Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year: 'No new signings'...teddy out of pram time...fans won't be surprised

Ferguson has dropped a big hint that Kiko Macheda is set to go out on loan, possibly to another Premier League club. The decision to allow the Italian to move on another club for six months makes sense given that Macheda has dropped down the pecking order following the arrival of Havier Hernandez. Ferguson has also let it be known that Danny Welbeck and Mame Biram Diouf will remain on loan at Sunderland and Blackburn respectively.

The United manager has ruled out any new signings in January, but he hinted that Tom Cleverly could be recalled from Wigan, due to the absence of Ji-Sung Park who is away on international duty with South Korea. With United short of cover in midfield, how ironic would it be if David Beckham returned to United for a short loan spell? It would make perfect sense, but the question is, would Fergie actually be up for such a move?

It's true that both Patrice Evra and Nemanja Vidic were signed in the month of January, as was Henrik Larsson, Tosic and Manucho, but Ferguson rarely makes significant forays into the transfer market during the winter window.

The single biggest concern for Ferguson is central midfield where the United squad lacks quality strength in depth. Everyone in football is aware that Paul Scholes cannot carry on for much longer, but as we head into 2011 those hoping for quality additons to the squad will be disappointed.

Given his recent starting selections, it appears that the United manager has lost confidence in the ability of Darren Fletcher and Michael Carrick to boss a two man midfield, this in turn limits Ferguson's tactical options; we saw evidence of this in midweek when United travelled to St Andrews and Ferguson stuck with a European like 4-3-3 formation - Birmingham City are in the bottom three - yet it was if United were facing Real Madrid.

The current situation is this: Even against medicore Premier League opposition such as Birmingham City, Ferguson appears to have little confidence in his players to start with 4-4-2 on the road.

It's true to state that Anderson has shown signs of improvement over the last month or so, but it remains to be seen if he will prove to be good enough to hold down a regular starting place - whatever the improvement, it is extremely unlikely the Brazilian will ever be anywhere near as good as Scholes at his best.

The fact is, Ferguson has missed out on players like Wesley Sneijder, Mesut Ozul and to arguably to a lesser extent Rafael Van der Vaart - the star trio were all available and for the right money, but United failed to make a decisive move for either of them and perhaps worryingly, as far as we the fans know, the club wasn't even contacted about the availability of Van der Vaart.

United return to action tomorrow on New Year's Day with a trip to West Brom, it remains to be seen how Ferguson will approach this game especially given the League leaders inability to win away from Old Trafford.

United's problems in midweek against Birmingham were many; we had left footed Ryan Giggs on the right-wing and we had Wayne Rooney playing on the left with Berbatov down the middle, United wasted possession cheaply on too many occasions and as a result, the first-half performance was very disjointed. If United are going to hold off the challenge of Manchester City then there has to be a big improvement when playing away from home.

Fergie chucks his Teddy of out his pram...

Alex Ferguson has been celebrating his sixty-ninth birthday today, 24 hours after recalling three on-loan youngsters from Preston North End. Ritchie de Laet and Joshua King were due to return to United next week, but midfielder Matty James was supposed to be on a season-long loan; few will be surprised at news of this decision following the sacking of Darren Ferguson, the now former Preston manager. Preston are rock bottom of the Championship and as a result they look like relegation certainties.

According to reports, Preston were notified that the Premier League leaders were recalling the three youngsters via a terse fax, which left the Lancashire club in no doubt that 'United' were upset about the sacking of Darren Ferguson.

Few people cross Ferguson Snr and get away with it; the United manager hasn't spoken to the BBC since 2004, following a Panorama investigation into his dealings with his son Jason and the Elite Agency. It is doubtful anyone from Preston will be receiving any messages of goodwill from Fergie when the clock strikes midnight tonight.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

United cannot rely on one Berbatov moment of brilliance, on night when Fergie gets approach all wrong...

United were in action last night at St Andrews, from an attacking perspective, the performance left an awful lot to be desired. Few genuine goal-scoring chances were created by either side, it ended 1-1, as a result United are back at the top of the table ahead of Manchester City, but only on goal difference, though the leaders have two away games in hand.

In some ways, it was a very uncharacteristic performance as United were unable to breakdown a well organised Birmingham defence. Ferguson elected to start with Rooney and Berbatov up front with Giggs in support in a 4-3-3 formation. Rooney isn't yet back to his brilliant best and against Birmingham, it was another case of huffing and puffing his way through a game in which he didn't score or even come close to scoring. Unlike last season, Rooney isn't getting on the end of crosses of which there were precious few against Birmingham.

United didn't get many decent crosses into the box, and that was in no small part down to the fact that Nani was absent through injury. Matters were not helped by Rooney playing on the left with Giggs on the right flank.

Whenever Giggs received the ball, predictably, he tended to cut inside onto his left foot and apart from one first-half mis-directed right-foot cross which forced Ben Foster into a brilliant finger-tip save, there was nothing from the right flank. It was same story on the left wing: neither Rooney or Evra managed to create a telling cross all night long.

Rooney played quite well though; he almost always retains possession as he did against Birmingham and he worked back tirelessly and defended extremely well.

Part of the problem was the formation; for some reason, Ferguson is approaching what should have been another 'bread and butter' Premier League away game as if United were playing away at the San Siro - when in fact we were playing a team who were in the bottom three.

Why, you might well ask, didn't the United manager start with 4-4-2? There are several possible answers to that question; United didn't have two fully fledged wingers to choose from (if that was Fergie's rationale, then what about Obertan?), or was it the case that our manager thought playing the extra man in midfield would help secure victory as opposed to another draw (a flawed theory if true)? The truth of the matter is that Ferguson clearly doesn't trust any two of his midfield players to start away games in a 4-4-2 formation - and that is a glaring issue that has been apparent for quite some time.

Whatever Fergie's reasoning for choosing to start with 4-3-3, it was totally the wrong approach. In the first-half, even with the extra man in midfield United were guilty of giving the ball away cheaply, which happened time and time again. With the danger of stating the obvious, United were not stretching Birmingham on the flanks, so on many occasions the option of playing the ball wide left simply wasn't there for our midfield and defenders because Rooney tends to drift inside and out, added to which Berbatov and Rooney were not paired together.

But despite what was a very disjointed opening period, United eventually took the lead through Berbatov on 58 minutes and what a goal it was. The Bulgarian is in a rich vein of scoring form and the one he scored against Birmingham was as good as any this season.

Giggs started off the move from just over the half-way line with a well directed pass to Berbatov, who then out-foxed his marker, Roger Johnson, when taking him out of the game completely with a deft flick to the wing, Darron Gibson played the ball back inside to the on-running Bulgarian who ran into the Birmingham penalty area and then fired low and hard beyond Foster. It was a goal of the very highest quality.

The goal settled United down and a passage of good possession play followed, but the visitors were undone late on when Lee Boyer scored a controversial equaliser; the referee didn't spot the obvious foul on Ferdinand in the build-up, nor the hand ball and the linesman waved away the offside appeals.

In summary, despite being top of the league, United's away form could cost us dearly and worringly, neighbours City are banging in the goals especially away from home where they are strongest.

Manchester City have played most of the leading contenders at Eastlands, whereas the 'draw on the road specialists' United have to travel to Anfield, The Emirates, Stamford Bridge and White Hart Lane. United's away form could cost us the title unless it improves, but there's precious little sign of that happening at present.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Chelsea on the slide: United must not get complacent, are City the biggest threat?..

With Chelsea losing against Arsenal on Monday night and with United winning 2-0 against Sunderland on Boxing Day, the festive season has, so far, gone well for Ferguson. United take on Birmingham City at St Andrews tonight; the leaders have a two point advantage over neighbours Manchester City and Arsenal.

City take on Aston Villa at Eastlands later this afternoon and if they win and United fail to take at least a point from tonight's clash with Birmingham, City will head into 2011 as league leaders. The jury is still out on City's chances of winning the title, but they could yet prove to be United's biggest challengers.

Big spending Manchester City will continue to be a talking point, but at the beginning of the season, Chelsea were tipped heavily to retain the title, and after getting off to a flying start the West London club looked like a good bet, however, following the recent axeing of coach Ray Wilkins, Chelsea have stumbled badly. It would be a mistake to write off Chelsea, because they haven't been playing as badly as their results would appear to indicate.

With Chelsea dropping points and with the emergence of City along with Spurs, it is turning out be a fascinating season, despite the fact that the Premier League has undoubtedly lost some of its shine.

While United's results have been very good, the level of performance hasn't always been what we the fans (aka spoilt bast*rds) have become accustomed to down the years; the reason for this is quite simple: Ferguson failed to replace Ronaldo and Tevez, then factor in the recent Rooney saga, and it's quite easy to see why United do not pose the same attacking threat of two seasons ago.

A week ago, Ferguson admitted that he didn't know how his team has remained unbeaten, it was an honest and fair comment to make because United have been lucky in some games this season, but in football you make your own luck and winning instills confidence as well as self belief.

United appear to have the momemtum and so it is vital they maintain it, especially with Chelsea dropping points. With the very real danger of stating the bleeding obvious, United must continue to take maximum points over the coming weeks, if they do that, they will continue to pile on the pressure which has been steadily building on our main rivals.

With United currently looking like a good bet to win back the title, many expert pundits are talking about what could be the beginning of the end for Chelsea's ageing squad and quite possibly for manager Carlo Ancelotti too; that situation should serve warning to United because with all in the garden looking rosy right now, we cannot afford any complacency, because if that happens City and Arsenal are well placed to take advantage.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

24 Not Out: the greatest manager of all time?

Today is a historic day for both Manchester United and its manager Sir Alex Ferguson as he surpasses Sir Matt Busby’s in becoming the longest serving manager in the club's history.

