Archive for the 'Rubbishness' Category

08
Dec
10

Top five worst footballer rap songs ever

gazza- when he's not defending raoul moat he can't half rap

gazza- when he's not defending raoul moat he can't half rap

Footballers and rap songs are a true match made in hell, going together like Sepp Blatter and the English press. If you’re ever feeling down then putting on Fog on the Tyne by Gazza is sure to have you reaching for the revolver. There’s nothing more cringe worthy than your favourite winger suddenly appearing on MTV “spitting bars” and making songs so bad with rhymes so poor they make N-Dubz look Shakespearean.

It hasn’t just been the ‘rapping’ generation that’s had to endure footballers pretending to be ‘music artists’, any one old enough to remember Manchester City’s last trophy win will tell you that there were some really p*ss poor efforts that the Top of the Pops generation to endure. However as hip hop, r nb and good old fashioned rap have become the musical zeitgeist, footballers have been quick to  jump on the bandwagon. There’s also the advantage that you don’t have to be a good singer or be able to hold a tune to record a ‘rap’ song.

So which footballer rap songs have been the worst? Well there’s certainly enough to choose from and thanks to the joys of youtube all of them are easily accessible just in case you feel like torturing the bloke you’ve got tied up in your garage a little bit more.

Here’s my choice for the worst five  footballer rap performances in the history of the universe.

5. Asomoah Gyan- African Girls. Before he was scoring and missing penalties for Ghana and becoming part of the Premier League’s most feared strike trio, Gyan inflicted this pile of festering waste on the music world.  Its a display of rapping so bad it probably tempted Vanilla Ice to come out of retirement.

4. Paul “Gazza” Gascoigne – Fog on the Tyne. There’s not many men that could rap about sausage rolls- in between munching them no doubt- whilst wearing a multitude of shell suits and performing a dance routine so complex it borders on gymnastics. Gazza delivers his lines like a man in the job center who’s been forced to sing for his giro- which is ironically enough to cover the cost of this video.

3. Liverpool FC – The Anfield Rap. “We’ve got more stars than the cast of Dallas, got more trophies than Buckingham Palace..” Unfortunately the Liverpool players also had less singing talent than Milli Vanilli. Many teams produce rubbish cup final songs but few are as bad this. Only John Barnes would redeem himself musically by rapping on New Order’s World in Motion two years later, thankfully the rest of the squad didn’t bother trying to.

2. Andy Cole – Outstanding. Maybe by putting the word ‘Outstanding’ on the CD cover the music men thought people may think it was a review and buy this. Not only does Cole display the rapping ability of a middle aged pensioner from the cotswolds- recovering from a stroke- his lyrics plumb the sort of depths you’d associate with a drunken nursery rhyme. “United forever whatever the weather”- is a personal favourite. Cole may have been a great goalscorer but this song is the nadir of his professional career- even more than the stint at Wastelands.

1. Ian Wright – Do the Right Thing. This wouldn’t have topped the list if it wasn’t for one reason, while all the footballers on here are either having a laugh or showing a startling indifference to it all, Wright genuinely believes he’s the b*llocks. Technically he sings more than raps- in fact his rapping is merely speaking a few sentences- but technically this should have been banned for offensiveness anyway due to how bad it is. Wright was probably a little bit miffed this failed to reach the top ten, or twenty, or thirty, or forty, while the rest of us were shocked it actually reached 43- if you bought this-shame on you.

01
Dec
10

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……



13
Nov
10

Five things we learnt from the game against Villa

Vidic- was he pushed or did he jump?

Vidic- was he pushed or did he jump?

In the words of Morrissey ‘stop me if you think that you’ve heard this one before,’ United draw away from home, dropping valuable points and leaving Chelsea rubbing their hands in glee-that’s happiness not the annoying American singing show.

United’s away form has gone from causing concern, to being a real worry, to now almost being accepted as inevitable. Saturday’s early kick-off, after all a three o’clock start for the Reds is even rarer than an away victory, was yet another disappointing example of mediocrity.

A sixth away draw from seven is quite frankly abysmal and while the glass half full types will point to a 25 match unbeaten run, and the longest start to  a premier league campaign without defeat for United in eleven years- there is no denying that 12 dropped points at this stage isn’t good enough.

The game against Aston Villa, may have been a case of a point won for United as they were two goals down with less than ten minutes to play, but the Reds’ comeback was only necessary after what was 80 odd minutes of the worst performance by a United team in recent memory.

So what did we learn from the Villa game other than the difference between jumping into the crowd and being pushed, oh and Darren Fletcher is no so well known he no longer needs a name and number on his shirt?

Here’s five things I fathomed from United’s trip to the Midlands.

1. It’s time for the midfield to step out of Scholes’ shadow.
I wrote before the Villa game that I felt that Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher needed to show that they could offer some creativity in the absence of Paul Scholes. To say I couldn’t have been more disappointed would be an understatement. I know neither player is renowned for their attacking prowess but the fact remains both are capable of doing more than tackling -Fletcher- or passing it sideways -Carrick- yet that was all either offered for most of the game.
I’m a big fan of both players but when Scholes is unavailable one of them needs to take a bit responsibility, Saturday just wasn’t good enough and if things don’t improve then Fergie has to get his cheque book out or recall Tom Cleverley.

2. Nani is a livewire that United need. Against City Nani was poor and for much of the game against Villa he wasn’t much better but still managed to come up with a superb cross for Nemanja Vidic’s equaliser. It may not have made up for 85 minutes of rubbishness but he’s one of the few match winners United have at their disposal. He may at times be one of the most frustrating players ever to wear a United shirt but as he’s proven time and again this season, the ridiculous is often followed by the sublime. With Antonio Valencia out of the next few months, United will just have to suffer the torment of the Nani show.

3. Time to throw caution to the wind in these away games. Had United lost three and won three of the six drawn games then they’d obviously have been three points better off. Although by the end of the Villa game United were the far more attacking side, it was obvious after an hour in that it just wasn’t working.

Against City Sir Alex Ferguson decided to bring off Berbatov for Chicharito, against Villa he brought off both for the pair of Gabriel Obertan and Kiko Macheda. It’s time to start going for these games earlier. Leaving at least two strikers and two out and out wingers would have been a start. Chicharito hadn’t been  getting much joy but may have benefited from having Obertan trying to whip some crosses in for him and Macheda alongside him. Fergie could have left Berbatov on and taken off Park who was obviously struggling. Whatever the scenario, seeing Chris Smalling playing upfront was as bemusing as it was embarrassing and should simply not be happening in a United side.

