Sunday, June 29, 2008

Ronaldo revisionists preparing to eat humble pie?

When Ronaldo arrived at United there were some fans who for whatever reason didn't like him. The former Sporting Lisbon star was labelled as a diving cheat by ABU pundits and as far as a minority of Reds were concerned, the mud stuck. There was also the old "he's not a United player, and never will be" line trotted out by the hanging jury. But, Ronaldo won them over with all his wonderful goals and performances which led to the Reds winning yet more silverware. The revisionists hadn't gone away though, they were there lurking somewhere in East Stand sticking pins in their voodoo dolls of Gary Birtles and Peter Davenport.

Roll the clock forward to the events of this summer and what do you know, the revisionists are out again in force preparing to slaughter the very same player who has done so much to ensure that United became Champions of Europe for the third time. Ronaldo it seems wanted to join Real Madrid because it was his dream - nothing wrong with that, everyone has to have ambitions.

But hey what, over the last 48 hours, stories have surfaced claiming that Ronaldo could be about to turn his back on Madrid and commit himself to United. You do wonder what the revisionists will do then, eat another large slice of humble pie?

It brings a whole new meaning to the three Rs, Ronaldo, revisionists and reverse gear. What next, "err, well I didn't really want to see him sold".

Some fans and it has to be said Ronaldo himself need to learn the maxim "never burn your bridges" - you never know when you might need them.

If Ronaldo is sold, it will be against the wishes of Fergie and he's no bad judge...

Friday, June 27, 2008

Why Ronaldo out and Berbatov in will bad for the Champions and my hair...

With my hair falling out even faster than it was prior to the summer transfer window opening, there must be a serious possibility that I'll be sporting a full blown friars patch come the beginning of the new season. I'm sure I'm not the only Red suffering with this complaint, it's quite normal for dogs and horses to malt in the summer months, but of course their shiny coats come back, in contrast for us poor souls the choices are grim, what is it to be; dulling cream to stop the glare, shave the lot off, a Bobby Charlton style comb-over, or the dreaded Irish Jig?

This summer’s ultimate men’s accessory - the Ronaldo baldy comb

The official term for spot baldness is Alopecia areata, which can be brought on by stress and of course we United fans spend an unhealthy amount of our precious time worrying about what our great leader will do to strengthen our playing squad at this time of year. So yes Fergie, I am blaming you in part for my hair loss - you and that swine Ronaldo, who continues to be linked with Real Madrid.

If it was good enough for Bobby Charlton....

Odds on that United will sign Berbatov and we cannot rule that Ronaldo will be sold, which will presumably finance any new acquisitions as well as secure the long term future of Carlos Tevez, which must be a priority for Fergie.

The ideal scenario would be for Ronaldo to stay, coupled with Berbatov arriving too, but if we end up losing the Player of the Year even with the Bulgarian in harness the Champions will be significantly weaker than last season. Ronaldo is irreplaceable at this moment in time, but as Cantona said recently United will go on to win yet more silverware even without Ronaldo.... but it is likely to be at the expense of my hair and sanity.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Arshavin, United transfer pawn in Ronaldo move to Madrid?

There aren't many players who could potentially placate unhappy United fans about the possible loss of Cristiano Ronaldo this summer, but you do wonder if Arshavin is one of them. The Russian midfield general has been in sparkling form in Euro 2008 and anyone who has had the pleasure to watch him perform on the big stage over the last two years will testify that he is no flash in the pan. Arshavin is the real thing. Whether or not United will be able to broker a deal is an interesting question to pose, with all his connections it would appear that Roman Abramovich must be best placed to capture the Russian.

However, with the player hinting strongly that he fancies a move to La Liga and therefore in all probability Real Madrid, there is scope for Madrid to leave the way clear for United to sign Arshavin as a condition of any potential Ronaldo deal. For that scenario to happen, Madrid would have up their game in the diplomacy stakes, United fans won't be holding their breath on that score, as so far Ramón Calderón has shown all the subtlety of a rapist where courting is concerned.

For their part United would need to be smart enough to play this card should they eventually enter into serious negotiations with Madrid, but given Arshavin's recent "come and get me plea" time is of the essence. The Red Devils need to be proactive if they are serious about Arshavin.

My fear is that Fergie hasn't earmarked the Russian as a potential target because all of his focus has been wrongly centred on the search for a new striker, but there has always been the possibility that Ronaldo would want to leave and anyone who knows anything about world football should have been aware of Arshavin's potential. Failure to recognise Arshavin's ability is bad enough, but not making any move to sign him is even worse.

If I was a betting man, my money would be on Arshavin moving to Chelsea and we cannot rule that Wenger is already three steps ahead of everyone else in the race to sign the Russian and therefore Arsenal are a definite possibility.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

United must not give in to Real Madrid's bullying tactics...

Despite the best attempts of sections of the Spanish and English media while trying to convince us to the contrary, nothing has changed, Cristiano Ronaldo is still a United player. Reds fans will no doubt be sick and tired of hearing the views of so called "experts" telling us that it is only a matter of time before the deal goes through, yesterday Guillem Balague said "as soon as Ronaldo tells United he wants to sign for Real Madrid it will happen". Oh really?

Then we had the bekon of light that is Zidane saying it will happen, because it always does... For their part United remain confident that Fergie will be able to talk Ronaldo into staying with the Champions for one more season, which would coincide with the manager probably retiring too.

The media slant for the most part has been focused on Ronaldo leaving, but in doing Madrid's bidding while trying to convince everyone that it is only a matter of time before this deal goes through, the so called experts have under estimated Ferguson's powers of persuasion. If Fergie managed to talk Eric Cantona out of quitting United he must have a good chance of doing likewise with Ronaldo.

Today the story has been taken to another level with Ronaldo clearly being advised on every step of Madrid's exit strategy. Just 24 hours ago, Ronaldo told the world that he was to undergo surgery in a bid to be fit for next season and that his future would soon become clear. All of a sudden we have been told that there will be no operation and that Ronaldo is going on holiday. With the plot thickening nicely, Madrid's Ramon Calderon has made it clear they will NOT pay £80m, which is a figure that has been bandied around in the unlikely event of United agreeing to sell Ronaldo.

Marca, the unofficial mouthpiece of Real Madrid are claiming that the Spanish club will announce the signing of Ronaldo on July 7th. Marca could teach Lord Haw Haw a thing or two about propaganda where fibbing is concerned. This bullying by Madrid via Marca will hopefully only stiffen United's resolve to keep Ronaldo.

If Ronaldo and his agent have a grain of sense, they will keep their own counsel, because in all probability he will still be a United player next season and by continuing to allow this to go on they are in serious danger of being on the receiving end of a fan backlash. It is to be hoped that when the penny finally drops, either Ronaldo or his agent publicly nail their colours to the United mast in a bid to rebuild bridges with the Red Army at large.

Sadly, we cannot rule out that United may well come to the conclusion that they may well have to sell Ronaldo, but if that should happen then the club must take Madrid for their very last Euro.

United must demand at least £80m - anything less will be seen as a humiliating capitulation, to accept anything less will mean that Real Madrid will have metaphorically kicked sand in the face of the English Champions and in so doing they will have robbed us into the bargain, no doubt to sound of Lord Haw Haw crowing in the background. That scenario cannot and must not be allowed to happen.

Monday, June 23, 2008

United set to get busy in transfer market?

United fans will no doubt be awaiting news of the Reds next move in the transfer market with Fergie's number one objective focusing on the search for a new striker. The Red Devils have been linked with a number of stars who have been involved in Euro 2008 including French star Karim Benzema and Holland's Klaus-Jan Huntelaar, in truth both were disappointing. We have been led to believe that Benzema isn't for sale at any price and the jury is very much out on the suitability of Huntelaar.

Watching Euro 2008 this summer has served to highlight the fact that there are few top strikers in Europe at this moment in time, at least few that are 'available'. The one real star of the show so far has been the amazing contribution of Arshavin. Whether or not the Russian is on Fergie's radar would be interesting to know. Should the player decide that he fancies playing abroad there would be no shortage of suitors. My own view is that Arshavin will remain in Russia.

There has been an awful lot of speculation linking United to Dimitar Berbatov, if Fergie wants to sign the Bulgarian, now would be the right time to do so before Ronaldo's future is finally resolved. However, if the Reds dither and then announce to the world that they've just received a world record fee for Cristiano, Spurs, being the crafty Cockneys' will add another few million to their asking price as will any other clubs looking to do business with the Champions this summer.

Fergie could make a move for Barcelona's Samuel Eto'o, the player has been told that he can leave the Nou Camp along with Ronaldinho. Eto'o would give United genuine pace which they currently lack down the middle, his ability is not in question, but doubts persist about his attitude and temperament.

United will also have to resolve the futures of their existing strikers; Carlos Tevez says that he is very happy and as such he has so far bided his time on agreeing a new deal - expect an announcement in the next couple weeks. Louis Saha is being linked with a move to Italy, many suspect that Fergie's patience with the Frenchman ran out a long time ago and so I fully expect him to leave the club soon.

Manucho has returned from his loan stint with Panathinaikos, the Angolan striker is still awaiting news on his application for a UK work permit, he will join United for pre-season training and will be among the squad that travels to South Africa for the club's summer tour.

