Tuesday, December 30, 2008
As I'd mentioned in my pre-match preview, Boro are a dirty side and so it came as no surprise that 'mad dog' Pogatetz was involved in yet more controversy as so often is the case when these two teams meet, I actually blame Gareth Southgate for these problems. It is no coincidence that his players go over the top, Rodrigo Possebon was lucky not to have his leg broken when the two sides last met. Perhaps it will take a broken leg for Southgate to take action.
Last night at Old Trafford, Pogatetz took it upon himself to not only raise his arms, oh no, he went much further when appearing to strangle Cristiano Ronaldo. Question; is there an unwritten rule endorsed by referees, opposing managers and players who all believe it is ok to go out and hurt Ronaldo?
IF Ronaldo or Wayne Rooney or any other United player had attempted to strangle a Boro player I doubt they'd have stayed on the pitch. The fact is sadly too many of our poor referee's like to be the star of the show and sending off a player like Ronaldo catapult's the said official into the limelight.
If the FA does nothing and ignores Pogatetz's attempt to choke Ronaldo, it will add weight to the claims that it's one rule for United players and another for the rest. I'm actually looking forward to hearing what the FA has to say on this episode; one thing is for certain the referee cannot say he saw the incident and that no further action is required, because if he does he's sanctioning attempted strangulation on the field of play.
Monday, December 29, 2008
I have to admit though that Liverpool were very impressive against Newcastle on Sunday, they went on to win 5-1 and later that day Steven Gerrard went out on the town in Southport to celebrate. It now emerges the Liverpool skipper is currently under arrest following an assault along with five other men.
It would be totally wrong to cast aspersions about Gerrard's character or his role in this incident. Whatever the outcome of the police findings, I seriously doubt there will be any ramifications for Liverpool or the player between now and the end of the season. What's more we United fans do not want to hear any excuses emanating from Scouseland relating to this brawl, or indeed the media intrusion following what is likely to be a difficult period for all concerned. Those of you with half decent memories will recall the Leeds United players' who were involved in a not too dissimilar incident which in turn caused a great deal of upset for those involved.
As for the Champions of England, Europe and the World, next up it's Boro who visit Old Trafford later this evening. I don't know about my fellow Reds' but I've grown to despise everything about Gareth 'the Mullet whiner' Southgate and his team of under-achieving journeymen. In fact, in some ways 'Boro remind me of Boxing Day opponents Stoke City. What both Boro and Stoke lack in skill they try to make up for by using all means possible - even if it means kicking their opponents off the park -but surprisingly United have collected more yellow cards the Boro this season...I'm actually going to put this down to lousy refereeing :0).
Obviously United need a win against Boro, I'd take another 1-0 if it were offered.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
The sack race: Is best of British time-served managerial experience the key to Premier League survival?
Manchester City's owners are currently saying that Mark Hughes is safe at the Citizens', if that is so it makes a pleasant change. How many of City's former struggling managers' have been afforded time when the going gets tough? John Bond once a famously referred to the Blues' old main stand as a whispering gallery, he was gone not long after.
Despite City's Arabic money-men saying the right things behind the scenes you do get the feeling that it is only a matter of time before Hughes feels the sharp edge of the henchman's axe. Having watched City on a number of occasions recently, I'm stating the bleeding obvious that they cannot defend and yet all of the talk is of new strikers' and midfield players' arriving at Eastlands in January.
Hughes keeps his own council on potential targets - as any half-decent manager should - but I do fear for the future of the Welshman - especially if he cannot see where his problems lie. At the season's beginning much talk centred on Jo the young Brazilian striker, but his form has dipped amidst talk of dressing room unrest and bad influences, which if true could also see fans favourite Elano sent out on loan along with Jo. Here again, Hughes must be courting potential disaster with his own supporters' who are not known for backing under-fire managers'.
For me, the big question is who will replace someone like Hughes? With young managers' like Roy Keane and Paul Ince failing so badly it seems that now is not the time to back those with little or no managerial experience at Premier League level.
For reasons largely connected with off-the-field problems, Newcastle parted company with Kevin Keegan, but Joe Kinnear has come in and steadied the ship for the Magpies. It's the same situation at Spurs where Harry Redknapp has charted a course to Premier League safety in short order.
Big Sam Allardyce has come in and replaced Ince at Blackburn, instead of going for an overseas manager Rovers opted for a time-served Englishman and a safe pair of hands.
Football is indeed a funny old game, not so long ago men like Allardyce and Kinnear were yesterday's heroes. No more, because by my reckoning Phil Brown at Hull City is probably the hottest young manager in the business and of course he's served his time as a coach under Sam Allardyce before taking up the challenge of becoming a number one.
Ultimately, results dictate everything and with the pressure of just remaining in the Premier League being so great, there are no hard and fast rules which can be followed for managerial stability, which is why so often club owners end up pressing the panic button. Men like Ricky Sbragia who is in temporary charge at Sunderland, is another with a wealth of coaching experience, but he could just as easily fail at the Black Cats, just as Brain Kidd did at Blackburn.
We can all talk about giving the likes of Ince and Keane the luxury of that which waits for no man, but the reality is time waits for no manager.
The English game has seen an influx of overseas managers' and star players' over the last 15 years or so, but right at this moment in time the stock of English managers' with Premier League experience appears to be flavour of the month especially for the second and third-tier clubs.
Monday, December 22, 2008
Whenever a United player steps out of line the FA ensure that they come down heavily on the player concerned as was the case with Eric Cantona following his moment of madness at Selhurst Park back in 1995.
In contrast with the treatment dished out by the FA to United stars, players from other clubs are all too often treated more leniently, a perfect case of double standards was that of Alan Shearer who booted Neil Lennon in the face during a Newcastle vs Leicester clash in 1998.
When the FA announced that they would investigate the matter, reports claimed that Shearer threatened to quit the international team before that summer’s World Cup in France. In the political wrangle which followed, the PFA were among those who asked Lennon to defend Shearer at a disciplinary hearing. After much soul-searching, the Leicester player agreed and Shearer was found not guilty.
"People kept ringing me up and asking me if I was going to take legal action," he says. "I have to say I was tempted. How he got away with it I don’t know. They turned it around as if me and the gaffer were villains of the piece. I thought I was going mad. Did my head get in the way? His boot must have been in a right mess. Glenn Hoddle had his say. Tony Banks had his say. I was just waiting for a telegram from the Queen. It just shows you that some players are untouchable" said Lennon.
Going back to the Evra incident at Stamford Bridge, Scott over at Republik of Mancunia has been looking at the FAs transcript from the tribunal in which United are basically called a bunch of liars. Please take a look at the story as it makes interesting reading and Reds' everywhere need to be made aware of the appalling bias against United.
It's another FA stitch-up: One rule for United and another for the rest.....
Sunday, December 21, 2008
As if that wasn't enough, the "champions elect" (according to the BBC's many scouse supporting correspondents) Liverpool, were once again held to a draw at the weekend this time by Arsenal. If it wasn't for the Gunners' Keystone Cops' like defending they could have taken all three points, but instead they allowed the Scouse pretenders back into the game which eventually finished up 1-1. In the end a draw was a fair result and one that all but ended the Gunners' lingering title hopes.
However, the festive fun didn't end at the Emirates on Sunday as our, gone but not forgotten, old friends Leeds United, sacked their manager Gary McAllister.
SKY sports helped to make it a really Super Sunday when Manchester city deservedly lost to bottom of the table West Brom. I could be wrong here, but it looks to me that the City players' are trying to get Mark Hughes sacked, failure to win at Eewood Park next weekend will I fear mark the end for Sparky.
Then on Monday night at Goodison Park John Terry was red carded against Everton and once again the Renters' could only manage a draw. Chelsea and Liverpool should by rights have left United for dead by now, given the Champions haven't been at their very best all season long, but our rivals continue to leave the door open for the Reds'.
Meanwhile in Europe, the fast becoming joke that is Real Madrid continue to be linked with second-tier stars from the Premier League - oh how the once mighty have fallen. I will actually be quite pleased to see Liverpool knock them out of the Champions League this season.
As Satchmo himself used to sing "oh what a wonderful world"...
