Monday, April 30, 2007

Sam Allardyce to takeover from Fergie?

So then Big Sam Allardyce has resigned sooner than he'd liked to have done, he has stated that in an ideal world he'd have gone at the seasons end, which is just a couple games away.

However, Sam was pushed into going early, largely because The Sun and the Daily Mirror published that he was going to quit on the morning of the Chelsea v Bolton game. As I posted on Saturday morning, the story was printed as much as anything else to unsettle Bolton ahead of the crucial game for Chelsea, it was almost perfect timing for both newspapers. Allardyce was going anyway, but clearly not in the manner of his own choosing timing wise.

Listening to the reaction of Bolton fans on local radio, many feel that something is wrong and that the fans haven't been given the full story. Allardyce is being linked to Newcastle and Man City, but I'm wondering if Big Sam is being lined up to replace Ferguson at United this summer. Could a secret deal have already been agreed by the Bolton manager and the Red Devils?

If Bolton had got wind of this news and it appears that the Bolton chairman has been aware for some weeks that his manager was going at the end of the season, then maybe my theory might hold water, as nothing will upset the Bolton fans more than Sam joining United and this would certainly be a good enough reason for Sam to be told to go now rather than in two weeks time.

Watch this space.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Naive Martin Samuel advocates rule changes in support of his club West Ham United..

West Ham United were this week given a record £5.5m fine by the FA Premier League, for rule breaking concerning the double signing of Tevez and Mascherano, and rightly so - they were lucky not to be docked points.

Few including the former Hammers manager Harry Redknapp have any sympathy for the club, because they must have known what they were doing.

However, it is somewhat surprising then that Martin Samuel who has won many top journalism awards for his sports writing, has come out and in support of West Ham, well it is until you realise that Samuel supports the Hammers...

Forgetting that Samuel might be ever so slightly biased for one moment, let us deal with some of the issues. Samuel argues that Manchester United have two goalkeepers out on loan at Premier League clubs in Ben Foster at Watford and Tim Howard at Everton, the Times man is using this as part of his reasoning in support of rule changes. What Samuel forgets to add is that neither were able to play against United this season, so there could be no charges of potential collusion and match fixing. Plainly to use the on loan United goalkeeping situation as a basis for relaxing the rules is totally ridiculous. The loan deals and ownership of the two players concerned are transparent which wasn't the case with the two Argentines.

Samuel argues that this sort of third party ownership of players goes on all of the time in places like Brazil, it might well do, but this arrangement massively increases the chances of match fixing and allegations thereof, which is the whole point of putting the rule in place...

In my humble opinion the FA Premier League are quite correct in their stance over this thorny issue of player ownership. If Samuel cannot see the potential for match fixing then he is naive in the extreme.

FA to investigate Elland Road numpty invasion...

Apparently the hapless FA are to investigate why Leeds United fans aka 'numpties' ran onto the pitch at the end of the Leeds United home game yesterday. My advice is this, if the FA want to hold an investigation they should be asking why the referee decided that the game warranted five minutes extra time. According to Sky's reporter Bryn Law, there was absolutely no justification for this, without the added time then perhaps much of the chaos wouldn't have ensued.

For anyone who doesn't know the White's were relegated to the old third division yesterday, and to think it wasn't that long ago that they were fighting it out in the Champions League semi-final.

What has happened to Leeds should serve as a timely warning to clowns like the Glazer family who have saddled the Red Devils with a huge debt mountain. Yes, Man United are doing extremely well at present, but a bad run could soon bring down the Red kingdom. This is basically what happened at Leeds United. Peter Ridsdale the former Leeds chairman had based his business plan on qualifying every season for the Champions League, but they crashed financially when the club didn't qualify for the Champions League and then the same people who loaned the club money sent it spinning out of control and on the way to financial meltdown. Leeds had to sell all of their best players, Rio Ferdinand was sold to United for £30m and Alan Smith soon followed.

You see, this is what happens when you get it wrong, you go down, down, deeper and down. Take note greedy megalomaniacs.

Chelsea pick up two serious injuries, why few will sympathise...

Chelsea have been rocked by the news that Ballack is more than likely out for the rest of the season and Carvalho is likely to miss the Liverpool game in the Champions League on Tuesday. This is great news for all those fans who are sick of seeing Chelsea's recent domination on the domestic front.

United have far more injuries to cope with and we haven't got the backing of Roman Abramovich. So few apart from Chelsea fans will have any sympathy for the Blue's.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Chelsea's bottle gone, as the Red's stage another superb fightback to claim the points!

What a funny game football is, United didn't play well at Goodison Park today, especially in the first half and in the early part of the second half when they found themselves deservedly losing by 2-0, as once again defensive lapses cost them dearly as it did in midweek against Milan in the Champions League.

However, United showed their collective powers of recovery by fighting back to win scoring four goals in the last 30 minutes, which once again makes a mockery of Arsene Wenger's earlier claim that United tire in the last 30 minutes. Hilarious.

United went one down day early in the opening period to a deflected Carrick own goal from a Stubbs free-kick. Why did United only put two players in that wall? Ferguson will no doubt be asking the same question...

Early in the second half there was worse to follow when on loan Everton star Fernandes roasted United's back four and scored with a superb drive.

At that point United were dead and buried, nobody was playing well and apart from a great first half cross from Giggs which Rooney couldnt finish, United never looked like scoring despite having the Lions share of possession.

Then United got lucky, really lucky, as Iain Turner the Toffees stand-in keeper dropped the ball to the feet of John O'Shea from a corner, the Irishman slotted home greatfuly.

Then things just got better and better as United old boy Phil Neville turned in a Ronaldo effort into his own net to bring the Red's level. If United fans were looking for a sign that our name is on the trophy then these two incidents provided it.

From that point on United went forward with more and more confidence, the killer blow came when Everton old boy Wayne Rooney thrust a dagger into the heart of his former club and Chelsea's title hopes with a goal of the highest quality. The United number eight collected the ball on the left edge of the Everton box, he cooly beat a defender before slotting home to send United's travelling army into raptures. Then to rub salt into the wounds of our rivals and bitter enemies up and down the land, substitute Chris Eagles wrapped up the game with a lovely curling low drive to make it 4-2.

Meanwhile Chelsea couldn't beat an injury ravaged Bolton side and could only manage 2-2 draw. Mourinho and his team have now lost the league and I say that with absolute confidence. The cups are another matter, but if Liverpool can beat Chelsea then the Blues could end up empty handed at the seasons end.

To cap off an almost perfect day, local North West rivals Liverpool and City lost and Leeds were relegated too. Milan here we come.

Chelsea's friends in the press doing their best to influence title race?

The time is Saturday morning the title race is coming to its conclusion. United are set to face Everton at Goodison Park and Chelsea are set to face Bolton at home. Low and behold on the morning of both games The Sun and and the Daily Mirror both print a massive back page stories claiming that the Bolton manager is going to quit his club. If this isn't a deliberate attempt to upset Bolton with a view to helping Chelsea then I dont know what is. Nice timing.

Christian attacks United and Rooney over badge kissing...

What is that old adage, never mix sport and politics? Well I think it needs revisiting to read never mix sport, politics and religion. Reason being the Reverend George Hargreaves, leader of the Scottish Christian Party has launched an attack on Wayne Rooney and Manchester United because, wait for it - the club has the nickname the Red Devils. No folks, this isn't a joke.

Clearly this is nothing but a pr stunt and I've reluctantly given George the oxygen of publicity that he so obviously desires. George's best recommendation is that Manchester United fans should go and support another local team, until the image of the devil is removed from the club crest... like as if either is going to happen.

Many of us do not take religion that seriously, this fact is backed up by falling numbers within church congregations and church closures up and down the country. With tirades from people like the Reverend Hargreaves, is it any wonder that people do not take religion that seriously?

There is of course only one true religion, which is supporting United.

Full story

Friday, April 27, 2007

Another day, another US investor linked in takeover talk..

It's a funny old game all right, not so long ago we were told that Americans didn't like 'soccer', now it seems not a day goes by without a new US investor being linked to an English team. The latest name is Paul Allen, who is a former Microsoft big noise and US sports franchise owner. Apparently he sees Southampton as a good investment, the Saints are being described as 'a sleeping giant' and Allen wants to take the brand global.

I'm not sure about a sleeping giant, the Saints along with Portsmouth are the biggest clubs on the English South West coast, beyond that few apart from their own fans would call them big clubs.

If Allen wants to purchase an English club, then there's bigger clubs that are currently up for sale, Newcastle and Man City to name but two.

Only in America: Personal seat licenses...

OK this has to be the biggest rip-off and joke that I've ever heard of. Some fans in the USA actually pay a premium for the wonderful privilege of being able to guarantee a seat to watch their favourite team. In some cases it costs up to $25,000. This idea would never take off in the UK, and if these new American owners of our beloved football clubs think for one minute that it will, they are completely deluded.

You'd have to have more money than sense to purchase a PSL - only in America???

If you know of a bigger sporting scam then drop me a line and tell me about it.

This is a piss-take too far

Glazers' well on the way to increasing ticket prices by 50%

I was reading the Times yesterday on United's latest ticket price hike and in the article I read that the respected newspaper had obtained a copy of the Glazers' business plan in which it is claimed that ticket prices will have increased by 50% by 2010. Given that many fans will have forked over 26% increases over last season and the one ahead, it seems that the Glazers' objective could easily go beyond that 50% increase by the time 2010 comes around.