Failure to strengthen the Reds attack this summer could prove to be a costly mistake, especially if we end up off-loading Ronaldo. Who will score 42 goals next season should that happen? Even if Ronaldo stays, it is likely to be only for one more season and so Fergie needs to prepare the groundwork for his departure, the acquisition of a top striker must be a priority.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

BBC pundits stoke Fergie fire over Ronaldo future...

As if relations between Fergie and the BBC are not bad enough already with the United manager continuing to refuse to speak to the corporation following a 2004 BBC3 documentary entitled "Fergie and Son". At the time his son Jason worked for the Elite sports agency, the programme centred on allegations about dodgy transfers involving Elite and Manchester United players. Ferguson says that he does not bare grudges, but despite that he wants an apology from the Beeb - though he isn't expecting one any time soon.

During the recent David Frost interview, it became clear that Fergie is still raging mad over the allegations and with the pot simmering nicely, it's now likely to reach boiling point as the United manager will not be best pleased to learn that BBC Euro 2008 pundits Marcel Desailly and Mark Lawrenson have gone on-air stating in their belief that Ronaldo should quit the Red Devils this summer and join Real Madrid.

Lawrenson is of course a Liverpool supporter and a former player; it would be interesting to hear his response if he was asked the same question about the future of the Merseyside Reds Fernando Torres and the speculation linking him with Chelsea. It's doubtful that Lawro would be so quick to say that YES Torres should join another club.

Whether or not the BBC decided to deliberately stoke the Fergie fire is an interesting question to ask, it cannot be ruled out given the Beeb is aware that Fergie is unlikely to call a truce, added to which he is likely to quit the club in the next couple years.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

United to sign the new Ralph Milne?...

It's that time again, the summer transfer window has flung wide open with every Tom, Dick and Harry being linked to our favourite club. As soon as Euro 2008 finishes expect the transfer gossip to move up into overdrive. The tabloid press and their doctors of spin have only been warming up - it is going to get a lot worse, by the end of the silly season your nerves are likely to be shredded. The news has so far has centred on the future of Cristiano Ronaldo, with the focus very much on outgoing talk.

If Ronaldo is sold, which I personally doubt, United will have to replace him. Then for the next god knows how many years we will have suffer the press labelling targets as 'the new Ronaldo'. It was seemingly ever thus. United have always been associated with great players, when George Best retired, we were told that Sammy McIlroy was to be the new Georgie, then it was Norman Whiteside, even last year a young Irish lad named Rob Brady was burdened with the label and of course comparisons have been made with Ronaldo and Georgie.

The thing is the tabloid press know that we fans want to read that our club have found a diamond. The media play on our love of all things great where the beautiful game is concerned, particularly if the player in question is being strongly linked to your beloved club, they know that we fans are especially receptive at this time of year, we are like mares in season, waiting to be serviced by the next big juicy transfer rumour.

But for every football fan, there is always a nightmare scenario; you dream that this new signing will be every bit as good as hype that surrounds this shining new star, but often when reality bites, you realise that instead of signing the next Ronaldo you have in fact signed a bit of a donkey in the form of the new Ralph Milne.

Folks, sans Ronaldo, we can look forward to that for the rest our days, for now let us hope that Ronaldo stays for a while longer so we can savour the real thing and not have to endure silly headlines. Only in the world of blogging can you get away with "United to sign the new Ralph Milne?..."

Great expectations:
Keith Gillespie - another likened to Georgie, but like his fellow compatriot suffered demons off the field play.

Djemba-Djemba - so bad they named him twice, likened by some to the next Keano.

Jordi Cruyff - burdened by his own namesake.

I'm certain there's many more, send in your names of former players who were either labelled as the next 'xxxxx' or those who failed to live up to expectations.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Forget about Ronaldo: When are United going to make their big moves?

United fans are no doubt starting to get sick and tired of the Ronaldo saga, but it's likely to rumble on for a week or two longer. For those who are desperate for the player to stay comes the news that many have been waiting for, the Glazers, who rarely speak directly to the media have let it be known via 'close sources' that even if Ronaldo hands in a transfer request he is going nowhere. It is seemingly time to move on for all concerned.

So far, apart from talk of Ronaldo leaving, it's been a very quiet summer especially regarding incoming transfers; United managed to bungle the signing of Aaron Ramsey, which we may live to regret.

Moving swiftly on to other names in the frame regarding the search for new blood, one theory doing the rounds is that Fergie is waiting until after Euro 2008 finishes before making his move to sign another striker, which would lead us to assume that his targets are taking part in the summer tournament, in truth though, few players have shone in front of goal.

Klaus-Jan Huntelaar was on target for the Netherlands last night when scoring a simple goal in the two-nil win over Romania. Last week the young Dutch striker issued a fawning 'come and get me plea' to Real Madrid, which will not have gone unnoticed by Fergie.... On the merits of Huntelaar as a striker, it was interesting to hear the views of former Dutch international Frans Thijssen today, who said "he's slow, not that skilful but he always scores goals". It is only one man's opinion, but Thijssen's views on his fellow compatriot are interesting - is Huntelaar really good enough for United? The jury is out as far as I'm concerned as I haven't personally seen enough of the player in action to make a judgement call.

United fans are well aware of the Reds supposed interest in Karim Benzema, but the Lyon striker is going nowhere, his club president was recently quoted saying "£30m would buy his ear". That was prior to France getting their sorry backsides kicked out of Euro 2008 - like most of his French teammates Benzema's stock has fallen in short order. Still, I do not expect any move by United for Benzema.

The Reds could yet make a move for Berbatov or Roque Santa Cruz. Given the paucity of options and therefore by default the Spurs and Blackburn strikers stock could well be rising, with prices to match.

Barcelona have this week confirmed that Samuel Eto'o can leave, but like Ronaldinho he is viewed as something of a bad boy and damaged goods. The fact that Barca are willing to offload the pair with neither anywhere near their sell-by-date must be a cause for concern for any prospective new club. Both players come into the extremely unlikely category as far as United are concerned.

Regarding the future of Louis Saha, the French striker is being linked to Roma, though there has been talk that he'd like to stay, given his appalling injury record that would seem very unlikely.

So the search for the identity of our new striker goes on, we live in hope that Fergie makes a decisive move soon, I just hope that United are not waiting for the dust to settle on Ronaldo's future before showing their hand.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Fergie 'set to walk' as Real prepare for final crack at Ronaldo move..

As Euro 2008 heads towards the knockout stages of the competition a report in Marca claims that Pedja Mijatovic is preparing for Real Madrid's final crack at the "Ronaldo operation". According to Marca everything is in place, the deal will be worth 50 million Euros and that includes Robinho.

Even if United were ready to sell Ronaldo it would surely be nowhere near enough as we are talking about £40m and a large chunk of that will be down to Madrid's valuation of Robinho - a player who may not even want to come to United. Fergie could be left with just £20m for team strengthening.

Meanwhile, in a separate development Harry Harris of the Daily Express is claiming that Fergie could even walk out if Ronaldo is sold behind his back. The fear is that the Glazers might jump at the chance to cash-in on the player given the club's debt situation.

Fergie has so far played a very canny game via the media, he has publicly stated that the Glazers have been fantastic owners and they would rather sit Ronaldo in the stand rather than sell him to Real Madrid.

Having gone public and stating the Glazers position, the owners will find it very difficult to sell Ronaldo behind the manager's back and in just in case there's any doubt we have today's story courtesy of the Daily Express. Whether or not Fergie or his advisors are briefing the Express would be interesting to know.

My own view is that United fans should be in no doubt whatsoever that Fergie is doing all he can to hang onto this star player and that he's definitely made some very clever strategic moves to outflank any behind the back shenanigans.

Further to which during the recent David Frost interview, Fergie sent out another coded message to the Glazers when stating that the manager is all important and the minute that he is no longer running the show things will go pear-shaped. Fergie's timing was impeccable and United fans will be hoping that the Glazers listen to their manager and that they do not fold. To sell Ronaldo against Fergie's will would be the ultimate act of betrayal on the part of the club and their owners.

IF however, United sold Ronaldo for £40m you can guarantee that the following week Real Madrid will be claiming that they've already got their money back through the sale of merchandising. The Red Devils would be made look like a laughing stock.
Ronaldo will only get better; there should be no rush to sell him now on the cheap to Real Madrid. Ronaldo must stay.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Fergie's future hinges on amazing deal talk?....

On May 16th I posted that Fergie's own future could well hinge on United retaining the services of Cristiano Ronaldo. The reasoning behind that theory is obvious, the player is so important to the Red Devils, everyone most of all Ferguson, realises that.

There's further evidence to support this theory because a few seasons ago Fergie announced to the world that he'd decided to quit, at the time many pundits argued this public proclamation of intent affected team performance. Subsequently, once Fergie had decided to carry on the club let it be known that they would NEVER let this situation arise again.

Fergie eventually signed a rolling contract, more than once since then both the club and manager have said that they wouldn't say anything concrete about any impending retiring date.

That stance has been upheld until this summer, as more recently Fergie been saying he has only two years left, in so doing giving a more definitive retirement date. Is it just a coincidence that Fergie is trying to convince Ronaldo to stay too? Surely not, is the answer to that.

I have no doubt that Fergie has been making public noises about his own future in a bid to convince Ronaldo that his manager will still be around for a while yet. We all know how old Fergie is and it's rather obvious that he cannot go on forever, but still he has taken several recent opportunities to tell the world that he will not be leaving just yet.

The very latest news is that according to The Observer, and a senior United source, Ronaldo's agent Jorge Mendes agreed personal terms with Madrid a long time ago.

