BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 3: Alex McLeish manager of Aston Villa during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Manchester United at Villa Park on December 3, 2011 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Neville Williams/Aston Villa FC via Getty Images)
Alex McLeish and his Aston Villa side were booed off the pitch after their defeat to Manchester United.

Negative tactics at Villa not doing Alex McLeish any favours

Richard Jolly

The second-half performance was better, the manager said. The fans did not agree.

Having booed their team off at the interval, they did so again after the final whistle.

It was not the fact they lost to Manchester United; having won one of their last 32 league games against Sir Alex Ferguson's side, they are all too accustomed to that. It was the way they did not even attempt to beat them.

Alex McLeish and Aston Villa was always an uneasy alliance. For the Scot, it now seems distinctly uncomfortable.

McLeish had the initial impediment of being a defector from across town, the first Birmingham City manager to trade St Andrew's for Villa Park. It meant he was not afforded a rapturous reception at first. But his past matters most because of his policies.

At the moment, McLeish is trying to purvey Birmingham's brand of football at Aston Villa. It is an approach that ignores the history and expectations of the region's traditional power.

The working men's club could get by on a diet of simple fare, but the aristocrats preferred a feast of flowing football.

At Villa, like West Ham United, Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United, results are only part of the consideration. Style matters. Excitement is expected. An understanding of the club's traditions is essential.

But tactically, McLeish is a manager of limited ambition. It is harsh to suggest that he actually tries to draw games 0-0, but that is the impression sometimes given.

A fear of losing can outweigh the will to win. Such safety-first instincts can have a cost: Birmingham only lost 15 league games last season but were still relegated. Victories were too infrequent, draws all too regular.

On Saturday, the isolated striker Darren Bent was seemingly tasked with winning flick-ons for himself, an impossible job.

In one respect, Villa's impotence was epitomised when Emile Heskey's shot went out for a throw (some would simplify that and say it summed up Heskey). But at least it was a shot; there were precious few others.

They have not scored for a month since Bent's winner against Norwich City and among their attacking players, only the rejuvenated Gabriel Agbonlahor appears to be benefiting from McLeish's appointment.

In contrast, defenders such as Richard Dunne, James Collins and Stephen Warnock all appreciate the Scot; as his time at Birmingham shows, he is a connoisseur of clean sheets.

But a manager who favours graft over craft is selecting sides that lack invention.

The nadir was at Tottenham when, in a dire display, the midfield was made up of a full-back, two holding players and an industrious, but non-scoring, striker (Heskey again).

In part, it can be attributed to lesser resources as Villa adapt to their own era of austerity. But only in part; while Stewart Downing and Ashley Young left, the creative contingent have been marginalised or unimpressive.

Charles N'Zogbia, the biggest summer signing, has been underwhelming and was omitted against United after failing to report for a treatment session; off-field problems mean Barry Bannan, who has shown glimpses of his ability, has only had a bit-part role; Marc Albrighton, an enterprising arrival on the scene last season, has been limited to one start; and Stephen Ireland has barely featured more. Collectively, it suggests imaginative players are not trusted.

Nor, at a club with an admirable youth system, has there been much scope for emerging talents.

McLeish's preference is for the tried and trusted but caution has not given him a platform for progress. It could have done: Villa's early-season fixtures represented a soft landing.

December, including Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea as well as United, is a truer trial. While Villa are in the top half of the table now, the likelihood is that they will not remain there.

With rumblings of discontent in the stands, McLeish will require a rethink to retain his position in the long term.

As Steve Bruce discovered at Sunderland, once the fans are implacably opposed to a manager, there is no way back. Hard-earned stalemates will not suffice, nor will defeats where, if the scoreline is respectable, there is an unwillingness to commit players forward to fashion a chance.

As one supporter's blog was simply entitled: "You don't play that kind of football at a club like Aston Villa."


Sometimes players' reputations are enhanced by their absence. The importance of Jonas Gutierrez to Newcastle was apparent with his performances this season but was underlined by his suspension on Saturday.

Lacking the cover perhaps the hardest-working winger in the division provides, the previously impressive left-back Ryan Taylor was left exposed against Chelsea's Daniel Sturridge.