4. Berbatov is not to blame for all United’s woes but his form is worrying. I’m a big believer that Berbatov was a good signing for United, that he does exactly what it says on the tin and that he should not have been sold in the Summer. As long as I live and breathe I defend any man who scores a hat-trick against the dippers. Even without those three goals I’ve long admired Berbatov and think that any suggestion  United should not have signed him and instead tried to keep Carlos Tevez, is flawed on many levels.
That said, the Bulgarian’s form cannot be ignored, no goals in eight games for a United striker is a worry and even though I know he brings more to the team than just goals- and was bought for such- it cannot be ignored. Berbatov seems to suffer from fluctuating confidence and against Villa he seemed, as did many of the United team, well off the pace. The problem for Berbatov, is that while nearly all the United team underperformed his poor showing is often highlighted by some fans and certain sections of the media who cannot wait to chastise him.

Berbatov’s performance against Spurs was one of his worst in a United shirt but I felt he was much better against City, however against Villa, the fact that he missed what was really a golden opportunity in the first half, will only add fuel to his detractors fire. He may benefit from having Rooney alongside him but he needs to realise his positives and try and get his mojo back before the fans he has won over, desert him again.

5. The missing player excuses have got to stop. Rooney, Valencia, Giggs, Scholes, Hargreaves or whoever may be missing but so what?! Villa were playing with a bunch of names I’d never pretend to have heard of, Hogg-wonder if he‘s related to Graeme, Bannan, Albrighton- okay I knew the last one. The point it is, Villa were well under strength and that shouldn’t matter anyway. Any players in the United squad should be good enough to do a job against the likes of Villa and on Saturday too many players just weren’t good enough. Had Villa’s second goal been indicative of the afternoon- United pressing and getting caught on the counter- I could have understood it, but it wasn’t.

United were poor throughout the team, admittedly certain players looked below fitness, Patrice Evra seemed to be struggling and Ji Sung Park look absolutely knackered, but if that’s the case then others should be stepping up. United have won the League over the years because they always gone at teams no matter who’s playing, there’s always been that United belief and pride, and I hate to say it but on Saturday for 80 minutes or more only one team really wanted it.

21
Oct
10

Deconstructing Rooney’s Statement

Rooney writes out another statement regarding the need for lower carbon emissions

Rooney writes out another statement regarding the need for lower carbon emissions

Wayne Rooney’s statement was delivered to the world’s press yesterday with the sort of fanfare usually reserved for general election results or the announcement of who’s been voted off the Xfactor. Within minutes of Rooney releasing his excuse, sorry, reason for wanting to leave Manchester United, millions of United fans around the world were analysing every word, sentence and nuance to see what exactly was going on in the mind of the player formerly known as a fan’s favourite.

While it’s quite obvious Rooney didn’t sit down in front of his Macbook and write the statement himself before emailing it to the press, it’s obviously the crux of why he wants to leave- at least in public.

So what did Rooney’s statement tell us? Well he wants to leave that much is certain but are the reasons for him leaving valid? Looking over the statement fully, it seems as though Rooney’s memory and argument is just a tad selective to say the least.

It begins…..

 
 “I met with David Gill last week and he did not give me any of the assurances I was seeking about the future squad.
I then told him that I would not be signing a new contract.
I was interested to hear what Sir Alex had to say yesterday and surprised by some of it.
It is absolutely true, as he said, that my agent and I have had a number of meetings with the club about a new contract. During those meetings in August I asked for assurances about the continued ability of the club to attract the top players in the world.
   Here seems to be the main argument, in fact you could say it’s the only argument Rooney is making, that United cannot continue to attract the top players. Well that would indicate that in the past United have attracted the world’s top players, yet is this the case?

Looking back over the past six years, since Rooney joined United, the players who’ve come to Old Trafford have not always been the best in the World, but have more often than not grown into that bracket. Some of United’s best signings during this period have not necessarily been ‘stars’ as such-although they certainly are now.

Fergie’s most astute signings in the period since Rooney joined United were arguably Edwin Van Der Sar, Patrice Evra and Nemanja Vidic who went to Old Trafford for a combined fee of around £14.5 million and United had little competition for their signatures.
United have spent big money on the likes of Anderson, Nani, Michael Carrick, Owen Hargreaves and of course Dimitar Berbatov and there’s no denying that these players were all sought after but were they considered among the ‘top players in the world’?

Anderson and Nani were seen as potential future stars, while Carrick was a highly thought of England fringe type midfielder whose £18.6 million fee left many feeling United had overpaid slightly. As for Hargreaves, he certainly was considered a top midfielder but even before he went to United, his injury problems were well documented. As for Berbatov, he was a shining star in the Premier League and the noisy neighbours were certainly interested, but it’s questionable as to whether he was really considered one of the world’s top strikers. He was probably a rung below the likes of Rooney, David Villa, Samuel Eto’o and Fernando Torres as being one of the truly top strikers in world football. Of course there was also a certain gentleman from Argentina who arrived, but the fact he was signed on a loan deal from West Ham or whoever the fook owned him, speaks volumes as to his standing in world football at the time.

The point I’m making is that since Rooney’s arrival United’s signings have often been ones that will grow in time, or players who aren’t quite attracting the rest of Europe’s elite but are still capable of doing a good job. Rooney’s argument that he wants to leave Old Trafford because he doesn’t feel the club will ‘continue to attract the ‘top players in the world’ is slightly flawed as United often don’t really go for the very top players.

Fergie has been bitten once with Juan Sebastian Veron who was considered one of the world’s best midfielders and came with a price tag that seemed to underline that fact to the tune of £29.1 million. However Veron’s time at Old Trafford was something of a disaster and he ended up leaving for just over half that fee, mainly due to Chelsea’s reckless spending in the early phase of the Abramovich era.

When Rooney claims its anxieties over the ability of the club to attract the world’s top players which is making him leave, it’s as though he wants Fergie to change his whole transfer policy and suddenly start bidding for big name players. Let’s not forget even a certain Cristiano Ronaldo was not a real star when he arrived at United- in fact I along with more than a few other fans were disappointed when we learnt it wasn’t the man now known as ‘Fat Ronaldo’ that was signing.

If Fergie had gone out last summer and spent £40 million on the likes of Joleon Lescott and Emannuel Adebayor would that have convinced Rooney of United’s ambition? Perhaps a £45 million bid for Zlatan Imbrahimovic would have made the scouse striker stay. The only problem with any of those signings is they’d arguably not improve United’s team one iota and been a complete waste of money, but hey at least it shows ambition.

To be fair to Rooney he’s actually not the first talismanic striker to leave Old Trafford due to a percieved lack of ambition by the club in regards to transfers.
Believe it or not Eric “The King” Cantona actually cited the same reason as part of his decision to retire. This is an extract from Fergie’s book Managing My Life:

 
 
“He [Cantona] was totally straightforward with me. He did want to finish….When I asked him again why he felt that way, he was not as vague as he had been previously and specified two recent trends at Old Trafford that had left him disillusioned. He said he felt he had become a pawn of Manchester United’s merchandising department and that he was not going to accept such treatment any longer. His second complaint was that United were not ambitious enough in the purchase of players. I had a lot of sympathy with him on both counts.” 
Of course there’s a world of difference between Eric’s retirement and Rooney’s desire to leave for greener pastures. After all Cantona wasn’t seeking more money elsewhere, or a club with more ambition, he’d more or less had enough of football and the lack of signing top players was simply one of his reasons. The fact Fergie sympathised said it all, at that time -1997- United hadn’t been ambitious enough in the transfer market. However the signings of Jaap Stam and Dwight Yorke, less than a year later would certainly address that issue.

