Sunday, July 31, 2011

United finally beat depleted Barca, as goal hero Owen is once again preferred to Berbatov...

Manchester United 2-1 Barcelona; Washington, 2011, Match report in brief.

Manchester United brought down the curtain on what has been another hugely successful US tour with a 2-1 win over Pep Guardiola's severely depleted Barcelona in Washington last night, in front of a record crowd of over 81,000 fans.

The result was meaningless, not only because it was a friendly, albeit, a very high-profile one at that, but mainly because Messi, Sanchez, Xavi, Dani Alves, Javier Mascherano, Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol were all missing from the Barcelona team. United were without Javier Hernandez, the Mexican will miss next weekend's Community Shield clash with Manchester City at Wembley, because he is recovering from concussion.

Wayne Rooney missed a golden opportunity to score on just 10 minutes following excellent work by United's star man on the night, Nani. The Portuguese winger was a thorn in Barca's side for most of the first-half and he opened the scoring on 22 minutes after being put through on goal by Welbeck. United broke out of defence and hit Barcelona on the break with a slick counter-attack, but when Nani collected the ball he looked suspiciously offside.

Barcelona barely tested United's new 'keeper, but as the game went on the Champions of Europe pressed and enjoyed long periods of possession and they equalised through Thiago Alcantara whose thunderbolt gave David de Gea no chance, that was on 70 minutes, but six minutes later Michael Owen secured the win with a trademark finish after good work by Tom Cleverley.

More goal scoring opportunities followed, Michael Owen should have scored late on but missed the target from just six yards out after good work by Obertan. Prior to that Thiago blazed over, but United ran out winners to the delight of their many North American fans.

After the game, Sir Alex Ferguson said that he was happy with the result, but given Barcelona had made so many changes it was difficult to gauge the importance of the result.

So what, if anything, can we learn from this win over Barcelona? For starters, Fergie was dead right about Barca's missing stars, but despite so many omissions, the manager might well be surprised to learn that according to the Washington Post, Barcelona still dominated possession, with a staggering 69%.

In the build up to this game Fergie was once again asked about United's interest in Wesley Sneijder and his was response was "we are done talking" and the manager then went on to extole the questionable virtues of Anderson, who has been the model of inconsistency ever since he arrived at the club.

If United are going to fend off the challenge of Chelsea, Manchester City and rejuvenated Liverpool on the domestic front, and have any hope of beating Barca in Europe, then Fergie must add more quality to what is a creaking engine room.

United cannot compete in the transfer market with City and Chelsea, but the money-men have to find a way of securing a player like Sneijder. Fergie claims that there are "other targets", but no doubting many United fans will be hoping one of them is not bad-boy Joey Barton, as the media reported last week.

As for other pointers, it was interesting to note that Michael Owen was again preferred to Dimitar Berbatov. Last season's top goal scorer won't have helped his cause earlier in the week, when he made it clear that he isn't going to improve his work-rate and there's no doubting his manager will have failed to have been impressed with that outburst and so it comes as no great surprise that the likes of Juventus have been linked with the Bulgarian over the weekend. Watch this space on that front...

Ferguson has gone on record stating that it is unlikely United will be loaning out any of their young players, but we can take that with a very large pinch of salt, because he said that Macheda would never be loaned out only for him to join Sampdoria in January. However, with so much speculation about the future of Berbatov the manager will likely retain the likes of Welbeck and Macheda for a while yet.

Rafael could also be a concern to the manager and his backroom team as he was replaced by Fabio after sustaining an ankle injury early in the first-half against Barca and so he will be an injury worry ahead of the annual curtain raiser with Manchester City in the capital, but United have ample cover.

United end the tour with five wins out of five, having only conceded three goals and having scored 20. North American "soccer" fans will hopefully have enjoyed United's US tour, it remains a popular destination with the players and fans alike.

Next up, it's the Community Shield at Wembley, that should be very interesting as it most certainly will not be a friendly.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

United could live to regret Sneijder brinkmanship with Mancini hovering in the wings...