It is going to end in tears...

Scousers pinch FA youth cup...

United let the Scousers off the hook in the second leg of the FA Youth Cup final at Old Trafford last night, this after beating them 2-1 in their own midden in the first leg two weeks ago. Liverpool deserved their win on the night as a younger and smaller United team couldn't match the visitors power. The match was decided 4-3 on penalties. However, if away goals had counted, then United would have won the trophy, rule change required me thinks... :0)

Ji-Sung Park injury update...

Manchester United midfielder Ji-Sung Park has visited American knee specialist Dr Richard Steadman for a diagnosis on his knee injury. However, United CEO David Gill has told a press conference in Seoul that reports Park will be out for a season are wide of the mark.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Manchester United tickets, too dear or not too dear, that is the question for many Red's....

United are riding high in three competitions and they've just beaten AC Milan with a last gasp Wayne Rooney stunner in a thrilling five goal Champions League semi-final. Then next day what happens? The club announces seasons ticket prices for 07-08, which, surprise, surprise are going up again. As someone once famously said, 'it was a good day to bury bad news'. Quite.

For some fans it means season tickets will go up by as much as 14%. Last season they went up by on avegare 12%, which is a whopping 26% over two seasons, this at a time when other North West clubs are reducing ticket prices... As you'd expect supporters groups aren't happy about the latest price rices, Chairman of the Independent Manchester United Supporters’ Association (IMUSA), Mark Longden, blasted the price hike, insisting there is “absolutely no justification” for it. He said: “Clearly, it flies in the face of the thinking all over the country, from Bolton to the Emirates (Arsenal’s stadium). The justification for the price increases stems from the fact that the Glazer family have put the club in masses of debt. Manchester United have serious debt problems, and so the fans can expect many more price increases and not less.

But there was a bit of good news to report on the ticket front as United have reduced some prices for those with children and for concessions. However, they've also stipulated that all season ticket holders must join the automatic cup scheme which will I suspect be the final straw for many cash strapped season ticket holders who prior to this latest announcement had the option of joining. No more. This move will take the cost of a season ticket for many fans to well over £1,000.

Someone I know recently contaced United about season tickets and he was told that they have a waiting list of 10,000 names. Yet the club are still actively advertising season tickets. I suspect that the club anticipated many fans jacking it in following this latest price rise, hence the advertising campaign.

I will soon be posting more information about tickets, so watch this space.

First blood to Chelsea in Champions League semi final - but what a poor advert for English football...

On Tuesday night football fans around Europe were transfixed by the events at Old Trafford as United and Milan fought out a proper blood and thunder style Champions League semi-final, in a match that had a bit of everything. There was great individual skills from Kaka, Ronaldo, Scholes and Rooney. Milan showed how to retain possession of the ball for large chunks of the game and of course there was five great goals to salivate over. It was a proverbial football feast.

On Wednesday morning many fans were hungry for more, Uefa's new CEO Michel Platini said that the United v Milan game was a great advert for the Champions League and European football, the former European footballer of the year went even further by adding that this game made him feel proud to be apart of Uefa.

So it was with eager anticipation that fans around Europe tuned in to see the all English semi final between Chelsea and Liverpool. What we got was an awful game by comparison to what had happened the night before. Chelsea were by far the better team, of that there can be no doubt. However, much of the Blue's play starts off with a long punt onto the head of Didier Drogba, who then flicks the ball onto the likes of the brilliant Joe Cole and Frank Lampard. It is very effective, because Drogba is brilliant, he is built like a brick-shithouse, defenders cannot handle him and last night was no different as neither of Liverpool's centrebacks got any measure of control of the big man from the Ivory Coast. The only goal of the game was in sharp contrast to the general pattern of the game. Drogba ran wide right onto a great ball from Carvalho, and when the big man cut the ball back he found the onrushing Joe Cole who scored what was a very good goal. That move was the main highlight of the night, though Chelsea did create some good chances.

For their part Liverpool were very, very disappointing and on the evidence of last night they'll really struggle to turn this tie around. On Thursday morning Michel Platini reportedly said "I always knew English football was shite"...

Seriously you do not always get great games at this stage of the Champions League, and of course part of what made the United v Milan game a great spectacle was the Reds rank bad defending - that was never going to happen in the second game... So perhaps on reflection, we'd been a bit spoilt at Old Trafford on Tuesday night. But if we could choose the type of football we'd like to see then there is no comparison between the first two legs of the Champions League semi finals. If Carlsberg was a football team - it surely wouldn't be Liverpool - but ironically it is....

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Reds victorious in five goal thriller...

Despite being without our first choice back four and having no less than six first team regulars out through injury, United came through the first leg of their Champions League semi-final with flying colours against a well organised and experienced Milan team and deservedly ran out 3-2 winners on a night of high drama at Old Trafford.

Going into the game many fans like myself feared what might happen if Milan took the game to us, with United having so many defenders out. Those fears were realised but not before the Reds had taken an early lead from a corner when Ronaldo's brilliant glancing header beat Dida who could only help the ball on its way into the back of the net to send the Red Army into raptures. At that point we hoped it was going to be a seven goal trouncing of another Italian side. But that was never going to happen against Milan with all their European experience, and it wasn't long before United's back four was being tested by the probing runs of the brilliant Brazilian Kaka.

It came as little surprise when it was Kaka who brought Milan back into the game, he collected ball outside the United penalty area midway through the first half, his surging run left first Heinze sprawling on the floor and then his sliderule like shot into the corner of the net left Edwin Van der Sar stranded as the big Dutchman could only stand and watch as the ball flew past him to make it 1-1.

Worse was to follow on 37 minutes when once again Kaka took on the whole of the Reds back four, the Brazilian flicked the ball inside over the head of a United defender and in doing so he panicked Patrice Evra into what can only be described as Keystone Cops moment when he crashed into team-mate Heinze allowing Kaka a free shot on goal, which he finished clinically. United were really up against it now.

At half time Maldini was replaced because of injury, but Milan still had the better of the early exchanges and the Lions share of possession, that was until Gattuso was replaced through injury on 52 minutes. Gattuso had worked tirelessly charging about like the Tasmanian Devil, he'd incurred the wrath of the home fans because he looked as though he was play acting for time on a couple of occasions, which is of course all apart of the game at this level.

Once Gattuso had gone off the Reds took more or less complete control of midfield with Scholes and Carrick coming into their own, and it came as no surprise when Rooney scored on 59 minutes after Scholes had worked some magic on the edge of the Milan box flicking the ball over a defender and into the path of the England striker whose shot beat Dida. It was a brilliant goal.

The rest of the half was pretty much attack and defence as Dida denied Fletcher and Ronaldo, but right at the death just when it looked for all the world that it was going to end in a draw, United won the ball back on the half-way line and Giggs's surging run found Rooney who raced deep into the Milan half before lacing a wicked drive past the startled Dida and into the back of the net. It was a goal worthy of winning any match and one which will give United confidence going into next week's return leg in Milan.

The win means that United have now scored 11 goals in their last three Champions League games, which really is quite something against Italian teams.

Man of the match Rooney. For my money, Fletcher had a very good game too. Despite all of his problems with injuries Ferguson got his tactics spot-on and we haven't always said that in Europe. Going into the game the manager had also made light of the injury problems, that was another piece of brilliant man management and so again credit to Fergie.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

It's David v Goliath all over again as United prepare to face Milan...

Tonight United take on the might of AC Milan in the first leg of that Champions League semi-final with what can only be described as a threadbare squad, the Reds have been ravaged by injuries and will be without their first choice back four. It is going to be a clash of David v Goliath proportions. But as in the biblical story, United have their own David's in the shape of Rooney and Ronaldo and when you have those two, plus Scholes and Giggs you've always got a chance.

Man Utd (from): Van der Sar, Kuszczak, Fletcher, O'Shea, Brown, Heinze, Evra, Ronaldo, Scholes, Carrick, Giggs, Rooney, Smith, Solskjaer, Eagles, Dong, Lee, Marsh, Barnes, Burns.

AC Milan (from): Dida, Kalac, Fiori, Storari; Bonera, Cafu, Costacurta, Favalli, Jankulovski, Kaladze, Maldini, Nesta, Oddo, Serginho, Simic; Ambrosini, Brocchi, Gattuso, Gourcuff, Kaka, Pirlo, Seedorf; Gilardino, Inzaghi, Oliveira.

Ranson wants to buy Man City. Why?...

So former City star Ray Ranson wants to buy Manchester City. Why? No doubt we'll hear the usual tripe about it being a dream to own his beloved former club, this would be a good tale if Ranson hadn't first tried to buy Aston Villa. According Doug Ellis at Villa he knocked back several approaches for the midlands club because the new would be owners were borrowing money to buy the club...Randy Learner was eventually chosen because he was the only one who wasn't borrowing money.

Until very recently the adage was only a fool would want to own and run a top flight football club. Take the example of Alan Sugar who for a while owned Spurs. This is what he says on the game "The money coming into the game [football] is incredible. But it is just the prune-juice effect - it comes in and goes out straight away. Agents run the game". Ok, Sugar got a lot wrong at Spurs and maybe he lacked the foresight to see the current financial boom in the game. At least that is the view that some Spurs fans have of Alan Sugar's time at their club.

Also take a look at Man City's current owners Wardle and Makin, these two are shrewd businessmen, but having been at the sharp end of running City for a good few years now, they want out. Who can blame them? The thing is being rich is no longer enough to own and run a big club, you need to be super rich and there aren't many Roman Abramovich's around.

