Angry fans

OUR football correspondent LIAM MACKEY is back in top form and full of energy.

HAVE Manchester United made some kind of Faustian pact over penalty shoot-outs? And, if so, is it too early to ask if the Devil is going to keep his side of the bargain and carry them off to that special level of Hell which is reserved just for them?

Anthony Murphy, Roscommon, by email

OUR SHOUT: Terrible when footballers are good at what they do, eh? Have a red card to match the colour of your face - and those shirts you love.

WELL done Fergie for sticking to his word and playing Darron Gibson and Danny Welbeck at Wembley. With more games for United, Ireland will have a really good international class player to add to their strength.

Red Devil, Limerick, by email

OUR SHOUT: No stage fright on the big stage true enough, but now that the Carling Cup is over for another year, the "with more games for United" is the bit that would concern me if I was Darron Gibson. And, now, brace yourselves for a deluge from the maddened hordes of Merseyside...

ANOTHER season, and another Premier League campaign left blowing in the wind at Liverpool. How can a team that is able to beat Real Madrid perform so poorly at the Riverside Stadium? How can they bottle up Arjen Robben, yet make Stewart Downing look like a world beater? Truly the worst performance of the season.

Limerick Red, by email

SO now we know what Liverpool have to do. They have to win at Old Trafford and then win every other game while Manchester United lose a further two and draw one. Simple. Rafa has lulled them into a false sense of security.

Cormac Hennessey, Kildare, by email

BEEN through all the record books and cannot find another single occasion when Skrtel has been played as a right back. The guy looks like a centre-half; he has the movement of a centre-half; he was signed as a centre-half and that is the only position he should be played in. Jamie Carragher has played more than 100 games at right back and could eat Stewart Downing for lunch. What a tactical masterstroke by Benitez, the man who is supposed to think so deeply about football. It’s the biggest error since Ranieri played Hasselbaink for 20 minutes as a right-sided defender in a Champions League semi-final.

Cork Blue, by email

NOW that Rafa has sold Robbie Keane, and Rick Parry is going, what other excuses will he have for not mounting a proper challenge for the Premier League next season?

Nick Kelly, Dublin, by email

THE whole thing about Parry is surely not the problem at Anfield? When the two owners of the club will barely talk to each other, Liverpool is always going to be a club divided. The way that Hicks and Gillet run the club make Roman Abramovich look like a model of corporate governance and business prudence. Maybe AIB should take them over; they can’t be any worse.

Michael Kennedy, West Cork, by email

OUR SHOUT: Can't blame the Yanks for picking Skrtel out of position, Michael. Heard Alex Ferguson before the Carling Cup Final warning that it was important his team played the game, not the occasion. Liverpool, it seems, need the occasion - and the bigger the better - before they can play the game. Overly reliant on Gerrard and Torres as they are, and short of top-notch cover on the bench, Liverpool under Benitez have never had the convincing look of domestic champions - not even when they were five points clear. After Keane and Parry, can Rafa be too far behind?

AFTER a dreary week of UEFA Cup Football we’ve had an equally boring Carling Cup Final. When are fans going to come to the same conclusion as the managers . . . and send substitutes to watch them instead? Or, more sensibly, stay at home?

Luke Friel, Waterford, by email

OUR SHOUT: The words "when", "hell", "freezes" and "over" spring to mind. Even angry fans are still fans.

LIAM, can you explain what the point was of Martin O’Neill resting eight of his players before the second leg of the match against CSKA Moscow in the UEFA Cup — a competition they struggled hard to get into last season. It almost certainly led to them being knocked out, and the squad of players he left out did no better when they were recalled and could only draw at home to Stoke. Villa aren’t going to win the league, but they could have won the UEFA Cup. And a winning habit might see them make a Champions League place at the expense of Arsenal. But not if O’Neill picks and chooses his games in this way.

Patrick O’Keefe, West Cork, by email

OUR SHOUT: Martin O' Neill hasn't explained the point very well so I'll be damned if I can do any better on his behalf. Luckily for him, Arsenal seem determined to make it easier for Villa to get that fourth place.

MANCHESTER CITY are much closer in terms of points to relegation (six ahead of the team third from bottom) than they are to the team third from top (23 points behind). Even allowing all the usual excuses trotted out for Mark Hughes (“takes time to build a team”; “it’s a large project”; “perspectives have altered since the summer” etc) this is surely a really poor return given the scale of investment that has taken place there on a clutch of players (Given, Kompany, Bridge, De Jong, Bellamy, Robinho), all of whom played at Upton Park on Sunday. Isn’t it time for Manchester City to face facts and acknowledge that they shouldn’t have made their ridiculous purchase of Robinho, and that Hughes will only take them in one direction? I will bet that the Arabs have made that decision already, and I wouldn’t blame them. And fanciful nonsense about signing Thierry Henry and John Terry isn’t going to disguise the problem.

Conor Reagan, Dublin, by email

OUR SHOUT: Always nice to hear from Kaka.

AM I having a nightmare or is there really to be a new competition next season called the UEFA Europa League? Four qualifying rounds, followed by, 12 mini-leagues with the two top teams going through to join up with the drop-outs from the Champions League? Who dreamed up this madness? It can only be Platini can’t it? When’s the season going to start? June?

Dennis Greene, London, by email

OUR SHOUT: Nightmare?!? When I were a lad, we used to dream about the season starting in June.

THE game of the season so far has to be the Atlético Madrid against Barcelona match at the weekend, a game whose flowing football puts the power play at the top of the Premier League to shame. Last month everyone was saying that Barça were the best team in the world but it looks like Guardiola’s high-tempo style hasn’t left them enough in the tank for the business end of the season.

Peter Doyle, Spain, by email

OUR SHOUT: Hurray! Someone who sees beyond next door's shores. Have our Letter Of The Week prize, Peter, just for being different

ANYONE else think that we could see all four English Premier League clubs going out of the Champions League in the second leg? 0-0 is a very dangerous score for United given the chances they missed and Mourinho’s previous record at Old Trafford. One goal is a very slender margin for both Chelsea and Arsenal to be carrying to Italy, and it would be typical of Liverpool at home this season to concede an early goal against Real Madrid and then get an attack of the jitters. Most of the papers thought it was a great week for the Premier League, but almost the opposite could be true.

Anthony Cahill, Dublin, by email

OUR SHOUT: It was indeed a great week for the Premier League, Anthony, but yes, all the English clubs could go out in the second leg. So everyone is right. Isn't life grand?

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