On a day that United's fixture against title rivals Chelsea, at Stamford Bridge, was postponed due to the snow it is, perhaps, fitting that there was nothing that could overshadow this astonishing achievement.

It is a sad indictment of the game that achievements such as these are so rare in a culture of mass turnover of managers is something we have become accustomed to. Just ask Sam Allardyce. Just ask Chris Hughton.

This is, however, an extraordinary reign which stems almost a quarter of a century. Ferguson has now been at the helm of the Red Devils for 24 years, one month and 14 days, overtaking the great Sir Matt Busby in the process.

Ferguson succeeded Ron Atkinson as manager of Manchester United in 1986, having enjoyed success as manager of Aberdeen in Scotland. Upon his arrival he was quick to point to his fellow compatriot's achievements and vowed to follow in Busby's footsteps, placing an emphasis on nurturing youth and bringing them through the ranks.

He endured a difficult beginning to his managerial career at Old Trafford. With inconsistent league form and a lack of trophies, Fergie was reportedly on the verge of being dismissed but was saved, it is widely believed, by a Mark Robins goal that saw United win 1-0 away to Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup on January 7, 1990.

Ferguson has since admitted that it was at this stage during his reign that he was "for the first time, feeling uncomfortable about his position". Before Robins' goal, United had not won a league game since mid-November. The feeling of disenchantment was clear for all to see as a banner was unfurled at the Stretford End that read "3 Years of Excuses and Its Still Crap Ta Ra Fergie!". The victory against Forest may not have saved Ferguson's job but it bought him valuable time.

United went on to win the FA Cup that year, beating Crystal Palace in a replay, becoming Ferguson's first piece of silverware. The first trophy Sir Matt Busby won was also the FA Cup, some 27 years earlier, in 1963.

This FA Cup win was to the springboard for continued success at Manchester United under the stewardship of Ferguson. His first piece of silverware was swiftly followed by the European Cup Winners Cup and the UEFA Super Cup after beating Barcelona 2-1 and Red Star Belgrade 1-0 respectively, in 1991.

A domestic league title still eluded Ferguson and his team though and in the 1991/1992 season they finished runners-up to bitter rivals Leeds United in the old First Division. The following season heralded the start of a new era at Old Trafford and for Sir Alex.

The introduction of the Premier League saw a break-away league that formed the top-tier of English football, made up of 20 clubs. Having finished runners-up to Leeds the season before, Ferguson was keen to bolster his squad and, in doing so, made of the most significant and shrewd signings in the club's history.

Sir Matt had one 'king' playing for his United team in Denis Law and Fergie thought it was about time he had one. Paying Leeds £1.2million to acquire the services of Eric Cantona raised eyebrows at the time but over time Cantona was to become the new 'king' at the Theatre of Dreams.

Ferguson, with the help of Cantona, ended United's 26 year wait for a domestic league title and became the first Champions of the Premier League. This was repeated the following season but the 1994/95 season saw Blackburn Rovers pip Ferguson's men to the title on the final game of the season. It was a sad season for Manchester United as they had to say goodbye to the greatest manager they'd known as Sir Matt Busby died, aged 84, in 1994.

This failure, and the heartache of Busby's death, only spurred Sir Alex on though and in the 1995/96 season he guided United to their first ever League and FA Cup double. This achievement was undoubtedly made sweeter as it was the season in which emerging talents such as Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Gary Neville and Phil Neville became integral components of the team. Following United's 3-1 defeat to Aston Villa on the opening day of the season lead to former Liverpool player and pundit Alan Hansen famously saying "you'll never win anything with kids". He's never been able to forget that comment.

One of Ferguson's greatest achievements came in the 1998/99 season. It was no secret that he wanted to win the UEFA Champions League, after all Sir Matt had won it in 1968. By the time the final arrived, United had already clinched the Premier League and the FA Cup. Ferguson and his players were standing on the edge of greatness. A double was magical, a treble was unthinkable. Trailing 1-0 to Bayern Munich in a packed Nou Camp in Barcelona with injury time fast approaching, it looked as though United had missed out on European glory. United won a corner and, as Beckham's cross was headed to the edge of the area, Ryan Giggs' scuffed shot was bundled home by Teddy Sheringham to draw level.

With seconds of injury time remaining United won another corner. Beckham whipped in a cross which was glanced on by Sheringham only for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to stab the ball past Oliver Kahn in the Munich goal. United were delirious, Munich were broken. Ferguson had done it, he'd won the treble and in the most dramatic of fashion.

Ferguson, like Busby before him, was knighted for his services to football in 1999. He followed this personal accolade up by becoming the first manager to win three consecutive Premier League titles. This record is still intact.

As the third round of the FA Cup of the 2010/11 season approaches with a date with Liverpool at Old Trafford, the trip to Forest in the same competition, in 1990, must seem a million miles away for Ferguson.

Since winning the FA Cup in 1990 he has guided Manchester United to 11 league titles which now has them tied with Liverpool on 18 domestic league titles. He has lead United to five FA Cup victories, four League Cup's, an Intercontinental and FIFA World Club Championship trophy and two Champions League victories.

Surpassing Busby's record in Europe was another astonishing achievement in Fergie's reign which was made better as it consisted of a nail-biting penalty shoot-out win over domestic title-rivals Cheslea in Moscow in 2008. Ferguson missed out on becoming the first team to retain the Champions League, since its re branding, when they were beaten 2-0 by Barcelona in Roma in 2009.

When Ferguson arrived at Old Trafford he promised to share the same vision as Sir Matt with the inclusion of youngsters from within being the key to success. It is fitting then, that on a day that Ferguson becomes the longest serving manager in Manchester United's illustrious history that David Beckham, one of the products of the Ferguson regime, is to be awarded the BBC Lifetime Achievement Award at the annual Sports Personality of the Year ceremony.

When Sir Alex Ferguson arrived at Manchester United he vowed to follow in the footsteps of Sir Matt Busby. He’s done just that.. And then some.

It's Panto season: Tevez, the villain, set to sign for United? "Oh no he isn't!"

The January transfer window will soon be flung open, but sadly, our great leader has already let it be known there's little prospect of any new signings any time soon; but such small matters are routinely ignored by sections of Her Majesty's press and with little or no news to report due to the big freeze this weekend, it comes as no great surprise to read speculation suggesting that Carlos Tevez has been offered to Manchester United by a party closely connected with the wantaway City striker.

As is almost always the case where transfer speculation is concerned, there are no quotes from any of the parties concerned and surprise, surprise another unnamed source close to Manchester United has stated that there's no chance of Fergie bringing Tevez back to Old Trafford.

Hans Christian Anderson might well have been proud of this Fairy Tale, because that is exactly what it is: Tevez will not be re-signing for United. But then again, you really didn't need this blog to tell you that did you?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Anderson signs new four and a half year deal at Old Trafford

Manchester United's Brazilian midfielder, Anderson, has singed a new four-and-a-half year contract following a string of improved performances.

Arguably the best player in a United shirt on Monday night, at home to Arsenal, the Brazilian midfielder has shown a level of consistency that has deserted him thus far in his fledgling United career.

Following a car crash in Portugal prior to the start of the season, doubts were cast over Anderson's future as it was alleged that he had been partying into the early hours with friends while recovering from a serious knee ligament injury. Given Sir Alex Ferguson's stance on this type of behaviour one can only assume that Anderson was subject to a serious dressing down on his return to Manchester. Perhaps this is what was needed.

Up until this point it would be fair to say that Anderson has flattered to deceive and that his consistency and level of performances have not been up to the standard expected of a Manchester United player. But, to gain some grain of perspective, he is only 22 years of age and, when he was signed from FC Porto, he arrived as an attacking midfield player. Since making his debut for the Red Devils he has been deployed as a defensive midfielder, restricting his natural attacking tendencies.

This could offer an explanation as to why he has only scored twice in his United career, one of which was a week ago in United's 1-1 draw with Valencia in the Champions League. It may also provide an explanation as to why it has taken until now, since arriving in 2007, for him to flourish. Though it may not be a coincidence that Anderson's improving performances have come at a time where he has been allowed a little more freedom to roam forward in support of the strikers.

Anderson was instrumental in United's 8-1 humiliation of Blackburn Rovers although this will be remembered, rightfully, for Dimitar Berbatov's five-goal haul. He was also present in United's horror show at Upton Park whereby the Carling Cup holders were on the wrong end of a 4-0 scoreline; Anderson was the only player to receive praise for his performance, Ferguson stating in his post-match interview that "Anderson was the only player up to standard tonight".

As mentioned previously, Anderson's following appearance resulted in a rare goal, and a display that received praise from this blog, versus Valencia.

Whilst it would be premature to throw superlatives at Anderson for his recent performances in the heart of the United midfield, there are signs that his attitude and application have improved. This can only be a good thing as the team enter a potentially decisive period of the Premier League season.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Vidic the defensive rock the key to win over Arsenal...

United are back on top of the Premier League following last night's one-nil win over Arsenal. Park Ji-Sung scored the only goal of what was a hard fought contest on a slippery Old Trafford playing surface. Arsene Wenger criticised the pitch in his post-match press conference, stating the poor playing surface affected both teams; the Arsenal manager also said that United deserved credit for their defensive performance.

Park scored four minutes before the break from a deflected cross from Nani on the right; the South Korean deserves much credit for what was a very cute flicked header, one which gave Szczesny no chance. It's fair to state that until that point in the game, Park had given the ball away every time he'd touched it.

