.

  • Comment number 24.

    @1 Tortontored" Get over yourself and your persecution complex! Utd are by far the most hated team in the PL, what with 11 titles, and if that ever stops I'll be a worried man.

    But maybe the stick you are getting this season is down to Rafa. Shades of Houllier there. Liverpool fans never seem to know when to cut a manager loose and unfounded loyalty (especially in the case of a coniving political animal, as Rafa is) has once again proved to be your downfall.

    Liverpool have long since passed hatred...and are on to pity!

  • Comment number 25.

    Phil,
    Hopefully you will be able to answer this one...
    With the recent sacking of a good British manager by a club attempting to buy a title and pay extortionate amounts of money to players, and at the other end of the scale, Wolves resorting to 10 changes to maximise resources of the squad (supposedly reducing the quality seen in the premiership), do you think it is now time the max wage for the Premier League / all of Europe?
    My point being, if everyone was on a level playing field in wage terms, teams without billionaire owners and £700m of debt would also have a greater chance of attracting quality players that are seen warming the benches of the rich clubs. Surely the quality of Prem would be higher if you had the Owen's, Deco's, Berbatov's, even Babel's playong regularly for the first teams of other clubs.
    At least then the league wouldn't be so predictable and Wolves wouldn't have felt the need to prioritise one game over another. Regardless of what MM did or the outcome of the 2 matches concerned, this is the situation the Premier League has created for itself - they should be looking at ways of making it more entertaining for the fans - the people that matter - not filling the pockets of players.

  • Comment number 26.

    To bullysleftone...agree it would bring a level playing field, but it is not going to happen. Not criticising or downplaying the point you have made eloquently by the way, just will not be allowed to happen in football.

    And to Joe Hesketh...I deliberately didn't give you a straight answer if I am being honest. This "Liverpool for the title" business has left me a broken man when it comes to making predictions!

  • Comment number 27.

    Honest answers I'm sure, but strange. Hughes was essentially sacked after the loss to Spurs. It was just that City wanted a replacement ready before they sacked him. Should they have let him know then? Well seeing the reaction that has ensued now, I think they probably feel they made the right decision.

    Still playing down Arsenal's chances I see. Well, as you say, given your prediction record that is good for Arsenal, but I don't see how anyone can look at the way Man Utd are playing right now and fancy them to finish above Arsenal, or give them a better chance in Europe.

    You are in good company though. Seems like everybody is writing Arsenal off. "Dont know where there goals are coming from", well they have still scored more goals in the epl than anyone else. "No Backbone", well they won at Fulham and drew at Burnley, which is better than United, who didn't show much backbone in either spot. So I'll admit Chelsea are favorites, but after them Arsenal have to be the next best option, like it or not.

  • Comment number 28.

    WoW: To be fair, some LFC fans recognise that Benitez has seriously messed up this season and should have been fired before Hughes.

    City: OK, I tried commenting on this issue last time around it it got rejected for some unknown reason. Take 2.

    Hughes's sacking simply shows that the City board do not have any realistic perspective about what they are doing.

    Owen: It was brilliant to see him turning back the clock vs Wolfsburg but he does need to be play more regularly 'and' his form needs to be consistant to get a spot in Fabio's squad - he has said as much already.

  • Comment number 29.

    No one agree it was right to sack Hughes?

    3-3 against Burnley and 200 million spent ?

    I think the board looked at what City have done and where they ought to be - GIVEN results else where and acted.

    The rights and wrong of how it was done I don't agree with - but it's clear shipping three goals at home to both Burnley and Sunderland was not in the pre-season arranged targets.

    Think he should have been given a season - but he should have been doing better.

    AS for Rafa - why play Dossena and not Benayoun? makes no sense at all
    His selections are hampering any player settling into the side and the team getting a rythm.

  • Comment number 30.

    Rafa Keeps his job but Hughes gets the sack???

    O'Neill is the best man for me and the most honest!

  • Comment number 31.

    Hughes- I think its nonsense to act surprised over Hughes. Sixth was never a real goal, and "the trajectory of results", while it might not exactly be plain English, you cant draw every game for two months (exaggerating a little) and not expect the owners to get a little anxious. As for how they treated him, well its hard to fire a manager and only then start talking with potential candidates, so obviously they talked with Mancini before firing Hughes. Phil, your mock outrage is naivete?
    McCarthy- Phil you are right to make an issue of what he did. I disagree that he will be judged at the end of the season. The judgment is in, he cheated his fans from a genuine game, and he cheated the rest of the premiership by gifting three points to a team, when those points are supposed to be contested fairly. If United win the league by three or less points, but Wolves stay up does that make McCarthy right? I don't think so.

  • Comment number 32.

    With the greatest respect Phil, if you are struggling to understand what Garry Cook meant by "the trajectory of recent results" maybe journalism isn't the profession for you. To spell it out, for City to get 70 points from the season, we need to be picking 1.842 points per game. For the season so far, we're picking up 1.705 points per game, and for the last 10 games it's down to 1.3 per game. Therefore the trajectory of our form will have City finish somewhere near 58 points. Therefore this would not meet the target of 70. Simple stuff really.

  • Comment number 33.

    I've only read the first point Phil, and if the rest of them are as poorly written about, then I may not bother with the rest!

    'Trajectory of recent results' is pretty clear. I don't know what is worse; that you don't understand what is meant or that you pretend to no understand what is meant.

    Also, to compare Man City's position after almost half a season to Villa's after one game of the season is lame to the point of dumb.

