Monday Verdict: Mourinho’s double bluff; Rachel Riley shamed

Date published: Monday 8th May 2017 10:01

Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United double-bluff, Hull City’s failures and Rachel Riley’s comments about Spurs are all discussed in this week’s Monday Verdict.

 

Rachel Riley – hang your head in shame. We should applaud Spurs, not berate them

Rachel Riley: Hosts Friday Night Football

Such has been Chelsea’s dominance this season, the Premier League title battle, in theory, should have been wrapped up weeks ago.

Back on Monday 6 March, Antonio Conte’s men secured a hard-fought win at West Ham to reinstate a 10-point lead at the summit and all-but wrap up what many saw as a guaranteed success.

And while the Blues still look still look a safe bet to regain their status as England’s finest – they need at best two wins from their remaining four games to wrap up glory – the fact that we’re now into May and the race is still ‘alive’ is testament to the magnificent run of form Tottenham have been on.

Admittedly, Spurs weren’t at their best as they slipped to a crushing 1-0 loss at the London Stadium on Friday night and no one will be more frustrated than their players and Mauricio Pochettino at what, looks likely, another challenge that has just fallen short.

After challenging Leicester for glory last season before seeing their bid falter at a key time, Spurs were never really in the race this season.

However, after stringing together nine straight victories in the competition, all of a sudden Pochettino’s men were catapulted into the reckoning. The form team, the team with momentum, suddenly it looked like this could finally be Tottenham’s year.

Indeed, that so-called ‘challenge’ will be relegated to ‘distant dream’ if, according to our Predictions, Middlesbrough suffer at the hands of Chelsea on Monday Night Football.

And if we have seen the end of Tottenham’s bid for the unexpected, Pochettino and his players should be applauded for sprinkling a modicum of interest in what looked a boring title challenge.

In fact, having signed a new TV deal that kicked in at the start of the season (the £5.1bn package amounting to £10m per game over its five-year duration), Sky should be going out of their way to show Tottenham their gratitude.

So when Friday Night Football presenter Rachel Riley accused Spurs of once again being a ‘Bottle Job’, you couldn’t help but cringe at her lack of insight.

Let’s get one thing straight: Spurs were never in the title race. Or if they were, they certainly can’t be accused of losing their nerve. This title wasn’t theirs to lose; two months ago they were little more than one of a clutch of sides hoping to finish in the top four.

The fact they’ve made Chelsea work for it should be applauded not berated. Their run of form should be hailed, not ridiculed and one below-par performance at West Ham won’t alter my opinion on that.

So when the dust has settled on another campaign, Spurs should in fact take heart from their efforts, and they’re certainly not ‘Bottle Jobs’.

They may well come up short this time, but stick together and this side will win trophies – regardless of what Sky’s presenters say. Rachel Riley, hang your head in shame.

James Marshment

 

Did Jose have us fooled all along?

There has been certain points in this 2016/17 Premier League season where Jose Mourinho has rightly been questioned for his results as Manchester United manager.

Failure to beat teams at home has been listed as one of the reasons that they could fail to crack a top four spot amid Jose’s own excuses.

Indeed, the Portuguese boss has been very up-and-down himself in his own assessments as to whether the league is still a possibility to gain Champions League football.

After beating Chelsea, he said the following: “Not even a draw would be a good result for us. So I’m really happy for the boys because we keep two windows open to play Champions League football. I cannot give up on the Premier League yet, we have to try.”

Then, prior to United’s trip to Spain to face Celta Vigo (just over two weeks later) he seemed to have all but given up.

“In the relation to the Premier League I think it is too late [to reach top four] because in April we played nine matches, seven of them in the Premier League and we had too many problems,” Mourinho explained.

All this time however he may have been leading somewhat of a double bluff this season. People have a right to question whether a finish outside the top four is acceptable considering the levels of investment, but could this still be considered a hugely successful season for United?

The Red Devils still have the possibility to win two trophies (with one already in the bag) AND qualify for the Champions League, picking up another European trophy on the way. Surely that would be cause for celebration?

It would be interesting to know at what point Jose firmly believed the Europa League gave him the best shot of Champions League football next season, but the point at which he did may be the reason United could still come away from this season calling it a success.

There is a lot of football still to be played however. Defeat against Arsenal was far from ideal for morale amongst other things, plus the Europa League is no easy win, with Celta Vigo still to see off and a very talented Ajax side looking set to await them in Stockholm.

Perhaps it would be fair for United fans to demand a higher league standing considering the resources and squad at their disposal, just don’t count out celebrations on the red side of Manchester come the end of the season.

What have you done, Hull?

Momentum, in relegation battles, is huge. It’s huge in any sort of football, but the margins are impacted far more dramatically when you’re at the bottom. Hull had it. They don’t now.

The Tigers had a points advantage over Swansea. They had a recent home record the envy of most top-half teams. They had already relegated Sunderland to play at home. In the space of one afternoon, all of that has evaporated.

And they only have themselves to blame. Fair enough, Sunderland were probably more relaxed than recent weeks and Hull came up against a fine goalkeeper in Jordan Pickford, but Sunderland’s 2-0 success at the KCOM was very much a game that Hull lost rather than one Sunderland won.

If they do go down, too, no matter what high points they had throughout their rollercoaster campaign, ultimately they were a team that Sunderland did the double over without even conceding a goal. For that reason alone, no one will be able to say Hull didn’t deserve the drop.

Michael Graham

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