Monday, May 31, 2010

Ferguson must move heaven and earth to sign Joe Cole...

Anyone who saw the England comedy road-show in Austria on Sunday will have been left in no doubt about the value of Joe Cole. In the first half against Japan, England were rubbish and that's putting it politely, they were clueless truth be told.

We are led to believe up and until the fixture with Japan, Fabio Capello wasn't sure if he was going to include Joe Cole in his final 23-man squad for this summer's World Cup finals. If the speculation is actually true, it raises serious questions about the Italian's judgement, because it was only after the introduction of Joe Cole and a change in formation that England began to look capable of actually playing a half decent brand of football.

It is to be hoped Ferguson was watching, as Joe Cole linked up extremely well with Wayne Rooney. Reports have linked Cole to United over the last few weeks, it is claimed he is surplus to requirements at Stamford Bridge. However, Cole is no cast-off, he is well capable of making Chelsea regret allowing him to leave, especially on a free transfer.

With little or no cash to spend where the search for proven quality additions to the United squad are concerned, if Ferguson does nothing else this summer, he must surely move heaven and earth to sign Joe Cole.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Red Knights to put bid on hold....

According to the Sunday Times, sources close to the 'Red Knights' have indicated they will not be be making a bid to buy troubled Manchester United in the foreseeable future. The 'Red Knights' have not made an official statement, but if this report proves to be true it will be hugely disappointing for those fans who've supported the Green and Gold campaign.

Sunday Times - Red Knights put bid on ice.

The two sides of Ferguson: Great manager, but his reputation as a man has been tainted...

There's no doubt about Ferguson's standing among the list of great British managers' - he's right up there with the very best - in the eyes of many he is the best. However, many United fans have a different view of Fergie, the man. Many supporters are disappointed with the United manager because of his loyal, but misguided support for the Glazer family, at least that is how the supporters see it.

Since 2005 and following the Glazer family takeover of the club, Ferguson has had a difficult job, not least because of a lack of transfer funds; in this respect and according to supporters group MUST, the family haven't put a single penny of their own money into the club following their debt laden acquisition.

The summer transfer window is open for business and Fergie needs to strengthen his squad with the addition of three proven signings who can perform at the very highest level. At the season end, Fergie hinted there would be additions to the squad, but since then the manager has played down the prospect of wholesale changes. On Friday, the club announced losses of £67m for the first nine months of the financial year; in response, analysts say the existing business model does not work unless players are sold 'United must sell players to pay debt'.

Given the financial plight of the club under the current regime, it is easy to understand why the fans question Ferguson's public support for the Glazer family. The thing is this, Ferguson doesn't need to say anything about the owners - in the eyes of the fans this would be more acceptable than supporting his paymasters so publicly.

Some supporters believe if Fergie had spoken out in 2005 against the takeover, the city institutions who enabled the Glazers' massively leveraged acquisition to go ahead might not have done so. We will never know how much validity there is behind that claim, what we do know is Fergie has been an avid supporter of the Glazers', but will he live to regret this stance if United's fortunes on and off the pitch nose-dive?

In the eyes of many unhappy match-going supporters, no matter what Fergie does in the remainder of his time as manager of United, his reputation as a man has been tainted and not just because of his support for the Glazer family.

Let us remember Ferguson had a good relationship with Irish horse-racing tycoons JP McManus and John Magnier. The pair went on to become major shareholders in the club via their investment vehicle Cubic Expression. However, Ferguson famously fell out with John Magnier, reportedly over stud rights to a jointly owned horse Rock of Gibraltor.

The Glazer family started buying shares in United in 2003 and following the reported fall-out with Magnier, the Irish duo eventually sold their United shareholding to the Glazer family. In fairness, McManus and Magnier always maintained that their interest in United was purely from an investment perspective - they were always going to sell at some point. Nonetheless, it was hugely disappointing that Cubic Expression chose to sell to the Glazer family...the decision to sell to the Americans came about after the much publicised spat with Ferguson, who at one time was said to be a friend. It is therefore fair to ask if Magnier was punishing Ferguson following the Rock of Gibraltor bust-up. Magnier and McManus are not fools, they must have known how potentially damaging the Glazer takeover could turn out to be, given the levels debt they were taking on, and if you accept this scenario, again it is fair to ask was this Cubic Expression's way of punishing Ferguson?

It was a win, win situation for the Irish duo; Magnier has never stepped foot inside Old Trafford and the McManus family reportedly support Arsenal; neither of them are United supporters - they had no real interest in the club. Inevitably, the net result of the Glazers' pursuit of taking the club private pushed up the club's share price and they ended up paying over £3 per share; the same shares that no long before could be purchased for just 99p. Cubic Expression made a killing on their United shares (as did many other investors) and when they eventually sold out, they effectively screwed United and Fergie into the bargain.

