Thursday, November 30, 2006

United 'reject' Freddie Adu...

According to media reports in the UK today, United have turned down the chance to sign Freddie Adu. I have to stress that these reports are unconfirmed at this moment in time. I will report back on this one when I have confirmation.

It is also being reported that United want to sign Spanish striker Fernando Torres and that United will try to offload Silvestre as part of the deal. I'd file that story in the highly unlikely category.

United 3-0 Everton - victory masks over the cracks..

The 3-0 scoreline slightly flattered United, but as Fergie would say, the reds fully deserved to win and no question about that.

I don't want to come across as a moaner, but United are in something of a mess at present with Saha out injured and no cover (this is beginning to sound like a broken record). Last night Ronaldo was used as the second striker and that meant United had to use Darren Fletcher wide right - which is completely arse about face as far as Ronaldo is concerned - on the night it didn't matter as Ronaldo scored and United got away with it, and that is the point. United will not continue to get away with it. Sooner or later we will come unstuck in the league or in Europe.

Interestingly the Glazer brothers attended last night game - where they in town to meet Ferguson about his transfer requirements this January? I for one do hope so because United's squad is currently stretched to the limit.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

ANALYSIS: Transfer speculation hotting up...

According to the latest transfer speculation United are interested in Jermain Defoe of Spurs. There can be no doubting the young England striker's ability, he would be a perfect fit for United. Granted he's not a big target-man, but he has pace and skill which make up for a lot. The other striker whose name has cropped up in reports is Charlton Athletic's Marcus Bent, he too would be an ideal buy for Fergie.

The interesting thing is that several United stars could also be heading out of Old Trafford either in January or in the summer. Alan Smith, Kieran Richardson, Darren Fletcher, John O'Shea, Mikael Silvestre and Wes Brown have all been the subject of transfer speculation. The fact that so many stars could be surplus to requirements gives Fergie plenty of room to manoeuvre regarding potential swap deals. A lot will depend on the selling club and of course the players concerned. Last summer United tried to foist Ruud Van Nistelrooy onto Bayern Munich in exchange for Owen Hargreaves but the big Dutchman wasn't having any of that - so expect to see similar shenanigans in the coming months. I expect to see at least two United stars departing this January and I'd hope/expect Fergie to bring in one striker. Watch this space for transfer speculation and the latest gossip

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

German's complaining about 'selfishness'...

No this isn't a row over sunbeds, everyone knows that the German's haven't often come off second best in the annual summer battles around the pool for who can lay down their towels first. This is a row about money, and the G14 - because Karl-Heinz Rummenigge of Bayern Munich claims Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich's spending power is stifling competition in European football. The Bayern supremo has hinted that his club may pull out of the G-14. In the unlikely event of that happening they wont rename it the G-13 because ironically Chelsea would then join. So far the West London club have been blocked from entering the group.

Self centred money grabbers - that is how Rummenigge views the G-14

Chelsea man backs United to win the title..

Gianluca Vialli former Chelsea player and manager has tipped Manchester United to snatch back the title from his old club.

He told the BBC "I wouldn't be surprised to see Manchester United win the Premiership and Chelsea win the Champions League.

"I think both clubs, both managers and their players would settle for this.

"Chelsea have a squad big enough with so many quality players that Jose Mourinho can rotate the team depending on whether they are playing in the Premiership or Europe, the opposition or the physical condition of his players and their squad is big enough to try to win both competitions.

"But the competition in the Premiership is stronger. Manchester United are firmly determined to win the title after a few years and Chelsea are more focused on being the best in Europe."

While I'd love to agree with Vialli, I'm not sure he's right, the former Juventus star has ignored one important factor, which is United's lack of strength in depth up front, this has been highlighted with the news that Rooney is United's only available striker for the visit of Everton on Wednesday night as Saha and Ole are both injured and Smith isn't 'match fit'. Rooney isn't an out and out centre forward and so United are in a real mess. IF Saha picks up a long term injury United have no chance of winning the title - not unless Fergie buys another top striker this January and that is highly unlikely, the best reds fans can hope for is a makeweight arrival.

So while I really admire Vialli - man of style and speaker of much sense, I cannot agree on this occasion. United's title abmitions are real enough, but the reality is our hopes rest on Saha staying fit and the actions or in-actions of our management team to strengthen this January. WE have a better chance than many but don't put your mortgage on the red devils. And anyway now isn't the time to make rash predictions, if we are still top come Easter then maybe I'll be agreeing with Gianluca.

G14 bullying FIFA into submission?....

Arsenal vice-chairman David Dein has been speaking in Dubai at the Soccerex finance seminar on behalf of the G-14, who in turn represent football's wealthiest clubs. The Arsenal man claims that the G-14 is looking to build bridges with the game's authorities, such as Fifa.

Dein says that the G-14 is a friend of football, but at the same time the G-14 is backing two legal cases over claims for compensation regarding players who've been injured while playing for their countries. The two clubs concerned aren't actually G-14 members, so this is a sort of war by proxy as far as the G-14 goes.

Belgium club Charleroi, have an impending court date with FIFA and Newcastle are in talks with the FA over compensation for the loss of Michael Owen who is still out after getting injured playing for England. The G-14 believes that national associations and FIFA should take out insurance policies in a bid to compensate the clubs when such injuries happen.

However, FIFA claim that if Charleroi win this court battle, it could mark the beginning of the end of International football as we know it, because only Europe's wealthiest countries could fund the insurance premiums. FIFA representatives have hinted that the likes of Brazil would no longer be able to compete on the world stage because they wouldn't be able to pay the insurance premiums - clearly this is scare tactics by FIFA and utter nonsense. I cannot ever imagine that scenario - because quite simply football is too big and too important in countries like Brazil and Argentina for that to happen.