It's now being reported that Fergie will try to convince Ronaldo to stay for one more season and if this is true - and we can only speculate - that Fergie would then himself leave United.

If United do have firm evidence that Real and Mendes have been in negotiations then it will be interesting to see, what if anything, FIFA has to say because clearly this would be against their rules. If a case can proven against Real and FIFA do not act then what is the point of having rules in the first place?

I have update on this story as reports are claiming that Fergie could walk out on United if Ronaldo sold behind his back

The Observer - amazing deal talk

Fergie to retire if Ronaldo walks?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

£25m "Exclusive" striker talk resurfaces...

United are once again being linked with Dimitar Berbatov, with The Sun having the brass-nerve claiming that this story is an "Exclusive" - as is so often the case there's no quotes, not even from the player's agent...

However, given that Lyon's President, Jean-Michel Aulas has claimed that his star striker Karim Benzema will be staying put until at least 2010 and Klaus-Jan Huntelaar has issued a "come and get me" plea to Real Madrid this week, it looks like Fergie might well have to revert to "plan B" which translates to strikers who rank lower down his most wanted list.

The Sun's exclusive could have a grain of credence behind it, but it's more than likely someone on the sports desk is indulging in a bit of transfer window kite flying, given the way the wind is blowing regarding Benzema and Huntelaar.

As far as Huntelaar is concerned, does this lad not keep up to date with the latest news and gossip? Fawning to Real Madrid so openly is hardly likely to endear him to United at this moment in time.

"Real, Please, please sign me - Klaus"

Eric "the King" Cantona wants to manage United (one day)...

Somewhat surprisingly, Euro 2008 has so far lived up to its billing, with Holland, Portugal and Spain all turning on the style and on that note you will doubtless have seen Eric Cantona on TV in the ad-breaks promoting a betting firm, with Eric playing the part of The King of England. How fitting.

United fans still sing his name which must surely make the big man happy. Reds supporters will be interested to hear that Eric has just given an interview to the Daily Telegraph in which he hints at one day returning to manage United...

Eric is also set to star in a Ken Loach directed film entitled .Looking for Eric, it's about a United supporter in which he plays himself.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Double blow for Fergie on top striker targets....

Manchester United's top summer priority on incoming transfers is to sign a quality striker and over the last few weeks several names have been strongly linked with the Reds. Lyon's Karim Benzema has been the subject of a lot speculation linking him to United and host of top European clubs. However, at the beginning of this month the player hinted strongly about his desire to play for Real Madrid and today his club president Jean-Michel Aulas has laughed off yet more reports linking with a summer move to United.

One thing is for certain, if United receive no encouragement from the player concerned regarding a desire to play for the Champions they will end their interest quickly. Reading between the lines, it seems that Karim Benzema will not be signing for United this summer and his club Lyon do not seem interested in selling at this moment in time.

There's more bad news to report on another "top target" because Klaas-Jan Huntelaar has also dropped a massive come and get him hint to Real Madrid "It is true that there has been a of of talk about me going to Real Madrid and that would be thrilling because they are such a great club".

Fergie will not be pleased when he reads these quotes from the Dutch striker. It remains to be seen who the Reds will sign with Roque Santa Cruz reportedly figuring highly on Wenger's wanted list.

Finally, injury dogged Louis Saha has today been linked with a move to Bolton Wanderers.

Rival's add third dimension to Ronaldo war of words...

It's well documented that "Big Phil" Scolari has been opening his big mouth a bit too much when telling Ronaldo that in his opinion, the player should join Real Madrid. Scolari is of course entitled to his opinion, but the fact that he is now the Chelsea manager in waiting has added another dimension to the already bitter 'war of words' that has erupted between United and Real Madrid.

We now have a situation whereby the Chelsea and Portugal manager is effectively interfering on the future of a star player from a rival Premier League club.

For their part, Chelsea had always maintained that they were perfectly happy with how their search for a new manager was going. To many observers this "happy scenario" didn't appear to make a lot of sense, which raises the question is it not a fair bet that they always knew that they had Scolari in the bag? We are left to assume that Scolari was their second-choice target with Carlo Ancelotti being number one; because it was only after Ancelotti ruled himself out of the running did Chelsea finally make their announcement about Scolari. This in turn leads us to speculate that Chelsea knew about their prospective new manager openly advising a player from a rival team on his future.

It's doubtful that Chelsea's top-brass will have even mentioned the Ronaldo situation to Scolari, they will have been rightly more concerned with their search for a manager, but the scenario that they could have played a part in what could be described as a KGB style sabotage plot will no doubt give the conspiracy theorists among our support something to chew on.

Nonetheless, rival managers advising players on their future when it has nothing to do with them isn't on. It's a bit like Jose Mourinho advising Ronaldo what to do, or Fergie telling Drogba to move to Milan, it's simply not done. It should be a case of none players off the green. Mind your own business.

At the end of the day, Ronaldo will be his own man, no matter what anyone else says - sadly, that probably includes Fergie. The player will decide what is best for his own future, we United fans will have to just live with it and get on with it if he decides that he wants to go to Madrid.

My gut feeling is that United will NOT sell him to Madrid unless it is for ridiculous money, certainly well over the £60m that has been touted. There has been reports that Madrid will want to offer Robben and Robinho in part-exchange and there's also been suggestions that Madrid do not have the cash to buy Ronaldo outright - which is probably why they're hoping that the Reds will do a deal.

As far as Chelsea are concerned, the simmering tensions between United and the West London club following on from the back end of last season will undoubtedly be further strained.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Seven fans killed in Nigeria after Champions League final...

According to a report in the Nigerian Tribune, seven football fans were killed following the dramatic end to the recent United vs Chelsea Champions League final. Fierce street fighting broke out between both sets of fans amidst scenes of chaos as local shops were forced to close down as supporters fought pitched battles using weapons such as machetes and bottles. One United fan was shot while another dropped down dead due to what has been described as anxiety and exhaustion.

Full story: Nigerian Tribune

United recently claimed that they have over 14 million fans living in Nigeria, added to which the club have announced that they will play Portsmouth in the West African country in July.

Fergie vs Scolari "the pugilist" - a battle in prospect to savour...

IF you believe what you read in the press the pundits claim that appointing Scolari is a gamble - given that "Big Phil" has won the World Cup with Brazil, what does that make the Avram Grant appointment? By comparison giving the Israeli the job was a much bigger gamble given the relative experience of both managers.

By all accounts Scolari is his own man, he is no lickspittle, which could be why people are suggesting that there might be an element of risk attached to the Brazilian becoming the latest ring-master at the Stamford Bridge circus.

Scolari is something of a pugilist, he's been known to punch players, fans and journalists alike, which makes his arrival all the more interesting. The Premier League needs colourful characters and the prospective battles between the top managers and clubs is one to really look forward to in anticipation.

Following on from Chelsea's end of season downfall in Russia, how they react next season will be interesting to say the least...

Wenger to deliver Fergie knockout-blow in transfer market again?

Maybe it's the lack of trophies over the last few seasons, maybe it's the continued threat of a player exodus at the Emirates Stadium, whatever the reason it seems Arsene Wenger decided that he needed to get busy early in the summer transfer window.

The Arsenal manager has already nipped in and delivered a blow to United's hopes of capturing Welsh starlet Aaron Ramsey. Coming on that back of that news it's now being reported that the Gunners' boss is targeting another player who has been strongly linked with a move to Old Trafford this, Roque Santa Cruz.

The Reds made something of a hash of it when announcing that Ramsey was all but signed up, hopefully, United won't make the same mistake again and they will surprise the Red Army with some quality additions to the squad.

As far as we know United haven't made their move for Cruz so far, which could mean that Fergie doesn't fancy the Paraguayan. Recent speculation suggests that the Reds will not make any moves until after Euro 2008 by which time we will know what is happening regarding the future of Ronaldo. It is to be hoped that United are not waiting to find out how much money could potentially be raised from the sale of Ronaldo - that scenario could prove to be a costly mistake.

United fans do not want to see the back of Ronaldo - a world-record fee wouldn't be enough to replace him, added to which prices for transfer targets would then rocket with selling clubs trying to cash-in knowing that the club had just received a windfall.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Reds transfer announcement woe.....

Manchester United fans will no doubt have been bemused at the news that Aaron Ramsey opted to join Arsenal when we had been led to believe that the player's proposed £5m transfer to the Red Devils was all but done and dusted. United even went as far as announcing that the deal was nearing completion on the club's official website, subject to personal terms and a medical.

Apart from the huge embarrassment to all concerned at United, it was interesting to hear that Ramsey opted for Arsenal because he believed they offered "stability". It makes one wonder if Fergie's recent announcement about his impending retirement was a factor in the player opting to join the Gunners; why else would the Welshman use the word stability as part of his reason for joining the North London club? It's not as if Arsenal have a bedrock of British players in their first team is it?

Apparently, Wenger has promised to personally oversee the youngster's development, and the Ramsey family wanted to talk to senior management - and they ended up with the shop steward, Gary Neville.

The facts are that United handled this transfer very badly; in contrast the Gunners' went the extra mile when hiring a private jet to fly the player and his family out to Switzerland to talk to Wenger. Even as a United fan I have to admit that this was a smart piece of business.

It is to be hoped that United will learn lessons from this sorry episode. For starters, don't announce transfers until they are completed, but what to do about the Fergie situation; has his retirement cost us a brilliant young player and will it cost us more potential new signings over the coming weeks and months ahead?

