Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hargreaves' Story All Too Familiar For United often caught on the wrong side of the moral spectrum, Manchester City will relish this opportunity to make their rivals look just as base.

Known for his charitable work, and reportedly willing to play for free, United threw Hargreaves to the wayside, presumably believing that injuries had finally overwhelmed the once great player.

 A two time Champions League winner, Hargreaves is about as cosmopolitan as an Englishman can be - fluent in German and an expert penalty taker. During his time at Bayern Munich, he gained legitimate respect from more broadly versed European football observers, his talents appreciated as being many varied and translatable to more than just the parochial atmosphere of English football.

At the 2006 World Cup, a series of dynamic performances - culminating in a penalty conversion against Portugal - earned Hargreaves the attention of Sir Alex Ferguson and, eventually, a move to Manchester United in the summer of 2007.

"It has been a long time coming - it was probably the worst kept secret in football." said Hargreaves after sealing the switch. Certainly, no similar claim could be made about his move to City.

So dire was Hargreaves' situation, that he was forced to post fitness videos on YouTube to convince potential suitors of his worth. Clearly, Roy Hodgson and West Bromich Albion were impressed by his ability to weave in and out of cones, as it was they who registered a first major interest.

"We believe he is capable of playing top flight football and we are very interested in him," said Hodgson. Having passed a "minor medical" at the Hawthornes, a move to the midlands seemed a certainty only for football's transfer juggernauts to once again steal the show.

Rumors breaking Tuesday were confirmed by images of Hargreaves apparently undergoing a three hour medical at Manchester City's Carrington training ground, with a view to a move before the transfer deadline. For Manchester United, the story echoes of Carlos Tevez.

The last player to breach the divide, Tevez was also cast away having failed to earn the full trust of Ferguson. United were frankly lucky that Tevez's role as City's star striker never effected their own fortunes particularly greatly, but what it did do was change the perception of Fergie's "noisy neighbors." From Chelsea wannabees to Champions League contenders, City's meteoric rise will eventually see United unseated.

The part Tevez played in the drama should not be undervalued, even if his ties with both clubs are becoming increasingly strained. His is the story of a player who left Old Trafford and excelled, contradicting Ferguson's oft stated rule in most ironic style.

Now that the Mancunian battle is becoming a title tussle as well as grudge match, United cannot afford to see their rejects perform across town. In Owen Hargreaves, City have found just the player they need, a much, much richer man's Gareth Barry - the midfielder who might have made two Champions League finals interesting.

Grasping for motivation to succeed, Hargreaves like Tevez will not have to look far. The nature of his departure from Old Trafford - complete with patronizing good luck wishes and dismissive shrugs from impatient fans - should be enough to get blood flowing.

The challenge is immense, but the prospect of success will keep Hargreaves going. After three years of turmoil, the end is in sight; the reward for lonely hours in the gym, and countless slices by the surgeon's knife.

United though, must pray that their midfield crock doesn't turn into City's final jigsaw piece.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Patronized Berba Deserves More Than He's Getting the midst of United's attacking wildfire, one forward was removed from the rest. As in most things, Berbatov was on the outskirts.

He has always been different from the others. Quiet, withdrawn, Berbatov refuses to be sucked into the loud, effervescent public life of Rio Ferdinand, nor the wild, sex driven antics of Wayne Rooney. When United players are asked to describe their Bulgarian teammate, the answers tend to be vague or mumbled. To an outsider, it would seem as though nobody really knows Dimitar Berbatov. He is said to sit far from the rest on away trips, and rarely join in on raucous games of cards in the wee hours during those infamous tours abroad.

Lackadaisical, languid, lazy. Berbatov's playing style has generated cliches of its own. Wishing to criticize, no wide range of vocabulary is needed, merely a group of synonyms that any would be TV pundit learns in their crash course to being unoriginal.

Even when he achieves, Berbatov's accomplishments are derided. A golden boot made impure by the distribution of goals - heavily on one or two games against low level opposition - and a second title win in three years, more the work of Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez.

Now the criticism seems to have worked. The Bulgarian Berbatov is further away from first team football than ever, on the outskirts both personally and professionally.

