The Premier League Returns!

IT’S BACK! 

They call it the best league in the world and, of course, it is hard to disagree. A plethora of talent is disbursed across the whole league, on any given day a team challenging for the title can be beaten by a side struggling in the bottom three and it all kicks off at 19:45 as Arsenal host Leicester City at the Emirates.

Of course, this season is not just another season, it marks 25 years since the very first Premier League season and Manchester United fans across the world will be hoping that the Red Devils can mark this season with the same title-winning performances as they did all those years ago.

It will be a tough ask for them now they are back in the Champions League but like the last few summer transfer windows, they’ve not been afraid to splash the cash. They currently stand at having spent an eye-watering £179.5m on three players.  It’s hard to see them finishing outside of the Top 4 this season, but you never know.

By far and away the biggest spenders of the window have been Manchester City and this will heap the pressure on Pep, as the board and fans alike will expect instant and long-lasting results. There can be no fade away, no bad patches, no dips in form. This will create a new pressure for the squad he is building and it will take the likes of Otamendi and Kompany in the dressing room to make sure this does not affect the team performances. It will be a tough ask but they have a very capable squad.

Turning to the reigning and defending champions, Chelsea. They have had a very mixed summer, losing Matic, trying to offload Costa and missing out on Lukaku before settling on Morata. The general thought of the football world is that they cannot defend their title and there are also reports that Antonio Conte is not a happy man and may even consider resigning. This would be a massive shock and not something I expect to happen. They should still finish Top 4, comfortably, but they cannot afford to rest on their laurels.

Of course, they aren’t the only teams involved in the Premier League and the standout transfer window so far has been for Everton. They have bought quickly and filled in key areas of the squad. Davy Klaassen is a fantastic addition and also bringing Wayne Rooney back is a real confidence booster for the club.  There have been no other real fantastic windows for clubs, although odd signings have peaked the football fans interest. Namely Lacazette coming over to England and joining Arsenal, it is worth noting he had a decent debut in the Community Shield and will hopefully settle well in England so we get to see the best of him.

This time of year always calls for predictions. Here at Taylor’s Football Talk, we have had a few discussions and the general consensus is that nobody can agree on a title winner. There have been tips for both Manchester clubs and having looked at the signings, I feel like Manchester City ought to win the league but I believe the red side of Manchester will be the ones celebrating, as Pep needs to tweak his tactical style, which I am unsure he will want to do.

At the other end of the table, it is generally agreed that Huddersfield will feature in the bottom three come May 2018 and both Brighton and Swansea have featured on more than one prediction. My own personal predictions are as follows:

  • Manchester United
  • Manchester City
  • Chelsea
  • Arsenal

There are now two notable absences from the Top 4; Liverpool and Spurs but this is not without justification. Tottenham are playing home games at Wembley and this will affect their phenomenal home form from the last couple of seasons and Liverpool could well lose Coutinho before the end of the transfer window.

My thoughts on the bottom three are:

  • Brighton
  • Swansea
  • Huddersfield

I am a Burnley fan, and I have some serious concerns about this season but I believe the Clarets will survive by the skin of their teeth. Also Newcastle will be in the mix, as will Watford. Ultimately, I believe that if Swansea lose Gylfi they will struggle to pick up the necessary points to stay in the league. Other than that, I feel a lack of Premier League experience will hurt Brighton and Huddersfield, which will undoubtedly impact their points tally come the end of the season.

As so many others will be, I am so happy the Premier League is back. Make sure you’ve got your fantasy football teams done, crack open a cold one and enjoy the season long rollercoaster!

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Burnley – what a season, but what next?

What a season! That is simply all that can be said about the 2016-2017 season as a whole. 

At the start of the season, Burnley Football Club set out to achieve survival in the Premier League at the third attempt and achieved it with relative ease. The table will show that Burnley finished six points above the drop zone with a far superior goal difference, which is really all that matters.

Unfortunately the last game of the season, at home to West Ham, resulted in a 1-2 loss with a poor performance to boot. Of course, it didn’t matter too much as the fans aren’t extremely bothered about the extra few million quid at stake for finishing in 11th rather than 16th but it would have nice to bow out with a win or a fierce and rip-roaring performance.

There have been other disappointments throughout the season; the utilisation of an unsettled Steven Defour who is without doubt Burnley’s most talented technical footballer, having to wait until the back end of April for an away win and the reluctance to get Robbie Brady and Gudmundsson into the starting XI towards the latter end of the season.

