Friday, August 31, 2007

Champions League draw: United complacent over fan safety?

The Champions League draw took place on Thursday and United are in what looks to be a very tough group F. Celtic (D) and Rangers (E) have been pitched against AC Milan and Barcelona respectively in what will no doubt be described as the groups of death. The other English clubs have relavitely easy looking passages to the knockout stages.

The Reds have been drawn against AS Roma, Sporting Lisbon and Dynamo Kiev.

So United fans will have to endure another trip to the eternal city where last season supporters were attacked before and during the game by both the police and home supporters. United's CEO David Gill appeared to be somewhat complacement about the rematch stating that we wouldn't see a repeat of the bloody scenes.

However, Italian football expert Gabriel Marcotti talking on BBC Five Live on Thursday stated that he has concerns over the Rome police, in particular the chief of police who he says 'isn't a very nice man'.

Apparently Roma are the only Italian club who have not banned knives. Many fans will be flabbergasted if this claim is true. United fans were searched thoroughly on entering the Stadio Olimpico, but the home supporters did not get searched at all, this led to the Italian's raining all manner of missiles onto the visiting fans.

UEFA fined both United and Roma for the troubles of last season, but more needs to be done to guarantee the safety of visiting fans. United's travelling supporters will be hoping that Gill's apparent complacency isn't misplaced and they will be keen to know what exactly United and Roma have done to ensure that we see no repeat of the ugly scenes this coming December in the Stadio Olimpico.

Regarding matters on the field of play, Ronaldo and Nani will no doubt be keen to renew acquaintances with Sporting Lisbon and Reds fans will no doubt be busily looking for cheap flights for the trip Kiev in November over the next few days.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

United to buy new striker as old names are relinked to the Reds?...

Despite Fergie ruling any move for a new striker before the transfer window closes in a few days time, reports continue to suggest that United might well sign a new forward in the wake of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's retirement announcement.

Reds fans will no doubt be scratching their collective heads given Giuseppe Rossi was offloaded to Villarreal just a few weeks ago, because it's not as if the club were unaware of Solskjaer's and Saha's recent injury record.

The usual names that have been bandied around are once again appearing in press reports linking them to the Reds Devils. Michael Owen of Newcastle is being linked along with Nicolas Anelka of Bolton, David Trezeguet of Juventus and Adriano of Inter Milan, but it's thought Fergie isn't that keen on any of these names.

Some media pundits suggest that United may well hang on until January, but that would appear to be a very risking strategy. Fergie's long term target is Dimitar Berbatov, but he is commited to Spurs for now.

The Reds currently have just one fit striker in the form of Carlos Tevez, and he has an international date down under when Argentina take on Australia on September 11th, which is just four days before United take on Everton.

Tevez will have to endure a 21,000 mile round trip to Melbourne and then be ready to play for United's as a lone striker against the Toffees.

Fergie couldn't have forseen Rooney's latest foot injury, but United have only got themselves to blame for this shortage of strikers and there's no getting away from that. It is a mess of the manager's own making.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Red legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer set to retire..

United fans around the world will this morning be coming to terms with the news that United's brilliant Norwegian striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is to retire due to the knee problems which have dogged his career over the last few seasons.

The news is not entirely unexpected as Ole has tried to comeback several times, but on each occasion he's suffered setbacks.

It is a sad day for Ole and no doubting his name will continue to be sung by United fans during matches for years to come.

The news of Ole's retirment was broken by his father who said:

"He would have liked to stay on and was hoping for a 100% recovery.

But something has happened with his knee which made it impossible for him to continue."

United fans will now be wondering if the Reds will move to replace Ole, but given the lack of time before the transfer window closes finding a quality replacement wont be easy. The logic in selling Rossi looks like a bad decision.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Berbatov staying at Spurs 'for now'.

Spurs striker Dimitar Berbatov has confirmed that he's staying with the North London club 'for now'.

The Bulgarian striker showed at times why he's so highly sought after by clubs like United during the Reds match with Tottenham on Sunday at Old Trafford. Apart from Nani's wonder goal, Berbatov was the man who took the eye when it came to skill.

During the second half, he out-foxed Darren Fletcher and the United defence when he brought down the ball, controlled it and then his chipped bending effort beat Edwin van der Sar all ends up, it was a brilliant piece of skill and was worthy of a goal.

Berbatov is one of those players who rarely wastes possession and always looks to have time on the ball, in that respect he's a bit like Eric Cantona, a big man with bags of skill. Without doubt he would be a massive hit in the Red shirt of United. Why oh why didn't Fergie go for him before Spurs?

It is going to cost United a lot of money to capture the Bulgarian striker but I for one expect it to happen either in January or more likely next Summer.

Full story

United need to switch to 4-4-2 at home....

Everyone knows that United's start to the season has been mixed, away from home we've played well, but at home the Reds have found it hard to open up visiting teams and we haven't been getting behind them.

The trick now for Fergie and his backroom team is find a way of breaking down the visitors packed defenses. Reading started the trend and to a lesser degree in the first half Spurs did the same.

United are at their collective best when they're up against teams who allow you to play, they've always struggled a bit against packed defenses and usually when this happens the first goal of the game will be the catalyst for the game to open up. In those tight games, this is usually the point when United have by traditional been able to attack teams by putting crosses into the box.

What's happening at the moment selection wise is being dictated by injuries and supsensions, and the manager is somewhat hamstrung in terms of his options. He's got litte room for changing things around, rotation is out of the question.

Tevez is being asked to play as an out and out striker, which is not his normal game and to make matters much worse, he's being asked to carry the burden pretty much alone. It isn't working well, not least because the Argentine striker looks to be playing from memory alone at times, it looks as though he needs a break and a rest. It's not even the end of August and the little man looks shattered already. At this rate Fergie is risking burn out with Tevez.

Giggs appears to have been given a free role, which has worked in the past, but not always. Against Spurs the Welshman and Paul Scholes looked jaded and in need or resting.