Interest from PSG and Juventus though was rejected, despite his apparent distance from the starting eleven, Berbatov holds some value in Ferguson's eye. What value though? Has he just been shelved away, kept only to save face, to show that thirty million pounds wasn't wasted? Berbatov is fast turning into another object, kept only for the sake of stubbornness, cursed by no fault of his own, but by the failure of those around him to understand his footballing importance and by a price tag which many see as at its most useful when tied around the striker's metaphorical neck.

The 2011 Champions League final looked to be his nadir.  Left out of the squad entirely, Berbatov was forced to take a watchers on role while the constantly injured Michael Owen claimed a place on the bench. That season Owen had netted twice in the league. Berbatov was top scorer with twenty.

"There was no more disappointed man that night (Champions League final) than Dimitar, there's no question about that." said Ferguson. "I made a decision that I didn't want to make, putting Michael Owen on the bench, but I felt it was a positive one."

Since then, the World has seen little of Dimitar Berbatov. He scored in a pre season friendly against the Major League Soccer All Stars, and is often caught respectfully watching games from his position on the sidelines. According to Ferguson, his performances in training post Champions League rejection have been inspiring - one wonders then how much stall is set by training these days...

That Berbatov hasn't moved is a crime only the humblest could commit. Berbatov knows that from Manchester United the only step is down, but he doesn't regard himself highly enough to see first team football as a god given right. It is Berbatov's personal underestimation, his modesty and his loyalty that are pulling him down.

In Manchester, a city marked constantly by waste of talent, one player on the red side festers quietly. He is driven though not by money (he could have got more at PSG) but by his own belief in English club football's most vital mantra. No player is bigger than their club. Berbatov appreciates that all to well. Instead of quietly retreating, accepting the situation and fighting to regain lost acclaim, maybe Berba should have thrown a fit after that Champions League final refusal. Maybe he should have cried, complained and left.

At some point he should have given up. Tired of being patronized by a man who is fast losing interest in a one time chief transfer target, he should have asked to leave.

The World is losing a prodigious talent, but Berbatov would never admit it. He's too humble.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Sunday's Fantasy Review

Ryan Shotton Ryan Shotton of Stoke City celebrates his goal during the Barclays Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and Stoke City at The Hawthorns on August 28, 2011 in West Bromwich, England.Manchester United 8-2 Arsenal- An absolute obliteration, I couldn't dream of covering all angles. Assists and goals were in bountiful supply, with Rooney and Young the chief perpetrators.

On the other side of the coin though, villains were everywhere in the Arsenal team - shameful performances from all their defenders, a penalty miss by Robin Van Persie and a red card for Carl Jenkinson.

MOTM: Ashely Young- Two goals, a number of assits and now the game's most valuable midfielder.
FOTM: Johan Djourou- Many would have thought Jenkison, but he was saved by an assist.

Tottenham 1-5 Manchester City- Another sensational result, attacking point scoreres were once again prevalent. Dzeko netted four and Aguero one, while a hat trick of assists for Samir Nasri earned him is first major fantasy haul of the season.

A goal from defense for Younes Kaboul made his score respectable, with Van Der Vaart's corner making him Tottenham's most dangerous attacking player.

MOTM: Edin Dzeko- Need I explain...
FOTM: Benoit Assou Ekotto- Five conceded and a yellow card.

Newcastle 2-1 Fulham- Newcastle get their second consecutive win, but no clean sheet for early front runners Ryan and Steven Taylor. Leon Best was the undoubted attacking hero, scoring two goals.

For Fulham, Clint Dempsey scored his first of the season, while popular defenders like Riise, Hughes and Hangelaand remain stuck on one clean sheet.

MOTM: Leon Best- Two goals, an easy pick.
FOTM: Brede Hangelaand- Could have been any Fulham defender, but he is the most popular.

West Brom 0-1 Stoke- West Brom's unfortunate start to the season continued with another unlucky loss. Ryan Shotton was the hero, in a game - interestingly - without a single yellow card.

