Sunday, January 31, 2010

Forget about City, Rooney needs to deliver against Arsenal....

Thank god United put City back in the shadows where they belong. In the aftermath of what was an excellent Carling Cup semi-final victory in midweek, most of the plaudits have gone to Wayne Rooney. Ferguson described Rooney as world class. The truth is Rooney didn't play that well against City, in the first-half he was starved of decent service; this was totally down to United playing too many long balls.

City could have been two-nil up before United scored. The cup holder’s standout player on the night, wasn't Rooney, nor was it Fletcher, who was also given high praise, no, in point of fact it was the proverbial black-sheep that is Nani.

Rooney missed a sitter and could have put the tie to bed not long after Carrick had given United lead. But it was Rooney who won the tie in added time from a quite brilliant Ryan Giggs cross, so good the United striker would have found it difficult to miss the target.

So let's get things in perspective: Ferguson, who was quite understandably overjoyed at knocking out City, was so relieved United had won that he went on to overstate the part Rooney had played in that victory.

Later today United take on Arsenal at the Emirates. Both clubs cannot afford to drop points with Chelsea winning away at Burnley, in so doing extending their lead at the top of the table to four points.

Questions are being asked about Rooney, most notably: will he be able to maintain the form that has so far seen him net 19 league goals for the remainder of the season? On this morning’s Sunday Supplement, Bryan Woolnough asked will Rooney be able to maintain that form until the end of England's summer World Cup campaign? Many United fans' won't give a stuff about the latter... but it's fair to ask if Ferguson is expecting too much from his only genuine world-class striker.

It isn't stretching things too far to suggest if Rooney is out for any length of time, for whatever reason, then United will be badly affected and this is why Ferguson really needed to strengthen his forward options. The fact that Ferguson has failed to make any significant recent signings is down to several factors. One of them could well be the lack of transfer funds. Some finance experts say Fergie can only spend if the club borrows yet more money.

However, following on from renewed speculation about lack of transfer funds and the future ownership of the club, CEO, David Gill has gone on record stating there is money to spend if Ferguson wants it. In fact, Gill went further by hinting strongly that the reason United haven't made any big moves is purely down to the manager.

According to Gill, the club tabled an offer of £35m for Karim Benzema who instead elected to join Real Madrid for a fee of £40m. Ferguson's opinion, we are told is the player wasn't worth the money, which is consistent with what the manager has hinted at publicly.

On the face it Ferguson and Gill are in harmony with regards to transfer funds; but United are playing a dangerous game relying on just one striker. Sooner or later United will have to spend and spend big. Then and only then will we see if Gill and Ferguson will be able to backup their words with action in the transfer market. Until then we have to hope Rooney continues to score goals, remains injury free and out of trouble starting with Arsenal today.

United fans CAN force Glazers out: but only if they pull together....

The movement to oust the debt laden Glazer regime is gathering pace with news that city banker and United fan, Keith Harris, has been talking to the Manchester United Supporters Trust about forming alliances with fan groups and a wealthy group of investors known as the 'Red Knights'.

The chairman of Seymour Pierce brokered the Thaksin Shinawatra takeover of Manchester City. Given his record and financial connections, Harris is well placed to lead what will hopefully turn out to be a powerful consortium that will include supporters' groups and wealthy backers.

Harris acknowledges that much will depend on the Glazers willingness to listen, but ominously for the Glazers, and as unpalatable as it is, if the fans' want to see the back of the club's American owners, then it is likely to rest on the actions of the supporters'.

The choice facing the Manchester United match-going fan is likely to be stark but clear: give up your season ticket or else carry on supporting the team and the Glazer debts as the club slides into oblivion.

Even if Harris and his backers fail to bring the Glazers to the negotiating table in the next few months, it is likely that fans' can expect massive season ticket price increases. United have for the first time since the takeover struggled to sell tickets for home games - someone is going to have to make up the shortfall and it won't be the Glazers.

The club have become so desperate to sell tickets for some games that they have resorted to telephoning supporters on an individual basis. Earlier this week, local bookmaker and big United fan, Fred Done, was talking to Radio 5 Live in a phone-in on the state of footballs' finances.

Done has supported United since he was a boy and says he is worried: United's former bookmaker of choice says the corporate suites are half empty and he went on to talk about the empty spaces in the stands at some recent home games.

The club's pulling power and the fans' ability to fill Old Trafford has always traditionally always been a matter of pride. We have collectively frowned on lesser 'tin-pot' clubs with part-time supporters like Manchester City. To stop following United for a season would be a bitter pill to swallow, but it could be worth it in the long-term interest of the club.

Over the course of the last two weeks, there has been growing murmurings that in a bid to force change, supporters will be asked to stop doing the very thing, many of them love the most in life, that is to stop going to Old Trafford.

Hopefully, it won't come to that because if sense prevails and if the Red Knights consortium and various fan groups can pull together to quickly bring the owners to the negotiating table, and importantly, a viable a deal that will work, then everyone with the best interest of the club at heart can pull together as one.

Realistically, given the amounts involved, the chances of bringing the Glazers to negotiation before the start of next season have to be slim. For now, all supporters of Manchester United and especially season ticket holders will have to listen to MUST and Harris. One thing is for certain, given the levels of unchecked toxic debts that include interest rates of over 14%, which have not been dealt with following the recent £500m bond issue, the club is still very much in danger.

The fans will need to pull together like never before and there might well be no other option but to vote with your feet.

Join MUST Today.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Carling Cup: United put City in their place, but for how long?

In the end there was no doubt, even the most die-hard bitter blue would surely concede that United deserved to win the Carling Cup semi. The Red Devils were cheated out of probable victory in the first-leg by referee Mike Dean, who wrongly awarded City a penalty and a dubious second-half corner, both decisions led to goals for the Blues who ran out 2-1 winners on the night.