The good news is that the new boys Hargreaves and Nani have been pressed into action sooner than expected. Fergie talked about giving the England midfielder just 70 minutes against City, but like against Spurs he played the full game. Nani scored his first goal against Spurs and is starting to click.

There has also been signs of things to come from Fergie who has been switching from his starting formation of 4-5-1 or 4-3-3 (depending on how you view it) to a 4-2-4 or 4-4-2 (again depending on your views). The switch hasn't worked that well as of yet, largely because of the options on the bench, but both times the manager has replaced Carrick, which has left Hargreaves and Scholes in the centre of midfield.

What I expect to happen once Fergie has all of his players back and fully fit is that he will start some home games with either Hargreaves and Scholes, or Hargreaves and Carrick with any two of the following four; Nani, Ronaldo, Giggs and Anderson on the flanks plus two strikers from Rooney, Tevez, Saha and Ole.

Despite concerns over the lack of a target man, sans Saha, who injuries continue to be a sore talking point, Fergie really does have some fantastic options at his disposal selection wise.

United's season hasn't started yet, expect fireworks when it does. For now the Reds need to keep within striking distance of the pack leaders.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

United have to fight all the way for first victory of the season

United took on Spurs today knowing that nothing less than a win would be good enough given the Reds main title rivals all won at the weekend. The visitors who themselves haven't started the season well pushed the home side hard from the start and certainly did not deserve to lose courtesy of a second half stunner from Nani, but that is precisely what happened.

The Reds had to survive Robbie Keane hitting the bar in the opening minute after a poor cross field Nani ball that was intercepted by the Spurs attack. In the second half Spurs had two strong penalty appeals turned down by the referee, the first decision by Howard Webb was clearly the correct one when Berbatov was inadvertently brought down by Vidic, but TV replays showed that the Serbian and the Bulgarian came together rather than the Reds defender deliberately fouling the Spurs striker.

The second big decision centred on what looked like hand-ball inside the United box by Wes Brown, this time Spurs looked to have been on the wrong end of a bad decision as once again Webb turned down the visitors appeals.

The Reds also had to thank Rio Ferdinand for a goal-line clearance after Vidic had given the ball away cheaply in the second half, the England defender somehow managed to get his toe to the ball before Berbatov could poke it over the United goal line.

In the end United held out for the victory, but it was by far the worst display of the season so far and too many players looked nervy from back to front. Tevez looks shattered, Scholes and Giggs did not play well and the back four were making too many mistakes.

It wasn't a good day for United, but it was a lot worse for Spurs who can consider themselves very unlucky to be on the wrong end of a one nil defeat.

The malaise that is currently surrounding United needs to be lifted sharply, but you get the feeling it wont happen until the Reds return to something like full strength. In the end the £18m man Nani got the Reds out of jail with a wonder strike, but United cannot rely on that happening every week.

The other plus point was that once again Owen Hargreaves looked the part, so much so that Ferguson was able to take off Carrick for the second game in a row in a bid to change the game. So there was a few positives to come out of this nerve racking match, but none bigger than the Reds first three points of the season and they were much needed.

Rooney playing in carpet slippers with the soles of hobnail boots?

Sir Alex Ferguson says that he's satisfied that United are happy with Rooney's lightweight Nike football boots. However, Rooney has suffered two foot injuries and some people have blamed the lightweight boots as a probable cause of the injuries.

Fergie has stated that this latest injury was caused by Michael Duberry falling heavily on the England strikers foot and that Rooney and all the United stars are playing with boots which have reinforced soles.

From the outside looking in I for one cannot agree with Fergie's thinking, if the players are wearing what are little more than carpet slippers which have reinforced soles, then surely it's the upper part of the boot which needs the reinforcement and not just the soles.

If an oponent like Duberry comes down heavily on your foot with reinforced soles then surely this has the potential to end in a foot injury as keeps on happening to our top players.

These metatarsal injuries were never heard of until recently, what's more football pitches have improved greatly over the last decade and players from the past should surely picked up many more foot injuries playing on inferior surfaces - but that did not happen.

We never heard of Bobby Charlton, Denis Law, George Best, Eric Cantona or Bryan Robson picking up metatarsal injuries, therfore the problem must point towards these lightweight boots which clearly do not offer enough protection to the foot.

United and Rooney are paying a very heavy price for what are seemingly carpet slippers which have the soles of hobnail boots.

Pro Liverpool BBC reporters continuing anti-United agenda...

United have made a stuttering start to the new season with no wins to date, which in turn has led to many reporters in the largely pro-Liverpool BBC suggesting that United are currently relegation material.

That relegation suggestion is frankly embarrassingly laughable, but nonetheless Fergie and Reds fans will be looking for that first elusive victory when Spurs visit Old Trafford later today.

Jose Mourinho who's normally quick to highlight any perceived weakness in Chelsea's rivals, says that United will soon be making a fist of it with the leading clubs. In contrast to the BBCs largely childish reporting on the Reds, this is something of a surprise given Jose's previous form.

Ferguson has fallen out with the BBC following a report about his son Jason. Since then the BBC its reporters and the United manager have been at war and you wonder if this why just about every BBC Radio 5 Live reporter has over the last 24 hours have been gloating on air about United's lowly league position.

The BBC has long been seen by many United fans as haven for Liverpool supporting reporters. Five Live's commentator and 606 presenter Alan Green is a well known supporter of the Merseyside Reds, this is why his views are seen by many Reds as slanted towards his own club and he's openly admitted that he for one does not see to eye-to-eye with the United manager.

However, Green is by no means the only ABU presenter within the BBC, far from it, because just about every mention of United over the last 24 hours on Radio 5 Live has been accompanied by gloating references about United's poor season so far.

The Biased Broadcasting Company needs to get back to reporting the facts without the need to stoke the anti-United fire.

Whether or not the BBC has an anti United agenda is open to debate, but that is the perception some Reds have of 5 Live at this moment in time.

