Saturday, November 24, 2007

Weekend Outlook (24 Nov 2007)

Bolton Wanderers vs Manchester United

"...a great No.2 (coach) doesn't automatically guarantee you a good No.1 (gaffer)..."
- JayWalk, 24 Nov 2007

It was an emotional roller coaster for the England team as just when they thought they were lost at sea a week ago, they were thrown a lifeline when Russia muck it up away to Israel. So we come to the final match of the round where England play host to an already qualified Croatia at Wembley. All they needed was a single point to qualify. How difficult would they be, as they thought to themselves, prior to the kick-off whistle?

Before you know it, they went 2 goals down only to have to claw back with 2 goals to equalise. Safely ashore? I'm afraid not as Croatia nailed the England coffin with a 77th minute winner.

I have long said that the England team needed a wake-up call by way of a slap in the face. Seriously, the England team isn't that good as the FIFA Rankings made them out to be. There are two reasons for this, where I will cover one of them here and the other in this week's Beer Fund Raising Entry.

1) Problem With The Managers. The massive overhaul is long overdue as far back as the early 90s. Bobby Robson was perhaps the last proven manager. The rest like Taylor and Venables were just plain mediocre. Hoddle was the biggest joke of them all (and seriously needed to get his head checked). Keegan was the closest to making the grade but alas with the FA pulling the carpet from underneath all the time, he was right to walk away. Eriksson probably had to shovel the same crap as Keegan but his over-exposure in the media made us overlooked that as everyone was obsessed in the witch hunt when England failed miserably (again!) in the World Cup of 2006.

Then we have McClaren. He is a good coach and a great No.2 during his stint at Old Trafford. However, a great No.2 doesn't automatically guarantee you a good No.1 as we have now all witnessed. Just look at his track record when he was managing Middlesbrough. Plain boring average at best with only a Carling Cup trophy to show for, and not even good enough to be the waterboys at the Champions League. You think he would be good enough to manage The Three Lions? Come on! He was second choice after Scolari turned the FA down!

Speaking of No.2s, look at Carlos Queiroz when he stepped out of Fergie's shadow to manage Real Madrid in 2003 only to return with his tail between his legs, after a mere season. Still, without dissing a great guy, let it be noted that his defensive coaching was a major factor in ManUtd winning the Treble of 1999.

JayWalk The Talk: Good news from the sick bay is that Gary Neville is back but I doubt if he has a place in the Starting XI on the grounds of the lack of match fitness. Vidic was a doubt when Serbia's final Euro 2008 game was postponed but given that the coming game is inconsequential as a result of Poland and Portugal already qualified, Fergie is able to refuse the release of Vidic for national duty. We are going to be strong in defence as morale at the back is high with O'Shea already extended his contract and Evra to follow shortly.

The attack is less rosy as Rooney is still a couple of weeks away from recovery while Tevez is back in GMT-zone for barely 24 hours. Jet lag will be a detrimental factor to the Argentinian, leaving Saha as the only choice for selection. With no partner (Solksjaer?) available, Fergie may be playing the lone striker formation with Ronaldo, Giggs and Nani to support behind.

On the Bolton side, watch out for Diouf and Anelka will be up front and looking very menacing. A ManUtd clean sheet is going to be difficult today, though not impossible.

JayWalk The Walk:
The handicap originally was ManUtd to give 1.25-ball at 2.05 decimal odds to beat it. I supposed that made the punters balked and bookies finally relented to market forces and flipped the odds around, revising ManUtd to give 1-ball handicap and a decimal odds of 1.85 to beat it.

Money percentage is 21% on Bolton to win with a +1 handicap and 79% on ManUtd to win with a -1 handicap.

ManUtd may have a Champions League match against Sporting Lisbon at Old Trafford in midweek but it really no cause for alarm as we have already qualified. Still, a draw is needed to maintain pole position of the group ahead of AS Roma. That way, we would be able to secure a more favourable draw in Round 2. Then again, it doesn't really matter if we lose the next two ECL matches and end up having to draw against winners of the other Round 1 groups. We do not fear anyone anyway.

Verdict: Go for ManUtd but only if you are able to find a Give 1-ball handicap. If bookie wants 1.25 ball from you. Just walk away. You don't need the unnecessary risk.

Disclaimer: The above views are purely my own two-cents' worth. In other words, I cannot and will not guarantee that my predictions are accurate. If you want to bet on the game, do so at your own risk. Also, please bet responsibly and within your means regardless of how "sure thing" that game may appear to be. As the old saying goes, "The Ball Is Round". Good luck.


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