• Dashing back to Manchester, nearly 300 miles from Brighton, to celebrate with home fans at the Etihad Stadium at almost midnight showed just how much this win is treasured and there were tens of thousands in the stadium on a late Sunday evening.
• Crystal Palace players Wilfried Zaha and Aaron Wan-Bassaka are good friends but now they are competing against one another.
Congratulations to Manchester City
It was Sir Alex Ferguson who said in 2008 that Manchester City were just United’s ‘noisy neighbours’ and they would never be top dogs in Manchester in his lifetime. Well, he got it wrong! My congratulations to Manchester City, who fought until the last match to win the Premier League title. Liverpool scored in their final game and City went one behind to Brighton and it kept us all on the edge of our seats. But City’s quality showed through in the end and they lifted the title, winning the match 4-1. The scenes on the Brighton pitch and in City’s dressing room were amazing and even the usually laid back and cool Pep Guardiola shed a tear and was rushing around congratulating everyone. Dashing back to Manchester, nearly 300 miles from Brighton, to celebrate with home fans at the Etihad Stadium at almost midnight showed just how much this win is treasured and there were tens of thousands in the stadium on a late Sunday evening. It all makes next season a mouthwatering prospect full of expectation and excitement. The Premier League has it all and as one of my colleagues reminded me, Premier League clubs are contesting the finals of the Champion’s League and the Europa League Cup final. What more could the league have done? By the way…next season’s fixture list is published on June 13 and I know that Pep Guardiola will be the first to read it.
Brighton’s cowardly sacking of Hughton
I am truly disappointed that Brighton have fired manager Chris Hughton. I accept that Brighton finished the season with only three wins in 23 league games but they avoided relegation and with a low cost, low salaried squad which Hughton had squeezed the best from. Hughton inherited a mediocre squad in the Championship league four years ago and transformed it into a fighting team which only lost out to promotion to the Premier League in the play offs. The following season he won automatic promotion to the elite. Brighton pride themselves on fair play and fans behaviour… there are even signs around the ground which display the correct way fans are expected to behave. But has the club shown that same sense of fair play and respect to their manager? Chris is a very decent human being, likeable, friendly, hard working and totally honest. He does things kind like canceling training when manager at Norwich because Anthony Knockaert’s father had died and he organised for the players to travel to Lille in France for the funeral. That is the sort of man he is. Whilst manager at Newcastle, Hughton won manager of the month three times only to be sacked with the team in 11th place. Again it was unfair treatment of a talented manager. But we did expect better from Brighton and when the management sit down and consider what they have done, I hope they look back and realise that Hughton should have expected better support from his employers.
Stones reassured with higher pay
Manchester City’s John Stones was smiling last week after a worrying time which has seen him start the last four of five City games on the bench. After an injury, he could not reclaim his place by starting ahead of Aymeric Laporte, Nicolas Otamendi and Vincent Kompany. However, manager Pep Guardiola has reassured Stones that he is very much part of City’s future and this week increased his weekly salary from £129k to £180k. Stones has three seasons left of his six-year contract and he is still only 24 years-old.
Pogba heading for the door?
When Manchester United players trudged off the pitch following their shock defeat to Cardiff last weekend, fans were shouting awful abuse and much of it aimed at Paul Pogba. He was upset and angry to be criticised so heavily. His close friend Patrice Evra speaks to Paul every day and he is convinced that Paul’s greatest wish is to get out of Old Trafford and sign for Real Madrid. He might get his way because Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane sees Pogba and Chelsea’s Eden Hazard as his two ‘must have’ signings over the summer break.
Two could be leaving Crystal Palace
Crystal Palace players Wilfried Zaha and Aaron Wan-Bassaka are good friends but now they are competing against one another. Palace have said that although the two are on the wanted list of many top European clubs they will only sell one of them if forced to. Both have long contracts: Zaha until 2023 and Wan-Bassaka until 2022. Zaha has made no secret of his desire to play for a Champions League team anywhere in Europe. Tottenham, Chelsea and both Manchester clubs are certainly interested. Zaha, at 26 has plenty of playing years left whereas Wan-Bassaka is still only just starting his career at 21. Zaha would command a higher fee and higher wages but that won’t put off the top clubs and Palace manager Roy Hodgson is expecting a fight to keep both players.