Being positive, Ramsey is the one that got away and let us not get too hung up over losing a young player. Fergie and his backroom team did a fantastic job last summer in the transfer market. Manucho might come good too; let's hope the manager adds to what is already a brilliant squad this summer with the capture of at least two more quality signings.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Why Ronaldo WON'T be joining Madrid this summer...

Manchester United finally lost patience with Real Madrid earlier this week when reporting the Spanish club to FIFA over their continued pursuit of Cristiano Ronaldo. Many pundits in the media are rightly speculating that FIFA will give Madrid little more than a warning on this issue, but the very fact that the Reds have taken this action should be viewed as significant because it means that the club have once again publicly made clear their intent on retaining Ronaldo.

Fergie and David Gill have both stated that the player is going nowhere on numerous occasions. There is no way that United can or will make a complete about turn and sell the player now - how could they after so many declarations and public statements?

Madrid for their part have resorted to desperate measures by allegedly telling Ronaldo to go on strike. The Spanish Champions will doubtless continue to try to unsettle the player, but after being reported to FIFA they will surely know that as far as this summer is concerned the game is well and truly up.

Do not be surprised if Madrid make some sort of half-hearted public apology over the coming days in a bid to mend damaged relations.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Berbatov and Santa Cruz secondary striker targets?

A report in the Sunday Times claims that United will soon tie-up a deal to sign Spurs striker Dimitar Berbatov, a player who is not without his critics, there are those who say that he's lazy and lacks pace and that he is by no means the complete striker. It's not all bad though, because when the Bulgarian is on the ball he is arguably the best in the business where touch is concerned and he would certainly bring something different to the Red Devils attack.

United have also been strongly linked with Blackburn's Roque Santa Cruz, the former Bayern star is a class act. The Paraguayan has been strongly linked with a move to Manchester City following Mark Hughes exit. A report in today's News of the World claimed that Saha could be offered as a makeweight as part of the deal.

However, with Euro 2008 getting under way and with neither player taking part it's interesting to note that United haven't thus far made a move for either, which in turn raises the question are either or both on Fergie's wanted list?

United are definitely looking to sign another striker but as yet the identity of the Reds' first choice target remains unknown leaving the media to play their guessing games. Young Dutch star Klaas-Jan Huntelaar remains a possibility as does Lyon's Karim Benzema, given that United are yet to show their hand it could well be the case that Berbatov and Santa Cruz are secondary targets.

The Reds' may have to wait until after Euro 2008 before making their move to sign their top target, which could prove to be something of a costly gamble if either player has a good tournament which will in turn increase the asking price.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Fergie and Wenger set for summer cheque-book battle royal?

It isn't often that Arsene Wenger gives any hint about potential new signings, but prior to Euro 2008 kicking-off the Arsenal manager reeled off a host of names who he expects to do well in the tournament. Perhaps most notable of all was the mention of Lyon's brilliant young striker Karim Benzema who is said to be very much on Fergie's transfer radar.

There are few players who escape the attentions of the continent's leading clubs and there's no doubt that Karim Benzema's name figures highly on the most-wanted lists of a whole host of Europe's top teams, United and Arsenal among them.

However, the very fact that Wenger mentioned Karim Benzema will surely be enough to raise the prospect of a transfer battle between Fergie and Wenger.

Lyon are not considered a big club, they have proven that they are a selling club and for this reason any of their star names will always be considered fair game where speculation is concerned and it is why Wegner's admiring comments about Benzema will ignite talk of a summer move to Arsenal this summer.

Whether or not we can read any more into Wenger's talking so openly about a Karim Benzema is a mute point - does this apparent public declaration of admiration mark a change of policy at the North London club?

Is Wenger ready to trade cheque-book blows with Fergie this summer? The latter seems unlikely given Wenger's prudence in the past. Perhaps Wenger is starting to feel the pressure after three successive fruitless campaigns, added to which he could potentially lose more star names following on from Flamini's Arsenal exit.

Alexander Hleb's agent has spoken to Barcelona among others and Adebayor's name is being linked to Milan - though the latter is likely to stay put in North London for now.

If Wenger did go on to battle with Fergie over the signature of Karim Benzema, it would be a marked changed from the norm. The big problem for both Arsenal and United is that the player may not fancy joining either club.

All in all it looks set to be an interesting summer of transfer speculation for followers of the Champions and Arsenal.

Did God really play a part in United's Moscow Champions League victory?

If you want to thank anyone for our amazing and dramatic victory, please thank me – the guy sat/stood in Tribune B, row 53, section 6, seat 53 of the Luzhnniki Stadium, Moscow. Never let anyone disrespect or, more importantly, disbelieve in the power of prayer ever again.

I’ve not turned into a religious nutter or anything like that, but when Terry came walking up to the penalty spot, like many others, I prayed. However, I prayed with intensity and fervour, not so much “Sermon on the mount”, more like “The forty days and forty nights in the wilderness” condensed into the ten to twenty seconds as John Terry embarked on that long walk. Such was the intensity of my prayer; I’m convinced I was developing the first signs of Stigmata.

Stood praying with one hand, clinched fist, over my mouth, the other hand clutching my beloved United badge, the badge I’ve worn with pride at every game I’ve attended since I bought it in 1974. That badge and I have been through a lot together throughout the intervening years.

This was the moment that meant so much to me, even though I’d followed the Red’s with a passion since 1969, this was my first European Cup Final.

Why was a fifty-year-old school teacher praying like a little kid that desperately wants a bike for Christmas? A few reasons, firstly I was too young in 1968 and, to be honest, it was only years later I fully understood just what an honour the title “Champions of Europe” really meant. As a ten year old I was confused as to why my father, normally the most placid and laid back man in the world was jumping up and down and going wild in front of a ridiculously small black and white television set. I was so embarrassed, what would the neighbours think? Me? I thought, “Great, we’ve won the Cup, a Cup, any Cup, they were all the same to me. I distinctly remember having exactly the same feeling when United won the Daily Mail five-a-side tournament on Sportsnight with Coleman a few years later. Such are the joys of being an innocent and impressionable young teenager.

Wind the clock on twenty one years. The 1999 Treble winning season was different. I was now an experienced “Euro-Awayer” and had been to numerous countries supporting United in all European competitions (does Wrexham count?) and pre-season friendlies. I was actually one of the few hundred Reds at Lodz, Poland for the qualifying round at the beginning of that momentous season.

The day after our mammoth win over Juventus in the Stadia del Alpi (still United’s finest away performance in Europe, in my opinion) in the second-leg of the Champions League semi-final, I went to my head-teacher, a glorified, over officious little “jobsworth”, he was also a Leeds fan who regularly attended City games as he got free tickets. A dangerous combination if ever there was one. I approached him and asked for permission to have ONE DAY off to attend the final. Even though I told him I didn’t mind losing a day's pay and was even willing to pay the cost of a supply-teacher to cover my lessons and despite protestations by a number of colleagues and staff members, he refused my request. Believe it or not, I didn’t take it personally at the time – he was a t**t to everybody.

Example: - I coached the school's Year 10 (old 4th year) football team and, remarkably they managed to reach the Stockport School Cup Final at Edgeley Park. He banned our star player from playing because of his “excessive haircut” – a number two all over with a zig-zag parting. What psychological damage this had on this lad later on in life, I’ve no idea. The head-teacher obviously didn’t care (we ended up losing 4-2 for anyone who does). He wouldn’t budge and I had to accept my fate and miss Barcelona and what I’d envisaged to be the best day of my life.

Footnote to this sordid affair. A few weeks later the same head-teacher gave a female member of the PE staff and entire year off to tour the World. Double standards at its absolute worse. On hearing this I immediately began applying for other positions at other school. I managed to find one at a Catholic School in the North Stockport/South Manchester area. There were other issues surrounding my decision to leave, one major one, but all the students from that generation will always remember me as the Red Fanatic teacher that left because he couldn’t go to the 1999 European Cup Final. I’ve never had the heart to tell the entire truth but the hero status I receive to this day is always welcome.

Unfortunately, for this final there was no need to go cap in hand to request permission from the Head teacher of my current school, I’m certain she would have found a way to accommodate me anyway, she’s that type of person i.e.: Human. I’m on long term sick leave.

After the disappointment of losing to Arsenal on penalties at the Millennium stadium in 2005, our mini-bus left Cardiff full of Czech Lager and copious amounts of Vodka. This still proved to be insufficient. We stopped at a pub in Ross-on-Wye and nearly drank the place dry. What I was thinking of? Drinking and vainly trying to keep up with the younger generations? My hangover lasted for days, my stomach was in turmoil. After a few days of this I, reluctantly, decided to visit my doctor who’s not adverse to give out bollockings along with prescriptions. I fully expected both – binge drinking with a group of twenty-something-year-olds at my time of life, indeed.

I wasn’t prepared for the prognosis. After being examined I was rushed into hospital with a perforated appendix. Forty seven and a half years of being totally fit and healthy, well not always fit, but you get my point, had come to an abrupt end. I had to have an emergency operation the following day. Worse than this, my first ever night in hospital just had to be the night Liverpool came from three down and lift the European Cup. I’ve certainly had better days.