    In terms of 'pretty much the whole world knows he will be sacked', ask yourself the question, how do they know? Is it because the press tell us? What actual service do you think the press did here? You may not have started the story but press hacks sure as hell like to report it, with relish almost, since it made true the prediction that he wouldn't last the whole season. I doubt that the press would have given Hughes much credit if he had achieved anything at Man City.

    My personal opinion is that they are wrong to sack Hughes, but that is completely immaterial to how you have disingenously written your response to the point.

  • Comment number 34.

    In terms of yr answers on Liverpool, why do you think theyve been so poor this season. I have my own reasons of course but am interested in yrs. We know theyre not doing well, losing games, but why when apart from one or two players they are essentially the same team.

  • Comment number 35.

    Yeah that Liverpool prediction was a poor one. They were playing above themselves last season, no surprises this one. What about the Man city future? Mancini to bring them to 4th or another meltdown before the end of the season? Personally I cant see any change - a few brilliant performances but overall mistakes will let them down, but its an interesting fight for that last CL place.

  • Comment number 36.

    Phil

    Why is it you answer questions posed through outside sources (Twitter and Facebook) and yet on your blog you seem to avoid answering most questions that are put to you.

    Why should I need to sign up to Twitter or Facebook to correspond with a BBC journalist?

    MrBlueBurns

  • Comment number 37.

    Rafa is the only reason why Liverpool are so hated. He is totally arrogant and talks too much. He's filled LIverpool with spanish players, won very little and made the loudest noise.

    But mostly because he thinks he is in the same class as Wenger and Ferguson yet cannot boast of their achievements. Contrast to Hiddink's humility or Ancelotti's dour humour

  • Comment number 38.

    Phil,
    Just wondering who do you think would be a good couple buys for Fergie in January defensive wise? I am not really too worried about the goals we score but its the goals that we have been leaking.

    Also which 3 teams do you think could be relegated. I know Pompey is definate seeing that half their squad is out in January but who would be the other 2?

    Cheers

  • Comment number 39.

    Just a quick one. One of the questions you chose to answer, "If Ryan Giggs had chosen differently..."

    Does that mean, chose to be born somewhere other than wales and chose to have parent that were not welsh or even grandparents that were not welsh.

    Ryan Giggs is welsh and could not have played for England as he was not eligble!!

    He played for England schoolboys because he was a schoolboy in England which had nothing to do with nationality of the player just the nationality of the school.

    Anyway, rant over!!

  • Comment number 40.

    Toronto red wonders why lots of us still dislike Liverpool FC. Well, Liverpool were the football club responsible for English clubs not playing in Europe for five years. During that time a lot of smaller clubs "qualified" for European competition but couldn't compete. Because of Liverpool. I follow one of those clubs. We won the FA Cup. It was a once in a generation chance to play in Europe and although this was over 20 years ago many of us have not forgotten why Liverpool are the scourge of English football. Even now, very little gives me greater pleasure than to see Liverpool struggle. Does that answer your question Torontred?

  • Comment number 41.

    ...Just to remind both adamwilko89 and Phil McNulty - Ryan Giggs could NEVER have played for England - so why raise such a pointless debate, yet again!?

    I'm sure there's nothing more frustrating for Cardiff born Ryan to constantly have to address this dribble (mind the pun). Do you ever hear us in Wales banging on about the fact that Michael Owen didn't opt to play for Wales as he lived there all his childhood (and still lives there now)?? The reason - cos he was born in Chester to English parents. He could never have been able to represent Wales. End of story.

    I shall let Giggsy himself have the last word:

    "It still bugs me when people ask if I wished I'd played for England - I'm Welsh, end of story.

    "I'd rather go through my career without qualifying for a major championship than play for a country where I wasn't born or which my parents didn't have anything to do with."

    AMEN.

  • Comment number 42.

    37. At 3:27pm on 22 Dec 2009, Dapsy wrote:
    Rafa is the only reason why Liverpool are so hated. He is totally arrogant and talks too much. He's filled LIverpool with spanish players, won very little and made the loudest noise.

    But mostly because he thinks he is in the same class as Wenger and Ferguson yet cannot boast of their achievements. Contrast to Hiddink's humility or Ancelotti's dour humour

    Spot on mate!! Not a liverpool basher but you are correct on all counts. Plus his team selection is mystifying to say the least, still waiting to see Aquilani in action for 90 minutes

  • Comment number 43.

    MrBlueBurns makes an interesting point there... I'm sick to death of BBC staff banging on about Twitter and Facebook. Yes they are good communication tools, however the BBC website is hardly a site without users is it? A lot of our money goes the BBC's way, and in return you have build an excellent website and facilities, however why not make the most of them instead of constantly giving free advertising and increasing traffic to other big sites?

    I would much prefer the BBC / Phil to ask questions on here, and reply to them on here. If you want to talk with people on Facebook or Twitter, do so in your own time and from a personal accont, not while i'm paying you to work for the BBC.

  • Comment number 44.

    There is no exact "trajectory" of results in football. There are so many variables. Does this mean if you have 40 points at the halfway point in a season, you can sit down and say; "Right that's good - we'll finish with 80." Absolute nonsense.

    Also, it sounds like corporate-speak to me, not an actual football term. Mr Cook has not covered himself in glory - although I have been kind to him compared to others.

  • Comment number 45.

    14. At 1:30pm on 22 Dec 2009, Jonboybell wrote:
    Is is Hughes's sacking ? Or Hughes' sacking ?

    Is it Torres' Goal ratio ? or Torres's goal ratio?

    In recent days this simple english - so many 'big' news outlets doing one or the other and it has baffled me - and here in this piece we have it both ways!