However, now is not a time to focus on the negatives but a time to reflect and look back on a fantastic season. To hit 40 points is a phenomenal achievement, and the fortress Turf Moor was obviously key to Burnley’s success. It is a place that creates a wonderful atmosphere when the crowd are on their game and can be incredibly intimidating for other teams players to come and try to get a result, this form must continue into next season to ensure the Clarets can look to establish themselves in the Premier League.

Burnley have now accomplished something that would have only been a pipe dream 10 or 15 years ago and testament must go to the Sean Dyche. The affectionately known ‘Ginger Mourinho’ is an extremely level-headed man, press conferences never deflect away from the truth nor does he use them to lambast officials, players or opposition. A careful and considered approach, with a clear conviction in his mind as to how the club can continue to achieve the goals he sets of them.

That being said, Burnley have somewhat limped over the line, with only two league wins since the beginning of February and some flat performances but that is being critical to an underserving level given the achievements of the boys this season.

There is now such a good feeling around Burnley Football Club and this season has helped to continue the growth of the club on all fronts. Burnley have gone from the longest serving Championship club to a team that can now truly call themselves a Premier League side.

Whilst still being a yo-yo club, Burnley can now look forward to their biggest summer transfer window in recent history with a sense of optimism, rather than trepidation. There will of course be some outgoings, as it looks certain Micheal Keane and Steven Defour will be leaving Turf Moor in the summer, with George Boyd and Scott Arfield likely to be close behind them.

I’m sure every Clarets fan will look back with jubilation on the past season, it has been an absolute pleasure watching Burnley Football Club defy the odds and hopefully this will continue to be the case.

Speculation, it’s all just a Gray area.

Burnley Football Club have achieved so much more than we should have done at this stage of the season, we have 31 points and are only three points off surpassing our efforts from a couple of seasons ago. It truly has been a phenomenal season so far.

We have been amazing at home, having got 29 of our 31 points at Turf Moor with our away form being nothing short of awful. There have been signs of improvement recently but the most recent performance away at Swansea was poor and saw a dramatic late goal that ensured all points were thrown away.

Our fantastic season has had a few key players, and with Burnley being a club of a small stature in comparison to other Premier League teams, there will be increased speculation as to whether we can keep hold of the players we have.

The key players that are coming under transfer speculation are Tom Heaton, Michael Keane and Andre Gray. All three have either featured in, or been heavily linked to, the England squad and with this will come increased transfer speculation, as purists will argue that little old Burnley should not have three players in the England squad.

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It is clear to see why Everton would be interested in Tom Heaton as the ‘keeper position has been the weakest area for them since David Moyes left the club and Roberto Martinez attempted to replace the ageing Tim Howard with the unremarkable Joel Robles. Stekelenburg has been brought in by Ronald Koeman but again, he has not set the world alight and is easily replaceable.

Tom Heaton has been a phenomenal servant to Burnley since joining on a free transfer  from Bristol City, he has become club captain and a fan favourite. In addition to that, he has to have been our most consistent performer over the past three or four seasons and is a key component to our team.

You have to wonder, would it be possible to replace him? Ability wise, you could possibly look at Jordan Pickford from Sunderland but he looks destined for a bigger club than Burnley and also, he wouldn’t replace the influence that would be lost should Heaton leave. I don’t think we would get an offer with a fee great enough to tempt the Burnley board to sell.

Verdict – Irreplaceable and least likely to leave the club.

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Andre Gray, what a conundrum. Until the last couple of weeks I hadn’t seen his name linked to a move away from Turf Moor but now I barely see anything else. Tottenham Hotspur are considering a bid of around £30m to secure the signing of our key striker, which, if we’re honest, is an astronomical amount of money.

Andre has had a mixed season to say the least, his season has had fantastic highs and miserable lows. Old tweets came back to haunt him just hours after scoring his first Premier League goal against Liverpool in a 2-0 win earlier this season, so the ‘bad-boy done good‘ story was surpassed by the story of a Premier League striker being embroiled in homophobia.

Despite suffering a four-game ban for the abhorrent tweets, Gray has still managed 8 Premier League goals this season, which is a phenomenal return. A brace against Swansea, and a first ever Premier League hat trick for both Gray and Burnley against Sunderland have been the highlights.

There have been concerns about the striker’s consistency this season and his deal does run out in the summer of 2018. If we do receive an offer of around £30m for the striker, it would be very hard to turn down. He is our best striker and that is without question but I think Gray could be replaced, there are strikers out there that could come in and get goals with just as much frequency, so it is possible he could be sold.