Park didn't have a great game, but neither did Nani on the opposite flank, Wenger was right to have a moan about the state of the slippery playing surface, because both teams made a lot of mistakes. At times it wasn't pretty and Arsenal had the lions share of possession in the second period, but it was United who created the goal-scoring opportunities.

It wasn't a night for the purist and at times United lumped the ball up in the air too often, but ironically, such a punt ended in a goal.

For their part, Arsenal pushed and probed, but most of their attacking moves broke down on the edge of the United penalty area and when the ball was actually delivered into the box it was Vidic who headed to safety.

Vidic was at his towering best, he barely put a foot wrong all night. United's Serbian captain was by some distance the man of the match. If United can keep on defending as they did against Arsenal then they won't be too far away come the end of the season.

However, from a United perspective from an attacking point of view, what we saw against Arsenal was in many ways very unsatisfactory; all too often Wayne Rooney was left isolated and United were left relying on the long ball.

The second-half was crying out for the introduction of Dimitar Berbatov, who not that surprisingly had been left on the bench; Ferguson prefers to start with a 4-3-3 / 4-5-1 formation against the likes of Arsenal and Chelsea - but as we saw last night - this tactic has its limitations. But, it was United who created all the chances and so Arsenal can have few complaints.

Rooney's dreadful second-half penalty was simply that, dreadful. It was one of the worst attempts at taking a penalty this season, he didn't look where he was putting the ball, he simply blasted it.

United won and deservedly so, but it's doubtful the same tactics will work so well when the leaders travel to Stamford Bridge next Sunday.

Finally, the Chilean Miners have been guests of Manchester United over the last 48 hours: The big rumour sweeping the city is that they have been advising Carlos Tevez on how to keep your spirits up when you're stuck in a sh*t-hole.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Same old story: Too much talking ahead of Arsenal clash...

United are preparing for Monday night's clash with top of the table Arsenal; the pressure has been building steadily as usually happens ahead a visit to Old Trafford.

There has been no shortage of talking in the run-up what is often a bad tempered affair; we've read comments attributed to Patrice Evra, telling Arsenal that they are not good enough to win the title; we've also heard Samir Nasri stating that United have lost the Old Trafford fear factor. All this in the same week that United have threatened to ban any season ticket holder who is caught abusing Arsene Wenger by singing songs accusing him of being a paedophile.

For his part, Ferguson, has for once, tempered his comments; given United want to put an end to the anti Wegner chant, the manager obviously did not want to be viewed as the one who stoked the fire.

The fans love a bit of knockout about via the media ahead of these big games, but does it really add anything to the actually game itself? In years gone by rival managers have read out the comments from the other dressing room in their pre-match team-talk, but it's actually doubtful Wenger or Ferguson have had to use that tactic given their respective abilities.

The bad feeling that exists between both clubs and their supporters is very real and sometimes it leads to violence on the streets; Wenger, Ferguson, Evra and Nasri and Co never see this ugly side of football, but they are in part are responsible because they talk too much about such rivalries. To coin a phrase, they should allow their football to do the talking on the pitch.

Tevez set to quit City: His transfer to the "Bitters" was never just about money..

This blog slaughtered Manchester United and Ferguson for their bungled attempts at retaining the services of Carlos Tevez, who, as we all know, moved on to Manchester City in what turned out to be a very acrimonious transfer.

In the days and weeks that followed the Argentine's move to the club's bitter rivals back in 2009, somewhat predictably, news of the striker's defection to City provoked a mixed reaction from some United supporters "..he wasn't that good anyway", or "..he wasn't worth £25m" and finally "...he's just a greedy b*stard". Ferguson himself didn't help when hinting that Tevez was little more than a trier.

Well, since then, Tevez has silenced those who questioned his worth. United fans might not like it, but the Argentine has proved to be worth every penny of the then reported £25m asking price. Tevez has scored more league goals than Rooney over the last two seasons; City are above United in the table, but hopefully that situation will change following Monday night's clash with Arsenal when they visit Old Trafford.

As for Tevez, reports claim he has handed in a transfer request, because he is homesick. City have rejected his written request and Tevez has reportedly turned down wages of £250,000 a week. As we stated on this blog at the time, his move to City was never just about the money...

Tevez left United because Ferguson didn't commit to signing the player when he has ample opportunities to do so and instead he signed Berbatov, who last season scored 12 league goals compared to 23 from Tevez. Tevez also felt under valued by his manager, he found himself on the bench on many occasions, but no matter what, he always gave 100%. Tevez never openly sulked, during his time at Old Trafford. Ironically, the Argentine has had several touch-line spats with his new manager at City.

Tevez, has proven Ferguson and those United fans who questioned his worth wrong, so much so that only a revisionist would argue otherwise.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer: a tribute to a true Old Trafford legend

In just over a month's time Old Trafford will bid farewell to a player who has written himself into Manchester United folklore, as he returns to the club which he left some 14 years ago.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer joined United from Norway's Molde FK for £1.5m in 1996 at a time when it was widely reported that a certain Alan Shearer was the main transfer target. Despite the low transfer fee, eyebrows were still raised at the thought of United buying a virtual unknown over a proven Premier League striker.

When Solskjaer arrived at Old Trafford it was expected that he would be used sparingly behind first team regulars Eric Cantona and Andy Cole in order to get him up to speed with the pace of the Premier League. But before journalists and pundits could roll out the almost cliched "one for the future" label , Solskjaer scored within minutes of his debut after coming on as a substitute against Blackburn Rovers.

Solskjaer rapidly became a fans favourite and, unexpectedly, a regular within the first team squad. His scoring prowess saw him score an impressive 18 goals in the league, a feat only beaten by Shearer and and Ian Wright during the 1996/97 season. His tally was helped by scoring four goals in twelve minutes as a second-half substitute in the 8-1 thrashing of Nottingham Forest. It was his ability to find the net as a substitute late on in games that lead to the endearing nickname of "the baby-faced assassin". Within his first season Ole had become an integral member of the League winning squad.


The following campaign saw the Norwegian striker hampered by injuries, only managing to score six league goals during the 1997/98 season. But it was the following season that was to be Solskjaer's finest.

Few would argue that Solskjaer's most memorable Manchester United moment came deep into injury time at the Nou Camp, Barcelona, in the UEFA Champions League Final of 1999.

Having scored an injury time equaliser through Teddy Sheringham, it looked as though United had forced Bayern Munich into extra time. The drama did not finish there though, as a David Beckham corner was flicked on by Sheringham and, as ever, Solskjaer was in the right place at the right time to poke home the treble-winning goal and, in doing so, write himself into United folklore.

Ironically, another defining moment in Solskjaer's United career was when he got sent off for a professional foul on Newcastle United midfielder Rob Lee in 1998 at Old Trafford. Having run two-thirds of the pitch to catch him, Solskjaer felled Lee knowing that he would be given his marching orderd but, in doing so, denied Newcastle an almost certain winning goal with the game all square at 1-1. United needed at least a point at the time to keep up with Arsenal in the hunt for the Premier League title. The fans immediately recognised that Solskjaer had put the team before himself, receiving universal praise from all connected with the club for his selfless act.

Its rare to write a tribute of a modern day footballer without alluding to some sort of scandal or a part of their career in which they would rather forget. Apart from injuries, of which a long-standing knee injury was to get the better of him, Solskjaer does not have a blotched record in anyway. He truly is a rare breed of footballer.

A perfectionist on the training ground, according to his former team-mate Sheringham, and allegedly donating a percentage of his wages to UNICEF shows the mark of the man and the high esteem in which he is held by all connected. David Gill perfectly summarised Solskjaer in his testimonial programme notes as a player who " no-one has a bad word to say about...he is a fantastic ambassador to this club and to this sport".

Away from the pitch Ole uses his status within the game for the benefit of others. A patron of the Manchester United Supporter's Trust (formerly Shareholders United), he is also the ambassador for global charity UNICEF. In 2008 he became the youngest recipient of the First Class Knighthood in his native Norway, an accolade usually bestowed upon notable people of society in their later years.

Having scored 126 times in 366 appearances for United, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, has left a lasting impression on the club and its supporters.
14 years ago no-one outside of Norway would have known who Solskjaer was. They do now.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

United v Valencia: Anderson and Rooney shine, while Berbatov and Carrick fluff their lines...

United were in action last night when Valencia visited Old Trafford for the final Champions League Group C game. Going into the game, Ferguson and his players knew no less than a point would be good enough to secure top spot; securing a point would avoid a potential meeting with Barcelona or Real Madrid, so it was vital that United did not lose.

With both clubs knowing that they had already qualified for the knockout phase prior to last night, some observers might have been expecting a damp squib, but it was anything but that as things turned out, both teams tried to win which made for a decent game on a good Old Trafford playing surface.

It finished up one apiece, but it was Valencia who took the lead. The opening goal was very much against the run of play; on 32 minutes, it was Pablo who punished United following a mistake by Michael Carrick, who lost possession near the half-way line.

Following a lengthy spell on the sidelines, Carrick appears to be back in favour at the expense of Darren Fletcher. Fletcher was only a substitute when United thrashed Blackburn 7-1 in the last home game, but he played the whole 90 minutes in the shocking 4-0 Carling Cup defeat to West Ham last week and it looks like Carrick might well have dislodged the Scot for now at least anyway. However, while Carrick is undoubtedly a better passer of the ball, he still makes silly mistakes from time to time; he is one of those players who wants too much time on the ball, which is precisely what happened in the build-up to Valencia's goal.