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

  • Comment number 46.

    The commercial idiot here is Gary Cook, who has an insufficient grasp of Premiership Football Economics to sensibly advise the ManC owners.
    Fact of Life #1: The overall Marketplace is bounded; it cannot be expanded as in normal industries. It consists of 38 x 3 points and no more.
    Fact of Life #2. Your competitors are trying to impede you from achieving your market in a way that would have them Prosecuted under Competition rules in outside business.
    Fact of Life #3 (and the biggie). Each of the 20 Prem clubs can have an ego-bloated owner like Sheikh Mansour, Abramovitch, Glazer etc all demanding 70 points each. Then guess what? Come next May, 3 clubs still get relegated.



  • Comment number 47.

    Phil Williams via Twitter, regarding your question about why is it foreign managers? Are you suggesting Martin O'Neill or David Moyes are English? I'm pretty sure they are not.

  • Comment number 48.

    #44

    Phil, that may be your most arrogant and patronising comment yet. I rarely agree with you on many things but I accept they can be simply differences of opinion.

    On this point though, tf you can't understand what is meant by 'trajectory' then you shouldn't be a journalist.

  • Comment number 49.

    Given the times I've seen players go down clutching their ankles and tackles are rarely shin high and when they are they are deemed as dangerous play I fail to understand why shinguards are worn so high and the lower leg and ankles are unprotecetd? Sure it's not beyond the wit of a sportswear supplier to invent some ankle protection? Shed any light someone?

  • Comment number 50.

    Phil, regarding James Milner, I would not only take him to the world cup, I would start him, he's great, skill, power confidence. Imagine a team without Gerrard and Lampard? How fantastic would that be? England might even keep the ball on the ground, and the high-pitchness of the voices in the post-match interviews would certainly be reduced. Although will remain pretty high, if Beckham plays.

  • Comment number 51.

    Nice to see I must have riled you enough to warrant a response. And you may be surpised that I accept you nearly have a point. If our current trajectory was 65 or so, then I doubt we would be discussing Mark Hughes sacking. There is however quite a difference between 58 and 70 points. Furthermore we are now playing catch up and would have to improve drastically to get anywhere near to target. Sadly we appear to have been going the other way, and its totally conceivable that we may not have even acheived 58. It is corporate speak, and Garry Cook is a very sucessful man in his acheivements to date which have all been made in a corporate arena rather than a football stadium. However targets are targets and in any walk of life, if they are not being met, now or projected then anyone can expect action to be taken. Its a cruel world, and football is no different, in fact it has proved all to often in teh past that it is a much crueler beast. Thanks go to Mark from the majority of City Fans, welcome Roberto too. But lets be honest about the type of reporting that has been made on this subject. Was such a fuss made when Avram was releived of his duties at Chelsea despite pushing UTD all the way both domestically and in Europe. No. But then he wasnt a bright young BRITISH manager was he, and Chelsea are already a member of our glamorous sky4.

  • Comment number 52.

    There is no exact "trajectory" of results in football.
    ------
    ...but isn't that what you did when you picked Liverpool for the title this year?

    You looked at past form and projected from there. So, it is OK for you to do it, but not the Man City board, who have a lot more at stake. Sorry, but if somebody was gambling with my 200million, they don't get the benefit of the doubt, I don't care how nice a guy he is.

  • Comment number 53.

    #48

    I think the point Phil is trying to make is the slightly spurious use of "trajectory" in this context. To me that word suggests future events will have a fair element of predictability to them. Football on the other hand, as the weekend just gone proves, has no such element. There is no scientific means of judging how the season will pan out! Maybe in the context something along the lines of "we had not met anticipated targets at this point in time" would have been less ambiguous...

  • Comment number 54.

    Dapsy wrote:
    Rafa is the only reason why Liverpool are so hated. He is totally arrogant and talks too much. He's filled LIverpool with spanish players, won very little and made the loudest noise.

    ----

    Man you talk rubbish. Makes the most noise? Over Wenger and Fergie? Are you sure? Is he more arrogant than other managers? Has he really filled the team with Spaniards? Because I can count....... 2

  • Comment number 55.

    Does anybody else think Roberto Mancini looks a bit like Alan B'Stard (The New Statesman). Or is it just me?

  • Comment number 56.

    My apologies Phil, I forgot to ask why in a space of weeks you slam Hughes/City for showing a lack of ambition (vs Liverpool) then write a completely contradictory obituary on Hughes time in the wake of his sacking (Hughes treated harshly by Man City). And by the way, I appreciate that you have been "kinder" that some of the press, that said some of the frankly appalling peices written by some journos have been as erroneous as theey have been laughable. Best wishes for Christmas Phil.

  • Comment number 57.

    #53 Westcountry_Boy

    This last weekend may have thrown up a couple of surprising results. However, neither Man City nor me have used one set of resutls in isolation when thinking that the word trajectory is appropriate.

    Trajectory is a perfectly reasonable word to use. It is trajectory, as an all encompassing word, that we all use to make predictions as correctly desribed at #52 by ToledoTrumpton.

    Frankly Phil could have made the same point but without showing such peurile lack of understanding of what has been said, and I might have agreed with him. However, the point he made and the way he made it were very poor indeed in my opinion.

    Anyway, as I've said, I do not beleive Man City were right to get rid of Hughes because I think things were going reasonably well, but that is not to say that I don't understand what Gary Cook was saying.

  • Comment number 58.

    You have not seen Sunderland in the flesh this season and you tipped Liverppol for the title, and did so knowing they had sold Alonso.

    Er, why are you BBC Sports chief football writer?

