Archive for the 'carling cup' Category


A Tale of Two United’s –Unbeaten run ends with a whimper in E13

"You can stick your fooking England..." not what the 2018 committee would want to hear

"You can stick your fooking England..." not what the 2018 committee would want to hear

When Dickens wrote “It was the best of times it was the worst of times” it’s blindingly obvious he must have been a Manchester United fan.

The last five days have been the strangest of times in recent memory for many United fans, myself included.

From dancing out of Old Trafford having seen Blackburn well and truly put to the sword, to trudging through the snow in East London having been demolished by relegation certainties West Ham, the life of a United fan is anything but predictable.

While I refrained from getting carried away with the emphatic win over Big Sam’s Blackburn, at least in print, there can be no denying that the thought of United sweeping all before them from now until the end of the season did briefly enter my mind.

Thank god then for those footballing colossuses Jonathon Spector and Carlton Cole for reminding me not to get carried away with the fickle mistress that is football.

While the win over Blackburn highlighted just how good some of United’s best players can be on their day, the Carling Cup loss to West Ham merely underlined the faults some of the supporting act need to work on if they’re going to be of any use in a title challenge or big Champions League game.,

It wasn’t the fact that United failed to mount any real shots on of note on Robert Green’s more than fragile goal for much of the game, or that 36 year-old Ryan Giggs was the most determined and enthusiastic player on the pitch that was the real disappointment of last night’s game.

No the real disappointment was the same old questions rearing their ugly head that have already been asked and not really answered for some time now.

John O’Shea. Need I really say any more? Just what does the man have to do for Sir Alex Ferguson to realise he’s nowhere near United-class and has gradually got worse over the past few seasons. The fact that O’Shea’s been recently rewarded with an 80k a week long-term contract is the biggest example of rewarding ineptitude since the Americans voted in Dubya Bush for a second term.

Speaking of Americans, when a player of the calbre of Jonathon Spector more than doubles his tally for the past 12 seasons-probably- in a game against you, then something is desperately wrong with your choice of personnel.

While there’s no need to suddenly start screaming and panicking at what is almost a reserve side getting beaten by a Premier League team away from home .there are certain factors that cannot or should not be ignored.

The form of Jonny Evans is now so worrying, I can’t believe there isn’t something deeper behind it. I’m not talking evil spirits or a secret drinking problem- although if it makes him play like Paul McGrath it might be an idea. No, what I mean is how can the player that you could rely on to boss and stamp on Didier Drogba, who once made me actually write the words: “If Rio Ferdinand cannot be relied upon regularly maybe its time to make Evans first choice”, how can he be so consistently worrying?

Even against Blackburn I felt he could have made it a bit harder for Christopher Samba to score, but against West Ham he was quite frankly awful. Evans looks as though he’s totally out of his depth against players that a year or so ago would have been lucky to get a touch of the ball let alone grab a brace.

Carlton Cole was shockingly bad for much of the game and showed why he’s not even always managed to hold down a first team place at West Ham this season. At times, watching Cole lose the ball or fluff a shot was laughable and actually made me forget the fact that I could no longer feel my feet.

it all seemed to start so well for United with Gabriel Obertan very nearly opening the scoring after only a few minutes. Yet it proved to be a false dawn. Even with Mark Clattenburg doing his party piece of consulting with the linesman to rule in United’s favour- thereby disallowing a West Ham goal that had already been announced over the Upton Park tannoy, United couldn’t seize the initiative.

Too many players just didn’t perform, with Darren Fletcher being one of the main culprits. The reason I single out Fletcher -who to be fair was by no means the worst player on the pitch, is that his performance seemed to sum United’s night up. If the man who dealt with the likes of Rafael Van Der Vaart and Luka Modric only a few games earlier cannot cope with a player of the calibre of Victor Obinna then there’s something seriously wrong. I only hope that Fletcher does his usual job of playing not so well against poor opposition and gets back to his best for his other usual job of keeping Cesc Fabregas firmly in his pocket for the upcoming visit of Arsenal.

United fans wonder why we ever let Jonathon Spector leave

United fans wonder why we ever let Jonathon Spector leave

Even Tomasz Kuszczak who’s required to play a maximum of eight games a season, seemed a little out of sorts and other than one good save in the first half looked a little indecisive and dare I say less than bothered.

While you can hardly judge players on one game in the snow it’s obvious that Bebe and even Obertan cannot be called upon in big games just yet. I just hope Nani and Giggs stay fit and Antonio Valencia can make a full recovery because I can’t imagine the top teams having too much difficulty in dealing with either.

The full back merry-go-round only underlined the problems United had in dealing with a West Ham side playing for their only chance of success this season. O’Shea swapped flanks with Fabio who replaced the Irishman in performance as well as position and neither of them looked anything other than dodgy. Poor Rafael was subsequently thrown on for his brother only to suffer the indignity of getting the p*ss took out of him by the now rampant Obinna.

The biggest shame for me came in the fact that Carlton Cole who’s touch reminded me of Emile Heskey on an off day, managed to turn Jonny Evans with such ease. Cole’s second which came from a cross by the now Ronaldo-esque Obinna was the final insult. My biggest sympathies lay with Ryan Giggs, who battled for every ball and seemed to remember what shirt he was wearing  and my fellow travelling fans. As I’m working in London for the week, I only had a trip to Tooting to contend with but I can only imagine how sh*t the drive back up the M6 must’ve been for many.

