Choccy’s Diary: Rugby, Football and Could Mbappe be a Goalkeeper?

FansBet ambassador and former Manchester United and Celtic footballer Brian McClair discusses the Rugby World Cup, Celtic, Manchester United, transfers and his recent travels.
Brian McClair  |  19th October 2019

Choccy’s Tales

Earlier this week I was walking through Manchester and a man was on his phone, like many people nowadays. He stopped looking at his device and told me that he had just been reading my tweets! It was a very bizarre coincidence especially as I don’t even live in Manchester and just happened to be walking past this man.

Later in the day I was also asked for a photo with a young man. He told me that I was “the man”. I responded agreeing that I was a man, but which man was I? We had a selfie and he said I had made his day, but I am still unaware of who I am, just that I’m “the man”.

I was recently part of a charity game in Oakley, situated in the kingdom of Fife which was really enjoyable. My full-time stalker/superfan who I have mentioned in previous diaries was showing some people a free kick from the charity game, claiming it was me.

However, it wasn’t me and I feel sorry for the person that was actually taking the free kick as he is only 40-years-old and half the size of me! I think my full-time stalker/superfan will have to be reduced to part-time, he definitely needs bigger glasses or a bigger screen at least!

Last weekend it was great to see Andy Goram, a former goalkeeper for Scotland and Manchester United, and a former cricketer up in Scotland! It was good to chat to him and I have to say I was amused to find out that he now resides in the town next to the one I was brought up in.

Rugby World Cup

I was surprised at Scotland making such a fuss pre-match about the organisation of their game against Japan, especially when it clearly stated that the weather could play a part. Regarding what Japan as a host country did to get the game on, it was quite remarkable in my opinion.

Japan have been exciting to watch throughout the tournament, and they have proven that you don’t have to be of a gigantic, heavy build to win a game of rugby. Scotland did have a slight attempt at getting something from the game, but Japan were simply the better team. Looking ahead to the quarter finals this weekend, I am excited to see what happens, even without Scotland in the tournament.

I haven’t watched all the teams play, and it is difficult to call any of the games as they could all go either way! From what I’ve seen I think New Zealand have been the best, however Ireland only last September showed that they do have what it takes to beat them. For England, it will be interesting to see how they perform as they will not have played for around two weeks, but I will certainly be glued to the TV watching to see who will progress to the semi-finals.

Celtic

Looking at Celtic’s defeat to Livingston, we certainly had enough to win the game but we were put at a disadvantage due to a poor decision from Ryan Christie who saw red. I also think the plastic pitches are an advantage to the home team, but Celtic should have got the result. I will say the goals from Livingston were good goals, but for me the playing surface spoils the game, the ball doesn’t behave the way it would on normal grass and it is a fight to control it at times.

Regarding Celtic’s meeting with Ross County, I hope all players return back from international break healthy. Our opposition will be encouraged by Livingston’s performance, but I’m confident we will get the win.

Looking ahead to the Europa League next week, it looks as though Lazio will be playing their strongest team this weekend as they face Atalanta who sit above them in their league, meaning that they will want to try and get a good results against the high flyers. As I always say in the Europa League, teams should be looking for nothing but a win at home. Since Christie won’t be available domestically, I will be expecting him to make the difference against Lazio.

Manchester United

Like Celtic, I hope that United’s team are not affected by international duty as there is not much turnaround before the Liverpool game. United against Liverpool is the biggest game of the Premier League in my opinion, with a huge global audience. United’s current situation going into the game reminds me of when I first played for the club, when Liverpool were the best team in England.

However, we always rose the occasion and put in a good performance. Jurgen Klopp for whatever reason at Old Trafford recently has played quite negatively in my opinion in the sense that he has been happy to go home with a draw. I don’t know if this time he will opt for different tactics, but I do see United winning, there is no logic to it other than a gut feeling.

United won’t have much time before they must then prepare for their Europa League trip to Belgrade as they face Partizan. It is apparently one of the most intimidating tunnels in football, so providing United can get onto the pitch, I anticipate Partizan to play high tempo to try and restrict United to playing in their own half. The key to the game for United will be to avoid conceding a goal early in the game.

For me personally, a draw away from home in Europe is a good result, however I understand not many fans felt this way after the 0-0 draw against AZ Alkmaar – but I think this was maybe more about the lack of shots at goal! United must do whatever it takes to get into the next round, and if draws still allow qualification then we must accept that. However, it would be nice to see some shots on target this time around!

Ole Gunnar

Transfers and Injuries

I also read this week that Catalan giants FC Barcelona are looking for a long-term replacement for their goalscorer Luis Suarez. According to reports, the club are looking at usual suspects such as Kylian Mbappe and Roberto Firmino, however also on their list was Marcus Rashford.

I can understand why clubs would be interested in a player who when in form and playing to the best of his ability can be an asset, but I don’t see Rashford as the type of goalscorer that Suarez is – Marcus is more of a creative player than a number nine.

It’s bizarre that they are looking for Firminho when he’s struggling to get into Liverpool’s team, but I think Mbappe is the most likely signing, he’s probably a number one signing for any club (of course not to play as a number one, but maybe he’s good in goal who knows?!)

I have also read about Alexis Sanchez’s injury which is a real shame for him. I think some of what the Chile coach said about the injury was lost in translation as he said that Alexis “might need a knife” – I think he meant that the player will be going under the knife for an operation!

It’s a sad sight as it has been two years of injuries for Sanchez. I don’t know how it works regarding his loan and if he will have to return to Manchester for his recovery time, however at least he can spend more time looking at pictures of his beloved dogs whilst he recovers!

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