Vidal says Messi is from 'another planet' as he targets success with Inter

By Sports Desk November 07, 2020

Arturo Vidal is convinced Inter can win a major trophy this season after opting to join the Serie A club because of the presence of Antonio Conte. 

Vidal arrived from Barcelona ahead of the 2020-21 season as Inter aimed to build on a promising first year under Conte, having finished second to Juventus in the league and lost in the Europa League final. 

However, the new campaign has not started smoothly for the Nerazzurri.  

They have won just three of their opening six Serie A fixtures to quickly slip off the pace and are yet to register a victory in the Champions League, leaving them bottom of Group B at the halfway stage.

Vidal, though, remains confident silverware is a realistic aim with Conte, having enjoyed success while working with the Italian coach during their time together at Juve. 

"I'm not afraid to say the word 'Scudetto' because I have won a lot in my career and I came to Inter to continue doing it," Vidal told Corriere dello Sport. 

"I am convinced that we will be able to raise an important trophy. Juventus remains the number one favourite [for the title].  

"For the Champions League, we have a lot of confidence and I am convinced that we will go on. So far, we have left two-three points on the road. We have to get them back."

Vidal also revealed how much Conte, who led Juventus to the title in each of his three seasons in charge at the club, was key to him choosing to move to San Siro.

"I am here especially for him," the Chile international said of the Inter boss. "We spent three years with Juventus, we won and that was an unforgettable experience. 

"He wanted me; we talked a lot last summer and both he and the club did their best to get me to join Inter.

"I found the same Conte of Juve. He loves football, he makes you feel it and he transmits his passion and his desire to win, with him I am wonderful."

Vidal went on to win league titles in Germany and Spain after leaving Juve, with his two-year stint at Barca seeing him play alongside Lionel Messi.

The midfielder may have now left Camp Nou but revealed he will always have a "beautiful" friendship with Messi, a player he places above long-time rival Cristiano Ronaldo in the debate over who is better.

"There is no comparison. Messi is from another planet," he said of the Barca superstar.

"Of the two years I spent with him in Barcelona, many things remained in my heart. A beautiful friendship was born between us, a relationship that will remain forever. United for life.

"I don't know if Messi will leave Barcelona, but I hope he is happy and makes a decision with his heart."

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  • Man Utd have stopped scoring against the big sides – that must change at Liverpool Man Utd have stopped scoring against the big sides – that must change at Liverpool

    Manchester United's record against the so-called 'big six' of the Premier League this season reads zero wins, two defeats and two draws.

    They have conceded seven goals, six of them at home to Tottenham, and scored just once – a Bruno Fernandes penalty two minutes into that 6-1 hammering in October.

    Fernandes scored their previous goal in these encounters from the spot, too, in a 1-1 draw at Spurs last June. In fact, you have to go back to March 2020 and their 2-0 win at home to Manchester City, the last Old Trafford game played in front of a crowd, for the previous occasion that they scored a goal against a big-six team that wasn't a penalty.

    They might be top of the league heading into Sunday's showdown with Liverpool but, for a manager that made an early habit of extracting big performances against the best sides, that stat should be of serious concern to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

     

    BIG ZERO SIX

    Since the end of the 2019-20 shutdown, United have played seven games against the big six and won none of them, if you include domestic cup losses to Chelsea and City.

    In league football alone, they have drawn against Tottenham, Chelsea and City and lost to Spurs and Arsenal, with just two Fernandes penalties to show for it. All their previous three such games were at home and they have not scored in any of them.

    In their first 14 league games against these sides under Solskjaer, United won six times and lost only four, scoring 16 goals and conceding 13 – a decent record given their real problems with consistency.

    The strange thing is United's winless run against the best has coincided with a general upturn in form since the previous season restarted last June. Taking only results in that time into account, United have played 26, won 17, lost just three, scored 56 goals and conceded 30. That's the best record of any side in the league and seven points better than Liverpool.