In last night's second leg tie at Old Trafford justice was thankfully done as United eventually won out 3-1, thanks to goals by Scholes, Carrick and Wayne Rooney. It's fair to say City looked the more likely to score until Scholes broke the deadlock seven minutes into the second period. But prior to that, much of United's play left a lot to be desired; on far too many first-half occasions Van der Sar and Ferdinand booted the ball up front in the manner of a Sunday League pub team, not surprisingly, this left isolated Wayne Rooney battling for lost causes.

Matters were not helped by the manager who started with an over cautious 4-5-1; this when United were behind in the tie. It's debatable why Fergie felt the need to start with just Rooney up front; was it because of his lack of faith in his striker options, or lack of faith in the central midfield players at his disposal? The answer is probably a bit of both.

For their part, until United scored the all important equaliser, City looked comfortable at the back and more dangerous up front. Once again it was former Reds' star Carlos Tevez who was taking the eye; he was causing more problems than his opposite number Wayne Rooney. Tevez could easily have scored with a low dipping header that had Van der Sar scrambling to his far post. At one point the Argentine took on Ferdinand and Evans and broke through the champions last-line of defence, but thankfully he was stopped in his tracks before he had time to pull the trigger. Just after half-time Micah Richards brought a fine save out of Van der Sar.

United were most certainly not having it all their own way; Fletcher, Scholes and Carrick were not dominating midfield, there was far too many long balls and this more any other reason was why the Carling Cup holders could not retain possession. Giggs was being kept in check by Richards and the only United player who looked capable of opening up the visitors' was United's man of the match Nani.

It took a bit of good fortune for United to open the scoring, but much credit should go to Ryan Giggs who'd burst into the City penalty area following a powerful run down United's right, the Welshman found Nani, who in turn lost the ball, but the bounce was kind as it fell to the feet of Carrick who picked out Scholes and he made no mistake, but his effort took a slight deflection on its way into the rigging.

United then had City on the rack for 20 minutes and took control of the tie following great link-up play between Nani and Fletcher, and once again the damage was done down United's right. Fletcher turned and controlled the ball in one movement, only to see his shot blocked by the impressive Boyota, but the Scot then found Carrick who drove his shot low and hard into the corner giving Shay Given no chance.

Just two minutes later Rooney should have killed the tie when he was put clean through on goal, this time following a brilliant move down United's left flank, but Rooney contrived to miss the target completely.

Somehow City clawed their way back into the tie with a goal that was against the run of play and once again it was Tevez who did the damage following neat build up that involved substituted Adebayor. Ferdinand was marking the Argentine, but he managed get himself in front of the England defender as the ball was played into the United penalty area. Tevez flicked the ball goal-wards and beat Van der Sar too easily at his near post. The Dutch keeper went down in instalments; it was like watching a tree being felled and in the view expert studio pundit Terry Venables, Ferdinand had been beaten too easily. The England defender wasn't on his toes and this allowed Tevez to get to the ball first.

Given got lucky (again) late on when making a save from Carrick that he simply couldn't have seen - it was a case of right place, right time. Nonetheless, Given looks like a better 'keeper than anything United have right now.

But thankfully justice was finally done and once again a United winning goal against City came in added time. Ryan Giggs was the provider and again it came from the champions’ right flank. The Welshman's cross invited someone to head it, thankfully the man on the end of it was Wayne Rooney and he made no mistake. The luck of the Irish was never going to be enough to deny United and Rooney who in the end thoroughly deserved to win through to another Wembley final.

In the wake of what was an excellent contest between the two Manchester clubs, there has been a lot to reflect on. The general consensus, even among die-hard Reds', is that it is only a matter of time before City win a trophy; they cannot fail with the money and subsequent power at the manager's disposal.

However, during the two semi-finals, it was evident that Mancini had adopted a somewhat cautious approach, probably in a bid to improve City's defending. But in the second-leg at Old Trafford, City didn't respond when they conceded and it took a goal out of the blue for them to get back in the game.

Time will tell how long Roberto Mancini will be given in charge, but already there's talk he is only a stop-gap appointment. The word is City fancy Guus Hiddink. You also wonder about City's chief executive, Gary Gook, who went on record earlier this week in New York predicting not only that City would win through to the final, but that they'd also beat United for a second time. Cook looks like a cock now, and it isn't for the first time is it?

IF City continue their hire 'em fire 'em managerial policy, and after all it was that long ago they sacked Sven and then Hughes, then you also wonder if this will come back to bite them on the backside and in turn this could affect their chances of winning silverware.

The media is today awash with theories that United's biggest battles with City are yet to come and that just perhaps this will give Ferguson good reason to put back his retirement date. We can only speculate what will happen in the future, but if we keep on being treated to derbies of the quality we've seen so far this season, then that has to be good. Down the years, derbies between United and City have often fallen well below expectations; you cannot say that about this season.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Ferguson's 'money to spend' claims will soon be put to the test...

United are in the process of making their first signing of the January transfer window, no disrespect, but few will have heard of Chris Smelling prior to this week. It could well turn out to be another masterstroke signing by the manager - only time will tell if the Fulham defender will go on to prove he is worthy of wearing a United shirt.

However, with so much concern about the future of Manchester United in relation to the club's massive debts and with speculation surrounding the future of several big star names, sooner or later Ferguson is going to have backup his claims that he has money to spend by making several impact signings.

United are not renowned for making significant signings in the January transfer window, but it's true that Ferguson signed Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra back in January 2006 and the following year he swooped for Henrik Larsson in the same month.

The current season has been blighted by injuries to key defenders, so much so that Rio Ferdinand's future at the top level is being questioned. For slightly different reasons the future of fans' favourite Nemanja Vidic has also been the subject to speculation, but in his case it is amidst claims that Ferguson is resigned to losing the Serbian to Real Madrid this summer.

