Sunday, December 31, 2006

Mourinho laying blame at the wrong door...

So Chelsea are six points behind the league leaders United and for the first time we are seeing slight cracks in Jose Mourinho's composure, sure the 'special one' has gone on the offensive before, but more often than not he's targeted officials or opposing teams. However following the 2-2 draw with Fulham the Chelsea manager attacked over half this first team...

Alan Hansen the former Liverpool defender and MOTD pundit analysed Jose's post match comments and concluded that not only do the Chelsea players need to respond and show their worth but so does the manager - the pressure is on. Quite. The thing is, yes Chelsea have been leaking goals but they've also been showing the mark of champions by often fighting back to either draw or win games which any normal side might have lost.

The problem with this latest public outburst is that it can work in one of two ways, the players will either respond in a positive manner or it could, worst case, work against Mourinho. Also, it's all well and good blaming players, but Mourinho has no excuse for not having top class cover for John Terry, he isn't managing Macclesfield Town is he? The 'special one' has made few mistakes during his brilliant managerial career, but he's making a fair few at the moment. Blasting your players in private is one thing, doing it via the media isn't recommended.

Mourinho has made it clear to everyone he has favourites in the Blues camp, but by blaming certain stars in public for the current defensive problems, he's in serious danager of widening any exsiting rifts.

Meanwhile, Manchester United will hopefully not be distracted by the in-fighting at the West London club, and we will be left to concentrate fully on winning our next game at Newcastle on Monday as Chelsea will be left to row among themselves for another 24 hours before they face Aston Villa in what could be a very interesting game.

Everyone is to blame barring the 'special one', or so it seems..

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Chelsea slip on Fulham banana skin as the Reds go 6 points clear

A couple of days ago on here I suggested Fulham's visit to Stamford Bridge was a potential banana skin and low behold the Blues conceded another two goals and only managed a draw with their near West London neighbours - that Chelsea defence currently has more holes in it than a pair of fishnet stockings.

Meanwhile United beat Reading by the narrow margin of 3-2 with Ronaldo once again bagging a brace and in doing so putting on another man-of-the-match performance. The visitors had substitute Sam Sodje sent off in the second half - he managed only nine minutes on the pitch as that was how long it took him to collect two yellow cards. Prior to that Solskjaer headed in his eighth goal of the season from Ronaldo's perfect cross on 33 minutes. However Reading fought back and equalised before the break with a header from Ibrahima Sonko, but two second half goals by Ronaldo put United well and truly into the driving seat before Leroy Lita pulled a goal back late on to make it another nery ending for the Old Trafford faithful. Ferguson will be delighted with this win and the Chelsea result, the United manager is 65 years of age tomorrow, what better present could he have on the eve of officially becoming a pensioner?

United linked with non-league player...just how bad are the finances?

As I have mentioned several times on this blog United were the lowest net spenders in last summers transfer window, which many fans are linking directly to the Glazer family takeover, which has left the club with the biggest debt in this history of world football - currently the debt stands at around £600m and the figure is rising fast.

The January transfer window opens on Monday and of course United have been linked strongly to Owen Hargreaves - whether United will be able to prize away the England star from Bayern Munich next month remains to be seen, one thing is for certain United have done that much carping about this transfer via the media that the German club will demand a very high price and will United be able to find that kind of money given the dreadful debt situation?

The latest news is that United have been linked to a winger from non-league football
as apparently boss sir Alex Ferguson wants Michael Kightly from conference side Grays - dubbed "the Ryan Giggs of non-league". I haven't seen this player in action and a few non-league players have made it to the very top of the English game, so it would be wrong to pre-judge this lad, but while United are rummaging in the bargain basement for new players Chelsea are talking about spending another £20m on Man City's Micah Richards - the gulf between Chelsea's spending power and United is so large it is difficult to even quantify, the Blues are in fact on other planet in that respect.

IF United only sign Kightly this January, it wont be enough and it wont convince many United fans about the clubs ability to strengthen the team under the Glazer regime. The reds need Hargreaves and another striker - if it doesn't happen next month it will be a missed opportunity and one which the club could live to regret in the remaining months of this season.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Chelsea's surgery gamble with John Terry...

Earlier this week Jose Mourinho hinted that John Terry might need surgery to sort out his back problem, some 48 hours later and the operation has been done, but the surgery technique used is so new that the club had to send Terry to France for sugery as you cannot have this operation in the UK. The good news for Chelsea fans is that the Blues skipper is up and running already, apparently he's been photographed using a running machine at the Chelsea training camp.

The fact is Chelsea have taken a huge gamble on choosing this surgery to cure the problem, even the clubs own doctor has more or less admitted that surgery is always the last resort - so it begs the question just how bad was the problem? I cannot answer that, but what we do know is it was bad enough for the Blues to take a chance on a new surgery technique. The fact that Terry is up and running the day after surgery is amazing really, and the latest news is that Terry is expected to back playing for the Chelsea first team for the league game with Liverpool at Anfield on January 20th.

Banana skin fixtures for the Reds and Chelsea

Having read the rather unfortunate news about John Terry going under the surgeons knife to resolve his back problems I have been running my good eye over the remaining league fixtures for United and The rent boys and I've graded each according to their banana skin potential for either club slipping up. Three bananas represents the highest potential (obviously)

Saturday, 30 December 2006
Bananas League
Man U v Reading, 15:00

Monday, 01 January 2007
Bananas League
Geordies v Man U, 17:15

Sunday, January 2007
Banana Cup
Man U v The Villa, 14:00

Saturday, 13 January 2007
Bananas League
Man U v The Villa, 15:00

Sunday, 21 January 2007
Bananas League
The Arse v Man U, 16:00

Wednesday, 31 January 2007
Bananas League
Man U v Watford, 20:00

Sunday, 04 February 2007
Bananas League
Spurs v Man U, 16:00

Saturday, 10 February 2007
Bananas League
Man U v Charlton, 15:00

Tuesday, 20 February 2007
UEFA Champions League
Lille v Man U, 19:45

Saturday, 24 February 2007
Bananas League
Fulham v Man U, 12:45

Saturday, 03 March 2007
Bananas League
Scousers v Man U, 15:00

Wednesday, 07 March 2007
Bananas Champs League
Man U v Lille, 19:45

Saturday, 17 March 2007
Bananas League
Man U v Wanderers, 15:00
Another season defining game - for Wanderers fans at least.

Saturday, 31 March 2007
Bananas League
Man U v Rovers, 15:00
Unless you are The Arse, Rovers are almost always difficult to beat under the guidance of the man of iron AKA Mark Hughes

Saturday, 07 April 2007
Bananas League
Portsmouth v Man U, 15:00
'Happy Harry' has made a habit of peeing on United's parade.

Tuesday, 10 April 2007
Bananas League
Man U v Sheff Utd, 20:00

Saturday, 14 April 2007
Barclays Premiership
The rent boys v Man U, 15:00

Saturday, 21 April 2007
Bananas League
Man U v Middlesbrough, 15:00
We've slipped up before at home against this crowd

Saturday, 28 April 2007
Bananas League
Toffees v Man U, 12:00
North West rivalry runs deep - the Mickey's haven't forgotten Wayne Rooney's defection - even if they needed the brass

Saturday, 05 May 2007
Bananas League
The Bitters v Man U, 15:00
Reason? City's whole season rests on this fixture - they'd love it if United's did too...

Sunday, 13 May 2007
Bananas League
Man U v West Ham, 15:00

The rent boys's remaining fixtures

Saturday, 30 December 2006
Bananas League
The rent boys v Fulham, 15:00
A London derby alway has the potential for ending up arse over apex

Tuesday, 02 January 2007
Bananas League
The Villa v The rent boys, 20:00
Without John Terry this could be tricky!

Saturday, 06 January 2007
Bananas Cup
The rent boys v Macclesfield, 15:00

Wednesday, 10 January 2007
Carling Cup
Wycombe v The rent boys, 20:00

Saturday, 13 January 2007
Bananas League
The rent boys v Wigan, 15:00

Saturday, 20 January 2007
Bananas League
Scousers v The rent boys, 12:45
Nothing needs adding

Tuesday, 23 January 2007
Fizzy Pop Cup
The rent boys v Wycombe, 19:45

Wednesday, 31 January 2007
Bananas League
The rent boys v Rovers, 19:45
Hughes remains a big Red...

Saturday, 03 February 2007
Bananas League
Charlton v The rent boys, 15:00

Saturday, 10 February 2007
Bananas League
The rent boys v Middlesbrough, 15:00

Wednesday, 21 February 2007
Banana Champs League
FC Porto v The rent boys, 19:45

Saturday, 24 February 2007
Bananas League
The Bitters v The rent boys, 15:00
You never know what City will do..but would they do United a favour?

