Van Persie is a no-brainer for Player of the Year, but who has been the best manager?

The awards season kicks off tonight when Robin van Persie will surely be named Player of the Year by the Professional Footballers’ Association.

And he must be long ­odds-on to follow that up by collecting the Football ­Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year accolade.

It is pretty much, as they say, a ­no-brainer.

Less clear-cut will be the voting for the managerial gongs.

A 40-strong panel of ­experts will decide the ­Barclays Manager of the ­Season, while managers themselves anoint the LMA Manager of the Year.

Both have been known to come up with the odd quirky choice.

In 2010, Carlo Ancelotti – in his debut season in ­English football – won ­Chelsea’s first Double.

The Premier League sponsors’ award that season went to Harry Redknapp, for finishing fourth, presumably.

The League Managers’ ­Association plumped for Roy Hodgson for, I assume, ­getting Fulham to the final of the Europa League (which they lost) rather than for ­finishing 12th.

And I’m sure Gerard Houllier is unlikely to forget the moment the LMA bestowed the honour on George Burley – who had guided Ipswich to fifth place – in 2001 while the Frenchman was ­celebrating a League Cup, FA Cup and UEFA Cup treble with ­Liverpool. Not to mention a third place finish.

This time around, the ­informed talk is that it will be a three-way ­battle for ­individual honours. Alan Pardew, Brendan Rodgers and Paul Lambert.

All have done creditable jobs.

Should Pardew manage to secure a Champions League berth, he will certainly be worthy of consideration.

Newcastle’s final points tally could well exceed the 68 it took to secure Arsenal fourth place last season. But while Rodgers and Lambert have enthralled us with their approach and attitude, their teams look likely to finish in similar positions to a couple of promoted clubs last season.

Before yesterday’s ­fixtures, Norwich and Swansea sat 11th and 12th – the same positions occupied by West Brom and Newcastle at the end of 2010-11.

Because of our inflated ­opinion of its standard, sometimes we overestimate the challenge faced by newcomers to the Premier League.

The challenge faced by Sir Alex Ferguson this season, however, has been a familiar one – to see off heavy-spending pretenders.

And if he manages to do that, it will be one of his most ­remarkable achievements.

Not his finest, of course. The Treble in 1999 will ­stay unsurpassed.

But consider how unfavourably this United compares with other vintages.

In the title-­winning 2008-09 ­season, Ferguson had Wayne Rooney, Carlos Tevez, Cristiano ­Ronaldo and a Dimitar Berbatov in his prime.

To go with Rooney this ­season, he has an inconsistent Javier Hernandez, a raw Danny Welbeck and a fast-fading ­Berbatov. In midfield, he was largely denied the services of Darren Fletcher, the promise of Tom Cleverley and the ­combativeness of Anderson.

Nani and Antonio Valencia have provided a threat but also missed 20 games between them, while ­captain Nemanja Vidic has not played since ­December 7.

Ferguson has also had to manage a ­goalie spooked for a swathe of games at the start of the season and has not had a regular right-back.

One correspondent ­remarked to me earlier in the season that United were fighting for the title with their Carling Cup team. And he was not far wrong. Their embarrassment in Europe underlined that.

Yet the truly remarkable thing is that, at the relatively grand age of 70, Sir Alex’s ­appetite for the battle seems healthier than ever.

And you sense it has only been whetted even ­further by the prospect of ­bringing a 20th title to Old Trafford with one of his most ­undistinguished squads.

If he does just that, there ­really is only one Manager of the Season.


Norwich City have called off the cops. Club ­officials summoned the Old Bill after 17-year-old fan Chris Brown found images of the new home kit and posted them online 12 hours ahead of the official launch.

Chief executive David McNally responded by saying: “We are the guardians of the football club and so we will protect our property. And in the digital age it involves our intellectual property, so we won’t allow anybody to come in and take it from us.”

It was pompous nonsense not expected from Carrow Road. But, thankfully, McNally found some ­intellectual property and Chris won’t be up before the beak.

And the new Norwich jersey is yellow. Just like the old one.


Considering how much flak referees ­receive, it is only right and proper that Howard Webb should get due credit for the way he handled the Bayern Munich-Real Madrid Champions League tie last Tuesday. Yes, you could quibble with the odd decision but the way in which he controlled two sets of players very well-versed in the art of gamesmanship was ­superb.


A thought occurred during Chelsea’s victory over Barcelona. Has Roman Abramovich got a number for Tony Pulis?


Bill Kenwright spent most of last week in the Rovers Return. Did anyone see him buy a round?

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