From the moment the final kicked-off it was apparent that unlike the semi-final, this match was going to be no walk in the park for United as the South Americans game plan appeared to centre on taking it in turn to try to kick lumps out of Ronaldo and anyone else in the Red shirt.
Thankfully, the Reds had too much class for the Ecuadorians, the only surprise was that the first-half remained goalless which was in no small part down to de Quito 'keeper Cevallos who lived a somewhat charmed life with Rooney in particular going close on a number of occasions.
The second-half was spoilt by the sending off of Vidic who was seen elbowing a Liga de Quito striker who was clearly holding down United's Serbian defender. The theatrics of the Ecuadorian striker in getting Vidic sent-off were worthy of an Oscar, but nonetheless Nemanja had to go.
With United playing with ten men for forty odd hard fought minutes it looked as if the match would go to extra-time and possibly penalties, but on 73 minutes Ronaldo cutely played in Rooney and the United striker did what he should have done in the first-half when he comprehensively beat Cevallos giving him no chance.
In the end Liga de Quito got what they deserved, which is precisely nothing, whether they were inhibited by United's class doesn't really matter, because they seemed to be intent of playing for extra time and penalties from the start of the final. It was only after going a goal down did this team of journeymen cloggers try to play some football.
It remains to be seen what the true price of today's victory will be for United. On Friday lunch United take on Stoke City in what will be another blood and thunder game at the Britannia Stadium. As a result of the sending off, Vidic will miss the first leg of United's Champions League tie with Inter Milan, but Jonny Evans will deputise so hopefully the Reds will cope in the heat of the San Siro.
The title of World Champions while being valid represents something of a hollow victory given the lowly stature of what can only be described as a Mickey Mouse tournament.
United will no doubt be the envy of the commercial and PR departments of rivals' such as Chelsea and Liverpool who like the Reds' continue to talk of the East as an untapped market. However, seasoned Reds like myself take an entirely different view of so called fans from the far East, which is they do not contribute to United's coffers in any meaningful way; they do not pay top dollar TV subscriptions nor do they buy official merchandise (don't all the snide shirts get manufactured in the Far East?) and they quite obviously cannot buy match-tickets apart for these side-show tournaments.
In short, the Premier League clubs who court the Far and near East are chasing fool’s gold because United's most important fans are those nearer to home. That said, United could score commercially where sponsors are concerned, so while fans from the Far East might not contribute directly there's no denying that United may well at some point cash-in on their undoubted popularity by possibly replacing AIG with say Toyota.
Friday, December 19, 2008
It doesn't matter what the bookmakers say, Inter should be the favourites despite being drawn at home first. If only United had finished runner-up we'd now be facing Panathinaikos - you could say that view is with the benefit of hindsight, but I've had a bad feeling about meeting Inter for several weeks. Liverpool fans have been crowing about beating Inter comfortably last season, but that was before Mourinho arrived, they will be a much tougher proposition now.
I am not completely writing off United's chances because over the last few weeks the Reds defence has looked fairly solid away from home and the Champions have been playing some confident football, but without creating enough clear cut goal-scoring opportunities. My lack of confidence stems from United's current inability to create chances. Ronaldo hasn't been performing as he can and for me the Rooney / Berbatov partnership has not blossomed.
If however United can overcome Inter Milan then I'd expect them to win the competition, but at this moment in time I do not see the Red Devils progressing beyond the group of 16.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
The semi-final was watched by millions around the football globe on tv and the stadium looked packed. Every time Ronaldo went near the ball the crowd went wild and rightly so because today he looked the part, which hasn't been the case every week thus far this season.
United were simply too powerful for Gamba Osaka, who showed some nice touches and made sure it was a decent contest by scoring arguably the best two goals in the match that ended 5-3 to the Champions of Europe.
The only sour note was the booking for substitute Wayne Rooney, who notched a second half-brace. For some reason Rooney decided to boot an Osaka player who was lay on the pitch while trying to retain the ball. Unlike the press, who have been trying their level best to get Rooney banned in Europe, I think it is about time that Fergie had a word with his star striker, because clearly there was no need for his second half yellow card - the incident was out of keeping of a match that had been played in good spirit.
IF you didn't manage to see the game, then make sure you do not miss the final next Sunday which will be screened in the UK on Channel 5 starting at 10.20 am. If the final is half as good as today's game then you will not be disappointed.
The media love these stories and as expected there's been no shortage of those repeating the claim that Ronaldo will sign for Real Madrid, but I for one do not believe the Portuguese star will be signing for Real Madrid any time soon.
It's worth noting that Real Madrid are a club in trouble, following their failed attempts to sign Ronaldo last summer and following on from that they're under performing in La Liga, but for Castillas they would have been totally humiliated against Barcelona in the Nou Camp on Saturday night.
The bottom line is the Real Madrid fans are desperately seeking some good news after the recent sacking of manager Bernd Schuster. The fact that a highly placed club source has blabbed this latest story about Real signing Ronaldo should be taken within the context of a struggling club who are desperately trying to appease their own supporters - even if it means lying to them and upsetting United again.
From the Red Devils perspective, Ferguson, as if it were needed, has once more made it crystal clear that there's no way United will do any sort of business with Real Madrid, he's actually gone on record today saying he "wouldn't sell them a virus".
There is of course a remote possibility that Real have gone directly to the Glazers' behind Fergie's back, but here again the fact that Fergie runs the club with an iron-grip would I hope rule out the club's owners doing the dirty on the manager by agreeing to sell Ronaldo without first seeking Fergie's consent. This is why I actually believe it's a good thing that this latest story has come out, because it has only served to further enrage Fergie who has publicly confirmed his stance on this issue. Following on from that scenario, the Glazers' would surely not dare to sanction any deal - even if they've been thinking about it...
IF however, Fergie has let the Glazers' know that he's set to retire at the season's end, it would I fear put a completely different complexion on the whole situation - but if the United manager is true to his word he will be in charge again next season which could be his last and if that is so then Ronaldo will not be joining Real Madrid next summer.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
The fact of the matter is, few fans are in favour of what is a badly timed distraction, and surely United cannot be happy about having to trek half-way round the world to play what amounts to a couple of exhibition games.
On Fergie's point about this big incentive; this is utter nonsense, can anyone tell me who the previous winners are without reverting to the FIFA website? The answer to that is surely no, unless you're a complete anorak.
Winning the Club World Cup will be akin to the winning the old Watney Cup or else the Daily Mail five-a-side competition - actually, that's not true, because the latter had more cachet about it than Blatter's debacle.
Contrary to what Fergie says, in 30 years time it is likely that few will even remember this competition. The FIFA Club World Cup is an embarrassing joke of a tournament, it is a Mickey Mouse competition created by the Walt Disney of football, one Sepp Blatter.
In publicly supporting this tournament, Fergie is going along with United's PR games in the pursuit of greed. United are in Japan for all of the wrong reasons and anyone who says otherwise is either on the FIFA payroll or completely daft.
I will agree with Fergie on one thing though, which is his opposition to the 39th game which is another bad idea, the only saving grace is that Blatter didn't think of it first otherwise it might have been a goer.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Not surprisingly, there was the usual cries for disciplinary action from some of the media, Rob Shepherd of the News of the World likened the incident to the David Beckham sending-off in the 1998 World Cup - but on this occasion it was the FA who saw sense when confirming that the Mike Dean had viewed the incident and concluded it wasn't a sending-off - such a pity the press couldn't come to the same rather obvious conclusion, but hey, we are talking about a Manchester United player and that is big news. It doesn't alter the fact that the press, like many commentators seem incapable of understanding the rules of the game.
It was the same idiots in media who wanted Rooney banned from the Champions League following the Aalborg clash last week when the United striker appeared to stamp on a Danish defender.
In the wake of the Aalblorg clash the sanctimonious media have been waging war on United by telling us all that Rooney needs "sorting out".
Question; do the press in Spain, Italy or Germany go out on a limb in a bid to have their top players suspended for European competition? The answer to that is no. The only conclusion that I can come to is that our press boys are too much like fans, why else would you want to see a rival's top striker banned from Europe.
