Tag Archives: Manchester City

Intrepid Oxford nearly stun Manchester City in Carabao Cup

In an era of football that’s controlled by money and greed and spoiled at the top-level by the passion-sapping VAR, Oxford United’s performance against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City on Wednesday evening reminded a few of the reasons why they fell in love with football in the first place.

On a cold and rainy evening at the Kassam Stadium, Karl Robinson’s side lit the place up with a courageous display that very nearly stunned the reigning champions of England.

Joao Cancelo broke the deadlock for the visitors with a shot that deflected off defender Elliott Moore and looped over goalkeeper Jordan Archer in the 22nd minute. A slice of luck for City in an otherwise cagey first-half.

The roof came off less than 30 seconds into the second-half, though, when Matty Taylor – a local lad on loan from Bristol City – produced a moment that he’d have dreamt off as a child; skinning Taylor Harwood-Bellis after a quick free-kick from Shandon Baptiste and blasting past Claudio Bravo to level the scores and send the fans wild.

Two breakaway goals from Raheem Sterling sent City into the semi-finals, but they were certainly made to work for it by a tremendous Oxford side.

Fearless

Manchester City’s rising star Phil Foden was in a confident mood before the match, saying the team were “excited to go further” in the Carabao Cup and that he knows “what Oxford are about” after cruising past the U’s with a 3-0 win in the same competition last season.

Little did the 19-year old know, Guardiola’s side were facing a totally different proposition this season.

Last season, United only managed a single shot. A long-range attempt from Ricky Holmes was the closest the U’s came to breaking down a defence that only conceded 23 goals in the entirety of a league campaign that yielded a staggering 98 points.

This time around, they managed 18 attempts; the most Pep Guardiola has faced in a single match since taking charge of Manchester City in 2017.

13 of those shots came from inside the box and five of them were on target, which is one more attempt on goal than City managed. A remarkable feat for a side plying their trade in the third-tier of English football and a real sign of their progress in the last 12 months.

Oxford showed no signs of fear with the way they set up. Instead of sticking men behind the ball and longing for a penalty shoot-out from kick-off, they played City at their own game and actually bettered them at it for a couple of spells.

Instead of playing a defensive and conservative formation, Robinson started with two pacey wingers in Dan Agyei and Tariqe Fosu after the Liverpool-born boss took inspiration from how the speed of Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah helped Jurgen Klopp’s team overcome City in November.

Make no mistake, Oxford weren’t there just to take part and meet their favourite stars, they were there to knock them out of the cup.

Perhaps a few nerves crept into the first-half performance with a couple of Oxford’s stars uncharacteristically sloppy in possession but, after what was surely an impassioned half-time speech from Robinson at the break, United took the match to their opponents in the second-half with a raucous crowd fully behind them.

Within a minute of the restart, United were level. And, although Sterling had City back in front soon after, Oxford never lost hope of a famous upset; pressing and attacking the visitors with no concern of how much they cost or the amount of international caps they have to their name.

Baptiste and Cameron Brannagan drove United on from midfield with tough-tackling Spaniard Alex Gorrin sitting in front of the back-four and mopping up any danger. Fosu and Mark Sykes – who’d come on for Agyei early in the second-half – were hurting City from the wide areas with their pace and guile.

It wasn’t just a performance fuelled by adrenaline. Oxford looked composed on the ball and confident enough to knock the ball around world-class footballers worth hundreds of millions of pounds. There were spells where the team in yellow looked every bit as good as the team in sky blue.

Chances for Rob Dickie, Sykes and substitute Jamie Mackie went begging for Oxford as they poured forward with pace and intensity in the final furlong of the match. A little bit more of a clinical touch in front of goal could have made the night even more special for Robinson’s men, but it wasn’t to be.

City’s quality eventually shone through, but the fact that Guardiola was forced to introduce Ilkay Gundogan and Gabriel Jesus from the bench and even attempt to waste time towards the end was a compliment to the home side’s display.

‘Jim would have been proud’

Oxford paid tribute to legendary former manager Jim Smith before the game with a minute’s applause and an emotional rendition of ‘One Bald Eagle’ – the nickname that Smith was affectionately known by during his successful spell with the club in the 1980s.

