Monday, January 29, 2007

Pay no attention to Ronaldo rumours..

According to United's spin doctors Real Madrid are wasting their time preparing a £45m summer bid for Cristiano Ronaldo. The fact is if Madrid offered that sort of money make no mistake the Glazer family would consider it, not only that what does the player himself want to do, would he fancy joining Madrid? Last summer Ronaldo was talking about leaving United, so this will be a transfer story that will run and run right up and until the summer window closes.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Abramovich in Israel to meet new Chelsea manager?

According to The Times, Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is in Israel over the new few days for a six team tournament which on the face of it has little meaning in football terms.

However, it is also claimed that among others Guus Hiddink the current Russian team manager will also be in attendance and the Dutchman is being strongly linked with replacing Jose Mourinho at Chelsea, further to this Sunday tabloid reports claim the current Blues boss will receive an £11m pay-off from the club. Roman set to meet his disciples

Saturday, January 27, 2007

United ease past Pompey in FA Cup...

United beat Pompey by the odd goal in three today at Old Trafford courtesy of two second half goals by substitute Wayne Rooney, both goals were excellent, the first was a good team goal with Larsson laying the ball out wide to Giggs who found Rooney inside the penalty area and unmarked on the edge of the six yard box, Rooney finished with ease. Just a few minutes later the former Everton man scored one of the best goals of the FA Cup so far this season with a great chip which left David James standing and watching so good was the execution. Rooney controlled Gary Neville's pass with one touch, turned and then gently chipped the ball as if he was playing a sand iron out of a bunker, the ball sailed over James who could only admire Rooney's work.

Kanu pulled a flukey deflected goal back late on for the visitors, but in truth Portsmouth deserved nothing from the game as they came to defend using negative tactics. Added to which in the first half United had a good goal chalked off by ref Mike Riley, Vidic's header from the corner clearly went over the Portsmouth goal line, but the ref got that decision wrong. In the second half Larsson had another good United goal ruled out for offside which clearly it wasn't. United are now in the draw for the last 16 and the Reds could even afford to rest Ronaldo and Saha. Looking good.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Real to offer United £35m for Ronaldo...

Reports claim that Real Madrid will offer United £35m for Ronaldo, whether or not that deal will go through will depend a great deal on the player himself and Ferguson, the man who stood by the player following his summer run-in with the gutter press and the Neanderthal England fans following his fall out with Wayne Rooney in the World Cup. Everyone in the media appeared to be ready to slaughter Ronaldo this season, calling him a serial diver and a cheat, etc,, but following a superb season the revisionists have been busy at work, even the BBCs Gary Lineker said recently that actually he seems like a decent lad.

In my opinion Ronaldo should stay at United as Madrid are a club in something of a mess. No doubting the Glazer family would take Real's money faster than you could say £660m debt, but what do they know about football?

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Mourinho and Co. almost certain to leave Chelsea..

According to reports Jose Mourinho and his coaching staff are almost certain to leave Stamford Bridge this summer. For the second time in a week Romam Abramovich did not attend a Chelsea game when the Blues despatched Wycombe Wanderers en route to the Carling Cup final - the suggestion is that the gap between the manager and his employer is now unbridgeable - a parting of the ways looks inevitable.

Further to this The Times is claiming that Chelsea have made no attempt to talk about new terms with Jose’s coaching staff, which consists of Steve Clarke - coach, (has 20 years service at the club), Baltemar Brito, assistant manager, Silvino Louro - goalkeeping coach, Rui Faria - fitness coach, and André Villas Boas - chief scout.

The Times also claims that the blues are looking at replacements for Mourinho, names in the frame include Guus Hiddink, Didier Deschamps - Juventus coach, and Juan de la Cruz Ramos - Seville coach.

It is being reported that Mourinho will not tolerate internal meddling with regard to who his assistants are and over the last few weeks it has been reported that the Chelsea power-brokers would like to see Steve Clarke replaced. On this issue Mourinho is clear “I choose my assistants, if I am not happy, I tell the club to sack them or to change them. But my coaching staff is my responsibility. That’s not a quote, it’s a fact.”

From the outside looking in you do wonder how it has come to this, Chelsea appeared to have the almost perfect set-up, they have arguably the best young manager in the world, backed by one of the richest men in the world. The fall-out will be interesting to say the least and this situation must hinder the Blues chances of winning the Champions League and domestic honours this season.

Heinze to invoke new rule and leave United?

Oliver Kay of The Times newspaper claims that Gabriel Heinze could be set to invoke a new FIFA rule this June which would allow him to leave the club after 'buying out' his contract, in reality his new club would do the buying of course. Heinze has become frustrated at his lack of opportunities this season and United have been linked to another left sided defender in Gareth Bale. The Argentine star has admitted that AC Milan are interested in him.