Since 2005, the cost of United season tickets has risen by 42% - which is another reason why Ferguson should not be supporting the owners so publicly.

Ferguson also blotted his copybook when he questioned the character of United legend Brian Kidd in his autobiography Managing My Life. In 1998 Kidd had taken charge of Blackburn Rovers, but he was sacked in 1999 not long after Ferguson's book was published.

Other controversies include the departure of club doctor .Mike Stone, who was by all accounts a very popular figure within Old Trafford during his time with the club

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Transfer alarm bells ringing: Is Jose Mourinho about to scupper Fergie's plans?

Jose Mourinho will be unveiled as Real Madrid's new coach on Monday (as predicted on this blog a few weeks ago). The news comes as no great surprise, but nonetheless there's good reason why United fans should be concerned: It is expected Mourinho will make a move to sign Nemanja Vidic and quite possibly soon to be out of contract Joe Cole too.

Mourinho is a big fan of Joe Cole - a player he converted from circus act into a serious performer, one who is fit for the biggest of stages.

Vidic won few fans over earlier on this season with some of his antics at a time when there was much talk about a possible move to Spain or Italy, but there's no doubting the Serbian's importance to the squad, especially as it looks like Rio Ferdinand's days could be numbered in the top flight given his continued back problems.

Even before it was known Mouriho was Real bound, it was clear to many observers Ferguson needed at least three new proven additions to the squad: a new striker is top of the shopping list, closely followed by a play-maker and a new centre-back. If Vidic goes and Cole signs for Jose, then Fergie's problems will be so much the greater because it could be argued the United manager will need to find two new centre-backs.

Failure to strengthen adequately last summer proved to be costly to United. In terms of squad building, the club stood still - Valencia was the only bright spot - this at a time when ageing players like Neville, Scholes, Giggs and Van der Sar are still key components of the first-team. But in a season in which the previously accepted 'top four' all went backwards, Fergie got away with it, but for how much longer?....

If and it's a very big IF we are to believe David Gill, United's CEO, Fergie has money to spend this summer on new players, but with the World Cup just around the corner the latest speculation suggests Fergie will not be adding proven quality to the squad apart from the possible arrival of Joe Cole.

It seems something within the corridors of power of Old Trafford has changed since the season end, because back then Fergie hinted the squad needed strengthening, since then the manager has done his level best to dampen expectations when letting it be known we might only see one addition to the squad.

Added to the mix there's been much talk about a possible takeover by the Red Knights, however, the Glazers and David Gill have gone out of their way to state publicly the club is 'not for sale' and there's no transfer restrictions as far as potential transfer targets are concerned.

You have to wonder why the Glazers took the unusual step of making that statement, one that was announced on the very same day an interview with David Gill appeared in the Independent. Could it be that just perhaps season ticket sales have fallen through the floor and that is why Gill has so publicly gone on record claiming the manager has money to spend?

Gill and the Glazers need to understand the fans are not stupid: until the manager starts to spend and starts acting like a manager of a club with ambitions of matching Europe's biggest clubs in the transfer market, the fans will not fall for this PR offensive.

On the future of the Glazers, it is to be hoped the fans take direct action and do not renew their season tickets this summer. If enough supporters do not renew then the Glazers would soon be out of Old Trafford. Actions speak louder than words.

Perhaps fear of a mass walk out will be cited as reason for not spending at some point in the future. Personally, if it was a choice of getting rid of the Glazers or Fergie spending heavily this summer then I'd opt for the former rather than the latter.

Irrespective of the contents of David Gill's interview this week in the Independent, the noises coming out of Old Trafford via the press suggest little or no money will be spent this summer on recognised quality signings, and if that scenario turns out to be true, it will mean United will have stood still for the second season in succession and that will confirm the club are well and truly on the road to nowhere.

'United must sell players to pay debt'

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Reports claim Glazers ready to spend on "team building": Talk is cheap...

According to David Bond, BBC online Sports Editor, representatives of the Glazers have been briefing journalists about their plans for United. Instead of starting to pay off their huge PIK (payment in kind) debts, it is claimed 'team building' is more important to the clubs owners...

United fans won't be surprised to hear that the Glazers aren't keen to pay-off their debts, but talk of 'team building' will rightly be met with much cynicism, because the Glazers have barely spent since taking over the club.

Many fans do not expect Ferguson to give honest answers about the clubs owners, his support for the family has been unflinching; when asked about this subject the United manager has always claimed the Glazers are model owners. However, it was only a couple of weeks ago that Fergie hinted he could be about to embark on a rebuilding project, but subsequently he has suggested there's 'no value' in the transfer market, he has also hinted he can no longer compete with big spending Man City and Chelsea.