Perhaps Fergie should restrict his press briefings to just MUTV, if that happened you really could not blame the United manager.
Monday, December 15, 2008
Fergie was clearly upset with the Daily Express among others for pursuing Rooney and highlighting this episode. The United manager told the media that they would receive no information on Wayne Rooney at his Friday press-briefing.
Video footage confirmed that Rooney had indeed caught a Danish defender with his studs and UEFA promised to review the incident. The media have in the eyes of the United manager been doing all they can to stop United from retaining the Champions League by continually carping-on about Rooney. Well it hasn't worked, because UEFA have announced that no further action against Rooney will be taken..
The coverage of the Rooney stamping incident by the News of the World also needs to be highlighted. It should come as little surprise to United fans that pants
scouse columnist Andy Dunn wanted Wayne Rooney banned; he used the phrase "throw the book at Rooney" - I for one hope that Fergie now bans Dunn in turn.
While the United manager is at it, he could also ban Rob Shepherd, who wanted Ronaldo banned for his kick at Michael Dawson at Spurs on Saturday. Shepherd recalled that Ronaldo's kick was just like Beckham's in the 1998 world cup finals - no mention that the Beckham sending off was in the mind of most clear thinking fans an unjust reaction to what was petulance which at worst warranted a yellow-card.
It just goes to show that when the media have a witch-hunt against a player or as in this case a club, they will dig up incidents from the past even if it means making reference to events from 10 years previously which is fairly pathetic it has to be said.
Happily, it has been announced that no further action will be taken against Ronaldo, let's hope that Fergie now issues his own bans to Shepherd and Dunn.
Much has been made of the Spurs revival since Harry Redknapp took charge, but it was the visitors who controlled the game for long periods of what turned out to be a fairly dull game in many ways.
The 0-0 final scoreline was a fair one, Rio Ferdinand missed United's best chance with a free header from a corner, apart from that Park and Giggs forced Spurs stopper Gomez into making a couple of good saves. At the other end, Modric looked the most likely to score for the London club when going close on a couple of occasions.
Going into Saturday's game, all the talk centred on Berbatov; in the end it was much ado about nothing because Michael Dawson kept the former Spurs striker in check for the most part. Since he arrived at Old Trafford the Bulgarian has been blowing hot and cold and so the jury is still very much out on his suitability, there is also the accusation that he's lazy.
To compound matters Carloz Tevez has fallen down the United pecking order. At the beginning of the season the Argentine was arguably the Reds' most in-form striker, but when Berbatov arrived it quickly became clear that Tevez would make way. More recently following talk of a possible Old Trafford exit, Tevez has allowed his form to slip - some say he's been trying too hard - which is something United fans do not say about Berbatov. On top of this, Cristiano Ronaldo isn't playing well by his own standards, in some games, like on Saturday; it appears to be a case of going through the motions.
Partly as a result of lack of form from key forwards, United currently lack a cutting edge up front. However, opposition teams are wary of trying to mix-it with United for fear of being hit on the counter-attack and so even away from Old Trafford, at grounds such as White Hart Lane, Eastlands and Villa Park recently, there's been reluctance for the home team to throw-men forward in pursuit of three points.
Instead, what we are seeing is the home team deploying a six-man defensive shield on the edge of their penalty area - and you cannot blame them really. The problem is that these teams do not pose enough of a threat up front themselves, hence United end up controlling the game - which is all well and good when you're scoring and winning away from home, but that isn't happening enough right now.
My own view is that perhaps United need to start such away games with more of a sense of urgency, because while the Reds' are proving to be very good at playing patient football, they need to somehow start scoring more goals - especially on our travels.
While United are struggling to win away from home, rivals Chelsea and Liverpool look awful at home - the latter will soon surely shoot their bolt if they keep on failing to win against the also-rans of the Premier League.
The Red Devils are of course away in Japan for Sep Blatter's ridiculous FIFA World Club Cup (or whatever it is called). It is a trip that United could well do without, let us hope United return fit and ready for the winter battles that lie ahead.
Friday, December 12, 2008
The Red Devils will be without suspended pair of Wayne Rooney and Patrice Evra, so Carlos Tevez will likely make his 100th appearance for English club's; the left-back slot will be contested by Jonny Evans and John O'Shea. Michael Carrick and Rio Ferdinand are also giving Fergie cause for concern.
Dimitar Berbatov has a slight ankle strain, but he is expected to recover in time to face his former team-mates and he will be expecting a torrent of abuse from the home fans, this despite the fact that the Bulgarian has spoken very highly of the club since his somewhat acrimonious and protracted departure.
Fergie has rightly stated that White Hart Lane has been a happy hunting ground for the Champions over the last few seasons, but the United manager knows that the Reds' will face a stiff test.
Spurs will be desperate to keep their winning momentum going and they will no doubt be paying special attention to Berbatov, which might well leave the door open for Ronaldo who has lost much of the sparkle of last season.
Since Ronaldo collected the prestigious Ballon d'Or award there has been the expected sniping from the usual suspects "he's not really the best in the world..." is the common line. Well it's about time that Ronaldo rammed it down the throats of his detractors. A match-winning performance against Spurs on Saturday at White Hart Land would be a great place to start.
In other news, Edwin van der Sar has just signed a one year extension to his current deal which is good news given United's current reserve options. I am less than impressed with Kuszczak and for me the jury is out on Foster.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
The result meant that United finished up as Group winners, the Reds' also equalled a 19-match unbeaten European run held by Bayern Munich and Ajax. So much for stats, but what are United's chances of becoming the first club to retain the Champions League since its inception?
United's performances in Europe thus far this season have been less than stellar, which may or may not be an omen for what lies ahead, because the competition starts from here on in as we head into the knockout round of 16.
I'm of the opinion that the Champions League has been pretty much wide open for any of the leading teams to have won the competition for a number of years and this season is no different - which is why anyone connected with United, be that supporters, players or even the manager would be foolish to write off say, Real Madrid, or god forbid Liverpool.
I have a question for any readers of this blog, can anyone tell me with any degree of conviction that you know what Fergie believes to be his strongest first-team? Despite his contribution in the derby win, I’m of the opinion that Ji Sung Park should not be starting in the really big games. You can say the same about Fletcher...so what I'm saying is Fergie himself is unsure of what his strongest team is...
Furthermore, I happen to believe that the United manager is bedevilled with questions concerning the role that the likes of Scholes and Giggs should play for the remainder of the campaign. These veteran midfield stars could potentially make or break United's season is my view and in knockout competitions you don't have the luxury of putting it right as in the group games.
Seasoned observers of United know that tactics are not one of Fergie's strongest points and so it will be very interesting if the Reds' come up against Jose Mourinho and Inter Milan, because the former Chelsea coach is something of a tactical genius - even if you do not like his style of play one has to appreciate his work.
While tactics are undoubtedly an important factor I also believe that there needs to be a degree of continuity where selection issues are concerned, but right now I just do not know what United's strongest midfield is.
For the reasons outlined in this post I'm unconvinced that United will retain the trophy they won in Moscow last May.
On slightly more positive note, in the recent Manchester derby Fergie made Mark Hughes look tactically inept, if only the Champions League could be such a walk in the park.
For what it's worth here's my Champions League verdict on the remaining 16:
Roma - doubtful winners
Panathinaikos - gone as far as they can
Barcelona - doubtful winners
Liverpool - potential winners
Manchester United - potential winners
Bayern Munich - potential winners
Porto - Unlikely winners
Juventus - potential winners
Chelsea - potential winners if they do not lose focus
Inter Milan - strong contenders
Sporting - making up the numbers
Atletico Madrid - making up the numbers
Villarreal - making up the numbers
Lyon - making up the numbers
Arsenal - doubtful winners
Real Madrid - doubtful
Sir Alex Ferguson has said he is looking forward to tea and biscuits with Real Madrid president Ramon Calderon in the knockout phase of the Champions League.
United clinched their place in the Champions League knockout phase as group winners on Wednesday night and destiny could see them drawn with Real in the last 16.
Fergie has been at loggerheads with Real chief Calderon for most of the year over the pursuit of Cristiano Ronaldo and after Real could only finish second in their group behind Juventus, a meeting is now possible when the draw is made on December 19.