The new FIFA ruling stipulates that a contract ceases to be protected after a period of three years if the player was under 28 when he signed. A number of stars could take advantage of the ruling including John Terry, Ricardo Carvalho and Frank Lampard all of Chelsea, Xabi Alonso and Luis Garcia of Liverpool and Gilberto Silva of Arsenal. Under the terms of the regulations United would recoup around £6m for Heinze as he still has two years to run on his contract.

News of the move has surprised Fergie as he wasn't even aware of the impending exit and the new ruling, which sums up how poorly the United regime is on important rulings of this nature - the finger is most definitely not on the pulse. On hearing about this Fergie said: 'I went diving for my file, I was sure this wasn't right'. But apparently it is right...

While not being a great footballer, Heinze is a great defender and many say he's better at centre-back rather than a full-back, but he's never been given the chance to shine in that position, if he goes he'll get a great send-off from the fans who love him. £6m is a fair price too.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Rugby man goes one better than Cantona..


Trevor Brennan who is a 17 stone, 6'5" Irish rugby player jumped into the crowd against Ulster at the weekend, he then walked up eight rows of steps and then flattened an Ulster supporter for allegedly abusing his family. So much for all those followers of Rugby who say 'we dont see things like Cantona jumping into the crowd and bad behaviour from the fans'...

Irish fists of fury

Incredibly the incident took place before Brennan went on as a substitute and following his crowd blitz he still took to the field of play to take part in the game!

Comment of the day belonged to a Toulouse police spokesman who said "it was a private matter between two people" adding that they did not know "what all the fuss is about". Arf.

Martin O'Neill gambling like never before and feeling the pressure?

I have been watching developments at Villa Pak with interest since the arrival of Martin O'Neill, the Ulsterman is always linked to United every time talk of Fergie retiring arises.

Further to this one quite surprising fact has emerged in that his biggest player acquisition in terms of the size of the fee during his lengthy managerial career so far took place this week with the signing of Watford's Ashley Young, he's signed for Villa for £9.75m, it isn't a huge amount, but Young lacks experience and so eyebrows have been raised slightly, so much so that O'Neill must be feeling the pressure if this quote is aything to go by 'Arsene Wenger and Ferguson can spend all of the time, am I supposed to stay down?'..

IF O'Neill is feeling the pressure because of spending at Villa - how on earth would he cope at a club like United???

Juve 'want' United star...

The window has been open for over three weeks now and yet still no sign of any big name signings, save of course for on loan Henrik Larsson who's been proving his worth, at least in the FA cup at any rate.

Everyone is hoping that United will prize away Owen Hargreaves from Bayern Munich, and many like me believe his arrival could turn United's silverware ambitions into hard booty. Apparently we shall find out on Thursday if the Reds latest bid has been successful, the player confirmed that United had made an official approach for him earlier this week.

Another star in the news is United's Giuseppe Rossi according to the latest reports Milan, Juventus, Roma and Internazionale are all interested in signing him. Rossi is currently on loan at another Italian club Parma and he scored to help them win against Torino at the weekend. Rumours are claiming that Giuseppe's parents want him to quit England... watch this space on that one.

I will of course be keeping any eye on transfer developments for the next few days hoping that United make at least one more big signing before the window closes.

Wenger's theory about United doesn't hold water...

OK, so Arsenal took all six points off United in the league this season, in the first game the Gunners scored on 86 minutes through Adebayor, the visitors thoroughly deserved that win, on Sunday, they scored two goals in the last 10 minutes to sneak a victory, United probably deserved a point at least.

However, it emerges that Wenger has been telling his team and anyone else that would listen that United stop working after 70 minutes, hence conceding late goals, so I thought I'd check out the facts.

