Manchester United are in serious turmoil after latest defeat

Manchester United lost 2-0 away to West Ham and their season turns from bad to worse. The Red Devils have slipped to 8th place and are already 10 points behind league leaders Liverpool.

Have United ever been this bad since Sir Alex Ferguson retired from the game in 2013?

It is clear as daylight that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is not the man to lead the club. He is a good man, a footballing person, but this job is simply too big for him. And that is unfortunate as there are two versions of the manager. The first is the smiling man who came into rescue the club last December as they went 10 games undefeated and played their best football in almost a decade. Then there is the man who used to manage Cardiff and who got them relegated, that is the man that United have.

Fans are starting to call for his sacking, it’s brutal yes, but at the same time he isn’t the clubs right manager.

United have won just 2 games all season and even though we are into the early days nothing looks right at the club. It’s true that they are playing some good positive football but results are not going their way and the truth is that the usual United fear factor has evaporated.

His record with United after that bright start is actually incredibly poor with a 21% win rate. He has won just 4 games with the club from 19. Had this been beginning of the season league form then United would have had 17 points mid season, that is the damning verdict that Solskjaer has no future with the club.

As it stands United look like they would finish with about 53 points, which is light years away from where they need to be. Now let’s take a look at their upcoming fixtures.

United’s next four league fixtures look tricky. First they will face Arsenal at home which will not be easy at all. Next they will play Newcastle away from home and Steve Bruce will add more spice to that as Newcastle’s manager and ex United player. After that they have a massive game at home to Liverpool and then they will play Norwich away who have already beaten Manchester City at home.

It doesn’t seem possible that Solskjaer will be able to turn this around, at the same time who would United go in for? That answer is simple, Massimiliano Allegri is a free agent and he has the right experience at the biggest clubs to perhaps bring United back to where they belong. Solskjaer’s number looks up, it just seems now when and where it will happen.

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Allegri leaves Juventus- what can his replacement expect?

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“When Conte abruptly left, many felt the sky was falling. The Allegri hiring was universally mocked on social media and rocks were thrown at his car when he arrived for his first training session.” I know you’ve read and heard a variation of that line many times, I can vouch for fact I used it many times myself to illustrate that we shouldn’t take for granted Allegri’s success at Juventus.

The expectations were so low when a manager who had been sacked at Milan after being constantly mocked by Rossoneri fans, and even Silvio Berlusconi publicly at a political rally, replaced Antonio Conte, a club legend who had brought Juventus back from the ashes of Calciopoli. 

I bring this narrative once again to illustrate that Allegri’s stature as a candidate for a top club has only risen compared to five year ago and Juventus could very well keep winning even if his replacement doesn’t appear to be adequate at time of hire which is in line with both Giovanni Trapattoni and Marcello Lippi, who won the Champions League at the club, as well as Antonio Conte.

There also appears to be the potential for some Allegri remorse amongst some of his biggest critics based on the same the names being discussed as his replacement (Simone Inzaghi and Sinisa Mihajlovic) but make no mistake about it- it was time for both Allegri and especially Juventus to part ways. 

It was bad enough that most of the club’s fans were done with pragmatic, defensive and “just do the bare minimum to win” approach, we now had Dybala’s brother and agent publicly stating many of the players were unhappy and ready to leave. Sacrificing all of the likes of Cancelo, Dybala and Douglas Costa (some of whom could still leave) because of their issues with the manager was too much of a price to pay for even the most ardent Allegri defender.

While Allegri will almost certainly land a top job abroad based on the fact he has a much higher approval rating outside of the Serie A bubble (it’s more a matter of when, since he could also take a year off and collect the checks from the last year of his deal at Juventus) it remains to be seen if the name of his replacement will be equally prestigious.

Certainly Juventus made a very significant and surprising splash by landing Cristiano Ronaldo last summer after years of being mocked for loan with option to buy deals, but they historically have always hired an Italian manager- the only exception in past 30 plus years was Didier Deschamps who had some black and white DNA after being a club captain as a player but was also hired when the club was relegated to the second division.

Zinedine-Zidane(1)

The fact that Zidane decided to return to Real Madrid was a game changer- just like Deschamps he has a strong tie to the club already and of course has a remarkable track record at the club. While Juventus would love to make an exception for Pep Guardiola, there appears to be no chance he leaves the club despite their potential escalating Financial Fair Play issues. 

While Mourinho is represented by Ronaldo’s agent Jorge Mendes, the biggest complaint about Allegri was his defensive and pragmatic approach and on top of that there’s the Special One’s iconic past at Inter to consider. Hiring Pochettino would be very expensive because of his release clause and he could be a candidate for Barcelona.