The right-sided forward had eight shots during the game, eventually scoring the second goal in his side's 3-0 win.


It was to prove a doubly damaging day for Newcastle. Steven Taylor, the centre-back who was so defiant at Old Trafford seven days earlier, is likely to miss the rest of the season with an Achilles injury.

It means, for the first time this season, there will be a change in Alan Pardew's back four and, with his natural deputy Mike Williamson also out, could illustrate the thinness of their squad.

And that, in turn, shows how well they have done.

West Indies v India - Third ODI

India 251-4 (50 overs)
Dhoni (78*), Rahane (72), Jadhav (40)
Cummins (2-56), Bishoo (1-38)
West Indies 158 (38.1 overs)
Mohammed (40), Powell (30), Hope (24)
Ashwin (3-28), Yadav (3-41), Pandya (2-32)

India won by 93 runs

Company profile

Company name: Outsized
Started: 2016
Founders: Azeem Zainulbhai, Niclas Thelander, Anurag Bhalla and Johann van Niekerk
Based: India, South Africa, South-East Asia, Mena
Sector: Recruitment
Investment raised: $1 million
Current staff count: 40
Investors: Seed and angel investors

The Saudi Cup race card

1 The Jockey Club Local Handicap (TB) 1,800m (Dirt) $500,000

2 The Riyadh Dirt Sprint (TB) 1,200m (D) $1.500,000

3 The 1351 Turf Sprint 1,351m (Turf) $1,000,000

4 The Saudi Derby (TB) 1600m (D) $800,000

5 The Neom Turf Cup (TB) 2,100m (T) $1,000,000

6 The Obaiya Arabian Classic (PB) 2,000m (D) $1,900,000

7 The Red Sea Turf Handicap (TB) 3,000m (T) $2,500,000

8 The Saudi Cup (TB) 1,800m (D) $20,000,000

Company Profile

Name: Takestep
Started: March 2018
Founders: Mohamed Khashaba, Mohamed Abdallah, Mohamed Adel Wafiq and Ayman Taha
Based: Cairo, Egypt
Sector: health technology
Employees: 11 full time and 22 part time
Investment stage: pre-Series A

New process leads to panic among jobseekers

As a UAE-based travel agent who processes tourist visas from the Philippines, Jennifer Pacia Gado is fielding a lot of calls from concerned travellers just now. And they are all asking the same question.  

“My clients are mostly Filipinos, and they [all want to know] about good conduct certificates,” says the 34-year-old Filipina, who has lived in the UAE for five years.

Ms Gado contacted the Philippines Embassy to get more information on the certificate so she can share it with her clients. She says many are worried about the process and associated costs – which could be as high as Dh500 to obtain and attest a good conduct certificate from the Philippines for jobseekers already living in the UAE. 

“They are worried about this because when they arrive here without the NBI [National Bureau of Investigation] clearance, it is a hassle because it takes time,” she says.

“They need to go first to the embassy to apply for the application of the NBI clearance. After that they have go to the police station [in the UAE] for the fingerprints. And then they will apply for the special power of attorney so that someone can finish the process in the Philippines. So it is a long process and more expensive if you are doing it from here.”

Five healthy carbs and how to eat them

Brown rice: consume an amount that fits in the palm of your hand

Non-starchy vegetables, such as broccoli: consume raw or at low temperatures, and don’t reheat  

Oatmeal: look out for pure whole oat grains or kernels, which are locally grown and packaged; avoid those that have travelled from afar

Fruit: a medium bowl a day and no more, and never fruit juices

Lentils and lentil pasta: soak these well and cook them at a low temperature; refrain from eating highly processed pasta variants

Courtesy Roma Megchiani, functional nutritionist at Dubai’s 77 Veggie Boutique


Company name: Klipit

Started: 2022

Founders: Venkat Reddy, Mohammed Al Bulooki, Bilal Merchant, Asif Ahmed, Ovais Merchant

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: Digital receipts, finance, blockchain

Funding: $4 million

Investors: Privately/self-funded

Company Profile

Company name: Cargoz
Date started: January 2022
Founders: Premlal Pullisserry and Lijo Antony
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 30
Investment stage: Seed