United, who are third favourites to win the trophy again, are football odds of 7.2 with Barcelona heading the betting and Chelsea second favourites.
Fergie's men will be at home in the crucial second leg of the knockout phase, while their other prospective opponents could be Inter Milan, Sporting Lisbon, Atletico Madrid or Lyon.
I think it's safe to say that Fergie would be keen to avoid one of the two clubs from the Spanish capital, but a last-16 match-up with Sporting would be considered a plum draw for the Red Devils.
Fergie though will be concerned about UEFA potentially taking disciplinary action against Wayne Rooney after his tangle with Kasper Risgard in the 2-2 draw with Aalborg.
Risgard believed Rooney should have been dismissed after he ended up with stud marks down his chest. Let's hope UEFA don't follow the lead of the FA, otherwise Rooney could be handed a four-match ban!
By Phil Tomlinson
Saturday, December 06, 2008
Football is a game in which sadly racial abuse is all too often tolerated or else it is brushed under the carpet, which could well be the case on this occasion. In fining Evra heavily and worse still banning him for four matches - which will harm United's chances of retaining the title - the FA have chosen to ignore the Frenchman's defence and all in probability the witness statements submitted in support of Evra by his team-mates on this matter.
Chelsea have been fined £25,000 for failing to control a staff member. This is another example of wrist-slapping both parties and fence sitting with the FA clearly wanting to be seen not taking sides. However, sections of the media have taken the view that the FA have vindicated Chelsea's claim that there was no racial abuse of Evra, but if the racial abuse claims are true, it effectively means that the FA have abdicated their responsibility as custodians of the game in the name of keeping a lid on sordid events such as this latest spat.
Thursday, December 04, 2008
Keane's ghost-writer Eamon Dunphy came out earlier in the week and said that the Sunderland manager had 'lost the plot', which pretty much sums up the situation having bought so many players.
In resigning now and at this stage of the season at least it gives Sunderland a chance to appoint a new manager who will have time to turn things around.
On Roy Keane's future, as Dunphy said it's another case of a great player failing on the managerial scene.
In many ways it's a sad state of affairs given how much experience the Irishman has as a player at the very highest level, because in England chances are that Keane will be written-off as a potential managerial candidate in the future, at least at any of the big clubs.
In sharp contrast, on the continent when a manager fails in a country like Italy, the reaction to managerial failure is looked upon differently, the general view is that the project and not the manager has failed.
Ironically, Dunphy was totally wrong about one thing which is that he didn't expect Keane to quit...
United take on Sunderland this weekend, you wonder if the prospect of another hammering for the Black Cats was simply too much for Keane to take.
Listen to Dunphy's damning verdict on Keane
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Fergie is currently selecting Carrick and Fletcher as his central midfield pairing in a flexible formation which switches between 4:3:3 and 4:4:2 as the need and pattern of the game dictates.
With Owen Hargreaves out for the rest of the season, only Carrick appears to be a regular first choice pick, so the door is definitely open to reclaim his place in midfield should Scholes press home his claim for a quick return to the first-team.
Anderson, somewhat surprisingly hasn't taken advantage of the injury to Hargreaves and then there's Rodrigo Possebon whose progress was affected by an injury following a horror tackle sustained against 'Boro.
If Possebon is going to press home his claim for a midfield starting place in the first-team, then like other squad plyers knocking on the first-team door, he too has to impress when given the chance and it's likely that he will start against Blackburn in midfield alongside countryman Anderson and Gibson.
It's likely to be another really cold night in Manchester and so for the sake of the match-going fans, let's hope that the Red's get the job done in normal time. However, Blackburn will be out to win with Ince fielding a strong team, so the Reds' can expect a really tough game. Danny Wellbeck could be another starter along with Carlos Tevez and or Manucho, it could turn out to be a decent cup-tie.
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
The Argentinian frontman has been linked with a switch to Real Madrid this week, but with the La Liga giants closing in on Klaas Jan Huntelaar that rumour can be put to bed, but still Tevez's future in Manchester looks far from assured.
The 24-year-old has only made six starts for United in the Premier League this term, scoring once and he is firmly behind Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov in the pecking order.
Tevez, who reportedly is growing more frustrated at his lack of first-team outings, will have cost United around £7million when his loan deal expires next summer, but Fergie will have to fork out another £20million-plus if he wants to secure Tevez's long-term future.
It's uncertain whether Fergie is stalling on the deal until the summer to see whoe else might become available or whether the purse strings have been tightened until the close season.
You can guarantee whether United win any silverware this season or not there will be a host of big names linked with a move to Old Trafford at the end of the campaign and former Red Giuseppe Rossi is already on Fergie's radar.
Ahead of the recent date with his current outfit Villarreal Sir Alex heaped praise on the striker who was sold in 2007 for around £6million and a return for the Italy international would not be out of the question with United having first refusal on the 21-year-old.
Tevez though at least will get another run-out, in what will be a virtual reserve side, in the Carling Cup on Wednesday.
Still, the football odds compilers have United chalked up as the tournament favourites and you can expect Tevez to be going full tilt to shoot down Blackburn and add to his other Carling Cup goal, which came from the penalty spot in the 1-0 win over QPR in the previous round.
By Phil Tomlinson
I don't know about my fellow United supporters, but I for one haven't been so excited about the arrival of a new young star since the Ronaldo donned the Red shirt. I refer to Rafael da Silva. After only a couple of performances for the club I predicted that by the end of the season he will have ousted Gary Neville and Wes Brown, in so doing claiming the right-back slot in Fergie's team.
It's always difficult for young players to make it, with so many big-name established players' coming to play in England. The media do not really help, because they have an annoying habit of burdening young players with labels when likening them to stellar football talents.
Only this week United have been linked to a couple of young Partizan Belgrade stars, one of them has already been dubbed as "little Kaka". Down the years, how many youngsters have been called the next George Best? Isn't it hard enough to make it without this nonsense?
Rafael's arrival at the club was thankfully not accompanied by the burden of expectation, as can often be the case. But in only a short spell with United, the fans and the media alike are talking about the Brazilian in glowing terms. Sky pundit Andy Gray said at the weekend that he can go on to become one of the Premier League's really great fullbacks.
With the very real danger of being labelled as a hypocrite and following Sunday's superb performance in the derby, in which he played with Robinho in his back-pocket, there surely can be no doubt that Rafael da Silva is the third R, or else the new found right-back King of Old Trafford.
Rafael da Silva should not be compared to anyone, past or present, he is a unique talent and one who I hope will go on to have a long and trophy laden career at United.
Monday, December 01, 2008
United's Portuguese winger has his critics, but I'm not one of them. Sure, he wanted to join Real Madrid last summer, far from knocking him I personally believe that we should admire him for his honesty. A famous ex-United star joined Real Madrid but went about it in an entirely different way when trying to blame the club for his move, when all along his agents had been trying to work his ticket behind the scenes.
The sad fact is that some fans, for whatever reason, will always try to find fault in big star names. It is especially disappointing, as in the case of Ronaldo that some of them happen to be United supporters.
There have also been accusations that Ronaldo is a "diver". Let's get one thing straight here, only English fans, who are too easily led by our all too often jingoistic media, have a problem with players trying to win at all costs.
In South America and pretty much the rest of Europe, cheating or winning at all costs, is an accepted part of the game. This view is a more adult way of looking at what is after all a game, the aim of which is to win. It is up to the referee to sort out any cheating or gamesmanship.
The English seem to have this old fashioned notion that there should be gentlemen and players. In contrast in Italy all they are concerned about is winning, it is partly why they have won the World Cup so many times and it's also partly why England have only won it once. Former Chelsea star Gianluca Vialli pretty much made the same observations after several years in English football.
Perhaps even worse still is our one-eyed treatment of foreign stars like Ronaldo. After the recent Villarreal game, Wayne Rooney admitted that he'd dived inside the penalty area when seeking to win a penalty. Has anyone come out and called Wayne Rooney a cheat? No, there was more or less a deathly silence.