The reason I mention Cantona’s comment is because it’s worth noting that Rooney hasn’t been the only one who’s had thoughts like that while being United’s star player. However, Cantona was leaving football altogether and was at a club that hadn’t won the CL twice in the past 11 years not to mention the league 11 times out of 18. There’s similarities between the two statements but there’s also a lot of differences, especially in the context of the times they were made.

The final part of Rooney’s statement, arguably is the most contradictory.

 
 I have never had anything but complete respect for MUFC. How could I not have done, given its fantastic history and especially the last six years in which I have been lucky to play a part?
For me it’s all about winning trophies – as the club has always done under Sir Alex. Because of that I think the questions I was asking were justified.
Despite recent difficulties, I know I will always owe Sir Alex Ferguson a huge debt. He is a great manager and mentor who has helped and supported me from the day he signed me from Everton when I was only 18.
For Manchester United’s sake I wish he could go on forever because he’s a one-off and a genius.”
  

If Fergie’s a genius and United have always won trophies under him, then why does Rooney want to leave? Fergie shows no signs of retiring for at least the next few years and as he’s stated himself his health is fine. Had Fergie announced he was retiring at the end of this season or even the next one, Rooney’s statement would make sense, but he hasn’t so it doesn’t.

Rooney’s statement has been seen by some as simply yet another reason why the Glazer family have to be removed, after all, it’s surely the debt they saddled the club with that’s caused Rooney to believe the club can no longer compete. However, while the debt and the interest are a joke, Rooney seems to have forgotten that United are not usually ones for making record-breaking bids for the world’s top stars.
Although, Fergie has been willing to splash that sort of cash on occasion- Rio Ferdinand, Rooney himself, it’s been extremely rare and not happened at all of late.

Whether more will come to light as to how much wages and signing-on fee have dictated remains to be seen but Rooney’s argument that United lack the ability to attract top players, seems a little hollow.
United lacking ambition? As Fergie succinctly put it last night following United Champion’s League win:

“Have I not won 30 trophies?”

 

 

 
18
Oct
10

Five things we learnt from the game against West Brom

Rio and Berba do their best to make Nani look small

Rio and Berba do their best to make Nani look small

Another weekend, another Manchester United lead thrown away, another draw for Sir Alex Ferguson’s men, another Wayne Rooney being dropped story doing the rounds, another ‘we’re still unbeaten’ argument being put forward by a few and another reason why it’s time to stop making excuses.

Yes United are unbeaten but they’re also in fourth place, have drawn more games than they’ve won and can be trusted to hold on to a lead about much as a Korean chef.

So what exactly did the latest disappointing result from United tell us other than Owen Hargreaves is still not match fit? Well despite doing the best to ‘look on the Brightside’ it’s now time to be a little more critical if United really want to win back ‘their’ trophy. Unlike previous draws which came away from home against established Premier League sides, the latest points dropped at Old Trafford to newly promoted West Brom have left more than  a few fans calling for drastic measures. While ‘Fergie needs to go’ type hysteria is as ridiculous as it is embarrassing-certain things need to be addressed.

Wayne Rooney should have figured more than 20 minutes- as a striker. Let’s not ignore the obvious or pussyfoot around it. The decision to drop Rooney backfired as not only did United fail to win what should have been an easy game, but subsequently all the headlines were full of the usual drivel about the striker either being Madrid-bound or ready to meet Fergie in the car park for a bit of a straightener. There’s even been talk of the noisy neighbours being his next destination- although that talk probably emanated from everyone’s favourite nonsense merchant Gary Cook- or someone equally as deluded. The recent stories surrounding Rooney’s ‘I’m fit’ comments, which went against what the United manager had been saying were a little over-the-top for me as everyone knows the striker would say he’s fit to play if he was hopping around with his amputated left leg tucked under his arm.
However Fergie’s decision to not only start Rooney on the bench but to then bring him on with just over 20 minutes left and stick him out on the left wing, have only encouraged the Chelsea fans of Fleet street to pour more fuel on the ‘Rooney Fergie Rift’ fire.

Regardless of the negative press connotations the fact is that for this game with United looking for a goal, Rooney should have been brought on a little earlier and played upfront. Personally I thought starting Cheech-a-ree-toe -just for a few commentators who seem to be oblivious- and Dimitar Berbatov was not a bad idea as I genuinely felt they’d do the job. However with a two goal lead thrown away, either striker could have been substituted for last season’s top scorer to fit into his natural role and finally, maybe silence a few critics.

Edwin Van Der Sar is human and not to blame. Fergie got it spot-on when he claimed the ‘keepers clanger which gifted the visitors the equaliser was not the real reason behind United’s failure. While it was a real cock-up of Massimo Taibi proportions, VDS is more than anyone entitled to the -extremely- rare mistake and it really shouldn’t have mattered.

 This wasn’t the final minutes against Chelsea, it was with a good 35 minutes left on the clock at home to a team that finished second in the Championship last season and have been beaten 6-0 by the champions already.  Roberto Di Matteo’s men may have improved a lot since their hammering at Stamford Bridge but they should still not have been too much trouble for United to overcome with such a large portion of the game still left to play. Van Der Sar’s error merely highlighted the fact that United seem to have lost that ability to dig deep and carve out results when the game turns against them. If Bolton was frustrating, West Brom was infuriating.

Resting the central midfield is a step too far. Giving Paul Scholes a break was risky, doing the same to Darren Fletcher for the same match was a recipe for disaster. Without the creativity of Scholes United looked less effective in the middle of the park and bereft of Fletcher’s engine they also lacked their energy and drive. West Brom were able to expose United’s midfield deficiencies with great effect in the second half and although Scholes was brought on with twenty minutes to go, it was too little too late. Darron Gibson was absolutely anonymous for United when he replaced-the injured Ryan Giggs. Take away Gibson’s shooting and he does nothing, which is acceptable if he’s banging in 20yard screamers but not so much if he’s not even having a go. Carrick is fast becoming United’s favourite fall guy but despite not really getting a firm grip on the match, he was probably a little less cr*p than Anderson and Gibson.