Glazer was only able to seize hold of United because the banks were willing to lend the Glazer family ridiculous sums of money added to which United were debt free at the time of purchase. I personally believe that Glazer will end up making United bankrupt, the club cannot afford annual loan repayments of £60m+, and at the same time compete with the likes of Chelsea on the pitch. The fact that they are currently managing to do just that isn't far short of a football miracle because under Glazer for the first time that I can remember United made a profit on transfers last summer. Ferguson and not the Glazer family should take credit for that.

There can be no doubting the current owners of City would love to jump ship, City have barely scored a goal at home this last few weeks. Added to which there's been plenty of bickering from the players. The club desperately needs investment, but is Ranson the right man for the job? City do not own that stadium, the local council takes a slice of the gate receipts on anything over City's old average figure, which is I believe around 36,000. According to Joey Barton many fans are thinking about chucking it in, even though the club have kept prices frozen and are offering cheap tickets to families, I have heard this too from several City fans.

So from the outside looking in and when you read between the lines, there isn't an awful lot of scope for improving matters from a financial perspective. Doug Ellis turned down Ranson's offer to buy Villa because of the debt element. City cannot make that stadium any bigger (there's no demand for that anyway). The club have frozen ticket prices because they realise that they cannot increase them. So unless Doug Ellis had it completely wrong and Ranson is in fact in Roman Abramovich's league then it's difficult to see where this is all going to end.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Mourinho and the BBC join forces to attack United over penalty claims...

Following yesterday's 0-0 draw with Newcastle Jose Mourinho let rip about refereeing decisions in two recent United games. It seems he's not content with complaining about decisions which go against his team and he's been aided by the BBC Sport, who published the story yesterday and they've republished the story again today as a headline story on the BBC sport website.

The fact is Chelsea have been involved in many controversial decisions themselves, yet the BBC and Jose don't go over the top in highlighting them. Does the BBC have anti United agenda?

Here's a couple of links to games in which the big decisions went in Chelsea's favour this season:

Blackburn denied
Watford denied

The point is, these decisions tend to even themselves out over a season, and the game isn't perfect, which is part of its attraction in my humble opinion, most professionals in the game accept that, Jose knows this to be true. But we know he's a drama Queen who likes to make his point, he doesn't need the BBC to repeat his claims, time and time again.

If the BBC is going to go OTT on every decision concerning United, then let them at least be consistent and show a degree of balance by going over the top when decisions go Chelsea's way too. As things stand the BBC is guilty of presenting only some of the facts about what has happened this season.

Ronaldo scoops double award...

Cristiano Ronaldo has been named both PFA Player Of The Year and PFA Young Player The Year and in doing so becomes the first player since Andy Gray won both awards in 1977. It's a remarkable turnaround for a player who was vilified by the media and many fans during the World Cup because of that spat with team-mate Wayne Rooney, but for that incident Ronaldo would have won the best player of the last World Cup award too.

It's worth noting that even some Manchester United supporters hadn't fully taken to player up and until this season and following the Rooney row, some were livid with the player, but there's none so blind as those who cannot see. Lads, don't believe everything you hear on tv and in the press...

Credit must go to Fergie for doing his utmost to retain the player who has had several opportunities to have left United, but unlike some blinkered fans Ferguson knew it was vital to keep Ronaldo at all costs, without him this season United wouldn't be top of the league and no mistake.

Also remember that Ronaldo has recently lost his father, so it's been an emotional roller coaster for him. Added to which reports suggest the player had to tell his agent he wanted to stay at United and sign that new contract rather than move to Real Madrid.

Ronaldo is a throwback to United's golden age of entertainers when fans would turn up just to see Best, Law and Charlton. These days like back then rival fans up and down the land will always look at the opposition team sheet on matchdays in the hope that Ronaldo will not face their team for fear he might run them ragged, but secretly deep down they do want to see him play just as fans did with Best, Law and Charlton. As team-mate Patrice Evra said recently 'the best way to stop Ronaldo is to kill him'...a bit over the top, but you do get the point.

Ronaldo also paid tribute to his team-mates because despite his brilliance the Reds are no one man team, but having the best player in the world certainly helps.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Wheel of fortune spins United's way...

Following last night's poor United performance and result against Middlesbrough, Chelsea had the chance to narrow the gap to just one point, but the Blues failed to take advantage and could only manage a 0-0 draw with Newcastle United at St James's park on Sunday afternoon.

Few, including myself, expected Newcastle to take a point off Chelsea, but in fairness they deservedly took a point off United at Christmas too, so fair play to the Geordies, they definitely did not roll over.

Today's result has potentially massive implications for Chelsea and United, it means that if United win their next two away games against Everton and Man City and Arsenal beat Chelsea in that London derby on the same day that United play City, then the Reds will be crowned champions.

There's a lot of ifs and buts in my scenario, but the pressure is very much back onto Chelsea and what's more I'm backing Liverpool to beat Chelsea over two legs in that Champions League semi-final, the first game is at Stamford Bridge this week.

If Liverpool do beat Chelsea on Wednesday it will be crushing mental blow to Chelsea, it could even prove to be decisive on all fronts.

Before that game, the Red Devils take on AC Milan with what will be a makeshift back four. A win for United seems unlikely in the extreme but who would have predicted that United would beat Roma 7-1? If nothing else, Milan will probably show United a degree of respect by not going all out to win. Personally right now I'd settle for a draw in the first leg in the hope that Rio returns for the away leg in Milan the following week.

Yesterday our collective Reds spirits had taken a knock, today everything is very much back on, it is all to play for.

Dimitar Berbatov to United talk hotting up...

According to Sunday tabloid reports Manchester United will try to sign Spurs Bulgarian striker Dimitar Berbatov this summer, the price will be around £20m, if true this will mean that the London club will have doubled their money on the player they signed last summer for just £10.9m. However, reports have also suggested that Berbatov had already turned down the Reds prior to signing for Spurs.

United down to 12 fit players..

According to Fergie, the Reds are down to 12 fit players. If only the club hadn't loaned out Johnny Evans to Sunderland. United have been unlucky with injuries though having lost three centre-backs through injury, two of them with serious injuries.
It's tough at the top

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Tired legs and injuries taking their toll on Reds..

United could only manage 1-1 draw against Middlesbrough in today's 5.15pm kick-off. In sharp contrast to today's performance, the visitors were by all accounts were nothing short of pathetic in midweek when they rolled over for Liverpool at Anfield. This evening every one of the Boro players played as if their very lives depended on it, as once again United came up against a team who were prepared to raise their collective game when facing the Red Devils.

Those with half decent memories will recall that Southgate the Boro manager rested several players in the Premiership home game with Man City so he'd have fresh players to face United in the FA Cup, thankfully the Reds beat Boro in the FA Cup as they have done in every other game this season barring today. Southgate and his players haven't stopped carping about their games with United this season.

Richardson gave United an early lead after good work by first Scholes and then Rooney, but the Reds looked heavy legged and didn't play well throughout this game. Perhaps as bad as dropping two more points in the league, United also lost Rio Ferdinand before the break with what looked like a reoccurence of his groin injury and he could now be out for several games, which worst case could cost United dearly. Viduka took full advantage of United's dithering over the Rio injury and powered home a good diving header before the half time interval to make it all square.

It remains to be seen now what Newcastle will do tomorrow against Chelsea, will they roll over?

Contrary to the Boro players celebrations after securing a point today, they didn't win a trophy. Though I guess, this is as near as the feeling gets for teams like Boro. If only Southgate could motivate his players like he apparently can for every game agains the Reds, perhaps they wouldn't be so disappointing as nearly always are.

Despite the Boro players and management being hell bent on taking a point at Old Trafford today, United should have been good enough to beat this team of journey men and nearly men, but they weren't, the injuries have taken their toll on a squad which is now looking over stretched.

Bundesliga - the best in the world - here's why...

Imagine a top European football league where the admission prices are genuinely affordable to all pockets, where the goals-per-game-ratio is the highest in Europe and where each week the grounds up and down the country are filled to capacity. No it isn't the Premiership, but the Bundesliga, where at stadiums like Borussia Dortmund's Signal Iduna Park, the admission price for adults is as little as £9.50, a season ticket costs only £102.

The Bundesliga is now being held up as the best league in the world, for the reasons outlined above, and I agree 100%.

Unlike the Premiership, the German league hasn't been hijacked by commercialism. How very typical of the Germans to show the rest of Europe how things should be done.

In Germany the game still belongs to the fans, in stark contrast, in England it is being taken further and further away from its grass routes support

Kenyon backs Jose, but the media aren't convinced...

Chelsea CEO Petery Kenyon has given Chelsea's full backing to Jose Mourinho, stating that he's going nowhere. However, many in the media aren't convinced, a lot will depend of the rest of the Blues season. If Chelsea win the quadrupple then there's no way the club could sack him, but if they finish up empty handed then rule nothing out.

One report claims that Jurgen Klinsmann has turned down the chance to manage Chelsea, speculation suggests that the club sent a high powered delegation to California last week to sound out the former German national team manager. The reply to the job offer was "nein und abermals nein!" (- no and again no!).

Other names remain in the frame to replace Jose should things turn pear shaped.

Kenyon breaks world record for saying 'you know' in one press conference. I for one remain less than 100% convinced, despite this 'full support' for Jose

Formal bid for Gunners looks likely, as fears grow for Wenger's future...