I'm not sure why some English fans have a general dislike of Ronaldo, I can only put it down to jealousy, because he has it all. Despite what the naysayers will try to have us believe, Ronaldo is a worthy winner of the prestigious Ballon d'Or. All I will say to the boneheads who dislike Ronaldo is that I'm glad he's one of ours and he doesn't play for Arsenal, Chelsea or Liverpool.
Fergie has often spoken out about the need for protection for players like Ronaldo, because there's another big problem in English football, which is that the opposition and to an extent even referee's are happy to see Ronaldo being kicked up and down dale, it seems to be the case that the officials have the attitude of "it's okay, it's only Ronaldo, he's a cheat you can kick him..".
Part of the problem is that referees are too easily influenced by the crowd and the media and the sad fact is - as Howard Webb showed at the weekend - all too often they do not know when and when not to produce yellow or red cards.
Ronaldo is a great player, in my view he is not a cheat, he will always be fouled because he moves his feet and the ball so quickly. But on this point I have a degree of sympathy with referees' who have to make spit-second decisions.
In bid to help the officials get it right more often there's has been talk of introducing video evidence. On open play, I say forget the notion of introducing evidence, reason being the experts often cannot agree even after reviewing footage over and over again.
Take the example of Ronaldo's unjust first booking at Eastlands on Sunday. Graeme Souness and Andy Gray said that Ronaldo had clearly nudged the ball away from Shaun Wright-Phillips. Fully 24 hours later, Alan Shearer on MOTD2 said it was a definite booking. So who is right? The point is, even after 24 hours had elapsed it comes down to an opinion, but importantly the experts cannot agree. If that is the case then we might as well leave it to the man-in-the-middle. All it would do is transfer responsibility away from the referee and I suppose there's an argument for that in reducing a degree of pressure, but it will not undisputedly mean that referees' decisions are more often right than wrong as illustrated by the point about Ronaldo's first booking on Sunday.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Unusually for the derby, there wasn't a bad tackle in the whole game, yet Webb fell into the trap of brandishing cheap yellow cards to firstly Rafael da Silva and then Darren Fletcher. By the letter of law and no doubt Webb will tell anyone who'd listen that both deserved to be booked; the Brazilian had unwisely thrown the ball backwards after he was adjudged to have committed a foul and then Fletcher was booked for a trip on Shaun Wright-Phillips.
Manchester derby's are notoriously difficult for referees' and today having booked two United players for petty offences, the official set the tone for the remainder of the game and in so doing he gave himself a big problem. It therefore came as no surprise that more poor decisions followed as not long after the names of Stephen Ireland and then Vassell were added to the Webb's notebook in the name of redressing the card balance on either side.
Having booked four players in the opening period, Webb had given himself a major problem and then on 59 minutes Ronaldo was harshly booked for a trip on Wright-Phillips.
With local bragging rights at stake and with some much riding on the outcome of the derby, a truly top-class referee would have used common sense, but that wasn't the case today in the derby. When a referee starts to dish out cards for fun in games of this nature there's always the danger of the spectacle being ruined by the man-in-the-middle.
With five players walking a disciplinary tightrope it was only a matter of time before Webb eventually brandished his Red card; the player in question was Ronaldo who later claimed he'd heard the whistle blow as United took a corner - or was it that he'd been pushed? In all honesty it didn't matter; Ronaldo had to be booked as it looked like he'd tried to seek an advantage from the corner when handling the ball. It was a ridiculous thing to do and frankly it was the first time in the game that a yellow card was deserved. The problem was that Ronaldo shouldn't have been booked earlier in the half and here again Webb's officiating had come back to bite him and Ronaldo on the backside.
By the end of what wasn't a dirty game Webb had dished out eight yellow cards, which is totally ridiculous and this is why this particular official needs to review his performance which in my view spoilt the derby.
As for United's performance, in truth, it was pretty much a Sunday stroll to victory, but make no mistake United had to work for this much needed win. It was arguably the Reds' best away performance of the season so far.
Fergie, against all expectations started with Rafael da Silva at right-back - regular readers of this blog will know that I have been suggesting that the Brazilian should have been in the side in preference to John O'Shea and thankfully today's switch paid-off handsomely as Rafael had Robinho in his back-pocket, so much so that the City star was reduced to continually fouling his fellow countryman.
Today United played as a team from start to front, the passing was good and Berbatov made a big difference on his return from injury. Everyone in the Red shirt looked sharp; in contrast City looked jaded - possibly due to their trip to Germany on Thursday. However, whatever Mark Hughes the City boss may claim, Robinho, who didn't travel to Germany, had no excuse for being totally dominated by Rafael da Silva.
While United were by far the better team in every department, Ronaldo had a shocker so much so that the visitors were effectively playing with ten men and when he did have the ball, today for whatever reason on too many occasions he gave it back to City.
While Webb deserves to be questioned after his poor performance in the middle, he could have made things far worse for Ronaldo who had unwisely applauded the referee’s decision to book him on 59 minutes. At the time, I wondered why the United manager didn't take Ronaldo off there and then, because apart from anything else he was not playing well. Ferguson could have paid the price for his indecision, but United ran out winners after a nervy ending, but only after both teams had to make goal-line clearances in stoppage time.
If Fergie was playing fair selection wise, then Ronaldo would be dropped for United's next game, but as we have seen of late, it seems to be the case that the Portuguese star picks himself in the United team, while others like Carlos Tevez are left out in the cold. This bemusing situation will not further tax the uneven hand of Fergie against Spurs as Ronaldo is out suspended.
On a more positive note, Fergie deserves much credit for belatedly doing what he should have done weeks ago, that is starting with Rafael at right-back. United's defence deserves much credit too, because apart from Van der Sar's first-half aberration and that late goal-line clearance they looked solid as a rock today.
Man of the man: Ji-Sung Park - what he lacks in genuine star quality, he more than made up for today with his work-rate which could not be faulted.
Friday, November 28, 2008
In contrast City are coming off the back of two fantastic wins and they are at home too, which in my view makes them favourites.
The fact is there's too many passengers in the current United squad, Park and Nani are not worthy of starting places in any competition other than perhaps the Carling Cup. With Nani and Park all too often there is no end product, their collective use of the ball is more often than not wasteful, yet Fergie chooses them over Carlos Tevez who is far superior in every aspect of the game. It is a baffling situation. My own view is that Fergie doesn't currently know what his strongest team is and that he's got himself into a muddle over Tevez.
Fergie has been deploying a 4:3:3 formation of late, on Tuesday in Spain Wayne Rooney was used as the lone striker with Nani and Ronaldo on either flank. The formation did not work and Nani did nothing of note, yet he remained on the pitch for 85 minutes.
To compound matters, the midfield trio of Fletcher, Anderson and Carrick were wasteful in possession, this was due in part to the lack of passing options up front, but even when players' were available United's passing was slipshod.
Due to injuries to Wes Brown and Gary Neville, Fergie has been using John O'Shea at right-back, if the Irishman faces Robinho on Sunday, United could be in for a torrid time because frankly O'Shea is another who really should not be starting Premier League games - especially at right-back, where his lack of speed on the turn could prove to be a big weakness in the United defence because O'Shea will up against a world-class forward in the Brazilian.
Fergie could play Rafael da Silva at right-back, yet it is unlikely that the young Brazilian will play due to the United manager dithering and sticking to his principles of the seemingly accepted pecking order.
As for the forward line, it seems that Berbatov may or may not start the game due to sustaining a hamstring injury. Chances are Rooney will play alongside Ronaldo and Park. The former Everton striker was asked about the derby earlier this week he said that the players owe the United fans a victory. Rooney promised to put City in their place. This talk concerns me as we've heard it all before, but it's usually Ryan Giggs who spouts-off before big games and then the team fails to deliver.
Talk is cheap and so I'm hoping that Rooney backs up his rhetoric with a superb performance, because he is due a good game, his form has dipped dramatically of late and he's getting a reputation for blowing hot and cold, just like Ronaldo this season.
It is time for United to stand up and be counted, if the Reds contrive to lose this weekend, we can forget any notion of retaining the League title. It's game on and I for one will be livid if United lose the derby.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
City have had their fair share of problems this season too, which to a degree have centred around injuries at the back and some calamitous performances by Richard Dunne, who come the season end will able to run a one man own goal of the season contest.
