Steve McManaman: Why AP McCoy’s 2010 win is my personal Grand National highlight
With the Grand National taking place this Saturday, Steve McManaman returns with his column to discuss why he won’t be backing Cloth Cap in this year's event, and his favourite memories from Aintree...
There have been many standout moments for me in the Grand National over the years, but AP winning it on the fifteenth attempt is a personal highlight.
What stands out for me personally is when AP McCoy won it in 2010 with Don’t Push It. He is a good friend of mine and it was the one race that eluded him for a long time and he had so many hard luck stories, especially with Clan Royal in 2005, so the fact that he won it and we were there in the box at Aintree right on the finish line was very emotional and I don’t get emotional very often! That was the one race which people could (unfairly) criticise him for not winning. He was a 20-time Champion Jockey but he had never won a Grand National, so to see him finally accomplish that meant a lot.
Understandably Cloth Cap is the favourite for the Grand National this year, but I don’t think he will be the punters choice...
4/1 or 7/2 is a very short price, but you won’t say that if he ends up winning the race! What I would say is when you’re betting on the "four-and-a-half" miler that is the Grand National, you have to take the number of fences and the weather into account. It will be great for Jonjo O’Neill of course and Trevor Hemmings too, a great patron of the game who’s won the Grand National on numerous occasions, but I don’t think I’ll be having a bet on Cloth Cap when it’s priced at 4/1, I’d be looking elsewhere for a bit of each-way.
That’s traditionally what people do. You look at a 10/1 and already you have double figure odds and then you can have a bit of each-way and the Grand National is one of those when you’re having bets for not just yourself, but for your kids, grandfathers and your grandmothers!
At this moment in time, I’m not tipping anybody for the Grand National…
I would like to see what the conditions are like on the day before I make a selection. When you take a look at the list of runners you see that JP McManus for example, has got about eight horses entered into this year’s race and is taking it very seriously. In particular he has Anibale Fly who ran brilliantly in the 2019 Gold Cup and finished second, so that’s one to watch.
You see horses such as Acapella Bourgeois from Ireland that have been brilliant in the past and then there’s Santini who was awful in the Gold Cup this year but is still due to run. There’s Bristol De Mai who’s an incredible horse, so I’m just going to have to wait and see what the conditions are like before I choose my favourite. If there’s a deluge for instance, Bristol De Mai usually enjoys that kind of weather, but he’s carrying a lot to run a four-and-a-half miler. When you look at the quality of some of the horses such as Shattered Love from Ireland, there are plenty of Grade 1 winners from the past and they’re all lined up in the Grand National which is unheard of really. The Grand National is seemingly being targeted by really good horses now because the prize money is so generous.
Onto the football, my former clubs Liverpool and Real Madrid face off in the Champions League Quarter-Finals this evening, but I believe that it’s Liverpool who are favourites to advance.
I don’t believe the tie will be straightforward for Liverpool as that does a disservice to Real Madrid, as Real grow in terms of stature when they’re in the Champions League. They haven’t been at their strongest in La Liga this season and La Liga itself isn’t as strong this year.
The financial situation at present has hit Spanish sides worse than most. The fact that Real Madrid haven’t bought anyone over the last couple of transfer windows and that they’ve let players such as Gareth Bale, Luka Jovic, Martin Odegaard and James Rodriguez leave either on loan or permanently, highlights the constraints that Real Madrid have to deal with at the moment. I’ve said it all year long that I believe the English sides are much fitter, stronger and just generally better than most other teams in Europe at this moment in time. Not only do I believe that Liverpool will be favourites for their clash with Real, but I believe the same regarding Chelsea against Porto and Manchester City against Borussia Dortmund.
I think that all the English teams will qualify for the Semi-Finals. I saw Real Madrid get knocked out by Manchester City last season and I understand Eden Hazard is still currently out for Real, so if they go into this tie with a similar team they fielded for the Atalanta Round-of-16 clash, then I believe that Liverpool will be too strong and too fit for this current Madrid outfit.
If Liverpool want to improve their defence, I’d rather take a risk on Ibrahim Konaté for a smaller amount of money then pay double for Kalidou Koulibaly.
Last year, everybody was speaking about Dayot Upamecano. Now it’s his RB Leipzig teammate Ibrahima Konaté. In the Bundesliga he’s been impressive enough but in the Champions League he hasn’t hit the same heights. I think most English fans would have seen him against Manchester United and he was torn to pieces at Old Trafford, where he was part of a defence that conceded five goals. The one thing you would say is that Konaté is very young, he’s quick, he’s tall, and Liverpool hope that he’s a bit of a rough diamond, which is what you’re looking for nowadays, to try and develop him. There seems to be a lot more truth and substance in this particular rumour with Konaté and he’s got all the attributes to develop into a really good central defender.
