Football Football

Who’s afraid of Manchester United?

Manchester United's poor week was compounded by former player Josh King and the AFC Bournemouth forward (right) was elated with his contribution. PHOTO/EFE
Manchester United’s poor week was compounded by former player Josh King and the AFC Bournemouth forward (right) was elated with his contribution. PHOTO/EFE

MANCHESTER, December 15-Manchester United’s struggles and Everton’s damaging generosity were big talking points of the Premier League this weekend, and are Liverpool and Spurs burning out from Europa commitments?

Devils lost their fear-factor

This is perhaps not old news. In fact, you could easily say it has been the case from the moment that Sir Ales Ferguson announced his retirement, but clash with Manchester United have never felt more enticing.

You don’t want to take anything away from Bournemouth, as it would be wrong to do so after the week they have had.

However, United were absolutely abject at the Vitality Stadium. There was no pace to their game, no rhythm, no composure, no authority – just nothing of any kind of merit at all.

What is more, it has been like this for a while under Louis van Gaal and it really doesn’t show any signs of changing.

Europa beginning to bite?

This is an old argument, so old that it may just be a cliché at this point, but was Sunday proof that the Europa League schedules of Liverpool and Tottenham is starting to become a little too much for them?

Both sides struggled despite playing against teams you’d expect them to beat and both playing at home. Liverpool needed a last-gasp equaliser to salvage a point against West Brom, while Spurs visibly tired in defeat to Newcastle.

True, clubs can rest players in Europe, just as both Spurs and Liverpool did this week, but the schedule itself still drastically impacts on the amount of time and energy clubs have to properly prepare on the training ground for games.

It’s perhaps difficult to have much sympathy for these clubs given they should have the resources to cope, but it’s still something that is becoming increasingly difficult to dismiss.

Toffees too nice

There is a common school of thought that Everton are one of the Premier League’s greatest overachievers given their consistently good finishes despite not spending the same kind of money that their rivals do.

Here is another theory, though: Everton have become the Premier League’s greatest under-achievers.

Forget how they assembled their squad. If it was for less money than others, then fair play to them. But the fact is they have some hugely talented players and they just never seem to take that next step.

Their draw at Norwich this week was surely demonstrative of just why that is – they are just too nice.

Roberto Martinez’s men had the Canaries hopelessly on the ropes at half time and with a bit more ruthlessness they’d have surely turned the screw and squeezed as much misery as possible out of their relegation-haunted hosts.

But they didn’t, and that’s becoming just too common occurrence.