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Recently Maurizio Sarri has also been discussed as a possibility. While there’s a distinct possibility he’ll leave Chelsea after the Europa League final, he would be an awkward fit culture wise at Juventus because of his style. It would also be interesting to see how the former Napoli coach would be greeted by all the Juve fans who loudly commented on the fact he hasn’t won anything despite playing beautiful football (at least at Napoli and Empoli)

While there has been a lot of buzz for Antonio Conte’s return, Inter are still confident they will appoint him as their next manager and there appears to still be some bad blood between him and president Andrea Agnelli based on the way he left 5 years ago- many have also noted how much warmer Juventus’ brass was with Allegri when announcing his departure compared to Conte.

Lazio v Salzburg - UEFA Europa League - Quarter Final - First Leg - Stadio Olimpico

That would leave two former teammates of Juventus’ most prominent directors- Simone Inzaghi is close to Fabio Paratici and has been successful at Lazio, while Pavel Nedved played alongside Sinisa Mihajlovic and was one of the finalists for Juventus’ coaching job in the past and has recently raised his stock by turning around Bologna this season.

What is Allegri’s successor walking into? Juventus is focused on winning at least two more Scudetti to make it ten in a row, plus the fans also expect a much more attractive style of play. If that weren’t enough, Allegri had already substantially raised the bar in the Champions League- you can mock him for taking credit for making two finals and losing them, but without the substantial revenues that came with those deep runs, Juventus would have never been able to sign Ronaldo and Allegri is the last manager to eliminate the two coaches in the current final.

While the expectations will be enormous, the next Juventus manager can draw inspiration from his predecessor- Allegri leaves Turin with his profile raised despite fact many assumed he would fail as Conte’s replacement.

 

  

The way Allegri is perceived hasn’t changed but his future outlook certainly has

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Juventus’ impressive comeback against Atletico Madrid probably didn’t do much to change your opinion of Massimiliano Allegri. If you’ve been criticizing him for the past two season you can feel vindicated by seeing what his team looks when they actually play attacking football and get the most out of their impressive weapons, if you have been one of his defenders, then your takeaway from the match is this just another tactical masterpiece from the Tuscan manager.

 

 

Before we go any further, let’s get one thing out of the way- regardless of which camp you fall on with Allegri, there’s no doubt that Cristiano Ronaldo was the hero of Tuesday night’s showdown at Allianz Stadium and his performance needs to be taken into account when evaluating Allegri. CR7 was the difference between getting past the round and a heroic comeback that fell just short like the ones against Real Madrid and Bayern Munich in previous seasons.

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But back to Allegri, let’s look at this match from the point of view that someone who has been critical of him for the past two years as a result of too many 1-0 wins where Juventus did the bare minimum to win. While I’m certain these folks received plenty of tweets from Allegri defenders after the match, they had their own version of “I told you so” since they can easily say “You see this is what we could be watching all the time, if Allegri didn’t keep putting the brakes on all of the talent on our squad”.

 

 

They probably see Allegri like someone who can only get it together when his back is truly against the wall, essentially like a husband who has been in the doghouse for awhile and to avoid a costly divorce starts buying flowers, playing Adele records in the house and suggests rewatching “The Notebook” on Netflix. To an Allegri critic the comeback against Atletico shouldn’t have been necessary in the first place had Allegri simply not botched the first leg so badly- and they certainly have a point.

 

 

An Allegri defender looks at this game from a radically different point of view. They are likely to say that just like Juventus struggled at the Wanda Metropolitano, so did Atletico Madrid in Turin- in matches of this caliber, the home field advantage is a big deal and that the matchup against Simeone’s team was always going to be incredibly difficult.

 

 

Certainly it’s more than reasonable to say that all too often Juventus plays boring and uninspired football, but someone completely in the tank for Allegri (even more so that one of his defenders) could say that Juventus’ manager is like a great head coach in the NFL who saves all his best plays and formations for games that truly matter in the playoffs. To these people Allegri is football’s version of Larry Bird who back in 1986 famously played a game against the Portland Trailblazers using his left hand, so he could save his right one for the far more formidable Lakers.

 

 

As often is the case with these things, the truth is somewhere in the middle. Allegri does deserve criticism for Juventus’ uninspired play the past two season, but there’s also no doubt he’s proven he’s a master tactician who can win you a very tough match in the Champions League by making some surprising adjustments like using Emre Can as essentially a false center back.

 

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But while the outcome of the match likely reinforced your opinion of him rather than change your mind, another event this week radically changed the outlook for Allegri’s future. In fact Zinedine Zidane’s surprising decision to return to Real Madrid took a way a potential landing spot for the Tuscan manager while taking off the table the most realistic and palatable replacement for him at Juventus (assuming you take Pep Guardiola at his word when he said he wouldn’t be moving to Turin any time soon).