US tycoon Stan Kroenke has increased his stake in Arsenal to just over 12%, days after his friend David Dein quit the club's board. It is widely expected that David Dein will soon sell his remaining 14.5% shares in the club to the US tycoon which will leave Kroenke 3.5% short of 30% which when reached will trigger a formal offer for Arsenal. The end game for Arsenal's existing shareholders is very much in sight.

From the outside looking in I wouldn't be unduly concerned about the intense speculation concerning the future of Arsene Wenger, because although the Frenchman has recently spoken about his concerns over foreign ownership of so many leading English clubs, if Dein as expected returns to lead the club under Kroenke, then I'd back Dein to talk Wenger round into staying put.

Above all else retaining Wenger is key to the future success of Arsenal especially in the short term, because without him the club could be in big trouble and so if I was an Arsenal fan, never mind the Dein row, Wenger is the man to be really concerned about.

Fergie concerns over Boateng threats...

Ahead of today's Premier League clash with Middlesbrough Fergie has once again spoken out about George Boateng's recent threat that someone may soon seriously injure Cristiano Ronaldo. Fergie rightly believes that the FA should have written to Middlesbrough and Boateng. The United boss says that if one of his stars had said this, then something would have been done about it. I for one totally agree with Fergie on this issue. The manager has stressed that today's referee will need to be strong as he believes this will be a very physical game. It will be of that there is no doubt. Let us hope there is no serious injuries to any United players today.

As far as team news goes Rio Ferdinand is back after recovering from a groin strain which forced him to miss the Sheffield United clash and Patrice Evra returns after picking an injury in the game with the Blades. So slowly but surely the Reds injury problems are beginning to clear up.

A win today will be another giant step towards securing United's first trophy of the season.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

David Dein was booted out for plotting in Arsenal comedy caper ...

According to one tabloid report today, David Dein was caught plotting behind the Arsenal boards back, he reportedly wanted to sell out to US tycoon Stan Kroenke, who bares an uncanny resemblence to Ben Turpin. Like those old comedy caper movies, it looks like this saga is going to run and run...

Kroenke lookalike Ben Turpin

Stan the man at the centre of the row

Ole hints about retiring from the game...

Red legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has hinted he could hang up his shooting boots after next season. If he does retire it'll bring to an end a glitter United career and I for one cannot remember a more popular player in the last 30 odd years. Red's all around the world will be hoping Ole has another couple of seasons in him at United.
Ole - the end is near

Baptista, the hardman who cannot stand a bit of rain...

One thing which really annoys me is overseas stars complaining about the British weather. You might reasonably expect that these stars might use a bit of nouse and do some research before deciding to come to play in England. Many do come over here and do well, but some do not, instead they bleat and carp on about the weather and how it affects them.

One such player is Arsenal's Baptista, who came with a reputation of being something of a hardman, yet he's now bleating about the dull weather.

I can actually understand players who cannot settle for family reasons, but using the weather as an excuse isn't in my book a good excuse to quit.

Send the bugger back

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

David Dein resigns...

Without doubt this is a big story and clearly today's earlier statement by Peter Hill Wood must have something to do with Dein sacking Arsenal. No doubting this move will spark intense speculation that Dein is about to offload his shares to Kroenke's KSE UK INC.
So long permatan man

Football now and then...

This photograph was taken by Peter Robinson in 1971 at Molyneux at the game between Wolves and Manchester United. The photograph is on the cover of the book Football Days, by Peter Robinson.

Robinson was arguably the leading sports photographer of his day and in this photograph you can see why. Normally football photography is very much focused on the action, but clearly this picture was about much more than football, in it Charlton is framed alone ready to take a corner, virtually every man and boy in that stand behind the goal is starring at the United number nine. I actually think the fans are Wolves supporters, though I cannot be 100% sure about that, some of them are too weird looking to be Reds (that's a joke). Whoever they support, to a man their collective eyes are transfixed on Charlton who was a football god, having helped United win the European Cup in 1968 and before that the World Cup for England in 1966.

Back in 1971 most fans stood up at the match, as is the case in this shot, if you look closely you'll see fans of all ages mixed in together with the youngest down at the front. To fans of my age, these were the golden days of football, when you'd go along to the match with just your teenage mates. Also note that there's only one woman in that stand - and just like these days, she's not watching the game! (right hand side half way down) Robinson's wonderful photograph of Charlton at Molyneux is almost a social commnentary on the working class people who'd reguarly go along to support their local team.

Take a closer look at this fabulous image here

IF you want to buy the book it is still available today, the forward is written by Michael Palin of Monty Python. You can buy the hardback version for under £5 from Amazon, which cannot be bad.

Arsenal tell US investor to sling it...

It isn't often that you'll find me praising Arsenal, I don't particularly like Wenger and I certainly don't like what he's doing in reference to the number of British players in that first team squad.

However, in the light of the recent takeovers at United, Liverpool and Aston Villa who all have North American owners, it's somewhat refreshing to hear that Arsenal's shareholders aren't interested in selling out to some stranger from across the pond.

Let's see how long this stance remains in place..for now though, the Arsenal chief shiny arse is talking a good game.

Is this just a ploy to prize more cash out of the US investor?

Italy rejected as Euro 2012 hosts and rightly so...

A bit of good news to report on the international front (if anyone is interested) because Italy who were widely tipped to host Euro 2012 have been overlooked in preference to Poland and the Ukraine.

Italians feel Uefa backlash after problems in Rome

Personally I'm not surprised, the Italian's haven't dealt firmly enough with the hooligan problem, and I'm not just talking about the Roma fans, the police need sorting out too. UEFA made it pretty clear last week that Italian policing for big football matches needs to take a long hard look at itself.

The Blades show their steel..

On paper United v Sheffield Utd was always going to potentially be a tricky game with the Blades looking to fight off the threat of relegation, and that is what happened last night with the visitors putting in a solid workman like performance.

United had a makeshift back four on duty, with Fletcher filling in at right back again and once Evra had been taken out by Richards with what Fergie described 'as a bad tackle', Richardson came in at left back.

Lotus Shelton gave Wes Brown a few scares but apart from a late effort which crashed against the bar from Michael Tonge, Thomas Kuszczak, who was standing in for the battered and bruised Van der Sar, had a relatively quiet night.

United went on to win 2-0 with some quality finishing by Carrick early in the first half and by Wayne Rooney early in the second period. Paddy Kenny (the flying pig) pulled off some vital saves which kept Sheffield in the game, it could have easily finished up 4-1, that scoreline wouldn't have been an unfair reflection of the game in terms of chances created, but it would have been a tad harsh on the visitors.

Sheffield United players have been accused of 'putting themselves around a bit' this season and last night was no different. If they play like that in their remaining games then just maybe they will stay up. Reds fans wouldn't mind that too much as the away day to Sheffield is one which has quite a few happy memories.

The pressure is now heaped back onto Chelsea who take on West Ham Utd at Upton Park tonight.

Final score United 2 -0 Sheffield Utd.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Quiz question number 1: When was the last time United lost an FA Cup semi final?

I've decided to start asking you lot quiz questions about United and football in general. I'll start you off with an easy one.

When was the last time United lost an FA cup semi final, what was the score, who was it against and where was it played?

Monday, April 16, 2007

FA announce 'sensible prices' for cup final - it's anything but sensible...

So the FA have announced the ticket prices for this seasons new Wembley FA Cup final. Brian Barwick says the tickets prices are sensible at £35, £60, £80 and £95, with a limited number of tickets made available to the clubs at £17.50 for under-16s.

The vast majority of tickets will no doubt cost between £60, £80 and £95, so assuming you have a family of four and assuming you're lucky enough to be able to get your hands on four tickets, it's going to cost you somewhere in the region of a minimum of £105 and worst case £380 and that's before a ball is kicked and obviously it wont include getting to London, your matchday programme and food for the day, etc etc.

The truth of the matter is that due to the exorbitant costs of rebuilding Wembley the stadium owners had no choice but to charge as much as they can get away with. It will have been written into the FAs cash flow projections when they went looking for funding. When Brian Barwick said it was important to set ticket prices at a sensible and affordable level, he didn't actually qualify that statement. Barwick talks about being very competitive. Competitive with who exactly, Chelsea?

The average cost of tickets for Manchester United home games is around £30, so again assuming that the majority of the tickets for the new Wembley fall into the £60 to £80 bracket, the cost is over twice as much as the average United ticket, so in no way are the new Wembley tickets priced sensibly, nor competitively.

Once again the FA have proved that they are world beaters at something - ripping the fans off.

Why Michael Owen isn't quite right for United...

According to the latest news on the transfer grapevine, United will try to sign Newcastle United and former Liverpool striker Michael Owen this summer once he proves his fitness. Owen seems to have been almost permanently injured for the last two years.

I don't have anything against Owen, apart from him putting in a disgraceful challenge on Ronny Johnson a few seasons back at Old Trafford. But these things happen in football and that wouldn't be enough to stop me from signing him should I be manager of United. A big IF I know..

Personally I don't think Owen's style of play suits United, the Newcastle man plays on the shoulder of the last defender and is always looking to use his speed to get in behind defenders. United don't play that sort of over the top football - the long ball game if you will. Steven Gerrard his former Liverpool team-mate used to supply him with some great long balls. But as I say, United do not play that game.