  • Comment number 59.

    "I don't see Michael Dawson getting in"

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    I don't know why you have so bluntly answered question about a player who has been as good as any English central defender in recent weeks. Michael Dawson has captained the Tottenham side for a number of games recently, leading the side exceptionally with his never-say-die attitude and his 100% commitment in the absence of two of Tottenham's most influential characters and best players, Ledley King and Jonathan Woodgate. He has been a rock in defence, whilst also getting on the scoresheet with some vital goals. With Ferdinand, King and Woodgate all long term injury absences, Lescott injured and off-form, England could do a lot worse than call up Dawson.
    Do you not rate the lad, Phil? Or do you just not see Capello picking him? I would be interested to hear your views.

  • Comment number 60.

    To Torontored, who asks why Liverpool are so widely hated :-

    I would first ask you if you think Liverpool are probably the greatest club in England? I mean in terms of their history, their tradition. The great managers of the past, the great teams of the 70s and 80s. Their domination of both English and European football playing superb and entertaining football. Do you not feel that given what they achieved in the past, the joy they brought to lovers of football all over the world, that they are deserving of a place at the top? This is not to mention the fans, who are regarded amongst the most knowledgeable in football and support their team with a passion and loyalty unmatched by fans of other clubs.

    Back in their glory days, there was a certain class about Liverpool that placed them above other clubs. That cannot be destroyed, it lives forever and will be forever and that is why Liverpool will always be the greatest club in England.

    If you agree with all of the above(and I'm sure on first instinct when reading the above it will strike a chord with you) then I think you know the answer as to why Liverpool are widely despised.

  • Comment number 61.

    56. At 4:25pm on 22 Dec 2009, Matt Halldiay wrote:
    My apologies Phil, I forgot to ask why in a space of weeks you slam Hughes/City for showing a lack of ambition (vs Liverpool) then write a completely contradictory obituary on Hughes time in the wake of his sacking (Hughes treated harshly by Man City).


    TO BE fair to phill he did pull himself up on that.

    Is it Giggs' personality award or Giggs's personality ?

  • Comment number 62.

    By the way, the person who asked about Giggs choosing to play for England, he never had a choice, this is a myth, he moved to Manchester when he was 8 and wasn't ever eligible to play for England.
    He did play for England school boys but that's because school boy teams are based on where a player lives at that time not on where they were born.
    If he was the same age now he would have been able to choose England because of the new rule that Scotland got introduced saying if you've gone to school in a country for 5 or more years you can be eligible to play for that country.

  • Comment number 63.

    #57

    I think we'll have to agree to disagree over the use of the word 'trajectory'! I do however agree that Hughes shouldn't have been sacked at this point in the season - 2 defeats by christmas is hardly an unmitigated failure.

  • Comment number 64.

    Nick Jones via Facebook: "Michael Owen scored a hat-trick for Man United last month, should Fabio Capello include him in his England squad for South Africa?"

    This is another one that gets me into trouble, Nick, as I have been accused of having some sort of private agenda to get Owen into the England World Cup squad. If only I wielded such power and influence.

    I have said all along that if Owen is fit and scoring goals he should be in the squad. Not automatically in the team but in the squad. The hat-trick against Wolfsburg proved my case, although he was very quiet at Fulham on Saturday.

    In Owen's hands really. If he is fit and scoring goals it would be a mistake on Capello's part to leave him behind for South Africa.
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The trajectory of Michael Owen's performances this season would suggest that he should not be going to the World Cup.

  • Comment number 65.

    MrBlueBurns makes an interesting point there... I'm sick to death of BBC staff banging on about Twitter and Facebook. Yes they are good communication tools, however the BBC website is hardly a site without users is it? A lot of our money goes the BBC's way, and in return you have build an excellent website and facilities, however why not make the most of them instead of constantly giving free advertising and increasing traffic to other big sites?

    I would much prefer the BBC / Phil to ask questions on here, and reply to them on here. If you want to talk with people on Facebook or Twitter, do so in your own time and from a personal accont, not while i'm paying you to work for the BBC.

    =========================================

    why have you bothered to take out the time to write such krap

    who cares what site anyone uses to communicate...

    if someone wants to use bbc then let them or if someone prefers facebook let them

    dont try and create argument over silly little pathetic immaterial matters over what site you use to criticise your blue square team.

    too many people on here are sitting behind a screen acting big and mighty criticising the bloggers in here. one says hes a biased towards liverpool, one says hes biased towards man utd. so which is he??

    if you wana use bbc to write comments then use it u muppet.

  • Comment number 66.

    I agree with the "mystifying" team selection.
    There should have been more confidence to field an attacking line up against bottom-of-the-table opposition.
    We should keep Babel with the worrying lack of creativity - give him a sustained run in the team preferably on the right wing.
    I disagree with the signing of Aquilliani, however.
    Already he has displayed signs of class despite being clearly unfit.
    Rafa needed someone for the long term.
    He didn't need a dog for Xmas. Why has it gone wrong?? Defending, injuries, the depth of the squad, and now frankly the players don't appear to care.
    The only people concerned about "finishing fourth" at Liverpool are the accountants. It is always the sole aim to finish at least higher than fourth.

  • Comment number 67.

    Michael Owen for England..??? - you just had to answer that question, Phil! YAWN! Every week your blog mentions Owen - as Sport's chief football writer it really is rather embarrassing you keep banging on about this.

    How can Tim Vickery and Paul Fletcher, for example, keep delivering fresh, new and interesting blogs every week while someone in your position keeps bringing this up. He is not even getting a regular game for his club. Can you please give it a rest and focus on actual topics that matter or are insightful until Owen either starts getting a regular starting place or regularly finds the back of the net!