Goals conceded after 68 minutes

21 Jan
Arsenal 2-1 United
Van Persie 83, Henry 90
Jan 7th FA cup

United 2-1 Villa
Baros 74

21 Jan
Newcastle 2-2 United
Edgar 74

30 Dec
United 3-2 Reading
Lita 90

17 Dec
West Ham 1-0 United
Reo-coker 75

23 Dec
United 3-1 City
Trabelsi 72

26 Nov
United 1-1 Chelsea
Carvalho 69

21 Nov
Celtic 1-0 United
Nakamura 81

01 Nov
Copenhagen 1-0 United
Allback 73

17 Sept
United 0-1 Arsenal
Adebayor 86

Goals against 11

Goals for United after 68 minutes
Jan 7th FA cup
United 2-1 Villa
Solskjaer 90

30 Dec
United 3-2 Reading
Ronaldo 77

23 Dec
Villa 0-3 United
Ronaldo 85 (reds scored 3 in 25 mins)

9 Dec
United 3-1 City
Ronaldo 84

6 Dec
United 3-1 Benfica
Saha 75

2 Dec
Boro 1-2 United
Fletcher 68

29 Nov
United 3-0 Everton
O'Shea 89

18 Nov
Sheff 1-2 United
Rooney 75

28 Oct
Bolton 0-4 United
Ronaldo 82
Rooney 89

25 Oct
Crewe 1-2 United
Lee 119

17 Oct
United 3-0 Copenhagen
Richardson 83

14 Oct
Wigan 1-3 Unted
Solskjaer 90

23 Sept
Reading 1-1 United
Ronaldo 73

23 Aug
Charlton 0-3 United
Saha 80
Solskjaer 90

Goals for 16

In addition to the figure above and not included is the fact that United have notched several more goals after the 60 minute mark.

Teams will always score and concede goals in the last quarter of the game, this is largely due to the game getting stretched. The Arsenal assertion that United's older legs are sapping late on isn't borne out by the actual results, if the figures prove anything it is that United are still strong in the last quarter with United's Ole Solskjaer notching on 90 minutes on three occasions.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Big fat Ron is back in football.....

Big Fat Ron Atkinson is back in football after accepting the position of Director of Football at Kettering Town where he started his career in 1971, the former Man United manager was banished from his position of ITV football pundit after making racist remarks when he thought he was off-air, he wasn't. Ron made a mistake but he's been punished and now he's back, personally I'd like to see Atkinson brought back as a tv pundit because he talks sense most of the time. Welcome back Ron.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Reds throw it away again...

United once again failed to take advantage of Chelsea dropping points by losing by the odd goal in three at the Emirates Stadium against Arsenal today. United took the lead courtesy of a superb second half headed goal by Wayne Rooney and until 83 minutes it looked as though the visitors may hang on to win to make the gap at the top nine points, but United couldn't defend well enough to keep the Gunners out, twice Arsenal broke down United's left flank and both times the ball ended up in the back of the net. For the first Arsenal goal Gary Neville was guilty of ball watching thus allowing Robin Van Persie to sneak in behind him and then crash home the equaliser, then in the dying moments Arsenal broke again down the left flank and this time Henry of all people was left unmarked to score with a header of all things. The Reds will undoubtedly pay the price for this major slip up.

Fergie and Wenger find common ground?...

With United and Arsenal set to lock horns later today in what could be a very important game in terms of who wins the title this season, the press have been running stories about Fergie and Wenger finding common ground in that both want to stop Jose Mourinho's Chelsea from lifting the Premiership trophy for the third time on the bounce.

Ferguson and Wenger have a professional respect for each others work, but beyond that there's no empathy at all. Ferguson likes to buddy up to other managers after the game and to share a bottle or red wine - it never happens with Wenger. It's actually a tradition that down the years has been shared by the players too, one doubts though that there's been many occasions when United's stars have enjoyed a pint or two with the Arsenal lads after games in recent times, such has been the depth of ill feeling towards each other on the pitch. Too much bad blood has been spilt and for all the talk of this new common ground in wanting to bring down Chelsea from their high horse, I doubt much will change today once the game kicks-off. By 6pm today I expect the rivalry will once again be bubbling over.

I'm just hoping United make it a very bad weekend for Jose Mourinho et al by taking all three points - if that happens at least Wenger can take some consolation about Chelsea being further behind in the title race, many others will share that common ground.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Wheels falling off Chelsea wagon?

Chelsea deservedly lost 2-0 at Anfield today courtesy of first half goals by Kuyt and Pennant, the margin could have been greater. Chelsea for their part barely tested the Liverpool goalkeeper throughout the ninety minutes. Ballack, Lampard and second half substitute Shevchenko were pretty much passengers throughout this game.

At present Chelsea look anything but champions and after the game at Anfield Jose Mourinho talked at length about his teams 'weakness'. For a club who have spent so much money in the transfer market over the last few seasons not many will have sympathy. Interestingly, the ever present Roman Abramovich wasn't in attendance at Anfield today, whether or not this has anything to do with his alleged fall-out with his coach is open to speculation.

On the evidence of today United have a real chance of lifting the title providing they hold their form and nerve and of course the Reds face Arsenal on Sunday with the Gunners looking to complete a double over the Red Devils.

Hopefully United will not slip-up as we have done when Chelsea have dropped points, but even a point will hugely important for United's season, a defeat wouldn't a total disaster but it would be another big missed opportunity for Fergie's side.

Feyenoord turfed out of UEFA cup (at last)

Feyenoord have been booted out of this seasons UEFA Cup due to crowd problems at the match with Nancy in November, it isn't the first time that the Dutch club have been in trouble with UEFA about crowd problems, but at last the ultimate sanction has been applied, it isn't before time.

