RG Fantasy League: Moyes stock rises
Isn’t it odd how perceptions change.
Not long ago David Moyes was a much-maligned manager fighting a losing battle with the ageing process.
The Scot was weighed down by the general consensus that he was out of his depth at Manchester United and did not help his cause with a number of admiring comments about Liverpool and Manchester City.
Now, after being sent from the dugout while in charge of Real Sociedad, he was seen leaping athletically over a fence to sit in the stands where he cheerfully accepted the offer of a crisp from an amused fan. This has all gone down rather well with “La Real” supporters on social media.
Moyes did turn a second offer of nuts, which, incidentally, was what Rio Ferdinand claimed he lacked during his Old Trafford tenure. Still, while Moyes is doing a Benjamin Button in San Sebastián and slowly rebuilding his reputation, his successor at Manchester United is struggling to reach the levels anticipated.
Louis van Gaal, though, has a trophy-laden managerial career across Europe to fall back on and self-belief that would put Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the shade.
This, apparently, makes him more of a natural United manager — and that may well turn out to be true. However, it’s worth noting that after 21 league games, Van Gaal and Moyes had won the same number of points, 37.
Imagine if Moyes had played three at the back and Wayne Rooney in midfield in a 1-0 home defeat as Van Gaal did against Southampton? He would have been lampooned.
Moyes may never have been destined for a glorious reign at Old Trafford but, pleasingly, it’s clear he hasn’t lost his hunger.
All kick offs 11am unless stated
Aston Villa v Liverpool
Villa fans are set to protest at the game. Let’s be honest, it must be pretty miserable following Paul Lambert’s side right now.
Unfortunately, any demonstration is likely to be as effective as Gabriel Agbonlahor in the six-yard box.
Burnley v Crystal Palace
Palace enjoyed the instant gratification of an Alan Pardew-inspired victory over Tottenham last weekend but there is something encouragingly sturdy about Burnley’s carefully nurtured success.
The Lancashire club are showing why they took the Sky Bet Championship by storm last season and Danny Ings is now injury free and busy proving he can cut it in the top flight.
Leicester City v Stoke City
Leicester have made a bold move by completing the signing of striker Andrej Kramaric who has scored a bucketload in Croatian football, for a cool £9.7 million.
He should strengthen a team which is unbeaten in four and showing admirable fight.
QPR v Manchester United
The defeat to Southampton should have given United’s glittering array of talent a wake-up call — and that could prove problematic for QPR, who have lost to their illustrious opponents the past six times they have met.
Having said that, QPR at home are a top-half team and United lack fluency right now. A surprise draw.
Swansea City v Chelsea
Swansea will be minus striker Wilfried Bony after his £28m switch to Manchester City — although City will also be without him because of the Africa Cup of Nations. Chelsea’s away form is not great with just one win in five, so this will be an interesting test of their steel.
Tottenham Hotspur v Sunderland
The most gripping match in midweek wasn’t Tottenham v Burnley in the FA Cup but Younes Kaboul’s verbal slanging match with Jan Vertonghen, which the crowd indicated the latter won by singing his name. Who says players aren’t passionate?
Newcastle v Southampton
The main takeaway from Southampton’s win over Manchester United was that Dusan Tadic, after his strip celebration, is an impressive specimen.
To be fair, Geordie fans do that every game — albeit showcasing heavier guts — so it’ll be harder to impress them.
West Ham United v Hull City
West Ham have not won in four but this is a great chance to end that run against a vulnerable-looking Hull side.
Andy Carroll’s wonder goal last weekend will boost his confidence and it’s hard to see past a comfortable home win.
Manchester City v Arsenal
The marque game of the weekend and one that, given both teams’ propensity for open, expansive football could be a cracker. The away side do have a tendency to crack against the top teams and the smart money has to be on City. But Alexis Sánchez’s superlative current form means Arsenal have more than a fighting chance.
Everton v West Bromwich Albion
Paul Jewell has left Albion, although you could be forgiven for not realising the coach had joined them. It adds a little chaos to the start of the Tony Pulis reign. Jewell has instructed his lawyers to look at his departure after just a week at the club.
Roberto Martínez, meanwhile, has instructed his players to find a win. It’s been a while.