Apart from his mistake, Carrick had a decent game, but it was Anderson who was United's star performer in central midfield. Anderson has played in United's last three games; he was good against Blackburn and Valencia, but like Fletcher, the Brazilian was totally ineffective against West Ham last week.

It was fitting that Anderson scored United's equalising goal against Valencia, because he was the man of the match. In two of United's last three games, the Brazilian has shown signs that just maybe he could have a long-term future at the club, but consistency is the key.

United face Arsenal at Old Trafford next Monday and you can be 100% sure that Ferguson is wrestling with the question of who should start against the Gunners in central midfield. Last season you could have put money on the United manager starting with 4-3-3, with Rooney playing atop on his own, but following his recent fall from favour, things are not so cut and dried.

Dimitar Berbatov has been blowing hot and cold this season; he was superb against Liverpool when he scored that fabulous hat-trick a few weeks ago, he was brilliant against Blackburn when he bagged five great goals, but last night his touch totally deserted him - in fact, the Bulgarian had something of a stinker by his standards.

So Ferguson has to now decide not only who should start in central midfield against Arsenal, but also, who should start up front.

Don't be surprised if Berbatov finds himself on the bench again next Monday and Rooney starts up front on his own. Rooney played against Blackburn and Valencia; he looked very good in both games, he was very unlucky not to score against the Spaniards last night when his curling right foot drive rebounded off the cross bar in the opening period. Rooney rarely gives the ball away cheaply and passing around the opposition penalty area is exemplary, but of course the goals have to start to flow and that is another issue for Ferguson to mull over.

Arsenal are very strong in midfield and that is why Ferguson may well consider starting with just one striker.

Rio Ferdinand has given the United manager another headache, due to a slight hamstring strain, but at this point, reports suggest he will be fit to face the Gunners next week.

The da Silva twins played the whole 90 minutes last night and both did quite well, but Fabio needs to learn when to overlap his winger and when to hold back, because there was a couple of occasions when he went beyond Park and United lost possession - there is a very strong danger that against a better side United would be punished.

The only other talking point worth mention is the performance of Ben Amos, United's third 'keeper had a pretty good game against Valencia, but his kicking did give the home fans palpitations on a couple of occasions.

Bring on the Gunners.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Boris Johnson has taken revenge on ‘Don Corleone’ Blatter

Further to my earlier post on the failed England World Cup Bid and the revelation, by Martin Samuels, of the agreement, by our politicians, to allow the laws of this country to be circumnavigated by the FIFA mafia.

I read, in the Mail on Sunday, that Boris Johnson has taken revenge on ‘Don Corleone’ Blatter and the other FIFA delegates who destroyed England’s bid to host the World Cup by kicking them out of London’s Dorchester hotel for the 2012 Olympic Games.

“FIFA president Mr Blatter and his team had been invited to stay in exclusive £1,000-a-night suites at the five-star hotel for more than a week during the Olympics.

This was part “of the charm offensive” designed to woo FIFA in the run-up to Thursday’s 2018 World Cup vote.But London Mayor Mr Johnson, the official host of the Olympics, has withdrawn the offer to demonstrate his fury at the way FIFA threw out England’s bid”


Forget ‘charm offensive’. We are accusing almost everyone and anyone of corruption. But was this not corruption, pure and simple? How on earth can anyone linked with our bid now claim that we are morally superior? We were in the business of ‘buying’ votes! We did not, obviously, offer enough!

We do need, as a matter of urgency, to take a look at ourselves. Let us have a full and frank Enquiry, chaired by an independent person with absolutely no links to football in particular or sport in general, into our bidding process from beginning to end.

Asking every member of the process from the President to the office cleaner, Who was approached in an effort to assist our bid and what was offered and what FIFA demanded. If, as it appears, Lord Triesmann was correct and members of our bid believed that the process was 'bent' WHY did we not withdraw then?


Let us remember that the good name of our country, England, is at stake and a lot of public money was used in this wasted exercise. The Enquiry should then make recommendations for the future direction of the Football Association of England.

BUT there is a real need for a thorough clean sweep of the Football Association well before we can call for the sewers of FIFA to be well and truly cleaned!


Strapworld.





But London Mayor Mr Johnson, the official host of the Olympics, has withdrawn the offer to demonstrate his fury at the way FIFA threw out England’s bid.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Football - a truly ugly game!

The angst in the English press and media this morning over the failed attempt to host the football world cup in 2018 is truly something to behold. .

Football has become such a money besmirched horror story controlled by a discredited and corrupt FIFA. Panorama, The Sunday Times and Lord Triesmann have all been proved right, although the issue of their timing has infuriated many people.

Our press are intrusive, but I would far rather have an investigative and intrusive press revealing corruption and criminal practices, than live in a country where journalists are murdered for writing the truth! Or a country which bans alcohol and Christianity yet expects football supporters to attend the world cup there! I can see the headlines already when Dutch, German and United Kingdom supporters are flung into jail for drinking alcohol! Or supporters dying from severe sunburns.

Just, for one minute, consider Qatar. It has 38 cities in Qatar although most of the population live in Doha, the capital. The bid reflects this. There are stadiums to be upgraded in Al-Khor, Doha, Al Wakrah and Al Rayyan plus stadiums to be built in Lusail, Doha, Ash Shamal, Doha, Umm Salal, Doha and Doha. Lusail, where an 86,000-capacity stadium will be built, is 10 miles away, as is Umm Salal. Al Khor, Al Wakrah and Umm Salal all of which have small populations of approximately 31,000. The official population of Ash Shamal is given as 5,400, less than Westward Ho! in Devon!! This place is getting a stadium with a capacity of 45,330!!

Then consider that Australia with its superb sporting traditions and stadia received just one vote! It is quite ridiculous.

The whole process is riddled with corruption. And countries which bid for this discredited tournament agreed to bending their laws to assist this corruption. As the excellent Martin Samuels of the Daily Mail points out “All you need to know about the men who made this decision is that FIFA requested, as a condition if England had mounted a successful bid, exclusion from a range of UK laws including one governing Banks and Foreign Exchange Operations. FIFA had asked for 'the unrestricted import and export of all foreign currencies to and from the UK' and, worse, they got it.”

Now, after the ball has been kicked away, our team is calling foul. Having been party to this disgraceful bending of laws, which would still be in place for you and me!
They are saying that the whole voting process should be open to all member countries and in an open vote. There is absolutely no chance of achieving change now. It would be classed as sour grapes by Russia and Blatter.

I will make one suggestion which we could do to stand alone, and invite other countries to support us.

Why not make all the changes to the rule book of the English Football Association that many have been proposing for years but have been resisted by Fifa? It seems to me that Fifa have wished to leave their officials with opportunities to change match results, something they may have been able to freely do in the years before present technological innovations. Other sports, where money is not the god, but rather the joy of the game itself, have accepted such technological developments and have been undoubtedly improved as a result.

Why not, alongside these changes, speak to the USA, Australia and any other country who may be attracted to a cleaner and more open International body and consider a break away organisation. Sir Stanley Rouse was the Englishman who made Fifa a respected voice. Let us endeavour to make football clean again.

Of course England will be excluded for a while from international competition, but I am sure it would not be long before other countries' football associations would take up the revised rule book whereby the best teams had equal chances of victory? And agree to an open and honest method of choosing countries to host a world cup.

Let us, at long last, look at the people who buy our clubs. Ask Parliament to bring in legislation to ensure that carpetbaggers, foreign billionaires and criminals are no longer tolerated as owners of our football clubs which mean so much to our towns and cities throughout the land.

As it is today, Football stinks. I am amazed people pay the money they do to perpetuate such inequitable rottenness. Let us take this opportunity to start the change.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all supporters clubs got behind this suggestion creating a grass root demand for a massive change in football in England.

Strapworld

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Lowly West Ham embarrass United following Blackburn Lord Mayors Show...

Manchester United were in action last night in the quarter final of the Carling Cup against depleted West Ham United; the Hammers have been struggling all season, their manager Avram Grant is said to be on the verge of being sacked. Ahead of the game - and ignoring the fact that United rarely have an easy time of it when visiting the Boleyn Ground, United will have fancied their chances of progressing into the semi-finals, especially given that so many West Ham first-team regulars were missing.

As things turned out, the holders were given a sound beating - the 4-0 scoreline didn't flatter the Hammers in the slightest. As is so often the case in the much maligned competition, Ferguson elected to completely change the starting eleven, from the one which thrashed Blackburn 7-1 on Saturday.

United started the match brightly and only a finger-tip save by Robert Green and a scrambled goal-line clearance denied a certain opening goal from Hernandez; but from then on, it was all about West Ham United who went on to capitalise on the sort of schoolboy defending that was so much in evidence in the early weeks of the season.

In something of an ironic twist of fate, former United full-back Johnathan Spector enjoyed his finest game since he arrived in England. Since Spector left United, he has become something of a cast-off, a nomad of sorts and he's seemingly surplus to requirements at West Ham, because according to reports he's off to the Bundesliga. Last night, the North American was thrust into a makeshift midfield, but as things turned out, the combination of Fletcher, Giggs and Anderson were no match for West Ham's hastily thrown together engine room.

United were abject in midfield; the service to Hernandez was in point of fact none existent. Quite where, Obertan was supposed to be playing is a fair question to ask, but it doesn't actually matter, because like Fletcher, Giggs and Anderson, the Frenchman produced all too few moments to remember.

Worst of all was Bebe: Ferguson cannot and surely will not, carry on this charade, the Portuguese winger who was brought to United at relatively great expense, will never be good enough for United and the manager will soon have to admit that he's made a gross error of judgement and cut his loses. Thankfully, Bebe's embarrassment was cut short at half-time to save further blushes all round, when he was replaced by Macheda - who it has to be said, did no better.