During Smith’s stint at Oxford, he captured the fans’ imagination with a gutsy and fearless set of players achieving back-to-back promotions from the third division to the top-flight. In United’s first home game since Smith’s passing, it was as if he’d sprinkled a little bit of the old magic from above on the team in yellow and blue.

It was a spine of Malcolm Shotton, Trevor Hebberd and John Aldridge that roared the U’s to success during Smith’s first spell in charge of the club. Now players such as Rob Dickie, Cameron Brannagan and Matty Taylor have a chance to write their names into the club’s folklore by continuing this momentum in United’s league campaign.

Robinson said that he thought Smith would have been “proud” of his former side’s performance. There’s very little doubt about that. Jim might be gone, but it’s quite evident that his legacy is living on at Oxford United.

Eithad Stadium, Manchester

Pass master Guardiola extends his dominance over Mourinho

Pep Guardiola once again showed Jose Mourinho who’s the boss as Manchester City ran out 3-1 winners at the Etihad Stadium over arch rivals United.

This was the 17th  time these two masterful tacticians had  come face-to face. History shows that Guardiola has the edge over the Portuguese with eight victories to Mourinho’s three. There had been an average of 2.6 goals scored in those 17 matches, indicating most have been tightly competitive.

Guardiola’s teams have scored 26 times in total when facing Mourinho’s teams, who have scored just 16. The Catalan also holds the record for the biggest win over Mourinho when Barcelona thrashed Real Madrid 5-0 at the Camp Nou in November 2010.

City’s win over United shows that there is a gulf of class between the two sides, and that Guardiola has wisely spent his money in terms of buying players which fit into his style of play.

As far as the Red Devil’s are concerned, it seems as if Mourinho doesn’t have that much confidence in his team to consistently win games.

Whether this is to do with the tales of him falling out with some of his players is not clear, but at the moment United are in eighth place and well off the pace in the race for the Premier League title.

Alarming

The main issues for United are in defence. Mourinho’s men have let in 21 goals in their first 12 games of this season, which is even worse than 2016-17 where they conceded a total of 14 in their opening dozen matches.

This is a cause for concern to United fan as Mourinho has always liked his teams to be solid in defence first and foremost.

‘Pogba continues to not live up to the expectations fully warranted by his £89m transfer fee’

What was even more alarming in the latest derby game was the fact that none of the players were actually doubling up against the likes of Sergio Aguero, who can punish you if given space in and around the penalty box to turn and shoot.

But the key factor on Sunday was that United’s defenders were unable to cope with the pace and strength of City’s midfield, which had a significant impact on the game’s outcome.

What was also disappointing about this defeat from a United perspective is that it came after that memorable 2-1 Champions League victory over Juventus in Turin, where the Red Devils made a remarkable comeback by scoring two goals in three minutes to steal the points away from Massimiliano Allegri’s side.

You would have thought that win would have  given them a boost going into Sunday’s derby, but it wasn’t to be, and this sums up the inconsistency of United under Mourinho’s leadership in the last three years.

Luxury

Coming back to City, it has been a solid start to the defence of their title.  The champions are unbeaten in their first 12 games, with 10 victories and 2 draws. Can anyone stop them?

The signing of Riyad Mahrez from Leicester City has so far proved to be a masterstroke by Guardiola as it gives him the luxury of rotating his players if necessary.

Contrast City’s midfield to that of United’s as Paul Pogba continues to not live up to the expectations fully warranted by his £89m transfer fee.

His seemingly fraught relationship with Mourinho is clearly not helping matters, but we yet to see the best of one of France’s World Cup-winning heroes in a United jersey.

Since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement at the end of the 2012-13 season, the Sky Blues have had the upper hand in terms of Premier League success.

Manuel Pellegrini took them to the title in 2013-14, and Guardiola claimed the biggest prize in English football for the first time last season.

Upper hand

By contrast, the Red Devils finished in seventh place under Ferguson’s successor David Moyes, who was sacked in the latter half of the season, with club legend Ryan Giggs taking over from the Scot.

‘City look to be passing their way to another title this season, whilst Premier League glory threatens to pass United by once again’

Under Louis van Gaal, United won the FA Cup in 2016, beating Crystal Palace in the final, but the Dutchman was dispensed with soon afterwards.