Saturday, 03 March 2007
Bananas League
Portsmouth v The rent boys, 15:00

Tuesday, 06 March 2007
Banana Champs League
The rent boys v FC Porto (agg 0-0), 19:45

Saturday, 17 March 2007
Bananas League
The rent boys v Sheff Utd, 15:00

Saturday, 31 March 2007
Bananas League
Watford v The rent boys, 15:00

Saturday, 07 April 2007
Bananas League
The rent boys v Spurs, 15:00

Monday, 09 April 2007
Bananas League
Hammers v The rent boys, 15:00
The Hammers could be fighting for survival

Saturday, 14 April 2007
Bananas League
The rent boys v Man U, 15:00

Saturday, 21 April 2007
Bananas League
Geordies v The rent boys, 15:00
Never easy - Owen could even back for the Mags..

Saturday, 28 April 2007
Bananas League
The rent boys v Wanderers, 15:00
Big Sam could put a big banana skin under Jose et al

Saturday, 05 May 2007
Bananas League

The Arse v The rent boys, 15:00
Sweaty palms time

Sunday, 13 May 2007
Bananas League
The rent boys v Toffees, 15:00
Moyes wont give anything to Jose - he's matey with Fergie

United have a banana skin factor of 25 while The rent boys's is only 23, but of course United have to face The rent boys which is itself is a banana skin x 3 game, added to which United have a better goal difference and a four point lead at this juncture. United have slightly tougher looking fixtures hence higher banana skin factor - however Terry's back problem somewhat evens out the potential for slip-ups. At this point I'm giving United the title by one point.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Why City WILL sell Richards this January..

According to Stuart Pearce, Chelsea haven't been in touch with Manchester City about signing Micah Richards and furthermore City are now on a 'sound financial footing' so they don't have to sell the solitary jewel in their crown.

I have no doubt that Pearce isn't telling any lies when he says Chelsea haven't been in touch, but money talks and everyone in football knows that City aren't exactly awash with money, they are in fact in debt. The clubs two main shareholders have both given the club large loans, so putting it bluntly if Chelsea did offer £18m for Richards they are in no position to turn it down and so if the Blues do offer that kind of money Richards will be off to West London.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Boxing Day tinkering works a treat..

Having watched rivals Chelsea drop two valuable points at home to Reading, Fergie tinkered with his starting line-up in time honoured tradition by leaving out five players including; Ronaldo, Rio Ferdinand, Louis Saha, Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs.

Thankfully for the Red Devils, United's Boxing Day visitors didn't offer that much in the way of a serious threat as the home side created several excellent chances during the opening period. The best move of that 45 minute spell ended with a Rooney effort raking past Wigan keeper Kirkland's far post after a superb pass from Darren Fletcher, but Wigan held on and went into the break on level terms.

Fergie no doubt fearful of a disaster sent on United's best player of the season so far, Ronaldo, and with his first touch the Portuguese star headed the home side into the lead after he was left unmarked in front of goal from a corner. There was more to come though as United were awarded a penalty for a foul on Park. Ronaldo belted his spot-kick straight down the middle, only to see it saved, but the ball came back to the winger who didn't miss at the second time of asking. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hammered home the final nail in Wigan's coffin after Rooney put him through on goal with a flicked header. The visitors scored a late penalty consolation after a clumsy challenge by Silvestre - though it look like a bit of a dive by the wigan forward.

United rested five players and ended up increasing their lead at the top and improving their goal difference. All in all a very happy ending to a good day for United.

Chelsea = 2 man team?...

Is it not amazing given how much money has been spent building Chelsea's galaxy of stars that at present and for most of this season they've effectively become a two man team? I refer to Didier Drogba and John Terry, I adire both players greatly, unlike many of our revisionists in the media like Andy Gray who's spent the last two seasons saying 'all Chelsea need is a goal scorer'... The Ivory Coast striker has arguably been the best player thus far in the Premier league this season, the only other player who might have a claim to that title is United's Ronaldo.

However, the interesting thing is without John Terry in that Chelsea back four, the Blues have been leaking goals for fun, six in the last four games - this is very unlike the champions.

Following the 2-2 Boxing Day draw with Reading, Jose Mourinho hinted that Terry may require surgery, if so that will be a massive blow to Chelsea's hopes of retaining the title for a third time and of course it also reduces their chances of lifting the big one - the Champions League. It also makes both competitions a lot more interesting for all observers of the game. It is also true to say that United have relied heavily on Ronaldo this season and should he get injured then the Reds will be in trouble. Right now there's nothing between these two sides, apart from the narrow four point lead, Terry's injury has changed things dramatically in terms of who will lift the title, a lot depends on his back injury. But if United sign Hargreaves and a striker in January I'd make United slight favourites to win back the title. Time will tell.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Tribute to the quiet man..

United took on Aston Villa on at Villa Park on Saturday, it finished up 3-0 to the visitors, with Ronaldo bagging a well earned brace that earned him the man of the match award in my book. But it was Paul Scholes who scored the goal of the game and possibly of the season too.

Midway through the second half and with the Reds leading by a goal to nil, Scholes got onto the end of a high clearance. The 'ginger prince' was stationed roughly 25 yards from the Villa goal, he never took his eye off the ball as it rose high above the ground, as the ball came back down to earth the former England midfield star lashed it first time without allowing it to bounce, it crashed in off the crossbar - though the Villa keeper did manage to get a hand onto it but to no avail. It was goal worthy of winning any game and how fitting it came from the boot of the quiet man of football - in this day and age all too often we hear big-mouth managers and players spouting-off via the media, not our Scholesy who allows his boots to do his talking. Long may it continue.

Fergie wants to scrap post-match press conferences - the case against!

Fergie has revealed that he wants to put an end to post-match press conferences.

The United manager said:
"I don't think I would fall into the trap of criticising individual players myself but it is not easy.

"Sometimes managers react after a game and leave themselves open. It is not easy. I have said this time and time again, after-match press conferences should be abandoned.

"It is a waste of time and does the manager no good whatsoever. All you end up with are sensational headlines. They should be stopped."

Ferguson has a point of course and much of what he says is very true, but what about the paying public, aren't they entitled to hear what the manager has to say following good or bad performances? Let us not lose sight of the fact of who pays the players and managers wages. The fans.

Further to this, if they did scrap the post-match conference then the fans would be denied comedy classics like Kevin Keeagan's 'love it' outburst in 1996 following Newcastle's win over Leeds United.
Comedy Gold - Kevin Keegan at his best

United 'set to sign' Hargreaves...

According to the latest news on the transfer grapevine United could be about to sign Owen Hargreaves. Up and until this week Bayern have said the player is going nowhere, however, their position has softened with the club stating that if they can replace Hargreaves then they'd consider selling him.

The Mail on Sunday is claiming that the Reds will sign the player for £12m this January when the transfer window opens. Following United's win 3-0 over Villa on Saturday Fergie said: "We are waiting to see about it.
"Chief executive David Gill is always in touch with them because of the G14 and he sees Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge quite regularly, so we will see."

It was thought any deal for the 25-year-old star would have to wait until the summer because of Bayern's Champions league commitments. IF they deal goes through it will be a massive boost in terms of the Reds chances of winning some silverware this season.

Personally I can see United paying a lot more than £12m, because we always pay over the odds, but all Reds fans will be hoping that the deal is completed in January.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Exit door beckons for United stars....

United have apparently agreed to loan right-back Phil Bardsley to Sunderland until the end of the season, the Salford youngster spent the first half of the season on loan at Scottish club Rangers but was recently sent back to United.

Sunderland manager and reds legend Roy Keane also wants to sign another brilliant young United defender, Northern Ireland international, Johnny Evans. Fergie hasn't yet decided if the club will allow the player to join Sunderland but the manager has given the Black Cats some hope by saying that the North East club would be the right sort of place for Evans to develop and gain experience. United Blog Towers predicts a massive future for Evans at Old Trafford and so it would be bordering on criminal negligence if the player was sold. Please Fergie et al do not even think about it.

One player who reportedly will be allowed to leave is Kieran Richardson. I honestly feel a move for Richardson is the best for all concerned, despite being a full international I personally can see no future for the player at Old Trafford. A move to a club with a lower profile and expectations is most definitely on the cards.

Of more of a surprise comes the news that Alan Smith isn't for sale under any circumstances. Granted Smith broke his leg against Liverpool and has been unlucky with injuries and in the view of many reds fans he's been treated a bit shabbily by the manager, when he first arrived he was told by Fergie that he'd only ever be used as a striker. That soon changed as he was played anywhere but up front. The player is now fully fit yet rarely features in the squad, but apparently Fergie has stated he's not for sale. Surely the United manager is bluffing? Every player has his price and I suspect the reds are trying to encourage the right bid. I fully expect Smith to be sold be it in January or in the summer.