So the position is this, the fans don't actually know if Fergie has any money to spend on transfers and according to reports the owners have no intention of starting to pay off their debts. It's a very cosy little relationship between manager and owners, but their game playing antics will most definitely NOT win the title back unless the manager is supported in the transfer market this summer. Talk is cheap and United cannot afford to stand still in terms of squad development for another season as happened in the season just gone.

A very poor article, one that is full of contradictions.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

No money to spend: It's time for Fergie to think outside the box and play Rafael in midfield...

Ferguson would dearly love to strengthen his squad this summer, despite his comments about lack of value in the market. The problem being, Ferguson's hands are tide, the manager has little room to manoeuvre due to the awful financial situation at the club following the debt laden acquisition by the Glazer family.

United need to sign three or four top quality players this summer: Fergie needs a central midfield player - someone who can take over from Scholes; the manager is also in desperate need of a goal-scorer, someone who will take some of the burden off the shoulders of Wayne Rooney. You can add a goalkeeper and a centre half to Fergie's shopping list.

With little money to spend what can the manager do? The answer is make better use of the players who are already at his disposal. Here's a question for United fans, who out of the following is the better footballer: Fletcher, Carrick or Rafael da Silva?

The answer is blindingly obvious: It has to be Rafael and yet our glorious leader plays him at full-back. It is a waste of the young Brazilian's many talents. Rafael, can do it all: he can pass, tackle, shoot and run all day long.

If we are to believe tabloid speculation, Carrick could soon be sold; that is providing another club is willing to pay United's asking price which could prove to be a problem, because Fergie paid far too much to bring him to Old Trafford. United could well be looking at a £10m loss on any Carrick deal.

So Carrick and Berbatov could still be at the club next season, if that is the case, like the season just gone, United are in serious danger of standing still in terms of first-team development. Fergie and his players are going to have to work harder and importantly the manager must get more out of those already at the club; Rafael and possibly Fabio da Silva could be provide part of the answer in midfield.

Rafael hasn't blossomed yet and his attacking style is more suited to running at defences rather than being restricted to defensive duties. Rafael could be a revelation in midfield - if only he's given a chance.

Carrick simply isn't good enough and as much as the fans love a runner like Fletcher, his distribution lets him down. Fergie recently suggested he was going to rely on the young players who've been developing at the club; next season the manager needs to back up that talk with action, he could start by playing Rafael in midfield.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Javier Hernandez: Another shot in the dark, or the new Michael Owen?

England were in action last night at Wembley, the Three Lions ran out 3-1 winners, but the score-line flattered Capello's team. At times England looked very much second best against a skillful and hard working Mexico outfit. Somewhat against the run of play, Ledley King and Peter Crouch scored; both first-half goals came from set-pieces. Mexico were not helped by the fact their goalkeeper Perez is only 5ft 7in, he is the football equivalent of "Mini Me".

Rio Ferdinand was partnered by Ledley King in the middle of the back four, both central defenders made mistakes which could easily have resulted in Mexico winning or drawing this friendly; only the thickness of the post and a excellent one-handed save by Robert Green denied the visitors two first half goals.

Mexico pulled a goal back just before half-time and on this occasion Ferdinand was guilty of ball-watching and allowing his man to run free as Franco punished sloppy England.

Based on this performance, England do not have a prayer of getting anywhere near winning this summer's World Cup in South Africa. The England back four looks less than solid and Mexico found it all too easy to stroll through England's midfield. Steven Gerrard was a passenger alongside James Milner (the poor man's Gareth Barry). Michael Carrick was sloppy in possession and at times in the opening period was a liability, in total fairness, he made one excellent challenge which denied Mexico a shooting opportunity.

Up front Wayne Rooney started alongside Peter Crouch; quite why Capello felt the need to risk playing the United striker for the full ninety minutes on a poor Wembley surface was baffling to put it mildly. Rooney is England's only genuine world-class in-form player and after several recent injuries, surely any sensible manager wouldn't have risked playing him in what was a meaningless friendly, given Rooney's place in the side is a assured.

Onlooking United fans will have tuned-in to see how new signing Javier Hernandez fared in his first outing on English soil. The young Mexico striker came on at half time when replacing Franco.

Hernandez looked lively in around the penalty area without being able to make any meaningful impact on the game. England improved in the second-half, so much so that it's difficult to remember a clear goal-scoring opportunity for the visitors.

Going off his performance against England, Hernandez plays very much in the style of Michael Owen; he plays on the shoulder of the last central defender and like Owen his movement around the box is excellent. Whether or not Fergie really needed another Michael Owen type of striker is a good question to ask. Regardless of his suitability to play alongside Rooney and possibly to even lead United's forward line, there will be huge question marks about Hernandez over the coming weeks and months, not least because he's young and Mexican.

There is likely difficult period of adjustment for the young striker and it might take some time before he settles, only then will United fans see the best of him.

The contest was effectively over just after half-time following the goal of the game when Glen Johnson crashed home from the edge of the Mexico penalty area.