Time could be running out for Anderson.- a lot faster than he is.
For West Brom’s first goal, Anderson’s lack of pace was woefully exposed and it isn’t just due to match fitness as he also looks a little out of shape. The Brazilian’s always been a bulky type of player but for me he seems a tad heavier than usual and it showed in his performance. If he’s not crashing his car, or supposedly falling out with Fergie, or making noises about wanting to leave, then Anderson can be a quality player but he needs to step it up. Time is rapidly running out for a player who was once deemed one of the brightest young stars in world football and the excuses are sounding more desperate. I’m aware he’s just returned from injury but he’s been at United for long enough now to have staked his claim as a truly United-class player, yet he still hasn’t done that. If Anderson doesn’t score or create goals, then running with the ball and putting the tackle in are really the least we can expect. However the shape he’s in at the moment Anderson doesn’t look fully capable of doing either of those things, and while talk of his longing to return to Portugal may have been slightly misinterpreted, the time may be arriving where Fergie’s more than happy to pay for his ticket.

It’s time for the return of Carlos Queiroz. It sounds daft to argue that a different assistant manager could have made a difference against West Brom but does Fergie need a less sycophantic right hand man to challenge his decisions?

Mickey Phelan is doing an admirable job, one imagines, but there’s no denying that over the past ten years the best United teams have had Queiroz as the coach. The reason Saturday’s game highlighted the need for the former Portuguese national teams manager to return, is that he may have been able to convince Fergie to make the necessary changes sooner- or possibly even start with a stronger side. Ferguson has supposedly trusted Queiroz with input into team selection in the past and with United relying more and more on the ability of Nani, could his fellow countryman be the perfect coach to get the best out of him? Admittedly this final suggestion is based on a lot of conjecture but with no option to buy anyone for another three months- even then its doubtful depending on whether or not you believe David Gill, then Fergie’s only possible signing could be the one that saves United’s season.

04
Oct
10

five things we learnt from United’s game at Sunderland

Anderson gets involved in a Malbranque and Cattermole sandwich- poor lad

Anderson gets involved in a Malbranque and Cattermole sandwich- poor lad

Manchester United may remain  unbeaten but their away form continues to disappoint as
Saturday’s match at Sunderland can really be considered yet another missed opportunity.

Although like previous trips on the road there were positives, not even the best MUTV-style spin can hide the fact that no wins in four away games is simply not good enough for Sir Alex Ferguson’s men. Forgive me but I for one am a little tired of trying to ‘look on the brightside’ as Chelsea edge further and further away at the top of the table-and let’s not even mention the noisy neighbours.

When a Liverpool defeat is the highlight of your footballing weekend, you know that certain issues need to be adressed and its time for United to deal with them before its too late. Yes Sunderland are a good side- just like Fulham, Everton and Bolton- but you cannot win league titles by failing to win your away fixtures and watching City leapfrog over United in the table merely underlines the fact that something’s not right.

Of course, as I’m thinking of getting tattooed on my forehead ‘its not all doom and gloom’ but like Mickey Phelan’s penchant for wearing shorts no matter what the climate, United’s  failure to beat what is essentially a mid-table team is getting rather troubling.

So what did we learn from the trip to the second-best Stadium of Light in football other than the fact that it’s becoming compulsory to put ‘draw’ on the accumulator coupon next to a United away game?

Rafael is the present not the future. Rafael Da Silva picked up where he left off in Valencia with another quality display at right back. Okay he made the occasional mistake but how else is he going to learn if he’s not given the chance to make them? When it comes to mistakes the young Brazilian has a long way to go before he matches the amount John O’Shea can usually muster, so it looks like it may be time to give him a proper run in the side. Defensivley Rafael can be a tad worrying but that will surely improve and the lack of an outstanding candidate at right back- even though I think Wes Brown is world-class, but for some reason Fergie doesn’t agree- it is now time to give the youngster his chance.

Saturday’s performance was another reason why its now time to give Rafael the run he deserves, he may be young and occasionally a little reckless but he’s a quality player and a real threat going forward, as someone once sang ‘the time to hesitate is through.’

Too many strikers can get messy. I’m all for having five options up front but if United are going to make the most of them then Fergie needs to work out the right ones to use for the right games. Michael Owen  was totally anonymous in the first half and while he can lament the lack of service- rightfully so- it was obvious United would have benefitted from the energy of Chicharito or the class of Dimitar Berbatov. I realise that Berbatov had played a mid-week game as a lone striker and Fergie may have felt he was not up to ninety minutes but surely if he can play one half he can manage two. United looked a far better team when Berbatov was on the pitch- ditto Chicharito- and had either of them been given more minutes then we may have seen a different result.

Darren Fletcher needs to improve. Sunderland seemed to work out fairly quickly that keeping Paul Scholes quiet was a surefir way to stifle the brunt of United’s creativity. With Scholes was being closed down within seconds of recieving the ball it meant that it was up to others to try and conjure up something in midfield. Anderson gets stuck in but is still yet to get back to full fitness. The game was crying out for Fletcher to do more than just tackle people and give the ball to Scholes. At the start of the season I claimed that if United were to regain the title then Fletcher had to raise his game against the so-called ‘lesser teams.’ Put him against Chelsea or Arsenal and Fletcher’s like a man possessed, however he needs to do it more consistently. There is an argument that he’s merely a defensive midfielder not responsible for creating attacks. However we’ve seen Fletcher influence games in the past, moving the ball forward and it was crying out for something similar at the Stadium of Light. Like the game against Bolton the Scottish skipper seemed unwilling or unable to generate any sort of attacking moves and United suffered because of it.

Rio Ferdinand is vital. If United are to win the title, then they’re going to need Ferdinand for at least the majority of games. Rioferdy5 as he calls himself on twitter was back to his commanding best and United looked a lot better because of it. While Jonny Evans has done an admirable job filling in for Ferdinand he’s not quite in the same class and despite the fact that Nemanja Vidic was wearing the captain’s armband it was Rio who seemed to be marshalling the defence. United’s second successive clean sheet with Ferdinand back in the starting line-up is no coincidence.

Patrice Evra should not be ‘rested.’ Some may disagree- as they always do with a lot of what I write- but for me Evra is the world’s best left-back and is absolutely fundamental to the United team. Although he’s not looked as sharp since the World Cup -debacle- he’s still an immense threat going forward and the prospect of him and Rafael getting down the wings on the overlap would have been a scary one for Steve Bruce’s men.  In the second half we even saw Vidic getting down the left flank- my mate called it ‘disorganised’ I called it ‘total football.’ I’m aware that Evra played midweek but I feel dropping him was a gamble that backfired as although O’Shea did put in the -extremely- occasional cross he’s never going to be as much of a threat as Evra.