Friday, December 22, 2006

"Bah, humbug" message to fans on future transfers..

Scrooge - went out of his way to make people feel miserable at Christmas...

The season to be jolly is almost upon the mass ranks of the red army and so how ironic that just a few days before the festivities begin proper, comes a message from the faceless Glazer regime, who have apparently revealed their latest business plan to The Times. The Glazer business plan has been adapted / rewritten nearly as many times as Charles Dickens novel A Christmas Carol which stars 'Scrooge' the similarities don't end there...

WE all know the story of Scrooge, in the original novel Dickens doesn't actually state the nature of Scrooge's business, but we're led to believe that it's connected with money lending and he's portrayed as being generally quite mean to the likes of Bob Cratchit, his loyal clerk...

Roll the clock forward to Christmas 2006 and it's another tale of woe as we're once again hearing about this mythical annual £25million NET transfer budget again, in point of fact United made a profit on transfers last summer, as the club where the lowest NET spenders in the whole of the Premiership...

For one thing, many fans including myself do not believe that our very own version of Bob Cratchit, AKA Fergie will be given this annual £25m - that feeling is based on the evidence of what has happened and not on empty promises from nameless sources.

On top of this much is being made of an apparent 'one-off' £25m additional superstar signing to play alongside Rooney and Ronaldo. The proof of the Christmas pudding will come in the shape of action not talk, as with all things connected to football, results is what matter on the pitch and no manager seriously hoping to compete with Chelsea can do so with one hand tied behind his back when it comes to transfers.

Apparently the plan also reveals that tickets prices are currently 'under valued' and that by 2012-2013 they will have risen by a further 36%, on average that's 6% per year. Ticket prices vary depending on where fans are situated in the ground but currently an adult will be shelling out around £500 per season which doesn't include any cup games - that figure will have risen to around £680 for the start of the 2012 season. At 6% per year it is a rise which is way above inflation in the UK. However, while fans pockets will have proverbially picked, and revenues from media and tv income will have risen by over 40% Glazer will reportedly limit Bob Cratchit's transfer budget to £25m per year...bah humbug indeed!

I'm sure many United fans will be hoping like the novel A Christmas Carol that the story of the Glazer family ownership of the club has a happy ending. In the novel Scrooge is visited by three ghosts, the Ghost of Christmas past, the ghost of Christmas present, and the ghost of the future. Scrooge has a nightmare vision of the poor people celebrating his death, he then sees the errors of his ways and puts things right and everyone lives happily ever this time of goodwill to all men let us hope for the same outcome at United. (if only!)

Fact or fiction, the long running story of the Glazers business plan, how many more times will it be rewritten?

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The clock ticks for United's transfer games...

United fans will no doubt be looking forward to the January transfer window, when many reds will be hoping that Fergie has something up his sleeve other than a new Christmas cardigan.

United's failure to replace Van Nistelrooy hasn't actually cost them thus far, because Carling Cup exit apart the team is doing better than last season, but it will not and cannot carry on like that. IF United want to win a trophy then Ferguson must be supported in the transfer market. This isn't just about this season, it is what needs to happen when required, like when you sell your top goal scorer and allow your midfield general to leave.

The problem is there's a growing suspicion among some fans that some of the stories that have been leaked to the press about certain players who've been linked to United is nothing more than a smoke screen which the club hides behind when things go wrong.

Take the Michael Ballack transfer, while the German was still at Bayern, rumour had it that United had a pre-contract agreement with the Munich star. Not true. Ferguson eventually stated that Ballack wasn't right for United, this even though he was available on a free transfer and of course we already have the likes of John O'Shea and Darren Fletcher.... In the end United had to spend silly money on a player with nowhere near the abilities of Ballack in Carrick. Fergie's assertion that Ballack wasn't right was the biggest load of rubbish he's come out with in a long time and that is saying something. Maybe Ballack weighed up United's lack of potential under the new regime and the player decided that Chelsea would offer more chance of honours, which is actually the reason he said he'd joined the blues. Whatever the clubs true position on Ballack is or was, United ended up looking a bit foolish.

The second example of the clubs transfer smoke screen centres on Owen Hargreaves. Until this week Bayern Munich have stuck to the 'not for sale' line. United are supposed to have good relations with the German club, yet David Gill (United CEO) recently revealed that United hadn't even officially asked Munich about the players availability, but Fergie and United have been leaking stories to the press about wanting Hargreaves.

The suspicion is that Fergie wants Hargreaves alright, but United know his club wont release him - if that is true then why are United making public their interest? Is this just to say to the fans 'look we tried to sign Hargreaves?

United have gone public about the player so much that if Munich call United's bluff and announce he can leave they will demand a huge fee. What happens then? United have backed themselves into a corner, losing Ballack on a free is one thing, but given the amount of talk emanating from Old Traffford they cannot lose out again on Hargreaves.

United's policy of leaking stories to the press seems to be a flawed one. Here's why. Firstly, if the intention is an attempt to satisfy transfer demanding fans - it will only work if the deals go through. But what happens in the case of Ballack when the deal doesn't happen? The answer if course fans get angry knowing that the club has missed out on a player who went on a free transfer. Secondly the selling club knows the buying club is desperate and so the price rises, as with the case of Carrick. Once the deal been done stories attributed to Spurs claimed that the North London club would have accepted a lot less for Carrick, this was clearly an attempt to run United's noses in it, no doubt partly for publicing so much interest in the Spurs player. So you can bet United will have to pay top money to acquire Hargreaves, and so there has to be a huge element of doubt about any deal going through. Hargreaves will cost United £20m, that might be too much for the clubs new owners. And From the outside looking in, lack of transfer cash for the manager lies at the heart of the problem for now and definitely in the future under the debt laden Glazer regime.

When the Glazer's took over United, we were told that there would be an annual transfer budget of £25m per season, yet last summer United actually made a net profit on transfers of £8.7m. The truth is the £25m figure is a media myth, it is another example of spin which comes from where exactly?

We know who it hasn't come from, at least directly at any rate, and that is the Glazer family, because they don't actually talk to the press about United. Make no mistake the clock is ticking for United and the Glazer family. The current side was built with old PLC money - so the lack of investment in the team hasn't kicked in yet, but if last summer was a sign of things to come then it wont be long before it does. Quite simply the club wont get away with continuing not to back the manager properly in the transfer windows - it is a recipe for disaster.

I always thought the impact of the Glazer family takeover would take three years before we started to see signs of a meltdown on and off the pitch. However one article which I read recently was asking how long will it before the bailiff's are sent into Old Trafford?

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Balsa wood man signs new contract..

Louis Saha AKA 'Balsa wood man' has signed a contract extension with United until 2010. Saha has suffered terribly with a succession of injuries over the last few seasons at United, hence the less than flattering nickmane, but thankfully this season he's been pretty much injury free and he's scored a few goals - long may it continue. However, reds fans will be hoping that United sign another striker in the January transfer window to ease the burden on the Frenchman.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

FA 'bracing' themselves for 'bung inquiry' findings

Apparently the FA are 'bracing' themselves for Lord Stevens report into bungs in football. The former top cop known as 'Lord Stevens of Kirkwhelpington' (why does every report on this bloke include reference to his funny sounding town name? It is of course precisely for that reason, if he came from Grimsby or Fleetwood it wouldn't get a mention, it doesn't quite have the same ring about it, does it?) will present his report today to the FA, but do not expect any earth shattering revelations or radical changes to the system.

There's talk of the FA setting up some sort of clearing house for transfers. That alone will be totally and utterly pointless. The clearing houses which the FA needs access to is those which service football managers own personal bank accounts, if the FA could find a way of getting managers to disclose their account details then perhaps the bung allegations could be laid to rest once and for all. But why would a Turkey vote for Christmas? And why should clean managers open up what is their personal bank account details to the hapless FA et al? Quite simply it will not happen.

Incredible Beckham insurance deal brokered...

They've given men nearly as much pleasure as Beck's down the years, but Dolly's airbags aren't worth a fraction of 'Goldenballs' legs
News reaches United blog Towers that David Beckham has signed a world-record breaking insurance deal for an incredible £100m! Apparently the deal dwarfs even those taken out to safefguard spaceships and even the Olympic Games. Other well known star insurance policies include: Bruce Springsteen's voice £3.5m, Dolly Parton's boobs £350,000, Ken Dodd's teeth £4m, Ben Turpin's eyes £20,000.

