Darren Fletcher has spent some of the best years of his professional career alongside former team-mate and Manchester United’s record goal-scorer, Wayne Rooney.
The Scotland skipper tapped into all his feelings, memories and thoughts about Rooney and tied them neatly into one brilliant speech when he addressed the gathering at the FWA Tribute night.
Fletcher speaks about everything from the pranks and banter between them to Rooney’s exceptional display on and off the pitch.
Watch Fletcher speak about Rooney at the Football Writers’ Association Gala Night, in the above video.
Bastian Schweinsteiger has struggled to adjust to life at Old Trafford since the dawn of the Mourinho era. The former Bayern Munich star has spent much of his 2016-2017 career on the training ground, with the Portuguese manager opting to start the likes of Michael Carrick and Marouane Fellaini instead.
So when Schweinsteiger stepped onto the field as Manchester United faced Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup fourth round, it was clear he needed to impress.
The German went on to appear on the assist and score sheets, recording the Red Devils’ fourth and final goal of the tie, earning an especially boisterous roar from the home crowd. He was deemed Man of the Match.
Our friends at WhoScored.com tell us why:
Basti’s first start in 385 days showed as he often gave away possession and didn’t seem to carry himself with confidence early in the first half. However, he soon overcame his shaky start and duly delivered.
His display pleased the manager who is now adamant to incorporate Schweinsteiger as part of his Europa League squad, silencing speculation the 32-year-old will be packing bags as the January deadline day approaches.
At the beginning of January, Liverpool’s match-up against Chelsea on the final day of the month loomed large as a potential title-deciding match. The Reds were second in the Premier League table, six points behind Chelsea and looked like the best-equipped team to challenge the London side.
Fast-forward to two days before the match, and Liverpool have fallen to fourth in the league, ten points behind Chelsea, and on a run of only one win in eight games in January. They’ve been dumped out of both the EFL Cup and the FA Cup, the latter coming after an embarrassing home defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers, who currently sit 18th in the Championship.
What’s caused Liverpool’s January slump? We look at five reasons why the Reds have fallen so dramatically in the past month.
LACKING QUALITY IN DEFENCE
Liverpool have been crying out for defensive upgrades ever since their title challenge fell short in 2013-14. Dejan Lovren has improved since his early days at Liverpool, but he remains inconsistent. Joel Matip invariably improves the back-line, but the other central defender in the squad, Ragnar Klavan, has yet to acclimatize to the Premier League. A Lovren-Klavan partnership, often seems a disaster waiting to happen.
The Reds brought in two centre-backs in the summer, Matip and Klavan, after letting go of the occasionally brilliant but often erratic Martin Skrtel. Matip has been a success, but Klavan has often struggled this season. Then, in January, with a glaring need for improvements, Liverpool have not brought in any reinforcements.
Manager Jurgen Klopp has complained about not getting value for money in the January market, but rumoured target Jose Fonte, a proven Premier League defender, went from Southampton to West Ham for only £8 million. Moreover, while a commitment to a business model is admirable, teams chasing a title will sometimes need to splash the cash. Spending a little extra to get someone like Fonte’s erstwhile teammate Virgil van Dijk would have been a wise decision.
Liverpool wowed observers in the early part of the season with their dynamic attack, but the goals have dried up in January. They’ve scored only seven of them in eight games and failed to score in four of those.
Daniel Sturridge perhaps best represents Liverpool’s struggles up front. Sturridge has undoubtedly dropped in pace due to his injuries, but he’s also missed chances that most strikers of his level would expect to score. Better accuracy would have seen Liverpool through against Southampton in the second leg of the EFL Cup.
INJURIES AND INTERNATIONAL COMMITMENTS
Philippe Coutinho’s injury, coupled with Sadio Mane’s absence as he represented Senegal at the African Cup of Nations, left a gaping hole in Liverpool’s attack. Klopp has not been able to field his preferred front four of Coutinho, Mane, Adam Lallana and Roberto Firmino, and the attack has suffered.
Matip was also absent for a large part of January due to a dispute over his international commitments with Cameroon for the Cup of Nations. Meanwhile, Jordan Henderson’s fitness issues have cropped up again. Although he was fit for Liverpool’s crunch game against Manchester United, he made only two other appearances in January.
Jurgen Klopp teams are known for their high-octane style, with incessant pressing. It’s been no different at Liverpool, and in the early part of the season, it seemed to be working perfectly.
But Klopp has never previously managed in a league without a winter break. Where his Mainz and Dortmund teams got two weeks off Liverpool came into January on the back of the hectic winter schedule of English football.
It’s difficult for managers to stray from their philosophies, but perhaps Klopp would have been wise in trying to teach a more patient style, at least as a Plan B, in order to conserve energy and maintain his players’ fitness levels.