A ROUND-UP OF FOOTBALL HAPPENINGS THIS WEEK
Quite a lot has happened in the world of the round leather game this week, here are my five major talking points of the week.
Jose did play the big man
After weeks of torrid media frenzy both in the print and social media calling for Wayne Rooney to be benched at Manchester United due to his below par performances, United finally lined up at lunchtime on Saturday against Leicester City without their captain. The team did go ahead to put in an impressive performance especially a blow out first half showing that saw Paul Pogba score his first goal on his return to Old Trafford. Rooney did get some few minutes but critics claim the decision paid off as we saw Mata do better in that role. Is this the end of the road for Wazza? Or like he has done several times in the past, will he bounce back better and reclaim his place in the starting team. Rooney has given 12 of his best years to United and will be forever remembered but for the skipper who has been billed to make a return in the Europa League come Thursday night, this may just be the beginning of the end of his career that has spanned many illustrious individual and team awards.
From being benched to another Champions League goal
Despite another lack-lustre draw at the weekend, where they conceded yet another late goal away at Las Palmas, what made most headlines was Cristiano Ronaldo’s reaction after being substituted in the 72nd minute. This was the major talking point in a week that saw them visiting the Signal Iduna Park to face an inform Borussia Dortmund. Many wondered how Zidane would manage his first high profile ‘bust’ with a star player but 17 minutes in and Ronaldo bagged his 16th goal in 18 games against German opposition and his 95th Champions league goal. That is 45 goals since the start of the 2013/14 season. However in what is now looking like a mini- crisis, with three straight draws and late minute goals conceded, Zidane seems to be lost in finding a solution after a long exciting run, with injury losses to Marcelo and Casemiro especially, the team seems to lack a bit of the elite football it showcased in its run to Champions League success last season and with Ramos equaling a yellow card in every game, the defense is in sixes and the tide needs to be stemmed when they host Eibar come weekend.
Champions League Week
As a United fan, Tuesday and Wednesday nights are nightmares as the emotional theme songs gets belted come 7.45Pm and the best of European football is on showcase without your favorite team on parade. Tuesday night saw one of the best games you will see this week as Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid served an entertaining 2-2 draw, Dybala also featured with one of the finest goals in this round as Juventus routed Dinamo Zagreb whilst Leicester continue their perfect start to life with the big boys as the Dragon slayer Islam Slimani lived up to his name to see Ranieri’s men steal maximum points away at Porto, Heung- Min Son can’t stop scoring for Spurs and Europa League Specialists Sevilla finally got a win over Lyon.
Wednesday night sees the juicy fixture of Atletico Madrid hosting Bayern Munich, Basel are away at Arsenal, the Swiss side that have had a decent run of results against English teams will be wary of the Arsenal side that turns up following their demolition of Chelsea in the league. Pep Guardiola and his City lads are away to Celtic whilst Napoli hosts Benfica in some of the night’s top matches.
Fans call for Odion Ighalo’s head
Following a decent 2015/16 campaign where he spearheaded Watford’s campaign alongside Troy Deeney scoring a total of 17 goals in all competition to help Watford remain in the league, this season has witnessed a totally different player. Just one league goal thus far, several open misses and outright poor performances especially in the game against Burnley where they lost by two goals, Ighalo lost the ball easily, misplaced his passes on several occasions when the team tried to make a counter and looking like a shadow of the player he was last season, this has led to calls for him to be dropped and like we witnessed with the Wayne Rooney issue, there is a limit to which coaches can back players who they like or have produced results in the past. Odion Ighalo who has also been less than impressive in National team colors now stands a risk of losing his place at both ends.
The small matter of Sam Allardyce
It was his dream job, he had prayed for it, worked for it, waited for it to happen, then it finally did and barely weeks after he got the job, Big Sam was caught on video offering advice on how to circumvent the governing body’s rules on player transfers and openly criticizing some of his colleagues. The evidences were damming, the Federation had a decision to make, hence it was no surprise on Tuesday evening, Sam Allardyce left his position as England Manager after one game and 67 days in charge. From a personal angle, it was painful to see but he has no excuses nor has offered any, his naivety and greed was a tool used by the Telegraph and he has only himself to blame.
**Pictures courtesy: www.telegraph.co.uk; harrisonamy.com