    In fact, narrow that down to results against teams in the top half of the table in the same time frame, and United have lost the fewest games (two) of any side, with 21 points taken from 13 games, just three behind Jurgen Klopp's side.

    So, why the recent drop-off against the very best?

    Solskjaer's most dependable attacking weapons have been Fernandes, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford, all three of whom will almost certainly start at Liverpool, barring injury.

    They were all involved in their last big-six contest in the league, a 0-0 draw at home to City in December. Rashford managed only one shot all game and created no chances for anyone else; Martial, a late substitute, created one chance but had no shots himself. Fernandes, ever the fulcrum of United's attack, had four shots and created two chances.

    The previous game was a staid goalless draw with Chelsea that made the derby look positively thrill-a-minute. That day, with Martial banned, Rashford was more involved, with three attempts at goal and two chances created; he was outdone by Fernandes (three shots, four chances created).

    They don't exactly look like imperious figures, but they actually fall in line with their per-90-minute numbers for this season. On average, Rashford attempts 2.7 shots per game and creates 1.3 chances; Martial has 2.9 shots and creates 1.2 chances; Fernandes musters 3.6 shots and creates 3.4 chances.

    Put succinctly, based on this season's performances, Fernandes should be expected to create between three and four goalscoring opportunities in every league game he starts for United. In other words, he was bang on his average against City and Chelsea. Rashford's numbers are similarly close to the mean.

    United's best attackers, then, are keeping their performance levels consistent against the big six. They're just meeting greater resistance. That becomes clearer looking at expected goals.

    In their most recent three league games against these sides, United have had xG of 0.6 against City, 0.7 against Chelsea and a lowly 0.4 in a 1-0 loss to Arsenal. In those same fixtures in 2019-20, those figures were 1.6 (in a 2-0 win against City), 2.2 (in a 4-0 win over Chelsea) and 0.9 (in a 1-1 draw with Arsenal). Interestingly, though, Chelsea and Arsenal had higher xG numbers in those games last season, even though they suffered worse results, and City's only increased this term by 0.7.

    This reflects a general balancing out in these matches. They are, for the most part, more attritional and less unpredictable affairs settled by fine margins – exactly the sort of contest you'd expect between true heavyweights. United are not significantly under-performing each time; they're just not quite tilting the odds in their favour.

    How, then, might they change that against Liverpool? There is one simple way.

    SLAB EXPERIMENT

    United have one particular weakness, regardless of opposition: set-pieces. This season, they have conceded 11 goals from set-plays; only Wolves (12), Brighton and Hove Albion (14) and Leeds United (16) have a worse record. They have shipped four goals from corners, the same number as Liverpool, but the champions have only conceded eight times from dead-ball situations overall.

    At the other end, United have scored 10 goals from set-pieces, a tally bettered by just four teams: Aston Villa and Southampton (11), and Chelsea and Liverpool (12). Only Chelsea (34) have created more dead-ball chances than United (31).

    There is an argument to say they should have more set-piece goals than anyone else. It's an argument that centres around their captain – the man who might be the very thing United need to get back to scoring against, and winning against, big-six opposition.

    Since the start of last season, Harry Maguire has won 73 per cent of his aerial duels in the Premier League. That's the best rate of anyone who has contested at least 300 in that time. In fact, he has lost only 98 of the 341 he has been involved in, which is the lowest number of losses across the same period within that elite group.

    However, in an attacking sense, the world's most expensive defender doesn't seem to have his head on straight. Since the start of 2019-20, he has attempted 27 headed shots, hit the target with just nine of them, and scored with two. Of players with at least 20 headed shots in that time, only four have hit the target less often.

    On Sunday, Maguire will face a Liverpool side without Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and possibly Joel Matip. He will rarely have a better chance of stealing a march at set-plays and, if he does, he could well end United's wait for a goal – and a win – against the best. Sometimes, those fine margins are the width of a forehead.