Chief executive Ed Woodward then turned to the ‘Special One’ hoping that his success all around Europe, including at Chelsea, could be replicated at Old Trafford.

Unfortunately for both men, his arrival coincided with Guardiola’s reign beginning at the Etihad, and the Spaniard continues to have the upper hand over his old rival.

City were 2-0 up through goals from David Silva and Aguero on Sunday before Anthony Martial pulled one back from the spot after 58 minutes.

However, any thoughts of a United comeback were extinguished four minutes from time as Ilkay Gündogan scored City’s third, capping a build-up involving no less than 44 passes.

City look to be passing their way to another title this season, whilst Premier League glory threatens to pass United by once again.

Photo by Liam McCallion via Flickr Creative Commons under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) 

Premier League preview

Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal are all favourites – but there can only be one crowned champion.

Defending champions Manchester City will look to retain their title. However, the season ahead looks to be more competitive than the previous campaign.

The pressure is on for new managers Unai Emery of Arsenal and Chelsea’s Maurizio Sarri. Both managers are new and will have to adapt to the Premier League

Manchester City

No manager has retained the Premier League title since Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United in 2009.

Pep Guardiola was the first to lead a team to 100 points in an English top-flight season, but retaining the trophy would arguably be every bit as special. “I am read,y” said the Spaniard ahead of the new campaign.

“The fear of losing the games makes me starving and hungry again. I don’t like the feeling of losing games. When you lose, you feel guilty, you feel bad. Your private life is not good. Your relationship with the players is not good. So that is why to avoid that. Just that simple fear of losing a game makes you hungry.”

Guardiola’s desire to continue winning was showcased in City’s win over Chelsea in the Community Shield. City will want to retain the title, but their supporters – and owners – also crave Champions League success.

“It’s important to be in it every season,” said Guardiola of club football’s biggest prize. “And we are going to try with all our effort to win it. But if you ask me what the most important competition is, it is the Premier League.”

A comfortable win at Arsenal in their first fixture was an excellent start is a great start, but not th one Emery was hoping for at the Emirates.

Manchester United

Manchester United were not able to challenge City in the title race last season despite spending £400m since Jose Mourinho took over. His side were 19 points behind their city rivals and even failed to play entertaining football for the Old Trafford faithful.

Mourinho had said his side face a “difficult season” unless they sign a new defender, but the Red Devils failed to add anyone new to their backline.

Despite their runners-up spot in the league and reaching the FA Cup final, which they lost to Chelsea, United still seem a work in progress and Mourinho appears to have a frosty relationship with some of his players.

Many pundits believe his pre-season negativity can only have a detrimental impact on his squad’s morale, and a failure to make a good start to the season could see the Portuguese considering exit strategies.

Tottenham

Spurs had a positive 17-18 season, finishing third in the league, but have failed to add any new players to the current squad.

Tottenham are the only side in the Premier League history to have not added anyone during the summer window.

However, manager Mauricio Pochettino feels they have, “achieved their objective” and did a “great job” by keeping their best players in the transfer window.

They did attempt to sign Aston Villa midfielder Jack Grealish, but were unable to come up with a deal in time.

Spurs have had top-four finishes for the past three seasons, but delays in the completion of their new stadium could have a negative effect both on and off the pitch.

North London rivals Arsenal were restricted in the transfer market by the cost of their move to the Emirates for several seasons, and some Spurs fans fear the same happening.

Their team got off to a good start with an opening victory 2-1 at Newcastle, but bigger tests await them.

Liverpool

Jurgen Klopp spent over £100m in the transfer window with Alisson, Fabinho, Keita and Shaqiri all added to the Liverpool squad.

Klopp knows the pressure is on to deliver trophies, but said: “We are Liverpool; there is no-one on this planet that expects more of us than we expect of ourselves. I really love how the players have reacted this summer and I cannot praise them enough for the way they have stayed hungry.”

Liverpool had an outstanding run in the Champions League and losing 3-1 in the final to Real Madrid was devastating, however, the football played was certainly memorable.

