Ed Chamberlin: Festival Tent
Sky Sports presenter Ed Chamberlin looks back at a good week for Manchester United at home and in Europe, and ahead to the Cheltenham Festival.
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"United had their title heads on."
That was how Gary Neville summed up Manchester United's performance against Everton on Super Sunday. From the moment we got Sir Alex's team sheet it was obvious he meant business and wasn't going to let David Moyes derail their title charge again. This is a United team still hurting from what happened last season and determined not to let it happen again.
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You also sense the manager is keen to put the title to bed as soon as possible. Sky Bet certainly think it's all over as after the game they went 1/33 United and 14/1 Manchester City) but remember that is the same price United were with eight games to go last season.
Ray Wilkins said in the studio after the match that the Premier League crown is the one Ferguson wants most this season. The Champions League must be a very close second.
Wednesday night's game in Madrid was as intense a game of football as you will see. Compelling from start to finish. Two great managers, two high quality sides and a tie right in the balance after the 1-1 draw in the Bernabeu.
Sky Bet are struggling to split the sides as they have Manchester United at 6/4 to win the second leg at Old Trafford with Real Madrid at 11/8 and the draw a 13/5 chance. United are 10/11 to qualify with Real Madrid at 4/5. A really tough one to call; roll on Tuesday March 5.
I was at St Mary's on Saturday to see Southampton put a large and possibly final nail in Manchester City's championship coffin.
Saints played with the energy and pressing game that I talked about last week and yet again Morgan Schneiderlin and Jack Cork were the orchestrators in central midfield. They are a combination that's getting better and better.
City were never at the races. Individual errors cost them but there were plenty of other issues at play. Most telling was that during the interval Southampton fans were predicting and expecting an onslaught from the champions in the second half. It never came.
It was very enjoyable to have Everton manager David Moyes as our guest on the Monday Night Football and pick his brains about Premier League football. I was particularly interested in his views on Gareth Bale and what he looks for in a player when entering the transfer market, with personality and character such a major consideration along with ability.
We had another special visitor too as, after the race meeting at Plumpton was abandoned, AP McCoy came to see us in the MNF studio.
We chatted about football and Arsenal for a while rather than his traumatic few days on the racecourse. He'd had a roller coaster of a week beginning with the shocking low of losing Darlan but finishing with the high of My Tent Or Yours' stunning win at Newbury.
Some people say that McCoy has mellowed these days. He might have done so away from racing but on the racecourse - not a bit of it. The fire and passion inside the 17-time champion jockey still burns as ferociously as ever.
He was devastated by what happened to Darlan, and especially for his boss JP McManus who also lost his beloved mare Like-A-Butterfly last week, but he's older and wiser than the AP McCoy who was fiercely criticised from the way he dealt with the loss of Valiramix in the 2002 Champion Hurdle. Rather than mellow, he's just got better at acting and hiding his emotions plus dealing with the media.
"McCoy had an armchair ride on My Tent Or Yours in what's meant to be the most competitive handicap hurdle of the year. I thought the handicapper had made life hard for him off 149 but he made a mockery of that mark."
He had an armchair ride on My Tent Or Yours in what's meant to be the most competitive handicap hurdle of the year. It was a strange race as they went so slow early on and I thought it would develop in to a sprint in the straight with a stack of contenders in the air together over the last. It felt surreal to watch My Tent Or Yours saunter home. I said last week that I thought the handicapper had made life hard for him off 149 but he made a mockery of that mark. Personally, I'd love My Tent Or Yours to have a crack at the Champion Hurdle as Binocular is hard to fancy, and Jezki has a great chance in the Supreme. As things stand, I've only gone and backed Un Atout in what's shaping up as the hottest renewal of the Supreme Novices' Hurdle for years.
I've also managed to curse the Champion Hurdle. I was paid up member of the Darlan fan club but also fancied Grandouet, who has had a setback. Thank goodness Sky Bet are non-runner no bet on the race.
There is so much uncertainty about running plans and the state of the ground at the moment that I will be keeping my ante-post powder dry. Well, for a few days at least!