PSG are another club who need to be sorted out, their supporters have been guilty of racist chanting and causing trouble during and after matches. Again back in November and in the same competition there was further trouble in the match between PSG and Hapoel Tel Aviv, the visitors won 4-2, but the racist chanting was so bad Hapoel Tel Aviv spokesman Amir Lubin commented. "We could hear the chants of the French crowd which were in no way connected to football". After that game in Paris, a PSG fan was shot dead by a plain clothed policeman who fired two shots into a crowd of 100 home fans who were attacking a single Hapoel Tel Aviv fan, another man was injured.

UEFA needs to ensure that visiting fans can visit clubs in Europe in safety before, during and after games. In England this has been happening for quite some time, the policing is firm, effective and fair for the most part. Sadly the same cannot be said of travelling around Europe. The clubs have a duty to ensure that they control their own fans in the ground and to do as much as possible to make sure that policing is done properly - all too often around Europe both doesn't happen.

Down the years supporters of United have been the victims of missile attacks during the game when visiting Italian clubs, indiscriminate police baton charges at places like Porto with women and children being truncheoned. The policing in Turkey has down the years been nothing short of disgraceful and this alone should be enough to chuck the Turkish clubs out of Europe - for not controlling their own police.

There is a feeling among English fans that they're treated differently around Europe and that no way would English clubs get away with what often goes on in other European countries at least now that Feyenoord have been booted out, it partly lays that argument to rest.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Trouble in the court of King Roman.....

Reports have been suggesting that Shevchenko has recommended his old AC Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti as a possible replacement for Jose Mourinho at Chelsea, this sort of rumour unchecked will do nothing to pour cold water on the flames which are currently lapping up Jose's trouser leg. AC Milan have denied the story, but what do they know about this? When someone is being tapped up, the club in question are often the last to find out...

Further to this in a separate report in the Times, it was claimed that Mourinho's influence on the playing front isn't what you may expect and that Roman Abramovich exerts a fair degree of pressure on which players to buy via his own contacts within the game and that the Oligarch hasn't been over impressed by Jose's recent acquisitions.

John Terry has stated that if needs be the players will support their manager by trying to broker a peace deal at the club, time will tell if that is successful or not, but right now it isn't looking good.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

United fan set to takeover Liverpool....

Yes folks, sad but it's true, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, United fan, ruler of Dubai and one of the world's richest men could be about to capture arch rivals Liverpool.

It is of course DIC, the investment arm of the Dubai government who are fronting up the deal but Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum is at the head of that organisation, back in 2005 and before Glazer took over Manchester United the Sheikh was linked with being interested in buying the Red Devils. If only that deal had gone through then United wouldn't have been saddled with a world record debt of £660m and rising fast.

Beckham's exit strategy tarnishes his name again...

They say that breaking up is always hard to do, and so it seems is Beckham's exit from Real Madrid, with the club officials claiming that Beckham had toyed with Madrid for over two months having agreed to quit the Spanish club and by purchasing a house in LA.

Stories have been linking Beckham to LA Galaxy for over two months, back in November 2006, Red Issue, the United fanzine, broke a story claiming that Beckham would indeed join Galaxy. RI also predicted that Malcolm Glazer will buy the Los Angeles club, the second part of that story has yet to materialise. We await with bated breath on that front.

The thing is Beckham upset many United fans by the way he engineered his move away from United to join Real. The Reds got wind that Beckham wasn't going to sign a new United deal and then set about flushing out his true intentions by openly trying to sell him to Barcelona, this ploy worked to an extent because it brought Madrid out of the woodwork, but it also reduced the players transfer value.... But how ironic that Beckham has now done the dirty on Real, as speculation suggested that they too had been negotiating with the then United player behind United's back and without permission. Fans of the Old Trafford club will recall with disdain the nods and winks exchanged with the Real stars at the end of Beckham's last champions league game against Madrid for United. The upshot was that a player who'd given everything for United left the club under something of a cloud, because the way his exit was handled left a bitter taste in the mouth.

Roll the clock forward to 2007 and once again supporters of Madrid may well be thinking the same, this isn't the way transfers should be conducted. As things stand Beckham wont even get a chance to say goodbye to the Real fans - which is precisely what happened at United. Reds wont care too much about the Madrid situation, but from a United perspective many fans didn't agree with the way he'd gone about it.

In a world where players are sold like lumps of meat to the highest bidder there's an argument which says football is dog-eat-dog, which it is of course, but few players have earned the right to be considered as true Red legends at United and ironically players from the same the United youth team as Beckham are likely to be remembered more fondly I refer to Giggs, Scholes and Gary Neville.

