Friday, February 29, 2008

Fulham v United preview: Time for Reds to end capital punishment ...

IT's surprising fact that United have not won in London for twelve months, ironically the last time the Reds collected three points was February '07 at Craven Cottage. Tomorrow, United once again take on relegation threatened Fulham in what could turn out to be a very interesting day in the capital with Arsenal taking on in-form Aston Villa at the Emirates.

However, if Fergie is hoping that Martin O'Neill et all will do the Reds a favour by taking points off the Gunners, the United manager will have also noted that earlier this month Fulham managed a home win against Villa, which once again just goes to show that apart from Newcastle, there's no easy games in the Premier League...

By their standards, United have struggled with a poor run of the results so far in London this season, losing to West Ham was for many fans unforgivable, dropping points against Spurs and Arsenal less so, but there will be no acceptable excuses should the Reds fail to win against Roy Hodgson's side.

Fergie will have one eye firmly fixed on the midweek clash with Lyon and no doubt that will influence his thinking regarding selection issues, for this reason expect Louis Saha to start up front.

Who should figure in the engine room will once again be the biggest headache for the manager, does he start with: Scholes, Hargreaves, Carrick, Fletcher, Anderson, Giggs (an injury doubt - calf strain), Park or Nani? Who should be left on the bench? Don't be surprised if Ronaldo and Rooney are given the day off.

No matter what team Fergie selects against Fulham it should be good enough for the Reds to end capital punishment for our travelling fans this weekend, but with Fulham scrapping for their collective lives in the big league, it could well turn out to be another of those nerve racking days for United supporters. It was seemingly ever thus....

Thursday, February 28, 2008

United guilty of ball watching over big star deal?

According to the latest news, Rio Ferdinand is in no hurry to talk about his future at Manchester United, his current deal runs out in the summer of 2009. The concern for many supporters is that Rio's last deal was protracted and only agreed after 16 long months of negotiations, added to which the England defender has stated his desire to play on the continent before he retires. With such a short time frame to iron-out any new deal there must be a strong possibility that Ferdinand could leave on a free transfer next summer.

If United are keen to tie Rio down to a new long-term deal, then what on earth have they been doing allowing him to run down the clock? That is a question that many United fans will be asking on hearing this news. Ferdinand and Vidic have formed arguably the best central partnership in European club football, to break that up would be costly, if not act of madness, though the club could well be powerless to prevent it from happening if the player is set on moving to pastures new.

We the fans have been led to believe that the reason for the delay in talks over this new deal is according to reports down to the players agent Pini Zahavi. There is no suggestion at this stage that Rio is ready to leave the club, but it would nice to hear the player come and say that he wants to stay at United.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

United urged to buy top target now...

Lyons' Jean-Alain Boumsong has hinted that United should try to buy Karim Benzema as soon as possible, he says that the French club cannot compete with the Red Devils: "We want to win the Champions League, but that is going to be difficult because maybe next season Manchester United will buy Benzema. We can't compare United and Lyons', they can afford the best players in the world.”

Lyons' president Jean-Michel Aulas, has a well earned reputation for prizing sky-high fees out of clubs who have bought players from his club.

Ferguson wanted Michael Essien and Mahamadou Diarra, but was outbid by Chelsea and Real Madrid.

Aulas has recently slapped a £45m price tag on the head of Karim Benzema, or alternatively Cristiano Ronaldo plus cash...

More likely it's thought that United will offer 'the man in bandages' aka Louis Saha, plus cash.

Boumsong was talking to the SUNDAY TIMES.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Newcastle 1-5 United: Messiah's second coming going horribly wrong...

The 'Geordie nation' had hoped for a repeat of the 1996 5-0 drubbing of Manchester United today when the two teams faced off at St James Park this evening. The Red Devils had already avenged that 1996 defeat by rattling in five or more goals on four separate occasions against Newcastle, the latest being the 6-0 hammering of Keegan's team at Old Trafford in January.

Tonight Newcastle fans got the five goals they were so desperately hoping for, the only problem was they were in the Toon net. Newcastle had started the game brightly enough with James Milner giving the Reds a few early problems from the right flank, added to which the home team was closing down the visitors all over the park.

However, Keegan's team simply could not match the quality of Ronaldo and Rooney, on the 25 minutes the Two-Rs combined beautifully after an excellent Michael Carrick ball found the Portuguese winger hugging the left touchline, Ronaldo performed one of his trademark cut-backs on the Newcastle byline before firing over a pin-point cross which found Rooney steaming-in unmarked at the far post, the England striker's finish did not disappoint the hordes of visiting fans when he lashed it beyond Given.

On 44 minutes, Ronaldo got in on the scoring act after local boy Michael Carrick once again dissected the hapless Newcastle back four with another searching ball to the feet of the Portuguese flyer who gave Given no chance when coolly slotting home the Reds second goal of the half.

Keegan's team had a decent 10 minute spell just after the half-time break, but on 56 minutes Ronaldo made it three-nil after some comical defending by Newcastle which eventually led to the United winger leaving a befuddled Steven Taylor sprawled on the turf, and once again the finish was exemplary.

Newcastle salvaged some pride on 79 minutes when Faye scored from a corner, but only a minute later Wayne Rooney scored his second goal of the game, after Alan Smith's attempt at a clearance found its way to the feet of the England striker who curled his arching shot beyond the reach of Steve Harper to score another picture-book goal for the visitors.

Second-half substitute Louis Saha completed the rout when he combined with Rooney in the 90th minute to make it a thoroughly miserable day for Keegan and Newcastle fans.

However, for Manchester United supporters the Reds are now just three points behind leaders Arsenal and so it is very much game on.

It's doubtful that Newcastle will be relegated this season, but they have some tough looking games on the horizon. It remains to be seen if Keegan will ride out the current run of poor results and go on to turn it around, the defending against United today was pathetic at times and that is putting it mildly. Cheer up Kevin Keegan.

Newcastle v United: Arsenal leave door open for Red Devils....

Manchester United players and Fergie will no doubt have watched Birmingham City draw with Arsenal at St Andrews in game that finished 2-2. However, that result has been overshadowed by the news that Martin Taylor was sent-off for what Arsene Wenger later described as a 'horrendous' tackle on Eduardo which resulted in the Croatian striker suffering a badly broken leg. The Arsenal manager was so upset that he says Taylor should never play football again. SKY TV who were covering the game did not show a replay of incident, due to the severe nature of what was a very distressing injury. However, TV pundit Andy Gray took the view that Taylor had not gone out to 'do' the Arsenal striker. James McFadden opened the scoring with a first-half free-kick and in the 94th minute he rescued a point from the penalty spot after Clichy brought down Parnaby inside the box, in between McFadden's goals Walcott scored twice to give his side the lead.

