Jose Mourinho’s tenure at Manchester United has not gone by without drama. The Portuguese manager, who is set to coach the Red Devils again next season, recently called for his squad to be even more unified than they already are. With Juventus’ recent troubles off and on the pitch this year under Max Allegri’s command, their place in Europe will be tested should they fail to beat Napoli in Saturday’s final match of Serie A play-offs. Meanwhile Real Madrid have taken control of LaLiga after spending over 100 million euros during the midseason transfer window while Barcelona gave up three consecutive victories before winning against Espanyol 3-1 last Sunday evening; however, there were also some positive signs from El Clasico with Lionel Messi scoring a hat trick while Cristiano Ronaldo was held scoreless for only the second time all season long.,
The “Juventus vs Bologna” is a match that has been marred by controversy this season. Juventus are in trouble on and off the pitch, while Real Madrid have taken control in LaLiga.
The European soccer weekend was its usual wild and wonderful self: Manchester United has a new manager (and drew at Chelsea), Real Madrid shrugged off their most credible challenger in the LaLiga title race to date, and Juventus suffered on-pitch woes against Atalanta to go along with the police investigation off it. We also learnt more about Bayern Munich’s depth, Napoli’s Serie A excellence, Liverpool’s most recent English record, and Arsenal’s improvement under Mikel Arteta.
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Gab Marcotti responds to the greatest happenings in the world of football on Monday.
Rangnick at Man United | Juventus woes | Real Madrid soars | Lucky Barcelona | Man City’s snow game | Dortmund’s character | Liverpool’s record | Napoli channel Maradona | Bayern’s late victory | Inter Milan’s depth | Arsenal’s questions
Man United and Chelsea divide the rewards as the Rangnick era starts.
Technically, it isn’t a “period” since Ralf Rangnick (who was formally confirmed on Monday) will remain Manchester United’s manager until the conclusion of the season, after which he will become a consultant. But when you hire someone like Rangnick, you’re obviously thinking long term, and the expectation is that his consulting job will be relevant, assisting the club in its quest to return to the top leagues.
There was a lot of talk (which was definitely refuted) that Rangnick affected Michael Carrick’s set-up at Stamford Bridge. The diamond midfield shape with two fast, mobile front players (Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford) was out of the Rangnick playbook, and omitting Cristiano Ronaldo seemed to be the kind of bold decision a new coach, confident in himself and his ideas, would make to assert influence.
– Ogden: How will Rangnick deal with Cristiano Ronaldo at Manchester United? – E+ O’Hanlon: United’s problems will not be solved by a new manager. – Dawson: Why did Solskjaer’s United reign come to an end?
I’m not buying it; I believe you’re overcomplicating things. United were without three-quarters of their starting defense, and with three defensive midfielders, they were always going to sit and play on the counter. So either play Ronaldo and allow him to fight for himself against three centre-backs, or put a couple of quick men up front and hope for the best. Carrick picked the second choice, knowing that he could bring Ronaldo off the bench (which he did) and that he had played every minute of his past six club and international games but one.
Even while it’s a big deal when Ronaldo doesn’t start, I don’t think there’s a direct correlation between this and Rangnick’s appointment. Yes, Rangnick normally preaches quick, mobile forwards as part of his pressing style, but it’s also true that combining possession with pressing isn’t nearly as hard on the body. There’s no reason to believe Ronaldo couldn’t do it if you have a smart coach who can strategically prepare teams and press well.
More importantly, you’d think that one of the first questions Rangnick was asked was, “We’ve committed some $100 million over two seasons to Ronaldo, who also happens to be our best player… if we hire you, you’ll have a plan that incorporates him, right?” At the risk of giving Manchester United’s leadership too much credit here, you imagine that one of the first questions they asked Rangnick was, “We’ve committed some $100 million over two seasons to Ronaldo, who also happens to be our And, as you would expect, Rangnick said: “Without a doubt. And that’s exactly what it is…”
The core notion of Rangnick for six months and then allowing him to vote on the next manager if things go well makes sense if United follow through and execute things correctly. However, there are some reservations.
On and off the field, there are storm clouds looming over Juventus.
With a little luck, Barca gets Xavi’s first away victory (and a bit of non-VAR)
Xavi called his team’s 3-1 win against Villarreal to “holy water,” and you can understand why. It wasn’t only his first away win as Barcelona manager; it was also the Catalan club’s first away win in LaLiga, and three points that kept them within a game of the top four. However, VAR did not even interfere in at least two very good penalty requests for Villarreal: Gerard Pique’s handball and Eric Garcia wrestling Raul Albiol to the ground.
Gabriele Marcotti, a senior writer for ESPN FC, has compiled all of the latest news and reactions.
If it had been the other way around, I’m sure we wouldn’t have heard the last of it from the Catalan press. While Barcelona won 3-1, it’s worth mentioning that the game was in doubt until two minutes from time, when Pervis Estupinan’s poor pass enabled Memphis Depay to make it 2-1, before Philippe Coutinho scored a third goal in extra time from the penalty spot.