Three months later, I was called back into hospital for I thought was going to be a “follow up” appointment. I received some devastating, life changing news. It transpired it was much more than a perforated appendix. The offending little organ had contained a cancerous tumour and had spread into my bowel and abdomen. I’ll spare you all the gory details but after a further three years of operations and different chemotherapy treatment, I’m still suffering and unable to work – I’m not a malingerer – I’ve been back to work a few times but during the later months it became abundantly clear, it was causing me distress. Regrettably and reluctantly, I’ve had cease doing the best job in the world and a job I love.

Every dark cloud has a silver lining as the pathetic old cliché says. I was in Christies hospital during the semi-final stages. I watched the first leg standing in the impossibly packed Red Lion pub, Withington, complete with Nasal Gastric tube up my nose, held in position by a huge white plaster and the aspiration bag, full of mucus and general bodily shite discretely concealed in a Marks and Spencer bag. This ensured some strange but ultimately sympathetic looks from the hundreds of fellow Reds in the boozer cheering the team on.

Manchester United versus Barcelona, European Champions League Semi- Final, second-leg at Old Trafford. Sounds good, doesn’t it? So good, I was determined not to miss this one. I managed to convince the doctors to allow me to go the game. As one of the Oncologists was himself a huge Red, permission was granted on the proviso I would have a lift from door to door and no alcohol. It seemed a pretty good deal to me.

So I was there on that unforgettable Old Trafford night, I just had to be. Thirteen minutes gone and Scholesie scored his customary scorcher, during the immediate celebrations; my cannula was dislodged and ultimately fell out, leaving my hand bleeding profusely. The nurses would have a field day later on. I will always remember this game for the atmosphere, probably the best ever, it’s not often that Old Trafford Shakes to the foundations, but without exaggeration, it did that night. In addition to this, wasn’t it sweet to see NO ONE leave early? When did that last happen? I will also remember it as the game that had the longest second half in history – it didn’t of course, it just felt like it.

After the game and the subsequent celebrations, my friend dropped me back off at Christies. I’d been locked out. The (very) large security guard took some cajoling before I was back on ward. On seeing my cannula, or more the lack of one, the nurses went berserk. Another one was inserted in the utmost painful way. I felt no pain, not on this night of nights. The following day, I’d be booking for Moscow – I couldn’t have been happier. I’d been guaranteed a match ticket as I’d been to Kiev during the group stages – as it happened, the panic over tickets never materialised.

A stroke of luck. I was on the Internet in one of Christies waiting rooms, just about to pay a staggering £940+ on one of the clubs day trips. This had risen from the original £740 for the first couple of flights. Even though we were still in the early hours of the morning, they were now taking bookings on Flight No 11. I was actually filling in the field with my credit card details, when a friend phones me and puts me in contact with the Blackpool branch of the supporters club. I’d travelled to Zagreb with this branch before and therefore trusted them. The price? £740, thanks Danny, that £200 saved would come in very handy. Everything was booked and confirmed, all from the comfort of a hospital bed.

Wednesday 21st May 2008, a date now permanently etched in the psyche of United fans. It was also the day when me and my friend took a taxi to the airport driven by a man who had to be shown the way. How can this be possible? Surely a prerequisite for the job, basic knowledge of the area. “I’ve only lived here for three months” was his excuse.

So limited time in Moscow beckoned. Our flight was delayed for an hour but made up the time en route, only to have to circle Domodedovo Airport for over an hour before eventually landing. We caught the free buses to the stadium and the amazing metro into the city centre and, of course, Red Square. The obligatory photo-shoot and search for bars – we would, in total, visit three city centre bars and each one ran out of beer and had young kids, running, relay style, to and fro to the nearest supermarket for extra supplies.

The metro journey back to the stadium was as atmospheric as any journey I’ve ever encountered. The ornate, some palace like Metro stations have to be seen to be believed. Internet images certainly don’t do them justice.

As with the rest of the afternoon Reds' and Chelsea fans mixed quite cordially. I personally never witnessed any animosity between the two sets of supporters- I just wish they had more than two songs – “Care free wherever you may be” and the rectal evacuating “ Chelsea, Chelsea, Chelsea etc” to the tune of the Sutherland Brothers “Sailing”(I’ve always preferred the original to Rod Stewards version).

A huge group of us managed to blag our way into a hotel next to Sportivnaya Metro station. Here the fun and excitement started. The loudest cheer was reserved for the announcement of the team – nothing against Ji Sung Park, but for many supporters Hargreaves simply had to be included in the starting line-up. Thank you Mr Ferguson.

If the atmosphere outside the stadium “crackled”, inside it buzzed as if each supporter had brought their own share of the National Grid.

There’s no need for a comprehensive match report, everything that needed to be added has been said. My biggest disappointment is that Petr Cech saved that Carlos Tevez diving header, in so doing, robbing of us of what would have been one of the greatest goals ever and one that would have ranked alongside Carlos Alberto's masterpiece in 1970 for Brazil in the Mexico World Cup. In denying Tevez, Cech pulled off a truly world-class save and he remains the only member of the current Chelsea team I’d welcome to Old Trafford with open arms.

So penalties it was, with Drogba off for the most ridiculous and pathetic crime – just what was he thinking of? At least Vidic didn’t go down like a Serb in the siege of Sarajevo caught in sniper cross-fire.

Oh Ronaldo! You were so, so close to being the subject of a million and one cyberspace jokes –you need to thank me the guy sat/stood in Tribune B, Row 53, Section 6, Seat 53 of the Luzhnniki Stadium, Moscow.

My praying was intensified with every step John Terry took towards the area – this was not only the most important penalty in English football - Bollocks to Chris Waddle in Turin, Italia '90, Gareth Southgate at Wembley '96, or even David Batty two years later in St Etienne (what was he doing wearing an England shirt in the first place?). This penalty was a test in faith – my entire Catholicism was at stake – strange, but my Redness would never be in question.

The celebrations, the relief, the wild screams of delight, the hugs from total strangers, even tears from some around me. I looked up to the sky and thanked the “Big Man”. I was now convinced I had helped United win the Champions League.

It just goes to prove beyond any doubt that there IS a GOD and what’s more, he’s a UNITED fan.

After Terry missed, the knots in my stomach miraculously untied and unwound, I was now supremely confident; after all, God was on our side. Three successful conversions later, up steps Anelka, did anyone have the same feeling as me? He just didn’t look right did he? Body language or something, even from the distance of Tribune B, Row 53, Section 6, Seat 53 of the Luzhnniki Stadium, Moscow. It appeared obvious something was amiss. Now let’s not have too much sympathy for Anelka, here’s a guy that plays for Chelsea and previously played for Arsenal, Liverpool, City and Bolton, he only needs Leeds for the set.

Anelka steps forward and strikes the ball, a nano-second later and Edwin van der Saar is immediately elevated from a shrewd Ferguson signing into a living Red Legend.

The intensity of the Red celebrations just proved how important this victory was. After a few minutes of leaping around, hugging and wailing, I sat down in Tribune B, row 53, section 6, seat 53 of the Luzhnniki Stadium, Moscow in quiet reflection and total satisfaction.

The journey home was eventful; Domodedovo Airport just wasn’t equipped to handle the volume of Red traffic. Our plane loaded up excruciatingly slowly. For a country that doesn’t exactly welcome tourists with open arms, they certainly made it as difficult as possible to leave.

Once the 550+ Reds on the flight had finally settled down and one would expect drunken merriment all the way home. Nothing of the sort, all I recall is 550+ different tones and volumes of snores and farts. On landing though, there was a spontaneous, rousing chorus of “We’ve won it three times, without killing anyone”. This continued through custom control and the exit.

Greeted by local and national news cameras I realised news of my role of divine intervention had leaked out and numerous reporters were ready to pounce. Remarkably, I managed to dodge them them all.

So, after thirty nine years as a match-going supporter, I’ve finally reached the Holy Grail of football. The first time I witnessed success (with the exception of the 2nd Division Championship – which doesn’t count in my book) was the wonderful Scouse-busting of 1977 – we celebrated all summer long. At the time, I didn’t think that feeling could possibly be beaten. A European Cup, ten Premier League titles, countless more FA Cups, European Cup Winners Cup and a host of other honours later, the ’77 FA Cup victory, has long been consigned to the memory-shelf only to be removed when extremely drunk and nostalgic.

The treble year was, without doubt, the season of seasons for the vast majority of Reds; however, I cannot claim any part in that unbelievable injury time come back Nou Camp – due to a previously mentioned duplicitous, arrogant and hugely unpopular, bureaucrat – (and a Leeds/city fan to boot).

Now I’ve witnessed the Red’s claiming the “Ultimate” club prize, I can say “I was there”. In years to come after hopefully, overcoming our complete underachievement in Europe, with many more Championships, some may even forget about this one.

Please do not ever forget my role in this victory. I will always take pride in being the guy sat/stood in Tribune B, row 53, section 6, seat 53 of the Luzhnniki Stadium, Moscow who learned the power of prayer.

Petebug 2008

To all those who contributed comments on this wonderful post and to those who knew Peter, he sadly passed away on 20/06/2008 after losing his battle against cancer.

The Champions League Final in Moscow was Pete's last ever match, he had followed the Red Devils for nearly 40 years, throughout the decades his passionate support for the club never wavered. Peter was the epitome of a loyal Red; he was a season-ticket holder who rarely missed a home game. United was a very important part of Pete's life, he followed the club all over Europe and across North America when the club went on a summer tour in 2003.

Peter will be badly missed by his family and by all those who knew and loved him of whom there are many.