Verdict – Replaceable (just about). As likely to leave as he is to stay, however if a new deal is not signed by the end of June, I’d expect to see Gray packing his things and moving on.

Michael Keane

As with Tom Heaton, Everton are the club that are most interested in signing Keane. Whilst there has been talk of him going back to Manchester United or even joining Manchester City, I think the Toffees would be a perfect fit for the centre half.

We have seen Michael Keane mature immensely whilst being at Burnley. He joined as a young centre half with all the potential of a top Premier League player, he had a fantastic pedigree and has gone from strength to strength whilst playing first team football.

He is a player that has outgrown Burnley with our current stature and therefore needs to move on. He has given his all during his time with the club, he has popped up with some vital goals (away at Hull being the most recent) and really should go on to be England’s best centre half. I don’t think any Clarets fan would begrudge him a move away but it is important any potential deal in the summer does not turn into a fiasco.

It is important to remember we signed James Tarkowski for a reason, to replace Michael Keane. Tarkowski is a tank; big, strong, powerful and almost as good on the ball as Michael Keane. He is a ready-made replacement for Keane and this should facilitate a faster sale.

Verdict – Nailed on to leave. Whilst he is our best defender, and with the exception of Steven Defour, probably our best player on the ball, he is not irreplaceable. We should cash in during the summer and focus on strengthening other areas of the pitch (midfield).

Will these players move come the summer transfer window, nobody really knows but with expiring contracts and as it’s now easier than ever for a player to manufacture a move away from a club anything can always happen. As Sean Dyche has said, other managers looking at our players and tempting them away with media releases is something we cannot control but I have faith in Dyche and the Burnley board to do the right thing for the club, as they have always done.

Personally, I believe that both Andre Gray and Michael Keane will leave the club in the summer but with reported sums of around £20m-£25m it might not be the worst thing in the world to have them leave. Arguably, neither are irreplaceable and we would effectively have £40m-£50m to spend on a striker, as we have a somebody ready to step up and take Keane’s place.

What do you think? Will we see any of the much touted trio leave Turf Moor this summer? I would really appreciate your thoughts on this, so get in touch!

How to solve a problem like Arsene Wenger?

There are two camps of Arsenal fans and there have been for some time; ‘Wenger in‘ and ‘Wenger out‘. The numbers fluctuate all the time, with fans swinging from camp to camp depending on the result that has just come.

With that in mind, the members of the latter of the two groups will be at possibly the highest level for some time. A 5-1 demolition by Bayern Munich brought the cloud of doom over the Emirates team, as the club are pretty much out of the Champions League in the last 16, again. Couple that with the most recent result, a 3-1 loss away at Anfield, and the subsequent drop to fifth place in the league table, the pressure is really mounting on the Frenchman.

I’ve mentioned a couple of times about football being a business, and nobody embodies this more than Arsene Wenger. From a boardroom level, he has been the single most consistent Premier League manager of all time (bar Sir Alex Ferguson) and kept, what once was, a very poor squad in the top four and therefore in the Champions League.

He has guided them through a turbulent financial period, as the club moved from Highbury to the Emirates and become one of the most profitable clubs in England. Arsene Wenger has always guaranteed top four football, and with that the additional revenue of the Champions League.

When you look at his record pre-2004, it was extremely good. Having taken charge in October 1996, Arsene guided the Gunners to three Premier League titles and three FA Cup wins. This was followed up in the 04-05 season with another FA Cup and then followed a move to the Emirates. It took another nine years for a trophy to be brought back to Arsenal when they won the FA Cup in 13-14, narrowly beating Hull 3-2 after extra time.

The lack of trophies aside, there is the transfer history. Looking at Arsenal’s transfer history it is more a case of good players seemingly slipping through the net and into an Arsenal shirt, rather than a list of exemplary players and big characters.

For every Thierry Henry, there is a Francis Jeffers. Every Van Persie has his Chu-Young Park. The lists seem to be endless and what is more evident is that over the last few seasons there has been a lack of real improvement. For about 5 seasons, if not longer, it has been blatantly obvious where Arsenal’s squad was lacking, but it hasn’t been addressed. We’ve seen the arrivals of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, amongst others, but Arsene Wenger has failed to address the lack of grit in the middle of the park and not brought in a centre half that is a leader and organiser.