Apparently the FA already has a compensation package in place, they will reportedly pay up to a maximum of £55,000 a week for up to two years. Owen is said to earn nearly double the amount being offered by way of compensation. Hence Newcastle's beef.

The latest news is that it's likely the Charleroi court date will be be set aside because FIFA have hinted that they will buckle and put compensation on the agenda. Reports claim FIFA will settle out of court with Charleroi. So it looks like the G-14 have won this war by proxy with FIFA.

However, what does this actually mean for the average fan in the street? Well for starters, the FA have been ripping-off England fans and anyone who attends the FA cup semi and final for years. No other national association fleece's fans like the FA - if there was a world cup for this, the FA would win it every time. But with the danger of appearing to defend the FA and I'm not defending them - they don't have much choice really, because they don't have any other income streams. So what will happen in the future? I venture two things. First the fans who go to watch say Manchester United may lose Rooney, if god forbids he gets injured while playing for 'Ingerlund'. Then to compound matters, assuming some United fans still attend 'Ingerlund' games, they will be charged even more money to watch the 'Three Lions'. So the only person who loses out in the end is Joe Public.

I'm not averse to the concept of compensation, but the game has gone on for long enough under the present rules. The fact is clubs are guilty of paying sky high wages, that is the real route cause of the problem. I have another solution. Why not scrap international football altogether? :0)

What is it with football and Belgium? First it was Jean-Marc Bosman who brought about radical changes to the transfer system, now Charleroi are at it causing trouble. Why can't they just stick to making fine chocolates and beer?

Monday, November 27, 2006

Glazer has to back Fergie in January, or else..

United's lack of cover for Saha was once again exposed this weekend - once the French striker got injured, the game was effectively up for the reds, for all his power Wayne Rooney is a second striker - he isn't a centre forward and never will be.

Against FC Copenhagen, Saha was missing - whether or not he was actually injured is to miss the point, United lost the game and it could turn out to be catastrophic for the club if they dont qualify for the knock-out stages of the Champions League for a second year running.

IF Fergie isn't hammering on Glazer's door for money to strengthen his forward line this January, then there's something very seriously wrong because any hope United have of winning any silverware rests almost entirely on Saha remaining fit - lose him for any length of time and our season will be effectively over.

However, the noises coming from Ferguson aren't exactly encouraging, he recently hinted that he doesn't sign players in January. He could of course be playing his cards close to his chest - but United don't play that game very well, witness the tactless overtures to bring Owen Hargraves to the club. So on one hand we have apparently identified Hargraves as a target who can help strengthen the squad, but there's no talk of resolving the most glaring issue and weakness which is bring in another top striker. Go figure.

Some of us are left with the feeling that Fergie either cannot identify a suitable striker or else he thinks we are ok - the latter is surely inconceivable? Whatever the machinations of Fergusons mind, actions will speak louder than soundbytes and bravado of the like we all too often hear coming from the manager and his players about our chances of winning a pot or the title.

There is another factor, which is that some reds believe (me included) that Glazer will be quite happy for United to carry on as they are doing and finish in the top four - thus carrying on the trend under Fergie. From a business point of view, if your manager gets you into the Champions League knockout phase year-on year-out - why spend another £20m+ on a top striker?

The fact is, Fergie is doing a fantastic job for the Glazer family, he hasn't once rocked the boat regarding the takeover - much to the annoyance of hardcore anti Glazer fans. United despite having no cover up front are doing well. But United are gambling in the last chance saloon of Ferguson's career, he recently said he'd like to win the CL at least one more time - United will not do that without serious money being spent and it's about time Ferguson came out fighting and if needs be starts asking questions in public about financial support.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Honours even in clash of the Titans...

IT finished up 1-1 at Old Trafford as United and Chelsea fought out his hard fought encounter. United took the game to the visitors in the first period and deservedly took the lead on 29 minutes when Louis Saha guided his curling shot from outside the box around the legs of Carvalho and beyond the unsighted Carlo Cudicini and into the keepers bottom right corner of the net, it was a great strikers goal.

Chelsea didn't offer much in the way of goal threats during the opening half and looked disjointed once again. You cannot help feel that Mourinho has yet to find the right blend, it's a case of too many cooks in the Chelsea midfield with Ballack and Lampard seemingly on different wavelengths and operating in the same zones.

United on the other hand looked fairly comfortable for most of the first period but the home side came under a bit of pressure just before the interval. At half time Mourinho predictably took off Geremi for Robben and switched Essien to right-back and Robben to the left wing. The move paid off because Chelsea more or less dominated possession throughout the second period.

Fergie needed to act to counter Chelsea's domination - but appeared to not know what to do - ironically with Chelsea bringing on a flankman and switching Essien to full-back it should have seen United getting more room in the middle of the park, but it had the opposite effect.

When in possession of the ball United gave it away cheaply, time and time again. Just as bad was United's failure to close down the Chelsea midfield in United's half. Giggs, Scholes, Carrick and Ronaldo didn't do enough closing down of the Chelsea midfield in the second period. Rooney was disappointing second half too.

When the Chelsea goal came it wasn't a surprise, as United's defence finally cracked under the weight of Chelsea pressure. Ricardo Carvalho scored with a well directed header from a corner after out jumping Heinze and it was Saha who got the final touch heading the ball past his own keeper. In truth it was only what Chelsea deserved.

United did have other half chances to have won this game, but it wasn't to be. Late on into the game United had to take off Ronaldo and Saha due to injuries - the fact that United didn't have another striker on the bench - or indeed another forward is alarming to say the least, this is the sort of thing you could perhaps expect in the Stockport and District Sunday league, but not a Manchester United. Quite simply United cannot win the title with such a thin squad and the reds without any shadow of doubt come a cropper if something isn't done to address the appalling lack of quality on the bench this January.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Rooney signs huge new contract...

Manchester United fans will no doubt be pleased to hear that Wayne Rooney has signed a lucrative contract extension which will keep the young England striker at the club until 2012.