As a result of Arsenal drawing the Red Devils are now six points behind the Gunners, but United can close the gap to just three points if they can heap yet more misery onto Kevin Keegan and Newcastle who are suffering their worst ever run of results in the Premier League. Manchester United have no new injury worries ahead of what is a very important match.

Fergie is likely to restore Tevez to his starting line-up, but the manager has much to ponder regarding who to select in midfield. In January the Reds thrashed Newcastle 6-0 and no doubting Keegan's team would 'love it' if they go on to dent United's title hopes by taking revenge for that hammering by winning at St James' Park later this evening.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Transfer links resurface as Fergie plays hardball over star deal...

The will he, wont he, contract saga of Wes Brown appears to be nowhere nearer coming to a happy conclusion. Brown has been at United since he was twelve years of age, but at 28 his next contract will be the most important of his playing career.

Wes has had a good season for United, filling in for injured skipper Gary Neville. However, if Brown doesn't sign that new deal he can leave as a free agent this coming summer, Newcastle have been linked to the England defender.

Brown has so far turned down two offers, the latest thought to be worth in the region of £40,000 a week, but that figure is believed to be well below what other senior professionals earn at the club. If we the fans are to believe what we read about the figures, then many supporters will no doubt have mixed feelings on a player of Brown's ability turning down that sort of money. It comes down to a question of worth for Fergie, as he will be surely consulted on such matters. On the flip side and given what other United players reportedly earn, then some fans will no doubt support Wes in his quest for parity over his wage demands.

The dilemma for the club is, it will cost them dearly to replace Brown and at 28 he's got at least another couple of seasons in him. Any expenditure to replace Wes could be better used elsewhere, like for the acquisition of a new striker.

No doubting out of sheer frustration Fergie has voiced his concerns about this latest contract impasse when blaming the player's agent: "Their agents live their lives for them and if you are happy to go along with that then you get the situation that you have got just now." Ouch.

Not surprisingly, United have been linked to several potential new right-backs, it has even been reported that Fergie has made inquiries about Bayern Munich's Philip Lahm and Willy Sagnol.

Although Lahm plays on the left, he predominantly uses his right-foot. However, as far as I'm aware United have never signed a full German international, and why would Lahm want to move to England? Added to which there has only been a handful of German players who have come to play in England at the highest level, I personally believe that it is unlikely that Lahm's name will be added to that short list this summer.

After recovering from a serious knee injury in 2007, Willy Sagnol has reportedly fallen out with coach Ottmar Hitzfeld and there's talk that he could be heading out of the Bayern exit door. Of the two Bayern defenders who have been linked to United, Sagnol seems the more likely, but it would only be short-term given his age.

Many fans will be hoping that Wes signs that new deal and that he sees out his playing days at United, but given Fergie's comments, it seems that a compromise is starting to look unlikely.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Transfer target lays down marker as Nani leads Red revival..

If there was any doubts about the class of Karim Benzema they were blown away in some style on 54 minutes when the Lyon striker scored a goal out of nothing, which ignited the atmosphere in the Stade de Gerland in the first leg of the knock-out stages of Manchester United's Champions League tie last night.

Benzema, 20, has been linked strongly to United over the last few days and not surprisingly given the manner of his goal against the Reds he has been described as Europe's hottest young striker.

Slightly uncharacteristically when talking to the media, Fergie has let it slip that the young Lyon star is a 'possibility' with United looking to sign a new striker following the departure of Ruud Van Nistelrooy.

United had been given fair warning of the French international's ability when mid-way through the first-half Lyon counter-attacked down the Reds exposed left-flank, the ball was eventually cut-back onto the edge of the United penalty area, but thankfully the big striker launched his drive over Van der Sarr's crossbar.

However, that wasn't the best chance of the first-half as United's very own pocket-battle-ship Wayne Rooney spurned a great opportunity to score when put through by Ryan Giggs. However, the England striker hesitated when running at speed with the ball before pulling the trigger, which resulted in Gregory Coupet pulling off a good save. That missed chance could have been proven to be very costly with Lyon taking that second-half lead.

Every time Benzema was on the ball, the home supporters sparked into life chanting his name and it was noticeable that the United defenders looked less that comfortable pretty much every time he was involved in the build-up, though in fairness apart from the Benzema goal and the first-half chance which he spurned Vidic and Company handled him reasonably well.

Despite the game being one of few chances, it was a decent match to watch, with both defences working hard when closing down, as early as the first few minutes Patrice Evra had to make a last-ditch diving challenge to deny Govou from six yards out. At the other end, Scholes burst into the penalty area only to be denied by a Lyon defender and that was the general pattern of the game. Every time United engineered an opening a Lyon player managed to block it.

When the Reds went one-nil down, it was fairly obvious that Fergie needed to make changes, both managers had started the game with a cautious line-up which included just one striker. For United, there was no starting place for Carlos Tevez or Nani, who was one of the Reds heroes against Arsenal in the FA Cup win on Saturday. However, on 65 minutes Fergie made two significant changes when he introduced both players when replacing Giggs and Scholes who had done ok without giving Lyon too many uncomfortable moments.

From the moment Tevez and Nani entered the action the Reds looked far more dangerous with Nani and Tevez at the heart of the Reds probing attacks. On 78 minutes, Carrick came on for Hargreaves, which led to a passage of untidy play with United giving the ball away cheaply, at which point the visiting fans must have started to think about taking Lyon back to Old Trafford with a one goal deficit.

However, United were not done with and it was Nani and Tevez who did the damage when combining to give the Reds a deserved equaliser on 88 minutes. Against the Gunners at the weekend Nani supplied two first-class crosses which led to goals for Fletcher and against Lyon the former Porto winger did it again, this time his arching ball from the right was initially missed by the head of Carlos Tevez, however, the ball eventually fell to Carrick, his effort was blocked, before it pinged back to Tevez who smashed it into the roof of the Lyon net.

The result leaves Fergie with much to ponder regarding selection issues ahead of United's next game, which is Newcastle away. Prior to the Lyon match and on live TV, the United manager as good as admitted that he did not know if he'd got his starting eleven right and while it was a cautious line-up it will be interesting to see who goes on to cement the starting places in midfield over the coming weeks ahead.

Ronaldo was kept in check and didn't impress against Lyon, the same can be said of Rooney, who to be fair was on his own up front, but if the Reds have serious ambitions of winning the Champions League this season, both will have to improve on last night's performance. The truly great players always figure in the big games, no matter what.