Shotton took advantage of a Ben Foster error, consinging the former Manchester United keeper to a third match without a clean sheet.
MOTM: Ryan Shotton- Scorer of the winning goal.
FOTM: Ben Foster- Not terrible in fantasy terms, but it was his mistake which lost the match.
Enjoy the rest of our fantasy coverage.

Links Of The Day: August 29th, 2011

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Manchester Sends Out A Remarkable Message

Somewhere, an Arsenal fan just hanged himself. The malaise which the Gunners have slipped into over the past couple weeks was one that most saw coming - a function of questionable transfer business and an unfortunate series of injuries.

However, to concede eight goals, even at a venue like Old Trafford, is an unprecedented feat of self destruction. If he stays, Wenger better make sure he hasn't got plans for Thursday nights anytime over the next eighteen months.

In many ways, playing in the Europa League is more manifestly demoralizing than not participating in Europe at all. Every week critics are reminded that their favorite punching bag dropped down a tier or so - just look at pre Kenny Dalglish Liverpool...

For all the goals and excitement, Sunday was a somber day of football. On the East coast of the US at least, all that happened was engulfed in the surreal atmosphere of a New Jersey hurricane, one which managed to deny this writer his fill of Premier League action. Moreover, the nature of North London's demise was anything but pleasurable. What was once a set of closely fought fixtures began to gravitate towards the farcical - Roy of the Rovers stuff from Edin Dzeko but just the opposite from Arsene Wenger...

Both Spurs and Arsenal will seek comfort in the other's annihilation - Tottenham fans pointing to the six goal margin, Arsenal ones to the White Hart Lane venue. Neither set of supporters can take much solace in their teams' transfer activity though. If Harry Redknapp plans to replace a clearly unsettled Luka Modric with Scott Parker then, possibly, Park Chu Young won't be labeled the least able replacement of the summer.

Clearly, there are problems in key areas that need solving. Spurs have yet to be vindicated in their purchase on loan of Emmanuel Adebayor, while Arsenal continue to toil in their quest for a central defender. In certain Manchester nemeses, no such weaknesses are apparent.

Rather than expose new signing David De Gea, Manchester United's supposed "crisis" at the back resulted in the delivery of an ominous message. Jones and Smalling are both in Fabio Capello's England squad for qualifiers coming up next month - two savvy buys by Ferguson, more proof that the Scotsman will never let his team grow stale.

Danny Welbeck too has made waves, now tied as the league's second most prolific Englishman, the academy product is just a hat trick off teammate Wayne Rooney. His rise over the last seven days has been remarkable, unfortunate then that he was omitted from the England squad due to an injury

Across town Manchester City's depth comes from money rather than development, with new acquisitions like Aguero continuing to shine brightly, and old ones like Dzeko just starting to. Their attacking fluidity is reminiscent of Arsenal at their best, though the support which Fabregas and Nasri never had at The Emirates is provided by a healthy backbone of Toure, De Jong and Kompany.

City may have taken multiple tries to get to the top, but in the end their hit and hope approach to market usage has trumped Arsenal's measured and conservative one. Perhaps the success of Mancini, Sheikh Mansour and Gary Cook is indicative of the modern game - the long term rewards that City's money will bring should stretch out farther even than Wenger's infamous six years.

At the Etihad Stadium, City are poised for a shot at greatness. They have well and truly out muscled their adversaries. No longer will Spurs catch them at the death to claim Champions League qualification, no longer even will Arsenal worry them in pursuit of prizes yet grander.

And in that truth, there is sadness. Call it nostalgia if you will, but the destruction of two teams once celebrated is one not worthy of jubilation. Many find joy in others' misfortune - the Germans even have a word for it - but no matter how many goals Manchester racked up, there was never going to be any happiness about Sunday's striking bonanza.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Saturday's Fantasy Review

Charlie Adam and Jordan HendersonAston Villa 0-0 Wolves- Defenses on top as both teams continue a run of fine defensive form. Between them, only two goals have been conceded thus far, with a slue of fantasy managers benefiting from the form of Roger Johnson and Richard Dunne.

In an attacking sense, Villa were disappointing - N'Zogbia is still to live up to his pre season billing.