That is the good news, but I for one do not expect any more good news regarding new signings this January, basically because the Glazer family haven't supported the manager recently. Last summer United were the Premier League's lowest net spenders - which is a total disgrace for a club of United's standing. United desperately need a quality striker adding to the books.

Why Chelsea are likely to beat United...

Tommorrow we will see arguably the biggest domestic game of the season so far when Chelsea visit Old Trafford. I'm predicting an away win. Why? Because Chelsea have something that neither United or Arsenal have - a truly solid back four and midfield. United and Arsenal play more attractive attacking football, while Chelsea play more of a pragmatic game. The Chelsea system is built on total team-work and the emphasis is always about not getting beaten rather than all out attack. Last season Jose Mourinho said that he'd be quite happy to win every game 1-0, this came as no surprise to observers of the Portuguese manager - Porto played the same brand of pragmatic footall.

Chelsea stiffle the opposition by putting a human brick wall around the Chelsea area, once the opposition team fails to break them down, the blues lauch swift killer counter attacks. Often Chelsea's play isn't that pretty to watch, but effective it is.

Having studied Chelsea, my advice to United would be to move the ball as quickly as they can and play as much one/two touch football as possible thus giving the visitors no opportunity to tackle them. My fear is that United will suffer at set-pieces and on counter attacks.

My prediction is a 1-2 win for the visitors with Drogba once again being the star of the show. I'll be very happy to be proven wrong.

Time to ban PSG from European football?

Tragically, a fan of PSG has been shot dead by a plained-clothed police officer who was attempting to defend a fan of Hapoel Tel Aviv who was reportedly surrounded by 150 PSG fans. PSG had just been beaten 2-4 by the Israeli side.

Fan shot dead

PSG fans have an appalling reputation and had to play home games away from Paris in 2001 (see link below) due crowd problems inside the stadium. The thing is, if it was English fans committing such acts, unquestionally UEFA would have kicked the club out of all European competitions. However, when it's not an English club involved a different set of rules apply. This time something must be done, UEFA needs to act and apply the ultimate sanction and ban PSG from all European competition.

Previous form

Friday, November 24, 2006

"Chelsea to be the biggest club in the world"..

OK, this is a joke right? No, it isn't. Because Peter Kenyon, the Chelsea CEO says by 2014 Chelsea will have overtaken Manchester United as the biggest club in the world.

In all seriousness does anyone actually care who is the biggest/richest club in the world? The title 'biggest club in the world' can be defined in different ways, people in the business world measure how big a club is based purely on the balance sheet. The club who is deemed to be the richest can then broker higher fees for sponsorship deals, which is all very good. However, we shouldn't confuse richest with biggest and most popular - this is where Kenyon is talking through his gold plated ring-piece.

Chelsea will never be as big as the likes of Manchester United or Liverpool, let alone Real Madrid and Barcelona - then again which world is Kenyon referring to - the real one, or the one he lives in?

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Chelsea defeat was entirely predictable...

With the danger of appearing to detract from Werder Bremen's win over Chelsea in the Champions league on Wednesday, I have to say that the goal Chelsea conceded to the German side was very out of character, as you don't often see poor marking and free headers inside the Chelsea penalty area. Added to which key players like Lampard weren't on duty.

Chelsea didn't look to be playing 100% full out all of the time, whether or not that was the pre-match team orders is open to question. IF Jose had told his players to take it easy, then you can sort of understand it as Barcelona remain the biggest threat to Chelsea winning the CL and so disposing of their biggest rivals before the serious knock-out stage started would be most agreeable. Not forgetting Chelsea face Manchester United on Sunday at Old Trafford which should be interesting, but I cannot see United getting any more than a point from this game.

Arsenal's 'gay icon' has a cheese problem ...

Arsenal midfielder Freddie Ljungberg has explained that he has suffered from a reaction to cheese, which brings on migraines, since puberty. Eating some 'cheesy mash' recently resulted in him missing the recent match against Newcastle. You wonder if the Pizza battle of Old Trafford a couple of seasons back affected him?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Saha miss leaves United on the brink of disaster..

For the second time in two years United are facing up to the possibility of being dumped out of the Champions League without making it into the knock-out stages of Europe's premier club competition after Celtic snatched victory from the jaws of defeat at Parkhead on Tuesday night courtesy of a 1-0 victory.

Other than an 89th minute penalty miss by Louis Saha, United didn't do that much wrong on the night, the game hinged on two big decisions, the referee's decision to award Celtic a dubious late second half free-kick which Nakamura struck home superbly. United had been served fair warning about Nakamura's ability from free kicks in the first leg and last night United restricted Celtic to just one direct effort on goal from dead ball situations, but the reds paid the price - though it was a contentious award as was the decision to give United the late penalty.

While United dominated the possession they failed to really open up Celtic, Giggs and Saha were poor in the second half, to their credit Celtic fought like tigers at the back.

United now need to take a point off Benfica, if they lose then they are out of the Champions League and then questions will be asked about Fergie's decision to rest key players against FC Copenhagen in the away leg.

Also of concern for United fans will be what happens this weekend against Chelsea. Saha in particular looks to have gone off the boil just at the wrong time - this again illustrates United's lack of strength in depth, because the manager has no choice but to stick with the Frenchman. The last time we played Celtic in the following game we faced Arsenal at home - and lost 0-1, Fergie blamed it on the players being tired following the Celtic game, so what will happen this weekend?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Another takeover - yet more question marks....

West Ham have today announced they have accepted Eggert Magnusson's £85m takeover bid for the club. Magnusson's consortium have secured agreements to buy 83% of shares and the Hammers' board have recommended the offer to remaining shareholders.

From the outside looking in, Magnusson appears to be a genuine football fan having been President of the Icelandic FA since 1989, he's also been on Uefa's executive committee since 2002. However, Magnusson is also a businessman and so are his backers, his chief investor Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson is a billionaire, but businessman don't get rich by throwing money away and throwing money away can be the definition of running a football club as many previous club owners have found out to their cost. So what is their movtivation?

Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson isn't in the same league as Roman Abramovic and Magnusson has stated that the club will move forward one step at a time, so don't expect a Chelsea style revolution. Magnusson is saying all the right things and there's talk of taking over the new Olympic Stadium, but as I understand it, the people running the Olympic Stadium project want a £100m contribution towards the development costs. Having just splashed out £85m to acquire West Ham it seems highly unlikely that the consortium will find that £100m. The fact is the British Government, Sport England and the Olympic committee are fully committed to building the Olympic Stadium - and I for one seriously doubt they'll find any willing partners with £100m to spare, the danger is the Government could end up with another Millennium Dome on its hands, they wont want that to happen again and so with them fully committed, a compromise will have to be found.

I predict that the government will end up funding any shortfall and then the Olympic Committee/Government will end up brokering a similar to deal to Man City's where they pay rent to the local authority.

One sticking point for any football club will be that it's highly likely the Olympic stadium will have to retain its running track, which isn't what happened at Man City. Also, the capacity will be only 25,000, so that is another huge potential sticking point for a club like West Ham and interestingly another East End club Leyton Orient are interested in the new stadium, but the Orient Chairman Barry Hearn isn't even willing to enter into talks about funding at this stage, but he's very interested...

Getting back to our new West Ham owners, imagine they broker a deal for the new stadium on a pay as play basis, they could probably recoup much their investment in West Ham by selling off Upton Park. Gudmundsson is a banker and so I expect prudency rather big changes, the takeover could work out well for all concerned providing everyone acts with the best long term Hammers interest at heart, but with foreign ownership comes uncertaincy and that is what Hammers fans will be thinking.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Adu Arrives as transfer talk hots up...

Freddy Adu has finally arrived at Manchester United for a two week trial, with Sir Alex Ferguson hinting that the player had perhaps made a mistake by signing for DC United. Fergie says that signing for DC stopped Manchester United from keeping tabs on him. I'm not quite sure how to square that particular argument. Clarity of thought and speech aren't always in sync at Ferguson's press briefings. Apparently the teenager trained with United's academy players today and not the first team. It's also being reported that Chelsea have passed on the chance to sign the Ghana born star. Watch this space on the Adu story...

Meanwhile as the January transfer window comes into view, it comes as no surprise to see more stories linking United to potential new signings. Yesterday, a story that must have been leaked from within Manchester United suggests that Alan Smith wants to sign for Bayern Munich on loan. Those who follow the reds will know United failed to persuade Ruud Van Nistelrooy to join Munich in exchange for Owen Hargreaves - who United still desperately want to sign and even though Bayern have threatened United with being reported to Fifa and Uefa, United are still acting will little class by continuing to leak stories mentioning that they still want the England midfielder. Some reports claim Smith joining Bayern will have no bearing on the Hargreaves situation, it could actually turn out to be some good pr for United in what has turned into something of a soured relationship between these two famous clubs.

The reds continue to be linked with Fernando Torres, but the Spanish striker has a massive prize tag on his head and there's little chance of him arriving at the club either in January or next summer - not unless United did a swap deal involving Ronaldo.

United are also being linked to Nigerian striker Chinedu Ogbuke who plays for Lyn Oslo, Liverpool, Arsenal, and Chelsea all supposedly interested. It's even being reported that Oslo have a firm bid on the table. File this story under 'kite flying' from the Norwegian club or the players agent.

One thing is 100% for certain, that is United are pretty much knackered if Saha picks up any sort of serious injury problem. That said I have serious doubts about United getting the right player this January, more likely a short-term signing could be in on the agenda.

Video technology - the time is right?

Following the controversial 1-1 draw between Blackburn and Spurs at Eawood Park on Sunday, Mark Hughes the Rovers manager has called for the introduction of video technology in a bid to assist referees to get the big decisions right.

"I've never been an advocate of technology but sooner rather than later they should bring it in. When huge decisions at the top level have an impact on teams, management and players then something has to be done," said Hughes.

Two red card decisions angered both managers, Tugay, scorer of a superb Blackburn goal was shown the red card for bringing down Ghaly inside the area, the referee decided it was a professional foul and sent off the Turk and also awarded the visitors a penalty. Ironically it was Ghaly who was later sent for an early bath for dangerous play for leading with his arm in aerial challenge.

Martin Jol the Spurs manager exchanged words with the referee and protested that Ghaly hadn't hurt anyone nor was the intention there. From a neutral point of view the Tugay decision was correct but Ghaly didn't touch the defender and so it was a harsh decision.

While video technology wouldn't have stopped Tugay getting sent off, perhaps Hughes is right, maybe it is time to view video evidence. When you think about it there's usually a hiatus on such occasions while the ref consults his linesman (assistant) before he decides whether or not it's a sending off. Some decisions aren't so clear cut though, for example when it's down to interpretation of the law, so even with video evidence it will come down to the opinion of another person. I guess it would take some of the heat away from the referee.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Edge of the seat United leave fans panting for more...

There's one thing that never changes with watching Manchester United, that is the teams ability to leave you on the edge of your seat for more or less the whole 90 minutes. At Bramall Lane on Saturday that is precisely what happened as United spurned enough chances to won have three games, never mind one. Sheffield United are fighting for their Premiership survival and as such they did as much as they could to stop top of the table United of Manchester. The Blades keeper Paddy Kenny was arguably the home sides man of the match pulling off several good saves to deny Wayne Rooney and Gary Neville.

Irishman Keith Gillespie and former United starlet gave Neil Warnock's side a surprise early lead with a superb header, Paddy Kenny then denied United pulling off a fine save, but United hit back through wonder boy Rooney with a well taken goal as United took control of the game, United had two strong penalty appeals turned down by referee Mark Clattenburg.