IF Owen has lost a yard of pace, then he'll have lost a lot of his game, because perhaps more than any striker that I can think of, he has relied on it a lot.

There's two players I think United should look at, one of them is Fernando Torres of Athletico Madrid, who is more of an all round front man than Owen, but Torres will cost a kings ransom and so I'm not sure if that move is a viable option.

The other player is Dimitar Berbatov at Spurs, now he looks like a really intelligent striker, he too is more of an all round front man, the Bulgarian can drop deep and make things happen, a bit like Cantona of old and he rarely loses possession of the ball.

My advice to Ferguson is this, if you really have to buy Owen, then get him for cover, get rid of Saha, he's too injury prone and buy Torres or Berbatov.

BTW; Two years ago I was told that United were about to sign Michael Owen, this came from someone who has good contacts at United, obviously it didn't happen. Will it happen this time around? Watch this space.

Waddle says United must win the title 'for the good of football'...

IT appears that many football fans who don't support United would rather see the Red Devils win the title in preference to Chelsea. A few years back this wouldn't have been heard of, as United were hated by those who don't follow the club. Times have clearly changed though and I suppose this it's a measure of Chelsea's achievements under Jose Mourinho that has brought about this change of attitude.

To many fans there's something which just doesn't seem to be quite right about Chelsea and the way they play, which most of the time is in marked contrast to United's cavalier style of football.

But to suggest it is merely to do with different styles, would be to miss another major point. Before Roman Abramovich pitched up, Chelsea were heading for bankruptcy, but once they appointed Mourinho who was given all that money to spend they haven't looked back, there has been times over the last two seasons when it looked like Chelsea were buying players to stop rivals getting them. Then of course there's the web of football contacts which Abramovich has developed both in Russia and in South America. Arsenal were recently knocked out of the Champions League by PSV and Alex was the player who did the damage - he is supposedly ear-marked to go to Chelsea as they have first refusal and so it goes...

United cannot really complain about other clubs because they've had it their own way in England until recently, being the best supported club with the most money has given them plenty of leverage. However, many neutral fans have viewed Chelsea's dominance as something of a danger to football as a whole, and the Premiership looked to be in serious danger of becoming an annual one horse race. At least United have made a real fist of it this season and they've entertained in a way that Chelsea do not for the most part. Long may it continue.

Waddle not talking twaddle for a change

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Villa Park FA Cup semi final memories...(happy days!)

The United v Watford game yesterday marked the end of United's happy days at Villa Park in FA Cup semi-finals, because it will no longer be an FA Cup semi-final venue as the new Wembley will hold both the semi-finals and finals. Yes folks, prepare to be ripped off even more by the robbing FA, the fans were always going to be the one's who footed the bill for those totally ridiculous reconstruction costs.

I digress. United have had some belting FA Cup semi-finals at Villa Park, my favourites all involve Arsenal.

In 1982-83, stormin' Norman Whiteside and Bryan Robson scored for the Reds as we disposed of the Gunners in style. Whiteside's goal was a bit special, it was a full blooded thunderbolt which gave their keeper no chance, it was in his first full season and he notched in the final replay against Brighton as the Reds went on to win the cup 4-0.

My other favourite semi finals were in 1998-1999 as once again we faced the North London club en-route to that never to be forgotten treble. I had taken my son to the first game and of course United were robbed of victory by one of the worst decisions that I can recall, when that clown of a referee David Elleray ruled out Roy Keane's brilliant effort for off-side. It wasn't offside at all, he was on-side by a couple of yards. And so thanks to Elleray Arsenal were spared that day and then we made the midweek trip back to Villa Park for the replay.

My son was deadly keen to go to the replay, I wasn't sure at first because I thought our chances of beating Arsenal had gone and I really thought they'd win the replay. Going back to Villa Park that night was without doubt one of the best decisions I've ever made concerning the beautiful game.

The following week United were due to meet Juventus in the second leg of our Champions League semi-final and that tie was in the balance and so knowing Fergie's rotation system, I just knew he'd be changing his team around to face Arsenal for the cup replay. He did change it and out went Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke, in came Ole and Teddy. I was actually having a pee in the North Stand toilets at Villa Park when the team news came over the loud speaker, there was a huge collective groan from within the toilets, it wasn't someone in the cruncher, but the collective sigh of Reds all thinking the same thing 'oh no, we are going to lose this game'. Oh ye of little faith...

Just 17 minutes into the game and Teddy Sheringham set-up David Beckham to score, the United fans erupted, our collective rotation reservations were blown away in that moment and in retrospect the rotation system really did help United secure that treble.

The drama that followed will never be forgotten by those who saw it. Bergkamp made it 1-1 on 69 minutes, Roy Keane was sent off in the second half and then in the dying moments Arsenal were awarded a penalty, but Scmheichel saved it quite brilliantly and I have to admit I couldn't watch that penalty, it was too much for me. The tension was almost unbearable as we headed into extra time and with us being down to ten men, the odds were stacked against us. We expected the Arsenal to come at us like the Zulus did at Rorke's Drift.

However, it against all of the odds it was United who eventually went on to win in extra time when Ryan Giggs scored that fabulous goal, and in doing so beating half the Arsenal team.

Giggs collected the ball after a bad pass by Vieira and the United winger went forward jinking past one player and then another. I remember thinking he's going to lose that ball any second now, but he didn't and as he went further and further forward the fans excitement gathered momentum, until Giggsy rifled home that brilliant drive that left David Seaman and half the Arsenal team on their backsides. The United fans couldn't believe it and all hell broke loose as fans celebrated with each other, it was one of those occasions when you were hugging complete strangers.

After scoring Giggs ripped off his shirt and round down the touch line revealing his fireside rug like hairy chest. Reds fans had spilled out onto the pitch, such was the excitement, but once order was restored, there was no way back for Arsenal. Against all of the odds Giggs had single-handedly destroyed their resolve with that brilliant solo goal, the Gunners were dead and buried.

Our fans were on the pitch at the end of the game and the players were hoisted above the fans shoulders. It was quite simply brilliant.

That match is actually my all time favourite game, because as they say it had everything.

IF you have any memories of Villa Park semi finals then drop me a line.

Our FA Cup semi final - a walk in the park...

Ok, so what did you expect, it was top versus bottom and United were always going to tonk Watford. The 4-1 result was no surprise was it?

Actually the Hornets made a decent scrap of it in the second half and they sold more of their ticket allocation than either Blackburn or Chelsea, in percentage terms anyway.

The scoreline did flatter United a bit it has to be said, at least it did if you were being kind to Watford.

The Reds could really have done without the injuries to Rio and Van der Sar.

Somehow I get the feeling our next game is going to be a hard one as Sheffield United are now scrapping for Premiership survival.

And now we know the Reds will face Chelsea in the FA Cup final. Bring it on.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Eleven opposition players you'd gladly slap...

OK, seeing as this is a United blog, my team wont contain past or present Man United players. The criterion for the make-up of this team is that the players need to have for some reason got under your skin.

Here we go.

Goalkeeper - Jens Lehmann, Schalke 04, AC Milan, Borossia Dortmund, Arsenal and Germany. This man could start an argument in an empty stadium. In the 2006 CL final he became the first player and goalkeeper to ever be sent off in a CL final. He always seems to be involved in arguments with opposing players. Slap rating: 10/10

Right-back - Phil Neal, Northampton Town, Liverpool, Coventry, Man City and England: Well actually, I'd like to slap Phil on the back for the crap job he did at Man City. He deserves worse for the role he played while 'assisting' Graham Taylor when he was manager of England. Neal was caught on camera in a Channel 4 tv documentary repeating Taylor's ideas but without contributing anything original, for which he became a source of ridicule. Nice one Phil. Slap rating 9/10

Left-back: Graeme Le Saux, Chelsea and Blackburn. Hard to believe now, but he became the most expensive defender in English football when he returned to Chelsea from Blackburn in a £5 million deal in August 1997. I cannot put my finger on exactly what it was with Le Saux that annoyed me so much, but he did. Slap rating 8/10

Central defender: Mike Doyle, Man City. Many players have had run-ins with United over the years, but this bloke must have spent nearly every minute of his day hating the Red Devils. Slap rating 10/10

Central defender: Jackie Charlton, Leeds United, Sheffield Wednesday, Newcastle and Ireland: For being jack. Here's a classic quote about one of his Newcastle United defenders "He likes to play with the ball and I can't afford that with the back four that we have at the moment". Slap rating 8/10

Midfield: Denis Wise, Southampton, Wimbledon, Chelsea, Leicester, Swindon Town and Leeds: As a player he was as unsavoury as anyone I've seen play over the last 30 years. His contract at Leicester City was terminated after he fractured Callum Davidson's jaw. He was stripped of his captaincy at Chelsea for being convicted of assault, which was later overturned. In 1999 he was accused of "biting" Marcelino Elena of RCD Mallorca in a European Cup Winners' Cup tie. In 1998-99 he missed 15 games through suspension. He also was caught on camera appearing to squeeze Nicky Butt's tatters. Slap rating 10/10.

Midfield: Robbie Savage, Crewe, Leicester City, Birmingham City, Blackburn and Wales: Even though as a youngster he played for United, he has to be included in this team, because he so annoyingly tries to upset opposition players. Slap rating 9/10.