Mind boggling figures

Only a scouse comic could get away with insuring chompers like Doddy's

Monday, December 18, 2006

Why Fergie is likely to finish second to Jose again...

This is no knee-jerk reaction to United's loss at Upton Park yesterday, because I've felt all season long that Chelsea will make it three titles in a row. Last week John Terry said that United couldn't play any better than they had done in this first half of the season, he's right as well.

Chelsea on the other hand can play a lot better, providing the manager finds the right blend on the pitch and despite the blues spectacular comeback at Goodison Park, Chelsea are still struggling to find the right formation and so we have yet to see the West London side at their very best.

My gut feeling is that Chelsea can only throw away the title this season because as Mourinho rightly says United will drop more points and so they will. Chelsea's big strength is that they don't normally concede many goals added to which despite their often less than pleasing style on the eye, they have match-winners throughout the side, Ballack, Essien and Lampard are all registering in the goals column.

It also goes without saying that Chelsea have far more strength in depth in terms of quality. Ferguson is really limited in his engine room - take the West Ham game, Fergie took off Carrick who was once again very poor and replaced him with John O'Shea, no disrespect but he's not going to change a game is he?

I speak to many United fans and I've yet to find one who believes Carrick is a top midfield player, or was worth the money we paid. Let us not forget he was bought by Spurs for £2m - that figure is about right in the view of many United fans - yet United shelled out over 7 times that to sign him. Go figure. IF we rated him when he was at West Ham then why didn't United take a punt on him when he was available on the cheap? Only Fergie and his accolytes can answer that one. The fact is Carrick doesn't score goals from midfield, his passing is all too often poor and he cannot tackle or tank up and down the park. In comparison Veron whose time at Old Trafford is viewed as a failure was miles better than Carrick.

Expecting the midfield combination of Scholes and Carrick to take United to the title isn't realistic. Owen Hargreaves would of course improve United massively but that deal probably wont happen until the summer, if at all.

For the reasons outlined above I can see Ferguson ending the season with a sideboard full of second prizes for his work this term, but let us not lose sight of the fact that finishing runner-up to Chelsea is no disgrace.

I for one will settle for a second half of the season the same as the first with United at least trying to play the game the right way and attacking teams.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Chelsea show their metal as United reveal their soft under belly

United and Chelsea both had difficult looking away fixtures on Sunday and twice Chelsea went behind at Goodison Park only to come back and score three second half goals to snatch all three points. In East London in the 4pm kick-off United failed to notch against Alan Curbishley's West Ham United as Nigel Reo-Coker tapped home a soft goal late on to earn his new manager and his club a much needed three points.

At Goodison Park, Arteta gave the home side the lead from the penalty-spot towards the end of the first half to give Everton a deserved lead. As ever Chelsea came out after the break with all guns blazing and it looked as if it would only be a matter of time before they equalised. The Chelsea goal eventually came from another free-kick, this time from outside the box, and it was Ballack who crashed his shot home off the post, though Tim Howard the Everton keeper had the last touch.

Chelsea were more or less in complete control for the first 15 minutes after the break and it was somewhat against the run of play when Yobo scored with a header from a corner to ease the pressure on the home side. Once again though the visitors responded and it was Frank Lampard who crashed home a stunning rocket of a shot from fully 30 yards to give Howard no chance, even then Chelsea weren't done though as they hit the woodwork twice before Drogba scored the goal of the game to seal a dramatic victory. The winning goal came after substitute Shevchenko flicked a ball onto the Ivory Coast striker who controlled the ball outside the box with his back to goal, the Everton defenders stood-off the big man and that allowed him to turn, the Chelsea talisman wasted no time and smashed his shot beyond Howard giving him no chance again. Quite simply it was a stunning goal worthy of winning any game.

Meanwhile later on in the day at Upton Park United failed to take advantage of the majority of possession they had and despite having the better of the stats in just about every department it was West Ham who created the most clear-cut chance of the first half as Bobby Zamora should have given the Hammers a first half lead after easily brushing off Rio Ferdinand, luckily for United Van der Sar saved the resulting shot and Rio's blushes.

United troubled Robert Green in the West Ham goal, but only from distance and so the West Ham back line who'd lost three times at home prior to today in the league never really looked to be in that much trouble as the visitors never got behind them. The stat count did indeed show that United had created the lion's share of the chances, but in truth United's efforts on goal were nearly all speculative efforts which Green dealt with comfortably apart from one effort by Ronaldo which required an excellent save.

United knew this fixture would be a difficult one, it always is, but too many players didn't rise to the occasion, Rooney, Saha, Giggs, Ferdinand and Neville and in particular Carrick were very poor, the latter gave the ball away cheaply time and time again during the opening 45 minutes.

The only goal of the game came late on in the second and it was United old boy Teddy Sheringham who did the damage by playing the ball through the legs of a United defender to Marlon Harewood who turned Ferdinand too easily to find Reo-Coker who wandered into the United box unmarked to slide the ball home as Gary Neville and Paul Scholes were left ball watching.

United will argue that they didn't deserve to lose, but they didn't deserve to win either. At least West Ham created two clear-cut chances inside the penalty area. United didn't create a lot apart from one good effort by Ronaldo. The harsh truth is when Chelsea needed their big-guns to save them, they did so twice. In contrast United were firing misfiring all afternoon at Upton Park and yet the United players had the luxury of a whole week without a midweek game to prepare for this game. Individually and collectively the performance was nowhere near good enough. On Sunday only one team played like champions, sadly it wasn't the boys in red.

United still haunted by Upton Park memories...

United are in action today at Upton Park when they face West Ham under the management of Alan Curbishley who was installed this week after the sacking of Alan Pardew. Down the years there's rarely been a good time to visit West Ham United from a red perspective because the Hammers have a fairly decent home record against Manchester United. It's bound to be an explosive occasion today, it usually is and the sacking of Pardew has angered many home fans and this will just add to the mix.

Many older United fans will have mixed memories of this fixture, especially where the race for the title is concerned. Most notable of all was 1966-67 season when on May 6th United needed an away win to seal the title. The reds romped home winning 6-1 with goals from Denis Law (2), Best, Charlton, Crerand and Foulkes, in doing so lifted the old first division title. Happy days.

More recently United's championship ambitions have faltered at Upton Park during the run-in. In 1992 United lost out to Leeds United who became Champions of the old first division with the reds finishing as runner-up. To this day pundits often point to United's failure to beat West Ham United that season as the main reason United lost out to rivals Leeds. To rub salt into United's wounds that day it was a former Man City player who scored the West Ham goal. The truth of the matter is that United had actually messed things up badly in their previous two fixtures, by firstly only managing to draw away at Luton Town and then on Easter Monday two days before the trip to Upton Park United losing at home to Nottingham Forest 1-2. United then lost away at Anfield and in the final league game of the season we beat Spurs as Leeds won the title by four points and with the aid of a fair bit of luck along the way. From a Manchester United perspective we had thrown it away.

On the last day of the season in 1995 United travelled to Upton Park needing to win to lift the Premiership title, but the reds only managed a 1-1 draw and so handed Blackburn Rovers the title - in truth United only had themselves to blame for missing a succession of chances, most guilty was Andy Cole along with Brian McClair who did actually manage to get onto the scoresheet that day. To make things worse, United then lost 1-0 in the FA cup final to Everton.

As for today and this season, it's the week before Christmas but the pressure is on for United as Chelsea wont drop that many points in the league this season. Ironically we face the Hammers on the final day of the season this time at Old Trafford, in the previous fixture we face our bitter rivals Man City. It is to be hoped United recapture some of the spirit of '67 for that trip to City, a similar result would do very nicely thank you. We reds would of course settle for any kind of win in the remaining games as long as we are still in the race for the title when those fixtures come around. Today we will be happy to exercise the ghost of '95.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Lottery selection curse strikes rivals Arsenal...

The curse at work

United fans can sit back tonight and reflect on another fairly good day in the Premiership as rivals Arsenal dropped yet more points in the 2-2 draw with Portsmouth at the Emirates Stadium.

Apart from what turned out to be a very exciting second half performance by the home side and another stunning goal by Pompey's Matt Taylor, the main talking point post match surrounded Arsene Wenger who appears to have been struck down by the dreaded lottery selection curse, common symptons of which include blurd vision and lack of clarity of thought. Alex Ferguson has been struck by the curse more often than most - Fergie was struck down most recently against FC Copenhagen in the Champions League.

Today Wenger gave Jeremie Aliadiere his first league start of the season, with Adebayor and Theo Walcott dropping to the bench from the midweek win at Wigan. After going two goals down Wenger's vision returned to normal as Adebayor and Theo Walcott returned to save a point and Wenger's embarrassment in a stunning comeback.

