Club A is five points off fourth and the richest club in the world.
Club B is six points off fourth and wouldn’t know what to do with all that money.
Then again, Club A is struggling with that part as well.
I’m talking about Manchester United; after that, it’s Stoke City. But this is where the talk of money ends. Instead, we shift our focus to the ongoing saga of Louis van Gaal’s job security, and the job Mark Hughes continues to do.
Simply put, United fans have grown tireda��of LvG, Ed Woodward; all of it. Spanning all competitions, they’re winless in their last eight. They looked brighter Monday afternoon against Chelsea, but settled for a scoreless draw.
They’ve been shutout seven times this season.
Whatever the system is, it’s not working. Whatever the philosophy is, it’s not taking. The big names aren’t performing, and since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson, United has become just another club. Wealth aside, of course.
But here’s the kicker: amid chatter that the board was discussing parting with LvG, the Dutchman came out in his press conference last weekend after the defeat against Stoke, saying:
But after the Chelsea match, LvG changed his tune:
a�?When the players give such a performance with a lot of pressure, there’s no reason to resign.a�?
Quite the swift change, wouldn’t you say? In all seriousness, what if United comes out against Swansea City at home on Saturday and lays an egg? What then? After all, the Swans have had United’s number the past couple years.
What can we make of these reports suggesting he and CEO Ed Woodward had been a�?locked in crisis talksa�? and that LvG had tried to resign not once, but twicea��after defeats to Norwich and Stoke, respectively. If the man believes he can no longer do the job, then let him walk away. What’s the harm in that?
With January and the winter window right around the corner, the powers that be will have some big decisions to make regarding the club’s immediate future. Because if he’s gone at the end of the season, I assume you don’t want him spending big (again) this winter.
Now, about Stoke City.
After enduring a rough spell with QPR, manager Mark Hughes was motivated to turn his managerial career around with the Potters, whom he took over from Tony Pulis in 2013. Coming off consecutive finishes of 13th, 14th, and 13th, expectations couldn’t have been all that high.
Yet, during his two-plus-year tenure (thus far), Hughes has led his side to successive ninth-place finishes while setting records for points consecutively as well: 50 in 2013-14, 54 last season. We’ve officially hit the halfway point for most EPL clubs, which currently sees Stoke on 29 points.
Now, there’s no telling where that would leave them in the table this season, as it’s been one of the most open campaigns in recent memory. Last season, 58 points would have been good enough for eighth. In 2013, that would have placed them eighth as well, so it seems like a relatively safe bet.
As of today they find themselves ninth again, but level on points with West Ham (seventh) and Watford (eighth), just one off United (sixth) and two off Crystal Palace (fifth).
26-year-old forward Marko ArnautoviA� leads the team in goals (7) and assists (3), while Stoke have been on the end of some glorious results. They’ve taken a point from both Tottenham and Leicester Citya��who are both in the top four.
They began a nifty run in November that carried into December, as they toppled Chelsea, Southampton, Manchester City, United, and most recently Everton.
Let’s also not discount the summer signing of 24-year-old winger Xherdan Shaqiri, who went from Bayern to Inter to Stoke. He’s been a stroke of magic for the English club.
It will come as a surprise to say this, but I wouldn’t rule out a Europa League qualifying spot for the Potters. There’s this logjam of clubs from spots 7 to 13 where it’s become more and more difficult to predict. You’ve also got Chelsea in 14th on 20 points, and who knows when they’re going to truly turn it around?
You can expect a club like West Brom (13th) to stay where they’re at, but what about Liverpool (10th), Everton (11th), and Southampton (12th)? Two of the three finished in the Top 10 last season, with Everton going has high as fifth in 2013.
What about West Ham, who’ve been very tough against the bigger sides but cannot consistently defeat lesser ones? Or Watford, as they’ve proven to be as tough as anybody this season.
That said, it’s nice to be 19 matches into the season and not be able to almost definitively say, a�?Well, looks like Chelsea are going to run away with it.a�? City just might win it all again, but Arsenal have looked relatively strong throughout; there will be no better chance for Tottenham to qualify for the UCL than this season; and Leicester City!
It’s 2015 and Manchester Uniteda��one of the biggest and richest clubs in the worlda��is becoming a bit of joke, while a side like Stoke City continues to turn heads.