The second half followed the same pattern as the first with United dominating possession without being able to kill-off Sheffield. Ronaldo missed a sitter before Evra's pin-point cross from the left evaded a central defender and found Rooney lurking on the edge of the 6 yard box, the England striker wasted no time and volleyed home into the keepers bottom right hand corner of the net. While Rooney's technique was first class, Kenny might have felt he could have saved it if the ball hadn't first hit the turf before sailing into the rigging - there was the slightest touch of good fortune about the goal, but in truth the goal was only what United deserved. United had further chances to have made the score-line reflect the true pattern of the game, but Ronaldo in particular wont enjoy watching replays of the open goal he missed late on.

In the end it was the same old United, nerve racking at times and rarely dull these days but great to watch - if only they could finish off teams earlier.

Final score: Sheffield United 1-2 Manchester United

Friday, November 17, 2006

Tribute to a legend..

The word legend is much over used where footballers are concerned, but having read about Ferenc Puskas who died today aged 79, the term seems entirely appropriate.


Obituary

Incredible records

Tributes

Graham Poll tells John Terry to F*** OFF!

Until recently my opinion of Graham Poll wasn't very high at all, basically because he's not a great referee, but who is these days? There aren't many decent refs around, more is the pity.

However, Poll's stock has risen somewhat in my household for allegedly telling Chelsea they needed sorting out and now John Terry says Poll told him where to go.

Frankly if he did tell Terry to F*** OFF, then it's only what we see players doing week-in week-out to referees, the latter goes on unreported because it's such a common occurrence, but when there's a media witch-hunt in full swing it's big news when the tables are turned.

Terry et al need to shut up and get on with it, the nickname 'Chelsea rent-boys' seems more apt by the week.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Micah Richards, he's good, but he's not a full-back...

Everyone is raving about Man City's Micah Richards, I haven't studied him in great detail having only seen bits of him on tv, but from what I've seen he looks very useful.

Last night for England he was up against Robben, who is one of the best wingers in the world. Richards did quite well, but he looks a bit muscle bound and the talk is he will end up playing in a central defensive role as opposed to full-back where he plays now.

Wherever he plays, ultimately it's about mobility and speed of thought, both in the head and across the ground, coupled with the ability to read the game that marks good defenders from the very best.

Richards is one to watch. City should be credited for doing good work their junior players.

United bin David Jones analysis.....

According to some stalwart regular reserve team watchers at United, David Jones had what it took to become a valuable squad member at the club. No more. This week it has been decided to bin Jones and sell him to Derby County for a knock-down fee.

Following the defeat at the hands of Southend Fergie hinted there might be a few recriminations, at the time we weren't sure what he meant, but he then tried to loan out Smith to Cardiff and then Leeds threw their hat into the ring, Smith turned down both offers.

Is it purely a coincidence that Jones has been pushed out of the door, or is the Glazer family putting pressure on Fergie to cut costs and following Smith's decision to stay put then someone else had to go?

Perhaps Fergie has just finally given up on Jones. Who knows? What we do know is that Fergie rarely gets it wrong when the axe falls on youngsters. Will Jones come back to haunt him? I doubt it because for one thing Fergie wont be around for that much longer.

If however, the Glazer family are in so much financial trouble that they are forcing the manager to off-load players who should perhaps be staying then United are further down the road to ruin that I'd expected at this stage. From when the Glazer family took over the club I expected it be three years before the full implications of their doom laden bid hit home.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Smith refuses loan moves....

Alan Smith has decided that he doesn't fancy being shipped off to Cardiff or to Leeds his former club, you cannot really blame him, after all the Leeds fans weren't exactly turning cartwheels on hearing the news about his transfer to Man United a couple of seasons back, so you'd doubt they'd welcome home the local lad and their former hero.

As for Cardiff, again you can understand him not wanting to move to them, it is a step down - anywhere is once you leave United. I get the feeling Smith thinks a move to either club is a step nearer to a possible permanent move. While I don't rate Smith, he might just end up doing United favour, because it is pure folly to allow him to go anywhere with Ole out injured and injury prone Saha always likely to pull up at any time. A more sensible strategy would have been to have sold Smith in January when United could possibly acquire another striker.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

United avengers beat Rovers into submission...

Last season Blackburn took all six points off the reds in the league, in doing so they joined a small but exclusive group of clubs to have done so. Tonight there was never any real serious danger or Rovers taking three points as United cruised to an easy victory.

Wayne Rooney missed two guilt edged chances to have put the game beyond Rovers in the first half, but inexplicably he missed both, it would have been harder to have missed than score. The England striker somewhat atoned for his errors later in the second half when he played a starring role in the build up to the only goal of the game by finding John O'Shea on the wing, Friedel blocked the first shot from the resulting cross but Giggs pulled the ball back and Saha applied the cou de gras to earn United a well deserved three points.

Mark Hughes had a game plan but when his side went behind Blackburn didn't appear to know how to respond - that is the problem with starting out with a defensive tactical game, ergo it is hard to change once you go behind. Justice was done.

Deadwood clear-out on cards?


Alan Smith moving to Cardiff or Leeds could be the first of more moves this January, but as of this moment in time it looks like some of the deadwood might go but there's no sign of new arrivals. Pull your finger out Fergie.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Smith sent packing following cup exit...

Following the embarrassing but thoroughly deserved defeat by Southend in the Carling Cup, Fergie said there'd be 'no mass sackings', but then he contradicted himself somewhat by saying 'there might be a few recriminations'. Hey presto, today Fergie has announced that Alan Smith is being sent on loan to Championship side Cardiff City who are promotion hopefuls. Smith will be linking up with another former Leeds United 'die-hard' Peter Ridsdale, who is the former Whites chairman and the man many believe is responsible for much of the Yorkshire clubs current problems.

