Another night of Champions League action asked more questions of Manchester United, and showed that City are now a force to be reckoned with in Europe.
United’s draw at Real Sociedad was disappointing for a number of reasons. The performance wasn’t great, and another diving controversy is the last thing they need.
Ashley Young has to take a good look at himself. Players who do what Young does are disrespecting their fellow pros. If he was walking down the street and someone brushed him with his arm would he fall over? No.
He’s not going to get respect if he does that – David Moyes keeps giving him chances in these big games, but by causing these controversies he is harming the club. It’s not like he’s as good a player as, say, Luis Suarez – there is no trade-off.
That this is the talking point tells you how poor United were. A look across Manchester and you can see a side far better set up for the Champions League – well, for its group stage at any rate.
Manchester City’s strength is at home and their weakness is away. That they are able to dominate teams at Eastlands means they have qualified with ease, in contrast to previous seasons.
But in the knockout rounds there is a greater onus to get results away from home – you can win all your home games and get through a group, but you need good results away in the knockouts. This is an opportunity for City to show how good their squad is, but they have to start their best XI in the away games.
Edin Dzeko is a fine player but lacks the consistency for the upper end of European football: their best front two is Sergio Aguero and Alvaro Negredo and they should stick with that in the big matches and away from home. Dzeko has proved he can have an excellent impact from the bench. They have scored 12 goals in two games and must build from that.
It was nice to see City follow that incident in Moscow with a big win. Russia has always been in denial about racism – even back in the early 90s it was the same when we went to play there. If I was still a player I would not want to play there – why would you associate yourself with hypocrites, particularly when they have a go at your race?
Money talks so CSKA’s black players will say nothing until they leave – and to be honest, if you’re prepared to accept that for money, you probably deserve what you get. If I was at a club and heard my fans do that to an opponent I wouldn’t stand for it – and I wouldn’t last very long.
When I played against Leeds I used to be insulted with ‘There ain’t no black in the Union Jack’ (which doesn’t make sense, as there is blue in the Union Jack, and last time I looked there were no Smurfs in England).
I asked Terry Connor, who played for them at the time, how he could tolerate that being sung about his fellow black men. His response? “I live here, I’m from here”. I just didn’t get that.
Terry Connor played for Leeds until 1983
The big game tonight is Borussia Dortmund against Arsenal. It should be another cracker.
Arsenal have been doing this for a while but they were missing a few things. They still are – a world-class keeper and a world-class centre half. What they have done is simplify their transfer dealings in bringing back a player they had missed- Mathieu Flamini – and making the signing of the summer in Mesut Ozil.
Flamini has really helped them – he is freeing up Ramsey to attack, which is his main strength, and Ozil is able to work the channels and find space. Ozil lost confidence at Madrid, lost belief in himself, but he lost none of his ability. He is still young too – and with Ramsey, Arsenal have the in-form, in-confidence creative partnership out there.
Flamini has also helped Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny calm themselves into a proper defensive partnership. Previously they were under too much pressure, constantly getting drawn out of position due to a lack of protection, constantly facing a bombardment because the midfield was so porous. But now, with Flamini – and a reinvented Mikel Arteta sitting deeper - they are protected and can focus on keeping position and playing the ball out.
It’s putting pressure on Jack Wilshere, who had become complacent and now has to work double hard to get back in the team; Tomas Rosicky is undergoing a new lease of life too. Players – especially creative players – love being part of successful teams. No-one wants to miss a game, the atmosphere, the taste of victory, the chase for a title. No-one wants to sit on the bench and everyone has raised their game.
It’s amazing that a couple of signings could have such an impact, but we saw that when Manchester United signed Eric Cantona – it can provoke a shift in attitude that changes the whole team’s mentality. The feelgood factor.
But Dortmund are arguably one of the top two or three teams in the world at the moment. A draw is a great result as it keeps Arsenal in there, and while a defeat would be a blow – the group is so tight Arsenal would probably need to win at Napoli to qualify – it would be no disgrace.