David Gill has confirmed that there's nothing new to report in relation to Manchester United's interest in signing Wesley Sneijder. United's CEO used the word "dead" in response to questions from the media about the Inter Milan star ahead of tonight's final US tour fixture with Barcelona.

The transfer merry-go-round looks set to continue until the end of August, but United fans will no doubt  be beginning to wonder if the club is going to once again miss out on signing Wesley Sneijder.

Cesc Fabregas looks set to return to Barcelona, and this transfer could have dire implications for the champions, because, with Fabregas moving back to his boyhood club, it will undoubtedly stiffen Arsene Wenger's resolve to hang on to Samir Nasri. Arsenal's French midfield star is thought to be on Roberto Mancini's radar. However, with Wenger playing hardball over Nasri, Mancini might well have decided to pursue Wesley Sneijder, given the player is said to be available for transfer.

Manchester City take on Inter Milan over the weekend in Dublin and it has been reported that the two clubs are set to open negotiations over a mooted swap deal that would see Tevez and Samuel Eto'o moving in opposite directions.

Following the addition of Aguero, and perhaps worryingly for those hoping Sneijder will join United, Mancini has today confirmed that he wants to sign a midfielder plus a winger; the identity of the midfield player is thought to be Nasri, but with Wenger so determined not to lose both of his creative midfield players, the City manager may well have shifted his focus onto Inter's Dutch maestro.

For very obvious reasons, managers will not divulge their transfer plans to the media and while Mancini has confirmed that he is in the market to sign a midfielder and a winger, if Tevez moves on to Inter Milan, as expected, the City boss could be looking to also add a new striker and of course that man could well be Samuel Eto'o.

United fans will be well aware that the sticking point as far as Sneijder is concerned is money; if we are to believe the transfer rumour-mill, United are not willing to match Inter Milan's valuation and then there's a problem in relation to the Sneijder's salary expectations. Money would not be an issue for money-bags Man City and so it remains to be seen if United will live to regret failing to make a decisive move when the door to this particular transfer has been open for a while.

If Manchester City do not make their move for Sneijder, then all hope will rest on David Gill's risky game of brinkmanship. Let us hope it doesn't end in tears.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Fergie and Gill at loggerheads over Sneijder deal?

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Well what a strange turn events we've seen over the last 48 hours, with Fergie and then David Gill sending out conflicting messages about transfers. First we had Fergie speaking to the press telling us that United were unlikely to make any more signings before the Charity Shield. The manager suggested that the type of player he's looking for is not available at present and then when asked about Wesley Sneijder (exactly the sort of player United need and everyone including the manager knows it), Fergie claimed that he'd never really been interested - this we know, is a complete fabrication as David Gill spent some time in Milan earlier this month trying to broker a deal that would have seen the Dutchman moving to Old Trafford. We also know that this isn't the first time Fergie has contradicted himself over Sneijder in recent weeks.

Then just 24 hours later David Gill came out and took the unusual step of publicly talking about transfers when hinting that United might well sign one more player before the window closes. Why did Gill take this action? That question is open to debate. We can only read between the lines, and we cannot rule out that Ferguson and his CEO are at loggerheads over what could yet prove to be the biggest and certainly the most important transfer concerning Manchester United in the last decade. United need to sign a player who is capable of filling the creative midfield void which is so obvious, it is a gaping chasm.

The fact that both Fergie and Gill came out in such a short space of time and sent out completely different messages leads us to believe that all is not well behind the scenes concerning this very important next transfer. An alternative scenario is that the pair of them are playing some kind of cruel but elaborate game with the fans emotions...whatever the reason, please just get on with it and quickly.

United simply must improve in central midfield, failure to do so could prove to be costly with Manchester City adding new players at will and with a resurgent Liverpool. Not forgetting Chelsea who of course have a new young manager and Wenger's Arsenal, both will keen to prove on last season's performances.

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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Transfer poll: Joey Barton to replace Scholes? Fans to boycott the club if any deal goes ahead?