Solskjaer has a huge task ahead
If anyone doubted the huge job Manchester United manager Ole Gunner Solskjaer has on his hands then the final home loss to relegated Cardiff is testament to that. Finishing badly in sixth place and 32 points behind rivals Manchester City, it demonstrates what a huge gap there is between the two teams. United fans have been tested to the limits from the David Moyes mistake, through to depressing, moaning, irritable Jose Mourinho. Probably, the only sensible decision United’s board have taken over the past few years was to make Solskjaer the ‘interim’ manager whilst searching for a permanent replacement. Then, like a gambler who has a win and then goes betting mad, they appointed the Norwegian permanently and since then it has all gone the way of Mourinho. United have to get their transfer policy in order, they have to bring in the right players not just big names. Remember Angel Di Maria, Radamel Falcao, Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Henrikh Mkhitaryan…hundreds of thousands of pounds spent only to miss out on Champions League football for the third time in six seasons. I am a great fan of Marcus Rashford and Nemanja Matic but along with Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial he has been lethargic and absent on the pitch for the last few games. Why? What is it that makes highly talented players almost impotent when it comes to consistently performing? Solskjaer, like Mourinho and many of the fans, has lost faith in Martial, criticising his lack of effort in training and during games. Quite frankly, Martial is only still at the club because chairman Joel Glazer likes him and Martial is his favourite United player. It was yet another reason why Mourinho was so frustrated with the board of directors. Solskjaer made such an impact on arriving back at Old Trafford and we dared to think that this mighty club had turned a corner. But no, they have turned back the clock and resemble Mourhino’s miserable reign. My sources tell me that another £200million will be made available to bring in more players but this must be spent wisely. I have also picked up information that £500k-a-week Alexis Sanchez, probably the biggest of United’s failures, will be sent out on loan to Italy’s Inter Milan. However, Juan Mata was spoken to personally by vice-chairman Ed Woodward after the Cardiff game and I understand Mata was told not to leave in the summer because he is wanted by the club. His contract expires next month and he could leave for free if he wishes. The Reds are considering a double bid for Napoli’s centre back Kalidou Koulibaly and wide man and striker Nicolas Pepe for £145million. They have had scouts watching these two for the last few weeks and reports sent back have been very favourable. Pepe has scored 21 goals this season and given 12 assists. Koulibaly is respected as one of the best centre halves in the world. Of possible interest to United is Paris St Germain’s central midfielder Adrien Rabiot, who has been left out of the French team’s squad for much of this season. I am told he would be very interested in joining United. Solskjaer intends to start United’s 2019/20 training on July 1 because they have an enormous amount of work to do. And make no mistake, if it all starts to go wrong next season then even the much loved legendary status of Solskjaer as a United player won’t save him from an early exit. He could even be the first Premier League managerial casualty if he doesn’t get things right.
Chelsea eye on Pulisic
Last season, Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri did not have a pre-season training period because he did not arrive at Stamford Bridge in time and implementing a new style of football was a tough call on the players. The key this summer is whether or not Eden Hazard moves to Spain. I understand that his agent is in deep negotiations with both clubs this week for Eden’s exit but Chelsea are fighting to hold on to the gifted Belgian. His sale, however, would raise plenty of money to spend in the transfer market. The problem is that Chelsea are not being allowed to sign new talent during the summer because they are serving a punishment ban for breaking FA rules. Once that is served Sarri, if he is still the Blue’s manager, is planning to bring in Christian Pulisic from German club Borussia Dortmund which means Callum Hudson-Odoi can remain in the wide position where he specialises in driving forward and cutting in to deliver assists for his strikers. If Hazard leaves in July that plan will have to be adjusted with Hudson-Odoi moving more to the centre. Two more wanted at Tottenham
I am told Spurs are unlikely to sign more than a couple of players in addition to defender Ryan Sessegnon from Fulham. Manager Mauricio Pochettino is happy with his squad but the club feel he needs more depth of quality on the bench to enable them to compete with City and Liverpool. Barcelona’s Andre Gomez and Nice right-back Youcef Atal are Pochettino’s favourite two candidates to strengthen his squad.