    Thanks

  • Comment number 68.

    Phil,

    As usual the major part of your post on Hughes' harsh dismissal is non-sequitar and have led many astray down the garden path. The main thrust of your argument should be Hughes' Flatter to Deceive Pose, which is diammetrically opposite to City's Masterplan. Which he espoused or endorsed in blueprint!
    This was succinctly pointed out if I may quote you;
    "Hughes tried to fool the untrained eye when he announced City had got their first-half tactics "spot on." If this meant not posing a threat to Liverpool's goal while setting up a dismally unadventurous defensive strategy, then fair enough.
    He added: "We were waiting for the right moment in the game to go for it. That was always going to be in the latter part of the game. The goal we conceded pushed that schedule forward."
    Does that sound like a team coming to Anfield for a point then suddenly realising they needed to do something once Liverpool scored? It does to me."

    His lack of ambition or limited manager material and coupled with the cogent fact that he 'didn't walk the talk' that whats let to his dismissal. He will not be good enough for City's Ambition now or in the future.

  • Comment number 69.

    64. At 4:41pm on 22 Dec 2009, MrBlueBurns wrote:
    Nick Jones via Facebook: "Michael Owen scored a hat-trick for Man United last month, should Fabio Capello include him in his England squad for South Africa?"

    This is another one that gets me into trouble, Nick, as I have been accused of having some sort of private agenda to get Owen into the England World Cup squad. If only I wielded such power and influence.

    I have said all along that if Owen is fit and scoring goals he should be in the squad. Not automatically in the team but in the squad. The hat-trick against Wolfsburg proved my case, although he was very quiet at Fulham on Saturday.

    In Owen's hands really. If he is fit and scoring goals it would be a mistake on Capello's part to leave him behind for South Africa.
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The trajectory of Michael Owen's performances this season would suggest that he should not be going to the World Cup.

    =====================================================

    mr blueburns. im sure u are a really nice guy but your wholier than thou attitude you have made yourself is quite cringeworthy mate.. stop trying to be everyones nice friend. you're going on about the word trajectory as if you invented it

  • Comment number 70.

    Phil,
    In Phil Williams question about foreign managers you said "I think it is the fashion, effectively" yet when questioned who could replace SAF you said Jose Mourinho. Why not and English/British manager?

  • Comment number 71.

    #65 ANCELOTTERI

    Phil appears to be answering question in his blog that have been posed not on the BBC site. I have questions for Phil, but why can't I pose them on the BBC?

    By the way, I don't accuse Phil of bias, just some poorly written pieces.

    #67 gazzafc

    It's possible that Tim and Paul blog on matters that are not quite as familiar as those that Phil blogs on and therefore they may seem more revealing.

  • Comment number 72.

    #69 ANCELOTTERI

    The point is that Phil is having a pop at the Man City 'people', that is not very well veiled. And of course, he has still not answered the point about how the press revealed this information (and the generally nefarious way the press go about things actually.)

  • Comment number 73.

    @ #17

    Spendler? Antway.

    The point I was making is that Rafa would leave Keane on the bench when he was probably a good player to have on the pitch. The rumours were that Rafa was not the one who wanted to sign Keane so therefore left him on the bench to make a point. I was merely suggesting that perhaps Aquilani was not Rafa's choice as a summer signing.

    Ryan Giggs is Welsh?

  • Comment number 74.

    This is the first time I have felt you answered like a seasoned professional, Phil!

    Much better than your blogs. So, a little compliment there!

  • Comment number 75.

    Phil - I cant understand why you cant admit defeat in your strong disagreement of Mick's decision to play a reserve teams vs Man Utd. OK so he may have got an unlikely point against them with a full team but a point against Man Utd would have required a lot of effort at Old Trafford and then who knows, they may have lost or drawn the following game vs Burnely because of that? But they beat Burnley and gained 3 points as opposed to a possible 1 or max - 2 over the 2 games.

    Makes sense to me.

  • Comment number 76.

    ok sorry blueburn. u are a nice dude

    just having bad day at work here.. lost 10 million on the stocks this morning while i was eating my bagel.

    oh well made half of it back anyway while i was in a conference call with sheikh mansour and bill gates..

  • Comment number 77.

    Liverpool are widely despised by other fans because the club is the greatest this country has ever had and will every have. The fans are the most loyal and knowledgeable by far. Liverpool fans are not glory hunters, they are true FOOTBALL fans.

  • Comment number 78.

    I just don't get why the media are so unhappy for Hughes regardless of the fantasies they have about how football clubs would be run in Nirvana. Even if he was hard done by who could care for such a man? Sure he was an admirable player but that was then.

    Hughes was a boorish thug on the sidelines always has been. Threatening, jumping up and down like a fan in the crowd showing no control over himself never mind his team - often trying to intimidate with his physicality. His press conferences displayed a vanity and self importance that was pitiable when it was clear he had no idea who the club was buying as Berbatov and Robinho were inquired about.

    He never did a press conference I saw without merely whining about referees etc.

    Frankly he was a thug at the end of his career (as a Chelsea fan I watched him just kick people till booked - I think he racked up almost a booking a game for a period of months). He won 12 out of 42 as Welsh manager and overall was unsuccessful - again over hyped because it went well for 5 games and for some reasons media want to like him. He's never shown more than the ability to motivate players close to his own image.

    City saw that this year 4th place is open and why would they want to stick with someone who could not behave in public and had divided the team? Whose team never seemed to improve from game to game sticking with the same wide open approach to defending.