The Blues had a great win against Arsenal last weekend further to which league positions can mean little ahead of derby games, but I don't want to dwell too much on the current City team, because United have their own problems.
Can I ask what in the mother of Mary is Fergie doing playing John O'Shea at right-back when he has Rafael da Silva at his disposal? No one will convince me that the Irishman should be getting a game at right-back in preference to the Brazilian. Yet, in the absence of Brown and Gary Neville, O'Shea has started the last two games. Let me be clear on this issue, I personally do not want to see Neville or O'Shea facing Robinho this Sunday - it is a nightmare prospect as both are too slow on the turn, Neville has lost at least a yard of pace and O'Shea never had any to start with, plus he has the maneuverability of a double wardrobe.
So what else is wrong about the current United team then? By way of attempting to answer that question let's look at the performance against Villarreal - who by the way look like a shadow of the team they've been over the last few seasons.
Fergie started last night's game with a 4:3:3 formation, with Nani on the left and Ronaldo on the right and Rooney down the middle. The general idea was that Ronaldo was given licence to roam and support Rooney.
The champions of Europe showed early promise during the opening 15 minutes or so with Patrice Evra taking the eye when raiding down the left flank, with the Frenchman linking up well with Nani and Ronaldo when playing neat one-twos.
Sadly, apart from a great effort from Ronaldo just before half-time, it pretty much went downhill after that all too brief opening spell by United. In fact, the performance on the night mirrored exactly what happened at Villa Park last weekend - a reasonable first-half was followed by a dire second-half performance - it was another occasion that United barely tested the opposition 'keeper and once again failed to score.
I have no doubt that some die-hard (blinkered) fans will hold the view that United were not really trying to win the game last night, and that 'we did what we had to do'. If only I believed that to be true.
The fact is United were trying to win last night, but it isn't happening right now. The team isn't being helped by the manager, who unlike the likes of Jose Mourinho has that ability to change tactics in-game often resulting in positive outcomes.
With Fergie, he makes the changes but all too often it is just more of the same. Many a rival will tell you that without Ronaldo United are nothing, well as things stand even with him the same is true and perhaps therein lies the problem. United and Fergie have become over-reliant on one man - it is hard to escape that conclusion.
AS Clive Tyldesley said in his commentary last night, United and Ronaldo are some way off at present and he's right. The Villarreal fans were waving their white hankies at the Portuguese winger late on following a debatable red-card for Joan Capdevila for a knee-high tackle on the United star.
I have to report that the white hankies were out long before the Villarreal fans in my abode and they were being directed at our other Portuguese winger Nani and then later at Fergie for bringing on Park.
It took Fergie until the 85th minute to bring on the one man who might have changed the game for the visitors, I refer to Carlos Tevez, he is at least a footballer and one who is a genuine United player unlike Park and Nani, one flatters to deceive the other simply isn't good enough.
On the wider point of tactics, Rooney can play as a loan striker, but he's not nearly as effective compared to when he's given licence to roam when paired with another striker.
The net result of the ineffective performances and the 4:3:3 formation left the midfield with too few passing options up front - added to which all too often United's distribution was poor too, particularly from Carrick, Fletcher and O'Shea.
The 4:3:3 also left United short in midfield, largely because of poor use of the ball with it being gifted back to the Spaniards'. United face City this coming weekend, the manager cannot afford to allow City's midfield to hit the Reds on the counter attack as they do go forward in numbers. Despite Robinho filling the headlines, Stephen Ireland has been the real star of the show for City this season following several match winning performances when driving on from midfield.
There is no easy way of putting this, but I have zero confidence in United's chances of winning on Sunday, not unless Dunne does us a favour or else we nick it by the odd goal. I for one will settle for another draw right now.
I make no apologies for the negativity contained within this post because it is my honest assessment of the current United.
To end on a slightly positive note. When he wasn't slipping on his backside, Jonny Evans looked really at home in the centre of defence alongside Rio Ferdinand and there were few genuine moments of panic at the back against Villarreal. United are not conceding goals at present, but we are not scoring them either and the latter will not win us the derby or any trophies.
City have to travel to Germany on Thursday night to face Schalke in the UEFA Cup. Mark Hughes, knowing how important Sunday's derby result will be, could rest some stars for fear of injury and or tiredness - and that is United's best hope in that we should be the fresher of the two teams.
The great United match-ticket giveaway...
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
United fans never tire of this champagne video footage
from the 1999 Champions League final
United take on Aalborg at Old Trafford in December and the great news is I have a pair of hospitality tickets to giveaway, courtesy of Vodafone, to anyone who reads this blog that can answer the simple United related question below.
Question: When United won the 1999 Champions League final in Barcelona, on that very day it would have been a legendary former United manager's 90th birthday, who was that man?
Please don't leave your email address in any replies / comments on the blog, otherwise you will be attracting spam, instead email me with your answers you can get my email address from my profile. The lucky winner will be drawn from all correct answers. The match is on December 10th. Good luck.
I also have some news for anyone who wants a new laptop because Vodafone, sponsors of the Champions League, have teamed up with Dell to promote the new Dell Inspiron Mini 9 netbook - a mini-laptop with Wi-Fi and embedded mobile broadband - the first of its kind in the UK (all the others rely on dongles). The laptop's pretty small and dinky - it has an 8.9" screen and weighs less than 1kg. It's one of the fastest mobile broadband connections for such a model (up to 7.2Mb/s) and is exclusively available from Vodafone - more information is here Vodafone
To promote the launch Vodafone have given an Inspiron Mini 9 to a bloke they've nicknamed LiveGuy, who will be touring around various parts of the UK, testing out the netbook whilst leaving behind clues to his location.
Every day he's out, he will have up to three Inspiron Mini 9s to give away to anyone who comes up to him and says the magic phrase, and a fourth will be given away online to who can best locate him on a Google Map. Check out how he gets on via the LiveGuy blog as well as Twitter and look out for the very latest video updates on LiveGuy via YouTube
Bestie is no longer with us, but the memories will never fade for those like me who were privileged to watch him play in the Red shirt of United.
George was the first football superstar; he was uniquely adored by men and women alike. Watching United and Best back then was an amazing experience because you just never knew what George was going to do.
I have many memories of watching George from the Stretford End terraces, but one of my favourites was his double hatrick against Northampton Town in the FA Cup in 1970. George had just served a lengthy ban, the press and media were even suggesting that he might have lost it as there were signs of decline, how wrong they were.
The media recently claimed that Bobby Charlton had said that Ronaldo is a better player than Best, in fact that was not the case, this is what Charlton actually said “It was paradise watching George play football, just like it is with Ronaldo now... the only difference is that Ronaldo is probably stronger and faster.”
Opinions on greatness are subjective; you can make up your own minds after watching the accompanying videos on the attached link which has been kindly sent to me by Christofer.
Tribute to George Best
Monday, November 24, 2008
Ahead of United's Champions League clash with Villarreal, Fergie has hinted that the English champions would be very interested in resigning the player who has made something of a success of his move to Spain by appearing in the first-team on a regular basis and by scoring goals along the way.
It comes as no surprise to me that Fergie is talking so openly to the press about the possibility of resigning Rossi, even though it's doubtful that Villarreal will be that happy about the manager of a rival club talking so openly about signing your centre-forward, especially in the week that the two sides meet.
Spurs threatened United with UEFA action over the reported talk emanating from Fergie over the protracted signing of Berbatov, but this time United do at least have this reported buy-back clause. Nonetheless, Fergie's timing is appalling - well at least it is depending on your perspective...
In my opinion though, Fergie probably has little intention of bringing back Rossi to United, largely for the same reasons which saw the Reds' sanction his move to Spain in the first instance. The manager must surely still have some lingering doubts that Rossi will be good enough to warrant a regular starting place in the United first-team. Is Rossi really better than out-of-favour Carlos Tevez - a player with heaps more experience? Rossi would be cheaper for sure, but buying second-tier strikers' does not win you European Cups - not unless you have the luck of Liverpool.