Arsenal scrape win as City continue to show promise...

Last weekend Man City got what they didn't deserve, after being totally outclassed for 75 minutes they somehow managed to hang on for a narrow Manchester derby win, it wasn't deserved and the result was a total travesty.

One week on and I decided to take a closer look at this new City side, because going off the derby there was nothing to suggest that this much talked about rejuvenated side amounted to anything more than a side who have been punching above their weight in the early exchanges of the new season, as often happens in the Premier League.

Courtesy of Sky I took in the whole 90 minutes on Saturday night and I have to admit it wasn't a bad game. City actually managed to surprise me, as their performance from an attacking sense was much better than in the Manchester derby a week ago. In that game United had snuffed out Elano the Blues play-maker in-chief early doors and so the Brazilian barely figured, as a result, save for 15 minutes in the opening period City did not function going forward at all that day.

On Saturday at the Emirates stadium Arsenal allowed the visitors to play and for large chunks of both half's City took full advantage, often counter-attacking in numbers, but for Elano's poor decision making midway through the opening period City would have surely taken the lead. Instead of passing to either of the two Blue shirted players in better positions, the Brazilian elected to shoot from twenty yards outside the Gunners penalty area, it was a defining moment in the game and a missed opportunity to take the lead as his effort came to nought.

Much is being rightly made of the remarkable progress of Micah Richards, who has been switched to the centre of City's back four to play alongside Richard Dunne. With young players like Richards there's always a danger of building up expectations too soon, but without doubt, this lad is real potential, the hype is justified.

Against Arsenal both defences were pretty much in control, but after the half time break, Robin van Persie and Adebayor started to get on top. Arsenal's young Dutch striker started dropping a bit deeper and Richards didn't follow him and this led to the home team opening up City. On one such occasion only a last ditch lunging tackle by Richards denied van Persie a clear strike on goal. Despite the best efforts of the young England defender the Arsenal striker cut back onto his left foot, but fired over the bar in doing so. That effort was a warning of what was to follow later, but then just as it looked as though Arsenal might start to unravel City's resolute defence the visitors took over with their own brand of counter-attacking football.

At the heart of everything which is good about City's attacks is another youngster in Michael Johnson, who for me, was the man of the match, his link up play was first class as he made himself available all game alongside City's elder statesman Hamann.

City's engine room continued to find both Elano and Petrov on the wing and as an attacking unit the Englishman, the Brazilian, the German and the Bulgarian linked up well. City had Stephen Ireland on the right, but barely anything goes down their right flank and the Blues do not look that convincing down this channel. Behind Ireland, right-back Corlucka played his full part again, though was again there was a penalty appeal against him, but this time it was nowhere near as clear-cut as the one City got away with in the derby when he hacked down Evra late on in the opening period.

Once City's attacking spell had abated, Arsenal started to probe the visitors back-line again and on 65 minutes the Gunners were awarded a penalty for another last ditch lunging Richards challenge, this time on Hleb. There was no argument about the decision, though the City youngster appear to briefly have a go at the referee Chris Foy.

However, the visitors were rescued by Kasper Schmeichel in goal who did a fairly decent impersonation of his old man when performed the ritual of jumping up and down on the line prior to van Persie taking his spot-kick. Schmeichel's antics worked a treat as the Dutchman's effort amounted to little more than a back-pass, which was easily dealt with by the young City keeper.

The visitors resistance was finally broken when ten minutes from time Fabregas was found lurking by the edge of the Blues six yard box and he blasted his effort past Richards and through the arms of Schmeichel who had no time to react.

Going off the evidence of the Arsenal defeat, which was a game in which City once again got something that they didn't deserve, this time a defeat, the Blues could mount a serious challenge to get into Europe. City have moved from the third to the second tier of Premier League clubs and there's talk of capturing a new striker, which is an area of weakness in their squad.

As for Arsenal, they were not totally convincing on the day and if they have serious ambitions of pushing the likes of United, Liverpool and Chelsea they will have to play a lot better than they did against City.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Ferguson relieved to be talking about Jol instead of United's poor start to the new campaign.

Ahead of what many in the media are labelling as Sunday's 'must win game' with Spurs, Fergie spoke at length about his opposite number Martin Jol the Spurs manager, in doing so the Scotsman was quick to offer his full support saying that sacking managers early doors is pointless. How true.

United have of course started rather sluggishly in terms of results, but the Reds general all round play has been fine apart from finishing in front of goal. Last weekend City got the points and all the luck in the Manchester derby courtesy of a deflection, apart from a fifteen minute spell the Blues were totally outclassed and United fans will be hoping for a similar performance this Sunday when Tottenham visit Old Trafford.

Owen Hargreaves is due to start and Louis Saha and new boy Anderson could be on the bench.

Sunderland try rough stuff but come up short...

Following the three-nil drubbing by Wigan Athletic last week it came as no surprise that Sunderland came out all guns blazing against Liverpool in the early kick-off at the Stadium of Light. But as early as the first minute the home side nearly conceded when Halford's back pass fell short and Voronin was only denied by the excellent Gordon in the Black Cats goal, but for the Sunderland keeper the final score-line of two-nil would have been much, much wider.

Sami Hyypia had to leave the field of play on 20 minutes after what he claimed was elbow in the face by winger Murphy, the Liverpool back-room team worked on the defender's bloody nose, but they could not stem the flow of blood and eventually Agger replaced the Finn.

Eventually the visitors class started to tell as Ryan Babel, Voronin and Torres started to click and it came as no surprise when Liverpool broke the deadlock just before half-time with a class goal which was somewhat surprisingly finished off by Sissoko from 20 yards.

The pattern of the second half was much the same as the first with the home team huffing and puffing, but with no end product and in truth Liverpool's keeper didn't have a shot to make all game long. Meanwhile at the other end Sunderland were kept in the game by the excellent Gordon who had to make a string of fine saves. However eventually Liverpool got the killer goal when they scored another well crafted effort that was finished in some style by new boy Voronin.