    Hughes was gone I assume. After all I am sure the vision of the owners does not include the kind of figurehead we saw on the sidelines against Arsenal.

  • Comment number 79.

    As a Leeds United supporter with no axe to grind on the Man City/Hughes situation I do find Phil McNulty's comments a touch short-sighted and missing massive chunks of reality. Manchester City now operate in the space occupied by Chelsea, where the lines of success are drawn much higher. It is more than reasonable to expect the top 4 this season having spent £200m in 18 months and whilst Mark Hughes wasn't far away he was outside it. The Villa comparison is meaningless, the business models are different, Larner is on record as saying he cashes in after 5-7 years. The only question is, was Mark Hughes ever going to be a top 4 PL standard manager? My view is never and I think the powers that be at Eastlands understood that and decided that if they were to spend £200m again over the next 18 months it should be with a manager with better player judgement. What Phil McNulty needs to realise is that being decent company in a hotel bar is not the same as being a decent CL/PL manager, which by the way Manchester City now have. Shoddy or not, the decision was spot on, perhaps they should have taken it in July but they were right to take it.

  • Comment number 80.

    @77 Rome was once a great civilisation as was Egypt and Ethiopia...

  • Comment number 81.

    I'm not quite sure what is meant by "if Owen is fit and scoring goals he should be in the squad". That's a given for any out-and-out striker.

    I presume that the idea is Owen miraculously recaptures his world-class form during the tournament and grabs vital goals. While that would be nice, it's important to be realistic about the contribution a player can make.

    One thing in Owen's favour is that he was the last man to create what I would call a genuine "striking partnership" with Wayne Rooney. Twice this partnership was prematurely terminated when the signs were very positive (thanks to the fragility and "clumbsiness" of Rooney's foot). But England have never found such a potent combination up front since, and it must contribute, at least in part, to Rooney's failure to recapture the England form which made him look unstoppable.

    While I'm sure Capello's plan of playing a big lad up front alongside him will serve a purpose, it will hide the talents of Rooney. Is Owen still the key?

  • Comment number 82.

    Quote - "Of course Cook has been heavily criticised, but what of football administrator Brian Marwood? What was his part in all of this? And where was he yesterday - not to mention chairman Khaldoon al-Mubarak? I must confess I didn't realise Marwood was a figure of any serious significance at the club."

    Get off your high horse, how often do Chairmen sit in when a manager is sacked at the press conference? As for Brian Marwood, he is a senior employee of the club so he will have input on senior level decisions. If you didn't know that he was a figure of serious significance then I suggest you research better or at least have asked the question.

    Hughes got sacked for one simple reason, he spent £200m+ and apart from a brief honeymoon period City were going backwards.

    I don't remember any press bleating about Abramovich not being present when Chelsea sacked Avram Grant and Scolari. How many journo's were forecasting doom and gloom and speculating on how long Hughes had left (or even digging up any tiny reference to Mourinho replacing Hughes last summer which was a constant topic of redtop trash) yet now when it's happened anyone would think City has burnt your wife and raped your house instead of being something >50% of you had been predicting for the last month or so based on City's results.

    Yes, maybe he could have got more time and it probably could have been handled better. At the end of the day it's another PL manager who wasn't meeting the demands of the board. At least he wasn't sacked after getting to a CL Final or for daring to drop below 2nd place in the PL.

    Get over yourselves, in football nowadays if you don't meet expectations you are sacked, or if a player then you are sold or left to rot in the reserves.

  • Comment number 83.

    Thank you Man City. Along with just about every other football supporter I've been indulging in wondering about 'who could replace SAF?' when the time comes, and Mark Hughes, with his wonderful contribution as a player, followed by mangererial over-achievement at Wales and Blackburn ROvers, was a definite contender. Not now; spared a potentially destructive sacking for being 6th after 17 games, the list is one name shorter.

    I never thought I'd be thinking Man City for anything but it is Christmas after all ...

  • Comment number 84.

    To England4thecup__LOL...because, irrespective of nationality, I believe Jose Mourinho would be the best choice to manage Manchester United. Track record of Premier League success, big personality.

    Not the same with Roberto Mancini. I think that Manchester City could have explored the British market and come up with candidates just as viable.

    And I think most people might agree the task of succeeding Sir Alex Ferguson will have a little bit more pressure than succeeding Mark Hughes and might require a more world-renowned figure, although Martin O'Neill would be a fine British candidate.

    On the debate about answering questions via Twitter and Facebook, these are one-off blogs each month, and the number of questions I get prove who worthwhile they are. I am sure even Mr Blue Burns - someone who takes a regular interest in my blogs I am delighted to say - would agree I come back to answer questions and make points all the time on my regular blogs.

  • Comment number 85.

    Thanks for the honest and interesting responses to my request about why Liverpool are so widely despised.
    I saw a few mentions of how many Spanish players play for Liverpool- "He filled the team with Spaniards". Reina and Torres? Thats two by my count. He has sold three others, and plays Riera sporadically. By the way they are all Spanish Internationals, the current European Champions and world ranked number two.
    I am not sure if Rafa is any "louder" than other managers. Certainly his rant about Ferguson was poorly conceived last year, but aside from Man United fans, who does'nt think he was correct about the special treatment Ferguson gets?
    Some one mentioned the Heysel Stadium deaths, and the subsequent banning from Europe. Fair enough, but an analysis of the actual events, and some perspective on the punishment, would show that it was ALL English clubs who were punished after many years of English hooliganism, not just Liverpool for one event. You are as well to despise Millwall and Chelsea, not to mention any follower of England abroad, for the ban, as Liverpool.
    I am not a fan of Rafa, but I suspect that only one fan was speaking for the many when he admitted that Liverpool, as Manchester United nearest rival and bitterest opponent, become unpopular simply because of this. As many young fans, who dont live close or near to manchester or Liverpool simply adopt the local rivalry, the ranks of Liverpool haters has swelled.
    As for Chelsea and Arsenal fans, they are merely jealous of Liverpools trophy record, at least United fans are honest enough to say they look forward to the day the overhaul us.