When talking up the prospect of bringing back Rossi, Fergie was waxing lyrical about a young player who had showed much promise at United, but one who was ultimately deemed not quite good enough.
Fergie has been quite clever in talking up the prospect of a move for Rossi, because in so doing and in the event of the Villarreal star scoring against the Champions of Europe and England, Fergie has somewhat covered his backside by issuing this statement of intent to resign Rossi. In my view, Fergie talking up Rossi is little more than a half-hearted insurance policy should things go pear-shaped in Spain this week.
If Ferguson isn't furious with his stars' following what was a very poor second-half showing at Villa Park on Saturday, then frankly he isn't doing his job. On that note, many Reds cannot understand why Fergie is continually taking Carlos Tevez off, only to replace him with players who in the case of Nani will never be a genuine United star - the same can be said of Park.
Tevez is world-class, whereas Nani and Park are bit-part players at best, yet Fergie continues to frustrate when selecting triers over genuine quality. If asked, I'm certain Tevez could fill in on the left or right for United and what's more he'd make far better use of the ball.
Judging by the reaction of Tevez when being dragged off again, he will only be a United player until the end of the season, and let's be honest, who can blame him? The plain fact is many a rival would want to sign Tevez. The same cannot be said of Nani and Park.
You do begin to wonder if Fergie has been told not to build his team around Tevez, such has been his baffling treatment of the Argentine. To further cloud the picture, at the weekend Fergie hinted that he might recall Fraizer Campbell from Spurs. Why? Because from the outside looking in, Ferguson seems incapable of dealing with how best to accommodate three forwards, a fourth will only muddy his thinking even more.
I do not see Campbell returning to United in January, not unless the Berbatov injury is worse than we are being told. More likely, Fergie fears that Campbell might go on to embarrass the United manager by plundering goals for Spurs while at the same time the Reds' goals dry up on both the domestic and European front.
On the subject of shoddy work, Wayne Rooney will no doubt have nightmares about that missed opportunity at Villa Park, some are calling it the miss of the season.
Relive Rooney's nightmare miss here
Sunday, November 23, 2008
City fans love to beat and United, for some it is their very reason for living on the Red planet, much has been said about the club's new found wealth, but not entirely unexpectedly, it has so far been a bit of a bumpy ride for new manager Mark Hughes and his Brazilian stars & co.
Prior to United's clash with Villa on Saturday, I opted to watch City take on Arsenal, purely to gauge the form of the opposition. The first half at the City of Manchester stadium was a fairly even affair, but once again Stephen Ireland scored to give the Blues a crucial lead on the stroke of half-time.
For their part, Arsenal, sans William Gallas, were fairly dire in the second period after Robinho scored a wonderful goal.
I'll let you into a secret now though, I was watching the match on my PC via one of these streaming sites and after the Brazilian scored City's second goal, it appeared that someone (an Arsenal fan?) turned the channel over ( I don't know how this streaming works, but I've seen this happen a few times this week). I had to make do with listening to Radio 5 commentary for the remainder of the game.
There's a certain amount of irony in the fact that Arsenal's last two league games have been against Aston Villa and Manchester City, because that will be the case for United too after next weekend. If, god forbid, City win the derby I fear it will bring to an end our hopes of winning the title. I'm certain that Arsenal's title race has been all but run, the Gunners’ have too many problems at the back coupled with an unhappy dressing-room (according to reports).
As for our beloved United, regular readers of this blog will recall prior to the Villa game that I'd predicted that both Rooney and Ferdinand would make Lazarus like returns to fitness in time to face Villa (so I'm not always wrong).
I had also warned against the dangers complacency, but in truth that wasn't really an issue on this occasion - the plain fact is United weren't good enough to beat a hard-working Villa team, and I cannot help but feel that just about any other United side over the last 10 or so years would have come away with all three points yesterday.
United may well feel that they should have scored in the first half, but truth be told, overall the Reds' didn’t create enough clear-cut goal-scoring opportunities. Wayne Rooney missed a good chance, but there was nowhere near enough worrying moments for Brad Friedel in the Villa goal.
The champions’ have a few injury concerns going into a busy week, first up we have the trip to Villarreal, both clubs are all but through to the next phase of the Champions League and so it's likely that Fergie will shuffle the pack.
United fans can expect to see wholesale changes to the team that faced Villa, with the likes of Jonny Evans, Danny Welbeck, Manucho, Rafael da Silva and Rodrigo Possebon all playing some part in the game in Spain.
Quite what team will face Man City next Sunday is anyone's guess at this stage, barring injury, it is safe to assume that Tevez and Rooney will be paired together up front. Do not be surprised if it's the same team that took on Aston Villa on Saturday.
IF United are going to keep their faltering title hopes alive, then they have to win their next three league games against Manchester City, Blackburn and Sunderland.
Sadly, I do not see this happening, Ronaldo is blowing hot and cold and there's too many question marks about the complexion of the forward line and midfield. United are disjointed right now, there's no consistency in selection or performance.
Friday, November 21, 2008
Prior to this season, United have been unlucky no to win at the Emirates on their previous visits to Arsenal and if we are honest Reds' fans were fairly confident of putting that right this season, but it didn't happen as the Champions were turned over just as they were at Anfield.
There is always a danger that the players' and fans' can become over-confident and you wonder if that will be the case again this weekend, hopefully Fergie will have his players' fired-up for what is likely to be a very entertaining game.
Last weekend, Aston Villa pulled off a great win away at Arsenal and so they will be really up for the visit of United on Saturday evening. Villa stars' Gabriel Agbonlahor and Ashley Young will be full of confidence after starring for England against Germany in midweek so the United back four will have to be at their collective best.
As far as the United team news is concerned, Rio Ferdinand and Wayne Rooney are according to reports 'injury doubts', but I expect them both to play. One player who won't be taking part in any action over the coming weeks is Wes Brown who is to have ankle surgery which is likely to keep him out for lengthy period.
Even worse news for the fans' and manager alike is that Dimitar Berbatov misses this weekend's trip to Villa Park after sustaining an injury while playing for Bulgaria. The Reds' record signing could also miss next weekend's Manchester derby.
Wayne Rooney has missed the Reds' last two games due to suffering with a 'minor chest' infection, at least that is the official line coming out of Old Trafford, but I have my doubts about the validity of this claim.
My own view is that Rooney has been given time off following a dramatic loss of form. Fergie benched the former Everton star earlier in the season and he came back all the hungrier after his axeing, as he went on an amazing goal-scoring spree for both club and country.
If selected, Rooney will hopefully respond to his absence with a welcome return to form alongside Carlos Tevez, both stars' have a point to prove to the manager, or so it would seem.
Villa vs United preview
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
For good measure and for the umpteenth time Fergie is reportedly going lay into Posh Spice for her part in David Beckham's move to Real Madrid. I don't actually care too much about Posh; I actually begrudge wasting space in this blog even mentioning her.
Question, does anyone after all this time, really care why Stam, Ruud and Keano left the club? At the time, yes, many were upset, especially over the manner of Keano's exit.
Even more perplexing for many, was the total and utter buffoonary surrounding the Stam transfer that saw United replacing a defender who according to Fergie had lost "a yard of pace" only to replace him with one who'd lost four yards of pace in Lauren Blanc.
But it's history now, haven't we heard enough of this back-biting nonsense? With the exception of Ronaldo, everyone has moved on, so should the United manager in my view.
It's not as if Fergie needs the money is it? Lowering himself in this manner adds nothing to his reputation as a great manager. I personally still haven't forgiven Fergie for slagging off Brian Kidd in an earlier book, that episode was shameful; it was no way to treat a former loyal colleague.
When he finally retires, we will rightly remember Fergie as a great manager, but also one who lacked class at times, which is such a pity because Fergie has been a great man manager.
Monday, November 17, 2008
Ronaldo scored two goals from a brace of stunning free-kicks, but the general consensus in my Red abode was that Welbeck's effort was by far the best of the bunch. Will we see a better United goal this season? I have my doubts....
Check out Danny Welbeck's wonder goal...