Verdict: Liverpool will push Chelsea hard for the title. Sunderland will be in trouble unless Keane can find a creative midfield player. Against Liverpool the Irishman started with a negative 4-5-1 and when the home side went one down Keane was unable to change the pattern of the game. That is the problem when you start with a negative line-up, once you go behind it can be difficult to change to a more attacking formation and that is precisely what happened today.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Beckham must end International dash madness

David Beckham cannot be faulted for his desire to play for his country, especially when like this week it was a totally meaningless friendly with Germany. However, it was fairly clear to anyone watching his performance at Wembley that the former England skipper is carrying an ankle injury, and it was therefore complete madness to play him, but that is what happened. The former United and Real star played the full game and despite his injury problems he played quite well too, creating chances for Lampard and Dyer to score as well crossing the ball well and spraying the passes across the Wembley turf.

No doubt given his commitment to play and after flying across the Atlantic to make the game, Steven McLaren felt it only fair to give him the full ninety minutes, but at some point someone has to start looking after Beckham's long term interests and playing with an injury will serve neither England or LA Galaxy well.

After the defeat to the Germans Beckham flew straight back to LA to play his part in another defeat, this time losing three nil to local rivals Chivas. Beckham hobbled through another ninety minutes.

It's hard enough playing at the highest level, but trying to do it with injuries and then flying across the pond to meet punishing schedules is complete madness.

Sooner or later events will overtake Beckham and injuries or loss of form will dictate his selection both at club and country level.

At this moment in time Beckham isn't doing Galaxy, England or himself justice. Given his total commitment to both club and country, it will be such a shame to see him crucified by the media if and when his injuries and the travelling takes their toll.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

United agree fee with Madrid for Heinze.

As we told you last night United have agreed a fee with Real Madrid for want-away defender Gabriel Heinze, the Argentine has disappointed his manager and many fans with his desire to move to rivals Liverpool.

During his short spell with the club Heinze managed to attain a cult hero status, but that has been undone following the rumpus over the Liverpool affair and now many supporters just want him out of the club.

In not allowing the move to Liverpool to take place, United have now underscored that proverbial line in the sand that thou shall not move to bitter rivals.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Real agree Heinze fee?

According to the Spanish newspaper Marca, Gabriel Heinze could be set to sign for a fee of around £8m.

Heinze and his agent tried and failed to sign for North West rivals Liverpool.

We await confirmation of the Real Madrid deal.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

New striker swoop talk....

According to the media, United could be eyeing up Newcastle United's Obafemi Martins and in another report it is claimed that Fergie is ready to up his bid for want-away Bolton striker Nicolas Anelka.

Personally, I cannot see the Reds moving for another striker, this is what I believe Fergie meant when he said we must not make any knee-jerk reactions following the defeat by City at the weekend.

My advice is don't bank on United signing any new strikers this summer.

No joy for Heinze......

Perhaps not surprisingly the Premier League's three man arbitration panel found in favour of Manchester United. Gabriel Heinze wants to join rivals Liverpool, largely because he's lost his regular starting place for United. Perhaps now that Heinze has lost his case which is set to go to appeal, then maybe Liverpool will look for an alternative thus ending any lingering hopes of a move for the Argentine.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Bad weekend for referees, but is dropping them the answer?

Referee Rob Styles has been dropped from officiating in next weekend's Premier League games because of his absurd penalty award to Chelsea against Liverpool on Sunday. Apparently Styles will call Liverpool to offer his apologies, it goes without saying the Merseyside Reds would rather have had the two points instead of words of sympathy.

Styles poor penalty award was the main officiating talking point of the weekend, so much so that it has overshadowed what many Reds view as an equally poor decision by Mark Clattenburg in the Manchester derby when Corlucka hacked down Patrice Evra when he was clean through on goal - that decision, or lack of it to be more precise, has been largely ignored by the media.

Personally, I'm not sure that dropping referees by way of punishment is the answer, surely that will just add to the pressure on Styles for his next game. Why not just fine them heavily?

Having made his grovelling apology will Styles feel obliged to level things up next time he takes charge of a Liverpool game? Human nature would suggest that will be the case, so no doubting many in the media will be keeping a close eye on the next Liverpool game when Styles is in the middle.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Derby day frustration for Reds who out played City from start to finish.

Sir Alex Ferguson like the millions watching the Manchester derby on tv will have struggled to believe that United actually somehow contrived to lose the game courtesy of Geovanni's first half deflected shot, which was one of only two decent efforts in the whole ninety minutes from City.

So it turned out to be another frustrating day from the Reds perspective, like against Portmouth in midweek, United totally dominated the game pretty much from start to finish but this time without scoring and so ended the day without anything to show for their collective efforts.

United should have been at least one up before City scored, the visitors were denied a cast-iron first half penalty when right back Corlucka clumsily brought down Patrice Evra without even touching the ball, yet to the astonishment of many including Fergie, referee Mark Clattenburg gave a goal kick. But it was one of those days as City got the rub of the green all game long with United being denied two corners, once when Schmeichel saved from Nani and on another occasion when Evra played the ball off the legs of the Corlucka.

City's results and performances have been a complete transformation from the side of last season, that was up and until today when they came up against an accomplised team like United who will play worse than today and still come away with all three points.

To a large extent, City had Richards and Dunne at the heart of the home defence to thank for the victory. The rest of the home team looked every bit as hapless as any City team that United have faced in recent times. However, the Blues got the only goal of the game and of course goals win matches, and this is an area which is giving Reds fans and no doubt the manager some cause for concern as United have only scored one goal from three league games.

The Red Devils are creating chances and against City, Tevez and Scholes had United's best chances. The Argentine missed one clear-cut header right at the death, which was unforgivable, but in the little man's defence the ball did arrive very quickly. Scholes lacked his usual composure on a couple of occasions when presented with shooting opportunities around the box and new boy Nani also pulled two shots wide of the target and Vidic hit the woodwork with a header.