The club attempted to finally sort these issues in the summer by completing the signings of Granit Xhaka and Mustafi at centre half. Famed for stuttering in the transfer market, they got the Granit Xhaka deal done early and this was a promising sign for the Gunners but they stalled over the Mustafi deal and this cost the club dearly.

Whether Granit Xhaka will flourish into a Premier League enforcer, or even a top midfielder, is still very much in doubt. Whilst Mustafi does look like a good signing, Koscielny is now getting to the very edge of his peak so you would think a title would have to happen sooner rather than later, and with Wenger in charge it doesn’t look like happening.

Alongside the transfer flops, there are the near misses, Benzema should have signed for Arsenal in the last four summers, Gonzalo Higuain has been rumoured, Suarez nearly happened, and so on, and so forth. Again, this is another understandable bone of contention for most Arsenal fans. I appreciate there is a wage structure at Arsenal, but an unwillingness to push the envelope and increase this has no doubt hampered the recruitment process.

It is really easy to see why Arsenal fans move themselves into the ‘Wenger out‘ camp, and it is hard not to forget the history when it is exactly that, history. He has won a lot with Arsenal, and has also had one hand on the Champions League trophy in 2006. Despite all of this, it cannot be argued that he has not delivered the amount of silverware required for one of the biggest clubs in England.

I generally think consistency is the key to success, but there comes a time when your former glory can transform into anger from the fans, where Arsene Wenger was once adored by all, he is now resented by a slight majority of fans and it is conceivable this number could sky-rocket by the end of the season. In the immortal words of Harvey ‘Two-Face‘ Dent in ‘Batman: The Dark Knight’ “You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain”.

Arsene Wenger is perilously close to becoming the villain for all Arsenal fans and another FA Cup with a fourth place might not be enough to see him get through the summer with the full support of Arsenal fans.

There is the question of who would replace him, there has been mention of Eddie Howe but Bournemouth’s form over the last couple of months has put pay to that. The resignation of Luis Enrique from Barcelona will put a bit of pressure on Arsene as well, not only because it is another candidate for his current job but there is speculation that Arsene could move the other way.

The main target appears to be Max Allegri from Juventus. Reports vary, with some stating this is simply a rumour and others advising he has pretty much already signed on the dotted line. Whether or not Allegri would be a success is a matter for another blog, but Arsenal fans will look to Antonio Conte, and Chelsea’s current dominance, and will have a great deal of excitement.

Ultimately, I think it will be Arsene Wenger himself that makes a decision as to whether he will be at Arsenal next season, although it is looking less and less likely.

League One clubs sticking up for fans!

Football today is ruled by one thing, money. The top flight clubs seem to have it in abundance, yet some of them make the fans pay through the nose to support their club.

The fan is the little man, the smallest, yet most vital cog in the football machine. Without fans, the game would not exist, well not in its current form anyway. Bar a few clubs, ticket prices have generally sky rocketed over the past few seasons and have often been the causal factor in large numbers of debates and protests. I mean, who can forget the 77th minute protest by Liverpool fans at Anfield against Sunderland, which seemed like a brilliant idea at the time but was attributed as the main factor the Reds capitulated and dropped a 2 goal lead to draw the game.

All in all, fans are generally taken for granted, so it’s wonderful to see them being given something back for their long-standing commitment to the club they follow. Unfortunately, it is not one of the Premier League big boys forging the way in this matter, but two League One sides that have made football headlines in the last few days and all for the right reasons!

I’ve heard of a ‘kid for a quid‘ advertising before, where a child can get into the ground for a solitary pound if they are attending with a full paying adult. I must say, I have never heard of any fan being able to attend a game for £1. Until now. Up step Rochdale to hopefully change the way clubs think about generating interest and giving kids the opportunity to soak in some live football. It means that you could take the entire family, grab a pie and a drink for each person a
nd you’ll probably spend less than £25 based on a family of four. Phenomenal!

rochdale

The game in question is being played tonight and is against Port Vale, so if you’re in the local area get yourself down. I think this is such a big step forward and many clubs could learn from it. The additional interest and media discussion regarding Rochdale is helping the club become more recognisable, it should see a bumper crowd fill Spotland and hopefully will prove to be a long-term success.

The next League One side causing a stir for all the right reasons is Bradford City. The ex-Premier League club have been in and out of the limelight for some years, and not always for positive reasons. Being up north the cost of a season ticket, in theory, should be lower than down south, and this is purely based on average income of people in the relevant areas. However, Bradford City have not just set a reasonable price, they have effectively offered the opportunity to watch all of the home league games in the 2017/2018 season for around £6.50 per game, absolute madness!

bantams

It’s always important in remembering that taking stances like this allows many more people a way into football, to pay £149 for a season-ticket and therefore 23 league games, is brilliant. Almost any person will be able to afford such a ticket and this will therefore make the Bantams a much more accessible prospect, rather than face losing any support to either local rivals or any of the Premier League big boys.