The official line is Vidic currently out with a ’nerve injury', but you do wonder if the manager has seen his backside with the player and has subsequently sent him to Coventry. It's well documented that no one crosses Ferguson; those that do quickly find themselves heading out of the Old Trafford exit door. Even big stars like Roy Keane and Ruud Van Nistelrooy were victims of that fate.

Nani recently spoke to the press about the way he's been 'treated' by the manager, not surprisingly, he too has been out on the sidelines, again we have been told he has been injured, but it would surprise no one if in this case the word 'injury' is in fact a euphemism for being dropped due to what the manager views as indiscretions. Nani's appearances are becoming more and more limited, his is a proverbial bit-part player, it is surely just a matter of time before he is sold.

The future of Wayne Rooney has also been questioned and the player has been linked to Real Madrid and Barcelona. The fans' have grown wary of denials from rivals and star players alike; surely no one needs reminding of the Ronaldo saga and so we cannot totally rule out that Rooney could be sold - especially given the Glazer family are desperately trying to keep their debt laden ship afloat.

But for the sale of Ronaldo and subsequent banking of that £80m transfer fee, United would have made a loss last season. Having already been knocked out of the FA Cup and possibly the Carling Cup too depending on tonight's result, the picture isn't looking too rosy on the domestic cup front.

It remains to be seen how the season will pan out; the chances of United winning either the Premier League or Champions League pretty much rest on the shoulders of Rooney up front and a defence that has been nothing short of calamitous of late. United badly need Vidic and Ferdinand to return to full fitness and only then will they stand any chance of securing one of the big prizes.

As for Ferguson and his dubious claims about money to spend, the manager will not be able to get by with 'make do' signings if Vidic is sold and Ferdinand fails to recover from his continued injury problems.

Selling Rooney is at this moment in time unthinkable. But with so many problems in the back four, not to mention central midfield and the lack of support for Rooney up front, Ferguson will sooner or later have to spend big or else come clean and admit his hands are tied. The manager has so far done a good job for his paymasters, but what many fans' see as a charade on behalf of Ferguson and his continued 'money to spend claims' could well soon come to a crashing end. The clock is ticking, and in more ways than one.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Fergie needs to pipe down over fans' Glazer campaign and concentrate on his job...

On the day that United thumped Hull City 4-0 at Old Trafford and went back to the top of Premier League (albeit because it was the only league fixture following the club's embarrassing FA Cup exit at the hands of Leeds United) Ferguson made the mistake of using his programme notes to tell the fans' to support the team and forget about the Glazers' and the club's massive debts. It simply isn't going to happen, because many United fans rightly have concerns about the long-term future of the club.

For whatever reason, Ferguson has adopted an Ostrich like mentality, when appearing to defend the actions of the Glazers', who this week have been described as 'leeches' following revelations about money being taken out of the club.

Ferguson says he believes the vast majority of fans' are behind the team; on this point his is right, ALL the fans' are behind the team, but many are totally against the Glazer regime.

The manager says our rivals' will be delighted if we are split. He's is wrong, very wrong, because ALL right thinking football fans' are concerned about the massive debts heaped upon the club by the Glazer family. Debts that left unchecked will squeeze the life out of Manchester United.

No one can question the job Ferguson has done at United, his record is second to none. Even under the present financial constraints the team is riding high in the Premier League.

Sadly, as far as many fans' are concerned, regarding off the field affairs the manager has let himself down badly. His tacit approval of the Glazer family takeover and his unqualified support is viewed by many supporters' as a black stain on his time at United.

You don't have to be a United supporter to appreciate the mess the club is in. Here we have a club that turns over huge amounts of cash yet it is the most indebted club in the world. The old PLC board didn't want the Glazer family and neither did many of the fans'.

Ahead of last weekend's fixture with Burnley, supporters' groups MUST (Manchester United Supporters Trust) and IMUSA (Independent Manchester United Supporters Association) held a meeting to discuss a plan of action in a bid to do something about Glazer. A well known supporter called for Ferguson to resign, but MUST were keen to point out that Johnny Flaks, former IMUSA chairman, was entitled to his opinion. The predictable press reports that followed led to MUST stating very clearly Flaks wasn't speaking on behalf of supporter groups.

During the Burnley game, the fans' held aloft an anti Glazer banner - not for the first time, it was confiscated by club 'stewards'. One idea that is gathering pace is to wear the club's old Newton Heath colours of Green and Gold. There was around 1,000 shirts and scarves visible at yesterday's game.

There has also been renewed calls for fans' to vote with their feet and not renew season tickets when the time comes. For many this form of action will no doubt be a step too far, but if enough United fans took this drastic action we would soon be rid of the Glazer family.

The anti Glazer campaign is likely to gather pace and this blog is in full support of all forms of action.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

United undone by Mike Dean, but Tevez war of words backfires...

Defeat in any derby is hard to take, but when you've lost because the referee made controversial decisions that led directly to conceding goals it makes it even harder. That was what happened at Eastlands last night as United, who had taken an early lead, went on to lose the first-leg of the Carling Cup semi-final with City.

Mike Dean was in charge of a Manchester derby for the first time and he failed the test miserably when awarding a spot-kick against Rafael for holding on to Craig Bellamy's shirt. TV replays clearly showed the Brazilian had let go of the Welshman's shirt outside of the United penalty box. Bellamy went down and Dean pointed to the spot which led to Carlos Tevez thumping home an equaliser that they did not deserve. It was a very poor decision, especially as the referee was perfectly positioned. Dean has no excuse; if United go on to lose this semi-final, it will be a stain on his CV. If an official cannot get the big decisions right in such circumstances then he should not be given the big games in future.

Ryan Giggs had put United into a deserved early lead from close-range after excellent work by Valencia on the right. The Ecuadorian was a thorn in City's side all night, a pity that he was eventually replaced by Michael Owen, but at that point United were chasing the game.