City fans will no doubt be in Sven heaven and who can blame them, but after today they will believe that things can only get better, somehow I doubt it. Going off what we've seen today City are unlikely to take more points off any of the top four sides from last season as surely they cannot be so lucky again.

Here again though today's derby result will concern United as Chelsea beat Reading when United could only manage a draw with the Royals. United got the winning habit early last season, Ferguson will demand that the Reds recapture their winning ways post haste.

Some schools of thought are now suggesting that United are lacking a cutting edge up front and that perhaps we need to sign someone like Anelka who by the way we've been linked to today.

There's also a suggestion that United are trying to walk the ball into the net by over-playing. Comparisons are being made with Arsenal's style of play, but for me United have always played a better and a more attacking brand of football, that was up and until this season. United have not been guilty of over playing, we've been guilty of not finishing chances - there is a difference.

While the Red's general play has been of a very high standard, apart from finishing off chances, there is still room for improvement.

Against City Nani was guilty of wasting crosses into the box, on one occasion in the second half United had three players unmarked inside the City penalty area, but Nani's cross went out of play, his passing in general wasn't on the money and it came as no surprise when he was replaced in the second half.

With injuries and suspsensions, United currently lack quality in numbers and today that was highlighted with the second half introduction of an untried youngster in Frazer Campbell who barely touched the ball.

Perhaps United do need someone like Fernando Torres who showed his blistering pace later in day as he scored for Liverpool in his home debut against the former champions Chelsea. There was at least two occasions today when Tevez was one-on-one with Micah Richards but the Argentine lacks the pace of Torres and that was only too self evident in the Manchester derby.

On a more positive note, United played some really neat first time football which made City look second-rate and Owen Hargreaves was oustanding, barely putting a foot wrong all game long, and with Liverpool and Chelsea drawing things could be worse.

The league title has never been lost or won in August - and this United side is capable of beating all the top sides, so fear not, it is still very early days. Do not write-off the Reds.

Sunday supplement coup as Jimmy Hill is axed?...

What next for Hill?

So for the first time this season we tuned in to watch Jimmy Hill's Sunday Supplement on Sky only to discover that Mr Chin has been axed. Hill used to chair the meeting of the minds around his breakfast table set for a weekly informal chat about the latest goings on in the world of football, but alas even the table and sideboard have gone along with Jimmy's framed photo...

Apparently, Sky have axed Hill. So then, there will be no more nervous bottom shuffling from the assembled gentlemen of the press as often happened when Hill interjected with his makes you wonder if there's been a backroom coup led by Woolnough et al?

Many fans of the show, including moi, believe that Sky have made a mistake, as Jimmy Hill brought a bit of colour to the show.

Sammy Lee fully justified as bookies favourite for the sack...

So then as I predicted on here a week ago Bolton do indeed look to be serious relegation candidates as do Derby County. The latter have been tipped heavily for a return to the Championship, so it comes as no surpise that even at this early stage of the new campaign they are one place off the bottom spot which is filled by Bolton Wanderers.

It also comes as little surprise that Sammy Lee is the bookies favourite for the first top flight manager to be sacked this season. It was always going to be a hard act to follow with big Sam Allardyce leaving the club after such a successful spell. However, personally I think the loss of Ben Haim has been a big factor in Bolton's poor start. To make matters much worse, there's talk that Anelka could be about to join Pompey who thumped the Trotters 3-1 on Saturday. No doubt punters will continue to lump on Bolton to be relegated and Lee to be sacked.

Both Bolton and Derby have conceded five goals from three games, as have Sunderland, who are another club that I full expect to struggle. Losing three to nil to Wigan does not augur well for the Black Cats and Roy Keane.

United offer 'cut-price' Heinze to Spanish giants...

A report in the Sunday Times claims that United have offered want-away Argentine star Gaby Heinze to both Barcelona and Real Madrid for a knockdown fee. Fergie has made it fairly clear that Patrice Evra is the club's first choice left-back, not surprisingly Heinze doesn't fancy a bit-part at this stage of his career.

It's being reported that the Spanish clubs are not interested in acquiring the Argentine. Heinze's destination of choice would be to join bitter North West rivals Liverpool and while there's no official rule which states players cannot move between the two clubs, they are rarer than a Man City trophy winning year. The last switch took place in 1964, 43 years ago.

The saga is set to go to a three man Premier League arbitration panel. The outcome will be interesting to say the least, a lot will depend on how far United are willing to take this matter.

It could, I suspect, go all the way to the courts of law.

Full story

Friday, August 17, 2007

Gerrard puts club before country: Who cares?

So Steven Gerrard will be risked against Chelsea on Sunday despite having a hairline fracture on one of his toes. Rafa Benitez the Liverpool manager says that it isn't a risk and that the player will play once he's had an injection. There's nothing new about this practice, it's well documented that down the years players have played once they've taken pain killing injections.

So what about the club v country debate because Rafa has also hinted that England's friendly with Germany next Wednesday comes too soon for Gerrard.

Clearly Liverpool are desperate to win the title this season, otherwise they'd be taking no chances with Gerrard. More fool them if Gerrard breaks his toe.

As far as England are concerned, we know what Gerrard can do so there's nothing to be gained or learned from playing the Liverpool skipper.

Clubs pay the players wages, their interests should come first every time. There shouldn't even be a debate about this.

Keane on WAGS: His own wife hasn't moved to Sunderland....

Roy Keane has questioned those players who have refused to move to Sunderland hinting that their wifes and or girlfriends don't fancy moving to the North East because there aren't enough glitzy shops. The Irishman says these players have gone soft.

However, it's been revealed that Roy Keane's wife hasn't moved out of South Manchester, reports in the local evening newspaper claim that the family are still living in a rented house in Hale.