Prediction: England will be on the first plane home following the first-round of knockout games.

This blog will be monintoring the performances of all the key United players over the World Cup as well as commenting on players who might/should be on Ferguson's radar. Watch this space.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Fergie won't win back title by shopping in the bargain basement...

In the wake of a disappointing season end and seemingly with little prospect of any proven star quality signings this summer, Fergie spoke to the media this week in defence of his paymasters when explaining the logic behind his team-building plans for the future. Fergie claims the Glazers are 'great owners' - it is enough to make you want to vomit, given the club is mired in so much debt. What next, will Fergie try to convince us that smoking is actually good for you? Suffice to say the fans do not enjoy these bouts of public 'boot-licking' in support of the Glazer regime.

Fergie also suggested the fans' don't appreciate the fact that the club have recently agreed to spend £20m on Chris Smalling, Javier Hernandez and Mame Diouf. The truth is, few will have been impressed by Fergie's insight: £20m isn't a lot of money. However, if any one of the three actually comes good then it could well turn out to be money well spent. On the admittedly limited evidence of what we have seen so far of Mame Diouf, it doesn't look like the Senegalese striker will cut it at United, but time will ultimately tell.

Fergie has made a habit of banging on about lack of value in the transfer market and at a time when the United manager is seemingly unable to compete with domestic rivals like City and Chelsea for big name signings, there's a point that we all to need to understand: Ultimately, it doesn't matter how much money is spent to bring a player to Old Trafford; the important thing is IT HAS TO BE THE RIGHT PLAYER. In other words, the manager and his scouting team have to have done their homework. Think, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Denis Irwin and Eric Cantona: three inspired signings that went on to be true United legends who were signed for proverbial peanuts.

The manager hasn't helped his own case for spending big with some of his most recent signings: Berbatov hasn't been a disaster, but it's telling that in the biggest of fixtures Fergie has ditched 4-4-2 and consigned the Bulgarian to bench warming - it doesn't matter how many times Fergie tells us "Berbatov is a great player", his own actions speak louder than any words. One suspects Fergie might even be trying to convince himself. There's no doubting Berbatov's talent, but his application leaves an awful lot to be desired - he will NEVER be a major United star in the eyes of many supporters.

Michael Carrick is another former Spurs player who has seemingly fallen from grace and here again United paid too much for him when splashing out £18m. It would surprise few if both Carrick and Berbatov were sold, because that will happen either this summer or very soon after, it is only a matter of when.

At a time when Fergie is scratching around for money and new talent you do wonder if United are on the road to nowhere? But, if we are to believe Fergie, he can spend the Ronaldo money: the fans' will only believe the manager when and if he goes out and brings some proven quality to the squad - going off his most recent comments it seems that won't be happening any time soon, not unless Fergie is being cute with the media.

The summer transfer heat is on the manager: the fans' only want to see the very best players at United, but with little room to manoeuvre due to lack of funds, the supporters hopes don't look like being matched with action by the manager.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Milner is the wrong transfer target...Fergie should let City have him, but not until we've added a few noughts on the asking price...

If, and it's a very big if, Fergie actually has any money to spend this summer then he shouldn't be wasting it on another winger. United already have Park, Giggs, Valencia and Nani: he doesn't need James Milner.

Fergie is in desperate need of another goal-scorer, someone who can take the weight off Rooney and preferably someone who will complement the England striker. Berbatov isn't that man, what's more, despite what the manager says publicly, he has lost faith with the Bulgarian. For the record, Milner has scored an average of just over 4.2 goals in nine seasons, but he did well last season scoring 12: clearly, Milner isn't going to provide much support for Rooney and clearly, if the manager did indeed want to bring him to Old Trafford then would Fergie wouldn't be expecting him to score 20 goals a season.

There was a time when Fergie could have signed Milner and or Aaron Lennon for peanuts, that was when they were both still with Leeds United. Milner was eventually sold to Newcastle for just £3.6m; Lennon was sold for just £1m. The figures are sobering at this time when Fergie is carping about lack of value: the trick is to spot talent early and make your move before these developing stars blossom, which did not happen in both instances. The asking price for either player would now be ridiculous and out of proportion to their worth.

Milner has the attraction of being ‘versatile’; apparently he can play in midfield too. The question is could Milner do a better job than Fletcher, Carrick, Giggs and Scholes? Here again the answer is probably not. Granted, Milner is still developing, he's young too, but he's just another runner: a player with bags of energy.

Fergie most definitely needs to replace Scholes, but Milner isn't the right player. Fergie needs a midfield general - not another water-carrier: United already have a bucket full of them.

If Fergie spent £30m on Milner it would amount to a criminal waste of money when other areas of the team need strengthening, especially with a lack of funds at the manager's disposal.