United went behind following yet more controversy from Mike Dean, this time when awarding City a controversial corner midway through the second-half. According to Dean, the ball had taken a deflection off Rafael, but no one was sure, not even, Craig Bellamy, who wasn't on his own in thinking it was goal-kick; Bellamy had to ask Dean for clarification, and no doubt to his surprise the corner was given.

City took the lead from that resulting corner when unmarked Carlos Tevez headed home from inside the six-yard box. United had not defended City's corners well all night long and the central defensive partnership of Brown and Evans simply isn't good enough, the pair of them were all over the place on City's second goal.

As bad as United's defending was from set pieces, it doesn't alter the fact that "Dean vision" had played its part in the champions conceding again. Dean needs to book himself into Specsavers at the earliest opportunity.

Contrary to the post-match views of Roberto Mancini, Manchester City did not dominate this semi-final; without the intervention of Mike Dean, United would have surely gone on to win, added to which Shay Given ran Tevez close for the Man-of-the-match award, which speaks volumes about this cup-tie.

United's defence is a long way from its collective best and you wonder what will happen in the second-leg next week. Carlos Tevez played like a man on a mission - as he almost always does. Much is being made about Ferguson's and Neville's pre-match comments about the former United striker.

At the weekend in a newspaper column Neville, appeared to back his manager when hinting Tevez wasn't worth his £25m asking price, but the Argentine has nearly doubled £30m Berbatov's goal tally this season...

United have the chance to redeem themselves in the second-leg, but you do wonder if lady luck is about to smile on trophyless City, because clearly United only lost the first-leg thanks to Mike Dean, that and an inspired performance by Shay Given in City's goal.

In the aftermath of what was a decent contest, Gary Neville has been caught appearing to give a proverbial 'one fingered salute' to Tevez; it was an act that wasn't spotted by BBCs TV cameras. For his part, Carlos Tevez made an equally provocative gesture towards the United bench when cupping his ears after scoring - the difference being everyone clearly saw it. Who will the FA punish, Tevez or Neville? No prizes for the correct answer...

City started this childish banter with that dubious "Welcome to Manchester" poster campaign, but in the interest of well being, it would be wise if all concerned put an end to it. Isn't ill-feeling bad enough between both sets of fans already without this nonsense?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Three nil win over Burnley flatters shocking United...

On the same day that United were playing Burnley, champions elect, Chelsea, were destroying Sunderland at Stamford Bridge, it finished up 7-2 and the score-line didn't flatter Carlo Ancelotti's team. In sharp contrast at Old Trafford, but for some poor finishing by Steven Fletcher and David Nugent, Manchester United, could easily have lost for the second time this season against the Lancashire minnows.

Manchester United's defence was lucky not to concede and on three occasions as the home side was once again caught out down the middle. A better team than Burnley would have taken all three points. In the post-match press conference Mike Phelan admitted United could have been embarrassed if Burnley's finishing had been better.

It's true that United are missing the influence of Vidic and Ferdinand, but disturbingly, Ferguson persists with selecting Gary Neville, when he has Rafael, who is by far the better option. United's back four is being caught out of position too often at present and experienced players like Brown and Neville are consistently found wanting.

Nugent exposed Neville's lack of pace in one of those 'no hiding place' foot races and once the Burnley forward turned on the after-burners the United fullback was left in his wake - to the relief of the champions, and especially the veteran defender, the former Portsmouth and Spurs striker failed to beat Van der Sar.

Burnley had three good chances before United eventually took the lead through Berbatov. The Bulgarian had earlier hit the post when he was unlucky not to score following a quick turn inside the box, but his shot shaved the outside of the post. When the opening goal eventually arrived, there was more than a touch of good fortune about it as it came off Brian Jensen's legs. Nonetheless, there was good link up play between Rooney and Berbatov in the build-up on the edge of the Burnley penalty area.

Rooney doubled United's advantage and kept his tally for the season ticking over and substitute Diouf came on and scored his first goal for the club on his home debut with a clever looping header from just inside the Burnley penalty area. It's far too early to make any judgements about the merits of the United's latest signing. That isn't the case as far as Nani is concerned; the Portuguese winger has been to put it mildly, a shocking waste of money. We have been told the former Sporting Lisbon star has been out injured, but there's a suspicion he's been dropped for carping to the press about the way he's been treated by Ferguson. The shop window is currently open and that probably explains Nani's inclusion in Saturday's starting line-up. In point of fact, Nani was about as much use as an ashtray on a motorbike.

The win leaves United in second place in the table, a point behind Chelsea who have a game in hand. On current form, the champions will win nothing this season, there's too many problems at the back and not enough quality up front.

The champions were deservedly beaten at home by Villa in December, they were deservedly knocked out of the FA Cup by lowly Leeds United and on Saturday, Burnley, could easily have taken United's scalp for the second time this season.

The worry for United fans' and Ferguson, is that United are being found out at home against opposition that normally would have been brushed aside with ease in season's gone by. What, one wonders, will happen when the champions take on Arsenal later this month in what is likely to be a real test? The fans' will hoping the players' and manager will rise to that challenge. One thing is for certain, if United keep on defending like a Sunday League pub team - as they have been of late - then we could well be on the end of some thumping defeats when the Champions League resumes.

On Tuesday, United travel to Eastlands to face rival's Manchester City in the first leg of the Carling Cup semi-final. If United defend in the same sloppy manner of late they will undoubtedly be on the wrong end of a rout and if that happens it will be interesting to see how the rest of the season unfolds. One has the feeling the Carling Cup semi-final's could turn out to be pivotal. If United knock City out, it could well give the team the confidence to go forward, but should they lose badly then the defensive frailties that have been exposed by Villa, Fulham, Leeds and Burnley will have the opposite effect and the loss of confidence could well sweep through the dressing room and if that happens United's season could implode.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Glazers 'milking' United, but Fergie insists he has money to spend...