Both of these schemes will hopefully boost attendances, and generate the next generation of staunch football fans. I’ve always been a firm believer that it is far better to have a higher attendance, as this gives the best chance to create a phenomenal atmosphere and think this should be done by keeping ticket prices as low as possible. Obviously, it is not possible for all teams to do this and for example, a League Two side would probably only see a negligible benefit by lowering the ticket price.

I am not naive enough to believe this sort of thing would be a long-term strategy but knowing these clubs are thinking of the fans and taking that into consideration gives you a little bit of hope, just when it seems to be dripping out of football.

There is very little else to say, other than ‘thank you‘ and ‘congratulations‘ to the Dale and Bantams boards respectively. Long may this continue and, hopefully, other clubs will take note of your example and begin to follow it.

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Claudi-oh! Where did it all go wrong?!

I’ve purposely waited for a couple of days to let the dust settle around Leicester City and to see what pundits and fans alike have been saying about the controversial sacking of Claudio Ranieri.

The general reaction is that the sacking of Ranieri was disgusting, left people feeling that modern-day football had gone mad and that Leicester City have now seemingly become the most disliked football club in the entire country. This thought process is completely understandable given last seasons achievement but does it take into account the cold, hard facts of the current situation Leicester find themselves in.

It is important to remember that Ranieri took charge in what looked like an extremely strange move from the board. In the summer of 2015, after performing one of the greatest escapes ever seen in Premier League history, Nigel Pearson was sacked. He was replaced with a perceived failure in Claudio Ranieri and many pundits tipped him to lead Leicester City straight into the Championship. We now know they needn’t have worried about anything, as Leicester City had the most remarkable season and lifted the Premier League title.

Fast forward nine months and as Ranieri has said himself, his dream has died‘. I must get it out there right now, I for one am not shocked by this decision. Leicester City are a team on a downward curve, quite a steep downward curve at that. Ranieri has not been able to motivate and invigorate the squad to keep them away from trouble, and I think the Leicester City board got massively ahead of themselves.

When a decision like this is made, it is extremely easy to get up in arms and be filled with anger within the immediate aftermath, however, football is a business. As much as it is business driven by the fans’ love, passion and loyalty, it is still a business. The bottom line is that Sky have changed the game in terms of money being offered to Premier League clubs, and in the past summer, Leicester City players were handed huge contracts. The increase in wages, married with the dip in form, has created a perfect storm in the Leicester boardroom and something has to change.

The sacking of Ranieri does prove that football is heartless, and that is extremely hard to stomach as a large number of football fans fell in love with the game from an early age and have grown up doing so. To think that something you love could be so cold is difficult, but as explained above, football is a business. You cannot imagine somebody in a high-end company not being scrutinised for such a shift in results and the performance of the staff that work under him, although that is different and markedly so, the very lowest level is very similar.

It could be argued that the timing is massively off, and maybe there aren’t the managers available to come in and make the necessary difference at such short notice but the easiest way to change things is by sacking the manager. Of course Ranieri deserved more time, but that should not have been based on last season, as that was a freak season that was never going to be repeated. The fact is that managers live on the edge, there are probably a handful of managers in the top two divisions that know they are safe, regardless of a few bad results but not many.

Much has been made of the fact that Ranieri had supposedly lost the support of key senior players and it was this that ultimately resulted in his sacking. As is often said, there is no smoke without fire. It could be argued that Ranieri never really had their full support, as many of them were unhappy with Pearson’s dismissal and the relationship they had with Ranieri was never put under any strain due to the fantastic results. Once this relationship has been strained, it appears to have broken pretty quickly.

The board have made a statement saying there is not only one issue at the club, but many. Whether that is player power, projected monetary issues if relegation is realised or generally poor performances, they have not clarified. All that matters is that Ranieri was part of a magical season, one that invigorated love for football across the nation and that is amazing. Was he the sole reason? No. Is he quite possibly the most friendly, inviting and warm manager that has been in the Premier League in recent years? Yes. That is what makes this all the more sad.

Where next for Leicester City? Apparently the current caretaker manager is in the frame, as is player favourite Nigel Pearson. All that can be said for now is Addio Claudio, hope to see you again soon.