The magnificent seven set to return...

OK I got you with that headline didn't I? You thought United might be about to resign the 'son of god' - our very own 'messiah', AKA Eric Cantona or perhaps David Beckham didn't you? No such luck, but United are set to welcome seven potential big stars of the future, who've been on loan at other clubs, namely Lee Martin and Phil Bardsley (Rangers), Chris Eagles (NEC Nijmegen) and Giuseppe Rossi (Newcastle), plus Jonny Evans and Danny Simpson, and of course Dong at Antwerp.

OF those names, I'm fairly confident most of them will make it as professional footballers - whether or not that will be at United remains to be seen. Jonny Evans looks to be the real deal, he looks like another John Terry to me - a class act in other words.

It is to be hoped that these lads are given some chances to shine for the first team between now and the season end, but with United so heavily involved in the title race and in Europe and especially being out of the Carling Cup then you'd think first team opportunities might well be slim - so the seven stars could well be vying of reserve team places.

Further to this last week rival manager Jose Mourinho restated his belief that reserve team football is by and large a waste of time in England. Why? Because it isn't competitive enough. In Spain for example clubs like Rea Madrid have a proper second team named Real Madrid Castilla - who are the only reserve to play in the Spanish second division, to all intensive purposes they are run as a separate club - but they are not allowed to play in the same division as their parent club. I think that perhaps Mourinho has a point, the English FA needs to look at this idea - but don't hold your breath - the FA cannot do much right including appointing the right man to manage England.

United solve Chinese puzzle as Dong gets green light..

So then, three years after United gambled a massive £3.5m on an untried and unknown 18 year old Chinese star, Dong Fangzhou, he finally gets a work permit which will enable him to play for United proper.

When the red devils signed Dong he wasn't a full international and therefore getting a work permit was going to be tricky. To get round the red-tape United have an agreement with Belgium club Royal Antwerp, who are United's feeder club. The good news is that Dong Fangzhou has now played a few games for China's national side and so he now qualifies to play for the club and so he heads to Old Trafford next month.

Of Dong Fangzhou Ferguson says 'the boy has a big chance' and so he does, but only the same chance as any other youngster who is lucky enough to be signed to play for United - except of course there's additional problems to overcome for forgein stars with the added burden of having to settle into a new country, the culture and then there's the small matter of the language barrier.

Sceptics might well argue that Dong has been partly signed with a view exploiting any future commercial opportunities in the Far East - that of course may well be part of the thinking. However, if Dong cannot cut the mustard at Old Trafford, then he his name is less likely to shift products at home or indeed in China. Watch this space on Dong's future, I wish the lad well and hope he does the business for the shirts.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Brit's Champion's League draw looking good..

The five remaining British teams in the Champions League had mixed fortunes in today's draw for the first knockout round. Liverpool were handed a tough looking assignment away to Barca first leg, providing the reds keep their heads in the Nou Camp and don't get stuffed then they've got a very good chance of beating Barca over two legs as Barca don't look half the side they were last season minus Eto'o up front. If Barca under estimate Liverpool it will be to their cost.

Celtic face AC Milan who are of course capable of beating anyone and as such I doubt Gordon Strachan's side will come out on top over the two legs, but you never know as Milan have been blowing hot and cold this season following the turmoil of the summer and the departures that followed.

Chelsea face Mourinho's old club Porto, this game will be very interesting as the opposition will know as much about Chelsea as Jose will know about his old club. Again nothing can be taken for granted for the West London club, but all thins being equal Chelsea will prevail.

Arsenal face PSV and this looks like a fairly easy tie for the Gunners, I'd be amazed if Arsenal don't progress to the next round, the same goes for my club United. The reds should be too good for Lille over two legs - the only thing which may stop United is Ferguson's crass stupidity and complacency regarding team selection.

All in all we should see at least three British clubs in the next round, and if that happens we will then see two British clubs meeting for certain. No way will Uefa allow two British clubs to reach the final.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

John Terry talking tough...but running scared?

Following a very narrow one-nil win over Newcastle United at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night the Chelsea skipper John Terry took time out to warn league leaders Manchester United that the best is still to come from the boys in blue.

The fact that Terry is even talking about United provides further evidence that Chelsea are genuinely concerned about United's credentials.

Terry says that Chelsea can go on to another level of performance while United are playing at the top of their game, he might have a point. However, what the Chelsea skipper doesn't mention is that this season the champions have looked less than a combined unit. All too often this new blues formation has looked disjointed and lacking balance, much of this is due to the summer arrivals of Ballack and in particular Shevchenko whose presence in the team has led to Jose Mourinho playing without specialist widemen. Added to which the fall-out between Shevchenko and Mourinho seems to be widening by the week. The Chelsea manager had to once again explain his decision to bench the Ukrainian striker in his post-match interview. To rub salt into Shevchenko's wounds Jose hinted again that Drogba is special, as the Ivory Coast striker played while injured after coming on at half-time.

Chelsea can talk all day long about what they are going to do, but from the outside looking in the blues camp doesn't look to be a totally happy one.

Terry talking up a good game - let us see the reality come the end of the season

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

FA to press FIFA for video evidence to cut out diving.

..the FA are apparently going to press FIFA to introduce video evidence in a bid to cut down the amount of players who dive. The FA say they are the only national association pressing for the use of video evidence.

I think that the FA are onto a loser here. Here's why, part of football's beauty is its inperfection, but if video evidence could be used quickly and conclusively without too much of a delay in play, then it would be more appealing to the likes myself and other sceptics.

The fact is that wont happen. Take the example of Cristiano Ronaldo who was brought down in the penalty area recently by Boro's keeper at the Riverside - the referee awarded United a penalty kick and the reds went on to win the game.

After the game Gareth Southgate went carping to the press about the decision saying it wasn't a penalty, two weeks later and a consensus cannot be agreed, some say it was definitely a penalty while Southgate et al say the player dived. In such situations it will always come down the opinion of someone - so any decision will not be universally accepted as being right because it cannot be conclusively be proven one way or the other, so if that is the case we are no better off. We might as well leave it to the referee.

I don't often agree with Sep Blatter, but he is against this technology being introduced, this time I agree with him.

AC Milan rule out Shevchenko return...

Reports in the British press claim that AC Milan president Silvio Berlusconi has ruled out any possibility of bringing Chelsea's Andriy Shevchenko back to Italy - the news if true may be hard to take for the Ukrainian striker who has so far failed to put in convincing consistent performances since his summmer arrival.

I actually think Shevchenko will come good given time, but he's been more or less written off by many pundits who say 'he's lost a yard of pace - you never get it back'.

Anyone who writes off Shevchenko is a fool in my book. Chelsea need to keep Sheva, their only other central striker is Drogba if he gets injured they'd be short of strikers.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Wayne Rooney hints at career in the USA...

Fresh from helping United give Manchester City a dusting last weekend Wayne Rooney visited the 'Big Apple' for some reason, no doubt for some much needed R&R, given United have no midweek game. Rooney recently signed a contract extension with the 'red devils', but in a brief interview with the Staten Island Advance he's hinted at a possible future in the USA. Rooney's current deal runs until 2012.Story

United Opus - what's all the fuss about?

IF any wealthy reds have a spare £3,000 burning a hole in their pocket and a reinforced coffee table, then you might consider purchasing this huge new book all about United. The book contains over 400,000 words written by a selection of the finest sports writers in the UK, such as Hugh McIlvanney, Paddy Barclay, James Lawton and Jim White. There's plenty of top-notch photo's too for those who like looking at pictures, apparently the publishers looked at least 2 million images prior to publication.

For those who are really well-off you might as well push the boat out and get the icons edition which has been signed by Cantona and Bryan Robson aka captain Marvel, the icons limited edition will set you back £4,250.

My copy is in the post - and my postman has recently suffered a double hernia too. I will give him an extra mince pie on delivery by way of compensation.

Arsenal to sell Henry to United?

...OK, so that was a joke, but I do believe Arsenal are preparing to off-load Henry, sadly they'd never sell him to United, Barcelona is a different matter entirely and it's there that I believe he could be heading this January.

Reading between the lines, something has been going on between Wenger and Henry, it could be a similar situation to the Fergie and Van Nistelrooy spat, maybe the relationship isn't totally broken as it was between Fergie and Ruud, but once the decision is made to part company it's usually best for all concerned. Despite his fantastic goal record at United, the team has carried on winning without Ruud. Life does go on.