It was only last week that Ferguson told the world he still has the Ronaldo money to spend on new players. A week later and those claims look even more laughable following publication of the latest set of accounts from Red Football, the company owned by the Glazer family who in turn own United. Those accounts reportedly confirm that the Glazer family and their 'affiliates' have troused a cool £10m for 'management and administration fees"' plus another £10m in loans taken out by six members of the Glazer family. You wonder what Fergie makes of it all.

Full story

Monday, January 11, 2010

United make a profit, but only after selling best player...

Manchester United have announced pre-tax profits of £48m for the year ending 30th June, 2009. However, if it wasn't for the fact that Ronaldo was sold to Real Madrid last summer for £80m, then the club would have made a loss of over £30m. The news comes on the back of the Glazers' attempts to refinance their massive debts with the issue of a £500m bond.

While everyone connected with United has major concerns about the debts heaped upon United by the Glazer family following their heavily leveraged acquisition of the club, the fans’ won't want to see the likes of Wayne Rooney being sold in the future in a bid to balance the books.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Lack of quality costing champions dearly, as 'clear-out' talk surfaces...

United travelled to St Andrews last night and dominated one of only two Premier League games that managed to beat the big freeze. Despite the difficult conditions it was decent playing surface as the champions went on to enjoy the lion’s share of first-half possession. But despite controlling the game United could not make the vital breakthrough. Wayne Rooney was guilty of failing to beat Joe Hart when put clean through on goal midway through the opening period, in fairness it was a good save by Joe Hart.

While Birmingham appeared to be happy to soak up United's almost constant pressure, unlike the Blues defence, when the champions back-four was eventually called into action they failed the test miserably as they somehow managed to concede what was a sloppy goal scored by Cameron Jerome just before half-time following a poor attempted clearance by Jonny Evans.

Going into the interval there was a feeling of injustice, but in all honesty it was all so very predictable given that United haven't been able to defend for toffee when they've been without 'want-away' Nemanja Vidic at the heart of the defence.

The champions eventually got what they deserved when they equalised in the second half, but it when it arrived it was an own goal scored by Scott Dann. The equaliser came about after yet more good work by Atonio Valencia, who was by some distance United's star man on the night. Valencia has been playing consistently well of late and he is one of the few who came out with any credit following last weekend's humiliating FA Cup defeat at the hands of Leeds United.

Darren Fletcher was harshly sent-off for his second yellow card of the night; referee Mark Clattenburg clearly made a big mistake when booking the Scot for the second time...

Overall, United were once again hugely disappointing in all departments; the back four looks about a solid as a bowl of rice pudding, the midfield was guilty of failing to prise open Birmingham's well organised defence and Fergie started with just Rooney up top and that didn't work either. In fact, apart from dominating the possession, it wasn't a good performance at all. United have a record of coming on strong in the second half of the season, but there was precious little to suggest that is going to happen based on last night's showing at St Andrews.

It came as no great surprise to learn that according to today's sports papers Fergie is planning a summer clear-out. If we are to believe what we read then Berbatov, Nani, Anderson, Vidic and Tosic will soon be on their way. Many fans will no doubt concur with selling Berbatov, Nani and Tosic.

You also wonder whether or not Ferguson will stick with Welbeck and Gibson who've both been given plenty of chances, but have failed to really grasp the opportunity of a lifetime to make an impact in the famous red shirt. With the exception of Tosic, the player's mentioned have all had time to impress. In the case of Berbatov and Nani, both have failed.

Berbatov has been described as Ferguson's 'biggest transfer flop', but that's debatable because Veron cost as much and he was just as bad. When you consider the club shelled out £60m cash to acquire the pair of them and in the case of Berbatov are likely to receive less than half the £30m then it really does look like bad business.

Up and until this juncture Ferguson has had the luxury of being able to get it very wrong when splashing out vast sums when buying players who turned out to be bad buys; but you wonder how the manager will cope within what are claimed to be limited financial constraints.

The manager has a great record where winning domestic silverware is concerned and his overall record of buying is still very good; but he doesn't balance the transfer books like Arsene Wenger. United fans don't care much about transfer deficits, it's trophies in the cabinet that count, which is fair enough, but with little or no money to spend and with increased pressure from the likes of Man City and Chelsea for big name players the United manager is up against it.

Ferguson may well soon reflect it is time to call it a day and hand over to a younger manager - after all he has nothing to prove. Likewise, the cash strapped Glazer family should sell up and get out because they could never really afford to buy the club in the first instance without putting the future of United in danger when borrowing on a dangerous scale.

The current United squad is going nowhere fast and needs major surgery in all departments and with Ferguson in charge it is going to cost a lot of cash, money the club doesn't have at this moment in time.

United fans can expect a very bumpy ride from now until the end of the season and you do wonder where it will all end.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Fergie set to gamble on unproven striker...

Ahead of this afternoon's Premier League clash with Birmingham City at St Andrews, the United manager has been speaking to the press. Ferguson was one again questioned about the depth of his squad, and for the first time he has admitted he has concerns. Ferguson was also questioned about the owners' growing debt mountain, this follows on from news earlier on this week that the Glazer family are once again trying to refinance their debts, this time with a reported £600m bond issue.

Ferguson has so far been a dream manager for the Glazer family; he has managed to maintain his unparalleled levels of domestic success on the pitch without as much as a murmur about a lack of transfer funds.

Despite concerns of many within 'the game' and importantly the fans', Ferguson continues to support the club's owners and insists there's money to spend in the transfer market.

However, in what is turning out to be a very interesting season with the top teams all dropping points, the champions have been hugely disappointing on too many occasions; last weekend, the club was embarrassingly knocked out of the FA Cup by League One outfit, Leeds United - it really doesn't get much worse than that.

United's squad has been tested with a catalogue of injuries to key defenders like Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, but it is the forward options that are giving the most concern. For the first time Ferguson has admitted if anything happens to Wayne Rooney then the champions are in serious trouble. It's a rather obvious conclusion to arrive at and frankly if the manager had suggested otherwise he'd have looked stupid.