Beckham has had a fabulous career and he's not made that many mistakes, but if you asked fans of United to name them, the manner of his United exit will be mentioned for sure.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Why the Real Madrid job is wrong for Mourinho...

According to media reports Jose Mourinho has been drawn closer to the position of manager at Real Madrid due to his rift with the Chelsea board, there's also speculation about the future of Fabio Capello the current Madrid manager.

However, like Arsene Wenger, I believe the Chelsea manager will reject any offers from the Spanish giants. The Portuguese manager has a lot in common with the Arsenal manager, both men demand near total control of the football side of their respective clubs.

There's been rumours in the press claiming Jose Mourinho has had several rows with the clubs owner about who to buy and the logic behind those requests. Roman Abramovich reportedly stormed out of one meeting, but few except those who are close to the top of Chelsea will know the real truth, but the signs aren't looking good for Jose being in charge at Stamford Bridge next season with so many stories circulating about his future.

Arsene Wenger wouldn't put up with being told who to buy and who to sell, no self respecting coach would. So it came as no surprise that Wenger has rebuffed interest from Madrid on several occasions - whenever there's speculation about the manager's job at Real, Wenger is linked.

Part of the problem is that Real Madrid is a club which is dominated by politics and is all too often embroiled in presidential elections, with candidates making vote winning promises to fans about who the club may sign if they put a cross on right name at the ballot box.

Having spent the last few weeks debating Chelsea's needs on the playing staff front would Jose Mourinho really fancy adding his name to following list?

Luis Molowny 1985 - 1986
Leo Beenhakker 1986 - 1989
John Toshack 1989 - 1990
Alfredo Di Stéfano 1990 - 1991
Radomir Antić 1991 - 1992
Leo Beenhakker 1992
Benito Floro 1992 - 1993
Vicente Del Bosque 1994
Jorge Valdano 1994 - 1995
Fabio Capello 1996 - 1997
Jupp Heynckes 1997 - 1998
Jose Antonio Camacho 1998
Guus Hiddink 1998 - 1999
John Toshack 1999
Vicente Del Bosque 1999 - 2003
Carlos Queiroz 2003 - 2004
Jose Antonio Camacho 2004
Mariano García Remón 2004
Vanderlei Luxemburgo 2004 - 2005
Juan Ramón López Caro 2005 - 2006
Fabio Capello 2006 - Present

In stark contrast and barring Capello, Fergie has seen that lot off during his 20 year spell at United, managerial stability isn't an often used phrase when it comes to Real Madrid - sure they've won more European Cups than United during that spell, but that is a different story, and it's true to say that Fergie wouldn't have lasted very long at Madrid either. Mourinho would want more control not less and by joining Madrid he'd be just another managerial pawn.

A move to an Italian club would seem to be on the cards and the Portuguese manager has admitted that is something which appeals to him recently

Sunday, January 14, 2007

London calling as Reds face difficult games in the capital

United's next two away games are in North London with the Reds facing Arsenal next weekend and then we visit Spurs on February 4th, both fixtures - especially the game next Sunday will test the league leaders true championship credentials. Arsenal are looking very good right now, but United will want to make up for the defeat at the hands of the Gunners earlier on in the season. The trip to Spurs is rarely easy and while both games are on a Sunday, rivals Chelsea will be playing Liverpool and Charlton the day before so United will be under even more pressure if Mourinho's boys pick up all six points. You'd back Chelsea to take all three points off Charlton and so United fans will be hoping that Liverpool take at least a point off Jose's side next Saturday and following the recent hammerings by Arsenal Rafa's side will be even more determined not to suffer even futher embarrassment in front of their own supporters. It would be nice if the title race went all the way to the last game of the season with United's noses still in front of the West London side. The Reds can barely afford to drop a single point with so many big games on the horizon and so the next few games will be very interesting indeed.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Reds beat Villa again...

United took on Aston Villa at Old Trafford today as rivals Chelsea entertained Wigan at the Bridge, the Reds won 3-1 while the Blues tonked the 'pie-eaters' 4-0, so it's no change at the top of the table.

The reds romped into a 3-0 half-time lead courtesy of early goals by Park and Carrick, then on 35 minutes the Reds player of the season so far Ronaldo headed the home side into a comfortable lead to seal all three points. However, Villa came out after the break and made more of a fist of it as Gabriel Agbonlahor brought the visitors back into the game after excellent work by Milan Baros on 55 minutes.

Fergie will be delighted to have taken all three points from this fixture added to which United have a 100% record against Villa this season beating them three times, rival boss Martin O'Neill will be glad to see the back of the Reds for sure.

Mourinho talking his way out of the Bridge?...