 

 

It’s hard to imagine there are many Juventus fans who are excited by the prospect of either Didier Deschamps or Antonio Conte returning to the club, because they don’t play a very different style than what Allegri has used recently. As a matter a fact, Zidane’s decision did more to change the minds of Juventus fans with Allegri than the win against Atletico Madrid.

 

 

Interestingly to those outside the Juventus bubble (and let’s add the Milan one too), Allegri would have been considered to be a top manager regardless of the outcome of Tuesday night’s match. I guess it’s easier for these people to appreciate Allegri’s qualities since they probably aren’t watching all Juventus games, to them he’s someone who has kept Conte’s dominance in Serie A going while also vastly improving the team’s outlook in Europe.

 

 

The only way Allegri will fully change the minds of his critics is to actually lead Juventus to the elusive Champions League win, that is a very lofty standard but in it of itself it should tell you a lot about how much Allegri has achieved in Turin.

 

 

Who has more at stake in return leg against Atletico Madrid?

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Their insurmountable lead in Serie A and surprising elimination in the Coppa Italia, makes Juventus’ upcoming match against Atletico Madrid even more important than their previous return legs in the Champions League during recent seasons. On Tuesday night the bianconeri will look to come back from a 2-0 deficit for the first time in their history against an opponent who loves nothing more than defending a lead. 

While the challenge is massive, so were the expectations going into this season. But who has more at stake when Juventus take to the pitch at Allianz Stadium?

 Juventus Press Conference

 

Massimiliano Allegri 

While the Tuscan manager is used to being criticized for his defensive and bare minimum approach, this season he has turned into a human piñata, especially on social media. Certainly Allegri deserves a lot of credit for raising the bar at the club in Europe (he often likes to remind the media and fans that Juventus was struggling against Swedish and Danish clubs prior to his arrival) and you can make a case he’s a victim of his own success, but in the match at the Wanda stadium there’s no doubt he got outcoached and it’s fair to say he hasn’t been able to get the most out of his remarkable impressive offensive weapons through out the season- he especially hasn’t been able to make Dybala fit in with Ronaldo.

But while Allegri’s popularity with Juventus has plummeted like Tesla’s stock after Elon Musk appeared on Joe Rogan’s podcast, he’s held in very high regard from non Serie A fans and is certainly a very marketable name should he need to find a new job in the summer. Allegri has proven that he could take Juventus from B to C after Antonio Conte had gotten them back on track, he has shown he can handle star players (and even discipline them when necessary in an effective way if you look at Bonucci’s desire to return to the club) and his management of the media is second to none in Italy- a very important skill at top clubs anywhere.

Should Juventus be eliminated on Tuesday, Allegri will certainly receive a lot of blame in the short term but to those outside of the Juve bubble, the story line will be that he’s a great manager who just happened to lose to Atletico, a team with an excellent track record in Europe and a top coach.

 

 

 

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Cristiano Ronaldo

 

I know what many of you are thinking- how can CR7 have anything at stake on Tuesday considering that he’s already won 5 Champions League and that Real Madrid have struggled since his departure? But in his case, a premature elimination in Europe’s biggest competition would mainly be a massive squandered opportunity.

While bringing in Ronaldo has already had substantial benefits to Juventus’ brand globally, on the pitch he was brought in to elevate the team in the Champions League- a competition where he has arguably been the best player ever. Winning one at Juventus, a club that is mainly known for the finals they lost and a general vibe of disappointment, would certainly elevate the way Ronaldo is perceived historically and in his endless debate with Leo Messi- it would be somewhat similar to what winning a title in Cleveland did for Lebron James despite the fact he had already won in Miami.

Now Ronaldo will have other opportunities to win a Champions League at Juventus since he signed a multi year deal, but it’s also hard to see an easier path to the cup than this current edition since Real Madrid and PSG are already out and one between Liverpool and Bayern Munich won’t make it to the next round. Age is also a huge factor, while Ronaldo is in great shape he’s also 34, a decline in the later years of his contract is almost inevitable and nothing would help his legacy more than winning a Champions League at Juventus as their best player.

Ronaldo certainly has a devoted fan base that transcends clubs, but after the loss to Atletico there’s already a contingent of Juventus supporters who are now wondering if acquiring Ronaldo was worth it in the first place- especially should it also result with sacrificing Dybala in the summer.

 

 

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Juventus

In this case I’m referring to the senior management team of Andrea Agnelli, Fabio Paratici, Pavel Nedved and the club’s image. As previously mentioned, acquiring Ronaldo brought some big benefits off the pitch (marketing, financial and a strong relationship with an influential agent like Jorge Mendes) but it also made winning ten scudetti in a row, which can be achieved at the end of next season, almost an after thought for their supporters.