Keane would no doubt argue that he himself has of course moved and that is the only thing that matters, but given his own situation it make his claims about players going soft look hollow. Pot's and kettle's Roy?

City fans 'living the dream' ahead of the derby...

It was only a week or so ago that Man City fans were saying to me 'the derby will come too soon for us'. However, two wins on for the blues and now they've changed their tune, because while City have been winning United have of course been drawing.

Whatever happens on Sunday, the league title has never been won or lost in August. As if City fans will need reminding, United secured the title at the City of Manchester stadium last May...

So Sunday's game will be like any other derby, local bragging rights are at stake more than anything else, though with United being billed as genuine title contenders losing the game would be a concern for United, but it would not be catastrophic in the big scheme of things.

On the flip side for City fans, their season consists of three things, not getting relegated and the two results of the two games with United. To coin a phrase, Sunday is massive for them.

Of the game itself with no Ronaldo or Rooney, I expect Fergie to flood his midfield with the inclusion of Hargreaves who has yet to figure for the Red Devils. I also expect Anderson will be on the bench and will be introduced at some point in the game, but not from the start, though with City having so many new players who have yet to experience a derby atmosphere the manager might just surprise us all and start the Brazilian but I doubt it personally.

It could be a cracking game.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

No need to panic, United will come good...

After reading some of the headlines and match reports about United's season so far anyone would think that the Reds are relegation fodder. They are not and what's more, there's cause for optimism despite Ronaldo's red card and Rooney's foot injury as both Nani and Tevez look perfectly at home already after only a couple of games for the club.

United will certainly have more setbacks in the league, but we've already seen signs that we the fans can expect to see some really exciting and attacking / free-flowing football once the season gets under way proper.

As someone once famously said, the battle for the title is a marathon and not a sprint. How true.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

United under pressure already...

Manchester United face Portsmouth this evening knowing that they cannot afford to drop more points in the league, because on Sunday it's the Manchester derby and with City looking good, failure to get at least three points from the next two games would be something of a mini crisis for Fergie who has spent heavily in the transfer market this summer.

Following the draw with Reading Fergie appeared to use Wayne Rooney's injury as an excuse for dropping two points. United shouldn't be in the position of expecting John O'Shea to play as a centre forward as he did second half against Reading. The decision to off-load Rossi to Valencia isn't looking so good right now.

Quiz Question: About current United managers...

How many former United stars are currently managing English league clubs?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Rooney fractures foot on bad day for the champions...

United were held 0-0 at home to Reading in their opening game of the new campaign, the Reds had 75% possession of the ball and weighed in with 20 shots to the visitors two, but credit to the Steve Coppell's Royals who hung on for a point despite being reduced to 10 men after second half substitute Kitson was given a straight red card for a nasty looking over-the-ball tackle on Patrice Evra.

To make matters a lot worse for United, Wayne Rooney was taken off at half time with a foot injury which has now been diagnosed as a hairline fracture which will could worst case keep the England striker out of action for up to two months.

Rooney has suffered two metatarsal bone injuries on his right foot, though the latest injury isn't thought to be as serious as the last fracture in 2006. The good news is that United will soon be able to call upon the services of Carlos Tevez and Louis Saha.

Ferguson said that if Rooney had stayed on the pitch today United would have won the game. Of those who did stay on the pitch, new signing Nani replaced Rooney and linked up well with Ronaldo in particular and in doing so showed enough to suggest that he could be a big player for United.

The Reds will be hugely disappointed with the result and certain aspects of the performance. Next up it's the Manchester derby. Bring it on.

New season brings new hope to Premier League new boys...

The Premier League new season started with a bang on Saturday with Sven Goran Eriksson's Man City sharing the headlines with Roy Keane and Sunderland in what turned out to be a very interesting day for neutrals and die-hards alike. With the big-boys (Liverpool excepted) taking centre-stage on Sunday, it was a chance for the lesser lights to showcase their collective new talents.

Having spent over £40m so far this summer, much will be expected of Man City, but even the most loyal Blues fans couldn't have anticipated what happened at Upton Park. Premier League rookie manager Sven Goran Eriksson had given himself much to ponder regarding selection issues, having signed so many overseas stars. Added to which the former England manager hasn't had that much time to work with his new charges - there's some debate as to whether or not he'd even seen some of them play before signing them.

Nonetheless, City, by all accounts, put on a fantastic 90 minute performance and the two-nil scoreline was a fair reflection of the game. City's star man was Blumer Elano, the Brazilian plays in a similar role to United's Paul Scholes and he was key to the Blues victory. West Ham for their part could not break down a well organised City team and here again Eriksson must take a great deal of credit, because few could have expected the former England manager to create such a well balanced side in such short order. Many Man City fans have been saying 'the derby with United will be too soon for us'... now it cannot come soon enough one suspects.

One Saturday does not maketh a season, but on the evidence of the win over the Hammers, maybe this is the season when City will finally have a decent chance of winning a pot? Let the giddyness begin...Predictions: Man City mid table finish, West Ham bottom eight.

Sunderland and Roy Keane made their Premier League debuts when facing Spurs in the day's early kick-off and opening league fixture at the Stadium of Light. The game while not being a snoozfest, lacked goal-mouth action at both ends throughout the ninety minutes.

Former United starlet Paul McShane looks to be a very shrewd signing, the young central defender won just about every header and but for Michael Chopra's late injury time winner for Sunderland the Irishman would have no doubt been the man-of-the-match.

McShane reminds me a lot of Barcelona's Pugol, both have distinctive hairstyles, both charge up and down the park making superbly timed tackles. Keane will be delighted with the one nil win over Spurs, but the Black Cats boss is going to have a very difficult season based on the evidence of the opening game. Sunderland lack genuine star quality up front and in midfield. Richardson, one of Keane's big summer signings did not impress at all and it came as no surprise when he was replaced late on.