While stating Bebe will never be good enough, it's fair to add that neither will Kuszczak, at the other end: United's Polish stopper got nowhere near any of the four goals conceded; he should have done better. Earlier this week Ferguson confirmed Edwin van der Sar's long-term replacement will be new signing, Anders Lindegaard, 26, and he isn't exactly thrilling qualified commentators such as the Great Dane, aka, Peter Schmeichel who has gone on record stating that his fellow countryman simply isn't good enough.

Goalkeeping issues aside, the single biggest area of concern within the current United squad is central midfield. Darren Fletcher didn't feature against Blackburn last weekend, and to be fair, it's easy to see why given his abject performance against West Ham. Fletcher was guilty of committing several schoolboy errors - his distribution is usually the thing that consistently lets him down - but against the Hammers, it was his positional sense and marking, plus his lack of leadership. Fletcher was caught ball-watching and found himself on the wrong side of Spector for the opening goal.

Prior to that, West Ham had what looked initially like a very good goal disallowed, for off-side, but it was the correct decision as things turned out; in the build-up, Johnathan Spector the goal scorer, had waltzed through United's midfield unmarked - on that occasion it was Anderson who guilty of doing nothing. Thankfully, referee Clattenburg and his linesman came to United's rescue.

On 37 minutes, Spector doubled the Hammers advantage following a slip in the penalty area by the unfortunate, Fabio, but in the build-up, the North American ran with the ball from deep within the United half unchallenged with Bebe trailing in his wake. Spector scored to cap-off, what was for him, a thoroughly memorable first-half performance, one which turned out to be match winning.

Quite what Ferguson said in his half-time team talk would be interesting to know: you can be sure one of the questions was "who is supposed to be picking up Spector?". And when United fans reflect upon that question today, they will no doubt be thinking about the lack of quality in central midfield: A makeshift/rookie midfield player ran riot against United's supposedly stronger players.

It's also worth asking, why £80,000 a week John O'Shea had to be shipped off to left back early in the first-half: like Fletcher, Giggs and Anderson (given his hefty price tag) O'Shea was one of the senior players on duty last night, but against West Ham, just like the other experienced players he was guilty of failing to step to the mark.

On 56 minutes, the Hammers made it three nil, on this occasion Fabio was guilty of allowing the ball to be crossed into the box too easily and Cole punished flat-footed Jonny Evans. The final humiliation came not long after; Rafael replaced his brother, only for his twin to immediately perpetrate the same offence and the end result was the same, Cole scored and once again it was a case of yet more rank bad defending.

When Fergie reviews the TV replays, he will be horrified at the number of schoolboy errors: three of the four goals conceded were very similar; Fletcher and Evans were guilty of allowing the man that they were supposed to be marking to get to the ball first - you cannot do that inside your own penalty area, because chances are the ball will end up in your own net which is exactly what happened on three occasions.

In the wake of what was a sound beating, the headlines have predictably focused on what was an unexpected thumping win for the Hammers. From United's perpspective, the introspection will have begun, and while the defending is a concern, arguably, of much of more concern was the total lack of know-how, spirit and leadership especially given that so many so called senior players were on duty. While the defending was rank bad, United's central midfield was pretty much none existent.

For those seeking the smallest of crumb of comfort, the unbeaten run was always going to come to an end and so if you're going to lose, it's probably better to lose in the Carling Cup - no matter that United are the holders - the competition is little more than a distraction, albeit one in which the manager can blood untried players. But try telling that to United's 5,000 travelling fans who'd made their way to a snowy East London on what was a freezing night... those fans deserve much better.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Hapless Blackburn no match for classy United and Berbatov...

It has been a very good week for Manchester United: in midweek the club secured their place in the knockout phase of the Champions League thanks to a 1-0 win away at Rangers; Following his off the field troubles, Wayne Rooney started and scored the only goal of the game from the penalty spot. United completely dominated Rangers and thoroughly deserved to win and providing Valencia don't come out on top in the final game when they visit Old Trafford in December, the Red Devils should finish top of Group C.

On Saturday, an injury ravaged Blackburn Rovers visited Old Trafford. Sam Allardyce and his team were on the wrong end of a sound beating - from pretty much the first kick, the result was never really in doubt and United went on to win 7-1.

The margin of victory could have been even wider if Nani, Vidic and Obertan had taken their chances, but to complain would be churlish given the lavish entertainment and there was no doubting who was the star of the show: Dimitar Berbatov scored five and was unlucky not to have broken a Premier League record for the most goals in one game; instead the Bulgarian had to settle for matching the likes of Andy Cole, Alan Shearer and Jermain Defoe.

The scoreline as well as Berbatov's scoring feat have grabbed the headlines and understandably so, and while there was no doubt about the gulf in class between the two teams, let us not forget that this was a weakened Blackburn Rovers team.

Nonetheless, United played some good football and no wonder Ferguson was delighted with Berbatov's return to form, but more than that, the manager had good reason to be well pleased with the team's overall performance. Anderson had arguably his best game to date for the club, the Brazilian has blown hot and cold ever since he arrived in England and it's fair to state he hasn't lived up to his star billing and expectations given his hefty price tag, but against Blackburn the former Porto midfield star gave a ninety minute performance, one that was full of energy and running.

Despite not scoring, Wayne Rooney looked to be in very good nick, his link-up play with Berbatov was as good as we've seen since the Bulgarian arrived at the club. Rooney has lost half a stone, as a result he looks lean and judging by his last two performances it surely won't be long before we see him back near his very best.

Against Blackburn, just about everyone played well for United and with Chelsea only drawing away at Newcastle on Sunday and with Man City dropping points along with Liverpool who lost to a last minute goal against Spurs, it really has been an excellent weekend. To cap it all, United have been drawn at home with Liverpool in the third round of the FA Cup.

With key games against Chelsea and Arsenal looming, it is vital that the Red Devils find their best form. Intriguingly, there's talk of dressing room unrest at Stamford Bridge amidst talk that Roman Ambramovich isn't 100% happy with manager Carlo Ancelotti, so the clash with Chelsea cannot come soon enough.

If United can come out on top against Chelsea and Arsenal then December could prove to be a very important month. Next up, United face West Ham in the quarter final of the Carling Cup on Tuesday at Old Trafford, that game is followed by a tricky looking trip to Blackpool next weekend. Blackpool have been the surprise team of the season; the Seasiders have so far only lost once at home this season to Man City, so United can expect a very tough game next weekend.

The Premier League title looks like it's there for the taking and with at least four clubs in with a shout we could be in for one of the most exciting title battles for many a long season.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Preview: Rooney to run riot against Rangers? Plus your chance to sign for Manchester United....

United take on Rangers tonight at Ibrox needing just one point to qualify for the knockout phase of the Champions League, but they will be without Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand and Darren Fletcher - arguably three of the most important players in the squad; even with the star trio, tonight's encounter would have been difficult, without them it is likely to be very difficult indeed.

Rangers could in theory qualify at United's expense, that is on the assumption that they win their next two games and the Red Devils lose their next two.

Wayne Rooney will return to the starting United XI following a lengthy spell on the sidelines due to personal matters, injuries and the saga surrounding his contract renewal. Rooney has much work to do if he is to rebuild bridges between himself and the club's supporters following talk that he was about to defect to bitter rivals Manchester City: to this end, a brace against Rangers tonight would do Rooney no harm at all and if United can come away with at least a draw it will avoid a potentially nail-biting final group game against Valencia.

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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Rooney set to return to face boo boys?

So then, Wayne Rooney will be on the bench when United face Wigan later today; it's another interesting decision by Ferguson, who sent his talisman to Oregon last week for what has been described as "rehab".

Contrary to the views of his manager, Rooney has always maintained that he hasn't been injured this season, so only those involved will know why the player along with members of United's coaching staff were sent to North America (see the hilarious Special1 TV movie below for an alternative view).

However, Rooney is back and he's about to face the fans' who were less than impressed by his recent contract negotiation antics. In midweek, Ferguson was in Doha where he attended the ASPIRE4SPORT Conference and Exhibition, the Scot used the opportunity to tell the media that no one is bigger than the manager, he also had a pop at Paul Stretford, the player's agent.

If you cross Ferguson, there's usually only one winner and you cannot help but wonder if the manager's decision to start with Rooney on the bench is yet another set-piece - one which has been designed with the fans' in mind: imagine the scene, Rooney enters the action for the last 20 minutes and United are two-nil to the good, how will those fans' who were so angered at the prospect of a likely defection to Man City react to Rooney?

The fans' might not boo Rooney on his return, but the point is, the player will only know once he actually takes to the field - it's the thought of it actually happening that's the concern and you can bet Fergie will be secretly having a good giggle at Rooney who will be squirming throughout the afternoon until the moment of truth arrives.

Whatever happens today and whatever the reaction is, Rooney has some serious making up to do and it will be interesting to see how he handles the situation. Rooney is playing for his United future and his reputation - nothing less than full-out bollock busting performances will be accepted from now on.


Monday, November 15, 2010

United must improve wing-play if they are to turn draws into wins...

United by common consent had the better of the Manchester derby last week, but neither camp could, with any justification, claim that they should have won. It was a game of few chances, but it could have been oh so different if Carlos Tevez hadn't turned down Rio Ferdinand's invitation to shoot in the opening minutes of what turned out to be one of the most uneventful derby's for many a season. The end result was fair one, a 0-0 bore draw - though truth be told, it wasn't quite as boring as the media have been making out, because like any local derby there was a lot of tension on the night.