27
Sep
10

Five things we learnt from United away at Bolton

Elmander tries to protect his barnet from Nemanja Vidic

Elmander tries to protect his barnet from Nemanja Vidic

Another United away game another draw, it’s becoming something of a tradition this season for Fergie’s men. However unlike the previous two away games United didn’t throw away a lead- but don’t worry there were still the usual defensive errors to talk about.
While it would be fairly easy to copy and paste the last two ‘things we learnt from United’s away game’ there were still a few new realisations to talk about- or maybe just a reiteration of what we already knew- or how about a revision of previous thoughts seeing as were on words beginning with ‘r’.
It’s becoming increasingly frustrating having to see the same mistakes and obvious faults go unaddressed and this weekend would have -finally- been a chance for United to take full advantage of a Chelsea loss.
However although from a United point of view it is disappointing, it’s not all doom and gloom, there were still some positives to take from the game although the faults cannot be ignored.
So what did we learn other than the fact even in a brand new multi million pound stadium standing up can cause problems?

The two Jonnies cannot play in the same back four. While Patrice Evra is not quite back to his best and other players make mistakes, messrs Evans and O’Shea are becoming something of a worry, in fact that’s a bit like saying Malcolm Glazer isn’t on every United fan’s Christmas card list. Let’s start with my personal favourite John O’Shea, for many years now he’s been a fringe player used sparingly and only brought out for special occasions -usually against poor teams- a bit like putting away the nice china and bringing out paper plates for guests you don’t really like. Due to injuries and a case of mild insanity by Sir Alex Ferguson O’Shea has found himself as United’s preferred choice at right back. Now while I loved the last minute winner in front of the Kop a few years ago, I’ve always thought O’Shea is quite simply not good enough for United. I know that may seem harsh after all he’s been at the club since his youth and I don’t know if I mentioned it but he did score a winner at Anfield but for me its true.
O’Shea just seems to be a six out of ten player at best- giving the ball away needlessly, failing to meet passes and being a general weak spot in what is -usually- a reliable United defence. Against Bolton his lack of ability came to the fore once more.
It’s not O’Shea’s fault he’s not up to it,  he’s United through and through but unlike some players who have the ability but struggle with the consistency, O’Shea seems to actually not be very good at football. Just ask yourself how many top teams would O’Shea walk into compared with the rest of the United side? Not many. It’s got to the point where I’d rather see Owen Hargreaves wheeled out and dumped in the right back position than be forced to endure O’Shea again. Surely its time to hand the spot back to Wes Brown on a regular basis- or even give Rafael a chance.

That brings me on to Jonny Evans who really and truly needs ‘resting’ or ‘dropping’
if were not going to sugar coat it.
Unlike O’Shea I feel Evans is a naturally gifted defender who is good enough to play for United. Let’s not forget that between him and Gerard Pique, Evans was considered the better prospect and seemed to progress quicker. The problem for Evans is that he’s been thrown into the United side almost regularly when by rights he should only be playing the minority of games. If Rio Ferdinand hadn’t had his injury problems we’d probably be commenting how Evans is a reliable back up and a future United starter. Yet because Evans has been forced to play week in week out for practically two seasons, his failings have been exposed. Unlike a young striker who can score a goal then miss a few chances and still be praised every mistake Evans makes comes under scrutiny and is often costly. Teams now seem to target him as a weak spot, against Bolton he didn’t have the worst game but with him and O’Shea both in defence it looks dodgy to say the least. There’s even been rumblings of giving Chris Smalling a start which says it all really, of course if Fergie had played Rio Ferdinand instead of resting him then it would be a totally different story. However with question marks still remaining over much United can really rely on Rio -I do love the letter ‘r’- Fergie may have to consider another option in central defence before its too late.

United need a real plan B on the left wing. Ryan Giggs on his day is still one of the top performers in the EPL and despite his age can still do a job against any team. The problem is that if Giggs is injured or needs resting United don’t seem to have a truly viable replacement on the left. We saw it against Bolton when Giggs went off, part of the problem is the injury to Antonio Valencia has now given Nani the right wing position whereas in the past Fergie was partial to sometimes playing him on the left allowing him to cut inside. Now though- and I realise its only been a couple of games, its seems as though Nani is being deployed exclusively on the right. While I actually prefer to see him in that position it does mean a lack of alternatives on the left. One answer may be to put either Ji-Sung Park on the right and Nani on the left when Giggs is out or even try Anderson on the left wing. However Anderson hasn’t really been a winger since his Porto days and Nani performances on the right are at times awesome. Maybe Park could be used as a straight replacement for Giggs but I doubt it. My suggestion would be to actually roll the dice and let either Gabriel Obertan or even Bebe have a go when Giggs is out. They may be young and fairly untried in the first team- especially Bebe- but why not just give it a go? If it doesn’t work then other options can be examined but throughout the years Fergie has often gambled on a youngster to reap the rewards now may be another time to give it a try.

It’s time to give Rooney some real time off. Before you start screaming either ‘United need him!’ or ‘He’s been rested he’s got a job to do!’ allow me to explain. Rooney’s ankle has not been right for several months now- in fact you can take the word ankle -and the ‘s’ after Rooney- out of that sentence. He’s struggling and while a couple of weeks ago I thought he may have turned the corner it’s become obvious he hasn’t. The sight of him with an ice pack on his ankle a the Bolton game said it all, against Rangers he seemed to pull up because of it and you could almost hear 70 odd thousand gasps. What I’m suggesting is actually a couple of weeks rest and recuperation not anything to do with his extra-curricular activities and shielding him from those nasty mean opposing fans but simply get him back to real fitness. Dimitar Berbatov has picked up Rooney’ mantle and United also have Michael Owen, Kiko Macheda and Chicharito – not to mention the option of returning to a 4-5-1 formation with Anderson or Michael Carrick- remember him- back in the side.
Don’t get me wrong I’m aware of how valuable Rooney is and how resting players at United has often backfired but I fear if Fergie doesn’t give him a break it may take a lot longer than a couple of weeks before we see him back to his best.

United gained a point. With all the usual hyperbole I’ve been hearing- and spewing- about shoddy defending, points dropped and over-reliance on Paul Scholes -again-it seems something has been forgotten. While a draw at Bolton is nothing to get a tattoo about, it’s not the end of the world. Chelsea lost. United drew. Unlike the previous weeks where Carlo Ancelotti’s men have moved a little bit further away from Fergie’s, this time United made up ground. Okay it’s frustrating to fail to win a third away game on the bounce but at least there were some positives in the fact that United were able to twice come back from behind and show some fighting spirit rather than throw away a lead. I know it’s not much to hang on to but we’ve got to have a little bit of positive thinking -after all it could be worse, United could have been beaten at home by West Brom.

10
Sep
10

“It was on his weaker foot…” so!?!

irwin- showing he can also use both arms as well as both feet

irwin- showing he can also use both arms as well as both feet

I’m no football expert, anyone that’s read any of my articles will no doubt testify to that, but I do watch a lot of it and am able to occasionally question certain things. Usually my questions are explained or answered within a short amount of time and I’m left to ponder new wonders such as ‘can I allow myself to get carried away with England’s start to qualifying ?’ or ‘When will Mick McCarthy stop being so excitable?’