MOTM: Richard Dunne- Solid. A second clean sheet of the season.
FOTM: Jamie O'Hara- Popular fantasy option, but sullied his performance today with a yellow card.

Blackburn 0-1 Everton- Tim Howard is the clear star, saving one penalty and seeing another hit the post. A clean sheet too makes the American man of the match.

Both Mauro Formica and Junior Hoilett were guilty of missing from the spot, while Mikel Arteta kept his cool in the closing stages.

MOTM: Tim Howard- Clean sheet, penalty save.
FOTM: Junior Hoilett- Penalty miss and a yellow card.

Chelsea 3-1 Norwich- Chelsea have failed to live up to expectations so far, and were flattered by a three-one scoreline. Grant Holt got off the mark for Norwich, while Bosingwa, Mata and Lampard also scored their first goals of the season.

After coming on mid way through the second half, Mata was terrific, linking play well and scoring the third goal.

MOTM: Frank Lampard- A goal and an assist edge him ahead of Bosingwa.
FOTM: John Ruddy- Sending off was harsh, but still, he's flop of the match.

Swansea 0-0 Sunderland- I thought the Swans were supposed to be entertainers! - another 0-0 draw for the newly promoted side.

Michel Vorm is fast becoming one of the league's stand out goalkeepers, this his second consecutive clean sheet. A new look Sunderland side continues to struggle though, now they're winless in three.

MOTM: Michel Vorm- Great saves, great player.
FOTM: Danny Graham- He just keeps on missing.

Wigan 2-0 QPR- I never thought I would say this, but Franco Di Santo actually had a good game. Two goals makes him a clear MOTM, though Emmerson Boyce also deserves a shout for an assist and a clean sheet.

QPR have been very inconsistent thus far, still nothing to write home about from star creator Adel Taarabt.

MOTM: Franco Di Santo- Two goals, an easy choice.
FOTM: Danny Gabbidon- Most popular, so he edges out all the other QPR defenders.

Liverpool 3-1 Bolton- First goals made this one interesting, with Henderson and Adam both getting off the mark for their new club. A goal from defense for Martin Skrtel also worth mentioning, though his performance was sullied by Klasnic's late consolation.

The form of Klasnic this season has been spectacular - three goals in three games make him the league's top scorer.

MOTM: Charlie Adam- A goal and an assist.
FOTM: Gretar Steinnson- Three conceded and a booking to boot.

Friday, August 26, 2011

INFTH Premier League Prediction

This week we're doing things a little bit differently, with one extended preview as opposed to ten mini ones.

Tottenham vs Manchester City-

Why Spurs will win-

Modric's return- Back after missing Tottenham's loss at Old Trafford, Luka Modric seems set to remain at White Hart Lane. The attitude players put out after having transfer requests rejected has varied over the years, but Harry Redknapp should be confident in Modric's maturity, and expect the utmost professionalism.

City's experimentation- The biggest transfer news to come out of England mid week was City's deal for Samir Nasri. The talented Frenchman has proved himself as one of the most potent attacking threats in European football, but it will be interesting to see how City manager Roberto Mancini chooses to deploy him. Out wide or through the middle, it's hard to say, and fans of the Sky Blues will just have to hope that their new acquisition doesn't throw a cohesive attack out of sync.

Why City will win-

Tottenham's striking disaster- With new loan signing Emmanuel Adebayor ineligible to play against what technically remains his club, Spurs are left with only limited options up front. Both Roman Pavlyuchenko and Jermain Defoe have struggled for form over the last twelve months, while Peter Crouch remains inconsistent at best.

Depth in attack- Quite simply, City have more options than anyone else. Even if one raft of attackers fail, another wave is available on the bench. Aguero, Tevez, Dzeko and Balotelli are all top quality strikers, while the support from midfield and the wings is equally imperious.

Conclusion: I'll go for a draw in this one, as Spurs should be fired up on the occasion of their home opener - capable of stealing a result against unquestionably superior opponents.

Over the last few years, this fixture has been defining in the race for Champions League qualification, and while it no longer holds such significance, I expect an exciting game.

Prediction: 2-2

Live streaming of the game.

