Friday 29 May 2020

Football's return mapped out as Project Restart confirmed for June

It's all systems go again as English football took a step nearer to a return with the sport's roadmap out of a three month hiatus given the green light.
On Thursday, the Premier League announced the 2019-20 campaign will follow in the footsteps of Germany's Bundesliga with a behind closed doors return on Wednesday 17 June, with Aston Villa vs Sheffield United and Manchester City vs Arsenal - the four clubs with games in hand - subject to government approval.

The league was suspended on 13 March due to the pandemic and it will be 100 days after Leicester's 4-0 win against Midlands rivals Villa that competition will, provisionally - resume. United's first game after the resumption will be against Jose Mourinho's Tottenham on our first visit to the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Our top scorer Marcus Rashford would've missed the rest of the season but is nearing full fitness and is expected to be ready in time for the restart.

A full round of fixtures, each with a staggered kick off time, would be played between 19 and 21 June. Friday and Monday night fixtures will kick off at 8pm, with Saturday games to start at 12pm, 2pm, 5.30pm and 8pm. Sunday games will be 12, 2, half 4 and 7, with 6pm and 8pm kick offs for any games being played out on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. We've gone from the ridiculous of no football at all to the sublime of an absolute festival of the beautiful game. Finishing the 2019-20 season would need six weekends and three midweek rounds with all parties wanting a provisional end date of Saturday 25 July.

The UK may be beyond the worst of the awful coronavirus pandemic, but the threat is by no means in our rear view mirror so safety guidelines and decisions regarding the league's return are yet to be issued by either the government or the Premier League.
Due to the fact that all the remaining 92 games will be played in empty stadiums, every single one will be broadcast live with supporters able to watch in the comfort of our homes, with pubs still closed in the fight against Covid-19.

For the first time ever, BBC Sport will show four live matches, with Sky Sports to screen 64 - 25 of which will be made free to air. The rest will be shown on BT Sport and Amazon Prime. Home and away matches seem the most likely for the majority of the ties, with a select few to take place on a 'neutral' ground on the advice of the government and police. It has since been confirmed that the Merseyside derby, Manchester City vs Liverpool and our fixture with Sheffield United will be three of those played at a neutral venue.

So far, 12 players and coaching staff have tested positive for the virus after 2,752 tests across the
league with everyone continuing to be tested twice a week at a rate of 60 per club.

Meanwhile, there will be FA Cup winners for 2019-20 - with United still in the hat at the last eight stage - with the quarter finals and our trip to Norwich to be played on the weekend of 27 - 28 June. The semis have been rescheduled for 18-19 July with the final at a deserted Wembley on Saturday, 1 August. FA chief executive Mark Bullingham said that the new dates are subject to "all safety measures being met" with the kick off times yet to be announced.
A decision on the UEFA competitions, with United having already sealed our spot in another quarter final, is yet to be made. European football's governing body will discuss the plans in due course.

Football without fans is nothing but beggars, indeed, can't be choosers but in these unprecedented times it's something to look forward too and a step towards, perhaps, a semblance of normality.

Liverpool, chasing their first league title in three decades, sit top of the league by 25 points with nine games left.

Sunday 10 May 2020

United star surprisingly named in Team of the Season

Manchester United's Bruno Fernandes has been named in the Premier League team of the season.... despite playing only five games.
Solskjaer explains why Bruno Fernandes failed to make big impact ...
Quick impact is rewarded and nothing beats raw talent. That certainly seems to be the case for our Portuguese magnifico, with his inclusion in the team raising eyebrows despite his impressive start to life at United. There can be no denying the impact Fernandes has made - with two goals and three assists in those five games - but surely it makes a mockery of rewarding sustained brilliance of an entire league season.
 It's like me getting employee of the year for working my backside off despite only being present at work for two months - the other people in the workplace wouldn't be too enamoured!

Fernandes became the only United played in an XI which was, as you'd expect, heavily dominated by Liverpool players. Seven of Jurgen Klopp's champions elect make the cut, a sickening but unsurprising sight with the season halted amidst the deadly grip of the Covid 19 pandemic. The BBC conducted a fan's vote to come up with the XI.  Fernandes gets in ahead of Leicester's James Maddison and Villa's Jack Grealish - both have been linked with Old Trafford moves and the young England duo can count themselves unlucky to miss out. Leicester's Wilfried Ndidi and Chelsea's Mateo Kovacic have also both been consistently if quietly impressive at the heart of their side's respective engine rooms.
What is even more eye-raising about Fernandes inclusion is that he didn't get the pre-requisite half a season of playing time that a winter arrival would usually get before being awarded such an honour. This, perhaps more than anything, speaks volumes about the difference he has had. If only we'd signed him in the summer.

He is a player to be very excited about and we can't wait to see him in action again when football finally resumes. I struggle to think of a player I've seen who's had such a huge impact in such a short space of time.

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson has been named the Player of the Season (another contentious one) but there is no place for top scorer Jamie Vardy or last year's Golden Boot winner Pierre - Emerick Aubameyang - second in the scoring charts this time  around - with Manchester City's Sergio Aguero preferred to the pair.
Henderson is joined by several of his table topping team mates, with goalkeeper Alisson, full-backs Trent Alexander - Arnold and Andrew Robertson, centre-back Virgil Van Dijk and forwards Sadio Mane and Mo Salah all getting the nod. Aaron Wan - Bissaka is unfortunate to miss out with the United man having had a sizzling, sensational debut season at Old Trafford.
Elsewhere, Leicester centre back Caglar Soyuncu has been voted in alongside Van Dijk after a fine campaign for the high flying Foxes. Kevin de Bruyne completes the team.