Keane and his chairman will be delighted with their opening victory, but they will also realise the size of the task ahead of them, and with money still left in the bank to spend on new players, I for one expect another signing or two. Nyron Noseworthy and Paul McShane were rock solid against a lacklutre Spurs, though once again Martin Jol the Spurs manager did the opposition a huge favour by taking off Berbatov. My prediction for Sunderland and the rest of the season is expect them to be in the bottom six once the season is under way proper. As for Spurs, they have injuries to key players, but as ever they will take points off the big boys. Predictions: Spurs top six finish, Sunderland possible relegation candidates.

Sammy Lee, the new Bolton manager was on the wrong end of a 3-1 scoreline as Big Sam returned to the Reebok stadium with his new club Newcastle United. However, both of Martins goals looked suspiciously like hand-ball. Apparently, the talk coming out of the Bolton Wanderers camp is that this season they will play more football. Dodgy goals aside, losing at home 3-1 to Newcastle doesn't bode well for the new season. Expect a return to 'route one' football in the not too distant future. Predictions: Bolton possible relegation candidates, Newcastle to finish in top eight.

Before a ball was kicked, many pundits had been predicting that Derby County were racing certainties for a quick return to the Champhionship, so the 2-2 scoreline with Portsmouth will give their supporters and manager cause for optimism in what will be a very difficult season. Predictions: Derby possible relegation candidates. Pompey top eight finish.

The new look Liverpool were in action as they travelled to Villa Park for a game that ended in much controversy after visitors ran out 2-1 winners. The media have been going overboard about Steven Gerrard's winning free-kick. It was a stunning effort that much is true. However, if United's Cristiano Ronaldo had 'won' the free-kick in similar cirumstances our loveable and all too often agenda setting media would have surely focused on the disgraceful cheating. Referee Mike Riley was conned big time by Gerrard. It was an appalling decision and one that won the game for the Merseyside Reds. Predictions: Merseyside Reds top four finish. Villa top eight.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Why Leeds 15 point deduction is qute right: Bates is to blame.

Ken Bates and Dennis Wise can carp all day long about the 15 point deduction for the coming season, but the fact is that if Ken Bates hadn't swung the lead with his initial offer of just one penny in the pound to the clubs creditors and instead came up with a reasonable settlement to all then Leeds wouldn't have been in this sorry mess.

Bates tried it on with a cheeky bid to buy back the club for next to nothing and the resulting mess which has contributed to Leeds share of the tv money being withheld. Following on from that, and as you'd perhaps expect, Bates and Wise have been moaning about being hamstrung with no cash to buy new players, but here again this is entirely down to one man. Ken Bates. You reep what you sew.

Leeds fans aren't stupid and they will realise who is to blame for this latest shambles, it isn't Ridsdale or O'Leary this time.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Should Heinze be allowed to move to Liverpool?

It isn't just the intense rivalry between United and Liverpool that is stopping Gabriel Heinze from moving to the Merseyside Reds. Liverpool will push United and Chelsea hard this season, which is another huge factor as the Anfield club will definitely finish in the top four and no manager worth his salt would want to see one of his player's strengthening squad, especially when they have the potential to win the title. Clearly Fergie is happy for Heinze to go, but should the United manager allow the Argentine to join Liverpool?

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Premier League paper shufflers holding up Tevez deal..

News reaches United blog Towers that the Premier League are holding up the transfer of Carlos Tevez to Manchester United. Given the complete cock-up surrounding the star's previous two contracts with the Hammers the news comes as no surprise. Nobody wants to see a repeat of the shambolic situation that has dominated sports headlines all summer long. So better to get all the paper work in order now rather than be sorry later.

Reds fans will be hoping that Tevez plays some part against Reading this weekend. One striker who definitely wont be taking any part in this weekends league opener is Reading striker Leroy Lita because he's 'stretched a muscle' in bed....the mind boggles, you do wonder what Steve Coppell will make of that.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Van Der Sar stands tall to shut out Chelsea...

United, no doubt to the surprise of many Reds, actually managed to win the Charity (Community) Shield today. As ever, they did it the hard way having to overcome Fergie's arch nemesis Jose Mourinho.

Until today, the Sir Alex has only managed one victory in all competitions when he's faced the Portuguese manager. The game finished 1-1 after 90 minutes with Giggs on target midway through the opening period after good work by Vidic and Evra who pulled the ball back from the dead-ball line for the Welshman who scored his first ever Wembley goal with a neat finish.

Chelsea hit back on the stroke of half time when new signing Malouda muscled out Ferdinand to score a very good goal.

As far as Charity Shields go, this wasn't such a bad game, but it was United who were marginally the better side, though not unexpectedly after the game Mourinho saw the game differently.

Not surprisingly the game was eventually decided on penalties and for a pleasant change the Red Devils went on to win with Van Der Sar saving all three of Chelsea's efforts. At the other end Petra Cech could do nothing about the spot-kicks from Ferdinand, Carrick and Rooney. Wayne Rooney got the winner which gave him the opportunity to tell the Chelsea fans, who'd been barracking the former Everton man to button it.

After watching these two sides in what was a full blown competitive match it remains to be seen what if anything this match will mean in the context of the new season.

The traditional curtain raiser to the new season has always been about getting that extra match sharpness under your belt before the real action starts, today was no different for either side, but the injury situation at both clubs is worth commenting on.

From United's perspective, the only injury concern is Paul Scholes, but he should be back fairly soon and so the Reds look to be in pretty good shape.

Fergie has confirmed that Tevez and Hargreaves will get a run out in midweek when United travel to Northern Ireland to face Glentoran. So more good news there for Fergie and the Reds.

Meanwhile, Chelsea have been rocked by the news that John Terry could be out for up to four weeks and Didier Drogba, the blues main man, is set to go for a scan.

Today's win for United actually counts for little but if Chelsea are without Terry and Drogba for any length of time, it could be significant, especially if the Reds can like last season get off to flying start. Other Premiership sides will also fancy their chances against Chelsea without the two central rocks of the Chelsea squad.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Silverware on the horizon for the Berties?