Manchester City want Milner; Fergie should let them have him, but not until United's 'interest' has raised the asking price to well over £30m by appearing to want him.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Fergie hints at transfer changes: United set to settle for second best?

On the very morning The Times reported a hike in the Glazers interest payments in relation to their huge debts, United fans will have been slightly surprised - but one suspects, not shocked - by Fergie's latest comments about the current squad. The manager has hinted there's little prospect of the club bringing in players of the required quality that will ensure the team can compete on all fronts next season.

Instead of spending big, Fergie says he's going to put his trust in new signings Javier Hernandez and Chris Smalling, in addition to the players who are already at the club.

Fergie was speaking to the press in New York ahead of United's four game tour of North America. In essence, the manager is hinting the club can longer compete with the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea.

There is no question the current United squad has stood still in the last twelve months following the high-profile departures of Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez. Chelsea won the title race; they did so without being outstanding and lost six league games along the way. Only two seasons ago, the Premier League was regarded by many as the best league in Europe, but no more.

The fact that United finished runner-up to Chelsea was no great crumb of comfort; nor was the fact that Liverpool finished seventh and that Arsenal have stood still too. The harsh truth of the matter is, the United squad that included Ronaldo and Tevez would have cantered to the title.

Fergie says there might be one addition to the current squad; it is to be hoped that player is a goal scorer, because Fergie was forced to flog Rooney to death last season and it will be very interesting to see how he well he recovers following what is likely to be an arduous World Cup campaign this summer. Rooney is in serious danger of suffering from burn-out.

In relation to the manager's 'no value' comments; Fergie could have tried to sign Lucio and Sneijder for a combined fee of 20m Euros - instead Jose Mourinho snapped them up. United fan's know all about Ivica Olic, he is one of the leading goal scorers in this season's Champions League, but many supporters will be surprised to learn the Croatian signed for Bayern Munich on a free transfer in 2009. The players listed above underscore the point that there most definitely IS value to be had for those managers who do their homework.

Putting aside the comments about 'value', you also begin to wonder if the Glazers have put the screws on Fergie following the money lavished on Carrick and Berbatov. Fergie spent nearly £50m to bring the pair to Old Trafford and according to the transfer grapeline, we hear both could be moved on this summer. Fergie has hinted Berbatov is staying put; but you wonder if that's because the club could be looking at a potential £15m loss on player for signed for £30m. It could well be the same scenario as far as Carrick is concerned; Fergie signed the former Spurs player for £18m, but how much is he worth now?

Despite what Fergie says, the current squad isn't good enough; there are problems in all departments: Rio Ferdinand is injury prone, Scholes has one season left in him at best - there is no heir apparent in central midfield. The problems up front are well documented; it is the same in the goalkeeping department. Fergie must think the fans' are daft he seriously thinks we believe this clap-trap about being good enough going forward with the current squad.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Up for grabs: Diego Forlan: The ultimate scouse buster...

Like Dimitar Berbatov, former United striker Diego Forlan's worth divides opinion among the fans; the Uruguayan striker scored some very important goals for the club, particularly against Liverpool, for this reason, the Athletico Madrid star will always be fondly remembered by the Red Army.

It was great to see Diego & Co knocking Liverpool out of the Europa League semi-final. Well, the good news is the former United striker has been imortalised in art. Luton based illustrator Elliott Quince is holding a charity art exhibition during this summer's World Cup in South Africa.

The "Got, got, got, need!" exhibition consists of hand-painted portraits featuring one player from each of the 32 nations competing at the 2010 World Cup.

The exhibition also features United stars Wayne Rooney and Nemanja Vidic.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Fergie's Transfer Target List: #2 David Villa

If we are to believe the media, Sir Alex Ferguson, has been trying to sign Valencia's David Villa, 28, ever since the club off-loaded Ruud Van Nistelrooy. The Spanish international has been linked to United and Chelsea over the last few seasons, but until now he has spurned a move to England; the latest speculation suggests the Valencia star could be the subject of a 40m Euro bid by Fergie, but as ever, there are no quotes from United, the player or his agent.

Whenever Fergie talks to prospective new signings, one of the first questions asked is... 'how much do want to play for United'? In practise, United's transfer 'fixers' will have asked the question before any talks between manager and player get under way, but in the case of Villa and Karim Benzema they have so far rebuffed the idea of a move to Manchester.

If David Villa fancies a move to England, United will almost certainly find that Chelsea and possibly even Manchester City would be competing for his signature. Chelsea could be the favourites given Carlo Ancelotti is likely to be around for quite some time; Fergie cannot go on forever and any would be signing is likely to take the managerial situation into account and of course Chelsea are the champions.

David Villa would be an excellent addition to the squad and like Wayne Rooney, he isn't a one dimensional striker. While Villa has the ability, his age could be a problem given that David Gill, CEO, has gone on record hinting United are unlikely to sign players over the age of 29 for big money.