Another point that Fergie and his coaching staff may consider is how best to handle the likes of Benzema. Lyon had started with one lone striker, yet United had four at the back. United play with a zonal defence, perhaps they should consider going man-to-man with Vidic marking Benzema.

United's man of the match against Lyon was Nani who made the difference in a short space of time.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Lyon v United preview: It is time for United and Fergie to deliver....

Ahead of United's massive Champions League away tie with Lyon, Fergie has been lavishing praise on Ryan Giggs who is set for his 100th European game for the Red Devils; it's a remarkable achievement for Giggsy. The former Welsh international has had some great games for United in the Champions League, scoring some very important goals down the years. However, like Paul Scholes, he has also had some games to forget in the latter stages of the competition.

United fans won’t need reminding that the Reds Champions League record is largely one of under achievement. On too many previous occasions United have let themselves down badly when losing to the likes of: Porto (2004); Bayer Leverkusen (2002); Monaco (1998); Dortmund (1997) and Galatasaray (1994); The results of those ties will forever be a stain on Ferguson's European record, no matter even if he goes on to win the trophy before he eventually retires, because without exception United should have won those ties.

As for Lyon, United go into the game on the back of a thumping victory over rivals Arsenal in the FA Cup last weekend and that confidence boosting performance against the Gunners was just what the Reds needed ahead of arguably their biggest test to date this season.

Lyon have several players who can hurt United, including their captain Juninho from free-kicks, but most notably Karim Benzema who has been attracting interest from Fergie and many other leading managers around Europe. Hatem Ben Arfa is another who has been linked to the Reds recently.

Many United fans believe that one of the major factors behind the Reds failings in the Champions League is Ferguson's lack of tactical nouse. And once again, it remains to be seen what the manager will do this evening where tactics and selection issues are concerned. Will Fergie play with just Rooney up front as he did against Arsenal? Will the manager sacrifice the legs of Hargreaves or Anderson for the football brain of Scholes? If Tevez, Giggs and Nani are left on the bench, there is the option of including Anderson, Hargreaves and Scholes with Rooney being supported by the likes of Ronaldo, Scholes and Anderson. Given United's devil may care attacking traditions, it is vital that United do not leave themselves wide open to the counter-attack and therefore surely Hargreaves must start this match.

Fergie has many options, but it is vital that he gets it right, because like in so many recent seasons the Champions League is there to be won and United, at least on paper, have as good a chance as any of the remaining clubs. It is time to deliver...

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Nani's 'seal act': Why both Wenger and Fergie are wrong ...

One of the most annoying talking points of United's FA Cup rout of Arsenal was the post-match verdicts of what has been described as Nani's 'Seal act', which was in relation to the Portuguese winger juggling the ball on his on is boot, head and thigh.

Arsene Wenger, no doubt looking for something to crib about following his own sides capitulation described the juggling as an attempt to 'humiliate' his players, then again he would say that wouldn't he, given Flamini tried to rearrange Nani's kneecaps?

When things go wrong, there's nothing better than an attention deflecting talking point or two. In fairness, the Arsenal manager does at least still speak to the BBC, unlike our own manager.

Somewhat surprisingly Fergie appeared to agree that his own player had done something wrong when saying 'there was no need for him to do that - I will have a word with him'. What utter nonsense. Nani wasn't showboating; he was trying to retain possession of the ball when facing the wrong way and heading into the United half of the pitch. The 'purists' would no doubt say that in such situations you should boot the ball into row Z, but Nani is a fancy Dan winger, he is not Gary Neville or Wes Brown, in true Basil Faulty style, "he is from Portugal, he doesn't know any better"...

If Nani had performed his seal act near one of the Arsenal corner flags when playing for time, then both Fergie and Wenger would have a point, but that was not the case. The fact is the Portuguese winger tried to retain the ball, which took courage because if he'd lost it in that area of the pitch then United could have been in trouble. It is to be hoped that is what Fergie meant when he said that he was going to have a word with his winger...

On-looking youngsters love to see good examples of top class players displaying their skills, you can guarantee the following day kids up and down the land will have been attempting to mimic Nani's skills, sadly some will also mimic the other side of the game such as Flamini's exocet like challenge and the Gallas kick on Nani.

Here's a question, what would Wenger have said if Patrice Evra had launched into Fabregas in similar circumstances? 'I did not see it' is a fair bet.

Arsenal could have ended that match with eight players on the pitch. Eboue was red carded, Gallas got away with it and Flamini's challenge on Nani wasn't far off a sending off. I don't know how many players have been red carded while Fergie has been in charge of United, but it's now 79 now for Wenger at Arsenal.

This current Arsenal team are are not a dirty side, but on Saturday one or two players came close to losing it, the Eboue challenge was rash, as was Flamini's challenge on Nani. What Gallas did, from what I've seen of him, was out of character and in that moment he lost the plot.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

United on trail of red hot striker....

Manchester United take on Lyon at the Stade Gerland on Wednesday when the Champions League resumes for a game that could prove to be the most difficult so far this season for the Red Devils.

Over the last few seasons Lyon have been many neutrals 'dark-horse' tip to lift Europe's premier club competition, only for them to fail in the latter stages as United themselves have done so many times over recent seasons.

Last Saturday Fergie went on a scouting mission to check out Lyon, they won 4-1 and the United manager let it slip that he's interested in 20-year-old striker Karim Benzema, who scored his 25th goal of the season. Benzema is hot property and is coveted by just about every top club in Europe. The striker has hinted that he would like to join AC Milan, Fergie hasn't gone overboard when confirming his interest, but the United boss has admitted that Benzema "is a possibility".

In time honoured fashion Benzema bas been dubbed "the new Zidane", "the new Platini" and "the new Henry", and so it goes.

In 2006 Benzema, who is of Algerian descent, was given the option of playing for Algeria, but instead he opted for France and he is now a full international who is expected to play and big part in the French Euro 2008 finals campaign.

One of the key elements that United always look in any potential transfer is the desire of the player concerned to join the Reds, a case in point is Van Nistelrooy. Once Fergie knew that the Dutch striker really wanted to come to Old Trafford even a serious knee injury setback didn't prevent that deal from eventually going through. However, at the time of the Van Nistelrooy transfer the Red Devils were the only serious bidders, it is likely to be a different situation where Benzema is concerned.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

FA Cup: Arsenal flattened by United steamroller...

Manchester United went into today's 5th round FA Cup tie off the back of two awful Premier League performances which has given today's visitors to Old Trafford a five point lead at the top of the table.

