With no game since 7th February the club has been going through what I guess could be called a mid season break?
The two weeks of inactivity will hopefully give everyone time to take stock and to prepare for what, with Champions League Football about to poke its head over parapet again, promises to be a busy and important period.
Hopefully the likes of Torres, who has just returned from injury, will be able to work on their fitness. Those who are injured, such as Gerrard will be given good time to recover, encouragingly it’s been suggested he will be fit for the first leg against Real, and presumably those players who Rafa has sited as “tired” will appreciate the rest from matches played and the pressure of the spotlight?
Rafa can perhaps look at what’s gone on this season and what’s to come and plot the way through what has of late become and increasingly difficult route, on and off the field. It looks like getting harder with the Mancs playing their game in hand tonight at home to Fulham. However, hopefully we can respond in the way we did at this time last season and put together a decent finishing run? It doesn’t really need saying but there is still all to play for. A Mancs victory will put them five points clear meaning that the title is theirs to lose – but may be this will suit us?
Despite the lack of games there is still plenty of activity behind the scenes. Two areas seem to dominate, both concern the contracts of staff Daniel Agger and Rafa.
Rumours of Agger’s alleged unrest won’t go away. The issue now appears to be his lack of first team football since Martin Skrtel’s return from injury. One wonders just what the likes of Agger, or his agent, are really trying to achieve by speaking in this way. Yossi Benayoun pulled the same stunt before Christmas as did, but to a lesser extent, Peter Crouch the season before. It’s not as Rafa is suddenly going to pick them because of these deluded attempts to hold him to ransom. so maybe it’s “come and get me” call to other teams? Nonetheless one can appreciate the frustration at being left out, just ask Robbie Keane!
Is Agger better than Skrtel? I guess it’s difficult as, although both are centre halves they are different players. Skrtel is more in the traditional “stopper” role whilst Agger’s game is more expansive. With Rafa seeming intent on getting his full backs up and down the line perhaps he sees Skrtels more “conservative” less offensive approach as a key counteracting factor? I’ve also wondered whether there is any merit in Rafa playing Agger at full back. He seems to have the pace and appetite for attack that Rafa seems to want in this position?
Rafa’s contract, has taken a potentially interesting turn with his revelation that talks have taken longer not just because of the issue of redefining his role but also securing the future of his staff.
“Here in England, having a year left on your contract is nothing at all. When people realise the manager only has a year and half left, he is dead. I’ve got 10 or 12 assistants whose contracts are up in June. How can a manager lead a project properly if the continuity of his staff is not secure for two or three years?”
A fair and just point which the owners who presumably have plenty of back room staff in their other businesses will no doubt appreciate. Such indecision over contracts can only lead to unrest and uncertainty however, one can’t also help wondering that Rafa is playing safe and laying the ground for his departure should they fail to reach an agreement. Besides hinting at difficulties in securing his back room team, and over his role in transfer policy he has now, rather cheekily, suggested that he would, at some stage like to manage Real Madrid.
“I hope to be here for a long time but Madrid would be the perfect ending for anyone’s career. But my career is not at an end yet.”
Rafa continues to state that he doesn’t have a problem with the star spangled duo however, one wonders if they have problem with statements of this kind? Nonetheless I can’t help thinking that Rafa has Hicks and Gillett where he wants them. They need to reach an agreement with Rafa as the majority of fans won’t tolerate his departure. Besides making them even more unpopular than thy already are, it could prove costly to them if need to recruit a new manager. Rumours are that everything will be signed sealed and delivered before we play Real. This will be good news and will help to lessen the speculation about Rafa and Real which would otherwise surely increase as we prepare to face them?
Finally it appears that during the summer we will be taking part in something called The Peace Cup along with, it is rumoured, Real Madrid, Lyon, Porto and Celtic or Rangers. Presumably the tournament is lucrative to the club but also some of the money raised will be used to build pitches that straddle notorious divides eg. in the Demilitarised Zone between North and South Korea. and between Palestinian territories and Israel. I guess there is a kind of irony that we are playing in such a tournament with these aims when we can’t even get our stadium sorted? I suppose if wasn’t for such a good cause it would be case of another faux paux on behalf of the owners? A case of taking the peace?