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Ronaldo opened and ended the scoring with another clinical brace, in so doing scoring a century of goals for the club, in between Carrick was on target, Berbatov finished smartly and best of all Danny Welbeck came off the bench in the second half to score arguably United's best goal of the season so far, with a thunderbolt from distance.
Going into the game the United manager did what he's been threatening to do for a while, that is he left out Wayne Rooney in consecutive games.
Rooney was rested against Bolton recently, but he came back in blistering goal-scoring form. More recently, the England striker has been way below his best, especially against Everton and Arsenal, in the latter game Rooney had chances to have earned the Champions at least a point.
Tevez has started the last two games in place of Rooney, but his own form has dipped, no doubt due to a loss of confidence about his future at the club, coupled with lack of first-team action. It remains to be seen what the future holds for the Argentine who is a massive fans favourite. United say they will make his move permanent in December before the January transfer window opens, but only time will tell if they turn out to be honest brokers.
As for Rooney, no doubting he will be aware that Ronaldo demanded to be selected recently after Fergie had hinted he was to be rested. Rooney may well feel as if it's one rule for the Portuguese star and another for him, but the fact is, Ronaldo keeps on scoring - even when not at his very best - that is the big difference. Added to which we had the long running transfer saga with Madrid and no doubting Fergie told Ronaldo how important he was to his team.
Fergie has a well earned reputation for tinkering with his team, thankfully, it happens less frequently these days, but when it happens as it did against Stoke, the manager rests several stars' and so it was that Rooney and Rio were completely left out along with Ryan Giggs.
Rooney will not be happy about being axed, but later in the season he might well be thankful, because in my view only good can come out of these enforced pre-winter mini-breaks. It's a very long season, keeping players’ fresh is key, what's more, Fergie needs to keep players' fighting for their places and I'd say, Tevez aside, the manager is just about getting it right.
See all Saturday's goal action here...
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Roy Keane cannot complain about the lack of backing from the Sunderland board since he took charge of the club, but the Irishman has found it hard to attract top quality players to the North East. An inside source has denied there's any truth in the rumours, but the bookmakers are often the first to know about these managerial shake-ups.
From the outside looking in, Keane would be crazy to quit the club and in doing so not only blemishing his short managerial career, but it could also potentially wreck any chance of landing the United job in the future. If Keane does walk out on the Black Cats, questions will be asked about his ability to stand the pressure-cooker heat of the managerial hot-seat.
What's more, with the exception of their trip to Old Trafford in December, the Black Cats have a run of games from which they should be confident about their chances of moving out of the drop zone:
Blackburn v Sunderland, 15:00
Sunday, 23 November 2008
Sunderland v West Ham, 16:00
Saturday, 29 November 2008
Sunderland v Bolton, 15:00
Saturday, 06 December 2008
Man Utd v Sunderland, 17:30
Saturday, 13 December 2008
Sunderland v West Brom, 15:00
Saturday, 20 December 2008
Hull v Sunderland, 15:00
Friday, 26 December 2008
Sunderland v Blackburn, 15:00
Friday, November 14, 2008
Fergie has several selection issues to consider, after his late goal against Arsenal last weekend and another solid performance against QPR in midweek, I expect Rafael da Silva to face the Potteries club. Don't rule out the manager selecting all of his top-guns for this fixture, which all being well, should be a home banker.
There is no reason to rest anyone with no midweek fixture this coming week and there's no reason why Fergie shouldn't start the game with Tevez on the left in place of Park or Nani.
Stoke have only scored three goals on their travels and so Fergie should be confident enough to field his big name forwards from the start - only the fear factor can stop Fergie from starting this fixture with a very offensive line-up.
United v Stoke preview
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Most notably, the United star said that he believes that English clubs should not be bringing in overseas youngsters in preference to our own boys. It's a point that many fans will agree with, but at the same time, who among the Red Army would want to be without Rafael da Silva and Rodrigo Possebon? Not me, I might add.
Rio is a firm believer in developing home-grown talent having risen through the ranks as a youngster along many with other talented stars at his first club West Ham United. The England defender says that to this day he's in regular contact with Tony Carr, the Hammers' Director of Youth Development.
On the subject of the current season, although it is of little comfort, Rio gave the fans a degree of reassurance when imparting that the players are gutted about losing at Arsenal last weekend, added to which he says he doesn't want to see City winning anything. Was this a case of saying the right thing? Undoubtedly so, but he did seem to be genuinely upset about the Arsenal defeat.
Of other interest to United fans will be the not totally surprising revelation that prior to joining the club he admitted that he'd vowed NEVER to play for Manchester United. Footballers' have to try to say the right thing to the right audience, it's partly why the players have media training and it's fair to say that Rio knows how to cover his ass, ergo, no Leeds player would ever admit to wanting to sign for Manchester United...
Having become a United player, Rio says that you have buy into everything about the club, including learning about United's history "otherwise, you're out". The United defender also says that when players first arrive they can be intimidated about the club and its former stars like Law, Best and Charlton. It's not until you've won trophies that you feel as though you arrived properly and you're on your way to making your mark in the club's illustrious history.
It came as no surprise to hear that Fergie rules the club with an iron grip, though Rio didn't offer any new anecdotal evidence.
It's fair to say that Rio was not universally accepted by certain elements of United's support, especially when he first became a Red, but I think he's now managed to win most fans over and he says that United's away support is second to non.
On a personal note, I have to say that I think Rio is one of the better performers in front of the mic and importantly he's a superb central defender, in fact I'd go as far as stating that he's one of the world's best in his position, which is why I believe that it's about time that Fergie made Rio United's full time skipper.
I would like to have asked Rio a few searching questions, but alas that was not possible on this occasion due to time constraints.
The event with Rio in Manchester was part of Nike's ongoing commitment towards helping young players, which is a very hot topic right now. Only this week Trevor Brooking and PFA chief Gordon Taylor have both spoken out about the lack of improvement in our youngsters and the problem of so many young players being discarded by England's top clubs.
Talk is cheap, but marketing and advertising are not and it remains to be seen if Nike has a genuine commitment towards helping young players, only time and results will tell. It would be nice to believe that Nike's initiatives are more than just cheap publicity stunts.
However, come the morning after the night before and having gone in search of news of Tottenham's win, I find that there's barely any mention of Liverpool's defeat on the BBC Sport website.
Is the credit-crunch biting so hard at the BBC and they cannot afford to do the result justice by giving the game web-space? I doubt it personally, more likely the BBCs many Liverpool supporting online staff would rather brush the result under the carpet and of course the Chelsea defeat to Burnley made it a good day to bury bad news as this is a bigger story.
Unlike, United, Liverpool and Arsenal, Chelsea fielded a much stronger looking starting eleven with the likes of Didier Drogba included.
Having run down the competition for any number of years, I'm not going to start trumpeting the importance of what has become popularly known as the "Fizzy Pop Cup". The fact of the matter is that Liverpool and Chelsea may well feel, with some justification, that they are better off out of it, because they have bigger fish to fry.
United of course narrowly beat QPR on Tuesday night at Old Trafford courtesy of a second-half Carlos Tevez penalty, the game had been billed as unmissible, as things turned out, truth be told, it was anything but that. What's more the club were charging £25 for tickets, many fans feel it should have been a lot less. When will they ever learn?
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
For their part, the Red Devils made eight changes to the starting eleven that faced Arsenal at the weekend. Rodrigo Possebon came into midfield after his recent injury and could have scored. Park was unlucky with a rasping second-half effort which rebounded off the woodwork, but as hard as United tried they didn't create many clear-cut goalscoring opportunities and once again Carlos Tevez was alone up front for United.
With the game looking likely to go into extra time - the absolute worst scenario for those in the Old Trafford stands - and then to the relief of the home crowd, second half substitute Danny Wellbeck was felled inside the QPR penatly area and United were awarded a just spot-kick which Carlos Tevez converted, in doing so sending the 'keeper the wrong way.
After the game, Fergie praised Wellbeck saying 'he made the difference'. No doubting Fergie will also have been pleased with his two young Brazilian stars, Rafael da Silva and Possebon, who both continue to look like players with excellent futures at the club. United are in the last eight of the competition - it can only get better from here on in, can't it?.