IF United supporters are honest with themselves many will have been looking forward to today's game more in hope than in expectation following last weekend's derby debacle in which not a single player in the red shirt covered himself in glory.

With Champions League games in mind and ahead of this 5th round FA Cup tie both managers made changes to their starting line-up. For the United there was no Ronaldo, Tevez, Hargreaves, Giggs or Scholes. Arsenal were without their two first choice fullbacks and their talisman Adebayor was left on the bench, but both managers were able to field strong teams.

From the first few minutes of this game United harried the visitors all over the park, but especially in midfield with Anderson, Fletcher, Carrick, Nani and Park all getting to the ball first in the 50/50 challenges and coming off best.

Rarely has an Arsenal midfield that consisted of Fabregas, Hleb and Gilberto been so comprehensively out muscled and out fought. United's early pressure was rewarded when Anderson contested and won a header on the edge of the visitors penalty area, which in turn found the head of Rooney who then steered his header beyond Lehmann in the Arsenal goal. Just four minutes later the Reds made it two nil, after superb work by Nani. The Portuguese winger bamboozled a defender by stopping the ball on the visitors by-line before pinging a pin-point cross onto the head of Fletcher, but it was Gallas who clearly headed into his own net to send the Red army into raptures.

At that point United fans will have thinking that perhaps it was going to be our day, but many will have expected the Gunners to mount an offensive, it simply did not happen as the home side continued to create plenty of good first half chances. Rooney while having an excellent game should have scored more than one goal, but it was Nani who made it three-nil after an excellent ball from United's left found the winger in a central position and he made no mistake when bursting clean through on goal.

If the Arsenal fans were expecting a better second-half performance then they will have been disappointed as the pattern of the game was just like the opening period with United dominating and winning the midfield battles and the home team were creating all the chances.

Eboue added to the Gunners problems when referee Wiley issued a red card for a high challenge on Evra on 49 minutes, and luckily for United and the Reds fullback, there wasn't that much contact.

With not much to play for and with AC Milan on the horizon Wenger made three second half changes when sending on Adebayor, Flamini and Senderos. It made no difference to the pattern of the game as United continued to dominate and create chances. It came as no surprise that Fletcher made it four-nil when he got himself on the end of another pin-point Nani cross to head home unchallenged at the far post on 74 minutes.

Today Arsenal's slick passing machine came up against an irresistible force of power in the form of the Manchester United steamroller on what was another bumpy Old Trafford playing surface. On 71 minutes Fergie replaced Wayne Rooney who wouldn't look out of place driving a steam driven machine. Judging by the look on the former Everton striker's face he'd clearly enjoyed his work as did the home supporters.

On 72 minutes Scholes replaced Anderson, who was given another standing ovation by the Old Trafford crowd. Louis Saha had replaced Rooney and he looked surprisingly sharp given his horrendous recent injury record.

As for Wenger, he won’t be happy with his defenders and perhaps the biggest miss for the Gunners was the absence of his two first choice fullbacks.

But this victory was all about United's industry and work rate. Added to which when a United player crossed the ball, on many occasions they found their target inside the box, which is quite something given that the Reds played the whole game with just one striker.

Ferguson doesn't always get it right when tinkering with his line-up but today it worked perfectly with players like Fletcher and Carrick putting in fist-class performances from start to finish.

In a week when the Beck’s and Posh re-affirmed their marriage vows, United supporters ended a bad week by having their collective faith restored in a team that looked in danger of faltering following two poor results and performances. Normal service has well and truly been resumed and so United and their supporters can look forward to the fresh challenge of Europe, added to which Liverpool were humbled at Anfield by the mighty Barnsley, it really doesn't get much better than today from a Reds' perspective.

Arsene Wenger and the Arsenal fans can count themselves lucky that United didn't score eight today, and eight-nil would not have flattered the Red Devils.

Blatter happy slaps globalisation plans...

Fans of top flight English clubs who have opposed the Premier League's globalisation plans, will no doubt have been delighted to hear Sepp Blatter kibosh the half-arsed and ill-conceived proposals.

FIFAs president has at times bemused supporters with his proclamations on the world game and ideas, but on this occasion when sticking the boot into the Premier League's money-grabbing expansion plans, Blatter struck a cord with the fans - as he rightly knew that he would - he was shooting into an open goal on that score.

Clearly the Premier League did not do their homework properly ahead of floating their globalisation plans, but reports claim that the PL took legal advice prior to releasing details, in do so the PL believed that FIFA could not halt this initiative. How wrong they were.

Blatter is a man who is not to be under-estimated and without directly threatening to pull the rug from under England's bid to stage the 2018 World Cup Finals, the FIFA chief let it be known that this big idea of the PL wouldn't enhance the FAs chances of landing the 2018 finals.

Caught directly in the headlights of the Blatter mobile, the FA, like a startled rabbit, soon distanced themselves from the PLs globalisation plans. How predictable, but surely even anyone with a grain of common sense could have predicted the reaction of Blatter and in turn the FA who ran faster than a sprinter on drugs to distance themselves from the proposal just as soon as the FIFA supremo hinted that there would be trouble ahead.

To make matter worse and while Blatter was busily tightening his vice around the collective nuts of the FA, the Asian Football Federation rubbished the PLs proposals, and elsewhere what has become known as game 39 has been given at best a lukewarm reception.

While fans will be delighted to hear Blatter in such good form when 'happy slapping' the PLs globalisation plans, it has to be said that the FIFA president has once again acted like a dictator, he treats the world governing body as his own personal fiefdom. On this issue, many supporters of the game will not mind and on the whole Blatter does have the interests of world football at heart.

Blatter says the PL globalisation will never happen while he is in charge. It is thought that the FIFA president has no plans to quit, can the same be said of the Premier League's Richard Scudamore?

Just say NO to game 39

Friday, February 15, 2008

United v Arsenal: Is it make or break for the Red Devils?

Manchester United go into Saturday's 5th round FA Cup tie with Arsenal coming off the back of two very poor performances in the league, the worry for United fans is that defeat in this fixture could turn out to be psychologically damaging for Fergie's players' and the remainder of the season.

In the Manchester derby last weekend, the Reds looked and played nothing like champions, there was spells in that game when they looked more like a team threatened by the fear of relegation, devoid of ideas, lacking in effort and collectively rubbish in every department.

FA Cup ties between these two sides have been very close affairs down the years, with Arsenal having the better of things in 2005 and 2003, though United out played the Gunners in the 2005 final, but ended up losing in the dreaded penalty shoot-out. How Van Nistelrooy failed to win that final for United remains a mystery to this day.