Quick Predictions:
Aston Villa vs Wolves- 2-2
Wigan vs QPR- 2-1
Blackburn vs Everton- 1-1
Chelsea vs Norwich- 3-0
Swansea vs Sunderland- 1-2
Liverpool vs Bolton- 3-1
Newcastle vs Fulham- 1-1
West Brom vs Stoke- 2-1
Manchester United vs Arsenal- 3-0

Join the INFTH I Know The Score League.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Scotland's Clubs Slip Further Away From Past Glories

Rangers playersJock Stein must be turning in his grave. The man who engineered possibly the greatest ever single achievement by a British team in Europe may have failed to leave a legacy worthy of his brilliance, but never in his wildest nightmares would he have foreseen the eventual fate of Scottish football.

In a sporting world seemingly bereft of romanticism, the release of financial irons have prevented men like Stein from creating teams like the Lisbon Lions. Never again will a side composed of players all recruited from within miles of the ground ever reach European nirvana, but most Scots would have expected even their most monetarily handicapped to at least salvage a scrap of dignity.

Dignity was never the watchword for Hearts though, who lost 5-0 at home to Spurs, and while Rangers and Celtic both took two legs to be defeated, their failures are almost even more appalling.

After humiliation in Sweden, Ally McCoist's Rangers side needed to offer disillusioned fans a boost - something they never came close to achieving; an away loss and home draw put pay to that.

The same formula of results conspired to knock out Celtic - one time champions more sheepish than anything else. Tonight's loss in Switzerland, a far cry from Lisbon '67.

"It's a real low point for the Scottish game," said SFA cheif executive Stewart Regan. An admission of defeat, followed by a statement of the sort of pomposity that epitomizes Scotland's, and in particular Glasgow's, naive approach to the modern European game.

"You look at some of the teams still competing, and they are the minnows of Uefa." For the Scotland which greeted feverishly the return of Stein's champions, denigrating rivals was a prerogative they had worked hard to deserve - for the country now listed below Iran in Fifa's latest world rankings, the right to call others minnows has been long dissolved.

Scotland's place alongside the big fish of European football has been usurped by other, savvier, opponents. Left behind in a maelstrom of change, Scottish football tonight find itself at its lowest ebb - its too premier clubs financially incapable of keeping up with rivals across the border, and now fast sinking below fellow competitors in nations as far a field as Sweden, Switzerland and Slovenia.

What the big wigs atop Scottish football don't seem to understand, is that no longer is it the job of their football teams to hold the national flag proudly in a battle against the English. A different set of standards must now be applied. England no longer fear Rangers and Celtic, their attention is focused much more acutely in the direction of Spain, where the exodus of talent from the Premier League to La Liga is fast mirroring England's steady leech of managing talent from up North.

The Scots must, for now at least, content themselves with their current position in the game - one far off that which they seem to feel God graciously endowed upon them. Rangers and Celtic are no longer realistic challengers on the European platform, lacking the sufficient talent to beat even teams from countries that hadn't yet gained independence back in 1967.

The conundrum that a once proud footballing culture find themselves ensconced in is not one that will be solved with a band-aid of optimistic words. For all the talk of gradual improvement, patience and a long term plan, it remains unclear whether those in charge really know what they're doing. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Death Of Arsenal Is Not What The League Needs

In accord with all the glee, mirth and column inches dedicated to the demise of Arsenal, observers forget what exactly they are thinking and saying. As Manchester City arrive into English football's premier habitat, those who once ruled supreme are fast finding themselves flat on their faces - and not necessarily to the benefit of the league.

Gone are the days when a cleverly constructed team, put together and developed by a savvy manager, could rule the roost.

Arsenal are a side run by consummate professionals, an intellectual manager and a group of players molded in a footballing cast that, for all its faults, is admirable. The style inherent in their passing game was one which gave the Premier League something different. Arsenal was our answer to the Spanish magicians battling at the top in Spain - perfect no, but a boon to the league.

Even after their resolute win in Italy this evening though, the jury remains out on a team now shorn of arguably their two best players. While the importance of Champions League qualification cannot be downplayed, those holes - sadly - left by Nasri and Fabregas need filling. Arsenal were terrific at times, but always seemed to be missing something, that extra edge which has served them well further along in European competition. It was players like Nasri and Fabregas who catapulted the Gunners into a Champions League semi final - but more importantly, it was they who orchestrated play, gave Arsenal their creative identity.