Klopp added: “The attitude in training and in practice, matches have been outstandingly good, the highest level. And when you consider, as it has been for other clubs also, the build-up has been disrupted by players coming back at different times [after the World Cup], it is even more impressive.”

Liverpool hit four past West Ham in style in their opener and are favourites to win the Premier League according to a Sky Sports online poll.

Alisson is seen as player to end their goalkeeping woes and should create more confidence at the back where Klopp’s teams have been lacking in previous seasons.

Chelsea

New boss Sarri is looking to make his mark in the Premier League by getting Chelsea back into the top four after Antonio Conte’s reign ended in acrimony last season despite the FA Cup win.

Having spent £71.6m on 23-year old goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga from Athletic Bilbao, Sarri has been given the funds to get Chelsea back in the title race.

Their opening win against Huddersfield will build confidence, but they looked well short of Man City’s standards in their Community Shield defeat at Wembley.

Sarri has said simply “My job is to win matches”. But having kept hold of key players such as Eden Hazard and Willian, the Italian will be expected to deliver by Chelsea’s ever-impatient hierarchy.

 Arsenal

New manager Emery began his Arsenal venture with a comprehensive home defeat against defending champions Man City.

He has made it clear what he expects from his current squad: “I want ambition from this team, I want them to be ambitious in every match. I want for 90 minutes in every match for them to be in the game and to be working hard. I want this every day, this is my ambition”.

The Spaniard is under a lot of pressure from fans to perform well following the departure of Arsene Wenger, although the Arsenal board have made it clear, he will be given time.

Arsenal have failed to reach the top-four in the league for the last four seasons. New defensive midfielder Lucas and centre back Sokratis were among the players signed this summer on a fairly conservative budget, with fan favourite Jack Wilshere released and signed by West Ham.

To conclude, the Premier League title race this season could potentially be more competitive and exciting than ever before. Expect Manchester City to become the first team to defend the title since 2009, but also expect their rivals to push them harder, with Liverpool hot on their heels.

ryan ellison

Ellison seeks Cup of good cheer at Hyde

It’s pretty safe to say that Ryan Ellison may not make his FA Cup debut in the way he dreamt about as a football-mad young boy growing up in Stockport.

In an ideal world, it would be for boyhood club Manchester City, having risen through the ranks and been given his chance to impress by manager Pep Guardiola.

Instead, the 20-year-old full-back is hoping to have shaken off a hamstring injury and turn out for Evo-Stik North outfit Hyde United as they host MK Dons in the first round.

‘’The atmosphere is going to be unbelievable,” he told me ahead of Friday game. “It’s a 3,500 sell-out – we usually only average 300-400 a game. Those few hundred always make themselves heard, so it’s going to be incredibly raucous with 3,000-plus!”

Released

If selected, Ellison will – of course – be giving his all to help the Tigers reach the second round, but he freely admits that he never expected to be plying his trade in English football’s eighth tier.Hyde United FC crest

“I started at Manchester City aged 13, and I enjoyed it there,’’ he recalls. “It was a huge change to go into a properly competitive environment where the players have the same aim to be a professional.

“Unfortunately, when it came to a getting scholarship, they had a right-back in that year called Cameron Humphreys who they thought had a better chance than me, and they thought it best for me to go to another club.”

Despite the disappointment of being released, the chance of becoming a professional was still a distinct possibility as Sunderland snapped him up after impressing on trial.

“They were the first team I went on trial with, and they wanted me to sign a two-year scholarship,’’ he explains. ‘’I thoroughly enjoyed it there – and if I’m being honest the players were far more welcoming than at the Etihad.’’

However, his dream of ‘making it’ began to fade. “I ended up leaving because the club didn’t see a path into the first team for me,’’ he says reflects with a hint of sadness.

Part-time

Ellison wasn’t prepared to give up hope, though, and had further trials at Oldham, Sheffield United and various teams in Scotland.

‘The best-case scenario is that I can be a full-time player again as it will always be the thing I most enjoy’

“I still wanted to be a full-time professional and earn a contract somewhere, but bad luck just seemed to come my way.” he said.

“Sheffield United didn’t have a place in the team for me and were just wasting my time. At Oldham, the gaffer wanted to sign me, but on the day I went to put pen to paper he left due to a disagreement with the chairman.”