Rumours continue to suggest that this will be Jose Mourinho's last season in charge at Stamford Bridge, the latest news is that UK press reports are claiming that Mourinho has been blocked from signing Micah Richards and Jermaine Defoe from Man City and Spurs respectively. Earlier on in the week Peter Kenyon was in China promoting Chelsea, he was given the opportunity to deny that Mourinho was leaving, but the Chelsea CEO didn't reply directly to the question, instead he chose to say that the club is making good progress - but his silence on this issue was deafening.

Further to this the BBC sport website has been speaking to various leading figures from the game and it seems everyone is talking about Jose quitting this summer.

BBC Sport - a bit early for a Jose obituary maybe, but the article isn't far of it

In an earlier bulletin, Jose admitted that it's unlikely the Blues will support him in the transfer market this January. Mourinho says that the squad will be the same as it is now when the transfer window closes. IF what the Portuguese manager says is true then surely this is further evidence of a major rift.

Jose - 'my future isn't important'

Thursday, January 11, 2007

ANALYSIS: Beckham's loaded up the truck and is moving to LA...

Just like the Beverley Hillbillies did before them, Brand-Beckham is loading up the truck and is heading for LA to join Galaxy, 'swimming pools and movie-stars' doubting his new banker AKA Mr Drysdale will be well pleased when he opens his new bank account...

Beckham had the choice to stay on at Real Madrid but he chose not to, so how ironic it would be if the Spanish giants went to win a trophy soon after he left - they could of course still win something this season which would wrap things up nicely as it would mean his time in Madrid hasn't been trophyless. I guess that would be the perfect ending to the least successful spell in his glittering career. He won all of his medals while at Manchester United, it was there that Beckham made his name.

Although thus far his time in Spain has been mixed on the football front, he's actually done a damn sight better than many, me included, predicted he would. I thought he'd fail, big-time, but he didn't. Real have endured a catalogue of problems over the last few seasons, including too many managers and too much interference from the club president all of which coincided with a turn of fortune for arch rivals Barcelona. For all his problems on and off the pitch in Spain Beckham can hold his head up high regarding this mixed spell, he gave it his best shot and he is still a total professional.

AS for moving to Galaxy, it's a good move and as good as any in terms of timing. Beckham has nothing to prove back home because at Man United won the lot.

All decent fans will wish Beckham well on this new venture and if it helps the US public embrace the best team game in the world, then all well and good.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Scousers trousers pulled down for the second time..

Losing 4-0 at home to Arsenal in the FA cup was funny enough, but losing 6-3 to the same side in the Carling Cup just three days later at Anfield is hilarious. Liverpool fans will be wishing that this game could have been played in the fog so at least they'd have an excuse, thankfully it wasn't, it was played out in front of 42,000 fans and millions on tv, many couldn't believe what they were seeing.

After the game and to his credit, Rafa Benitez faced the music on Sky tv, our Fergie wouldn't have done that as many other managers wouldn't have done. The Liverpool manager says he picked the right team, which wasn't the view expressed by various pundits. What impact these hammerings will have on Liverpool's season remains to be seen, results of the like we've seen at Anfield over the last few days live long in the memory and as this season unfolds it will be interesting to watch developments on the managerial front.

Despite the two thrashings I doubt Liverpool would consider replacing Benitez and bizarrely I still think they've got a good chance of beating Barcelona in the Champions League, that's assuming Eto'o still isn't fit, if he is then changes things dramatically and I'd back Barca.

Why Mourinho leaving Chelsea will be good for football..

Rumours continue to suggest that this will be Jose Mourinho's last season in charge at Stamford Bridge, it's being claimed that there's friction between Roman Abramovich, the clubs SEO Peter Kenyon and Mourinho. Jose thought he was 'the special one' but it seems the other two might have a difference of opinion on that score. The speculation is that this is a battle of egos and that Mourinho also wants to prove himself in the Italian league.

All in all, many fans who don't support Chelsea will agree that Mourinho leaving is the best for English football and perhaps even for Europe too. Clearly the Portuguese manager is the best club manager in the world at present, his record is unbelievable. Chelsea have never lost a home game since he's been in charge, he's won the Premiership two years running at a canter. It would only be a matter of time before he wins the big one, the Champions League, that's if he's left to his own to manage affairs at the West London club.

However, it looks like Mourinho may well quit this summer and that can only be good news because the combination of having the best manager backed by one of the world's richest men isn't a good recipe for a truly competitive league - there is of course only three or four teams that can win the title, but since Mourinho's arrival that has been reduced to one, at least until the internal bickering started.