Arsenal were always everyone's first pick to watch on a Saturday afternoon - their stadium a fitting venue for some of the most marvelous attacking football ever played in an English ground.

For all their money, ambition and star quality, Manchester City will never replicate the Arsenal style. In many ways, City are Wenger's antithesis - the epitome of what football has become, symbolic of changing tides in the world's game. While Arsenal develop, City buy - stockpiling players and leeching the rest of the league, before poisoning average footballers to the rest with exorbitant wages.

This is not what we as English football fans should want. We shouldn't glory in the beginning of the end this season, for one of the country's most storied clubs, but suffer with them - mourn the loss of one of the league's great entertainers. The Premier League is a lesser place without Cesc Fabregas, and a diminished product without the Arsenal of Nasri's era.

United will continue to attack with verve and panache, but even at their most swashbuckling they never touch the heights so often frequented by Wenger's team. On the whole, they are a superior side - certainly a better alternative to Manchester City - but their ethos is too different from Arsenal's, for the Old Trafford club to act as a substitute.

No side better represents England's answer to Ajax and Barcelona, than the one set to drop into the league's bottom three this weekend. A philosophy dedicated to ingraining footballing thoughts and ideas is one that should be savored with the same vigor as title triumphs - even more so now as the financially charged world forces such principles into extinction.

Arsenal for many a year offered the Premier League a different dimension, a breath of fresh air amidst a backdrop so fiery that often the very act of respiration was forgotten. In the end, football is designed to entertain, though sadly, those with goals focused around aesthetic values are fast being alienated by a monster of our own creation.

What is next for Arsenal? 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Sunday and Monday's Fantasy Review

Norwich 1-1 Stoke-  A goal from defender De Laet makes him the game's most impressive fantasy contributor, while Jon Walter's penalty miss and Leon Barnett's sending off provided us with a couple duds.

Credit too, to Norwich penalty hero John Ruddy, and the scorer of Stoke's last minute equalizer - Kenwyne Jones.

MOTM: Ritchie De Laet- A goal from defense - always useful.
FOTM: Leon Barnett- Sending off may have been harsh, but the fantasy gods don't give a toss.

Wolves 2-0 Fulham- Wolves have looked really dangerous so far this season, the speed of their ball movement in the final third particularly impressive. Using a basic 4-4-2, they are a threat in all areas - able to build up play well with the improved Karl Henry and new signing Jamie O'Hara pulling the strings, as well as fire crosses in from the wing; mainly via the boot of Matt Jarvis.

Kevin Doyle made up for his penalty miss last week with a goal, though his idiotic celebration meant point subtraction for a booking.

MOTM: Matt Jarvis- Dangerous all afternoon, and the scorer of the second goal.
FOTM: Patjim Kasami- Looked out of his depth, and hooked at half time.

Bolton 2-3 Manchester City- Where to start, where to start? David Silva continued his blistering form with another goal, while Edin Dzeko added to his tally too. A rare strike from Gareth Barry won't help many, he has never been a popular fantasy player.

Kevin Davies is one of the fantasy game's most sought after forwards, and he opened his goal scoring account with a flicked header in the second half. Ivan Klasnic as well is fast becoming an interesting striking option, a fine finish just before the break moved his total to two.

Both defenses were porous, and Jussi Jaaskelainen made a terrible mistake in letting Silva's shot dribble through.

Finally, congratulations to Micah Richards, Paul Robinson and James Milner (2) for assists.

MOTM: David Silva- A goal and likely performance points. He oozed class all evening long.
FOTM: Jussi Jaaskelainen- Three conceded, and a howler to boot.

Manchester United 3-0 Tottenham- Impressive performances by United youngsters led Fergie's team to a comfortable 3-0 win. Goals from Anderson and Danny Welbeck will help those daring enough to take a risk, while Rooney's late header should benefit most of us.

In defense, Phil Jones was particularly superb - making block after block to keep Tottenham out.

