PLAY IT SHORT: Man Utd leaders gone soft; Liverpool? Wow!; Hazard benefits listening to Mourinho; Pulis Manager of Year
MAN UTD LEADERSHIP GROUP GONE SOFT
Those lashing out at David Moyes' handling of this Manchester United squad are correct in one respect. The players he inherited from Sir Alex Ferguson were champions and remain quality players. But what is hopelessly missing is desire. Nemanja Vidic's wish to perform a cute header in injury-time against Fulham was proof of that. A 28 year-old Vidic would've thrown his head at the ball, making sure the next man to touch it would've been Maarten Stekelenburg, the Fulham goalkeeper. On Sunday, he wanted to be cute. The ruthlessness is gone. But he's not alone. Patrice Evra has indulged in the same throughout the season, while Rio Ferdinand, well, we hear from him more on Twitter than on the pitch. That winning desire, so famous at United, has evaporated. The leadership group have gone soft. You can understand Moyes wanting to move them on.
MOYES WON'T MISS VIDIC
Symbolism aside, David Moyes won't be concerned with Nemanja Vidic's decision to leave Manchester United. Yes, losing your captain, at 32, does seem a blow. But Moyes couldn't count on Vidic's fitness and the push from his representatives for a two-year contract - at the very least - was always a non-starter. In the past two seasons, Vidic managed just 25 Premier League games and this term has again been plagued by injury and suspension. It's telling that it's been three years since the Serb has managed a full season at United.
EX-PLAYERS INVESTING IN LOCAL GAME
Hopefully this is growing trend. The news that former Manchester United teammates Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs are in talks to buy into Salford City is a great development. The pair have plans of building a top class academy at the Northern Premier League club and to keep more emerging talent in the area. This follows on from former Newcastle United midfielder Olivier Bernard's takeover of Durham City in December. Like Giggs and Neville, Frenchman Bernard has big plans for Durham, including the club becoming a finishing school for Newcastle's best academy players. Here's hoping we have more stories of Premier League retirees similarly investing back into the local game this year.
BEST LIVERPOOL PERFORMANCE IN 20 YEARS
Anfield? Wow! The best 45 minutes we've seen at Liverpool for over 20 years. From the gang tackling, to BR's kids driving the game, it'd be wrong to pick out just one positive from this five-star performance. For Roy Hodgson, it will have been exciting seeing Liverpool's youngsters take the game by the scruff of the neck. Raheem Sterling, Danny Sturridge, Jordan Henderson and even Jon Flanagan all contributed to Liverpool sweeping the league leaders aside. Henderson's harassing of Mesut Ozil for Sterling's goal was no isolated flashpoint. The Reds midfielder, playing ahead of Steven Gerrard, showed what Arsenal was missing on the day. It was his energy and determination to get around the Anfield pitch which left Arsenal's players panicking in possession time and again. Where Reds players always had options, Arsenal, when on the ball, were crowded out as Liverpool hunted them down in packs. Even Philippe Coutinho was getting his foot in! Liverpool were all power and pace - a real throwback to the great days of the 1980's. And the fact it was achieved with their youngsters taking frontline roles is all the more exciting for the Kop faithful.
JANUZAJ ENGLAND CRITICS NEED TO GET REAL
Those questioning England's pursuit of Manchester United winger Adnan Januzaj need to get over themselves. It broke over the weekend that Januzaj has turned down World Cup selection with Belgium and is ready to commit to England after Brazil 2014. The critics will whinge and wail, but on the same day as Januzaj's decision was made public, Atletico Madrid's Brazilian Joao Miranda revealed he'd been approached by Spain. This comes hot on the heels of his Atleti teammate, Diego Costa, already declaring for the La Roja ahead of his native Brazil. This is Spain, the world champs. If it's good enough for them to take advantage of the qualification rules then why not for third-rate England?
HAZARD BENEFITS LISTENING TO MOURINHO
Jose Mourinho is happy to deflect any credit to the player. But Eden Hazard's stunning form for Chelsea is down to the Special One. After his hat-trick against Newcastle United, Hazard, quite rightly, is being mentioned in the same breath as Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo. But where Ronaldo's attitude towards his career was spot on from day one at Manchester United - as Roy Keane recently attested, the same couldn't be said of Hazard. It was only months ago the Belgian infamously went AWOL to visit his former teammates at Lille. Mourinho dropped him for the next game and then stories emerged of coaching staff being disappointed with his work in training. But those concerns are now a distant memory. Mourinho recently made mention of Hazard's improving approach to training. It's a credit to the player that he listened to his manager and his staff. But it took Mourinho man-management to convince Hazard his way was best. And to think, there's still those in the press, from London to Madrid, who claim Mourinho doesn't improve the players he works with. Ridiculous.
PULIS MANAGER OF YEAR
Tony Pulis now has Crystal Palace level on points with Stoke City and just one win away from the top ten. It's a stunning turnaround and if this momentum continues, you hope the LMA recognise Pulis' achievements. The training ground work has been well documented, but it also took a lot for Pulis to make Palace attractive enough to tempt the likes of Joe Ledley and Thomas Ince to Selhurst Park ahead of rival interest. And why not when you can play for fans like the Palace support - a great addition to the Premier League experience this season.
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