So he looked down the leagues and signed for Hyde in 2015, but the flames of his pro ambitions are still flickering.

Given a chance

“It’s obviously a part-time club, where we only train twice a week and have a game at the weekend – so straight away it was hard to maintain the same level of fitness.

“But I actually believe that, given a chance at bigger clubs, some non-league players could make it.

“I don’t know exactly what my future holds – I have to be in check with reality as my chance of becoming an elite pro is so slim. I’m lucky to have a full-time job at the moment in construction and civil engineering.

“But that doesn’t mean I’m not putting all my effort into being the best footballer I can be. The best-case scenario is that I can be a full-time player again as it will always be the thing I most enjoy.”

Unbeaten

Hyde have endured a tough spell in recent years, including three relegations in four seasons, with crowds dwindling by 50% and only around £500 in the bank at one point.

‘It’s one of the biggest matches I might ever play in my career and it’s a great opportunity for myself and the club’

But former Oldham and Halifax boss Darren Kelly was appointed as manager in May 2016 and has overseen a swing in the club’s fortunes.

The Ewen Fields side are unbeaten in 20 league games and have already seen off Congleton Town, Kendal Town, Warrington Town, Boston Town and Scarborough Athletic en route to the FA Cup first round proper, scoring 13 goals along the way since entering the competition in August.

As Ellison explains, he cannot wait for Friday night: “I believe the Hyde fans are the best in non-league. The club has had a few hard years, but it’s on the up and the whole club is incredibly friendly and welcoming.

“The fans are unbelievable – most of them volunteer to clean the ground or do other jobs such as working behind the bar or in the club shop, for free. Not to mention how incredible the away support always is. The club spirit is the best I’ve ever seen.’”

‘Great opportunity’

The Tigers have earned £29,425 from their FA Cup run so far and are expected to receive a further £100,000 from TV revenue, gate receipts and sponsorship for the televised clash against MK Dons.

For Ellison, it’s a chance to put his recent injury problems behind him and test himself once more on the big stage.

“I’m hopefully going to get on the pitch at some point. It’s one of the biggest matches I might ever play in my career and it’s a great opportunity for myself and the club.

“It would great to get a replay at their stadium, as it would be a fantastic experience being able to play at a larger ground.

“It’s such a special competition. The atmosphere is always so tense and exciting. As everyone knows, anything can happen in football, so everyone has hope.”

Ryan Ellison is on Twitter @ryanellison2. Follow Hyde United @hydeunited. Ryan Ellison photo courtesy of Hyde United FC.

Lloyd signing will boost quality of women’s game, says Oatley

Manchester City’s signing of USA star Carli Lloyd can only boost the standard of women’s football in England, says Jacqui Oatley.

Lloyd, 34, has joined the reigning Women’s Super League 1 champions on a short-term deal from Houston Dash.

The two-time World Player of the Year, double Olympic gold medallist and World Cup winner has expressed her ambition to lift the Women’s Champions League trophy.

TV sports presenter and Women In Football board member Oatley told Elephant Sport: “These top international signings are only going to improve the quality of our game.”

Business

Oatley said Lloyd’s recruitment shows that Manchester City, backed by owner Sheikh Mansour’s huge wealth, are ambitious to succeed in women’s football.

“I just hope clubs continue to develop their own players and give their young British players a chance”

“I do admire the Manchester City roots, and everything I hear about them is that they are doing it for the right reasons, they take it seriously,” said the ITV Sport anchor.

“For branding and marketing reasons why not [sign Lloyd]? Football is a business, but City do see women as very much part of that.”

She also believes Lloyd’s drive and dedication will raise the bar for her new team-mates.

Professionalism

“[Lloyd] mixing with the England players in particular in that team is only going to help them with their professionalism.

“When they talk to her, when they have meals with her, when they train with her, see what she does. She’s the captain of the best team in the world, and players like that are a great signing.”

Oatley presented the BBC’s coverage of the 2015 Women’s World Cup in which England beat rivals Germany 1-0 in extra time to win bronze – their most successful tournament to date.

Although she welcomes Lloyd’s signing, she added: “I just hope clubs continue to develop their own players and give their young British players a chance.”