UAE medallists at Asian Games 2023

Magomedomar Magomedomarov – Judo – Men’s +100kg
Khaled Al Shehi – Jiu-jitsu – Men’s -62kg
Faisal Al Ketbi – Jiu-jitsu – Men’s -85kg
Asma Al Hosani – Jiu-jitsu – Women’s -52kg
Shamma Al Kalbani – Jiu-jitsu – Women’s -63kg
Omar Al Marzooqi – Equestrian – Individual showjumping
Bishrelt Khorloodoi – Judo – Women’s -52kg
Khalid Al Blooshi – Jiu-jitsu – Men’s -62kg
Mohamed Al Suwaidi – Jiu-jitsu – Men’s -69kg
Balqees Abdulla – Jiu-jitsu – Women’s -48kg
Hawraa Alajmi – Karate – Women’s kumite -50kg
Ahmed Al Mansoori – Cycling – Men’s omnium
Abdullah Al Marri – Equestrian – Individual showjumping
Team UAE – Equestrian – Team showjumping
Dzhafar Kostoev – Judo – Men’s -100kg
Narmandakh Bayanmunkh – Judo – Men’s -66kg
Grigorian Aram – Judo – Men’s -90kg
Mahdi Al Awlaqi – Jiu-jitsu – Men’s -77kg
Saeed Al Kubaisi – Jiu-jitsu – Men’s -85kg
Shamsa Al Ameri – Jiu-jitsu – Women’s -57kg


July 5, 1994: Jeff Bezos founds Cadabra Inc, which would later be renamed to, because his lawyer misheard the name as 'cadaver'. In its earliest days, the bookstore operated out of a rented garage in Bellevue, Washington

July 16, 1995: Amazon formally opens as an online bookseller. Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought becomes the first item sold on Amazon

1997: Amazon goes public at $18 a share, which has grown about 1,000 per cent at present. Its highest closing price was $197.85 on June 27, 2024

1998: Amazon acquires IMDb, its first major acquisition. It also starts selling CDs and DVDs

2000: Amazon Marketplace opens, allowing people to sell items on the website

2002: Amazon forms what would become Amazon Web Services, opening the platform to all developers. The cloud unit would follow in 2006

2003: Amazon turns in an annual profit of $75 million, the first time it ended a year in the black

2005: Amazon Prime is introduced, its first-ever subscription service that offered US customers free two-day shipping for $79 a year

2006: Amazon Unbox is unveiled, the company's video service that would later morph into Amazon Instant Video and, ultimately, Amazon Video

2007: Amazon's first hardware product, the Kindle e-reader, is introduced; the Fire TV and Fire Phone would come in 2014. Grocery service Amazon Fresh is also started

2009: Amazon introduces Amazon Basics, its in-house label for a variety of products

2010: The foundations for Amazon Studios were laid. Its first original streaming content debuted in 2013

2011: The Amazon Appstore for Google's Android is launched. It is still unavailable on Apple's iOS

2014: The Amazon Echo is launched, a speaker that acts as a personal digital assistant powered by Alexa

2017: Amazon acquires Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, its biggest acquisition

2018: Amazon's market cap briefly crosses the $1 trillion mark, making it, at the time, only the third company to achieve that milestone

WWE TLC results

Asuka won the SmackDown Women's title in a TLC triple threat with Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair

Dean Ambrose won the Intercontinental title against Seth Rollins

Daniel Bryan retained the WWE World Heavyweight Championship against AJ Styles

Ronda Rousey retained the Raw Women's Championship against Nia Jax

Rey Mysterio beat Randy Orton in a chairs match

Finn Balor defeated Drew McIntyre

Natalya beat Ruby Riott in a tables match

Braun Strowman beat Baron Corbin in a TLC match

Sheamus and Cesaro retained the SmackDown Tag Titles against The Usos and New Day

R-Truth and Carmella won the Mixed Match Challenge by beating Jinder Mahal and Alicia Fox


Keep up with all the Middle East and North Africa athletes at the 2024 Paris Olympics

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