Juventus took the “if you can’t beat him, just acquire him” approach and brought in Ronaldo to finally get over the hump in the Champions League. In doing so they made a massive investment in a player about to enter his mid 30s and substantially increased their wage structure. An early elimination in the Champions League would also take away a very substantial revenue stream which benefitted them substantially the two times they made the finals. In addition adding Ronaldo also overshadowed the fact the management team didn’t do enough to improve the midfield, an elimination would bring that in spotlight front and center.

While Juventus’ management has historically always publicly stated that domestic success is the priority and the Champions League is a crap shot, that changed at the beginning of the season. You can point to the fact that facing Atletico Madrid in the round of sixteen after winning their group stage is further proof that you need some luck in the Champions League, but that will not be enough even when Juventus wins their ninth scudetto in a row.

Juventus’ nightmare shows no signs of stopping this season

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Just when Juventus thought they were finally putting an end to their poor start in the Italian Serie A this season, they get hit with a sucker punch against Sassuolo which now confines them to a bottom-half placing for another week. The Old Lady were beaten 1-0 at the Mapei Stadium, and have now lost more times in 10 outings this season than they lost throughout the entire last campaign, and now league leaders AS Roma are 11 points ahead of the defending champions.

Manager Massimiliano Allegri has been under pressure during the inconsistent run of results, but he will have seen this coming after so many high-profile names left the club all at the same time. Any club would suffer when saying goodbye to a large number of influential players, and Juventus are no different. They have been trying to recover without such starlets, and did look to have finally turned a corner in October following two wins and a draw in the league, but the Sassuolo defeat sets them back again.

“We committed five fouls around the area before we conceded the goal. Then we were down to 10 and we were nervous. With many young people in the middle of the field, it can be hard work, but this is not an excuse. Everyone is responsible – even me. We must do better. We had a good reaction, and we must be happy with this, but also angry about what was done in the first half. Tonight was worth so much. We had to avoid losing more ground. We lost to having received a shot on goal from a free-kick, and this says a lot about what we did,” said Allegri following the match.

Just the three wins from 10 games is in complete contrast to their performance in Serie A over the past few years, and it looks like their dominance is over. Their fight to keep talented midfielder Paul Pogba could be over too, and losing the French international would be the biggest disappointing for the club and its supporters. It’s sad times for Juventus, but Europe has provided some solace with a bright start to their Champions League campaign – seven points from their first three games.

It’s not a common sight seeing Juventus in the bottom half of the Serie A table, let alone losing so many games early on, but it’s a nightmare the Italian giants can’t seem to wake from at the moment. 11 points off top spot is a big deficit to make back, but in truth Juve aren’t considering a title-challenge this season, but rather stopping an impending implosion if their season continues in a similar fashion.

Coppa Italia triumph against Lazio sees Juventus seal second major trophy in treble hunt

On Wednesday night, Italian Serie A champions sealed the double with an extra time win against Lazio in the Coppa Italia final. Substitute Alessandro Matri, who has barely featured for the Old Lady this campaign, scored in the 97th minute of the game, and the European heavyweights held out for the remainder of the allocated time to seal their second major trophy.

Juventus had to come from behind to win it too, with Stefan Radu putting Lazio ahead just minutes into the game. However, the Bianconeri quickly responded with Giorgio Chiellini tying the cup final less than 10 minutes later.

Lazio had a chance to restore their lead both before and during extra time, with Filip Djordjevic firstly spurning a chance from close range, before hitting both posts with an effort from distance in the first-half of extra time.

Juventus went ahead for good through Matri and Lazio were unable to respond in extra-time. It was for tough for Lazio, but their efforts were not ignored by opposing boss Allegri, who admitted luck played a factor.

“Lazio had a great game, it was worthy of a Final and we knew this would be different from in Serie A. We did well, they did well, they were unlucky hitting the woodwork twice, and we were fortunate on our goal. Football is made of incidents. Before their upright we had two or three favourable situations we didn’t make the most of,” he said.

Manager Massimiliano Allegri was delighted with the victory, and now can think ahead to the Champions League final against La Liga champions Barcelona, who are also chasing a famous treble of their own (La Liga, Champions League & Copa del Rey). The Juve boss has impressively managed to improve upon a side who were perennial winners of the league prior to his appointment, and are now in with a chance of being crowned the best team in Europe.

“I have to say that it wasn’t easy for the lads to win the Scudetto and Coppa Italia. Now we’ll try to win the third. It is not easy to play in three tournaments all the way through a season. Now we will try to nourish this dream and turn it into reality,” Allegri added.

Juventus have won the Italian Serie A and the Coppa Italia, and now can look ahead to Barcelona in the Champions League final in June. Their end to the season has so far gone to plan.