The bad news for United, Chelsea and City is that reports in Spain are claiming Villa could be about to join Barcelona.

Verdict: Unlikely.

David Villa wiki

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Fergie's Transfer Target List: #1 Sergio Agüero*

Aguero, 22, has been linked to United on several occasions and he's said to be a big admirer of the Red Devils and Sir Alex Ferguson.

The Argentine is the son-in-law of Diego Maradona.

Aguero is very different from any of United's current strikers; he's very skilfull and can beat his marker with his quick feet. Augero is more of a playmaker than an out-and-out-striker. The asking price could prove to be prohibitively expensive and a lot will depend on what type of striker Fergie is looking for.

The Athletico Madrid striker has been linked to United, Chelsea and Liverpool over the last couple of seasons and he could be open to offers.

Fergie will no doubt have been impressed by Aguero in last night's Europa League Final, in which Athletico Madrid were the victors over plucky Fulham.

Aguero didn't score, but he played a big part in both of Diego Forlan's goals. Athletico's opening goal came about following a 'fresh-air' shot by the diminutive Argentine striker and Forlan made no mistake with a well placed effort that gave Mark Schwarzer no chance. Simon Davies brought Fulham back into the game with a well taken goal, but the West London club were hampered by an injury to star man Bobby Zamora. The final went into extra time and the Spaniards made the vital breakthrough when Aguero laid on a decent chance for Forlan who once again found the rigging with a cute effort that left Fulham's Australian goalkeeper stranded.




References:

*Fergie's Transfer Target List isn't in any particular order. The list will feature players who have been linked to United and those who might be deemed suitable by this blog.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Hargreaves shouldn't be going to the World Cup...

Fabio Capello, has according to reports, informed Owen Hargreaves that he's among England's provisional 30 man squad for this summer's World Cup. Hargreaves has played for one minute this season for United's first team and so if this rumour is actually true, then you have to ask what this says about the quality of the players at Capello's disposal? Not a lot I'd venture.

I don't know how much United pay Owen Hargreaves, but it won't be insignificant. Money issues aside, if Owen has any sense and serious ambitions about playing for United next season, he will decline Capello's kind invitation.

The former Bayern Munich star has suffered with terrible knee problems over the last couple of seasons, it must have been heartbreaking for the United midfielder. However, going through the rigours of an arduous World Cup campaign and then having little time to prepare for next season is a bad idea; instead, Owen should be working throughout the summer on his fitness under the guidance of United's backroom team in preparation for next season.

Hargreaves needs match fitness, of that there's no doubt, but surely he'd better off playing for United on tour rather than the white hot heat of battle? Going to South Africa represents a big gamble for Hargreaves and you do wonder what Fergie thinks of the idea...

There should also be serious question marks about Rio Ferdinand going to the World Cup; his season has been blighted by constant injury problems. Michael Dawson is a better bet, but it seems Capello is set to make a major about-turn when selecting half fit players.

With the very real danger of being called the "voice of doom" (again), I also have major concerns about Rooney's fitness - he looks clapped out and in need of a serious break; the World Cup is the last thing Rooney needs right now and United could pay a high price next season. Needless to say, I'm predicting Rooney will have a poor World Cup as will England.

Personally, I'm looking forward to the World Cup, but I'm not expecting England to get anywhere near the final. First plane home after the first knockout round is my prediction.

I have nothing against Capello, but I don't like him, why I don't know, but I don't and in time honoured fashion the hacks have finally taken the gloves off following the launch of a website that will analyse England player performance at the World Cup.


You really could not make it up

Monday, May 10, 2010

United and Rooney limp over finishing line, but it could be worse, look at 7th placed Liverpool!

In the run up to the final weekend of Premier League fixtures, Fergie suggested United blew the season when Bayern Munich knocked the Reds out of the Champions League; Fergie was right, but he was wrong when claiming it was a travesty that United would not be contesting the final.

Bayern Munich deservedly won the semi-final; United only have themselves to blame for sloppy defending. What's more, Rooney has been carrying injuries since the first leg of the semi-final, he clearly isn't fit several weeks later.

Even if United had qualified for the final in Madrid later this month, chances are we'd be going there with a less than fit first choice striker. On top of which and as Fergie rightly pointed out, Inter Milan have improved greatly following the acquisition of two world class players last summer in Sneijder and Lucio.

United fans would love to have seen the club reach the Champions League final again, but you wonder what the outcome would have been given the limitations of the current squad due to injuries.

On the domestic front, as expected Chelsea won the title on Sunday with ease. However, Chelsea wouldn't have won the title if they hadn't been helped by the officials over the last few weeks - that isn't sour grapes, it is a statement of fact. But, Chelsea have won the title and so we move on.