If we are to believe Ferguson, then there is money to spend, but the manager has given fair warning there will be little or no transfer activity in the current window as far as the champions are concerned. Not for the first time, Ferguson reiterated his somewhat dubious claim that he can, if he so wishes, spend the £80m from the sale of Ronaldo last summer. But Ferguson’s assessment has to be set against expert analysis of the Glazers' growing debts and speculation that the manager's ability to spend is limited.

According to Ferguson, money isn't the issue - lack of value is the real problem - and it's fair point to make with Europe's big guns quoting crazy prices for potential transfer targets. Rivals Manchester City and Chelsea have the financial power to out-muscle United in the transfer market. The arrival of oligarch Roman Abramovich at Chelsea and City's oil rich owners have made a major impact, one that is being felt not only in the Premier League but across Europe; both clubs have the financial power to match their owners ambitions and presently, with the current ownership regime, there's nothing United can do about it.

City are slowly but surely starting to lose their long standing joke tag. Chelsea have become a real force; which just goes to show, money can buy success - by the same token, without it, manager's like Ferguson will struggle if he cannot compete at all levels of the transfer market.

Later today United face in-form Birmingham City, and make no mistake the champions could easily come unstuck on what is likely to be a tricky playing surface. The champions will once again be without Vidic and Ferdinand in the heart of defence, but the big story of the day could well surround new signing Biram Diouf. The manager has confirmed the Senegal forward, who was signed from Norwegian club Molde, could experience his first taste of English football. The fans' will be hoping the manager's confidence in Diouf is well placed and that this early baptism of fire doesn't turn out to be a mark of desperation on Ferguson’s part, due to the lack of quality alternatives up front.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the biggest ***t of them all, Vidic, Ronaldo or Tevez?

The foul weather has the UK in its icy grip; the kids are among the few who are counting themselves lucky with no schools to go to, but there's very good reason for Ferguson to be happy too, because United have been spared what would no doubt have been a torrid encounter with Manchester City in the first-leg of the Carling Cup semi-final due to the weather conditions.

So lady luck has once again smiled upon Ferguson, following the dreadful no-show against Leeds United and what turned out to be a hugely embarrassing defeat in last weekend's FA Cup tie, it remains to be seen if the manager's luck will hold out in the rearranged semi-finals.

Playing City is never rarely easy and of course the 'bitter blues' are still smarting following what they perceive to be an injustice in relation to the league match at Old Trafford earlier this season when Michael Owen scored the winner deep into added time in what was the most absorbing derby for many a long year as United ran out 4-3 winners.

Trophyless City are desperate to win any piece of silverware and most observers know how much winning this Carling Cup semi-final means to them; in last weekend's FA Cup tie with Middlesbrough, City's new manager Roberto Mancini sent out a weakened side in preparation for the big game with United.

City will now face United on January 19th in the first leg of the Carling Cup semi-final, and this mini hiatus has given everyone connected with Manchester United time to reflect on the dreadful events of last weekend.

Looking forward to the big game with City, Fergie had stated the kids would play - but following the no-show against Leeds, assistant manager Mike Phelan hinted those plans would be is very easy to understand that reasoning, because there was a very real prospect of United being effectively dumped out of two domestic cup competitions within the space of four days, but then the weather intervened and temporarily gave the champions what could be a stay of execution.

As far as the domestic Cup competitions are concerned, United's season could still be over by the time we reach the end of January. Ferguson was by all accounts very unhappy with what he described as a 'shocking' performance against Leeds; the fans' won't have been so shocked given the very up and down nature of the season so far.

Leeds United were always going to be up for it - they almost always are whenever they face United, traditionally, so are United, but at the weekend collectively they were extremely disappointing - and it was the senior players as well as the youngsters who let the side down.

Since that mind-numbing defeat, the future of Nemanja Vidic has been seriously brought into question. After the Leeds defeat Ferguson basically said he had no idea why the Serbian didn't play - there was no hint of covering up - clearly the United manager had every right to be upset with his most important central defender and what's more, it's not the first occasion that there has been question marks surrounding his ‘unavailability’ to pull on the red shirt this season.

Vidic's name has been the source of much media speculation linking with Real Madrid; United fans' have become used to this unwanted attention. While never going on record committing his future to United, Vidic has at least tried to dampen the speculation - this amidst talk that the Serbian wants a massive pay increase.

Whatever the real reason for Vidic's no shows this season, he could be playing a very dangerous game with the fans' and manager alike. Ferguson will not tolerate players’ who let him down - cross him and you pay the price. As far as the fans' are concerned, Vidic has become a cult hero after what was dodgy start at the club. However, the Serbian international is testing the fans' patience too, because clearly his manager was very upset with the player last weekend.

Many United a supporter turned on Ronaldo when he quite honestly and very publicly let it be known that he'd like to join Real Madrid, but at least Ronaldo was honest and importantly while he was still a United player, he desperately wanted to play and start in every game; at the time the media were speculating Real Madrid had told the player to effectively go on strike and refuse to play for United. It is totally justifiable for the fans' to ask if Vidic has initiated such a plan, but instead of going on strike, he is feigning injury.

The fans' also turned on another former player, Carlos Tevez, who is now proving his worth in spades at rivals Man City, the fact that he never stayed on at United is because the club chose to ignore his many pleas for a permanent contract; but like Ronaldo, he never let the club down.

Personally, I have no doubts about the three players mentioned; Vidic is the one who has let the club down most. Like his manager, and no doubting many other United fans, I'm livid with the Serbian.

Ronaldo and Tevez might well have engineered moves out of the club, but when asked, they always played. If Vidic is serious about staying at United and he wants that big pay increase, he is going about it the wrong way – at least he is, if he is feigning injury – although Ferguson stopped short of saying that, the fact that the manager didn’t even attempt to defend the Serbian last weekend speaks for itself.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

United fail to rise to FA Cup challenge of third division Leeds and deservedly pay price....