MOTM: Danny Welbeck- Cheap, promising and the scorer of United's opener.
FOTM: Rafael Van der Vaart- Took more shots than anyone else... missed them all.

Incorrigible Mourinho Will Continue To Polarize

In the pantheon of cowardly violence, enter Jose Mourinho. Mike Tyson and Francesco Totti - enjoy the company.

Love him through gritted teeth or hate him guiltily, no one ignores Jose Mourinho. Some say that all geniuses have to have a little madness about them, well, that careful walk, and menacing, almost condescending movement of the finger bore all the hallmarks of insanity. The Portuguese international wasn't dressed in a grey skirt and matching vest, but his actions last Wednesday were no more mature than that of a petty schoolgirl.

The moral high ground taken by those overly critical in their assessment of Mourinho's behavior though, is one of such high altitude that the air makes for difficult respiration. The allergy I have to righteous, usually hypocritical indignation is one I'm sure shared by the reader; no one wants yet another annoying exposé - the metaphorical wrist rap is one which really should be outlawed. More interesting than the action itself is the cause, the frustration of the man, the source of Mourinho's discontent.

Is the Special One losing his touch? Has the once untouchable coach, creator of impregnable teams finally met his match in the tiki-taka of Madrid's Catalan nemesis? We won't know the extent of Mourinho's troubles until the end of the season, and even then, we might not have the opportunity to learn anything at all.

Protected from most criticism by that hefty, armor like substance we call an ego, it will be fascinating to see how the Portuguese reacts if chinks start to appear in that silver lined breast plate.

As cliched as it sounds, Mourinho doesn't know the meaning of failure, let alone dignified one. Increasingly, the feeling is that if or when such a time comes, the former Chelsea manager's image will be further tainted not by the defeat itself, but by the maelstrom of vitriol and denial that will engulf it. Mourinho is always the center of attention. When the public eye should have been focused on the potential of a second five plus trophy haul in three seasons for Barca, they instead cast an austere glance towards the Special One. If Guardiola once again comes up trumps in May, you can be sure that Mr. Mourinho will have yet another trick up his sleeve.

It is a shame such is the discussion, for Mourinho doesn't need to polarize. One of the most analytical, intelligent and tactically aware managers of modern times, Mourinho doesn't need to attract such negative attention. It should be an intelligent substitution or astute adjustment, not a poke in the eye of an opponent, which headlines the back pages post-Classico.

It is hazy what he is attempting to do, a risky step that shows some lack of self belief. In poking and whinging, arguing and moaning Mourinho trys to inculcate the classic "us against them" mentality into the minds of his disciples. It is ironic though, that the very tactic which Barcelona preferred above all other during the Franco years should reappear decades later on the opposite side of the divide.

But what, when perhaps, his silver encrusted wall crumbles to the ground? When the aura leaves, so often does the success. Tales have been told of teams being beaten before they walk out, trodden on before the opponents have even laced up their boots. With Mourinho in the dug out, such a fate is a likely one. It all has to do with an aura, a sense of deserved-ness, the feeling that winning is not earned, rather received - a god given right that only certain individuals benefit from. It doesn't last forever.

Just as tennis players like Roger Federer suddenly can't walk to titles, managers lose the ability inspire fear. At Porto, Chelsea and Inter, Mourinho above all else was feared. United fans saw him as the usurper, the antichrist, arrived suited up and handsome, ready to unseat a forlorn and elderly Ferguson. At Inter too, Machiavellian sentiments manifested themselves in his attitude, and to one side of the San Siro, his stay meant the cancellation of expected celebrations.

In Spain though, he has lost something. While his sojourn into the dressing room via laundry bin, an action perhaps more worthy of scorn than a poke towards the eye, prompted mirth, now his illicit undertakings warrant the sharpening of journalistic knives. In England and Italy, Mourinho earned the right to flaunt the law, and he could combat the scant criticism that came his way with a torrent of trophies. Thanks partly to Barca, partly to Sergio Ramos, he has no silver defense to speak of anymore. Whether or not he gets one back, we'll just have to wait and see.

Follow The Chairman on Twitter @INFTH