United finished runner-up in a season that has seen the standard at the top go down. United and Chelsea have stood still and Arsenal have gone backwards too. But it could be worse, just ask any supporter of Liverpool; they've had a lousy season when finishing just one place above Everton.

Looking ahead to next season, it will be interesting to see what Fergie does next; will he make his moves in the transfer market, before or after the World Cup? United need at least three top class signings, but will it happen?

Friday, May 07, 2010

Not a hope in hell of Fergie signing "Spurs top targets"....

The election might be nearly done and dusted, but the really big questions are still to be resolved: That is who will Fergie sign this summer and who will he be off-loading?

As we head into the final weekend of Premier League fixtures, the tabloids are cranking up the transfer speculation. It was ever thus.

It's a curious aspect of creative sports journalism that we the public are subjected to reams of what amounts to blatant lies, in relation to the futures of those lucky enough to don the shirts of our favourite football club and those with reported aspirations of a move to Old Trafford, aka Gods Green Acre.

Ferguson refers to this part of the year as the 'silly season' and for good reason. Rooney has been linked with a move to Real Madrid several times, but that particular story has now been played down by the offending "newspapers". Needless to say, in time honoured fashioned, it will be dusted down again in the not too distant future.

For his part, Fergie has hinted there will be changes this summer, but he's played down the prospect of any big money moves, but he did say he'd pay £60M to bring Ronaldo back to Old Trafford. It's quite easy for Fergie to say such things, but in reality there's more chance of the BNP winning the election. It simply isn't going to happen.

Going off recent transfer activity, United fans shouldn't expect any big money moves. Fergie has been shopping at the lower end of the market, when signing Chris Smalling, Miram Diouf and Javier Hernandez. If any of these players actually go on to really make an impact at Old Trafford then it will be case of all credit to Fergie and his scouting staff.

It would be totally ridiculous to write off the aforementioned trio at this juncture, but you wonder if Fergie's eye is on the ball with regards to scouting, because there has been bargains to be had. Bayen Munich's Ivica Olic is just one goal behind Messi in the list of Champions League scorers.

Interestingly, one of Fergie's reported "top targets" doesn't even feature on that list of goal-scorers: I refer to Karim Benezma who has an impending court date in relation to liasons with an under age escort girl. The court date has conveniently been postponed until after France's World Cup campaign and so you do wonder if there's a very real prospect of the Real Madrid striker going to jail for up to three years...

Fergie should have spotted the potential of Wesley Sneijder who was sold on the cheap to Inter Milan for just 15m Euros. Sneijder would have been the perfect long-term replacement for Scholes and of course United had the perfect opportunity to make their move when the club was negotiating Ronaldo's future. United could have asked for first option to sign Sneijder, but we didn't, instead Jose Mourinho gobbled him for peanuts.

On the domestic front, Joe Cole could be on the move. The England star will be seriously hot property this summer given he's out of contract, but the latest news is Cole fancies a move to Spurs.

If we are to believe the tabloids, the Northern London club could once again be the focus of Fergie's transfer attention. Luka Modric and Gareth Bale are both reportedly on Fergie's radar; it would be no surprise if this was actually true, however, the notion that Fergie would pay £50m for the pair is surely wide of the mark. But, it wouldn't be the first time Spurs have held United over a barrel...

Berbatov signed for United two summers ago for £30m and Fergie was forced to include Frazier Campbell in the deal. Tottenham, signed Berbatov from Bayer Leverkusen for just £11m, here again Fergie could have saved United £20m if he'd made his move for the Bulgarian earlier.

United were also held to ransom when we signed Michael Carrick, once again Daniel Levy trousered a small fortune from the champions.

So United and Spurs have recent transfer history and there's no doubt the London club have done quite well out of both deals, but on the pitch, so have United up until now... The latest talk suggests Fergie would be willing to offer Carrick and Berbatov back to their former club, presumably for knockdown prices as part of a deal that would see Modric and Bale moving in the opposite direction. Bale more or less single-handedly destroyed Arsenal and Chelsea and it is easy to see why Modric interests the United manager - he retains and uses the ball well.

Spurs have this week qualified for next season's Champions League; if they hadn't it would have enhanced Fergie's slim hopes of pulling off a major double swoop. The fact is Spurs will now be looking to strengthen, added to which Bale has signed a new deal today.

United fans can rule out any prospect of Modric or Bale signing this summer and there's huge question marks about Benzema.

Let us hope then that Fergie has done his homework, but going off recent missed opportunities, that must be in some doubt. One thing is for certain, United need to bring in at least three top quality signings - if that doesn't happen we could see the club slipping out of next season's top four.

IT is all well and good that Scholes, Giggs and Neville signed those new deals, but they represent the past and not the future and contrary to Fergie's spin, the required quality for the future simply isn't there at the moment.