Edwin van der Sar was forced into the only real save of the night from a Tevez free-kick, but apart from that, neither 'keeper was made to earn their wages. In the wake of the derby result and several poor results and another draw at the weekend with Blackburn, Roberto Mancini has been on the receiving end of much finger pointing. Let us hope City start firing and hiring as only they can, the seemingly ever revolving exit door beckons for the current incumbent and long may it continue spinning...

As far as United are concerned, the Red Devils managed to somehow comeback from being 2-0 down at Villa Park on Saturday to come away with a 2-2 draw - a result that looked unlikely for much of the second-half in which Villa deservedly scored twice. In point of fact United, were lucky not to be dead and buried in the opening 30 minutes of the second period in which the home team hit the woodwork twice before they eventually scored from the penalty spot through Ashley Young.

Four minutes later and it was Villa's tormentor-in-chief, Albrighton, who doubled Villa's advantage after United were hit on the counter-attack following some sloppy play by substitute Kiko Macheda; the Italian gave the ball away cheaply deep in the Villa half, the home team broke quickly and punished United. It was worth noting that Patrice Evra was guilty of ball-watching when the cross came in from the left; the Frenchman should have done a lot better and you can be assured Ferguson will be having words with his left-back.

Likewise, Ferguson will have expected Nemja Vidic to have done better when chasing down Agbonlahor in the build-up to the penalty which led to the opening goal. At that point Villa were all over United like a rash, but it was in no small part down to United defending poorly again, as we have done too often in the current campaign - but unlike many of the drawn games this season, on Saturday, the team simply did not perform in the engine room or up front. Against Villa, United were quite simply collectively dreadful for long periods of the game.

United only really started to play once Villa had gone two-nil up. United had to thank Macheda and Vidic for producing two moments of magic, but Fletcher and Nani played their part in the build-up to both goals.

When United are playing really well the chances usually follow, and more often than not it's crosses from wide positions which often lead to those vital goal-scoring opportunities. Against Villa we saw Nani produce one such cross from which Vidic scored a majestic headed equaliser; another excellent first-half cross was spurned when neither Hernandez, or the once again out-of-sorts looking Berbatov failed to move quickly enough.

Apart from giving the ball away cheaply on far too many occasions, United are not getting behind opposing defences and pulling the ball from dangerous positions, as we have done for much of Ferguson's reign as manager; it is why United are not creating chances.

United might well be unbeaten but the team has, to a degree, been getting away with it, and so for anyone looking for reasons why United are drawing so many games and asking why the Red Devils are not creating chances in front of goal, the answer can be found out on the flanks where United are traditionally so strong.

The quality of the cross is of course all important, and at present, only Nani seems capable of unlocking the door: Park doesn't use the ball well and Bebe is raw, untrusted and inexperienced; Giggs has been out injured and of course Valencia will be out until February at the earliest.

It is turning into something of a topsy-turvy season, with the likes of unfancied Newcastle and Sunderland winning away at Arsenal and Chelsea respectively recently. United are still in with a shout of winning some silverware, but even the most die-hard Red must surely agree that winning the Champions League is looking highly unlikely - realistically, the winning the FA Cup and or the Carling Cup looks like the Reds best bet; but if we are to achieve those domestic goals, United need to improve and quickly.

Monday, November 08, 2010

United must improve or face derby consequences..

Manchester United were in action against Wolves on Saturday, it was arguably the most disjointed performance of the season so far. United eventually ran out 2-1 winners but had to rely on a 93rd minute winner from the unlikely source of Ji-Sung Park; The South Korean also grabbed the Reds opening goal on the stroke of half-time. Former United starlet Ebanks-Blake was on target for the visitors, and on another day Wolves could easily have taken all three points.

United have now gone 18 games unbeaten this season, it's a remarkable statistic given the manner of some of the defending and mistakes made in the early part of the season. Next up, United face neighbours Manchester City at Eastlands on Wednesday; Roberto Mancini's team came off the back of a losing run of three consecutive games to win convincingly away at West Brom on Sunday and so the Citizens will be full confidence going into the derby, especially with Carlos Tevez back in harness.

City's captain always gives 100% - he is the consummate professional and he will be keen as ever to prove to Ferguson and United that they made a big mistake when screwing up and allowing him to slip away to the club's bitterest rivals.

United's unbeaten run will be given the severest test to date on Wednesday, of that we can be certain; if United play anywhere near as poorly as they did against Wolves on Saturday, then City will be level on points at the end of 90 minutes because they will have closed the gap, in so doing they will have ended that unbeaten run.

Against Wolves, for long periods United were quite simply dreadful; there was no cohesiveness and too many players gave away possession cheaply and too often. Owen Hargreaves made a surprise return to action following a lengthy spell on the sidelines, but he only lasted five minutes - but his replacement, Bebe, was awful. Bebe's crossing was terrible, as was his touch; the Portuguese winger suffered the ignominy of being replaced late on in the game by Macheda. Scholes restored a degree of control to United's attacking play after replacing John O'Shea in the 74th minute.

Ahead of the derby, Ferguson will be wrestling with the problem of who should start against City and with no Wayne Rooney, the United manager is likely to start the derby with just one striker, Berbatov, could well get the nod, but it's by no means a knocking bet, given his recent poor body language and head-shaking.

Fergie will probably start the derby with five across midfield; if Ryan Giggs does not recover from his recent injury problems, Park will be asked to play on the left with Nani on the opposite flank. Scholes will more than likely play in front of Carrick and Fletcher. City are very strong down both flanks and so whoever plays in the wide positions it is vital that they track back and help their respective fullback.

United must match City for effort from front to back and from start to finish. As ever, midfield will be a key area and it's here where City completely dominated both Liverpool and Chelsea at Eastlands earlier this season - United must not allow that to happen because if they do, the outcome will be disastrous.

United can win on Wednesday, but only if the collective and individual performance reaches levels not yet seen this season - a win looks like a big ask and a draw could prove to be a good bet.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Rooney off to USA prior to January sales?

So Wayne Rooney is being sent to Oregon for a week's conditioning; given United's facilities and in-house expertise and given Rooney has claimed there has been nothing wrong with him all season, then you have to wonder what is really going on here.

Despite the fact that Rooney decided to put pen to paper on that new five-year contract - in so doing performing a complete volte-face - the media and fans alike haven't really stopped talking about the player's future.

When news broke of Rooney's change of heart, everyone within Manchester United appeared to be delighted, at least they did on the face it; Ferguson and David Gill were happy to put on a united front for the world's media, but since then Rooney has been completely frozen out of the first-team picture.

Rooney was given time off to recover from what we were led to believe was a genuine injury following a tackle by Scholes in training, he was also given time off to patch up his marriage following the lurid allegations surrounding his private life.

The latest news that Rooney is being sent to the USA for 'conditioning' will without any doubt re-ignite speculation about his future, because the January transfer window is within sight.

According to United's latest medical bulletin, Rooney could be out for up to three weeks; there's talk that the home game with Wigan on November 20th is a likely return date - but only if this coming week goes to plan.

You have to wonder what is going on in the mind of Ferguson, there a several scenarios:

1) We are to believe what we are being told by the manager and his assistant

2) United are planning to sell Rooney in January - that is they are providing someone offers the right money - but for now, the player is being wrapped in cotton wool, hence his prolonged absence

3) Having been publicly humiliated over the Rooney saga, Ferguson is playing psychological games with the player - by freezing him out of the first-team he is telling his star striker he is not bigger than the club - the aim of the game is to make Rooney hungry for a first-team recall and to show who is boss

4) Ferguson is testing the mettle of his squad and gauging public support for the player who so openly questioned his management and outed him when he idirectly called him a liar

5) Ferguson is preparing for life after Rooney so that if and when the club receives a big money offer then he will know what those charged with scoring the goals can do.

Whatever the reason for Rooney's absence you can expect more speculation about his future over the coming days. Personally, I do not believe that Rooney is injured and so that leaves just four scenarios - it's probably a bit of all four.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Bebe and Obertan: despite the goals the jury is still very much out....

United did a thoroughly professional job on Bursapor on Tuesday when winning 3-0 away in Turkey. The result ensured United remain top of Group C and following a less than impressive opening Champions League performance against Rangers, it now looks like the Red Devils could finish as winners of the group.

Apart from the goals, it could be argued that the most notable aspect of this clash was the performance of the home supporters, who were quite simply amazing throughout despite the fact that they were watching their team lose.

As for the performance on the pitch, United controlled it pretty much from start to finish but without ever really turning on the style. Ferguson elected to start with Berbatov as the lone striker and he was flanked by Obertan on the right and Nani on the left. United's Portuguese winger never really does as well when he's played on the left and that certainly was the case again against Bursaspor. Nani had a poor game by his recent standards and was replaced by Park due to sustaining a groin injury on 30 minutes.

On the opposite flank and contrary to reports, Obertan didn't have a great game, he lost possession cheaply on too many occasions. However, the Frenchman scored his first Champions League goal for the club to make the score 2-0 and when it arrived it was worth the wait, because it was a stunning effort from fully 20 yards out. Hopefully, Obertan's goal will give him the confidence he needs to progress because in his previous outings he has shown signs that he has ability.

Fletcher had given United the lead just after half-time following United's most coherent attacking move of the game; the Scot raced into the Bursapor penalty area and was picked out by Michael Carrick, the Scotland captain's finish was clinical.

Fletcher picked up an ankle injury and was replaced by Bebe on 62 minutes. Bebe went on to score to seal the points for United and he also supplied one good cross following a surging run down the right.

