Roonaldo

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Booking under: Keith

This past week, Manchester City secured the 2017/18 Premier League title. As wretched as the experience was (to a long-time United fan), there’s no denying that City played flowing, beautiful football that was streets ahead of their Premier League rivals.

The only solace, if any, is in knowing that this City team was not the first Premier League team to play aesthetically pleasing football and achieve success. While the Arsenal sides of the early 2000s (like The Invincibles) were highly successful and pleasing to the eye, perhaps the most lethal and flowing football side to grace the English game before the Cityzens were the United teams from 2006-2009.

Let’s take a stroll down memory lane and revisit why Sir Alex Ferguson‘s last great team was so monumental.

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England’s Golden Generation

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Booking under: Nicole

Over the past two weeks, we started an all-rounded discussion on two football tacticians, Jose Mourinho and Rafael Benítez. Apart from their “defend first, attack second” mindset, another thing they have in common is having a star midfielder under their managerial reign at Chelsea and Liverpool respectively. Claude Makélélé and Xabi Alonso are pivotal to the clubs’ in the late 2000s and ….

Wait… before you pause reading, I know most of us have these two names in mind: Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard. While Lamps and Stevie G. have excelled at club level and won a load of individual honors, the midfield duo failed to produce chemistry and bring England to the next level. The golden generation also featured Paul Scholes, Michael Carrick, David Beckham, and Owen Hargreaves.

What has gone wrong?

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The Boring One

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Booking under: Keith

Last week, we looked at Jose Mourinho, a master tactician renowned for playing defensive football. Mourinho is no stranger to controversy, and has developed numerous managerial rivalries over his career.

Mourinho vs. WengerMourinho vs. Guardiola. While these rivalries certainly produced many fireworks, one particular Mourinho rivalry tends to get left behind in the rear-view mirror. What’s more surprising that this rival is, in many ways, a mirror image to Mourinho.

Today, we look at The Special One‘s other great rival, Rafa Benitez. He’s got the same mindset sans the feuds with everyone, could he be called The Boring One?

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The Always Special One

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Booking under: Nicole

2004 was a special year, a year when I developed an interest (rare for most girls I know) in football and when the very special Jose Mourinho took charge of Chelsea after winning the UEFA Champions League Final for Porto.

2004 was also a special year at international level, as Greece shocked the whole world by lifting the Euro Cup after beating Portugal, with a headed goal. They did not concede a single goal in the knockouts.

The key commonality that the winning teams had was focusing on playing defensive football, a strategy that gradually grew popularity and was deliberately adopted by Mourinho. What was the Special One‘s winning formula to help Chelsea lift their first league title in 50 years?

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Oh my Claude!

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Booking under: Keith

Chelsea and Leicester City. The two most recent Premier League champions.

Their title-winning campaigns shared many similarities. Both were led by underrated Italian tacticians (Antonio Conte for Chelsea and Claudio Ranieri for Leicester). Both did not compete in Europe and had a fresh squad available for the back end of the league campaign. Both fielded a dangerous number 9-winger duo (Diego Costa and Eden Hazard for Chelsea, Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez for Leicester).

However, perhaps the most glaring (and important) similarity is the role of one man: the midfield machine that is N’Golo Kanté. Kanté has been brilliant in the last two seasons, controlling the midfield and overturning possession for his team. Yet, he is only the latest (but also a brilliant) practitioner of the so-called “Makélélé role”.

It’s quite an honour to have an entire tactical role named after you, but that’s what Claude Makélélé achieved by the end of his influential career. The Frenchman played in France, Spain, and England, winning the domestic title in each country and evening conquering the Champions League with Real Madrid. What was the secret to his success?

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Invincibles & Convincibles

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Booking under: Nicole

Being widely recognized as the most influential home-grown defenders in the Prem history so far, these three Englishmen have enjoyed great success in individual club career both domestically and in the European continent. However, much to the England fans’ disappointment, they struggled to bring the national team to the next level at major tournaments over the past years.

While 2018 FIFA World Cup is just around the corner, what qualities and attributes can our young England defenders such as Kyle Walker, John Stones, Harry Maguire learn from the senior?

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van Nistelrooy vs. Henry: the Rivalry

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Booking under: Keith

Back in the early 2000s, Manchester United vs. Arsenal was the biggest club rivalry in the Premier League.

Perhaps fittingly, the rivalry between the clubs’ top strikers was also the league’s most high-profile player rivalry.

Ruud van Nistelrooy: the quintessential goalscorer. Thierry Henry: the ultimate goal creator. It’s a question that still lingers to this day: Who was the better player?

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The European Players League

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Booking under: Keith

The Champions League is back! While our teams (Manchester United and Chelsea) both battled to draws, Real Madrid secured a big 3:1 victory over Paris Saint-Germain while Bayern Munich, Liverpool, and Manchester City all blew out their opponents. What an exciting knockout round!

The Premier League is doing well this year, with an unprecedented five EPL teams making it to the round of 16 for the first time ever. And while English stars like Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling are fun to watch, almost all of the best players in the league are foreign – Eden Hazard, Mohammed Salah, David de Gea. How did the Prem become so flooded with non-English players?

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The Red Devils From Newton Heath

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Booking under: Nicole

Happy Chinese New Year! May the Year of the Dog be filled with joy, prosperity, and faith!

Red, the official color of CNY, is considered to bring good luck and fortune to everyone and ward off evil spirits. Red is also the home color of Manchester United. With Manchester City’s lead at the top of the Premier League table stretched to 16 points, it is certainly a lot of work for Jose Mourinho’s side to close the gap (is it possible?) and recover from the defeat at Newcastle before clashing with Sevilla in the Champions League next week.

20 years ago, United won a treble of trophies in the 1998/99 campaign, marking their success in domestic and European history. Credit went to the players and of course, Sir Alex Ferguson and his tactical acumen too.

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