On making the announcement Fergie made it clear that the Carling Cup defeat was at the heart of the reason for allowing Smith to leave on loan, the United manager says a short term loan deal and games for Smith will be ideal.

Following that midweek defeat I wrote that Smith needing turfing out of Old Trafford ASAP, but even I didn't expect it to happen three days later. Reading between the lines I honestly feel Smith had got wind of this move and perhaps he wasn't that impressed because putting it midly he was appalling against Southend, there was more or less zero effort.

However, what many in the media will be asking now is what happens if Saha gets injured? United have shipped off Rossi and now Smith, and Ole is injured. You might have at least expected United to wait until the January transfer window when then could try to bring in some quality cover for Saha, but no, he's sent off to Cardiff post haste. It actually smacks of interference from the Glazer family who will no doubt be keen to reduce the wage bill further. The signs are things aren't well at all at United concerning financial matters, perhaps the meltdown many have feared isnt that far off, with this news coming on the back of those two directors handing in their notices recently.

As for Smith, he came to United to win trophies and to get back into the England set-up - he has failed really on both counts. The fact is he was never good enough to play for United, he's a very average player who plays more with his heart than his head. Fergie bought him because he thought he was 'value' but he wasn't. United will be lucky to recoup half of the £7m they shelled out for him, when he is sold it will for an undisclosed fee, thus saving United's embarrassment on another shocking piece of transfer business. I'm not ruling out Smith coming back to United, but I'd put money on a permanent move in the not too distant future for Smith.

Fergie, if you read this blog, please get rid of Richardson too.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Freddy Adu to train with United..

Apparently Freddy Adu is to train with Manchester United for two weeks starting on November 18. Earlier in the day United denied the story, but they have since confirmed the story is true. IT's being reported that if it all goes well a permanent deal could be struck in January. Chelsea and Real Madrid are also supposedly interested...

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Why Southend beating United is good for football..

Every now and again you get a shock result that sends shockwaves round the world of football. Last night was one of those occasions. No one including the Southend manager expected his team to dump United out of the Carling Cup.

On paper results of the like we saw at Roots Hall should never happen. United's team was full of internationals, Rooney and Ronaldo were in the starting line up, but it did happen and even as a United fan I have to say it is good for the game. The home fans went to that game with only a faint glimmer of hope rather than any tangible expectation.

Southend are currently rock bottom of the Championship table, they are suffering their worst run of results for 20 years. It was a fairytale result that restores some faith in the game, which these days is all too often tarnished by over-paid whingeing stars and moaning managers. United got what they deserved, precisely nothing. Southend matched United all over the park, so much so that United were reduced to long range efforts from Ronaldo. The home team created the more clear cut chances, Sodje and Eastwood could have really rubbed United's noses in it late on.

From United's perspective, the result shouldn't be that much of a surprise, but of course it was. True the reds are top of the league table, but whenever Fergie has played anything less than his first choice eleven and especially without Saha United have really struggled, we lost against FC Copenhagen and we could have easily lost against Crewe.

Anyone who reads this blog will know that I've been writing about United's weakness up front when Saha isn't in the starting line up and last night once again his absence was sorely missed. The concern is there's no talk of new strikers arriving, usually with United they cannot keep a secret regarding incoming star names. Fergie seems to be totally focused on getting Hargreaves. However, if the alarm bells aren't ringing they should be, because if Saha gets injured United's season is effectively over as far as any hope of silverware goes.

Of the players on duty last night, Alan Smith should be sold at the first opportunity as should Richardson, they are going nowhere and simply are not good enough to hold down a regular place. Richardson took most of United's corners, on most occasions he couldn't beat the man at the near post, time and time again his crossing was woeful, in contrast, the balls in from the flank for Southend were superb.

Fergie needs a clear-out and some new blood especially up front. Smith didn't appear to be at all interested last night, his movement off the ball was none existent, getting taken off as he did highlighted how poor he'd been and as he walked off there was no arm of consolation from Fergie, the pair exchanged looks that could kill. Forget about his injury problems, it looks like Smith is an unhappy bunny. Fergie please get rid ASAP.

One thing that cannot be levelled against Fergie is that he has fielded weakened sides against the likes of Crewe and Southend. United started the game last night with 10 full internationals, but once again it shows you that football can still be a game of fine margins even against lower league opposition.

Fergie says United will learn from the defeat. So what do we learn? We know we got beat fair and square, we know Smith and Richardson aren't good enough, we know United need another top striker, one hopes that is what Fergie learnt last night, in the weeks ahead we will see by the results of his actions.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Chelsea please stop whingeing...

So Chelsea lost a game, big deal, they will still win the title at a canter (sadly) at least that is my opinion. But why is it whenever Chelsea lose or something goes against them, someone from that club has to go on and on and on about it via the media? It stinks of trying influence future proceedings, everything is designed to put pressure on the officials. Take Chelsea's game at the Nou Camp, following that game Mourinho accused Barcelona of always getting the decisions and trying to get opposing players sent off. There was no need for any of that, Jose's mind-games were completey uncalled for, the game had been a joy to watch.

This weekend Chelsea got beat by Spurs, low and behold, Chelsea accuse Graham Poll the match referee of saying 'you lot need teaching a lesson' and now Ashley Cole is carping on about his booking. What Chelsea have failed to realise is that the referee wears a microphone and so any comments would have been heard by the fourth official - it would have been a unprofessional of Poll to have said what he's been accused of, but if he did say, he's right...

Chelsea do need to be taught a lesson, they need to be told to shut up and to get on with it. Referees make mistakes, they always have done, the game isn't perfect but everyone involved in the game knows that over a season the decisions even themselves out - come the end of the campaign few complain about where they've finished in the league. What happened at White Hart Lane wont affect Chelsea's season, it was a blip.
Also, how many times do we see players telling the referee to F*** *** during the game? Chelsea are acting like spoilt crybabies. Please stop whingeing.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Down among the dead men Part II......

