MONDAY'S BIG STORIES
New dawn for Manchester United (and Fred)
Who had dibs on Fred being the hero of Ralf Rangnick’s revolution? Come on, be honest.
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The first official Manchester United game under the guidance of Rangnick saw an immediate and noticeable change, not just in tactics but approach.
United made more ‘recoveries’ than in any other game this season. They won possession in the final third more times than in any other game this season. And they competed directly for possession 28 more times than their average effort in games this season.
The high-intensity pressing style of Rangnick has arrived.
But it almost didn’t work.
A thrilling start to the match threatened to blow Crystal Palace away, but ultimately it took an excellent second-half finish from an unlikely source to ensure the headlines on Rangnick’s debut were positive.
"The first half hour was amazing. I felt it was extremely high tempo, high intensity, always on the front [foot],” the German tactician said after the match, adding:
To be honest, I was positively surprised by the physical state, intensity and performance of the players. I didn't expect us to play at that level after only one-and-a-half training days together with them.
It’s hard not to feel pleased for Fred that he’s launched this new era at United with a match-winning strike. The midfielder is so often the butt of the jokes when Man Utd lose, so often the most heavily-criticised for poor performances.
There are a myriad of reasons for Fred being the target, some more palatable than others. But hopefully a tactical switch in his role will play more to Fred’s strengths and see him develop as a useful asset in midfield for the club.
Too often the Brazilian has been asked to magically evolve into prime Luka Modric and run a midfield on his own. That’s never going to be who he is.
But in the narrow, compact and precisely-organised set-up that Rangnick prefers then Fred could flourish.
Chelsea’s 'Kerrby' show
It was billed as the clash of equals. England’s best two clubs going head-to-head in the Women’s FA Cup final.
But there’s a reason why Chelsea have been the dominant force in English football in recent seasons, and they underlined their class with a thumping 3-0 win over Arsenal at Wembley.
It was about as comprehensive as a 3-0 win can be, with the west Londoners allowing Arsenal to have the ball for long periods but restricting them to not a single attempt on target in the 90 minutes.
Instead it was Chelsea who carved out all of the game's brightest moments, opening the scoring in the third minute and creating a host of golden chances before wrapping the game up in the second half.
It could have been a lot more than just the three goals on the day for Chelsea, who leant heavily on the genius of their attacking pair of Sam Kerr and Fran Kirby throughout.
Kerr and Kirby are each wonderful players in their own right, but their seemingly telepathic relationship on the field brings out the best in both, and they were way too hot for the Gunners to handle at Wembley.
Kirby scored the first and assisted the second. But it was Kerr who provided the standout moment of the match, dinking a picture-perfect chip over the impressive Manuela Zinsberger to make it 3-0 on 77 minutes and get the game safe.
Chelsea may have the most talent-packed squad in the country, but it’s no guarantee that resources will always yield results. Yet this outstanding group of players have delivered on their ability and have now completed a domestic treble, with this delayed FA Cup win joining last season’s WSL and League Cup titles.
And who would bet against them repeating the feat in 2022?
IN OTHER NEWS
Jude Bellingham is one of the most exciting midfield talents to emerge in European football over the last couple of years. His fearless, sparkling approach to the game has seen him excel at Borussia Dortmund… and on recent evidence he takes those same character traits into his interviews.
For Bellingham did not pull his punches after Dortmund’s loss to Bayern Munich at the weekend.
Speaking after a game that saw Bayern awarded a controversial penalty when Dortmund had seen their own appeals waved away, the 18-year-old said:
You give a referee, that has match fixed before, the biggest game in Germany... what do you expect?
Crikey, say what’s on your mind why don’t you Jude!
The referee Felix Zwayer was banned from football for half a year for allegedly accepting a bribe in 2005 - confirmation of the ban did not arrive until a few years later, according to The Independent. An investigation by the German FA saw Zwayer punished along with several other officials.
He has since established himself as one of the top referees in Germany and is one of four to have been awarded UEFA Elite status.
And Zwayer’s decisions at the weekend were debatable but understandable, and Bellingham could well get in trouble for the strength of his comments.
You hope that age doesn’t see Bellingham lose the spark in his on-pitch exploits. But a little bit more conservatism behind the mic maybe wouldn’t be a bad thing.
The sixth of December is a date of great significance, with Saint Nicholas typically celebrated on this day in large parts of the Christian world. But the Saint responsible for the origin story of Father Christmas isn’t the only legend to be inextricably linked to December 6th. For it was also on this day in 1979 that one of the greatest players in the history of Australian football was born in Sydney.
Timothy Filiga Cahill is the all-time leading goalscorer in Socceroos history, bagging 50 in his 108 games, including this absolute peach at the 2014 World Cup.
Cahill, who turns 42 today, represented seven different clubs in his 21-year career, breaking through at Millwall before returning to the south London club for a brief spell at the end of his career.
But it was at Goodison Park where Cahill made his biggest splash. And you can watch all of the combative midfielder’s Premier League goals right here:
Happy Birthday Tim.
There’s an art to putting together a match feature live from a ground. Some writers stick to a trustworthy formula, others have their own little tricks to tie everything together in the nick of time. But one writer receives more praise than most for his ability to produce journalism gold at remarkable speed, and the Guardian’s Jonathan Liew was it again on Sunday.
For all the temptation to read the early runes, to derive immutable learnings from these 90 minutes against limited opposition, it’s probably worth pointing out at the outset that none of this really means anything yet. It was possible, if you were that way inclined, to glimpse in this game the rebirth of United as an elite pressing team, the redemption of Fred, the end of the road for Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Donny van de Beek. In reality it was three points and a fresh start, and how painfully United were in need of both.
You can read the full article on Manchester United's win HERE.
The relentless December football schedule for England’s top-flight clubs continues as Everton host Arsenal at Goodison Park. Elsewhere there are some tasty matches in Serie A and La Liga, and if snooker’s your thing then tune into the Scottish Open which starts today in the famous Scottish town of Llandudno… (yes, I know. It’s covid-related, but at least the tournament’s on).
Ben Snowball (who’s well worth a social media follow for what it’s worth) will be here with tomorrow's Warm-Up, as long as he’s recovered from all the excitement of covering the Track Champions League’s inaugural visit to London at the weekend.
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