In 2004 when the Reds went on to win the final they beat Arsenal in the semi-final with one goal separating the two sides.

In 2003 Arsenal faced United in the 5th round of the FA Cup at Old Trafford and ran out two-nil winners and they went to on to win the competition. However, as United fans will know the Reds went on to win the title by five points, with Arsenal finishing runner-up.

Even if United lose on Saturday, the Reds will be able to look back to the 2003 result in the same fixture and hope for the same outcome with United going on to lift the title again. That is only one of many scenarios because if the Gunners win they will no doubt fancy themselves for another double or even a treble.

Rooney returns to face Arsenal and it is to hoped that he makes amends for his untimely suspension which saw him miss the Manchester derby, many Reds believe that the England striker's absence was the main reason United performed so poorly last weekend. Tevez, cannot lead the forward line on his own and he needs Rooney alongside him.

Nani is likely to return to bench warming duty with Rooney coming in, but it remains to be seen who plays in midfield, Fergie still doesn't appear to know what his strongest starting eleven is, the recent return of Paul Scholes has if anything just muddied the waters and the manager's thinking.

Against the Arsenal, Fergie will need to ensure that his team dominates midfield. Logic suggests that Anderson and Hargreaves with their younger legs and stamina should be selected at the expense of Scholes and Carrick. However, ahead of the game Fergie has hinted that there will be changes with the midweek game with Lyon in mind when he said: "There are massive games to come so we have to balance our teams and hopefully get it right." It's tinker time...

Whoever Fergie selects in the engine room, the United manager wont want to see a repeat of the Reds poor defending as we saw against City and the return of Patrice Evra will hopefully help on that score.

United's very own 'man in bandages' Louis Saha is apparently fit again, but he's been known to collect injuries in the pre-match warm-up, so his inclusion in the squad could be premature.

As for the Arsenal team news, the visitors will be without their first choice fullbacks as both Gael Clichy (hamstring) and Bacary Sagna (personal reasons) are both out. But the good news for the visitors is that Toure and Eboue are both back from African Nations Cup duty, although they were not named in the provisional overnight Arsenal squad.

Harking back to the famous 1999 FA Cup semi-final victory over Arsenal, it would be great to see Giggsy score another wonder goal tomorrow, but a win for either side will be welcomed by either set of supporters, no matter how it is achieved.

If you fancy a punt on this massive game then why not open an account with Betfair and receive benefit from a £25 free bet.

Man Utd (from): Van der Sar, Kuszczak, Brown, O'Shea, Simpson, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Fletcher, Nani, Park, Scholes, Ronaldo, Anderson, Carrick, Hargreaves, Giggs, Tevez, Rooney, Saha, Welbeck.

Arsenal (from): Lehmann, Fabianski, Senderos, Hleb, Fabregas, Flamini, Adebayor, Eduardo, Bendtner, Traore, Song, J Hoyte, Gilberto, Gilbert, Randall, G Hoyte, Lansbury.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Blades axe United legend in Brussels coup d'état...

The King is dead, long live the King - Bryan Robson has been reportedly (and there's no other way of putting this) sacked again.

To Manchester United fans of my generation Robbo remains a hero and always will be. Yet today, and not that surprisingly following several weeks of murmurings of discontent at Bramall Lane, Robbo has been 'relieved of his duties'. The decision to axe Robson, was according to reports made in Brussels, there's talk of a new managerial regime being installed.

Last month Robbo master-minded Sheffield United's win over Man City in the FA Cup and deservedly so. Reds fans will not need reminding that our illustrious leader Ferguson hasn't achieved that feat this season with the Reds on the wrong end of two defeats to near neighbours City.

While Sheffield United have done well in the FA Cup this season, in the league it has been a different story. Robson was of course following in the footsteps of local hero Neil Warnock, so it was always going to be a hard act to follow especially when things didn't go to plan.

It remains to be seen whether Robbo will stay on at Bramall Lane in some capacity, or indeed will he ever be given another managerial job in England, that must be in doubt given his track-record.

Captain Marvel's managerial record:
Middlesbrough: 31 May 1994 - 6 December 2000. Contract ended by mutual consent
Bradford City: 24 November 2003 - 17 June 2004 -Short-term contract not renewed following relegation
West Bromwich Albion: 9 November 2004 - 18th September 2006 - Contract ended by mutual consent
Sheffield United: 22 May 2007 14 - February 2008 - Relieved of his duties.

Transfer Quest doomed?

Here we go again, the FA have announced that Lord Stevens has been appointed to carry an audit of recent transfers. The last Quest investigation which was instigated by the Premier League failed to clear all but 17 transfers out of over 350 deals. Of the 17 transfers which were not cleared, there has been little or no further action.

Apart from firing a warning shot over the heads of so called 'dodgy' agents, the last Quest inquiry must therefore be viewed as a damp squib and a waste of time and money.

Apparently, part of this latest investigation will include an audit of the FAs procedures on new transfer rules. In winning this latest contract, Quest won the tendering process, you do wonder who else was in the bidding process, Inspector Clouseau?

If anyone is found guilty of rule breaking following the publicity surrounding this latest investigation then the cost of these investigations will be well spent, but I wont be holding my breath.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

United to play Liverpool in a parallel universe...

Some say he's from a another planet - others know him as Mr Portsmouth Football Club. It's feared that die-hard fans like Mr Portsmouth could fall victim to Screwtheemore's grand Globalisation plans...

United and Liverpool supporters have been shocked at the news that their beloved clubs could be set to play an end of season game at an as of yet unnamed destination, all we know is that it will probably be somewhere along the 39th parallel.

Many fans of these football institutions spend a huge chunk of their disposable income following their respective clubs' and for many cash-strapped supporters this additional game might as well be played in a parallel universe as it represents a match too far.

The idea of the additional 39th game is the brain-child of supremo Richard Screwtheemore, who insists that 'everyone will benefit' under what will become known henceforth as 'Globalisation', though Screwtheemore has yet to address the concerns of the paying public.

The thing is, for more than a century English football has largely been for the benefit of the fans who have paid the players wages, that will be the oiks like us who have for better or worse, filled our stadiums, week-in, week-out, come rain or shine.

However, if Screwtheemore and his Globalisation plan ever sees the light of day, fans such as John Westwood, AKA Mr Portsmouth wont be able to fund a trip to far flung destinations such as Korea, that means supporters will miss out on hearing those famous Pompey Chimes from his accompanying bell.