Hands up all those people who thought Newcastle and Charlton would be propping up the league table at this stage of the season, there cannot be that many who'd have predicted that? I for one cannot believe how badly both teams have faired thus far. I fully expected the three promoted clubs to really struggle and to go straight back down, I still do, from what I've seen Reading have the best chance of staying up, but I wouldn't put a penny on that happening.

To say Newcastle are missing Michael Owen would be something of an understatement, but I actually hope that the Magpies turn it round, because I think Glen Roeder seems like a good young manager. Yet today it's been announced that Newcastle's chairman Freddy Shepherd is to hold crisis talks with the manager later in the week. It sounds like a pr exercise, Shepherd was quoted today saying 'it's about time the players realised who they are playing for'... one would hope that things aren't that bad that the players aren't suffering from amnesia - I think we can safely rule that out as the likely cause of Newcastle's problems. More likely this was the reaction of a chairman under-fire, after the home fans chanted 'sack the board' following the home defeat by fellow strugglers and relegation certs Sheffield United this weekend.
Newcastle will be okay providing everyone holds their nerve.

Charlton are another thing entirely, you do wonder how much Ian Dowie's off the field problems with his former employer Simon Jordan are affecting him. Jordan is a man who wants his piece of flesh and his day in court. Like Newcastle though, they have too many good players to go down and so faith is the key.

A few weeks ago ("The Sack Race") I predicted that Man City's Stuart Pearce could be a managerial casualty, I still feel that is a distinct possibility, he will walk before he's pushed and I wouldnt rule out him ending up at somewhere like Newcastle at some point in the future. City wont go down though, I'd be amazed if they did.

'Boro are another club whose supporters will be having sleepless nights about their lowly league position, but they too should have too much in the locker to be considered serious relegation candidates, at least for now at any rate.

I shall return to this dead men walking theme in the coming weeks ahead. For me and for now Warnock, Coppell and Boothroyd remain my favourites to slide back down the greasy pole.

Pardew apologises but moody Wenger stays silent..

West Ham boss Alan Pardew has gone out of his way to apologise to Arsene Wenger for his part in the touch line row at Upton Park on Sunday, the two men had to be separated following Pardew's goal celebration.

Many observers including me believe that Pardew has done nothing wrong, and so he has nothing to apologise for. Wenger on the other had appeared to go for Pardew during the incident, he also refused to shake hands after the game, the Frenchman didn't give a TV interview after the game and also he refused to have a drink with Pardew who wanted to sort things out.

Wenger is a great manager, but he's not very humble when it comes to losing. It's not the first time he's refused to shake hands with opposing managers after the game. Arsene sets great standards for his players, but isn't it about time he started acting with a bit more humility and grace? An apology from Wenger should be forthcoming, because right now in the eyes of many it is he who is the villain of the piece and not Pardew.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Fireworks in London as Wenger loses the plot...

Wenger in fighting mood after
his side goes a goal hehind.


5 November 1605 was the day that Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators planned to action their 'Gunpowder' plot that would have seen the houses of Parliament blown to kingdom come. Roll the clock forward 401 years on to the day and Saddam Hussein got sentenced to death by hanging as did Guy Fawkes. Events in the capital were nearly as dramatic, as Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger lost the plot too and nearly started a fight with Alan Pardew because the West Ham manager joyfully celebrated what turned out to be his sides winning goal in the first London derby of the day at Upton Park where it finished 1-0. Marlon Harewood got the goal late on in the game after superb link up between Sheringham and Etherington on the left. After coming on as a second half substitute Sheringham, 40, gave something of a master class, he barely wasted a touch and made the difference between the two sides.

The fireworks didn't end there. At White Hart Lane, Chelsea needed to win to stay level at the top of the table with United. Spurs hadn't beat Chelsea in the league for 16 years, so a win was well overdue, but it was Chelsea who drew first blood through the most unlikely of scorers as Makelele gave the visitors a first half lead after Spurs failed to clear their lines. Makelele scored with a well taken half volley into the bottom corner of the net giving Robinson no chance. The home side hit back before half time through Dawson who scored from a free-kick with a well taken glancing header.

The second half was equally as eventful as the first, as Spurs took the lead after Keane skipped passed hapless Chelsea substitute Boulahrouz, Keane's ball found its way to Arron Lennon who made no mistake. But the drama didn't end there as John Terry was given his second yellow card of the day for what looked like a push, the Chelsea skipper looked as though he said something to either the referee or to a Spurs defender, what followed wasn't in doubt - the red card.

Chelsea weren't done though and Robben hit the post late on with a superb curling left effort that shaved the post. It was end to end stuff, but Spurs held on much to the relief of their supporters and of course Sir Alex Ferguson who had the pleasure of seeing all the top sides lose this weekend apart from Liverpool. Man City lost to the bottom of the league too, so it really has been a good weekend for the reds.

United stroll past Pompey but are they really good enough?

United cruised to a 3-0 victory over Portsmouth at Old Trafford on Saturday, courtesy of a penalty by Saha on three minutes, a stunning free-kick by Ronaldo on 10 minutes and a second half Vidic header. The visitors had been ravaged by injuries with several key players out, this led to David James putting on the best goal-keeping display of the season so far at Old Trafford as United created chance after chance. The first half was pretty much one way traffic. Pompey did improve second half and made more of a game of it, but there was only going to be one winner after the opening ten minutes.

IT is of course the weekend that Fergie et al celebrates his 20 years in charge at the club, at any level of football administration it is a remarkable achievement, but a club like United it is nothing short of a near miracle given the pressures of managing a club like United.