Midfield / winger: José Antonio Reyes. Seville, Arsenal, Real Madrid and Spain: A strong gust of wind would knock this bloke over, he was without doubt the biggest diver the Premiership has ever seen. Slap rating 10/10

Midfield: Lee Bowyer; Leeds United, Newcastle and England: Described elsewhere as the ultimate football chav. Slap rating 10/10

Forward: El Hadji Diouf, Liverpool and Bolton: This bloke has a charge sheet which makes grim reading, it includes spitting on fans and players alike, and he's been accused of wife beating but that charge was later dropped. Slap rating 10/10

Forward: Craig Bellamy, Coventry, Newcastle, Celtic, Blackburn, Liverpool and Wales: He seems to have been almost constantly mired in controversey. He reportedly shunned a move to Birmingham City, texting his then manager at Newcastle, Graeme Souness and chairman Freddy Shepherd 'I am Craig Bellamy and I don't sign for shit football clubs.' He fell out with John Arne Risse reportedly hitting him with a golf club - though to be fair, you can understand that :0). Slap rating 10/10

Manager: Alan Green: Ok, we know he's not a manager, but the way he goes on he thinks he knows the game inside out, and let's face it, he's one that most would surely love to slap. I think Alan Green could actually be the bastard child of Mike Doyle because he hates United with a passion. He so obviously supports Liverpool it's untrue. Slap rating 10/10

Answer to this weeks question: When was the last time an Italian team lost 7-1 in Europe?

OK, following Manchester United's 7-1 trouncing of AS Roma earlier this week, I was asked the question when was the last time an Italian team lost 7-1 in Europe? I had no idea what the answer was but the same bright spark who posed the question gave me the answer.

Here it is:

In 1971 under coach Gianni Invernizzi, Inter Milan reached the European Cup final. They had been fortunate though, because in an earlier round of the competition they'd lost 7-1 to Borussia Moenchengladbach, but the result was later annulled because it emerged that a German fan had chucked a beer can at the Inter player Roberto Boninsegna during the first game. Inter won the replay 4-2.
In the final Inter faced the all-conquering Ajax and they could not cope with Total Football.

Ronaldo signs new deal to end speculation about his future..

Great news for United fans and for the English game, because the world's current best player Cristiano Ronaldo has ended the speculation about his future by penning a new five year deal which runs until 2012.

Ronaldo has had several opportunities and reasons to have walked out on United, we've heard like many overseas stars, he's not impressed by the weather in the North West of England, he had that fall out with the press during the World Cup over team-mate Wayne Rooney, he fell out with former United star Ruud Van Nistelrooy, but none of those issues have stopped the lad from doing the right thing by signing this new deal.

On the playing front, it is the best news United fans could have looking forward to next season.

Football cock-ups. No1. The Ted Bates statue..

I've decided to start a list of the biggest the cock-ups involving association football and there can't be that many bigger than the recent Southampton legend Ted Bates statue debacle.

For those who don't know, Edric Thornton (Ted) Bates MBE made 216 appearances and scored 64 goals for the club, he also managed The Saints, taking them from the old Third Division South right up to the old first division (today's Premiership). He eventually went on to become the clubs managing director and was given the nickname of 'Mr Southampton'.

Ted died in November 2003, and so in recognition for Ted's wonderful service and after months of hard work by the Ted Bates Trust and Southampton, the club unveiled a £112,000 bronze statue of Ted at the entrance to the St Mary's ground.

The statue had taken Ian Brennan, sculptor and Saints fan, 18 months to complete, Ian worked on the statue seven days a week.

All did not go down well though as the statue met with less than approving reviews, it was hopelessly out of proportion and to some fans, worst of all it looked like the Milan Mandaric, former chairman of deadly local rivals Portsmouth FC (it is said to be one of footballs' most bitter rivalries). Eventually things got so bad that Southampton removed the statue but the good news is, they will replace it...

Timeline to disaster..

Looking good! Extract from supporters trust: "Ian lifelong Saints fan is meticulous with every detail of the statue even down to the creases in Ted’s shoes that has to be exactly right"

At last it's finished, but all is not well...

Oh hang on... it looks like Milan Mandaric...

Chelsea fans not up for the FA Cup semi final...

How bad is this, Chelsea along with Blackburn Rovers and Watford have failed to sell their ticket allocations for the FA Cup semi final this weekend.

This season will mark the opening of the new Wembley and surely every fan would like to visit the new stadium and be part of the first big final at this lavish new venue? Seemingly not.

So much for Peter Kenyon telling us all that Chelsea will soon be as big as United. In your dreams mate.

Chelsea aren't even the biggest club in London, never mind the world. Arsenal would have sold out and so would Spurs.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Fourth time lucky for United v Milan?

United don't have a good record against AC Milan, in fact we've come off second best in each of the three times we've met them in the past.

The first time we played AC Milan was in season 58-59, and it was just a few weeks after the Munich disaster when we lost so many stars, no surprise then that the makeshift side we put out for both legs of the semi-final lost 5-2 on aggregate, but somehow we won the first leg at Old Trafford 2-1 with Ernie Taylor and Dennis Viollet on target for United.

AS defending champions in 68-69 we narrowly lost the semi-final on aggregate 1-2, after losing the first leg 2-0 in Italy and then winning 1-0 at Old Trafford thanks to Bobby Charlton.

Most recently we lost both legs 0-1 at home and away in 2005.

This time I fancy United, because I believe we will have the legs on an ageing Milan side. I cannot see the Italian's being able to stop Ronaldo and Rooney over 180 minutes of football, so we should have too much pace for them and I believe this along with keeping Ronaldo fit and also crucially by not getting booked in either game will be key. Ronaldo, Scholes and Rio Ferdinand are I believe one booking away from a suspension. Scholes missed the final in 99 due to being banned, we don't want to happen to any of our players this year should we reach the final.

United fans concern grows over Ronaldo's future...

The latest news on the transfer grapevine is that Cristiano Ronaldo's agent has reportedly met with Real Madrid officials to discuss a £54m transfer. If this is true then many Reds will hope that the club turns down any offer from Madrid. However, given the financial mess that United are in due to the Glazer family and their debt laden takeover nothing can be taken for granted.

Manchester United must at all costs retain Ronaldo if the club has any serious ambitions about fighting it out with Chelsea for the next few seasons. If Ronaldo went he'd need to be replaced and you cannot replace the best player in the world with say Owen Hargreaves, who by the way looks like being made available this summer for around £17m.

There can be no doubting this is the sort of stunt the Glazers might try to pull, sell Ronadlo and then keep the lions share of the cash. Reds fans will be hoping that Ferguson comes out fighting his corner on this issue and if needs be states that he doesn't want Ronaldo to be sold. He has yet to do so, in truth Ferguson has become something of a lapdog where the Glazer family are concerned. He never spoke out about the takeover, which appalled my longstanding United fans and me included. He now has the chance to in part redeem himself by growing some balls and speaking out.

Ronaldo has many years ahead of him, he has clearly stated his desire to remain at United, so it appears that the only thing which will stop that from happening is the Glazer family and a lack of will from Ferguson to publicly fight his own corner. The manager has no problem about making public statements when it suits. It's all well and good Fergie saying Ronaldo is the best player in the world, but we the fans would much rather hear Fergie saying 'he is going nowhere' and not has he has said recently 'it will be up to the Glazer's'.

Ronaldo isn't heading over the hill, he's in his early 20s, which is why he needs to be retained. This is not the same as selling Beckham, who was heading towards 30 when he went, again this is why Ronaldo must stay at all costs.

Also remember that United have barely spent a net penny on transfers under the Glazer regime, last season we off-loaded Ruud Van Nistelrooy and brought in Carrick but according to reports the club actually made a net profit of some £4m. So much for the promise of spending £20m per season on transfers.

Selling Ronaldo might appear to make good business sense, but selling your star player who is irreplacable is not. Manchester United have been successful by continually investing in the team and not by selling our best players, the latter will lead to less success on the pitch and ultimately less revenues off it.

The Glazer family may well remain silent but they will be judged by their actions, so far Ferguson has worked near miracles for the Glazer's, but it could well all unravel if the club sells Ronaldo. IF that happens United and its supporters will have been betrayed by the Glazer family and the manager if he does not speak out and is seen to be publicly fighting to retain the best player in the world.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

What really happened in Rome and what needs to happen in future.....

I have received some information from a very good and reliable source about last weeks troubles in Rome when United fans were on the wrong end of a beating from the local riot police and the cowardly knife wielding Ultras.

The following has come from an eyewitness who was there.

"During the day United fans had congregated around the Termini railway station - there are plenty of little bars/restaurants around here. Some United fans, to their eternal credit, did go on organised tours of the city and the Vatican.

All was quite peaceful until nearer the time of the game. Towards the stadium, Roma fans on small motorbikes/mopeds raced past groups of Red's and slashed them. This was done using a blade taped to the end of a small cane and they simply swiped Red's as they rode past. After a while, United fans started to kick out at anyone riding these sewing machines on wheels. A few Roma fans got a good shoeing, many ran off leaving their bikes to be smashed up by irate Mancs.

However, the fun and games started in earnest at the stadium. The "Ultras" were out in force, dressing in body armour and crash helmets. They were also heavily tooled up - knives, blades - even machetes. The riot police did NOTHING. A couple of charges by the Ultras into the United fans left some Red's seriously injured. Many have scars on their forearms - slashed whilst protecting themselves. The riot police did NOTHING.

United fans, desperately trying to enter the stadium to avoid more injury were then set upon by the riot police. Tear gas and rubber bullets were fired indiscriminately into the Red's.