Manchester United fans desperate for a positive update on the latest on the proposed transfer of Wesley Sneijder to the champions awoke to news that will have shocked many to the core, because according to the Sunday Times, Ferguson could be ready to turn to Joey Barton to help solve his midfield problems.

If the response on Twitter to this latest nasty piece of transfer speculation is any meaningful barometer, then United could be risking a potential backlash from supporters in the form of a boycott of the club. At this moment in time, it is only a rumour and it is hoped that the manager swiftly denies the claims of the Times.

United fans will be hoping rumours of Fergie's reported interest in Barton is some kind of sick joke, especially with moneybags Manchester City signing top quality players for fun. Barton is of course a City reject, as their supporters will no doubt be keen to remind us, if any deal is eventually brokered.

However, supporters cannot rule out Barton moving to Manchester United this summer, because it's a well known fact that David Gill is given a list of transfer targets by the manager and it's then up to the CEO to work down that list from top to bottom. At this moment in time, and for very different reasons, it is beginning to look like United have been unable to sign Sneijder and Modric - it's a given that both names will have figured prominently on the manager's shopping list; so the question is, who else has Ferguson targeted? And have we now reached the very bottom of the list?

Joey Barton has baggage and lot's of it, but more importantly, if this is Ferguson's answer to replacing Paul Scholes then it will only serve to underline his desperation. Barton doesn't have the guile or indeed the football brain; his name should not even feature in conversations about replacing Scholes, therefore it is damning if his name is on the manager's shopping list.

The summer transfer window has so far been something a mixed bag as far as Manchester United are concerned. Fergie has taken a huge gamble on a young goalkeeper, with the acquisition of David de Gea, and for a club record for a 'keeper.

There was absolutely no need to sign Ashley Young - at least there wasn't unless Nani was going to join Inter Milan in a swap deal that would have seen Sneijder moving in the opposite direction and the deal could yet still be done.

The addition of Phil Jones is the only sure fire hit so far this summer and the news that Fergie could be eyeing Joey Barton will leave many to conclude that this summer has been a major missed opportunity; at least it will be if United do not sign a world class midfield star like Wesley Sneijder.

We have created a poll (located in the right-hand sidebar) asking if United should sign Joey Barton. Please take the time to contribute in our poll as well as adding your comments. The poll closes 31st August.

In other news, United are currently in action on what is largely another summer promotional tour of the US. The quality of the MLS opposition, hasn't so far tested the champions to the full, with comfortable wins against New England Revolution and Seattle Sounders. The latest win came against Chicago Fire, next up United take on the MLS All Stars, before facing their nemesis Barcelona...

The club have offered Ji-Sung Park a new deal.

Friday, July 22, 2011

United guilty of over-egging 19th league's very uncool you know...

I'm sure that I won't be the only Manchester United supporter who is slightly embarrassed by United who seem hell bent on plastering 19 over just about every marketing asset.

It's one thing for supporters to walk the streets with jibes on t-shirts trumpeting the team's achievements and at the same time poking fun at the likes of Citeh and Liverpool, but it's quite another when United's marketing men follow Citeh's recent cringeworthy antics.

Like a neglected child, City infamously posted those giant bill-boards around Manchester when Carlos Tevez defected with the message "Welcome to Manchester". They also came up with the slogan "This is our City", again another silly reference by our 'noisy neighbours'. City are totally classless and so are too many of their supporters, like those who were caught en masse singing songs about Munich at Blackburn at the end of the season (On this note, has anyone been banned by City for singing about the disaster as promised?...).

You can, to a point, forgive numpty fans, because that is what they are, numpties, but when your club's marketing men bring you down to the same level, we are all effectively tarred with the same brush.

By going on and on about 19, it's as if we've had a huge chip on our collective shoulders. It's a bit like City fans who for all those years dreamt about the day when we took down that banner in the Stretford End (and by the way, that was different, unlike those giant bill-boards it was subtle; a seemingly oblique reference that would have required explanation to the uneducated).