For now everyone connected with United can momentarily bask in Fergie's reflected glory, but this seasons real challenges are still to come, Chelsea visit United in a couple weeks and after that game we will know a bit more about United's true title credentials. IF Fergie did manage snatch back the title from Chelsea this season it would be a fitting end to a glorious spell at United, even those reds who have fallen out with the manager over his recent misdemeanours wouldn't surely argue with that.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Football lookalikes #1..Brian Barwick

Wallace and Gromit = the FAs Brian Barwick. This is a definite case of life mirroring art. Wallace and Gromit have starred in several comedy capers, such as "the wrong trousers" and "a close shave". Barwick starred in his own comedy caper entitled "The search for Sven's replacement" which turned into a complete farce.Official Wallace and Gromit site

Fergie attacks critics over retirement talk..

On November 6th Fergie will celebrate 20 years in charge of Manchester United, and some critics like the Daily Mirror's Oliver Holt (Sports journalist of the year) has written that Fergie should have retired when he said he was going to in 2002. While recognising SAFs achiements, Holt went on to write that since 2002 Fergie has tarnished his reputation citing bad many transfer deals and his soured relationship with horse racing tycoons John Magner and JP McManus.

On the latter point, the two horse traders never said that they were investing in United for the good of Manchester United, they simply used United as an investment vehicle, they bought low and sold high, to them it was like any other business transaction, they were in it for the money and nothing else.

Holt uses Fergie's fall out with M&M as the reason behind their decision to dump stock which resulted in the Glazer family acquiring the club. Not so. Conspiracy theorists will always jump to whatever conclusion suits their agenda, on this occasion they are wrong and so is Holt. M&M sold United out to Glazer not because of this personal fall out, but for profit, they were always going to sell after buying so cheaply.

Fergie has let himself down badly lately, telling fans that they shouldn't expect any say in the running of the club. Fergie also complained about the lack of noise at Old Trafford during some games. The trouble is with Fergie he says things then often contradicts himself by saying the exact opposite. A case in point was when he encouraged fans to join supporters group Shareholders United saying "I urge fans to get involved with supporters groups like Shareholders United as it could only be for the good of football". When Fergie said that we believed we had a champion in the boardroom, someome who spoke for the fans...

So we the fans can never be 100% sure what he truly means these days, this wasn't the case a few years ago, we were all singing from the same hymn sheet. Sadly it seems no more.

Over the next couple of days much will be written about Fergie's 20 years, but only when he's gone will we truly reflect on the many memories his teams have given us United fans. Like in life, we will choose to remember the good times over the bad, because that is human nature.

BBC online: Fergie hits back

Friday, November 03, 2006

Ole out injured again but Fergie is happy...

St Ole of Norway is out injured again, but Fergie is happy because it's only a hamstring injury and so he will be back soon. On reflection it could be a lot worse. Solskjaer will back before long, and let us hope Saha recovers from his 'injury' in time to face Pompey this weekend... but these injuries once again highlight what I and other reds have been saying for months, which is we need another top line striker.

United warned by Munich over Hargreaves...

I see Bayern Munich have threatened United with being reported to Fifa over the clubs pursuit of Owen Hargreaves. This is the second time Munich have threatened United, you might have expected the club to act in a more diplomatic way as we supposedly have good relations with the German club. United need to show a bit more class, David Gill recently confirmed that United haven't even been in touch with Munich, isn't it about time he picked up the phone and spoke to his opposite number at Bayern?
Friday's BBC online gossip column

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Fergie's tinkering exposes United's weakness up front..

For good reason Sir Alex Ferguson is known by some long standing reds as 'Tinkerbell' this is because of his tinkering with team selections, which in fairness he's got away with on many occasions during his time as United manager.

It used to be the case that Fergie would tinker against teams that on paper at least anyway would appear to offer less than the ultimate challenge over the course of 90 minutes, sometimes it worked, sometimes it backfired, and having tinkered again last night in Copenhagen, Ferguson and United suffered what can only be descrided as one of United's most embarrassing defeats in the history of the clubs European history, this result came on the same day that Fergie said United could win the trophy....

The man United missed most of all was Saha, he's supposedly 'injured', whether or not that is true - only those in the inner circle will know. Sure, we all agree that Ole et al have to get a game and we can see why Fergie made those changes, in fairness it wasn't a bad performance and yes as Fergie says we did create a few chances. The players who came in all did ok, but United lacked that cutting edge up front without Saha's pace and movement. Rooney and Ole are both second strikers. Last night it was blindingly obvious that United looked fairly weak up front, it's not unlike the Barca situation minus Eto'o, they too look toothless up front without their number one striker.

After the game Fergie described the performance as a 'throw away' and that he now realises that the team needs to have 'an edge' on such occasions, he is of course a master of stating the obvious and his press conferences are by and large a complete waste of time, last nights was no different.

The lesson that United really need to learn is that if you sell a top striker, then you need to replace him. Since Van Niselrooy left the club, there's been no serious talk of a replacement arriving, save for some unconfirmed tabloid rumours about Fernando Torres being a target.

Even with Saha in the side United's chances of lifting the CL this season are slim, without him and without serious competition for the number 9 shirt United's hopes are even slimmer.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Fergie eyeing double swoop...

ON the eve of United's clash with FC Cophenhagen in the Champions League, United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has confirmed that United are still interested in signing Owen Hargreaves. The reds boss stated that last summer the club focused on two transfer targets, Michael Carrick and Bayern Munich's midfield man Hargreave, who is out at the moment injured.

The fact that Fergie has gone public re-confirming that United are still very much in the hunt for Hargreaves could further antagonise the German club who let it be known that the player was going nowhere last summmer.

On the upside, it will give the England international further encouragement about United's interest. Ferguson used similar tactics when Van Nistelrooy broke down just prior to his big money move to United a few seasons ago when he ruptured a knee ligament.

According to the British press, Fergie is also supposedly eyeing Wigan's left back Leighton Baines who scored that block-buster of a free-kick against United earlier this season. Baines looks useful but United already Heinze and Evra so I'd say this is an unlikely move.

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