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Zlat’s all folks!

Today saw the final of the English Football League (EFL) cup, where Manchester United scraped their way to the trophy by beating a valiant Southampton side 3-2.

If I’m honest, the word ‘valiant‘ does not really do Southampton justice, perhaps considered as plucky underdogs before the game, it should be noted they hadn’t conceded a goal in the competition prior to Zlatan scoring a free kick in the 19th minute.

Southampton started brightly, continually pressing Manchester United and forcing them into more and more rushed passes with possession frequently being lost. It culminated in a disallowed Gabbiadini goal in the 11th minute, Cedric had cut inside following a mistake by Rojo and played a ball across the front of the goal, which Gabbiadini slotted home well. The decision was understandable, as Bertrand was in an offside position when the ball was played across, but it was a mistake that would prove pivotal.

This was a well crafted move from Southampton and showed just how well-drilled Claude Puel had his side, using their width and the lack of willingness in Martial and Mata to continually track the runs of Bertrand and Cedric to great advantage.

The first goal of the game was from a free kick that was rashly given away by Romeu, he had no business to slide in on Ander Herrera in a position that was just under 30 yards from goal. Zlatan did what Zlatan does, but not without a little help from Forster who was slightly late in setting off to try to make the save.

Southampton then resumed their pattern of play, continuing to be the better side, as they were for much of the final. Against the run of play, Jesse Lingard slotted home in the 38th minute. It was an extremely composed finish from a player that is yet to prove he is of sufficient ability to be a consistent Manchester United player for years to come.

Despite being the better side, it appeared as though Southampton would be heading into half-time 2-0 down, however that was not the case. On the stroke of half time, Southampton pressed home their advantage of having good width, matched with a great delivery from the right hand side by Ward-Prowse. Smalling missed the near post interception, and Bailly attempted some form of ‘Moonwalk‘ which Gabbiadini slipped behind and finished neatly through De Gea’s legs.

During the first half, Tadic kept finding space between Manchester United’s central midfielders and their centre halves, something that saw Michael Carrick introduced at half time for an understandably quiet Juan Mata.

This change did absolutely nothing to stem the flow of the game, Southampton again started the half brightly, creating good pressure and having a flurry of corners. It was from one of these corners that Gabbiadini tucked home what should have been his hat trick. It was an extremely composed and great finish, hit on the swivel and past an onlooking David De Gea.

From this moment, neither team really grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck. Controversy was almost afoot in the game, when Romeu and Herrera went up for an aerial challenge; Romeu’s elbow connected with Herrera’s face. The Saints midfielder had already been booked, and the Manchester United players again made their feelings very clear to Andre Marriner, but the referee stood firm and simply warned Romeu. The right decision in a cup final.

Manchester United found themselves in a similar situation, where Lingard had a little nibble at the heels of a very dynamic Nathan Redmond. It was almost identical to his first half booking but Marriner simply warned Lingard and allowed the game to continue. I thought the game was officiated extremely well by the referee, despite the pivotal offside decision.

All in all, Southampton were the better side, but finals especially are not about the performance and all about the result. It was an 86th minute corner that saw Southampton being undone. They had pushed players forward in the hope to win the game, and whilst admirable, this left them light at the back and Manchester United moved up the field with great purpose. Martial showed very good footwork and played the ball out to Herrera, all the while, Zlatan was drifting into what must have seemed like an acre of space in the middle of the box. Herrera needed to deliver and he did, drifting the ball perfectly on to Zlatan’s head, and from that moment there was never any doubt. The back of the net rippled, and broke the hearts of Southampton fans and players alike.

The ‘Ibrahimovic effect‘ has been profound, the big Swede has got 26 goals already this season, which for a free transfer is phenomenal. He has to be one of the best signings ever made by a Premier League side, the goals he has scored, impact in the dressing room and on the pitch have been vital. Mourinho made some big statement signings in the summer, with the club breaking the record transfer-fee on Paul Pogba, but it is consistently Ibra that shines and it’s frightening to think that he has missed some guilt edged chances throughout the season.

Mourinho becomes the first Manchester United manager to win a trophy in his first season, and that is some feat. Granted the squad that has been assembled has cost a lot of money and until recent cups, hasn’t delivered a great deal but you can’t help but feel Mourinho is getting a grasp of the task at hand and how he will move the Manchester United squad forward, and how he will go about winning their first title since Sir Alex Ferguson retired.

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