Why opinion polls on Ronaldo's future are totally and utterly pointless...

Now here's a thing, I notice that The Times are running a poll on the future of Cristiano Ronaldo. I have nothing against using polls for gauging public opinion, providing that the sample source can be relied upon to provide an accurate and fair view of those who it directly concerns. On this in instance, let us be clear on one thing. The opinions on Ronaldo and in particular of those in the media and especially those of rival fans matter not one jot. This is about Manchester United and the best player in the world.

A few years ago the Manchester Evening News ran a similar poll on the future of Fergie, for which the manager famously fell out with the newspaper. Reason? The poll was hijacked by "the Bitters", aka Man City fans. The poll results suggested that United fans wanted Fergie out. It was just another example of why polls cannot be relied upon when the sample source is so unreliable.

In the case of Ronaldo - just about every bitter rival fan in the land would love nothing more than to see the back of the best player in the world. What worth is the view of a Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool or City fan in this poll? What next should the media canvass the views of Gareth Southgate on the Ronaldo situation? That would be like asking Adolph Hitler for his views on the Jews.

There will always be some United fans who sadly want rid of Ronaldo too. But to those who do want Ronaldo out, remember what the player did for the Reds last season; without him United wouldn't currently be Premier League and Champions League champions.

Also remember that Ferguson wants Ronaldo to stay and why would that be? The answer, just in case anyone needs reminding again is that Ronaldo is the best player in the world. No amount of money Real Madrid can offer will be enough to find an adequate replacement in the short-term. I write that in acknowledgement that we eventually replaced Cantona with Beckham and the latter with Ronaldo.

It's more than a fair bet, the same fans who want Ronald out, are the very same ones who let themselves be influenced by our ever so jingoistic press in the World Cup following the so called fall-out between Rooney and Ronaldo. Sections of the tiresome gutter-press still refer to Ronaldo as 'the winker'.

To those who are being influenced by the media's constant barrage of innuendo, much of it geared towards creating tensions between, club player and supporters, I say remember all of the great goals that Ronaldo scored for the Red Devils last season. Remember Ronaldo's majestic headers against Roma and Chelsea and those fabulous free-kicks. Think about all the great things that Ronaldo has done for United, he is a crowd pleaser like no other, it is why he is in such demand and yet still it appears some so called United fans wold have done with him.

The results of The Times pointless Ronaldo poll will not add anything to the debate, what it will do, worst case, is give the nutters out there more ammunition and further self-belief that selling Ronaldo is really a good thing - now that in itself would be quite remarkable - if only it were actually true...

To anyone looking for guidance on the Ronaldo debate in the form stats, do not forget the phrase "lies, damn lies and statistics", instead think; 42 goals, a Premier League title and a Champions League trophy - now that is what I call statistics.

For those who insist that we should sell Ronaldo, please present your case.

Ronaldo must stay and end of.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Ronaldo "bans" Fergie from training camp...

Reports claim that Cristiano Ronaldo has banned Fergie from visiting Portugal's training camp ahead of Euro 2008. The United manager has been mulling over whether to visit his star player in a bid to convince Ronaldo that he's better off staying put rather than move to Real Madrid.

Luiz Felipe Scolari would welcome the United manager if he decides to embark on this mission, the Portugal coach has concerns over his captain's state of mind anything that Fergie can do to help ahead of Euro 2008 will help his cause.

However, Ronaldo has reportedly told his teammates that Fergie is not welcome and that he's unhappy about the Glazers' threat to sit him in the stands following talk of a summer move to Madrid.

United claim that Ronaldo will not be sold this summer, but their resolve looks set to be tested. Despite this latest report Fergie should visit the player if only to explain his comments about the Glazers'.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Striker claims that United want to sign him...

Following on from the news that Mark Hughes has left Blackburn Rovers it comes as no surprise to hear that several players are said to unhappy that their manager has left the club. As far as United are concerned striker Roque Santa Cruz has reportedly told La Nacion newspaper that Manchester United want to sign him. The 27 year-old Paraguayan striker's previous clubs include Bayern Munich. Would Roque Santa Cruz be a good signing for the Red Devils? Let's hear your opinions....

Ronaldo delivers Real Madrid bombshell....

Cristiano Ronaldo has finally come out and confirmed that he wants to join Real Madrid.

The Player of The Year says he wants to leave the Red Devils and join Real Madrid.

Speaking to Terra: "I would like to play for Real Madrid but only if it is true they are ready to pay what United ask of them. However, it does not depend on me."

Many United fans will be disappointed with the player, but given Ronaldo's recent vibes about his dream of one day playing for the Spanish club, the news comes as no surprise.

It remains to be seen if United will sell and will they now report Real Madrid to UEFA for unsettling the player?

Transfer target set for signing talks....

Manchester United are set for talks with Aaron Ramsey who is due to arrive at Old Trafford on Friday to discuss personal terms of a deal that will cost the Red Devils around £5m.

Reports suggest that the Champions will beat off competition from several Premier League rivals including Arsenal, Liverpool, Everton and Spurs. The 17-year-old is hot property and big things are expected of Cardiff City's young midfield star. It's thought that United may well loan the player back to the Bluebirds for a season to gain more experience.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Liverpool and Spurs to enter battle to sign United transfer target?

Reports claim that Liverpool and Spurs could be about to join the battle to sign Cardiff City's highly rated young midfield star Aaron Ramsey. Everton and Arsenal have been given permission to talk to the player after their bids were accepted by the Bluebirds, but United are said to remain the favourites to capture the player.

However, Chris Gunter joined Spurs last season and he's said to be Ramsey's best friend, one report has suggested that this could sway the battle in favour of the North London club.

Hughes in City firing-line while Chelsea are in complete turmoil...

So then, United legend Mark Hughes has accepted the poisoned chalice that is the Manchester City manager's job. Stability is not a word often used at Eastlands where the manager's position is concerned and while Thaksin Shinawatra has only been at the club for a relatively short period of time, he has carried on the Blues long-standing tradition of hiring and firing when getting rid of Sven-Goran Eriksson post-haste.

You do wonder how long it will be before Hughes is shown the seemingly ever revolving manager's door. For the record, the Welshman becomes the 16th manager to take charge since Fergie has been at Old Trafford. Ironically, of the Manchester clubs it could well be United who are next looking to appoint a new manager following confirmation that Fergie is likely to only be around for another two years - but Hughes could go before then, that is for certain based on Dr (arf) Shinawatra's treatment of Eriksson.

While the City job will be a difficult one, it's beginning to look like Chelsea's search to replace Avram Grant is nearing farcical proportions. Chelsea have been given the knock-back by Carlo Ancelotti, the Milan coach. Hughes was thought to be in the frame, but Chelsea blinked and City got their man. You have to laugh, especially at Peter Kenyon who is often cited as being the single biggest problem at Stamford Bridge by their own supporters.

Frank Rikjaard could be a candidate, but that is by no means certain given he's just left Barcelona under something of a cloud and there's been rumours suggesting all is not well where off the field matters are concerned.

Then there's "big Phil" Scolari, but you do wonder if the Brazilian could be a too much like Henk Ten Cate who wasn't shy of dishing out the odd backhander when players' got out of turn. Would the former Brazilian national team manager put up with interference from upstairs? Answers on a postcard. Chelsea might justifiably be a bit nervous about appointing Scolari - and let's be honest, the West London club cannot afford to screw-up this next appointment - especially given that Mourinho is now back managing and in the limelight again.

However, Chelsea claim that they are perfectly happy with progress on the search for a new manager. This at a time when Mourinho is looking to snap up Drogba and Essien - Chelsea's public show of confidence is of course a load of old blarney it's about as convincing as someone losing a winning lottery jackpot ticket and then saying that they aren't that bothered.

Roberto Mancini, the sacked Inter Manager must be in the frame, but wouldn't appointing him look bad if Mourinho does well? It could be a PR disaster for Chelsea and for this reason alone I suspect Mancini is an unlikely candidate.

You do wonder if Chelsea might have to appoint Steve Clarke - but if they do, I boldly predict it will turn out to be a total disaster - I'd give him a season at best.

Chelsea to finish fourth next season anyone?

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

United agree to sign "Rambo"...

Manchester United have wasted no time in getting down to transfer business following the end of the season with the news that they have agreed terms with Cardiff City for highly rated youngster Aaron Ramsey, 17.

The player shot to prominence when becoming Cardiff City's youngest ever player at just 16 years of age. John Toshack had previously held the record for being the Bluebirds youngest ever player.

The Caerphilly born youngster is a big Ryan Giggs fan. Cardiff manager David Jones and Brian Flynn of Cardiff City are predicting a massive future for the player known as "Rambo".

It's believed that United fought off competition from Arsenal, Everton, Liverpool and Newcastle for the signature of Ramsey.

The fee has yet to be announced but it's likely to be around £5m.

Mark Hughes set to 'shake hands with the devil'?

Manchester United legend Mark Hughes has apparently asked for permission to speak to Manchester City about the vacant manager's position following the bizarre and totally unjustified sacking of Sven-Goran Eriksson.

The Welshman is also being linked with the Chelsea job, but it's thought that Milan manager Carlo Ancelotti could be in the frame for that position, so City seems the more likely destination.