The talk is that Gus Hiddink will replace Jose and many United fans wanted to see Hiddink replace Ferguson, but that wasn't to be. Further to this rumours suggest Russian 'influence' was brought to bare to get the former PSV manager the Russian national team managers job. It seems Hiddink has been sat on the back burner in readiness for when Mourinho boils over. While I think the fall-out is great news for football I also think that even Hiddink will struggle at a club like Chelsea, Gus has done most of his best work with limited resources, that wont be a problem at Chelsea the biggest issue is too many cooks...

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Chelsea have 20 million fans worldwide,
United have 20 million in China alone...

So much for Peter Kenyon's claim that Chelsea will soon be the biggest club in the world as news reaches United blog towers that Manchester United have an incredible 20 million fans in China alone and are easily the most popular club in what many describe as the world's most important economy.

Dr Simon Chadwick of Birbeck College, London, who has studied English football in Asia says that Chelsea are facing an uphill task if they want to become bigger than United and Real Madrid "The difficulty is there is so much much brand equity in history, and history is built up over decades Chelsea cannot create that, they are still a new club on the block in global terms."

In a survey of 400 Asian fans, 75% claimed to be Manchester United fans and only 13% supported Chelsea in the sample.

Peter Kenyon knows Manchester is red,
and so is China...

Ferguson the 'lucky general' strikes again?...

Napoleon once said 'I'd rather have lucky generals than smart ones' or so the theory goes at any rate and many observers have stated that Sir Alex Ferguson comes into the 'lucky general' category, this is by and large due to some of the instinctive signings he's made down the years at Manchester United.

Two players from the past in particular spring to mind, Eric Cantona and Denis Irwin. Both were signed for less than £1m each - relative peanuts in today's terms, both turned out to be inspired signings who went on to serve United so well that they will always be remembered as two of United's best ever players.

Cantona was the catalyst who helped to bring about title success after 26 baron years, while Irwin was the model of consistency at the back, rarely putting a foot wrong during his brilliant United career, both were superb signings and not that many would have predicted just how successful both would be prior to their arrival at Old Trafford.

Cantona had been plying his trade with a club that didn't reflect his own persona. Eric and Leeds United never seemed like a match made in heaven, the Frenchman needed a much grander canvas to display his artistry, and so when he finally arrived at United it was as if he'd come home. The rest is history.

Ironically Denis Irwin had been released by Leeds United on a free transfer, he then signed for Oldham Athletic and did well, Fergie came in and snapped him up for £625,000, it was a fantastic deal for United.

Move forward to January 2007 and has Fergie the 'lucky general' done it again with the capture of Henrik Larsson? The former Barcelona player and Champions League winner last season had decided to move back to his homeland to play for Swedish club Helsingborgs, but Fergie moved in and signed him for three months, he was able to do so because of the late start the Swedish season.

Larsson made his debut against Aston Villa on Sunday and looked made for United, his movement and touch was marvellous and he was head and shoulders above all others in that FA cup tie, he capped-off a great display with a goal, but there was so much more to admire about his performance and if the rumours are true about the Reds extending his stay this season then the 'lucky general' may have struck another mighty blow for United in the title battle with rivals Chelsea.

At 35 years of age, we aren't thinking long term, but Larsson may well turn out to be another inspired signing, all Reds will be hoping so for sure.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Bayern name price for Hargreaves and call United's bluff.. then as I'd predicted on this blog Bayern Munich have called United's bluff by slapping a £20m price tag on the head of Owen Hargreaves. This news should come as no surprise to anyone, especially given that United haven't stopped leaking / carping to the press about their interest in the England midfielder much to the annoyance of the Bavarian club.

The point is now that Bayern have named their price Manchester United are going to look rather foolish in the eyes of their fans if they don't come up with the money, so it's a definite case of put-up or shut-up. It will also come as no surprise if United do the latter and fail to meet Bayern's valuation - which by the way is quite fair. One hopes this deal goes through, because if it doesn't serious questions need asking about United's methods when trying to lure players away from their clubs.

From the outside looking in, it would appear that all United's carping has achieved is to upset the Germans and also guarantee a high price tag. Would it not have been better to have acted in a more diplomatic way by keeping the whole thing under wraps? At least then if they could not agree to the Germans valuation for the player, the club would be saved from being humiliated.

Don't rule out United getting trumped by a rival like Arsenal, Liverpool or even Chelsea who've made a habit of nabbing players who were thought to be destined to join the Reds.

As United are finding out again to their cost, talk is almost always not cheap.

Paul le Guen's exit not exactly a surprise ..

Paul le Guen's has left Scottish giants Rangers by 'mutual consent' and many are speculating about the reasoning behind this 'shock' exit, former Rangers star Graham Roberts believes he has quit while his reputation remains in tact.