In many ways, though we don't like admitting this, United and Liverpool fans have many things in common: for starters, both sets of supporters follow football clubs that are world-wide institutions. The same cannot be said of City and Everton. No matter what happens in the next decade City and Everton will always be regarded as lesser club's when compared to their more famous neighbours.

It's well documented that Liverpool and United do not get along, but we tolerate each other and our respective achievements; supporters of these clubs do not have to resort to desperate lies when trying to score points.

City fans are known as 'the liars' and for good reason. They will tell you that there's barely any United fans in Manchester. After decades of living in the shadows of United, this retched bunch of serial losers have been bailed out by Arabian wealth, they have won the lottery. Good luck to them.

In contrast to City fans, when United had to endure Liverpool pretty much winning everything in sight in the 80s and 90's, as a group of fans we didn't like it, but we had to live it and through gritted teeth, but we didn't become sad and bitter liars.

So United fans (at least older time-served fans like moi) like to think we stand on higher moral ground than our bitter 'friends'. While pointing the finger at City and their followers, and with every justification, we have to acknowledge our own shortcomings.

We don't like what United our club has become; we don't like the cringeworthy references to the "Theatre of Dreams"; we didn't like it when the words "Football Club" were removed from the club crest; we don't like the "Mega store" and its tat; we don't like being told what to do; we don't like being taken for granted; we hate being ripped off; we despise the Glazers'; and finally we'd like the choice of standing or sitting at our football grounds. (This list is probably much longer.. but for time's sake..)

United have a big problem when it comes to their ability to market themselves, as more or less everything they do is more rank bad as opposed to cool.

For cools sake, please tone it down a bit United. Some of us still have a bit of class.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Manchester City set to grab Sneijder in Tevez swap deal?

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Reports emanating from Italy are claiming want-away Carlos Tevez has today held meetings with Marco Branca of Inter Milan about a summer move to the San Siro.

City slapped a £50m valuation on the player who scored the most goals in the Premier League over the last two seasons. Tevez was close to moving to Corinthians, however, that move broke down as time ran out with the Brazilian transfer slamming shut before a deal could be concluded.

News of the Tevez's move to Inter has sparked rumours of a swap deal that would see Manchester United's number one summer transfer target Wesley Sneijder moving in the opposite direction. If Sneijder does move to Man City it will be a serious blow for United and Sir Alex Ferguson.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sneijder to United: Fergie's contradiction and do the bookies know something that we don't know?

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The rumour mill is running at full tilt as talk of what will hopefully turn out to be the biggest transfer of the summer rumbles on with the continuing saga of will or won't Wesley Sneijder join Manchester United? It is by far the biggest story of the summer - at least it is as far as United fans are concerned. But will it happen?

Last week, bless them, the BBC ran a story claiming that United were never in for Sneijder and then Fergie himself did his level best to convince us all that the champions have never been interested in the Inter Milan star.

The media attention predictably focused on Fergie's attempts to appear to distance the club from the Sneijder story, however, according the MEN reporter James Robson, this is what Fergie actually said: "There is nothing I can tell you about it. I have not really been involved in it since I came across here." which totally contradicted the manager's reported comments about Sneijder. This nugget of information was not reported by the vast majority of news networks and blogs, but it didn't go unnoticed by this United blog.

So what is the very latest news on the future of Wesley Sneijder? Well, a quick trawl through Twitter this morning revealed nothing but a tireseome jaunt down a few blind alleys; several Tweets claimed that Sneijder had appeared to bid farewell to the Inter Milan fans with a lap of honour at the conclusion of a friendly - this turned out to be a complete fabrication. Several more Tweets claimed the bookies had stopped taking bets on Sneijder joining United; while this is not strictly true, Sky Bet have dramatically shortened their odds on this they know something that we don't know?

Latest Sneijder transfer odds
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Sources: Fergie contracts himself...

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Fergie's rebuilding continues: Goodbye Brown and O'Shea...