I don't actually like Wenger, but football isn't a popularity contest, it's about results and there's no better manager in the world regarding finding new talent than Wenger. In a nutshell I'd have complete faith his his judgement which is a view shared by the Arsenal big-wigs. It could be perfect timing financially because Arsenal will get a packet for their French striker and Wenger will replace him, maybe not like for like, but he will find a way of replacing him.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Ferguson to get financial backing in January..

A report in the turgid Manchester Evening Newsclaims that the Glazer family will back Fergie in the January transfer window. It would be nice to believe this is actually true. To coin a David Gill phrase 'actions will speak louder than words'...

Will they or wont they back Fergie in January?

Pardew sacked - don't blame it on the Argentine's..

So West Ham United have sacked Alan Pardew - it's hardly a surprise given the clubs position, added to which the stakes have been raised following the takeover having new owners etc. The consensus among football pundits is that the clubs Icelandic owners have over-paid to purchase the Hammers, so the pressure to do well is that much the greater in financial terms - the new investors didn't put their money into the club to see it washed down the Championship drain...

What has surprised me slightly is that some reports are blaming the clubs failings on the two Argentine signings - that seems grossly unfair on the two players concerned. The fact is West Ham have a squad of over 25 players and I'm sure Pardew wouldn't blame the two South American's for the clubs misfortune.

What has undoubtedly cost the Hammers this season is their home form, they have lost three league games at Upton Park thus far to Newcastle, Reading and Wigan - if only West Ham had won those games they'd be a lot better off and Pardew would still be in charge. You have to win your home games against teams like Reading and Wigan if you want to stay in the big league, it's the same old story though, when something bad happens the media go looking for scapegoats, step forward Johnny Foreigner.

"Actions speak louder than words"...

How ironic that just a few days after Fergie hinted that United wont be signing a new striker in the January transfer window, David Gill, United CEO, announces to the world that 'actions speak louder than words' - this was in response to Peter Kenyon's recent statement that by 2014 Chelsea will be the world's biggest club.

Come the end of the current season should United come up short because of a lack of fire-power up front, United fans and the media will no doubt be keen to remind Gill of his own words about actions speaking louder than words.

Chelsea could well achieve Kenyon's goal of having the biggest turnover, but as I've said before they will never be as big as United, Liverpool, Barca and Real Madrid - they aren't even the biggest club in London.

United are doing well at present, but it's doubtful United will win the title, because the Chelsea squad has far greater strength in depth. Furthermore, under the new Glazer regime - United have spent little money on new players - this policy is the road to ruin and disaster on the pitch if it carries on like this. Gill can talk all day long about filling Old Trafford with 75,000 fans, but the current squad was largely built on money ploughed in from the old PLC. Those fans wont keep turning up if the team starts failing.

United can only compete with Chelsea with serious financial backing for the manager. We have seen little evidence of that so far. United have mountains of debts thanks to the Glazer family - no other club on the planet has such debts, so it is impossible to see where the investment on the pitch will come from, save for perhaps the ruler of Dubai or some such bailing out the Glazer family and United.

Gill says "Actions speak louder than words"...In response to Gill, United fans would say "Talk is cheap".

Sunday, December 10, 2006

BBC sports personality of the year - time to scrap it?.

I may come across as something of a spoil sport, but I personally think the BBCs sports personality of the year should be scrapped. Since when does your personality affect anything in the sporting arena? A look down the list of candidates for this years farce includes a darts player (yes, really), a horse rider and an F1 driver. The first category cannot be classed as 'sport', horse riding is elitist and F1 is full of over paid ponces - F1s only ever true personality was James Hunt and that was down to his off the track 'activities' as a playboy.

The annual award does remain popular with the British public, but so does Eastenders and Coronation Street - clearly there's no accounting for taste - the BBCSPOTY is cheap tv and in my view needs to be scrapped.

Arsenal hold on for credible draw with Chelsea..

An Arsenal side that was decimated by injuries and were without Henry managed to take a well earned point from Stamford Bridge this afternoon, it finished up 1-1 in what was a highly entertaining game. Despite Arsenal's problems they more than matched the home side with some neat build up play but without troubling Hilario in the Chelsea goal.

Chelsea don't do attractive football - they play more of a pragmatic game, but the blues side is full of match-winners and they are so tough to beat which is why Mourinho's side have yet to be beaten at home in the league under the Portuguese manager. Late in the second half on 78 minutes that brilliant home record looked as though it might go as Flamini scored an exquisite goal after some fantastic passing and movement by the visitors, the ball was pulled back to the Frenchman who made no mistake with a fantastic low drive which gave Hilario no chance.

The home side weren't done though and after some controversial refereeing in which Ashley Cole fouled Alexander Hleb, the home side broke down the left and when the ball eventually found its way to Essien he blasted a fierce rocket of a shot past the Arsenal keeper - it was a stunning reply. Chelsea then hit the woodwork twice before the final whistle. In the end a draw was a fair result. The winners on the day were of course Manchester United whose lead is now eight points.

Mourinho to quit Chelsea?

There's increasing speculation in the media that Jose Mourinho will walk out on Chelsea, possibly as soon as this summer, some suggest that if Chelsea win the Champions League this season it will be his last game in charge. Last week Jose gave an in-depth and very revealing interview to the Times in which he hinted strongly about managing an Italian club at some point in the future.

Whether or not this was a veiled threat to Roman Abramovich and Peter Kenyon about meddling in team selection affairs is a mute point - because in the same interview the Portuguese manager also stated that Schevchenko isn't one of his nine 'untouchable players' at Stamford Bridge. The Ukrainian striker is of course big pals with Abramovich. Added to which fresh reports now claim Chelsea are trying to tie-up players like Drogba on longer term deals in case Jose does walk out this summer. It wouldn't be stretching things too far to suggest that many rivals would like to see the back of Mourinho - basically because he's too good. IF he does go then no one else will find it so easy and that is even with Abramovich's cash mountain.

United coach linked to top USA job...

According to the latest tabloid gossip Manchester United assistant coach Carlos Queiroz is on the shortlist to become the next boss of the USA. Rightly or wrongly some United fans would be happy to see the back of Queiroz, because he's said to be the brains behind United's attempts to play 4-5-1 which hasn't worked all that well when it's been tried. I don't actually totally go along with this train of thought, because the manager is ultimately responsible and so if anyone is to blame then it is Ferguson, it is a lame and cowardly excuse to blame any failings on your assistant - not that Fergie has done that publicly of course, but rumour has had it on the grapevine that is Queiroz who is responsible. Added to which it is said that Queiroz is less than popular with the players. Obviously I cannot confirm or deny the rumours because they are all hearsay.

On the managerial situation at United, something rather strange happened yesterday. United took the unusual step of holding a somewhat melodramatic press conference, it was announced that Fergie, David Gill and Marcello Lippi were to talk to the world's media. The announcement caused a fair degree of interest from United fans as rumours spread about the content of the impending press conference. As it turned out, it was to announce a friendly match date for March 2007. David Beckham will return to United to captain a European select XI and Lippi will be on hand to coach. It's a worthy cause to commemorate not only the 50th anniversary of the Busby Babes’ entry into European competition, but also the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, signalling a united Europe. All monies from the game will go to charitable causes - but as of yet it hasn't been announced if any money will go to the surviving families of the Munich air disaster of 1958.

The interesting thing is that despite the reds doing well this season, many seasoned United fans want Ferguson out as soon as possible and as one long time hardcore fan told me last night 'I was hoping it was an announcement that Ferguson was going' - this on the same day that United beat our bitter rivals. Ferguson is now seen as one of Glazer's accolytes, a man who no longer speaks up for the fans which he has done on occasion in the past. Not only that his tactics are appalling, take for example his madness against City withdrawing Saha and thus handing the initiative to the visitors, which was the consensus of our group of United and City fans last night during an after derby warm down in Manchester last night. So I really hope United win a decent pot this year then he might be gone.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Narrow derby win seals nine point lead at the top..

United got the breaks today in the Manchester derby and the victory they needed to take a nine point lead over Chelsea. To their credit City and came and took the game to United but where rocked on their heals on just five minutes when United carved open the city back four with a stunning ball in from the right from Ronaldo - who was once again United's best player- Rooney made no mistake gliding his first time left foot drive past Weaver into the keepers bottom left hand corner of the net. For the remainder of the first half it was nip and tuck as both sides had further chances to score, Saha missed an open goal, but on 45 minutes it was the home side who struck after Thatcher made a mistake and gifted United ball on the edge of his own box, the ball was fired into the City area and Saha finished from six yards out.