Earlier this season Manchester United were humbled by Burnley at Turf Moor, the champions had few complaints about that 1-0 reverse on that occasion. It was a defeat that hurt, not least because Burnley have spent so much time out of the top flight - the Lancashire club are essentially a lower division outfit. Today United were pitched against our old rivals, the 'once famous' but now League One club Leeds United, in the third round of the FA Cup.

On paper it should have been a miss-match, given there is 42 league places between the two teams, however, as so often has been the case down the years the FA Cup produces upsets. That is precisely what happened at Old Trafford today as Leeds United deservedly knocked out the champions thanks to Jermaine Beckford's strike on 19 minutes.

For many die-hard fans' the Burnley defeat earlier on in the season hurt like hell, but it almost pales into insignificance with what happened today at Old Trafford, given the history between the two clubs.

No matter that Leeds are a Premier League club playing in the wrong division, what hurt today was the fact for far too long United didn't have the know-how and technique to unlock a well organised Leeds defence. Perhaps even worse, players like Berbatov had no stomach for a fight. At one point during the second-half, the Old Trafford crowd gave a huge ironic cheer when the Bulgarian actually won a ball, as far as he was concerned on too many occasions the former Spurs striker was second best in every half-hearted challenge. It is getting to the stage when Ferguson must surely now be considering how much longer he can persevere with a player who clearly lacks any appetite for the fight - despite the odd pass, Berbatov simply doesn't do enough to warrant a starting place.

But that's a big part of the problem facing the United manager. Ferguson has limited options in Michael Owen, plus two young strikers in Welbeck and Macheda and none of them are the perfect foil for the only genuine world-class forward at the club in Wayne Rooney.

Today against what is a third division club, Manchester United were well beaten at home at Old Trafford, it really doesn't get much worse than that, but if you analyse the manner of the defeat, then Ferguson's team were pretty much second best in every department for far too long in what turned out to be a well contested cup tie.

At the back, we had the potential nightmare vision of the future with no Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and first choice 'keeper. There's long-term fears about Ferdinand's ability to carry on playing at the highest level. Vidic is the subject of intense transfer speculation, with a mooted move to Real Madrid beckoning this summer and the word is Ferguson is resigned to losing his toughest and most reliable central defender. If that moves comes to fruition, it will be nothing short of a disaster for United, because as we saw today those tasked with stepping into the Serbian's boots are simply not good enough. Wes Brown was selected after being drafted into the team when Vidic pulled out prior to kick-off.

In point of fact Ferguson completely re-shuffled the back four that won so handsomely against Wigan last time out. Gary Neville came in and replaced Rafael at rightback, but Neville along with Brown was guilty of poor positional play when they were both caught square as United's defence was beaten far too easily by a simple ball over the top and down the middle, Beckford took his chance well, but there are huge question marks against the whole of the United's back four today.

Admittedly, what was essentially a new defence was always going to be tested by an in-form Leeds, but collectively they were disappointing. Jonny Evans played alongside Brown and although the Northern Ireland international has been out injured, he didn't have a good game, the worry is this could well be Fergie's first choice central defensive pairing of the future.

Fabio came in for Evra at leftback, the young Brazilian did ok at times, but most of the Leeds attacks were initiated from their right flank and it has to be said, both United's fullbacks were given little protection by Welbeck and Obertan who were selected to start on the left and right wings.

If United were poor at the back, it was the same in midfield and up front. Gibson was selected in midfield and bluntly, he is too slow and for this reason it is doubtful he has a long-term future at United.

Anderson was the pick of United's midfield, at least he showed a degree of fight and spirit - he didn't deserve to be substituted for Michael Owen in the second-half. Quite how Berbatov remained on the pitch for the whole game beggars belief.

Rooney huffed and puffed up front, in what was largely a one man effort. Wellbeck had a decent second-half chance, but he was denied by a somewhat lucky save by the Leeds 'keeper, who it has to be said didn't have much to do all game.

Rooney was poor in front of goal - he was guilty of failing to hit the target on numerous occasions. Owen and Berbatov had chances too, but it was one of those games and with 70 minutes gone United fans could see the writing on the wall.

Giggs and Valencia came on and replaced the ineffective Welbeck and Obertan, the latter started brightly but faded, Welbeck showed a couple of decent touches but ultimately, like the French youngster he didn't do enough.

Valencia looked the most likely to create a chance and so he did when he brilliantly pulled a ball back for Michael Owen, who sadly once again displayed his propensity to completely miss the ball with the goal at his mercy from just six yards out.

Ferguson must shoulder some of the blame for today's shambolic performance and defeat. He was guilty of making the wrong calls both in the starting eleven and with his substitutions.

Prior to today's game with Leeds we'd been told that the youngsters' will face Man City in the Carling Cup semi-final on Wednesday, but then the manager sprang one or two 'surprises' when he sent out a mixture of youth and experience to face Leeds - it has backfired spectacularly and now the fans' are left to wonder exactly what the wizard will do for his next trick in midweek? There's no doubting United are blowing hot and cold and there's no doubting players like Tevez will be itching to rub Fergusons' big red nose in it at Eastlands.

Standby for more fireworks; the next few fixtures could be very interesting and with the danger of being labelled as a negative scaremonger, and as I posted prior to today, January could well be a pivotal month on the domestic front. Will United start to implode, or will they come good 'as they always do in the second-half of the season'? Don't bet on the latter is my advice....

Saturday, January 02, 2010

No prospect of any big name transfers; is the current United squad on the road to nowhere?

United have just enjoyed one of the most successful decade's in the club's history, Ferguson is in his 24th season as manager; quite incredibly from 1990 to 2000 he won an average of just over 1.3 trophies; from 2000 until 2009 the manager and his team have won on average just over 1.2 trophies and there's the prospect of more in the current season, which could see the manager improve his average next May. No matter what happens in the next few weeks and month's Ferguson is the most successful British manager ever and his achievements are nothing short of remarkable.