It can often be slightly disappointing when home grown players leave Manchester United to try their luck at another club. That was certainly the case earlier this week when Wes Brown and then John O'Shea left United to join up with Steve Bruce at Sunderland. Between them, the now ex United duo have won over 20 major trophies - many more than the likes of Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Alan Shearer.

Steve Bruce realises that his new players know how to win trophies and despite being utility members of the United squad for so many successful seasons, they have a wealth of experience and Sunderland will be hoping their winning mentality rubs off on the Black Cats.

Wes Brown was the Jimmy Murphy Young Player of The Year in 1997-1998 and 1998-1999. John O'Shea was the Denzil Haroun Reserve Player of The Year in 2001-2002. However, despite being part of Ferguson's squad and playing their part in winning so much silverware, neither player has been able to cement a regular starting place in the United team.

Ferguson has been busy this summer, buying players like Phil Jones, who can pretty much play anywhere in defence and of course he already has the fabulous Da Silva twins who can slot into the fullback positions or in midfield.  Given that Ferguson has cover and he is being linked with new players as the manager continues his squad rebuilding work at Old Trafford, it was definitely time to move on for Brown and O'Shea.

The summer transfer activity is by no means over and it is likely that United will sell at least two to three players in the transfer window. Nani and or Berbatov could be sold. If we are to believe the rumours, then United might well be looking to broker player plus cash deals which could involve the likes of Luka Modric, Wesley Sneijder or Samir Nasri.

The fact that Ferguson retained Michael Owen led many to believe that Dimitar Berbatov's days were numbered and the signing of Ashley Young made no sense, not unless Nani or another winger had been earmarked for the exit door. Nani, is the most saleable star asset and so he must be favourite. Fergie realises that he needs to strengthen the spine of his team as there is a glaring weakness in central midfield and that is precisely why Nani could yet be sacrificed.

Kiko Macheda and Darron Gibson could also move on in what will be one of the biggest shake-ups at Old Trafford in recent years.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Fergie running out of options as targets snub United...

According to the latest news, Manchester United could be about to miss out on Samir Nasri, who is expected to sign for Manchester City along with Gael Clichy in a deal worth £27m. It was a different story last week with media reports claiming that Ferguson was confident of signing the Frenchman. However, over the weekend that scenario didn't seem likely after the Mail on Sunday ran a story in which it was suggested the United manager was resigned to losing the battle with City to sign Nasri.

Nasri scored 20 goals last season in all competitions and there's no doubt United need to sign someone who can score and create goals, but despite his impressive goal tally, it's fair to ask if Nasri is the right player to replace Paul Scholes. The reaction of Arsenal supporters to the news that the Frenchman could be about to quit their club has been mixed. Of the two players, and given the option, it seems most Arsenal fans will prefer to keep Fabregas if it came to a choice. Nasri is viewed as replaceable, but according to many Arsenal fans that is not the case with Fabregas.

Arsene Wenger wasn't going to allow Nasri to join United, and you can understand that. Ferguson and Wenger do not get along and of course the Gunners haven't won a trophy for six years - the thought of an ex Arsenal player rubbing the club's nose in it when winning silverware at United will have given everyone connected with Arsenal nightmares.

From an Arsenal perspective, Manchester City are without doubt the lesser of two evils and of course it is by no means certain Nasri will be a success at his new club where there's no guarantee of a starting place, given the size of Roberto Mancini's squad. City have also qualified for Champions League football and this will have been a factor in the player's mind - but let us not forget wages and it is unlikely that United could match City.

Over the weekend it was also reported that Ferguson was hopeful of signing Alexis Sanchez, only for the manager to learn that the Chilean winger is about to sign for Barcelona.

So the search goes on for Ferguson; Wesley Sneijder and Luka Modric are still on the manager's radar but both could prove to be unattainable.

If Fergie cannot find a top class midfield general, he may well decide to bide his time and keep his powder dry until the right man becomes available; there is no point in wasting money on player's who will not improve the manager's midfield options.