United had the better of the early second half exchanges and Rooney had a couple of good chances to extend the reds lead, but as the half went on City began to take control of the game. What happened next was quite simply ridiculous. City were chasing the game but Ferguson played right into the visitors hands by taking off his centre forward, thus allowing City to push even further forward. Quite simply it was a crazy move which gifted the ball and the majority of the remainder of play to Stuart Pearce's side as United were left with just Rooney up front. As a direct result of Ferguson's lunacy City picked up the ball time and time again as United lost possesion.

Eventually City hit back on 72 minutes through Trabelsi. The goal was well deserved given the pressure City had put on the home side, it came after United allowed City to work the ball down the reds left flank and the defender fired home from the edge of the box, Carrick made a half hearted challenge and should have closed down the man on the ball much quicker.

Somehow United got lucky late on with some nice build up play down United's right and when the ball was eventually played into the visitors box, it found its way to Ronaldo who looked to be offside - the boy wonder made no mistake and sealed a hard fought win. United won this game despite the best efforts of Ferguson who nearly threw away the points with what can only be described a schoolboy mistake in replacing Saha.

Narrow derby win seals nine point lead at the top..

United got the breaks today in the Manchester derby and the victory they needed to take a nine point lead over Chelsea. To their credit City and came and took the game to United but where rocked on their heals on just five minutes when United carved open the city back four with a stunning ball in from the right from Ronaldo - who was once again United's best player- Rooney made no mistake gliding his first time left foot drive past Weaver into the keepers bottom left hand corner of the net. For the remainder of the first half it was nip and tuck as both sides had further chances to score. Saha missed an open goal, but on 45 minutes it was the home side who struck after Thatcher made a mistake and gifted United the ball on the edge of his own box, the ball was fired into the City area and Saha finished from six yards out.

United had the better of the early second half exchanges and Rooney had a couple of good chances to extend the reds lead, but it was City who hit back on 72 through Trabelsi. The goal was well deserved given the pressure City had put on the home side, it came after United allowed City to work the ball down the reds left flank and the defender fired home from the edge of the box, Carrick made a half hearted challenge and should have closed down the man on the ball much quicker.

What happened next was quite simply ridiculous, City were chasing the game but Ferguson played right into the visitors hands by taking off his centre forward, thus allowing City to push even further forward. Quite simply it was a crazy move which gifted the ball and the majority of the remainder of play to Stuart Pearce's side as United were left with just Rooney up front. As a direct result of Ferguson's lunacy City picked up the ball time and time again as United lost possesion. Somehow United got lucky late on with some nice build up play down United's right and when the ball was eventually played into the visitors box, it found its way to Ronaldo who looked to be offside - the boy wonder made no mistake and sealed a hard fought win.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Ronaldo named player of the month for November

...ho, ho, ho, Ingurlund fans will no doubt be choking on their own bile at the news that United's Ronaldo has been named player of the month for November. He's had his problems and his critics even among United fans, but he's a very good young player and he's an entertainer, it's well deserved.

Why Mourinho is right to lay down the law to Abramovich...

IT appears all is not well at Stamford Bridge, as yesterday we saw stories appearing in the British press reportedly coming from Shevchenko's camp hinting at a probable return to AC Milan.

As ever there's two sides to this story, from the perspective of Shevchenko, he is one of the world's top strikers, of that there's no argument, but there's no guarantees about selection at a club like Chelsea and so due to a lack of form, the Ukrainian striker has found himself more often than not of late on the bench. Prior to Shevchenko signing there was suggestions that he'd be happy to play his part in Mourinho's system - but it hasn't worked - and the truth is he was never going to put up with being on the bench for too long, at his age and with his experience you can understand it too.

Today Mourinho has said that if he wants to, Abramovich can sack him, because he's got enough money to do that. Clearly this smacks of internal meddling in team selection from the Oligarch - why else would Jose Mourinho mention the club owner when talking of team affairs if it wasn't part of the equation?

Further to this of late there's been suggestions in the media that both Ballack and Schevchenko were 'forced' onto the Portuguese manager, but that is media spin, what manager in the world would turn down the chance to have those two in his squad? The answer to that is possibly Mourinho - because with him, all that matters is winning and following his tactics - failure to do either isn't recommended. The message to those who don't carry out his orders leads to the exit door.

IF the two high-profile signings were indeed forced upon Mourinho, then you can bet Jose told his employers that he'd accept no further conditions and that both would be treated the same as every other squad member and quite right too.

The thing is while Chelsea have been winning this season, the two new boys haven't had the impact many expected, the fact is Essien has by far been the blues best player thus far. However, due to the new arrivals and injuries Mourinho has had to alter his system, often playing with either one winger or none, this has left his side unbalanced and lacking all important width. It is also true to say that in part Jose has been trying to get the best from the two new boys by fiddling with something that wasn't broken.

Mourinho is 100% right to tell Abramovich to back-off - after all there is only one 'special one'. I seriously doubt despite his wealth the Oligarch is daft enough to sack Mourinho - but should Manchester United claw back the title and the blues fail in the Champions League, then it will be very interesting to see the fall-out.

THE big derby preview...

Tomorrow United take on City at Old Trafford in what is usually passionate affair. To say there's a lot at stake for both sides wouldn't be exaggerating the situation. As ever City's season rests on the results the two derby games, because they have nothing else to play for - they are no nearer capturing a trophy now than at any other point in the last 30 potless years, in that respect life has been quite tough for those who had the misfortune to find themselves supporting City. On that note yesterday I became the proud owner of an Ulster Bank commemmorative George Best five pound note - it is a work of art, so I've been trying to think of a safe place to store this valuable keepsake - if only I had somewhere where no one goes, like City's trophy cabinet. :0)

As for tomorrow, for City, there's the added of advantage of spiking United's title ambitions. Granted the blues have done well in recent derby games over the last few seasons, so tomorrow I'm hoping United take all three points, but the blues have found some decent form of late - and they needed to. From what I've seen of City, their biggest asset is their defence, midfield is so, so, - as is their forward line. The biggest danger for United apart from not taking our own chances will come from set pieces. The blues look good on corners, with Richards and Dunne both powerful headers of the ball.

United will have to be at their collective very best to win this one, nothing less than 100% will be good enough. What we don't want is City fans walking round Stockport telling us that all that they stopped United winning the title in 2006 for the next god knows how many years. Arsenal take on Chelsea on Sunday so United have a real chance of opening up a decent gap at the top if results go the right way.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

United see off Benfica as Champions League looks wide open..

United gave their fans a scare at Old Trafford on Wednesday night after going a goal behind on 27 minutes courtesy of a spectacular 25 yard drive from defender Marcus Nelson - in truth it was the first real serious effort of the night from other side, up and until that point neither team looked up for the game. The goal was actually a blessing as it finally stirred United into action. Vidic got the vital equaliser with a well taken header on the stroke of half-time, if the reds hadn't scored then it might have been a different story.

Ryan Giggs who didn't play well on the night gave the home side the lead on 61 minutes with another well taken header - this time the cross came in from the right from Ronaldo, Giggs was totally unmarked and made no mistake.

Benfica didn't come close to drawing level, but Simoa roasted Evra on one occasion and was easily the visitors best player. Louis Saha finally made the points and the game safe on 75 minutes and again it was another headed goal. I cannot actually remember the last time United scored three headed goals in one game - so that is something of a quiz question for any footy anoraks out there.

After the game Fergie talked about United's inability to play patient football. United had started with a 4-5-1 formation with just Saha up front, but on going a goal behind Fergie sent Rooney forward. The former Everton man didn't actually play well on the night - but United did look and play better once the switch was made. Fergie said that United cannot play patient football and he also talked about being a young side, which is something of a contradiction coming from Fergie, as when United have won he says 'the players have now grown up and have learnt' then we the reds have done badly or leaked a goal he says 'we are a young side and lack experience' and so it goes.

Graeme Souness tv pundit, former Liverpool and Rangers manager also picked up on this after the game and said that it's a good point, he says that United's style is suited to the Premier League where 'it's up and at 'em', but perhaps the reds aren't that great at playing the 'European way'. Nonetheless Souness is convinced that an English team will win the CL this season. I'm not so sure, yes the English clubs have as good a chance as anyone, but the competition is so wide open virtually any of around eight clubs could win it. Chelsea must be the favourites, but I wouldn't put a bent penny on anyone right now because in knockout football, over two legs anything can happen.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Liverpool wont be the next Chelsea...

According to the latest news even if Liverpool are taken over by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, they will NOT be following the same 'spend, spend, spend' route that Chelsea have taken, but money will be made available for the right investments on and off the pitch.