The signing of Bebe has been mired in controversy following revelations that Ferguson had never actually seen him play before sanctioning a relatively hefty fee.

The jury is still very much out on Bebe, United's £7.4m winger has pace, but he lacks touch and pushes the ball too far in front of himself which allows defenders to easily pinch the ball; just like Bebe's first goal for the club, there was a huge slice of good fortune about the one he scored on Tuesday as it took another deflection; as Sky's Martin Tyler gleefully pointed out during the commentary, there is no dubious goals panel in the Carling Cup - it was an oblique reference to Bebe's first goal for the club.

Perhaps most worrying of all for Ferguson was the almost seemingly constant head-shaking by Berbatov; for the second game in a row the Bulgarian striker looked really out of sorts with his game. Perhaps Berbatov has become frustrated with his team-mates who should be doing better on the ball. There can be no doubt there's a great deal of room for improvement where retaining possession is concerned, like Obertan, Fletcher was guilty was giving the ball away cheaply on several occasions.

In summary, United played as well as they had to against a very average Bursapor, who have yet to score in the Champions League this season. United will need to raise their game by several notches if they are to stand any chance of progessing in the knockout phase of the competition.

Monday, November 01, 2010

'Carry-on' Clattenburg: Nani 'goal' wouldn't have changed result - so please do stop carping...

IT was one of the funniest things that I've seen happen on a football pitch in a long while - arguably the funniest since Paul di Canio pushed over Paul Durkin and in something of an ironic twist, Harry Redknapp was indirectly involved in that particular incident too as he was the then West Ham manager: I am of course referring to Nani's much talked about goal against Spurs on Saturday.

In the wake of this controversy, Spurs manager Redknapp has, predictably, been carping to the press and just about anyone else who'd listen - as always happens following these perceived unjust incidents.

So in a bid to clear up the rights and wrongs let us look at the facts:

Prior to Nani scoring (with just six minutes of the game remaining), United were already winning thanks to Vidic's first-half header.

Spurs never looked like scoring once Van der Vaart had left the pitch.

One of the first things you learn when you start playing the game is to play to the referee's whistle: Nani did it, but Spurs goalkeeper Gomez did not.

The referee and his linesman didn't see Nani's handball, but of course they should have done.

All in all, Spurs have every right to be upset, but even if the goal had been ruled out they still would have lost...

In the aftermath of Saturday's game Redknapp must have near worn out his soap-box this week but instead of focusing on the real issues, such as why was Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon so ineffective on the day, the Spurs manager has been moaning about Mark 'carry-on' Clattenburg.

The truth is, both Redknapp and Ferguson are past masters at deflecting attention away from the real issues. Still it was a very entertaining game, all the more so due to the incompetence of one our so called top referees...you have to laugh really.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Rooney: The king is dead. Long live the new king Chicharito...

Football is a very strange game: A week ago, Manchester United fans were coming to terms with the prospect of losing Wayne Rooney to Manchester City; according to the tabloid rumour-mill, the Rooney camp had been in negotiations with our bitterest rivals as far back as July. The prospect of losing Rooney following the loss of Ronaldo and Tevez was bad enough, but the fact City would be the most likely destination was to put it mildly, near vomit inducing.

Following his most successful season to date in the red shirt, Rooney had become the fans' number one hero; but all of that was undone in the space of just a few days following the news, that the player would not be extending his contract.

Rooney subsequently signed that new contract, but only after the club's owners were given a direct line to the player and in the conversations that followed assurances were given that Ferguson would be fully backed in the transfer market in the months ahead.

It was interesting to note that the media failed to pick up on a central point here: neither David Gill, CEO, or Ferguson himself were able to convince the player about the prospect of quality signings - is it not ironic that the Glazers' had to convince Rooney of their will to back the manager?

Ferguson and Gill have repeatedly told the fans' that there is money to spend on new players. However, Ferguson's word was clearly not enough for the player and so despite the fact his manager had done his best to turn the situation around and despite Rooney labelling his boss as a genius - there still appears to be a lack of trust.

It remains be to seen what happens in January and next summer when the transfer window opens, but for now two things look almost certain: the fans have a new hero in Javier Hernandez and secondly that Rooney has to rebuild his broken relationship with the supporters.

As for Hernandez, with the very real danger of appearing to burden the player with a comparison to a United legend, the signs look as though Ferguson and his scouts may well have unearthed the most natural goal-scorer since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Hernandez scored the only goal of the game against Valencia in the Champions League recently, he scored against West Brom at Old Trafford, he followed that up with a brace against Stoke City at the weekend; the young Mexican's striker headed goal against the Potters was amazing, Chicharito twisted and arched his neck as he directed the ball off his head into the rigging, it was a goal of the very highest quality - Chicharitos acrobatic leap was reminiscent of one those performing Sea Lions at feeding time - marvelous stuff.

In last night's Carling Cup tie against Wolves at Old Trafford the Mexican came off the bench to score the winner with another superbly crafted goal as United came out on top in a second-half five goal thriller.

The way things are looking, Rooney might well struggle to regain his starting place in the United first team due to the emerging talent that is Hernandez. However, Rooney and Hernandez are very different strikers: Rooney may well, in time, be preferred in a 4-5-1/4-3-3 formation, because Chicharito is best suited to playing with a strike partner, whereas Rooney can lead the line on his own.

Hernandez is an excellent striker in around the penalty box, so much so that he could well become the new king of Old Trafford following Rooney's fall from favour with the fans'; once again this demonstrates how strange football can be at times, because prior to recent events, no one could have predicted how quickly a star like Rooney could fall and to such depths. The King is dead. Long live the New King.


James Ryddel and other top United bloggers have their say on big Rooney debate

Friday, October 22, 2010

Rooney staying, but Fergie's problems are far from over...

Forty eight hours ago Ferguson stated that the Rooney deal saga would be put to bed the following morning: at that point in time, no one, apart from those directly involved could have known what the manager meant when he said: "put to bed".

Personally, I had a feeling there might be one last attempt to get the player and his agent around the negotiating table, because United were facing a real crisis that could have had far reaching consequences for the club and manager in the short-term.

Losing Rooney following his claims that the club could no longer match his ambitions was to put it bluntly, embarrassing, for United. The reasons given for wanting to leave were justified, because United have not gone out and signed the players who would ensure the team keeps on winning trophies. The manager and many United fans didn't like it, but what Rooney said in his statement was true.

The reaction to news that Rooney wanted out was predictable: the fans were really upset, the talk of joining City just ramped up the pressure on Ferguson and United.

In the wake of the quit story breaking, there's been various theories punted: Rooney had been tapped-up by City; Fergie and Rooney had brokered some sort of elaborate conspiracy with a view to convincing the Glazers' to back the manager in the transfer market; the latter scenario is a stretch too far for this blog - there's no way this has been a conspiracy, for one thing, there isn't enough intelligence in one of the camps...

The news that Rooney has agreed to sign a new five-year deal will receive a mixed reaction. For those fans who'd called Rooney the scum of the earth and a lot worse, there will no doubt be a period of reflection and healing because the love has clearly been lost, but hopefully not forever.

Rooney's crime was expressing his seemingly greater ambition than our own beloved manager, who has failed to make decisive moves for several world-class midfield players over the last couple seasons and contrary to his expressed views - these players have been good value for money: I refer Wesley Sneijder (15 million Euros), Mesut Ozil (£12m) and Raphael van der Vaart (£10m). Contrary, the views of some observers, this wasn't about wages and following news of this new deal, hopefully that will now be accepted.

Rooney and every Manchester United supporter has the right to express their views on the current squad; by going public, Rooney might well have done the fans', supporters' groups and his manager a huge favour because hopefully the club will take a more pro-active approach to solving the very obvious issues in the current squad. United need four top-class players and the search cannot start soon enough.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Rooney to City, it's a nailed on certainty: Move will mark lowest point in Fergie's time at United....

Manchester United supporters are still coming to terms with the confirmation that Wayne Rooney wants to quit the club. Ferguson took the very unusual step of making the announcement himself at yesterday's press conference ahead of this evenings Champions League clash with Bursaspor.

The United manager claims that Rooney's agent intimated that the player wasn't going to renew his contract as far back as August. However, those claims have been denied by the Rooney camp; the other side say, they only broke the news last Wednesday following the reported bust-up over the player's 'injuries' and his subsequent loss of form and his starting place in the first-team.

Only those directly involved know the real truth, but clearly there are conflicting reports over the timing of what actually happened and when.

What we don't yet know is why Rooney is leaving: we will we ever know the real truth? Perhaps. For now, we have to analyse what has happened and how this will affect United going forward without Rooney.

First things first: Why did Ferguson make this announcement himself?

There will, without doubt, be many answers trotted out to this question, but here's our take:

Rooney went public last week when telling the nation that Ferguson had been lying over those ankle injury claims. In response, Ferguson said "it was water off a duck's back". The fact that Rooney had gone against his manager by effectively calling him liar was a very worrying sign, predictably the transfer rumour-mill swung into action.

United fans will recall that in a similar situation, Ronaldo had told Ferguson of his wish to leave the club 12 months before the move actually happened. Ferguson struck a deal with Ronaldo, but it was all kept under wraps for 12 months. In this instance, rather than try to keep the news from the fans, and perhaps unwisely by making the announcement mid-season, the club runs the risk of lowering any bids because the whole world knows Rooney's time at United is over...

Contrary to his "water off a ducks back" response, Ferguson was clearly livid with Rooney and understandably so. Our view is that the United manager took the very unusual step of breaking the news himself in an attempt to regain the moral high-ground with the fans and media. Ferguson may well have regained the high-ground with the fans but at what price?

