Date:Thursday February 19 2009
Barcelona are playing some wonderful football this season, look set to walk the Spanish league and are a decent bet to go one better than last season and win the Champions League. I wouldn't begrudge them the achievement as they were graceful losers at Old Trafford last season and their manager Pep Guardiola is a likeable, humble realist.
Guardiola was a brilliant player and it looks like that he's resurrected a Barcelona side that was struggling for motivation in the previous two seasons. The Catalan giants came back from two goals down to claim a draw at Real Betis at the weekend thus they are currently 10 points ahead of arch rivals Real Madrid on the table.
They are well ahead of everyone, possess a great squad and are capable of winning three trophies - yet Guardiola refuses to accept that it's a realistic possibility.
'The treble has not been won here for 109 years and I can't accept the fact that we will do it. It's an absurd thought,' he said last month. He sticked to his opinion after Saturday's night draw.
'We are not unbeatable, nor indestructible, nor the best team on the continent.'
That, officially, happens to be Manchester United, the very club we support here. And there's something common with Barcelona: both clubs are firm favourites to land the domestic crown and the media are bigging up them both, despite the fact that there are three months to go until the end of the season.
And my point is that Guardiola is as intelligent as a manager as he was in his playing days: he knows that talking about trebles in February is nonsense. He's right and I'd be glad if the press stopped referring to our 'quintuple bid'.
Yeah, we have a very good team. But we are not unbeatable, nor indestructible. Yes, we are favourites for the Carling Cup with only the final left to play and it would be a great surprise if we threw away the Premier League. But that's about all we can say at the moment.
Arsenal, Chelsea, Everton and many other teams are still in the FA Cup and don't get me started on the chances of retaining the Champions League. There are 15 teams still out there yet some papers (red tops show yourselves) treat us as if we were shoo-ins to win the damn thing. You know, there are a few clubs there which might have a word or two about it, these insignificant little bunches like Barcelona, Real Madrid, Juventus or Bayern Munich. Not to mention Inter Milan whom we face in less than a week's time.
I've seen scripts analysing how United will end the season in a blaze of glory winning everything in sight, maybe even the Copa Libertadores. Well, I've got news for these editors who try to fill the pages with sensationalist articles about the quintuple: it is conceivable that Inter will beat us. Yeah, you know, they are kinda good at this football thing.
We can talk about a possible quintuple if in April United will have the Carling Cup in the bag, will be well clear at the top of the league table, in the semi-final of the FA Cup and the Champions League. Then I'd accept that it had become a distinct possibility. But not now when in the Champions League we have to play one of the most perversely strong teams in Europe in a week's time...
Date:Thursday February 19 2009
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|Man Utd||3||-||0||Aston Villa|
|West Ham||2||-||2||Man Utd|
|1. Man Utd||38||28||5||5||+43||89|
|2. Man City||38||23||9||6||+32||78|
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