If Hughes accepts either job, you do wonder how long his next term of employment will last, because City owner Thaksin Shinawatra managed to bemuse just about everyone when firing Sven. The Blues had a decent season which culminated in them getting into Europe, albeit through the back door. City played some of the best football seen by their long suffering fans for many a year. The Swede had brought in some fabulous players' like Elano and Petrov, added to which there was the emergence of Michael Johnson and the blossoming of Michah Richards, things weren't that bad.

So why exactly did Thaksin Shinawatra fire Sven? No one knows for sure, but what we do know is in doing so he's become a hire-'em fire-'em owner in short order.

As if being a former United player won't bad enough for many City fans, Hughes will have to overcome the fans hatred of all things connected to the Red Devils. There will always be some who will call him a Munich Red bastard whenever the slightest thing goes wrong.

Marks Hughes teams' do not always play football in a manner that is easy on the eye; first and foremost, they make themselves hard to beat. If Hughes is offered and accepts the job, there's likely to be a marked change from what we saw at Eastlands last season when the Citizens were at their very best. From day one Hughes will have a battle on his hands trying to overcome the deep-rooted insecurities of the City fans, but all the while he will know that the club owner could pull the trigger at any time.

Football has long been a profession where few get time to prove their worth, but with so much more money sloshing around, patience where the manager is concerned is almost unheard these days, in this respect Thaksin Shinawatra has a lot in common with other owners. Nonetheless, you won't find many people agreeing that Sven deserved to go and the decision to fire him was without doubt one of the worst decisions in recent memory - which will no doubt only serve to make the job even harder for Hughes or whoever comes in.

Maybe Hughes has come to the conclusion that wherever he goes, he will be in more or less the same situation, the Blackburn manager may well feel the City job is as good as any that he's likely to be offered in the next few years.

There will always be pros and cons about any new job. At least he will be nearer to home; the drive to work will be shorter. In accepting this job, Hughes will be reducing his carbon footprint.

On transfers, he's likely to be afforded more freedom to buy. However, it's an interesting fact that Hughes has only spent just over £5m net on transfer fees in his four years at Blackburn, given how relatively well Rovers have done this fact alone is a massive plus point on his CV and it's likely to mean that if things go wrong should he "shake hands with the devil" then there's always likely to be another job, but maybe it wont be just around the corner.

Monday, June 02, 2008

United and the perfect season end - football, bloody hell!...

We start at the penultimate weekend of the Premier League season. The tension had been steadily building as we headed towards the last week of a keenly fought title race between United and Chelsea, in all probability it would be decided on the final weekend. It looked like it was going to be a case of TV heaven for Sky and the media in general, but one of the main reasons for choosing this weekend above any of the preceding ones is that I feel I have to highlight some of the comments on BBC 1's Final-Score programme.

United had just comfortably beaten West Ham 4-1, some would argue too comfortably, in an early kick-off and playing the entire second-half with only ten men. Later that day, Wigan beat Aston Villa away, in doing so, guaranteed their status as a Premier League team in what Steve Bruce later described as the best performance by any team under his management.

The expert analysis (sic) predominantly by Garth Crooks, but ably assisted by Martin Keown trotted out several ABU conspiracy theories. First they insinuated that now Wigan were safe and knowing that Fergie is good friends with Steve Bruce, Wigan may just "take their foot off the peddle". As if that wasn't bad enough they went on to say "Steve Bruce may introduce fringe players". It didn't end there with the former professional footballers' weighing-in with a host of other clichés and, quite frankly, scurrilous and defamatory remarks aimed at creating friction between United, Wigan and the rest of the Premier league. Only Lee Dixon, an ex-Arsenal player and self-confessed Manchester City fanatic spoke any sense. Predictably, it wasn't long before the southern based media also latched on to this ridiculous
notion giving Chelsea some ammunition for a readymade excuse.

To anyone that saw Steve Bruce play, they will know that he was and still is the consummate professional. He may still be friends with Sir Alex, but to roll over and let his team die for his old boss - unthinkable and insulting in the extreme. Of course, this didn't stop the ABU press from continual references during the week.

It was a little disappointing that Ferguson should demean himself in response to this nonsense by pointing out that Bolton, Chelsea's final opponents, were in a similar position and some Bolton players had been seen celebrating, in some style, in the trendiest of bars in and around Manchester. To his credit Ferguson also noted that Bolton's assistant manager, Archie Knox is an old friend and colleague and will not tolerate any unprofessionalism within his ranks.

The following day, Chelsea travelled to the grim wastelands of the North East to face a rejuvenated Newcastle side. Some of us Reds (myself included) actually thought that there could be a Chelsea slip-up and Kevin Keegan might just do us a favour. After a close first-half, Chelsea came out and dominated the game - as with all Kevin Keegan teams, if plan A fails, revert to plan A - there's never a plan B. Tactically inept, Newcastle surrendered meekly and Chelsea deservedly won 2-0, setting up Sky's - "Super Sunday". Oh how the money men rubbed their hands in glee. Personally, I was near feeling sick at the thought of another nerve wracking last game of the season. With the tension bubbling nicely and aided by the media, Chelsea and Avram Grant tried to ramp-up the pressure on United and Wigan.

However, the following Sunday only served to show up just what complete and utter tosh Keown and Crookes had been spewing out the previous weekend. Wigan took the fight to United, as expected. Two first-half decisions went in the Reds favour and we cannot deny it. To be fair, on the Ferdinand handball escape, not one Wigan player appealed and even after a number of television replays, it looked as though the ball had hit his shoulder. Only when they enlarged the pixels did it become clear, we'd got away with it at 0-0. The second decision in our favour needed no replays, Scholesie did yet another Scholesie tackle and should have walked - end of story. The fact that he didn't led to another controversy when Titus Bramble clearly took Scholes's legs away in the area but no penalty was awarded - poetic justice? Perhaps!

We know the outcome, United won 2-0, Giggs coming on to score with around ten minutes to go to ease the nerves and start the celebrations. In truth, Wigan only troubled the Reds once in the second-half when Heskey headed just over the bar. Andy Gray claimed that the only reason he failed to score was because he headed it with the wrong side of his head - which now begs the question, "is Heskey right headed or left headed"? Andy, you were a great player but you don't half talk some sh**e. Gray had also suggested that when Giggs collected the ball that he might have been in an offside position - but the TV replays clearly showed the Welshman was a good three yards onside. Is Andy Gray going blind as well as bald?

Meanwhile at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea conceded a late, late equaliser to ensure, not only did United become undisputed Champions by two clear points but any pre-written, pre-recorded media contrived excuses from the Chelsea camp were quickly discarded as humble pie was served cold around the country, and in particular in West London - the conspiracy theories were last seen floating along the sluice-line of football excuses close to our very own "grey shirt" fiasco of '96.

As for Keown, Crookes and a host of Gin soaked hacks, Steve Bruce, Wigan Athletic and Manchester United are awaiting some form of apology. I suppose they'll use some circumlocution to wrangle out of it and hope that the public's memory is as short as their own - there's a fan here that isn't so forgiving.

So, Champions again, the sun was shining in Manchester as opposed to the Wigan monsoon. We returned home and the real celebrations began in earnest - the fact that Manchester City had contrived to lose 8-1 to a Middlesbrough team that had failed to score more than two goals in any game this season, just added to the overall merriment.

Moving swiftly on to the following Wednesday - another day of significance but for different reasons. I went to Old Trafford to pick up my Champions League Final Ticket. I also went into the Megastore to buy a DVD of "last season's triumphant team" (I can highly recommend this). I was met with a wall of Glasgow Rangers fans', in and out of the store. They'd obviously come to Old Trafford because:- A) to compensate for their pathetic support in the Champions League group stages of a few years back when we were told to expect 15,000 ticketless fans to descend on Manchester - we're still waiting and B) they were on some sort of pilgrimage to see a real football stadium, with history and glory. Actually, they were quite pleasant and I enjoyed talking to some of them. There also a couple of dozen Russian fans
in the store buying souvenirs to take back to St Petersburg.

The downside of our city hosting a European final was, of course, the incredible numbers of Rangers supporters, from all corners of the globe arriving with absolutely no chance of a sniff of a ticket. Word has it that some Man City fans got rich that day. Estimates claim there were 200,000 Rangers in and around the city. Another gross estimation? Whatever, there were a hell of a lot of them. As with anything football related, the small minority destroys any goodwill shown by the vast majority. United, probably more than any other team, have suffered from this in the past, both at home and abroad.

When a large TV screen broke down at the Piccadilly Gardens Fan Zone, a group of 15 -250 Rangers fans went on the rampage causing untold damage and trouble along Market, Oldham, Cross and Newton streets. How that copper isn't in intensive care or even worse, is more out of luck than judgement - the close circuit images are as horrific as any I've seen... Quite simply, the Rangers' fans' involved were a disgrace to their club, their city and their team. The fact that they were angry (understatement of the year) because of the screen shutdown cuts no ice either - Manchester City Council immediately provided a free bus service to the Velodrome - there was an estimated 20,000 fans that took advantage of this but it was too late, the damage had been done.

The following day, the aftermath and the Council, never backward in cancelling something that may cost money, announced that any civic reception for the Reds', should they become triumphant in Moscow, will not now take place. I wonder if the same Council will also cancel this year's annual, money motivated and hugely profitable, "Gay Carnival" due to the same reasons? The Town Hall Gaylords will no doubt ensure that the show goes ahead...