One question though that I’ve had been pondering ever since I saw Jason Wilcox in an England shirt that has yet to be answered is ‘why can’t players use their weaker foot?’
It’s one of the most shocking aspects of professional football that men who can bend 30 yard free kicks round walls, can volley a ball on the turn past the keeper and into the top corner and can pick out a 70 yard pass that drops into a player’s stride cannot be trusted to even shoot when the ball is on their weaker foot.

Wait I hear you cry ‘most Premier League footballers can use their weaker foot’ Really? Let me ask you this how many times when watching a top player miss a decent chance have you heard yourself – or the commentator make the excuse ‘it was on his -usually- left foot.’ The thing that baffles me most about a lot of player’s inability to use their weaker foot is the simple fact that as a professional footballer you’d think that not using 50% of the feet available to you would be barmy. Take boxing for example, all fighters have stronger hands, but would a boxer not use his left at all because it’s his weaker one? No of course not, he’d train just as hard with his weaker hand as he did with his stronger one. So why don’t footballers do the same thing? Why are so many top class players unable to use their weaker foot for anything other than standing on?

Not all players are like this of course, anyone who remembers Denis Irwin will know that some players seem equally at home using either foot. Irwin was one of the few players who it was almost impossible to tell which his stronger foot was. He spent nearly all his Manchester United career in the left back position yet was actually naturally right-footed. If it wasn’t watching him on dead ball situations you’d never have guessed as his passing, crossing and even finishing with his left was world class.
One of the biggest debates you can get into with a United fan when it comes to which was the better team, player era, etc, is who’s the better left back Irwin or Patrice Evra? I’ll go for Evra because I’m blinded by love, but to be honest many would say Irwin shades it. When you consider that one of them is actually right-footed it seems amazing there’s even room for a debate.

Of today’s crop of players not many can be considered ambidextrous when it comes to the feet department. Look at the England national sides problems over the years with the left midfield position. It actually makes you wonder how any of us- myself included- can think ‘this is gonna be our tournament’ when we can’t even muster up a player who feels comfortable for one of the essential positions. Unlike some positions on the pitch such as the anchor or supporting striker role, which can be abolished with different formations, the left sided midfielder is fundamental.

Some of the names who’ve donned a three lions shirt in a bid to solve the problematic left wing position merely highlight how few top players can use their left foot. As well as the aforementioned Wilcox, there’s also been the likes of Kieran Richardson and Stewart Downing- neither particularly bad but are they honestly England class? Then there’s the host of players who’ve been played there out of position- Paul Scholes- yes you read that correctly Scholes, one of the finest central midfielders of his generation was actually moved over to the left wing to play in a system that accommodated Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard in Euro 2004.

Then there’s been Gerrard himself, a player who’s made his name either just behind the striker or in the middle but yet again has been moved out to the left. Now you could argue that Scholes and Gerrard were moved simply to accommodate the Lampard/Gerrard ‘partnership’ – if you can call it that. But let me ask you, if we had a real top class left footed attacking player- or a right footed one who could actually use his left would it be possible to use the left wing position as a form of tactical quarantine zone, to stick players we don’t want to drop into so there still on the pitch just out of harm’s way? No. If we had a Ryan Giggs – it was inevitable he would have to get mentioned- then the England manager would be forced to play his strongest midfield pairing. Of course Giggs is just as guilty as any other player of being unable to properly use his weaker foot; he just gets highlighted because he’s naturally left-footed.
Players like Steve McManaman and Joe Cole have also been used for England on the left with varying degrees of success, it’s just a shame that over the years there haven’t been more who’ve been able to successfully make that position their own.
The point I’m making is that it still shocks me that so many gifted players are unable to use their weaker foot, youngsters are often encouraged to regularly practice with their weaker foot so why aren’t fully developed professionals?

Part of the problem may be that once you are fully developed its much more difficult to get accustomed to using your other foot, although considering many footballers spend hours training this argument is a little shallow to say the least.
Even someone like Wayne Rooney who is one of the greatest players I’ve ever seen, can still struggle to finish, what for him should be a fairly routine shot, with his weaker foot.

Part of the solution may be a weaker foot day in the Premier League where each player is only allowed to kick it with his weakest one, sounds crazy? Well so did playing Premier League fixtures in Africa but that nearly came about so you never know.

02
Sep
10

Premier League most hated XI

Drogba -everyone's favourite post match commentator

Drogba -everyone's favourite post match commentator

Over the years there have been many great players who’ve graced the Premier League, making it the most enjoyable entertaining and exciting domestic competition in the world. Players such as Cantona, Shearer, Henry, Ronaldo, Fabregas and Franny Jeffers have given even the non-football lovers a reason to tune in to Match of the Day on a Saturday night as they show us how the beautiful game can be truly just that. There have also been another set of players though, throughout the years, men who may have footballing ability but also have the knack of causing most of us to scream in anger whenever they touch the ball. I’m talking about the sort of players who if your daughter brought them home, you’d wish she was a lesbian. Players we love to hate.

Now, not many of us actually know Premier League players on a personal level, but we can pretty much garner all we need to know about someone from their attitude on the pitch. Some players such as Paul Scholes for example, will never be truly hated, which is somewhat surprising considering he’s fouled every single Premier League player at least twice, because they just get on with the game in a quiet manner. However for every Paul Scholes, there’s a Robbie Savage, the sort of player that even some of his own fans struggle to find a fondness for. Here’s my own personal Premier League XI made up of players you’d rather glass, than have a pint with.

Goalkeeper- Jens Lehman- Where do we start with Mr. Lehmann? Who can forget his chuckle-brothers esque shoving match with that other loveable chap Didier Drogba, or perhaps chasing a hapless linesman for 30 yards to berate him for a disputable decision. Lehmann also had a penchant for running out of his area often when not really required and for shoving, pushing, and generally antagonising anyone who came near him at a corner. He left Arsenal in 2008 after 199 appearances , during which he picked up a Premier League and FA cup winner’s medal- and got himself sent of in the Champions League final. He was soon up to his old tricks in Germany, racing out of his area allowing Cologne’s Wilfried Sanou to fire into an empty net from 45 yards, he then got in trouble for attending Oktoberfest immediately after, despite being told not to. No doubt he found a few Colonge fans to buy him drinks.

Left back There was only ever going to be one wasn’t there, in fact its so obvious I’m not even going to put his name. The Chelsea left-back is actually one of the best in the world and has won every domestic honour there is several times, but he’s also one of the most hated men ever to put on a pair of football boots. When he’s not refusing to be booked by referees, he’s busy lamenting the fact that Thierry Henry got more chants than he did, or complaining that £3 million plus a year, is enough to make you crash your car- more than a few people were probably wishing it did.