Reading the comments from our “blue cousins”, it appears that many of them could not care less about Shinawattra’s murky past. One of them actually commented that, as he is now one of their own , we all stand together – the writer mustn’t have heard of Peter Swales or Francis Lee (along with numerous players hounded out of the club)

I do have to agree with some of them – Shinawattra is, in all probability, no worse and probably better than some previous Thai prime ministers. I’m certain if you asked anyone in Thailand who they would prefer, Shinawattra or a Military Dictatorship – the former would win hands down. His human rights record requires some scrutiny, though.

However, little has been made of why Wardle and Co were so desperate to sell the family silver (not that there’s much of that at the council house) to the first bidder. Why were they so desperate? Why did they not check up on his past – they must have realised that it could/would cause some controversy. If, as some reporters suggest, they also sold up at a huge personal financial loss – did they know something the rest of don’t?

In obtaining the services of Sven, city will, undoubtedly, stay in the Premiership this coming season. Something that, after witnessing some of their woeful performances towards the end of last season (I can’t recall a more abject and disgraceful performance than the one they served up in the Derby – and I’ve seen them lose 5-0 at Old Trafford), I thought they were certainties for the drop unless there was massive (oops) investment and a major overhaul.

You never know, they may eventually win some silverware if they can keep hold of the personality challenged Mr Eriksson (Lord knows, it’s about time).

One thing is certain though, and I’m sure all city fans deep in their hearts know this – it will all end in tears.


Tevez set to sign...

According to the media Carlos Tevez is likely to become a Manchester United player on Friday once the Premier League and the FA have ratified the transfer. It's understood that the fee will be around £2m, if true this is something of a climbdown by the Premier League who were reportedly demanding that the figure should be nearer £6m. United will pay a further £10m to MSI for a two year loan period with a £20m option to make the move permanent. It's a very good deal for Manchester United, which will bring about an end to the most protracted transfer of all time.

Quite what will become of West Ham United remains be seen as reports suggest that relegated Sheffield United are likely to seek compensation over issue of who owns Carlos Tevez. West Ham had supposedly torn up their initial agreement with MSI, but documents produced in the High Court earlier this week suggested that a second contract confirmed the Argentine was still 'owned' by MSI.

The Sheffield United's PLC chairman Kevin McCabe has described the Premier League as 'shambolic'. Ouch.

Full story

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Breaking News: West Ham and MSI agree Tevez deal.

West Ham United and MSI the agents who represent Carlos Tevez have according to BBC Radio Five Live agreed a compromise deal that will see the Argentine finally signing for Manchester United. We will have more on this story when we know the full facts.

Rivals Chelsea make key signing..

Rivals Chelsea have made a key signing by capturing Brazilian defender Alex, subject to the formality of a passing a medical.

Earlier this week the PSV man was at the centre of a giant administration cock-up which eventually saw him returning to his homeland after being interrogated by immigration officials for several hours over his work permit.

The bad news for the rest of the Premier League and indeed Europe is that Alex has now been granted his work permit following an appeal.

The Brazilian defender will make a massive difference to a defence that at times last season looked anything like the one we'd seen in the previous two campaigns while Gallas was still at the club.

Chelsea could yet also sign Feyenoord's Royston Drenthe, if Dutch winger Robben moves to Real Madrid.

Make no mistake Chelsea will be as strong as they've ever been under the stewardship of Jose Mourinho. With rivals Liverpool also making significant signings, many will no doubt be predicting the toughest Premier League to date.

Smith to join Magpies, but was he treated fairly by Fergie?

The Reds have reportedly agreed a fee £6m with Newcastle United for Alan Smith. If the deal goes ahead the former Leeds United striker will link up with his old team-mate Mark Viduka to rekindle a partnership that worked well for their old West Yorkshire club.

Since Smith arrived at United, opinions on his worth have been divided among Reds fans, some love him to death, others are at best indifferent. However, the only opinion that really matters though is Ferguson's and clearly with no offer a new contract, it was decision time for the England striker.

Should the move go through, the decision to sell Smith will no doubt meet with mixed verdicts from the Red Army. Personally, I'm more concerned about off-loading Rossi, but the story goes that United have insisted upon a butt-covering buy-back clause being written into his new Villarreal contract.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Rossi sale to bite Ferguson on the ass?

I've actually lost count of the number of times that I've written this before, but it's worth repeating in the wake of Giuseppe Rossi's tansfer to Villarreal. Sir Alex Ferguson hasn't often got it wrong when selling young players, few with the possible exception of David Healy have proved his judgement to be wrong.

In truth even Healy, despite his goalscoring record for Preston, Leeds and Northern Ireland has yet to make Fergie's decision to off-load the youngster look like a bad one. The jury is very much out on Healy's ability to perform at the very highest level, the same applies to Rossi. Nonetheless, many United fans will have nagging doubts about the decision to sell the American/Italian youngster to the Spaniards.

There are three key positions in the spine of any team: goalkeeper, centre of midfield and centre-forward. Despite having one of the best records in England for producing home grown talent. United have not been able those three key positions with players who have come through the ranks of the club for a long time.

Mark Hughes was the last player to fill the centre-forward role and before him it was Bobby Charlton. Scholes has of course been used a central attacking player, but he's neither a centre forward or a Keane/Robson type of midfield general.

Gary Bailey was the last 'keeper who came through the Old Trafford ranks and 'made it'.

So the problem for Rossi and any other young star in the making, is that being very good is never going to be quite good enough at a club like United. Which is why it has been so hard for United themselves to produce players to fill these key central positions.

If you're going to really make it as a United striker, then you have be able to compete with the likes of Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez (Rossi's move must mean the Argentine is on his way to join the Reds). Before them it was Ruud Van Nistelrooy and before him it was Cole and Yorke.

It remains to be seen whether or not Fergie's decision to cash-in on Rossi will bite him in the ass. Time, will as ever, tell.