The subsequent interviews with Rangers fans were a mixed response, some were understandably shocked and shamed whilst others blamed Manchester - "not big enough to host a football game of such magnitude". This, a city that has held a European Champions League final, European Championships, World Cup qualifiers and a host of other international matches, the Commonwealth games, numerous football matches of gargantuan importance, test Cricket and untold Championship World boxing bouts - try again. How about this old chestnut? -"The riot police over-reacted". Oh yeh! Try behaving like that in Paris or Rome (or even Istanbul) and then complain about the GMP.

The Rangers fans' that missed the game are the lucky ones. They put on a show so abject in imagination and style it was, at times embarrassing. The Russians were far superior in every department and fully deserved to win. It also has to be pointed out that, despite the Council House being packed with the Rangers blue, there were large parts of the game when the 9,000 Zenit fans out chanted the 'Gers.

Rangers then went on to lose the Scottish league to Celtic in almost Devon Lockesque fashion. An unassailable lead, with games in hand just a few weeks ago, was whittled away by Gordon Strachan's men. I've got no affinity with Celtic whatsoever but I couldn't help developing a wry smile when I heard the results.

Footnote to this fiasco. UEFA, God bless 'em, say that they cannot comment or act on the actions of Rangers supporters. They will however, have an enquiry as to how a dozen or so Zenit supporters "invaded" the pitch at the end of the game. Ostrich like mentality from the suits at UEFA again.

Can you remember the day when the Saturday of the FA Cup final was eagerly awaited by the Nation? Perhaps it was because it was the only live game, with the exception of a few internationals. Nowadays, unless you've got a vested interest in one of the teams, it's just another game, and, I may add, due to the semi-finals also being held at Wembley, slightly devalued.

This seasons FA cup final came and went without me giving it much thought or attention despite the BBC attempting to "over-hype" the occasion to which they failed completely. It would have been nice - STOP. There you have it? I've just used the worst adjective known to man - nice. Nice is a word you use when you don't care about the outcome. If I ever told my Missus she looked "nice" I'd be in line for one hell of a bollocking. I was going to say it would have been nice (oops) for Cardiff to beat Portsmouth but the only reason I was hoping for this was that I couldn't bear the thought of that smug, 'Cockney-wide-boy', Redknapp becoming a kind of "cause celebre" even in his 15 minutes of fame.

In the end the actual game was so low profile it barely warranted more than
a few minutes air-time on the Saturday nights Television news programmes.
As for Old Harry basking in glory? One could witness this if desired as it was
continually shown on Sky Sports news the following day. That, is of course,
if you're some kind of masochist. It was possible to avoid his cockney
smugness - I succeeded admirably

I'm not going to comment on my trip to Moscow and the final, that's for
another day and Blog. Needless to say, it's going to be a big one.

Just when you thought football couldn't possibly get any better - Joey
Barton gets six months. I mean, you couldn't make it up, could you? The
last we heard was that Michael Shields had become his pad mate bitch and
they listened to the Champions League Final, huddled together after lights
out, in tears. It's bulls**t, of course - but a great image for all
discerning Reds'.

The play-offs also provided some more Red merriment. Firstly, Hull got promoted to the Premier League with victory over Bristol City. Fraizer Campbell, on-loan from United looks an extremely good prospect and has done all season. He scored a scorcher in a pre-season game for United at Glentoran. My selfish reason for the Hull triumph however, is not the oft quoted statistic that Hull is the largest city in Europe never to have had a team in the top flight, it's because I'm, and I'll admit it, a bit of an anorak when it comes to new grounds. Been to the old Boothferry Park and Ashton Gate when we were languishing in the old Second Division and the KC Stadium is another one to "tick off the list". Never been to Stoke City's Britannia Stadium either, so two ticks next season. Dear God, I've just realised how sad that sounds.

As for the 'Fallen Giants', our old friends from over the hill, Leeds. They were stitched up from the word go. All other teams falling into administration have been deducted 10 points, then why oh why were they deducted 15? Surely during the appeal they lodged towards the end of the season should have seen reason and the FA could and should have given them, at least 5 points back ensuring automatic promotion in second place? STOP AGAIN. This game was not about the failure of Leeds, it's a success story about one of the most remarkable turnarounds in English football. A little over ten years ago, Doncaster Rovers were in danger of going out of business altogether. They dropped out of the football league and had a chairman so dodgy he got put down for arson, when he set fire to the main stand in an insurance scam. I don't profess to know the situation of just how the club turned itself around but, I'm pretty certain that it was with the help of the local council - perhaps this is a blueprint for other smaller teams. Congratulations, Doncaster.

As for Leeds? I shed no tears for them - would any Red? The attitude of Ken Bates when the appeal failed was nothing short of disgraceful and immature. Mr Bates has to be the most loathsome man in football, he and Leeds deserve each other - a marriage made in heaven (or is it hell?). I've despised Leeds ever since I saw them, hack, argue, harangue the referee, time waste and use their general obnoxiousness to the utmost effect in a Semi Final Second Replay against us at Bolton in 1970 (incidentally, the last time we lost an FA Cup Semi Final). After winning 1-0, the hideous, late Billy Bremner (he was always late), scoring after five or so minutes. The papers the following morning hailed Leeds as the super professionals. I've never forgiven them and never will. Unfortunately, I don't think they languish in, c'mon, let's give its true title, the THIRD DIVISION for long - even City managed to escape after one season.

And finally... The last play-off - the first Manchester Derby at Wembley. North versus South, Rochdale v Stockport. Rochdale famous for Gracie Fields, pie and peas and that the town's football team hold the record for the longest consecutive stay in the bottom division (34 years and counting, I think).

The more local Stockport had a brief flirtation in the upper leagues and with some of the big boys a few years ago but massive under investment, asset stripping and Brian Kennedy's love for anything connected with Sale Sharks soon saw County return from whence they came, so much so that only two years ago, they needed a result from the last game of the season to stay in the football league. In the early '90s Stockport actually reached Wembley, in one guise or another, four times in three seasons and narrowly lost all four games.

By all accounts both teams were a credit and produced the best and exciting of all the play-off finals. Stockport were ultimately victorious winning by the odd goal in five, so justice was done, they were the only team to beat all the top three of the division at their own grounds and finished fourth doing the league double of Rochdale in the process. In addition to this, I really love Stockport fans - the ones I have met are humorous in the extreme (I suppose you have to be) and claim to have more original songs than any other team in the country (or is it the world?) either way, I don't dispute it.

So a perfect end to a perfect season. Need to recharge my batteries and my bank balance in preparation for next season's inevitable season-ticket price-hike.

Hope football fans of any persuasion (with the exception of Leeds) enjoyed my little rant. I always like to hear, and even value some, of the opinions of true match going fans. Keep the comments coming.

Until next season, "Football, Bloody Hell"

Petebug 2008

Red hot striker on way in?

Fresh reports have been linking the Champions of Europe with a £30m raid for Lyon's Karim Benzema. The 20-year-old is one of the top striker's on the continent and he impressed against the Reds in the Champions League this season.

The player, who is of Algerian descent, recently signed a one year extension on his current deal which takes him to 2013, but should United press home their reported interest with a £30m bid for the player, Lyon will find it hard to resist.

Karim Benzema certainly fits the bill, he's young, he was the Player of The Year in France, he can play as a lone striker or on the wing and he has pace. United could even try to offload Saha in part-exchange.

Note: The video above is best viewed with the volume turned down...

Fergie right to back the Glazer regime over Ronaldo future?

United's double winning manager has once again come out and praised the Glazer family stating that they are 'brilliant owners'. It's by no means the first time that Fergie has been very supportive towards his paymasters and on the future of Cristiano Ronaldo he's been very clear on the club's American owners' position.

According to Ferguson, the Glazer family would sit Ronaldo in the stand rather than sell him to Real Madrid. It's a bold claim especially as the Spanish club could be about to dangle a reported £70m in front of them for the Reds' star player.

Some pundits are saying that the Ronaldo saga is the Glazers’ first real test - in some ways it is, but even those who do not agree with the club's worrying financial position (£794m in the Red) will find it hard to argue that if a player really wants out there's not a lot you can do other than to eventually sell. So United and their owners are in a very tricky situation - it's not as if the Glazer family have been trying to offload the player behind Fergie's back.

I personally hold the view that Fergie has told the Glazers' and David Gill, CEO that his own future hinges on retaining Ronaldo; it is the key to him staying with the club for a further three years. It could be viewed as quite a clever move by Fergie, because by publicly stating the Glazers' position, United's owners have no room to manoeuvre - the spotlight is on them now and by coming out in such a manner Fergie has said "do not dare think about selling Ronaldo behind my back"...

On the wider issue of publicly supporting the Glazer family, at least we know where Fergie stands and even those who are totally opposed to the current debt laden regime cannot deny what the team has achieved under Fergie over the last few seasons. But only over time will we be fully able to judge the Glazers' legacy.

Fergie says that United are now worth £1.3 billion, that is a totally hypothetical figure, it sounds good, but who will pay the asking price? The theory goes that these new owners' aren't interested in generating profit, they are just looking to cash-in further down the line, but there are few Roman Ambramovich's in this world.

If the Glazers' sell the club on for a huge profit coupled with United continuing to win trophies then perhaps Fergie will be able look back and say that he was right to back them all along. If however, the US credit crunch hits home and the debt situation gets out of control there could well be trouble ahead for the Champions of Europe.

Whatever the future holds we won’t be able to turn round and say that Fergie sat on the fence over the Glazer family.