Word has it that some fans are already planning to fund a one way ticket for Mr Portsmouth Football Club. Personally, I'm hoping that they will also fund one-way trips for all the members of that god awful Sheffield Wednesday band and any other drum bashing and trumpet blowing ****s. Which just goes to show that good can come out of even the most ill-conceived and ridiculous ideas. Could Globalisation turn out to be a good thing after all?

Just say NO to game 39

Monday, February 11, 2008

34 year timeline: Derby day defeat in perspective..

United fans will no doubt have been reflecting on what turned out to be a mixed derby day of emotions. Off the pitch, the Reds had asked the City fans to show respect for the victims of the 1958 Munich air crash and on Sunday it really could not have gone much better. The City fans were even applauded by Ferguson following the minute's silence and the United fans also applauded the visitors when they sang the name of Frank Swift in recognition of their former 'keeper who also perished in the crash.

However, on the pitch United were very poor and they deservedly went on to lose by the odd goal in three. After the game Carlos Quieroz pathetically blamed United's collective torpor on International fixtures (no mention of the recent trip to Saudi - for which the Reds netted a "cool £1m" - how much is a derby day win worth to the fans?) No matter, when you have been as soundly beaten as the Reds were, making excuses didn't make the defeat any easier to swallow.

One of the facts that has been trotted out about City's win is that it is nigh on 34 years since they last won at Old Trafford in the league, with fans often talking about Denis Law's goal in the same fixture in April 1974. The theory goes that the Lawman and City sent United crashing out of the old first division into the abyss that was the old second division. In point of fact, even if United had won that derby game, they would STILL have been relegated due to Birmingham (who were also fighting to stay up) winning.

Like many other Reds I have been reflecting on those intervening 34 years, in which a lot has happened, many fans that I know have had got married (some divorced) and had children, some of those who tied the knot are now grandparents.

Here's a brief overview of a few other things that happened in that lengthy spell:

United: Once: 1973-74
City: four times: 1997-98; 1995-96; 1986-87; 1982-83

Number of managers':
United: Four:
Alex Ferguson 06-11-1986 Present
Ron Atkinson 01-06-1981 06-11-1986
Dave Sexton 14-07-1977 01-04-1981
Tommy Docherty 22-12-1972 03-07-1977

City: 19:
Sven-Goran Eriksson 06-07-2007 Present
Stuart Pearce 11-03-2005 14-05-2007
Kevin Keegan 24-05-2001 11-03-2005
Joe Royle 18-02-1998 21-05-2001
Frank Clark 29-12-1996 17-02-1998
Phil Neal 08-11-1996 29-12-1996
Steve Coppell 06-10-1996 08-11-1996
Alan Ball 02-07-1995 27-08-1996
Brian Horton 28-08-1993 16-05-1995
Tony Book 26-08-1993 28-08-1993
Peter Reid 15-11-1990 26-08-1993
Howard Kendall 06-12-1989 05-11-1990
Mel Machin 01-05-1987 30-11-1989
Jimmy Frizzell 01-10-1986 01-05-1987
Billy McNeill 30-06-1983 22-09-1986
John Benson 03-02-1983 07-06-1983
John Bond 01-10-1980 03-02-1983
Malcolm Allison 16-07-1979 01-10-1980
Tony Book 12-04-1974 01-01-1979

Trophies in the cabinet:
United: 30:

Domestic competition
Premier League: (9) 1992-93, 1993-94, 1995-96, 1996-97, 1998-99, 1999-00, 2000-01, 2002-03, 2006-07
FA Cup: (8) 1976-77, 1982-83, 1984-85, 1989-90, 1993-94, 1995-96, 1998-99, 2003-04
League Cup: (2) 1991-92, 2005-06
FA Charity/Community Shield: (7) 1990*, 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997, 2003, 2007

European competition
UEFA Champions League: (1) 1998-1999
UEFA Cup Winners' Cup: (1) 1990-91
Intercontinental Cup: (1) 1999
UEFA Super Cup: (1) 1991-92

City: Three:
League Cup 1976, Old second division 2002; play-off final 1999

Number of players who were born prior to 1974:
United: Three:
Giggs, Scholes, Van der Sar


General facts since 1974
The FIFA World Cup has been won eight times since 1974. The UK has had five different Prime Ministers'. The Space Shuttle program was launched in the intervening years. The Vatican has been led by four different Popes'. The Queen celebrated her silver and gold jubilees'. In 1974 we were still in the middle of the Cold War and mired in desperate conflict in Northern Ireland, fortunately those are things of the past. However, since then we've been involved in conflicts in the Falklands and two Gulf Wars. We also saw the demise of National & International treasures such as Arthur Askey, Benny Hill, Princess Di, Saddam Hussain and Elvis.

All in all United fans haven't had it so bad and many will be hoping that the Reds make it another 34 years until the next home defeat against City.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

City take points as sorry United fail to show up for derby..

Prior to today's Old Trafford derby with neighbours Man City most of the talk leading up to this game centered on whether or not the visiting fans would observe the minute silence in memory of the 23 people who lost their lives in the 1958 Munich air crash. February 6th is a date that is etched into the memory of all United fans and this week it was the 50th anniversary of that fateful day. The fear was the a few mindless idiots would spoil the day, thankfully those fears were unfounded as both United and City fans were impeccable when asked to remain silent for 60 seconds prior to the derby kick-off.

It was a great start to today's game, but from a Red perspective it went downhill from that point onwards as too many United players failed to show up for what is always one of the most important fixtures of the season.

City hadn't won in the league at Old Trafford since 1974, but today they ended that run with a well earned victory courtesy of first half goals by Vassell and new boy Benjami.

United had started the game brightly enough by attacking the visitors who were penned into their own half, however, as early as ten minutes into the game things started to go wrong for United as Ronaldo uncharacteristically took his eye off the ball to allow it to run out of play, which ironically turned out to be something a metaphor to describe the Reds all-round sloppy performance.

While the Reds may well have had the better of things early doors they could not open up the City defence. They were not helped by Referee Howard Webb, who failed to spot defender Micah Richards blatant handball just outside the City penalty area, in doing so he denied Ronaldo possession. A few minutes later Ronaldo was brought down inside the visitors’ penalty area, but again Web gave the benefit of doubt to City.

On twenty four minutes City rocked United when a swift counter attack, which led to Vassell giving his team the lead. It took the former Villa striker two attempts to score after Van der Sar had initially saved, but the man who made the goal was Petrov and he went on to be arguably the man of the match. When Ferguson reviews the tape of this game he will want to know why United failed to deal with City's counter attacks and he will also want to know where his midfield players were.