You’re buying promise and that’s why his price tag is not as much as you would expect. He’s playing well in a league which is possibly not as strong as the Premier League as a whole and when you see him in the Champions League he looks a little bit inexperienced at times but he’s got all the right attributes to be a good centre-defender. The only thing is, if Liverpool buy another defender, they’ll have so many! Once those who are out start to come back from injury they’ll have to start selling them again! If you want a player ‘for now’, Kalidou Koulibaly is approaching 30 years of age, he’s played in Italy where they are very defensively minded so I can understand the clamour for him. Koulibaly was double the price of Konaté a year ago, so you’d take Konaté all day long in that respect and you’d accept the fact that he’ll make mistakes and get caught out for him to be the finished article in two or three years when he’s playing in the Premier League. Liverpool are going to be fine defensively when they get the main men back and they’re fit and well. We’ve still got to wait and see what’s happening with Joel Matip, we’ve still got to wait and see what’s happening with Ozan Kabak. You don’t want to get into that situation where you’re back to having 5 central defenders, plus Fabinho, because that causes problems again.
At the moment I don’t think any Big Six Premier League team would be able to afford Ben White from Brighton, another defender who’s been linked with Liverpool.
Once you’ve landed in the Premier League and you’re established and excelling, that price tag suddenly becomes £80m or £90m. You get to a point where you sort of price yourself out of the market because you have become good for another Premier League team. Ben White, like Lewis Dunk, like Webster, has done incredibly well for Brighton. I saw Ben White play in midfield against Manchester City at the Etihad and more than held his own in that game. You can see he’s a wonderful player but whether anybody will take a chance on him because he’s not a huge, big, towering central defender, I don't know. He likes to bring the ball out and some teams like that but I just don’t think a top six team would be able to afford him. You never know with the money worries of teams within the pandemic but I don’t think anybody would be able to take him off Brighton at this moment in time.
With Sergio Aguero potentially heading to La Liga, there’s no doubt that he still has the capabilities to play at the highest level, but Manchester City must carefully choose his successor. Kane, Ings & Haaland are the names being mentioned...
Sergio Aguero still certainly has the capabilities to play at the highest level, there’s no question of that. He’s had a very injury hit year, but he is still a wonderful footballer and a wonderful goalscorer. If he gets a good summer under his belt and he is able to stay fit and well and has a good pre-season then he will still be flying as he’s only 32. I don’t know the whole situation regarding his departure and whether it was entirely his decision but all you can say is that he’s been an incredible servant for Manchester City and many of their good times as a club have stemmed from the goals of Sergio Aguero.
I know that he’s friends with Lionel Messi, so if Barcelona is his next club then the language and the lifestyle would suit him and his family down to the ground. Has he still got the quality to compete at the highest level? Certainly. He just needs to stay fit. If he does have the opportunity to play for a team with the calibre that Barcelona has and play alongside Lionel Messi under the new stewardship of Joan Laporta then I think that would be absolutely perfect for him. If they can come to some sort of agreement then I think he would score a tonne of goals for Barcelona if he was fit and well.
Regarding potential successors, with the chances that a team like Manchester City create, if you’re a good centre-forward such as Danny Ings, then you’re going to score plenty of goals. Now it’s whether the remit for Manchester City is purchasing a £30 million striker or £100 million plus forward such as an Erling Haaland or a Harry Kane. I don’t know what financial situation Manchester City are in, but certainly Harry Kane is the best around at the moment and Haaland who himself can’t stop scoring goals is certainly one for the future, but whether he would suit the way Manchester City play is an entirely different issue altogether.
If Harry Kane wants to win trophies, it’s an easy decision: the team who wins the most trophies at the moment is Manchester City. The simple answer is, it’s easy to say ‘You need to leave Spurs because you need to be successful and win trophies.” Tottenham want to be successful but it’s hard in the Premier League when you’ve got Liverpool, Chelsea, and Manchester City knocking around next to you. Of course that’s difficult. But the main thing for Harry Kane, for me, is for him to be happy. If he’s happy and scoring goals and being a legend and wants to stay at Tottenham, so be it. That’s the important thing. Of course, in an ideal world, he’ll want to be successful but if he moves to Manchester, or if he moves to Madrid and you’re unhappy, or your wife is unhappy, your children are unhappy, it makes a mockery of your decision. He’s going to be a superstar wherever he plays. But people get carried away with all this ‘He needs to win trophies to be a great player.’ He doesn’t, he’s a great player anyway. He’s going to be one of the best. Look at Alan Shearer. People talk about the lack of trophies he won but no one can tell me Alan Shearer isn’t an absolute superstar, or absolute hero at Newcastle. And Harry Kane will be the same if he stays at Tottenham. He’s an incredible centre-forward and I think if you’re a club and you’re going to buy one at the moment, a Premier League super-striker, you go and buy Harry Kane in a heartbeat. Erling Haaland is certainly one for the future, he’s still young, he hasn’t played in the Premier League before, he’s still adjusting, he’s still getting better and he’s still improving. Harry Kane is the finished article.
In a dream scenario, Cristiano Ronaldo would go back to Real Madrid and be amazing.
I don’t think anybody thinks it’s realistic. Real Madrid haven’t been able to go into the transfer market for years because of finance. They had to let go of four players to get the wage bill down. They can’t then bring in one of the most expensive players in the world! Of course it could happen if Cristiano Ronaldo says ‘I want to go back and play at Real Madrid and will happily accept ‘X’ amount of money’ but realistically, all being well, you can’t expect a 36-year-old to go back and reignite that team.
Cristiano Ronaldo may be an incredible footballer but I don’t think he’s going to go back and make Real Madrid a better side as he did when he was in his pomp. In the dream, romantic scenario, he’d go back and be amazing, but football doesn't work like that!