  • Ferguson: Rooney has the presence to succeed in management Ferguson: Rooney has the presence to succeed in management

    Alex Ferguson says Wayne Rooney has a "presence about him" and is hopeful the legendary forward will succeed in management after announcing his retirement from playing.

    Rooney was officially named as Derby County boss on Friday, two months after replacing Phillip Cocu as interim coach.

    The 35-year-old enjoyed an incredible playing career that spanned nearly two decades, during which time he won 16 trophies at Manchester United, the majority of those under Ferguson.

    He retires as United and England's all-time leading goalscorer and while Ferguson believes that will be an advantage for Rooney, he warned the former forward results were all that mattered as a coach.

    "He is England’s top goalscorer, he is Manchester United’s top goalscorer and he has had a fantastic career as a player and it will give him a starting point," Ferguson said on the 'A Team Talk With Legends' panel on Friday.

    "But like anyone else it is a results industry and you need to get results. He will know that better than anyone.

    "He has had a good start… and he has knowledge of the game, a presence about him and I hope he does well.

    "It is a big step for him. He is quite a wealthy young man now with his career in football, so he probably doesn't need to go into management to look after his family, but he wants to do it and that is important.

    "There is no point being a manager because someone asks you to be. He went there as a player-coach, he then become player-manager and now he has the manager's job and that's what he wanted. Hopefully he does well.”

    England manager Gareth Southgate was also pleased to see Rooney take the helm at Derby.

    Rooney joins former England team-mates Steven Gerrard (Rangers), Frank Lampard (Chelsea) and Scott Parker (Fulham) in management.

    "He has had an incredible career. I am pleased we have the likes of Wayne, Steven, Frank and Scott Parker – we don't want too many [Jamie] Carraghers sitting on the sofa because those good football brains are gone from the game," Southgate said.

    "What you want from an England perspective is young English managers and ex-players to come in and add to the game and help develop young players.

    "Those lads have brilliant experiences and it will be a huge challenge of course, but Wayne loves football, has a fantastic brain for football and I wish I had the chance to manage him five years earlier – not be the one to leave him out of the England squad, I'd rather be the one picking him at his peak."

  • Fernandes hits back at Klopp over penalty complaints Fernandes hits back at Klopp over penalty complaints

    Bruno Fernandes hit back at Jurgen Klopp after the Liverpool manager complained about the number of penalties awarded to Manchester United.

    Klopp was unhappy his side were not given a penalty during a loss to Southampton earlier this month and the German pointed to the number of spot-kicks United had been awarded.

    Since the start of last season, United have won 20 penalties in the Premier League compared to Liverpool's 10.

    Fernandes, who has scored five penalties in the Premier League this season, insisted he was unfazed, also suggesting Klopp was trying to put pressure on referees ahead of United's trip to Anfield on Sunday.

    "You always see what people say, but I really don't care. I'm not focused on what they're saying. We have really quick players up front," he said.

    "Anthony Martial is one of the best players one against one in the box, Marcus Rashford is another one who is quick and has quick feet, who can take the ball away from the defender at any moment.

    "It's normal that sometimes, because of that, they will be tripped and will fall and they gain penalties.

    "People can talk and say what they want, but for me and the team, the main point is continuing to do the right things and when we get a penalty, just scoring.

    "I played in Portugal and when you play for Sporting Lisbon, Benfica and Porto are always talking about that kind of stuff – sometimes to put pressure on the referee."

    United visit champions Liverpool with a surprise three-point lead atop the table.

    Liverpool claimed their first top-flight title since 1990 last year, moving onto 19 in total – one shy of United's record.

    Fernandes said the players were aware how much such records meant to supporters.

    "You don't want your rivals at the same level as you, or with the same amount of trophies as you," he said.

    "So it's clear for everyone here at the club and in the dressing room, everyone knows what it means for the supporters.

    "It would be a lot more fun with 21 titles and Liverpool still on 19, of course."

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