Right back- Gary Neville- I’m sorry but let’s be honest, while there are United fans that love Neville, they both live in Stretford apparently, for many, he’s become something of an embarassment. He may be one of the best right backs Old Trafford has ever seen, but more often than not his behaviour leaves a lot to be desired. Constantly saying anything to wind up the opposition, Neville is hated by anyone outside Old Trafford and even a few inside. As his appearances have become fewer his comments have increased, as have his actions. When he’s not giving players the bird, refusing to shake former collegues hands, or hiding behind Roy Keane in the tunnel, he’s making statements on anything from -deep breath now- Liverpool’s European exit, Carlos Tevez’s worth, Fabio Capello’s management ability, or how Premier League players are worth their wages. If Fred the Red ever retires, United have a ready made mascot.

Centre back- William Gallas- Who can forget the sight of the happy-go-lucky Frenchman sitting in the St.Andrews centre circle sulking, as Birmingham’s James McFadden tucked away penalty. The fact that Gallas was captain only made it more ridiculous. He took a leaf out of the Roy Keane school of youngster morale boosting by claiming in an interview that Arsenal’s younger players needed to “show more courage” if they were to succeed, perhaps sulking in the centre circle is a good way for them to start. Gallas was subsequently dropped from the squad for the next match before being stripped of the captaincy. A must for every dressing room in need of a sense of camaraderie or wishing to give a good example to the younger players.

Centre back- John Terry- Sorry Chelsea fans, well actually I’m not, but it’s yet another Chelsea defender who falls into the most hated category. His Guinness record breaking crying marathon following the Champion’s League final, apparently it lasted 34 days, still makes me wonder how anyone on earth could call him the ‘new Bobby Moore,’ I don’t recall England’s World Cup winning captain, sobbing his eyes out as he’s pictured with Pele in 1970. A player that often finds himself booed at away grounds- except at Old Trafford where, following Moscow,  he always gets and ironic cheer.

Left midfield- El Hadji Diouf- Although he can play in a number of positions for the purposes of this team he’s out on the left wing. What can you say about Diouf, honest, genuine, decent, clean, none of these words coud be used to describe a player who is almost as famous for spitting at people as he is for any footballing acheivements. Celtic fans, Arjan De Zeeuw and fans from Middlesboro have all been treated to a ‘gobby’ from the lovely lad from Senegal. Diouf isn’t a one-trick pony however, no no, he’s got more to his game than just spittting. How about a bit of abuse to those horrible nasty ball-boys at Goodison Park, that’s what’s missing in the modern game. 

Right midfield- Cristiano Ronaldo- okay, I still love Ronnie, but as someone said to me when he was still at United: “He might be a tw*t, but he’s our tw*t.” I had to agree.

Centre midfield- Steven Gerrard- arguably the most difficult time I’ve ever had as a football fan was supporting England with Gerrard wearing the captain’s armband. His camera -kissing celebration at Old Trafford as Liverpool stormed to another trophyless season was bad enough but it was his ‘accidental’ assist to Drogba to gift Chelsea the title cemented my dislike of him. He should have been banned for a year, mind you making him England Captain was probably punishment enough.

Centre midfield- Lee Bowyer – The former Charlton,

Leeds, West Ham  and Newcastle man has found an army of haters wherever he’s gone. It’s not just the fact that he holds the record for the most bookings in Premier League history or that he’s even been sent off for fighting with his own team-mates, its also that, well he’s just got one of those faces, hasn’t he?

Striker- Craig Bellamy- It takes a special player to get a list of enemies as long as Bellamy’s but the diminutive Welsh striker has managed to leave a trail of p*ssed off people behind him, wherever he’s gone. A career that took in Norwich, Coventry, Liverpool, Celtic, Newcastle and West Ham saw arguments with managers, and team-mates, ‘putt’ the striker on the most hated list of many. When Bellamy joined newly rich Manchester City  life at Eastlands was fairly quiet for the little Welsh one, although he did find time to assault a United fan- who was being held by stewards- in the Manchester derby, United fans don’t hold grudges though, even giving Bellamy a bit of money on his next trip to Old Trafford. There was also his public support of John Terry which no doubt endeared him to Chelsea fans. He’s a player that can often be seen winding up the opposition and he usually succeeds in that endeavour. Bellamy’s loan move to Cardiff left Pentonville rather disheartened as they were looking for a new forward.

Striker- Didier Drogba- For me one of the  funniest sights in recent Premier League history was Drogba having a ‘fit’ after being flying kicked by Jonny Evans, only to be booked by the referee. The Chelsea forward has become so known for falling over at the drop of a hat, that he’s even admitted it in interviews. Talking of interviews his post-match analysis following Chelsea’s Champion’s League exit to Barcelona was legendary. When he’s not diving, sulking and swearing he does score a lot of goals, but he’s done enough over the past few years to edge his way on to here.

Subs bench– Mark Bosnich, Emmanuel Adebayor, Kevin Davies, Duncan Ferguson, Robbie Savage, Michael Brown, Stephen Hunt.

12
Aug
10

Ten Things United Must Do To Win Back ‘Our Trophy’

Will we be seeing scenes like this at OT come May?

Will we be seeing scenes like this at OT come May?

With last season’s title race going right down to the wire with Chelsea edging it over Manchester United by a single point every game counted towards the title. This summer has seen a distinct lack of major transfer activity from either club with Chelsea having something if a mini-exodus and bringing in only Yossi Banayoun, while United have made two additions, in Chris Smalling and a certain diminutive Mexican who’s already grabbed a few headlines with the most bizarre Wembley goal since Emile Heskey’s last one. The question is are the new signings enough to bring the trophy back to Old Trafford, just what do United need to do to wrestle the title back from West London and is Dimitar Berbatov ever going to revert back to his headband? Here’s a list of ten things which need to happen for Sir Alex Ferguson’s men to overtake Liverpool in the title winning stakes.

1. More goals from midfield. While many a United fan is quick to point out the deficiencies of Berbatov and even Ferguson has lamented the injury to Michael Owen that robbed United of his services for the business end of the season, the fact remains the midfield did not score nearly enough goals last season. Michael Carrick, Darren Fletcher, Antonio Valencia, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Nani managed 24 league goals between them, the same amount that Frank Lampard scored. While certain players –Fletcher for example- are not in the side to score goals, while Giggs and Scholes can hardly be expected to hit double figures at their age- it is still obvious United need more goals coming from the midfield department. If Rooney continues to operate as a lone striker –as he did for much of last season- then someone behind him needs to step up. Personally I’d like to see Nani and Valencia weighing in with a few more this time round.