Inside the stadium, United were herded, searched, thrashed and pushed around by the police. All the way through the game Roma fans pelted them with coins, huge batteries (not AAA ones either) fireworks and nuts and bolts fired from catapults. Presumably the police don't bother searching the Ultras.

When Roma scored, the bombardment intensified to which a few dozen Red's stormed the plastic barricade, gesticulating at the Roma fans. You've seen the Riot polices reaction - no more words necessary"...The End.

Now then, we've all heard the Italian Chief of the police telling anyone who'd listen that the United fans tried to rush into the stadium, now we know why... His riot cops stood by and watched the Roma fans wading into the United fans using knives and Lord knows what else.

Having spoken at length to the same person who passed on this information, he says that he believes that there needs to be a complete change of attitude from the Italian police. Apparently the riot cops do not even venture into the sections that are frequented by the Ultras, for fear of 'upsetting them'...

The Italian police also do not search the Ultras, that much has been made clear by several witnesses who've spoken out about what happened, the report above adds more meat on the bones of the story. And how can the Italian riot police stand by and allow these Ultras to attack fans and do nothing?

The Italian Riot police seem to turn a blind eye towards the Ultras but are quite happy to thrash visiting fans. No wonder UEFA are now calling for changes in European policing. It seems these self styled corwards the Ultras are a law unto themsevles. Let's hope that it doesn't take the death of a visiting fan to make UEFA insist upon the changes required.

UEFA wants cops in Europe to follow the lead of English policing, which might not be perfect
but it's a whole lot better than in Italy

Footnote: In separate and as of yet unconfirmed report, United's own security staff found a bag of knives outside Old Trafford yesterday. It's open to speculation how they got there...

Italians eaten alive as United roll back the years...

Manchester United sent shockwaves around the rest of Europe last night as they thrashed AS Roma 7-1. It was a proverbial modern day reenactment of feeding the christians to the lions, except of course that it was the Romans being devoured in our very own theatre of screams.

Not since 1968 have United knocked in seven goals in one game in the Champions League. Back in '68 it was the old European Cup and it was Waterford of Ireland who were on the wrong end of a 7-1 tonking. To beat AS Roma 7-1 who currently lie in second spot in Serie A is a bit special.

Some are even saying it was United's best ever performance in Europe, it actually could well be our best ever European performance at Old Trafford, but for many and for me, the Reds 5-1 away win against Benfica is still the clubs greatest ever performance in Europe, what happened at Old Trafford last night no doubt will be a talking point for years to come.

I actually wasn't that surprised about the way United went about their business against Roma, as I'd posted following the defeat in Rome last week, the Italians looked nothing special and I predicted that with United being a younger side we would have the legs on Roma this week and that Fletcher's inclusion at the expense of Scholes might actually work for United with the Scot being fresh after a lay-off.

Fletcher must have covered every blade of grass and he was undoubtedly one of United's unsung supporting heroes in a star studded glittering performance which was led by Giggs, Ronaldo and Carrick, who where all outstanding.

On the eve of the game yesterday I'd questioned Giggs's application in many of these big games at this stage of the competition, but last night he was sublime. If he wasted a pass in the game then I cannot remember it. The Welshman played a key role, his service was top drawer all night, none more so than when feeding two fantastic passes into the feet of firstly Alan Smith to score a brilliant goal, and then to Rooney who finished like the master craftsman that he is, but all of the Reds goals last night were team goals.

While Giggs supplied the subtle passes, it was once again Ronaldo who was the driving force from midfield, the Italians couldn't stop his surging runs from deep, time and time again he left two or three players in his slipstream, it is a joy to watch and long may it continue, his two goals were well deserved and well taken, as was Evra's.

Michael Carrick scored a brace that anyone in the world would have been proud of, prior to the game I'd mentioned that United no longer have a Roy Keane to call upon and that we lacked leaders, but even the great man himself hasn't finished like Carrick did last night, it was coolness personified, absolutely top class.

Of the tactics, Roma were actually made to play against United who love nothing more than a real toe-to-toe football match, the Reds aren't any good at the cat and mouse stuff that we've seen from previous exponents of the old cynical Italian game of years gone by.

Last night, to their credit AS Roma came to United to play football and got spanked for their troubles, much the same way as many of our North West rivals have this season.

The weird thing is, Ferguson arguably gets much of his tactics arse about face in Europe, as once again he played Rooney on the left wing and Giggs behind the lone striker - where Rooney should be, but last night it worked perfectly. What England manager Steve McClaren makes of it all would interesting to know. Reds fans don't actually care too much about that, for now we look forward to Watford in this coming weekends FA Cup semi final.

I know a few United anoraks who are trying to find out the last time an Italian side lost 7-1 in Europe, I don't know when that was, but it doesn't happen very often. If anyone knows the answer to that then drop me a line.

PS. Spare a thought for Alan Smith who the club tried to off-load back in January to Cardiff and Leeds United, how short sighted was that? They do say that Fergie is a lucky manager...just imagine if Smith had gone, could things have worked out differently last night?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Time for United's leaders to stand up and be counted...

Tonight the reds take on AS Roma needing to win, with them being 2-1 down from last weeks first leg in Rome. A one nil victory would see United through, but we don't do things the easy way, and right now the Reds cannot keep clean sheets following the loss of Vidic and Neville. IF Roma score tonight it means United will need to score three to win, the worst thing that can happen is the Italians score first, because if that happens they will no doubt sit back.

Looking through tonight's likely starting eleven, it's hard to pick out who might set the example and lead from the front with no Neville, Vidic, and Scholes. It should be Giggs, but in truth the Welshman has let the Reds down time and time again at this stage of the Champions League, instead of setting an example, he's all too often gone into his shell and allowed himself to be marked out of the game too easily.

In midfield we no longer have a Roy Keane who can rally the troops, in the centre of the park it's likely to be Carrick and Flecther, or O'Shea.

So it will be once again down to Cristiano Ronaldo and Rooney to hopefully put the Reds into the semi-finals. One thing it wont be I suspect is boring. But like in many previous recent seasons, United will not get a better chance of winning the Champions League, we've been here many times before, and Reds fans will be hoping that they do not fail again on this biggest of stages.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Mourinho's pots and kettles...

Jose Mourinho has been taking a few pops at Ferguson, stating that the Reds lucky not to be playing Chelsea next weekend due to the FA cup semi finals, he's right of course, we are lucky given the week we've had, and it could even get worse if we fail to beat AS Roma on Tuesday night.

Mourinho also says that in complaining about the timing of the Chelsea v Spurs game this last weekend (Saturday lunch time kick-off when Spurs had played away in Seville on Thursday night), Fergie is basically insulting the intelligence of the Premiership administrators and everyone else connected with that fixture.

However, isn't Mourinho the one who questions refereeing performances before and after every big game in a bid to put pressure on the officials? Isn't that insulting our intelligence and a bad quality as Jose puts it?

We will miss Mourinho when as I suspect he goes this summer, but some of his hypocritical gags are as subtle as a flying axe. This is a clear case of the pot calling the kettle black.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Contemplating the unthinkable......

It's been a bad week for United, what with losing against Roma and then Portsmouth yesterday, and it would be something of a tragedy for the team, the manager and it's fans, if United failed to win a trophy this season given how much pleasure United have given lovers of the beautiful game. This is why United's goal difference is vastly superior to Chelsea's this season. The Red Devils have been going for it every week in every game, in contrast the Blues have been hanging on in their scraping victories by the odd or single goal. True it is often said the true mark of champions is to win those games which others may have not, and United have on occasion done this too this season.

However, with the loss of Vidic and Gary Neville to perhaps a slightly lesser extent, their absence is really beginning to show. I cannot help but look back to when we didn't have Vidic and make comparisons. Back then we were always letting in soft goals, since Vidic got injured against Blackburn we've now let in five goals in the space of three games... and they were soft goals too, with mistakes being made in and around our own penalty area.

The worry for all Reds fans is that in the season 95-96, at one point Newcastle had a ten point lead over United, only to throw it all away in the final weeks of the season. With only a few games left and a narrow three point lead at the top, many Reds fans are now contemplating the unthinkable, which is we could, worst case, get knocked out of the Champions league this week by Roma and then go on to lose out to Chelsea domestically in the FA Cup final and the league. If that happens it will be quite tough on the Red Devils. But as Newcastle found out in 1996, no one remembers runner-up, there is no sympathy for losers.

To be quite honest, United have amazed me this season, prior to Christmas I really could not see them going all the way, I honestly thought Chelsea would bounce back to something like their machine like best, but in truth they haven't, and it's been United who've been the most impressive by far. Chelsea have been at best scratchy, at worst quite poor of late.

Given what they've done so far, and being a Red, I'm backing United to win one of the three trophies available, I cannot and I never have subscribed to them winning all three.

In a bizarre way, it might be just as easy to win the Champions League as the league title or the FA cup. Reason being, because I think we can beat Liverpool in the Champions League final and I fully expect them to be there in waiting.

The Scousers can beat Chelsea and will, but I'm not 100% sure United can. Before that United will have to get to the Champions League final and that may well involve another trip to Italy. We need Vidic back ASAP.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Race for the title going to the wire...

IF anyone doubted it before today's games, the race for the Premiership title will go down to the wire after United lost 2-1 against Portsmouth and earlier in the day Chelsea scraped a 1-0 win against a weakened Spurs side.