On 44 minutes things got a whole lot worse for the Red Devils and once again Petrov was the man who played a huge part in unraveling United who failed to deal effectively with a succession of City corners, eventually the ball fell to Petrov and his wicked cross found the head of new City striker Benjami who gave Van der Sar no chance with his flicked header. There was no argument; the visitors deserved their two-nil lead as United looked shadows of their usual selves.

If United fans were expecting a second-half revival, then they will have been hugely disappointed as it simply did not happen and once again the visitors looked the more dangerous on the counter-attack.

Not unexpectedly Ferguson tried to change things around with the introduction of Park for the totally ineffective Nani, who was little more than a passenger. It would be totally unfair to lay the blame at the feet of just one player, as collectively the Reds were playing with neither passion nor desire.

It has to said that the United players were not being helped by the Old Trafford crowd who did little to lift the team who were clearly having a very off day. Nor could Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes, both veterans of many local derby games, but today like the Old Trafford crowd they were too quiet, especially in the second half.

Having replaced Anderson and John O'Shea for Hargreaves and Carrick respectively the Reds finally opened up a rock solid City defence deep into injury time when Carrick finished off United's only real goal scoring chance of the game after superb inter-play by Scholes.

United will be glad that this week is behind them, off the field it has been a time to remember the events of 50 years ago in Munich, while on the pitch it was been a week to forget following two poor performances on the bounce.

There's been talk that too much has happened by way of distractions on the lead up to the 50th anniversary of the disaster, and if you're looking for excuses do not forget that Reds had that somewhat controversial jaunt to Saudi Arabia prior to the Spurs game last weekend. I don't personally buy either theory, but I do question Fergie's assertion that we do not need another striker. Today when we needed to change it around up front with United looking toothless, there was no options on the bench - how can one of the biggest clubs in the world have no reserve striker?

Rooney was of course out suspended as was Evra following a succession of bookings, let us hope that the former Everton striker doesn't make the same mistake as he did last weekend when getting himself yellow carded cheaply - United paid a very high price for that indiscretion today.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Capello: "I am not the Messiah and I will not put up with naughty boys"...

Another series of the long running comedy soap opera that is England gets under way tonight under the stewardship of Italian manager Fabio Capello when the Three Lions face Switzerland at Wembley for a friendly.

As ever there's been a lot talk about the new manager prior to his first game in charge. At his first pre-match press-conference yesterday the Italian managed to a utter a few encouraging words of English, but for the most part he spoke in his native language. No surprises there. Still it was a good start even if it only amounted to a 'thank you' and 'yes, I understand that'.

However, it has hasn't taken Fabio long to point out he doesn't have a lot of choice in terms of numbers, and no doubting to the huge embarrassment of his employers he was quick to remind the FA that only 38% of players' playing in the Premier League are English. It's a bit early to go looking for excuses isn't it?

Next, Capello revealed that he is not the Messiah. Hasn't anyone told him that he's working for Newcastle? Our new man at the helm then went to confirm that he cannot work miracles. Another setback for the FA then given his the Italian’s huge salary?

So what of Capello's methods, if he's not the Messiah and he's not a miracle worker, how will he turn this bunch serial-losers into winners? For starters, he's putting the block on post-training rounds of golf and he calls everyone by their surname.

Capello has a reputation for being a hard-man and he's wasted no time in letting everyone know that he's a hard task-master, winning is the only that matters and rules will be obeyed.

You wonder how the Italian will manage the English press, how long will his honeymoon period last? How long before we hear talk of the first murmurings of discontent with the England squad?

Tonight's match with Switzerland should be mildly interesting and if you fancy having a punt on this you can benefit from a free £25 bet courtesy of Betfair

Monday, February 04, 2008

The rise and rise of Munucho and African football...

United fans will no doubt be drooling at the prospect of Manucho turning out for the Reds after watching the Angolan striker score some wonderful goals at the finals of the African Cup of Nations. Sadly, Angola were eliminated today when losing somewhat controversially to Egypt by the goal in three. However, Manucho scored another belting goal which further enhanced his growing reputation.

Make no mistake, Manucho's performances have announced his arrival on the world stage at the finals in Ghana. Manchester United have a well earned reputation for spending big and not always with prudence, but the capture of Manucho prior to the Cup of Nations getting under way was a very smart move indeed.

Fans around the world will have been tuning in to watch the finals on TV and those who have cannot fail to have been impressed at the vast improvements in technical ability. It wasn't that long ago that Pele, arguably the world's greatest ever player, was ridiculed for saying that an African team would win the World Cup within the next 20 years. The prediction could become a reality at the next World Cup in 2010 when South Africa host the tournament.

In particular the Ivory Coast look to have a fantastic team, with players like Chelsea's Didier Drogba and Kalou, plus Arsenal's Kolo Touré and Emmanuel Eboué. African players have down the years been noted for their great physical strength, but not always for the technical side of their game, but that's all changed and many of the Nations in action in Ghana have been exhibiting power, pace and technical passing skills.

Ironically, while African football seems to be very much on the way up in terms of improvements, the rest of the football world has to a degree stagnated. The last truly great World Cup finals was back in Spain '82, when Italy went on to win the final. For many fans though, the most exciting team that year was Brazil with players like Zico, Socrates and Falco wowing the football world with their fabulous goals and skills.

For me, the next World Cup in South Africa has the potential to be the best since '82largely because of the pace of improvement within the African Nations.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Berbatov shines as Ferguson gets his tactics wrong...

The chances of Berbatov arriving at Old Trafford next summer must have been somewhat enhanced following his excellent performance against the Red Devils at White Hart Lane on Saturday in a game that United were lucky to come away with a point.

Spurs Bulgarian striker had struck on the 20 minute mark following a swift counter-attack by the North London side. The home team opened the scoring after Edwin Van der Sar had parried a Lennon cross to the feet of Berbatov who made no mistake with a clinical finish.

There wasn't much sign of a response from the visitors as too many players were having off days. Ronaldo wasn't shining, Giggs was being occasionally wasteful and Scholes was having little impact in the United engine room alongside Owen Hargreaves. Worse still, Spurs were hitting United on the counter attack, this was the general pattern of a poor first-half from a Red perspective. The home team could easily have gone two-nil up if Keane hadn't spurned a golden goal scoring chance, once again Berbatov was involved in the build up.

Ferguson should have started the game with Hargreaves and Anderson in midfield, while Scholes looks to be in good nick following a long injury-lay off, but he simply cannot match the work-rate and industry of Anderson in a two man midfield. The United manager compounded his starting selection error when replacing Hargreaves for Carrick - who also went on to be too wasteful when in possession of the ball.