The fact is as far as many football fans are concerned, until this week few knew much about the Sheikh, and despite being the fifth richest man in the world, it just shows how your profile can be catapulted into the public eye once you get involved in a big football club like Liverpool. Unlike Roman Abramovich, one doubts that Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum will be spending much time following Liverpool - or taking up residence in Loonypool. Why oh why couldn't this have been United, yes I am ever so slightly envious - is it too much to hope for that the Sheikh will buy-out Glazer instead?

High profile

Why lack of planning by Fergie could cost United...

Tonight United face Benfica in the Champions League, it is a game they cannot afford to lose, so the pressure is very much on. IF the unthinkable happens United will be eliminated from the Champions League at this stage for the second year running. Not only that United face Man City on Saturday in a lunch time kick-off - so it wont give the United players much time to recover for such an important game. Here again United cannot afford to drop points against our local and most bitter of rivals, as we have done all too often over the last few seasons.

Quite simply United shouldn't be in this position, we should have been like Liverpool and Chelsea who'd already qualified for the Champions League and as such this week they had the relative luxury of being able to rest key players and take it easy in their last respective group games. United do not have that luxury.

The fact that United do need to get a result against Benfica is entirely down to poor planning by Fergie, if he'd have looked at his fixture list and thought matters through no way would he have rested key players for the away trip to FC Copenhagen, it was there that United really slipped up badly by losing. Yes, we should have won against Celtic or at least got a draw, but in football you don't always get what you deserve. Losing to Celtic was no disgrace, the same cannot be said of losing to the Danes.

The fact is United players will have to play full out this evening to ensure their passage through to the knock-out stages of the CL, failure to do so could be extremely costly. God forbid United don't slip up against City this weekend, our season doesn't rest on that result, but as far as City fans are concerned - it IS their season - local bragging rights are at stake, we owe them too for recent failings.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Has Sepp Blatter lost the plot?

Every now and again Sepp Blatter comes out with something that stuns the world of football, his latest idea is that the European leagues should re-schedule their seasons to start in February and end in November. Great idea Sepp, but where would your beloved World Cup fit into that? One presumes the World Cup would be played between December and January - which kind of rules out staging it in Europe - and it always has been held in the summer months.

Contrary to Blatter's claim - I cannot see the big clubs agreeing with this. They might be in favour of a collective winter break, but that is entirely different. What would we, the fans do during those dull winter months? What would the clubs do in the summer, many fans would be away during the season on holiday?

Not so long ago Blatter announced that the Premier League would soon be reduced to 18 teams - he made the announcement without actually telling anyone - including the Premiership big wigs.

Sorry Sepp, this is another barmy half-arsed idea.

Barking mad - as reliable as a Swiss watch and as crazy as a cuckoo clock - he never lets you down when it comes to silly ideas

Monday, December 04, 2006

Why new owners for 'The Dirties' is a good deal...

IF there's one thing worse that Chelsea being owned by Roman Abramovich, it is the news that Liverpool could soon be owned by someone with even more money than the Oligarch. Apparently Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum is the fifth richest man in the world, it doesn't bear thinking about what might happen, perhaps Liverpool will recapture their glory years..oh no, please save us from that.

In all seriousness Liverpool are a good buy, even at £450m - which is nearly half what Glazer paid to acquire United - and Glazer did it with other peoples money - in other words borrowed money. That is the big difference here, many United fans wouldn't have been totally against foreign ownership, but they are against putting the club into hock with the banks. The thing is football clubs aren't meant to be money making machines - they do generate cash but the money generated needs to be ploughed back into the team as it largely was prior to the Glazer family taking the club into private ownership, save for the miserly dividends which the club paid out to its shareholders.

United fans wouldn't have been totally against private ownership - providing that whoever it was ran the club correctly and had its best interests at heart. The fact is the Glazer family haven't given one live public interview to United fans. No wonder they aren't trusted. The Glazer family aren't in the same league as Abramovich or Sheikh Mohammed.

We have all seen what Chelsea have achieved under Abramovich, it could happen at Liverpool too. At United the future is less certain with the clubs rising debt mountain, courtesy of Glazer's madness - it will end in tears.

Fergie unhappy with Magpies over Rossi..

So Fergie isn't happy because Rossi isn't getting enough games at Newcastle United. "Giuseppe will come back to us because he is just not getting enough football at Newcastle," said Ferguson. "The understanding we had with them was that he would play more games.

"Every manager is subject to their own opinions on players, so I don't want to say too much about that. But we could have done with him here, so he might as well come back to us." Said Fergie.

The thing is at one stage United hinted that Rossi would only be joining the Magpies if Ruud didn't join Madrid - but he did join the Spaniards, and still United allowed Rossi to join Newcastle on loan without securing a replacment for the Dutchman. So this is a mess of Fergie's own making - the fact that Rossi hasn't been getting games is nothing to do with the United manager, as Newcastle will be paying his wages. No way should Rossi have been allowed to leave the club in the first place.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

No money for Ferguson to strengthen?

The short term signing of Henrik Larsson has raised more questions than answers about United's ability under Glazer to finance Fergie's needs in relation to a serious title challenge or to win the Champions League again.

On Larsson, Fergie says it's a marvellous piece of business, because the Swede can change games. The manager also said it's an important signing because Larsson brings experience he went on talk about the title run-in, but then remembered that Larsson wont be here for that...

Apparently Rossi is being recalled from Newcastle which comes as no surprise because quite simply the move to North East was a complete waste of time, Rossi has barely featured for the Magpies.

The thing is, despite the shocking lack of options up front United keep on talking about a player who they wont be able to sign, that player is Owen Hargreaves. I for one belief this is United's spin doctors at work. The rationale being that United can say we want to sign him knowing they wont be able to and then when the move doesn't come off they can blame it on Munich. United did a similar thing with Ballack, the word went out via club sources that they had an agreement with the players agent - that went pear shaped when the German decided to join Chelsea and then Fergie stated that he wasn't right for United. This time with Hargreaves the club can say 'we tried but we cannot do it' - but the fact is that David Gill has already confirmed that United have made no official approach to Bayern, so it looks like the club are just stringing the fans is cheap.

Let us not forget that United were the Premiership's lowest net spenders last summer. Also Ferguson hasn't once spoken out against the Glazer regime - he cannot be happy with his options up front. During our historic treble winning season in 1999 Fergie constantly rotated his four strikers - this time he effectively has one out and out number 9 in Saha, granted Larsson will help in the short term, but Ferguson cannot be happy.

Chances are United will come up short this season in the title race and if that happens it will more than likely be down to the forward line situation. Ferguson needs to get out of Glazers pocket and start fighting his corner by demanding more cash for transfers - that is of course if he's got genuine ambitions of actually winning it. IF Fergie isn't allowed to bring in another top striker then it will be a missed opportunity and it will probably mean that Ferguson ends his managerial career on low note - because it is highly unlikely United will get a better chance of beating Chealsea over a season while the man from Govan remains in charge.

Reds march on as Boro are left complaining..

United continued their excellent league form with an important 2-1 win away at Middlesbrough on Saturday, courtesy of a controversial first half penalty won by Ronaldo and converted by Saha. The home side hit back after the interval through James Morrison after Heinze failed to effectively clear the ball. But not long after the restart United got the vital winner from the head of Darren Fletcher after good work by Ronaldo and Giggs, in truth it was no more than United deserved. After the game all the talk centred on the penalty. Gareth Southgate the Boro boss complained that Ronaldo is a 'serial diver', as you'd expect Fergie didn't agree simply stating that it was a penalty kick. The Riverside has been a not so happy hunting ground for United on occasion, last season we lost 4-1 so despite Southgate's griping reds fans will be very relieved to have won this game.

United can now look forward to the seasons most important game so far in terms of Europe, as United prepare for the visit of Benfica in midweek.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Larsson signs 3 month loan deal but it's not enough..

The great news for Manchester United fans today is that the reds have captured 35 year old Swedish striker Henrik Larsson who will sign in January - the bad news is that he's only at United for 3 months. He returns to his club Helsingborg in March for the beginning of the Swedish season. IF the deal had gone on until the end of the season it might have been enough for the reds, the fact that United were willing to take Larsson on such a short term deal shows you how desperate the club is - perhaps Fergie has no money to spend, because there is players who are available namely Defoe and Bent, so we reds live in hope that one of them signs this January along with Larsson.

The move is also likely to anger the likes of Alan Smith, who I expect to leave the club ASAP. Smith will no doubt feel betrayed given he was told by Fergie he'd play up front when he joined the reds, but the former Leeds man has had limited opportunities up front and of course he broke his leg too. All in all it's best if Smith does move on to another club.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

United 'reject' Freddie Adu...

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

ANALYSIS: Transfer speculation hotting up...

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

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

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

German's complaining about 'selfishness'...

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

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

Chelsea man backs United to win the title..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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