  • Comment number 86.

    I cannot understand why the powers to be at Manchester City have failed to learn from the example of their more successful neighbour,Manchester United.It took SAF five years to win any silverware at United but because Martin Edwards was prepared to be patient Fergie was given the chance to transform United into one of the most successful teams in the world.Someon should remind them of the old proverb,"Rome was not built in a day"!

  • Comment number 87.

    Sorry Mr McNulty but "could have explored the British market and come up with candidates just as viable" is about as pie-eyed a comment I have read on this. Who exactily in the British game at the moment can match Mancini's record? Er no one. Who exactily do you think has 3 serious league titles to show for? You need to name these genuises hiding under a bush. If by any chance you mean the like of Redknapp or Allardyce then I'm afraid this discussion stops being about Manchester City and starts being about the wierd and wonderful world of BBC sports journalism!

  • Comment number 88.

    I'm a Man U fan and the news that Mark Hughes got sacked was a mixed bag of emotions for me. On the one hand Hughes is a city boss and the fact that he lost his job is nothing short of funny but he is still a United Legened so I have some respect for him. I dont attualy think he should have been sacked and some city fans will back me up. Apart from 2 Losses (One to United get in!) and a lot of draws hes not done bad. For a club that has bought in so many new players you cant expect them to be title challangers. I still think that sacking Hughes was the wrong move and this joker Roberto Mancini claiming that next season City will win the title!!! All I can say is dream on!

  • Comment number 89.

    Benitez's petulant sarcasm is definitely a worrying sign for his state of mind. They call it the lowest form of wit and when a manager is feeling so under pressure and besieged by events that he's using it that's a big concern.

  • Comment number 90.

    84. At 6:03pm on 22 Dec 2009, philmcnultybbcsport wrote:

    "To England4thecup__LOL...because, irrespective of nationality, I believe Jose Mourinho would be the best choice to manage Manchester United. Track record of Premier League success, big personality."

    For 'big personality', substitute 'walking ego' ! Mourinho will always consider himself more important than the club that employs him. Can you really see him dedicating himself to the Man Utd cause as SAF has, or AW has done with Arsenal? He's showing such a lot of loyalty to Inter is he not !!

    He gets bored very quickly, acts as if he has the attention span of a goldfish.

  • Comment number 91.

    hasnt giggs got a UK passport therefore technically eligable to play for England...?

  • Comment number 92.

    All this talk about Liverpool greatness amuses me as much as the continual reference to England's '66 fluke World Cup win. As a neutral football fan, I cannot see anything special about Liverpool. They don't play a great brand of football (like Arsenal, Barcelona and even Rubin Kazan! do). They have not won the League title almost 20 years and show no sign that will change soon.

    Arsenal havent won much of late as well but they do play some scintillating stuff. And they do develop an amazing number of young talent, more than what can be said of Senor Benitez

    There is a limit to how long you can live on past glory. Ethiopia was once a great civilization too...

    For someone who has not won much given that he inherited an excellent squad (a squad mind which won the Champions League!)he ought to be challenging on every front now. Liverpool's failures are largely due to his appaling transfer policy and extremely poor player judgement not to mention mystifying team selections / substitutions.

    He ought to get his head down, do what he is paid so handsomely to do (namely win silverware!) and after this he can entertain us with his wit / poor sarcasm and endless 'FACTS'

    Mourinho may have a a big ego but he also has trophies to back it up. Countless trophies mind

  • Comment number 93.

    houghton90 post91 said - hasnt giggs got a UK passport therefore technically eligable to play for England...?

    are you technically eligible to make a sensible point?

  • Comment number 94.

    #84 So there we have it Manchester City should not get ideas above their station and instead of appointing an international manager with a trophy winning pedigree, should have "explored the British market".

    Name names Phil. Who in Britain that is immediatly available has Mancini's pedigree. Forget that, name a British boss outside of im down the road has anywhere near Mancini's pedigree. However that well know Brit Mourinho is perfectly acceptable to replace Ferguson at OT. Disgracefully one sided comment.

    How patronising is it to state that replacing Ferguson is any more pressurising than replacing Mark Hughes. At Man City they have the pressure of 34 barren years weighing them down. Or is it more important in your view that Fergusons successor continues where he left off. Remind how world renowned Ferguson was before he took on Utd.

    Your tone seems to display a certain degree of xenophobia, you clearly have a problem with clubs employing decent foreign coaches. Except of course when it comes to the worlds greatest football club(tm). Absolute disgrace that.

  • Comment number 95.

    Sorry Matt Halldiay...whoever replaces Ferguson, with his incredible record of success, will be under greater pressure than whoever takes over at Manchester City, or indeed just about anywhere else for that matter. It is a fact. How easy will it be to follow someone with Ferguson's record?

    Manchester City fans will be delighted to win a trophy of any sort simply to bring silverware back after a barren spell since 1976, whereas if Ferguson's successor comes in and fails to maintain challenges for the Premier League and the Champions League he will be instantly under pressure. This is a reality, although I realise you will probably disagree.