United didn't play well today, but they did create enough chances to have won the game, but it's the same old story if you don't take your chances you do eventually pay for it in the Premiership. However, United appeared to have a good goal chalked off by today's referee and they could have perhaps had a penalty too, then to cap off a bad day Rio Ferdinand scored an own goal in the dying minutes to make it 2-0, before John O'Shea scored at the death to make it 2-1.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Police brutality outrage - time to ban Italian clubs..

Manchester United and their supporters as well as members of the general public have been outraged at the disgusting treatment dished out to their supporters in Rome on Wednesday night.

The BBC has received many calls from family members of those affected by the beatings of the Italian police and the so called Ultras.

One such small group of fans were ambushed by the Utras - these people aren't football fans, but cowards who only pick on easy targets. The Ultras stabbed three of this party before they got to the Olympic stadium, all three ended up in hospital, one is understood to be in a bad way after losing much blood.

On entering the ground the Reds fans were searched and were therefore unable to bring missiles into the stadium, and drinks were served to United fans in plastic containers, however, the Italian fans were allowed to drink out of bottles which were then used as missiles.

The Italian fans rained missiles onto the Reds fans, who then slung them back in the direction they'd come from, and yes, you guessed it folks, people are now blaming the United fans.

Worse still comes the news that the police - or should that be thugs in uniform - were only stationed on the United side of the plastic partition which divided the two sets of fans and once a few United fans went up the plastic partition, that was the signal for the Italian police to wade into the visiting fans and to dish out merciless beating using batons.

According to eyewitness reports the thrashings were indiscriminate and were completely uncalled for. One man was badly beaten over the head with a baton after trying to pick up a lady who'd fallen over in the rush to escape the police. A BBC reporter was among those beaten by the Ultras outside the stadium he too confirmed that the police and Ultras were totally out of order.

Isn't it about time that the Italian police and the Ultras were brought to order? If Uefa and clubs in Italy cannot do this and guarantee the safety of visiting fans then Italian clubs must be banned from Europe.

United's Champions League hopes bloodied and dented...

United lost 2-1 against AS Roma, and it wasn't a good night for English football, with Reds fans being pelted with missiles and then police batons during the game. Apparently 11 fans were taken to hospital, three were stabbed and two were kept in overnight.

United had predicted trouble before the game, and there was trouble in the city between the two sets of fans before and during the game. Uefa will decide what action to take. The visiting fans were not totally blameless, as they reacted badly to Roma's opening goal, when a few fans ran at the police cordon between the two sets of fans. However, the reaction of the police looked to be completely over the top with defenceless fans being repeatedly and viciously beaten, it was brutal thuggery on the part of the police.

Uefa will also no doubt ignore the fact that Italian football has been mired in troubles with fans this season and come down heavily on the English club. It was ever thus. Expect a ban if previous form is anything to go by.

As far as the football goes, United did not play well against Roma who looked nothing special on the evidence of last night - though to be fair - neither did the Reds. Going into the game, United had lost Vidic and Gary Neville through injury and their replacements didn't cover themselves in glory, as once again Wes Brown scored an own goal. This time like on other occasions, Brown turned away from the ball when going to close down the space between himself and the player with the ball and once again it ended up in the back of the net. Brown must have scored more own goals than any other United player in the last 10 years. One gets the feeling that Vidic wouldn't have let this happen. The Serbian is very much proactive rather than reactive when closing down opponents.

John O'Shea is too slow to play fullback and this was exposed several times last night and in part this led to Roma's first goal, on 44 minutes, Roma worked a quick corner from O'Shea's side, as United and the Irishman weren't quick enough or well organised enough to react. Taddei was credited with the goal that followed, but in truth it was another deflected Brown own goal.

It might seem a tad harsh to blame Brown, but marking and closing down opposition players inside the box is key to good defending and not many do that better than Vidic.

In midfield throughout the game Roma had too much space, this was in no small part down to Paul Scholes getting himself sent off for two yellow cards. As you'd expect the Italian's made the most of both tackles with led to the two cautions. Clearly Fergie wasn't happy with his player or the referee, as there was no arm of consolation as the little man trudged off the pitch. Ferguson went public on the referee after the game stating that it was ten versus twelve for most of the game - no doubting Fergie will get a swift Uefa kick in the nadges for that, thus inflicting more pain on the club, its manager and fans.

However, even before Scholes was sent off, Roma were getting too much room in midfield and this allowed them to have a fair number of shots from outside the box, though few troubled Van der Sar.

But in the second half when down to 10 men, United eventually paid the price for not closing down players on the ball as a long range effort on goal was only parried by Van der Sar only for Vucinic to score on 67 minutes to give Roma the lead again.

Earlier United had equalised, with the move and the only good goal of the game when Rooney scored after superb work by Ronaldo and then Solskjaer who found the England striker who in turn finished in style. It was a classic European counter attack, finished with the coolness of a mafia hitman.

On the balance of chances created and shots at goal, Roma probably deserved to win the game. United were let down by several players who didn't do their jobs well enough on the night, Giggs in particular wasn't in the game and the visitors badly missed Vidic and Neville.

United go into the second leg next week needing to win one nil, so in that context it isn't such a bad result. It is as they say all to play for. Before then, we have a difficult away game against Portsmouth.

One player who wont face the Italian's in the return leg is Scholes, so let us hope like against Blackburn, the little man does the business against Portsmouth this weekend to in part make up for his absence, but he will be badly missed next week.

We do have Fletcher to call upon and his legs and running might well be key next week against Roma and with our younger players and providing we collect no more injuries at the weekend then we could easily turn the tie around and go through.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Mayor of Rome is upset about warning...

The Mayor of Rome is upset about United's warning to their supporters who'll be travelling to the eternal city for the Champions League quarter final on Wednesday evening. The fact of the matter is that if the local authorities had control of the situation then there'd be no need to issue any warnings, after all, it doesn't happen in England.

As much as the Italian's would like to brush the potential for fans getting stabbed under the carpet, United do have a responsibility for the safety of their followers, and so the warning was good advice.

Message to Mayor of Rome from this blog: Please shut up and get your act together

Monday, April 02, 2007

United fans in lock-in shocker...

News reaches United blog towers that Reds fans will be held back for 90 minutes after our Champions League clash with AS Roma in Rome on Wednesday night. Clearly this measure is designed to stop problems between fans developing, but holding the fans back for 90 minutes will cause chaos for many supporters who will have flights to catch. In the last round United fans had problems in Lille, so now it's the turn of the Italian's to show how not to do it. This would never happen at United, visiting fans are given a speedy escort away from the ground and are sent on their way home as quickly as possible.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Would Mark Hughes 'the quiet man' be right to replace Ferguson?

Who will replace Fergie when he retires? This is a topic which United fans have mused upon for some considerable time and no doubting the topic will resurface again in the not too distant future. I wouldn't bet against Fergie going this summer, especially as it looks increasingly likely that he could go out as a winner.

One potential candidate to replace Fergie is former player and still fans favourite, Mark 'Sparky' Hughes. Everyone remembers him from his United playing days with a great deal of fondness, because, not least, he would run through brick walls for the club, the phrase 'as hard as nails' springs to mind. Hughes was one of United's greatest ever strikers. Fans go on about Cantona, but for many Reds, Hughes is right up there with Eric and is definitely in the clubs all time list of heroes and he'd be surely listed in the clubs hall of fame, if they had one that is.

But what do we, the fans, make of Hughes the manager? A few seasons ago not that many might have fancied giving Sparky the job, because he lacked experience. Sure he managed the Welsh national team and he did that with a fair degree of success. Next he took the job at Blackburn Rovers, where he is today, this was a good move for the Welshman as it gave him the experience he didn't acquire at International level. Most managers first take the club route before going on to manage their country, but such is the stature of Hughes within Welsh football that he did it the other way around.

During his spell at Blackburn, Hughes and his team have been the subject of scrutiny because of their tactics, which has to a degree been built on making themselves difficult to beat by working damn hard for each other and the team. There's nothing wrong with that, throughout the 70s the Italian's did this to perfection, the golden rule back then was 'thou shall not pass' meaning opponents would not get beyond their marker. This current Rover's side isn't cynical like the Italian's often were. But what does this say about Hughes and his style of management, does it say anything at all? Well to me it says that Hughes can organise a team, he has also proven to have an eye for a player - which is something all managers need. Three players spring to mind in the current side Pedersen, Bentley and McCarthy.

United apparently turned down the chance to sign Pedersen, but he looks like a good signing, under the guidance of Hughes, Bentley has improved a lot and McCarthy was a good signing. Those three signings show that Hughes has an eye for a player and he can improve them too.

So what about the man and his personality? He's very different from Ferguson because for a start, he's known to be quiet, but I cannot imagine anyone taking liberties with the man of iron that is Sparky Hughes. If you want my opinion, I for one would give him the job once Fergie sacks it.

Chelsea feeling the pressure....

So then, Chelsea won with a late goal in the dying moments of their game with Watford yesterday, but by all accounts they were rubbish. That said, it is often the hallmark of champions to win games late on and perhaps when they don't deserve to win. United have done this many times in the past.

It remains to be seen what lies ahead in the race for the title, but I have a sneaking feeling that the pressure is really getting to Chelsea now. If United manage to pull it off and win the title, then you do wonder what the reaction will be from the self anointed 'special one' that is Jose Mourinho.

No wonder the United fans call them 'Chelsea rent-boys', check out the photo