But as we head into a new decade, now seems like a good time to take stock and look forward to what we the fans' can expect from the current United squad.

We will run through the current squad and give predictions about each player's prospects.

Van der Sar:
United's veteran first-stopper is currently out of action due to the club giving him time off on compassionate grounds, it isn't known when he is likely to return, but whenever that maybe he is unlikely to be playing for the club in two years time. Verdict: Retirement round the corner

Neville: Another veteran who has served the club well, after what has largely been a trouble free career, sadly injuries are now taking their toll and so it is only a matter of time before Neville retires. Verdict: Retirement beckons

Evra: Enjoying arguably his best season to date, and has been close to picking up the man of the match award on numerous occasions. Verdict: At 28 years of age the popular French defender is good for another few seasons yet.

Hargreaves: A brilliant central midfield player whose career has been blighted by injuries and nothing is certain about his playing future. Verdict: Uncertain future in the game

Ferdinand: Having a poor season that has been blighted by injuries. Verdict: Uncertain future

Brown: Good for a few seasons yet, but has never been able to hold down a regular starting place. Verdict: More than useful squad player

Owen: Plucked from the brink of possible early retirement or life playing for a Premier League also-ran.Verdict: Uncertain future at United despite making a solid contribution has been unable to hold down a starting place

Anderson: After making an impressive start to his United career has been unable to carve out a regular starting place in central midfield. It was hoped Anderson would be the long term successor to Paul Scholes. Verdict: Has done well in some games this season, but he must improve

Berbatov: Despite all too fleeting moments of inspiration, the Bulgarian hasn't lived up to expectations and his £30m price tag. Verdict: Unlikely to be still at United in three years time

Rooney: The jewel in the crown. Enjoying his most successful season to date in front of goal, no wonder reports are linking him with a move to Real Madrid. Verdict: The cornerstone of the current squad and if Fergie is going to successfully rebuild his team then Rooney needs to be at the heart of it

Foster: Supposedly technically brilliant, but has been prone to high-profile mistakes and his kicking is poor. Verdict: Has been overtaken in the pecking order by Kuszczak, unlikely to still be a United player in 12 months time

Giggs: One of the stars of the season and deserves the plaudits and gongs that he has deservedly won: Verdict: Good for one more season

Park: Divides opinion among the fans', but the majority see him as little more than a worker who lacks genuine star quality. Verdict: Wouldn't be missed if he was sold, isn't United quality

Tosic: A lot was expected of the young Serbian but he has been unable to break into the squad on a regular basis: Verdict: Exit door beckons

Vidic: A brilliant defender who will be badly missed if and when he joins Madrid next summer: Verdict: Exit door beckons

Carrick: Was bought for a lot of money, was dropped earlier in the season and spent a lot of time on the bench, but has managed to work his way back into regular contention for a starting place. Verdict: Good for a few seasons providing he can maintain a level of consistency

Nani: Hopelessly inconsistent: Verdict: Exit door beckons

Scholes: Unlike Ryan Giggs, who seems to get better with age, Scholes has had a season of highs and lows: Verdict: Retirement round the corner

Welbeck: The jury is very much out on Welbeck who has had a mixed season to date: Verdict: Could easily follow the likes of David Healy out of the Old Trafford exit door - needs to improve in just about every aspect of his game, but he has a chance

F Da Silva: Said to be technically the better of the Brazilian twins, but like his brother has suffered with injuries: Verdict: A great prospect, but one who needs to improve his defending

R Da Silva: After making a stunning impact in his first season, the Brazilian has suffered with injuries: Verdict: A great prospect, but one who needs to improve his defending

O'Shea: Has had a good season, but is out injured currently: Verdict: Will do well to hold off the challenge of Rafael, a good squad player who will be around for a few seasons

Evans: Reliable and steady, but out injured currently: Verdict: Could go on to have a great United career

Fletcher: The Scot's worth has grown over the last couple of seasons, despite some technical weaknesses in his game, namely sloppy distribution he is currently United's best central midfield player: Verdict: Needs more competition for his starting place, but good for a few seasons yet

Valencia: Following a big-money move in the summer, the Ecuadorian can be well pleased with his first season so far: Verdict: Will hopefully get better with time as he gets more confidence, a better long-term prospect than Park

Obertan: Despite limited opportunities, has shown genuine promise. The young French winger isn't a 'head down and run' type. Verdict: Could go on to prove to be a very astute signing

Macheda: Has been unable to build on his first few appearances for the club in which he made a dramatic impact: Verdict: In the eyes of many observers has gone backwards and it's why his future may well be at another club. Macheda has the ability, but the fans are starting to wonder what is going wrong with his career

Gibson: A player who has proven he has an eye and boot for goal, but despite his goal scoring prowess from midfield his portly strolling style is reminiscent of former Liverpool star Jan Molby. Verdict: The Jury is currently out on Gibson's prospects

Kuszczak: After a very dodgy start to his United career in which he looked technically suspect in just about all aspects of what is expected has enjoyed a good run in the absence of van der Sar and has ousted Foster as the number two keeper;Verdict: Needs to maintain his current level of consistency - has a chance

Sections of the media have been suggesting Ferguson is rebuilding his squad; but with the manager going on record stating he is unlikely to be adding to the squad in January, because of a perceived lack of value and with so much uncertainty surrounding the future of players who could be about to retire and for other reasons, then it is difficult to see this team winning yet more silverware without a lot of money being spent next summer to replace players like Ferdinand, Vidic and Van der Sar.

If we factor in the fact that United definitely need another top quality forward plus a world-class central midfield player, then there's much work to be done in relation to the so called rebuilding process.

Ferguson's own future as United manager will come to an end in the next few seasons, but in the short-term he has work cut out if he's going to maintain his record of high achieving.