    Just because someone is readily available does not make them the best man for the job. I remain to be convinced Roberto Mancini is any more cut out to do well at City than Mark Hughes. This is not xenophobia, an accusation I take great issue with, it is a personal opinion.

  • Comment number 96.

    I was chatting with some AC Milan fans last night and they didn't feel that Mancini was the right choice for City in the long term. They feel that he may get a cup or two but will struggle with translating domestic success in to European success. I have to agree with that.

    Might be great to start with but if the European trophies don't arrive, how patient will Citys' owners be?

  • Comment number 97.

    I wonder, as today was the deadline for Huges to "explain" to the FA his comments about Clattenburg sending off Craig Bellamy, what bearing some of the ridiculous descisions made by Referees this season has had on his dismissal?

    And what about the FA Chief Executive? I notice Mr Ian "I'm an Arsenal Fan" Watmore wasn't as keen on condemning Nasri's malicious and vindictive stamping exploits on national radio as he was Adebayor. Not that I'm implying any bias, or anything.



  • Comment number 98.

    Unfortunately this really is a poorly researched and put together piece of journalism.

    Where to start? Well I suppose the most talked about issue about Hughes and his sacking. What dont you understand Phil? Hughes spent 200 odd million and wasnt performing to his employers satisfaction. The word "trajectory" really seems to have got you confused. City were not on course to reach their agreed points tally, but more importantly they werent looking like getting there in form terms and had been unsatisfactory on the pitch. The semi finals of a "major trophy" as you journalist seem to be presenting the League Cup now is a bit of a cod. If the League Cup is a major trophy then what in heck is a minor one? And is your example with Villa at the start of te season really the best you could come up with? Why let yorself get bogged down in a single statement from the club and avoid painting a clearer picture of the realities?

    Secondly, what is with this moral outrage? Your criticing the chairman for exploring alternatives during Hughes final weeks. This is common sense man. Do you honestly think the best course of action would be to just sack Hughes with no idea of alternative candidates, their willingness to join the club and leave the team floundering with a caretaker? Hardly the action of a responsible chairman. Football is business. Unfortunately for Hughes its cruel but this kind of moralistic shocked position in relation to what is a business decision is just out of touch with the reality of running a business or a football team and to be frank a sports journalist should understand this and drop the naiveity. You may think Hughes was sacked prematurely and you may feel sympathy for him but to let this cloud over the realities of the footballing world is just weak.

    While we or on morals, is there no mention of Hughes treatment of Dunne and media driven unsettling of Lescott in all this? Aside from the fact it was a horrible peice of business it doesnt present Hughes as an angel.

    Now onto Wolves - again the moral outrage from journalists that seem to fail to understand reasoned logic and the reality of Premier League football. For starters McCarthy did not throw the game. He lessened already slim chances of getting points in a singular game with the intention of geting 3 points at a more winnable game. To compare a newly promoted Wolves side away at Old Trafford to a European football Fulham at Craven Cottage is bizzare. What chance would you have given any Wolves team to get a point at OT and subsequently acheive 3 a week later?
    People are entitled to disagree with his decision but lets seperate the moral outcry from the logic based decision. It was unfortunate for the travelling fans but Im sure the vast majority will forgive if Wolves stay up.



  • Comment number 99.

    I'm no fan of Rafa, but I chuckled when I read Dipsy's reason for disliking him:

    'But mostly because he thinks he is in the same class as Wenger and Ferguson yet cannot boast of their achievements.'

    On a pure "Show us your trophies analysis", it's pretty clear that Benitez is at least Wenger's equal, if not superior: 2 League Titles (both La Liga), 1 FA Cup, the Champions League win and a UEFA Cup for the Spaniard; 4 League Titles (one in France), 4 FA Cups and absolutely no success in Europe for Wenger.

    Wenger's real achievement at Arsenal is the complete domination of his attacking and entertaining footballing philosophy over an entire football club. You can argue about his relative lack of funds (or his unwillingness to spend them) until the apocalypse arrives but lets put his reign at Arsenal in perspective: for seven years he maintained Arsenal as the main challengers to United, played beautiful football, and combined aesthetic quality with steel to bring home three trophies on United's off-years. Post-Abramovich he seems more concerned to be a man of principle and won't even attempt to compete with the other top clubs' distasteful chequebook waving. In terms of challenging on the continent Arsenal under Wenger have always been a much appreciated visitor to the party, but they are usually tucked up in bed before the presents are handed out.

  • Comment number 100.

    How patronising is it to state that replacing Ferguson is any more pressurising than replacing Mark Hughes. At Man City they have the pressure of 34 barren years weighing them down. Or is it more important in your view that Fergusons successor continues where he left off. Remind how world renowned Ferguson was before he took on Utd.
    -------------------------------------------------

    When Sir Matt Busby retired, it took Manchester United 15 years to find another manager that could meet the required standards of the club. When Bill Nicholson retired at Spurs, they had similar problems. If you want a more recent example, just take a look at Chelsea where every manager is going to be compared to Mourinho until they start winning the league again.

    The bottom line is that replacing a manager who has attained that level of success will always be more difficult that replacing someone mired in mid-table, billions or not.

    As for the "pressure of 34 barren years", it does seem a shame that they keep being outperformed by other clubs that, oh, keep faith with their managers for more than a season? If you use the Manchester City logic process, then Wenger should be out on his arsenal since their results have been declining ever since the invincible season. However, as that club is run with some shred of common sense, this isnt even an issue.

 

Page 1 of 2

BBC iD

Sign in

BBC navigation

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.