My only real comfort from such a dire evening is the memory of how a League Cup quarter final loss at White Hart Lane over ten seasons ago led to not too bad a season……


Why the League Cup still matters

Rooney had to explain what was in his hands to City fans

Rooney had to explain what was in his hands to City fans

Following the third round of League Cup upsets, there’s been a lot of noise being made by sets of fans that the competition is either ‘irrelevant’ ‘unimportant’ or a mere ‘distraction’.

While there may be a semblance of truth to all three of those points there is no denying that for a lot of fans watching our team play in any competition is never ‘unimportant’ otherwise why would we spend our money to do it?

Of course not every fan bothers to buy tickets for the Carling Cup but there are still many that do, not to mention those that travel to glamorous places such as Brentford and Scunthorpe to watch what may actually be a reserve side compete in the competition.

The League Cup has always held a special place in my heart- not because it’s the most glamorous trophy to win but because one of my fondest football memories has been from the competition.

I can remember way back in 1990 when my Dad took me to Old Trafford to see United face Liverpool in the then Rumbelows Cup. Liverpool were the League Champions and had been busy dominating English football for the past 15 years while United despite winning the FA cup the previous season had struggled under Sir Alex Ferguson.

United won 3-1 and I can vividly recall Mark Hughes sending a 25-yard screamer over Bruce Grobbelaar’s head- you couldn’t tell the Old Trafford crowd that night that the competition was ’irrelevant.’

I also recall my first Wembley final in 1994 where I saw Aston Villa beat United 3-1 and feeling absolutely gutted , there was no ‘treble’ and I actually worried that I may be a Wembley final ‘jinx.’

Admittedly the is not the top of everyone’s wish list, I’m pretty sure most kids don’t run around the playground dreaming of scoring the winning goal in the Carling Cup final. When I saw United beat Spurs on penalties in the final a couple if years ago, I remember the feeling of anti-climax once Anderson scored the winner. It was like ‘nice 1 we’ve just won the Carling Cup’ rather than any Moscow-type euphoria.

However the League Cup is still a major trophy, there’s still a trip to Wembley and can lead to Europe for the winners that haven’t qualified through other means. Going back a few season’s Spurs’ win over Chelsea in the Carling Cup final may actually have been bigger than most people thought at the time. Had Chelsea won it may have given them and Avram Grant a bit of momentum to move forward and take the League and even the CL. I know it sounds little far-fetched that a Carling Cup victory can reverberate so much but following the defeat to Spurs, there was a lot of negative talk about how Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka can’t play together, Jose Mourinho never lost a final, etc.

Go back a couple of more seasons and anyone who recalls the melee between Chelsea and Arsenal players in the final which saw everyone’s favourite striker Emmanuel Adebayor sent off -as well as Kolo Toure and Jon Obi Mikel – can’t have thought the competition wasn’t being taken seriously.

Last season saw Manchester’s two teams battle it out in the semi-final and there was a lot more to play for than just local pride. Roberto Mancini had made it clear he wanted to rip down the banner at Old Trafford that says ’34 years’  in reference to the last time City won a major trophy. Then there was rent-a-gob Gary Cook’s comments to a New York, Manchester City supporters club about how City were going to win and it would be the first of many etc.

Both legs were played out in front of an electric atmosphere and it can’t be said that either side took the game lightly. Fergie even chose to appeal Rio Ferdinand’s ban for his elbow on that other rent-a-gob Craig Fagan , so he could play in the second leg- despite knowing it would surely increase his ban. Wayne Rooney’s last-minute goal to send United through to the final and make City wait at least one more year to rip down the banner, sent Old Trafford into rapture. No-one was calling the competition a ‘distraction’ then.

Like City, Arsenal have come in for criticism, well Arsene Wenger has, for failing to deliver a trophy in the past five years. A League Cup win would hardly rank as the most glorious of triumphs but it would still be a trophy that could silence a few over zealous critics.

This season we’ve already seen the likes of Chelsea, Spurs, Liverpool, Everton and Man City depart the competition and while all five teams certainly do have bigger priorities, I imagine any of them would have liked to have won it.

Despite the noises I’m hearing from a lot of Spurs fans following Arsenal’s recent victory at White Hart Lane about how it doesn’t matter because Spurs have  bigger things like the Champion’s League to concentrate on, I’m sorry but for the Gooners it must still be a memorable victory. Beating your derby rivals in their own back yard is always satisfying no matter what the occasion.

For some of the mid-table or so-called ‘lesser’ teams the League Cup has been the scene of their biggest success. Sides like Swindon, Norwich, Oxford, Luton, Leicester and more recently Middlesbrough would no doubt count League Cup final wins as a major part of their history.

While for a lot of the top teams the League Cup, especially the early rounds, will always be a chance to give the fringe members of the squad a game, even they have brought out the big guns for the latter stages.
Last season United brought Wayne Rooney off the bench to replace an injured Michael Owen, while the season before Cristiano Ronaldo was in United’s starting XI for the final.

Over the past few years we’ve even heard suggestions from certain sections of the press, fans or even clubs that the competition should be abolished, that no-one really cares anymore and it’s a drain on resources.

However the point I’m making is that despite it being one of the least important competitions it still matters. It can still throw up exciting ties, amazing upsets and plenty of drama. There’s also the younger players at some of the bigger clubs who only get a chance to turn out for the first team in  the Carling Cup, for them it’s a chance to show their worth to the manager.

For many teams it’s not a ‘distraction’ but a chance to take a trip to a ground they’ve only seen on the telly. The latest round of League Cup games highlighted that the competition still has a lot to offer, now if United had lost at Scunthorpe then that would have been another matter…..