Fergie has much work to do this summer if United are going to mount a serious challenge on all fronts next season. United need a new striker, a central midfield player, aa central defender and you can throw in a 'keeper too, but the latter can wait.

My predictions.

Berbatov to move to Italy for an undisclosed fee.
Carrick to move to Everton or some other mid-ranking Premier League club for less than £10m.
United will not sign a world class striker, instead Fergie will go with Macheda and Hernandez (subject to a work permit being granted).

The net result will be the transfer money from the sale of Carrick and Berbatov will end up in the same place as the Ronaldo money, ie, it will be used to pay off a small chunk of the Glazers huge debts.

In summary, it is going to be a summer of concern when looking ahead to next season, that is unless Fergie has REALLY done his homework and he pulls one or two rabbits out of the transfer hat...

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Why we love Fergie and why the man commands respect...

Life without Fergie is something we United fans will soon have to get used to, he cannot go on forever. The United manager will in all probability retire at the end of next season - though he insists that won't happen - not unless his health deteriorates, but for now at least he will carry on.

One of the biggest mistakes Fergie made was announcing his retirement plans a few seasons ago and with the summer transfer window just around the corner, he will have to convince any would be new signings that he will be around for a while yet...

Interestingly, the manager has hinted he might have to rebuild his squad, which if true would be something of a turnaround given some of his recent comments to the press. However, Fergie is a very complex character, you never know when to take him seriously, take his latest comments about Mame Biram and Chris Smalling; The Senegalese striker hasn't done much to suggest he's a good long-term bet and of course Smalling ( until recently a none-league player) hasn't yet kicked a ball for United, and yet Ferguson says both have guaranteed futures at United...

The fact that Fergie will be around for a while longer was surely a factor in persuading United's veteran trio to sign new deals; Giggs and Scholes signed up for another season, Gary Neville was the last to do so earlier this week.

There have been times during this season when the fans' have wondered if signing those contract extensions was a good idea. It has come as no great surprise to learn that Scholes wanted to hang up his boots, given some of his performances, but of late, he's been back to his very best and so no one can really argue against signing his contract extension.

Hilariously and quite brilliantly, Fergie has been quoted as saying he told Scholes when he could retire...it is at moments like this that you realise Ferguson really is a one off. It's hard to imagine any other modern day manager talking to his players like this. It is partly why the supporters love Fergie - he commands respect from his players and fans alike.

Despite what Fergie says, Scholes, Giggs and Neville are top professionals and if they really didn't believe they had one more season left in the tank then they wouldn't be hanging around, of that we can be fairly certain.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Despite the best and worst efforts of Gerrard and Berbatov, United still clinging on to title hopes...

I had the misfortune of tuning into BBC Radio 5 Live 606 on Saturday night, Alan Green was on good form; he was asked how he thought the Liverpool players would perform against Chelsea, bearing in mind what was at stake. Green stated that Gerrard and Carragher would give 100%, of that he was convinced. Green said he wasn't sure how the rest of the Liverpool team would respond. Was Green suggesting the two Liverpool stalwarts were bastions of integrity and just perhaps Johnny Foreigner couldn't be relied upon in such circumstances? We will never know the answer to that.

What we do know is Green was 100% wrong, and not for the first time. Gerrard was pathetic, as was Carragher. I cannot remember seeing a more limp-dicked performance from either, but then again I wasn't expecting anything else.

The fact that Gerrard laid on the opening goal just added insult to injury. Chelsea won two-nil - for their part, Liverpool, barely turned up.

So by the time United kicked-off later in the afternoon, they knew it was more or less all over. All credit to the champions for doing a very professional job against a hard working Sunderland team. Paul Scholes was man of the match again, he is having a very good end to the season.

While Scholes caught the eye, it was a very different story up front, Berbatov, was simply dreadful; his recent performances have been very poor, so much so you wonder how much Fergie would get for him now. The Bulgarian hasn't quite reached car-boot-sale proportions, but his worth must be a fraction of the £30m United paid to Spurs to bring him to Old Trafford

Against Sunderland Berbatov should have had a hat-trick, but he never came close to scoring any of the relatively easy chances he squandered. Thankfully, Nani had his eye in and he scored the vital goal, one that ensures the title race goes down the to the last game of the season.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Fergie's number one transfer target going to jail?..

Oh dear, if reports are to be believed Karim Benzema and Frank Ribery could be set for a spell behind bars for reported liasons with an under-age escort girl.
Worst case, the French stars could be looking at three years behind bars.

According to reports, Algerian-born, Zahia Dehar, worked as a £1,740 hooker to some of the biggest names in French football.

United fans would no doubt like to see Ribery sent to jail following his antics at Old Trafford in the Champions League this season.

As far as Benzema is concerned, he's been strongly linked with United in the past and Fergie is said to be an admirer, but the player has consistently said he doesn't fancy a move to England.

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