So what is Rooney's likely response?
The rumour-mill suggests that the player has lost confidence in his manager, because he has failed to bring in adequate replacements for Ronaldo and Tevez.

While Ferguson may well have temporarily regained the morale high-ground, this response is something of an open goal for Rooney - because it is true - and there's nothing Fergie or anyone else at United can do that will convince supporters otherwise.

Rooney was left to carry the burden of scoring the goals last season, as soon as the player sustained that injury against Bayern Munich, United's season was effectively over.

No matter what Fergie says, United are in decline and we the fans cannot escape that conclusion and if there was any doubt, Rooney's departure is the final confirmation.

So where is Rooney heading?
Earlier this week one report claimed that the Glazers' had put Ferguson in total charge of the Rooney saga; It was also claimed that the manager would dictate Rooney's destination and the timing of any move.

United fans may well be hoping, and make no mistake, we are, that Rooney will not be sold to Manchester City and for very obvious reasons. Sadly, United are in no position to dictate given the financial mess the club are in because of the Glazer family takeover.

There's no way Chelsea, Real Madrid or Barcelona are daft enough to offer top money for Rooney - not in this situation when everyone knows how bad relationships are between player and manager.

The only likely destination is Eastlands. Manchester City would pay £50m just to rub United's nose in it. No matter that Rooney could be just another reserve, but that scenario is unlikely, well it is, assuming the player can recapture the form that saw him score so many vital goals last season.

So what does the future hold for United and Ferguson?
With United playing so indifferently this season and with Rooney heading for the exit door as early as January, United chances of winning the Premier League or the Champions League look remote.

Inevitably, Rooney's departure will ignite talk of Ferguson retiring sooner rather than later. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but you wonder if Ferguson will live to regret not retiring in 2008 after winning the Champions League final, because it looks like the United manager will not be leaving on a high-note, not unless the club goes out and matches the ambitions of the fans in the transfer market, but there's more chance of the Pope defecting to the church of England while the Glazers' are in charge.

Rooney and the critics can claim, with some justification, that there's a massive rebuilding job to do at Old Trafford and given is age, it's fair to ask if Ferguson is the man to do it. Ferguson will not be sacked, you guarantee that much, not least because of his sickening support for the debt laden Glazer regime.

We could see Fergie leaving United at the end of the current season, but his pride is likely to be further damaged if Rooney defects to City and subsequently pours scorn on his former manager for failing to adequately strengthen the squad. Yet, Fergie's pride could be the very thing that drives him to carry on, but if he does, he runs the risk of being compared to a punch-drunk boxer who doesn't know when to quit.

In summary:
Rooney has disappointed the supporters, who may have been shocked, but we shouldn't be surprised at this turn of events. Rooney left Everton his boyhood club for better things, he may well argue that is what he's doing this time around: we the fans' might not agree, but results on the pitch are ultimately what count and only time will tell what the future holds for United and Rooney.

Was Fergie right to go public and make the announcement himself? In some ways yes, but in other ways no. He was right because it gave the manager a chance to get across his very obvious disappointment and to convey his side of the story, but in so doing, he lowered himself and importantly he might well have indirectly lowered the player's eventual transfer fee.

They say every cloud has a silver-lining and in this case, the silver-lining is that Rooney's defection to City could foreshorten the Glazers' stay at United, because Ferguson won't be around much longer and once he goes the owners will follow not longer after. There's a very real possibility that United's days at the top of the domestic game are well and truly over. United are a house of cards that are waiting to collapse. And the clock is ticking for the Glazers'.

In years to come, when we look back at Ferguson's time at the club, Rooney's defection will undoubtedly be one of, if not the lowest point in his United career.

It remains to be see how the fans' will react to the news that Rooney wants out. It is to be hoped United fans do not boo one of our own players while he's on the pitch - not while he's still at the club - it would be embarrassing if that happened.

United have lost/sold better players than Rooney in the recent past: Beckham and Cantona to name just two; but this time it's different, because the squad is so short of genuine star quality.

The nearest comparison is George Best, who back in the early 70s had been carrying an ageing squad for a number of years; when Best left United were eventually relegated. There's no way Rooney should ever be compared to a genuine United legend and let me make it clear I'm not even half suggesting that for a moment.

Rooney carried United for just one season and now he wants out. We don't yet know why, it doesn't actually matter why, the only thing that matters is that he no longer wants to play for United. Fine. Let him go. United will move on, in time the club will bounce back because we always do.

Finally, only those among us who still believe in Father Christmas will believe that Fernando Torres is going to be Rooney's replacement.

Buckle your seatbelts, it's going to be a very bumpy ride for the next few seasons, especially for those who only started following the club from the early nineties onwards...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Fergie facing sack over Rooney? There's more chance of Postman Pat becoming United's next manager....

The future of Wayne Rooney continues to be the hottest talking point in football, with reports claiming the club will not meet the player's excessive wage demands.

But money appears to be only one of a number of issues. Wayne Rooney is said to be one of the few United player's who will stand up to Ferguson. And amidst reports of a recent bust-up over revelations about Wayne's private life, the relationship between player and manager has been further strained following Rooney's recent counter-injury claims in relation to Ferguson going on record on numerous occasions stating that United's talisman has been playing with injuries this season.

United supporters will be desperately hoping Rooney backs down and makes the peace with his manager, but that scenario is beginning to look unlikely. United held a UNICEF press conference yesterday, but the topic of Wayne Rooney was off limits, however, David Gill, CEO, stated that an announcement would be made at the appropriate time. According to eye witnesses, Ferguson was in fine fettle and if he is concerned about the possible departure of his star striker he didn't show it.

If the tabloid gossip columns are to be believed, Rooney is said to have a number of grievances; one of which is the current state of the United squad following the sale of Ronaldo and Tevez. It is claimed that Rooney is unhappy because the club hasn't strengthened the squad adequately.

From the fans' perspective it's difficult to know who is telling the truth in these situations, because both parties will be leaking their side of the story to the press. One thing looks certain, there's too many stories for this to be yet another tabloid kite flying exercise; so we the fans' have to prepare ourselves for Rooney's possible departure - and quite possibly to Manchester City too.

As expected the media are having a field day, and as per usual there's an awful lot of guff and spin, sans any concrete facts. One report claims that the Glazers' have told Ferguson to do what he thinks is best, but according to David McDonnell of the Daily Mirror, the manager's head is on the chopping block should Rooney leave the club: I haven't heard anything as ridiculous since David Steel told the Liberal party conference to go back to their constituencies and prepare for government in 1981.

I cannot think of any scenario in which the Glazers' would sack Ferguson: he has been a solid supporter of the family since the much maligned takeover back in 2005 - much to the annoyance of this blog and the majority of right thinking United supporters - the loss of Rooney is big news, but it most definitely will not spell the end for Ferguson. There's more chance of Postman Pat becoming United's next manager and I'm referring to the one from Greendale and not Fabio Capello - though there is an uncanny likeness...

Monday, October 18, 2010

United heading for meltdown as Rooney looks set for exit door...

IF we are to believe the widespread media reports about the future of troubled Wayne Rooney, then it looks like he could be about to quit the club. Alarmingly for United's money men, Rooney is into the last 20 months of his contract and following claims of a complete relationship breakdown between player and manager, it is now suggested the club's talisman could be leaving as soon as January. Moves to Barcelona, Real Madrid and worst of all money-bags Manchester City have been mooted.

With so little time left to run on his contract, from a negotiating point of view, United could be forced to accept a cut-price offer for the player, because Real Madrid and Barcelona are unlikely to break the bank when they know full well that they could sign the player for free in a little over 12 months time.

Clearly, Rooney is no Cristiano Ronaldo and so there's no hope in hell of coming anywhere near the £80m United received from Real Madrid for the Portuguese winger; more likely, United will receive between £20m and £30m at best.

For supporters, this news will be hard to stomach, because in the space of just two years it looks like the club will have lost Ronaldo, Tevez and Rooney.

Ronaldo and Tevez have moved on and despite many United supporters claiming Tevez wasn't worth his agent's asking price of £30m, the fact is, the City striker has now out-scored Rooney (Total goals, Rooney: 37 Tevez: 42) over the last two seasons.
Ronaldo is working his magic for Real Madrid and it looks like Rooney will heading for the same exit door.

If as expected Rooney leaves it will be the latest significant marker in United's decline following the Glazer takeover of the club in 2005. You cannot allow players of the calibre of Ronaldo, Tevez and now Rooney to leave without replacing them with world-class players and United have failed to do that.

Despite claiming the club has money to spend, talk is cheap, and United haven't spent the £80m that they received from the sale of Ronaldo. Ferguson failed to make any significant moves for either Sneijder or Mesut Ozil and so the manager is still relying on 35-year-old veterans Giggs and Scholes.

Following an indifferent start to the new season, there has to be a very real prospect that Manchester City could finish above United in the Premier League, if that happens then what is the point of our manager and CEO claiming there's money in the bank? However, the truth is of the £165m in the club coffers, the Glazers can reportedly take out £130m and let's not forget that United are being crippled by staggering annual interest payments that dwarf those of Liverpool who last week had their debts wiped out following yet another takeover.

United are without any shadow of doubt heading for meltdown and the clock is ticking for the Glazers, because by the time Ferguson retires United could be a mid-table Premier League club - at least we will be unless the team is strengthened with the addition of four world-class players. Ferguson needs two midfield players, a striker and a goalkeeper, but will it happen? Don't hold your breath.

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