To make matters a whole lot worse, Wayne Rooney was rightly booked for an outrageous dive which means he will miss the Manchester derby. Rooney worked tirelessly throughout this game and deserves much credit for that, but his booking was the only thing he had to show from this game and it remains to be seen what price the Reds will pay when they face the bitter blues.

The penny finally dropped with Ferguson and he introduced Anderson in the second half when he replaced Giggs and Scholes for Nani and the former Porto star respectively. From then on it was pretty much one way traffic with United mounting raid after raid without managing to open up the Spurs defence, though Anderson had the Spurs stopper scrambling to save a raking low drive that whistled just beyond his far post and Tevez was unlucky with a whipped header.

Then against the odds and deep into injury time Tevez and Dawson contrived to score between them from a corner to give the Reds a highly unlikely and what could turn out to be priceless point.

Sooner or later Fergie is going realise that he cannot keep on leaving out Anderson for Scholes, but until that time comes the Reds are likely to struggle - especially away from home.

Man of the match for United: Carlos Tevez, worked very hard throughout and looked sharper than any of the Reds attacking players.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Adebayor knocks a few million off Richards price tag...

Arsenal regained top-spot of the Premier League by inflicting the first home defeat of the season on Manchester City as Wenger's team completed a comfortable 3-1 victory.

One of the main talking points of the season so far is who will finish top goal-scorer, with Ronaldo and Adebayor fighting out a seemingly two-horse race to the finish. The Arsenal striker notched a well taken brace against City today taking his tally for the season to 18 in the league, which leaves the Togo striker just one behind Ronaldo.

For any United fans and neutrals watching this game, it represented another chance to check-out the Arsenal and City who take on the Red Devils next, it was also an opportunity to watch the much talked about Micah Richards who made a timely return from an injury absence to face the Gunners.

There has been an awful lot of talk and speculation about Richards, who has been stalling on signing a contract extension. If that deal is not signed then no doubting Richards will be sold in the summer, probably to Chelsea. As for Richards performance against Arsenal, in boxing parlance he was unable to lay a glove on Adebayor who gave the defender a torrid time.

Richards is young and he is talented, but when he's come up against Didier Drogba and Adebayor this season he has been found badly wanting. The young City defender did not live up to his star billing or the hype today as Arsenal's top-scorer put in a performance that potentially knocked a few million off his price tag.

Liverpool fans takeover hopes doomed to failure?...

Though many United fans wouldn't like to admit it we have a lot in common with our 'friends' from the wrong end of the East Lancs Road. Supporters of both United and Liverpool have seen ownership of their respective clubs change over the last few years, which has led to massive price increases for many cash-strapped fans of the Red Devils.

At Old Trafford, there was a lot of opposition to the Glazer family takeover, largely because fundamentally the Glazers' could not afford to buy the club without putting the long-term well-being of United in danger due to the level of massive borrowing. The Glazers' still find themselves running cover whenever they sneak back to Manchester, they know that there remains strong opposition to their occupation of Old Trafford.

While on the field matters are admittedly going better than anyone dared hope post the Glazers' takeover, the potential long-term damage to the club remains the subject of healthy debate.

In stark contrast at Liverpool followers of the Anfield club collectively rolled over like a tail wagging dog at the news of the Hicks and Gillett takeover, which was somewhat surprising given the nature of the city's militant history.

Now we hear that Liverpool fans are planning to mount their own takeover of their club, with talk that supporters plan to raise £500m. The plan centres on a Barcelona style regime where the fans effectively own the club. Rogan Taylor, a well known Liverpool fan and a lecturer at Liverpool University outlined the big idea to a gathering of journalists earlier this week. While Taylor's presentation was as impassioned as it was impressive, it had the hallmarks of a Mike Basset press conference with journalists smirking as this lecturer from a business school talked about 100,000 fans raising £5,000 each.

£5,000 each - are you having a laugh?

For their part, United fans are battle hardened where the subject of takeovers are concerned and they are collectively far more organised than Liverpool supporters, but even with 30,000 members of MUST (formerly Shareholders United) the United supporters Trust and fans groups were collectively powerless in their efforts to stop the Glazers'.

I do not know what the actual debt situation is at Anfield, but it is nowhere near the level at United, still the Liverpool fans hopes of raising £500m while laudable is surely doomed to failure. Barcelona and none of big clubs on the continent where the fans have effective control ever had to mount a takeover of this nature with the massive cash injection requirement, Rogan Taylor failed to address this central point. Some United fans have suggested to me that Liverpool fans are indeed the most deluded of all after hearing this news. Still, it is better to have tried and failed rather than do nothing which is precisely what happened prior to Hicks and Gillet exerting a metaphorical Boston strangle-hold over their beloved club.

There has been talk that a website commissioned with a view to accepting pledges from Liverpool fans has fallen over, I actually hope this is true and that they are successful in their objective. Sadly, I believe that Taylor and his acolytes are about to discover exactly how apathetic vast swathes of their Lemming like fans really are, which is precisely what happened at United.

The best hope of resting control of Liverpool rests with DIC or another wealthy consortium.

Spurs v United preview: Why Anderson must start...

United face a much improved Tottenham later today at White Lane and no doubting the North London club will be hoping to avenge last weekend's 3-1 FA Cup defeat at Old Trafford in a game in which Spurs gave a good account of themselves.

In midweek Ronaldo knocked in his second brace of the week against Portsmouth, last weekend Spurs were the victims as the Portuguese star made it 25 goals for the season. Can anyone stop Ronaldo scoring? United's other scorer against Spurs was the Apache, AKA Tevez, and Ferguson is expected to bring back Carlos Tevez who was rested against Pompey. With the return of Paul Scholes last weekend, the battle for starting places got a whole lot harder in the United engine room and Tevez will be keen to send out a message to Fergie today that he doesn't want to be the man who makes way for the returning Ginger Prince.

Competition for places is a good thing and Anderson who has been on the bench for United's last two home games did more than enough in the second-half when coming on against Pompey to warrant a starting place today. Despite only playing for 30 minutes in midweek the former Porto star was a strong contender for the man of the match award.

Ferguson will have a difficult job keeping everyone happy with so many midfield stars, but to achieve that the manager has to be seen to be fair where selection issues are concerned.

In 1999 Ferguson steered United to an unprecedented treble, in doing so he just about managed to keep all of his players happy, the crowning glory was of course the season's two super-subs Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Teddy Sheringham scoring in the Champions League final at the Nou Camp. Reds fans are once again thinking about another treble this season.

However, when players perform well as did Anderson in midweek, it is vital for morale that they are rewarded and as far as I'm concerned this is why Fergie must start with Anderson today in central midfield.