Personally I thought it was a strange move to join Rangers in the first place for the Frenchman whose former team Lyon are still doing very well and make no mistake the current Lyon team is very much Paul le Guen's and not Gerrard Houllier's.

The former Rangers and Lyon manager will of course find another top job quite easily, that is the way of things in top flight football. He's actually been touted as a possible replacement for Ferguson at United - but given the events at Rangers, he's blotted his cv somewhat. Once again though it highlights that no matter what your reputation is there's no guarantees of instant success - though currently Rangers are second in the table to Celtic, but they are 17 points adrift - in any another other league being second wouldn't look too bad, but of course the annual race for the title has only two serious runners, the words Mickey Mouse league spring to mind... and no I haven't forgotten about Celtic beating United this season.

United to sign Arsenal reject?

According to the latest news on the transfer grapevine, United will move to sign Blackburn's former Arsenal youngster David Bentley if the Owen Hargreaves move breaks down. Now I have nothing against Bentley, but I do wonder if he's in the same class as Hargreaves - don't United have enough journeymen midfield stars already?

I'm hoping this story is part of some transfer sub-plot meaning that United have leaked this story to the press in a bid to push the Hargreaves deal through. If United have serious ambitions about winning titles and European Cups, then only the best will do, I'm not sure Bentley comes into this category regarding central midfield players.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Mourinho talking tough but all is not well at the Bridge...

Following Chelsea's 0-0 draw with Aston Villa Jose Mourinho took time out to ignite another war of words with Fergie over the current state of play in the two-horse-race for the title.

The Chelsea manager rightly pointed out United have dropped five points over the Christmas period in the games with West Ham United and Newcastle United, as the Portuguese manager says United could be a lot further ahead and so they should be, but where I disagree with Jose is that the Blues look to be nowhere near the side that they have been over the last two years. When Chelsea have been playing well in the previous two campaigns you'd regularly see 10 players having very good games, but right now you're lucky if you see two players performing at their highest level.

This season Drogba and Essien have been their best players, but when it doesn't happen for them - as was the case against Villa, then they look very ordinary indeed, granted Drogba and Lampard missed easy chances against the Villa but the Blues overall performance wasn't up to scratch.

It's a measure of how things have changed that Mourinho was happy to praise his team following this game that you'd normally expect them to win. In contrast Aston Villa were well beaten 3-0 by United recently.

Everyone is going on about the goals Chelsea have been leaking of late, but the problems go a lot deeper than that. The impact of Shevchenko and Ballack hasn't been what many observers expected, and I dont actually remember Shevchenko touching the ball against Villa. However, while it would be wrong to blame the two big name stars for the defensive problems at Chelsea, it isn't too far off the truth to suggest that the balance of the Blues team and squad has been affected by the arrival of Ballack and Sheva. The injury to Petr Cech is another major fact of course.

Mourinho might be attempting to taunt Ferguson by telling him that United should be further ahead, but from the outside looking in, the Chelsea camp looks rattled and out of sorts - they no longer give the impression of being a collective happy lot, the rest of the season is going to very interesting indeed.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

United start the year with horrow show...

Manchester United started the year on the wrong note on New Year's day by only managing a 2-2 draw with Newcastle United. Reds fans have been chuckling at Chelsea's shortcomings at the back over the last couple of weeks, but this time it was United's turn to show how not to do it at St James Park on Monday evening.

Both of Newcastle goals came from United's right flank - granted the opener from James Milner was a stunning effort and Van der Sar stood no chance of saving it, but the visitors were guilty of affording the former Leeds winger too much time and space in midfield - you cannot give that kind of room to good players as eventually you will pay the price, which is what happened as Milner took full advantage of United's slipshod marking.

The visitors responded before the break and the man who did the damage was the 'ginger wizard' Paul Scholes who finished with his usual style to set up the second half for a full blooded onslaught on the Newcastle goal and sure enough United fans were rejoicing again as Paul Scholes was on target just after the interval with another great finish, the wizard somehow managed to beat most of the Newcastle defence with some pure magic on the edge of the penalty area which gave Shay Given in the Newcastle goal no chance.

United looked to be running out easy winners by dominating the possession and by creating some good chances, but against the run of play Newcastle scored at the death after United's midfield once again offered the home side acres of space to exploit which resulted in the equalising goal plus an undeserved share of the spoils.

If United have ambitions of winning the title and especially the Champions League then the midfield will need to be a lot tighter than it was against the Geordies and this is why the club desperately needs to sign Owen Hargreaves as currently we don't have a player who can dominate the centre of the park. Granted the game was entertaining and as it was en-to-end stuff, but the manner of Newcastle's two goals should set the alarm bells ringing at Old Trafford, and if they aren't ringing something is very wrong with our analysis.