In terms of performance, Xavi remained with the youngsters — Abdi and Gavi out wide, Nico in midfield — and, of course, he has the usual excuse of the injured (Sergino Dest, Ansu Fati, Pedri), but it did seem like this is a team that runs out of gas in the second half once again. On defense, we don’t need to see Garcia at right-back again: whether it was due to a failed man-marking job on Moi Gomez or just poor game reading, whatever Xavi was attempting to do didn’t quite work.
Take the three points and keep moving forward, knowing that there is still a mountain to conquer, both on and off the pitch.
Man City have shown that they can play in a snowstorm as well…
Dortmund exhibit their normal shortcomings, but a unique character in their triumph against Wolfsburg, as Haaland makes his comeback.
Liverpool’s consistent performance results in a 4-0 victory and a new club record.
In Napoli’s annihilation of Lazio, Maradona wasn’t simply on the team’s jersey.
You couldn’t have done a better job with the setup. Napoli put in one of their greatest performances of the season on the night they decided to pay homage to their favorite adopted son — there was a goosebumps-inducing prematch ritual and special jerseys with his face on them — sprinting out to a 3-0 early lead against Lazio and never looking back. And they achieved it without Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa and, of course, Victor Osimhen, two of their main players.
Dan Thomas is joined by Craig Burley, Shaka Hislop, and others to discuss the most recent news and debate the most important topics. ESPN+ has a live stream available (U.S. only).
It was difficult not to feel moved. It was almost miraculous to see Dries Mertens, Napoli’s other legendary “DM” who scored in the 10th minute, pitch in for Osimhen and score two goals (although in a totally different manner than the Nigerian).
Milan’s loss enables Napoli to expand their advantage at the top, and if they are to keep it, Mertens will be important in Osimhen’s absence, which might be two months due to the injury and the Africa Cup of Nations. Mertens, at 34, is unlikely to be able to do that all season, but Napoli just need him to do so until Osimhen returns.
Bayern Munich may be late to the game, but they still have the upper hand.
Inter discarded their frailty, asserted their ownership claim, and discovered depth.
Don’t look now, but those who lament Inter’s frailty (including yourself) may want to reconsider. They haven’t lost in nine games and have only lost twice in all competitions this season. They’re generating a lot of scoring opportunities and, at least against Venezia in Saturday’s 2-0 away victory, they’ve shown that they can also close up shop.
Manager Simone Inzaghi’s strategy is coming together, and in some ways, the lack of a clear standout (apart from Nicolo Barella) makes them even more dangerous. Each game seems to feature a new player, whether it’s Ivan Perisic, Edin Dzeko, Marcelo Brozovic, or, as occurred this weekend, Hakan Calhanoglou. When that occurs, it doesn’t matter as much if others have bad days (like Lautaro Martinez or Joaquin Correa, both of whom were quiet in Venice).
It seems extremely different from last year’s version, but what this Inter side lacks in stability and quality, it more than makes up for by being more well-rounded and unpredictable.
Arsenal resumes their winning streak against Newcastle and climbs to fourth place… but there are still some unanswered problems.
PSG come back from a goal down, Messi has a hat-trick of assists, and Neymar is injured.
Milan loses to Sassuolo, but it’s not as serious as it looks.
Okay, so Milan has now lost two consecutive games in Serie A, sandwiched around a Champions League victory against Atletico Madrid. Obviously, this isn’t a good thing. However, take a look at Milan’s 3-1 loss to Sassuolo and you’ll see that the sky isn’t falling just yet.
Milan grabbed the lead but were defeated by a Gianluca Scamacca miracle goal, a lucky own goal when Mike Maignan’s parry struck Simon Kjaer, and an individual score by Domenico Berardi. The final one was made possible by some poor defense from Alessio Romagnoli, who would be sent off not long after.
It’s clearly not ideal, but reading too much into people, good or bad, is always a risk. Even though they didn’t play very well, Milan generated opportunities, which is what they’re meant to do in a team game. They paid a big price for the absence of Fikayo Tomori (and, let’s face it, Romagnoli’s presence), and Sassuolo were quite outstanding. However, there’s no reason to believe this is the start of a downward trend.
Griezmann and Lemar lead Atletico to a resounding victory.
When you see Atletico Madrid rip through Cadiz, you have to ask why they can’t play like this all of the time. Sure, the basic explanation is that Cadiz isn’t very good, and it’s a lot easier to defeat them 4-1 than most opponents, but it’s more complicated than that. With Thomas Lemar connecting up brilliantly with Antoine Griezmann in the creative role, and Marcos Llorente and Yannick Carrasco creating havoc down the sides, Atletico played with daring and personality and pushed the game to the opponents.
It’s a philosophy, and Diego Simeone has said that he would want to approach more games in this manner rather than the previous “Cholista” method, which brought them success but now seems dated (witness the home defeat to Milan in the Champions League). They surely have the personnel to do so.
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Rangnick’s task at Man United, Juventus trouble on and off the pitch, Real Madrid take control in LaLiga. Reference: will ronaldo stay at juventus.
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