2. A bit more stability in the starting XI. I fully understand that with United chasing honours on four fronts, the need for a large squad and a bit of rotation but surely it’s time for a little moderation. It seems every week there’s a new right back, its 4-5-1 then it’s 4-4-2, Berbatov starts, grabs a goal, then is dropped for the next game, Anderson’s in, then he’s out again, ditto Ji Sung Park. Admittedly injuries and the ages of certain players have to dictate Fergie’s thinking and the days of the man on the street naming the Saturday’s starting XI are long gone. However it could be time to give some players more than just one game in every three, and try and get a bit more cohesion going between certain ones. I’ve said it before and it may sound crazy but unless Rio Ferdinand can get back to proper full fitness, I’d make Jonny Evans and Nemanja Vidic my starting centre backs for every game. Stability has often been the key to United’s success and maybe a bit more is needed.

3. Give youth a chance. With Tom Cleverly not going out on loan, and the Da Silva twins and Macheda getting a chance both at the end of last season and in this pre-season then could we now see a few youngsters starting more than just the Carling Cup games? Hopefully yes. If United are not going to buy Mesut Ozil- to be honest I don’t think they will- then why not give either Darron Gibson or Cleverly the chance to have a run in the side. After all despite what a certain Scottish pundit may have claimed you can win things with kids. United have bags of experience in every department so throwing one or two youngsters into the mix shouldn’t lead to disaster and what better way for a developing player to learn than to play alongside the likes of Scholes, Giggs or Rooney.

4. Darren Fletcher to raise his game. At first this may seem blasphemous, after all ‘super Daz’ was one of United’s best performers last season, putting in the sort of barnstorming displays you’d associate with Roy Keane. However the reason I think he should raise his game is simple- because he can. While there’s no denying against the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool, Fletcher bosses the midfield so much he even had Arsene Wenger complaining of his ‘anti-football’- so basically tackling people then- but against lesser opposition Fletcher can occasionally be a little less influential. I know it seems harsh to criticise such a dedicated player but let’s be brutally honest, there are times when his passing can go awry a little too often, and despite what I said earlier about him not being in the side to score goals that doesn’t mean he can’t. His brace against City and his superb volley – or should that be superlative strike- in the home game against Everton show that Fletcher knows where the goal is. I know he’s quality I just feel that if he were to perform against the likes of Sunderland as he does against the top teams, he could well be the difference between second and first.

5. Michael Carrick. This one doesn’t need a Fletcher-type apology or explanation, it’s shockingly simple. He’s got to start performing consistently. Carrick’s been at Old Trafford for four seasons now yet amazingly the jury still seems to be out on him. Three title winning campaigns would be enough to put most players in the pantheon of club legends but Carrick has a knack for going missing when he’s needed most and sometimes making costly errors. The games against Wolves away and Liverpool and Bayern Munich at home were cases in point. While Carrick’s mistakes in the first two may have been academic his failure to deal with the danger in the Champion’s League, then getting caught dilly-dallying on the ball, cost United two goals, and to some critics the tie. While I think there was more to it than just Carrick, the fact that he was dropped from the United side after his similar blunder gifted Liverpool an early Old Trafford lead, may mean that Fergie is running out of patience with a player who should now be hitting his peak not going backwards. If he doesn’t perform well at the beginning of the campaign, I feel it’s time to give someone else a chance.

6. Beat their title rivals. Ok this may sound like the sort of obvious statement you would associate with David Pleat but it’s true. The past two seasons have seen United lose home and away to their nearest rivals. In 2008-09 they got away with it mainly due the fact that by the time Liverpool came to Old Trafford and won 4-1, the title race was all but over. Last season however, even a draw in either game against Chelsea would have been enough to see United win the title for a record breaking nineteenth time but it wasn’t to be. United have usually performed well against their title rivals and there’s no doubt that a man has proud as Ferguson will be looking to regain that tradition this season. Winning against your rivals doesn’t just give you a points advantage it can often help psychologically convince you that you’re the better team and it’s time United took the edge on both counts.

7. Believe the hype and give Chicharito a proper run. I’ve tried not to get over excited about Javier Hernandez, but it’s been about as difficult as liking Ashley Cole as the ‘Little Pea’ shone in both the World Cup and United’s pre-season. Whether he’s banging in screamers against Argentina or using his teeth in the Community Shield, it’s obvious that he’s class and rather than wrapping him up in cotton wool or saving him for special occasions like the nice china, Fergie should unleash him and let him stake a claim for a regular starting place. He’s been compared to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, which is a bit unfair, but if he is going to be another ‘baby-faced assassin’ then he should at the very least be an obligatory substitute coming on after 60 minutes in every game.

8. Improve the atmosphere at Old Trafford. Whether United have money or not chanting and singing is still free- mind you give it time and they’ll probably charge us- so there’s no excuses for having a lack of noise at Old Trafford. United still have the highest attendance in the League, yet at times away fans of a mere few thousand are out-singing 70-odd thousand Reds. ‘We want Glazers out’ is one chant that seems to be heard without any problems but it’s hardly likely to motivate the team. While I’m not saying that shouldn’t be sung, I’m merely stating that the fact remains personally I’ve been a bit embarrassed by the lack of atmosphere at OT at times and think a bit more noise wouldn’t go amiss. United may have only dropped eight home points last season, but if they can get the sort of atmosphere you hear against City going every week, then there’s every reason to feel they won’t drop any. This isn’t something the club should be culpable for, it’s up to the fans and don’t worry I’ve brought plenty of vuvuzelas back from South Africa so message me and I’ll send you one.

9. Take the burden off Wayne Rooney. Sounds simple doesn’t it? It’s a bit like saying score more goals than the opposition or win more games than your nearest rivals, but the fact is, United cannot win the title with Rooney alone. When Cristiano Ronaldo was scoring goals like they were going out of fashion, a large part of that was down to Rooney. Last season Didier Drogba had Lampard to help him out, Arsenal will no doubt have Robin Van Persie and Cesc Fabregas this time round. Rooney needs someone to weigh in with not just their fair share of goals but also assists and being another option that players look for when United are attacking. Berbatov, Hernandez or one of the midfield, it doesn’t matter but when Rooney’s fit and playing it shouldn’t mean that if he has a quiet game so do United. When Rooney’s out, it’s time for someone else to perform; no doubt all eyes will be on Berbatov who came up short against Chelsea and Blackburn last season. Whether or not this will be the Bulgarian’s season remains to be seen, but someone needs to give ‘r Wazza a hand.

10. Play Edwin Van Der Sar in every league game. VDS performance in the Community Shield was yet another in a long list of exemplary shifts between the sticks at Old Trafford. The Dutchman was injured for the beginning of last season and Ben Foster was preferred to Tomas Kuszczak and all but ended both his United and England career with a series of inept displays. A loss away to Burnley and a disappointing home draw to Sunderland came on Foster’s watch, while Kuszczak oversaw the home loss to Aston Villa and the away loss to Fulham- although to be fair the entire defence was injured for that one. Van Der Sar may be 40 but if he can manage the league games and Fergie rests him for the cup ones, he may just be the difference between another near-miss or making United the most successful ever team-at least domestically- in England.