Archive for the 'Scottish leaders' Category

22
Oct
10

Why United should go all out to keep Wayne Rooney

Rooney realises he's just posted his new address on facebook

Rooney realises he's just posted his new address on facebook

He’s overrated, he’s a flat-track bully, he’s not been playing well for months anyway, he’s not scored a screamer in years, with the money we’ll get we can rebuild half the team, he’s only had one prolific season, he’s scouse.

The reasons why Wayne Rooney’s departure wouldn’t be such a bad thing have been doing the rounds among Manchester United fans ever since Sir Alex Ferguson revealed the stunning news on Tuesday.

It seems last season’s top scorer and a player who only a few days ago was revered as United’s talisman and one destined to join the holy ranks of the likes of George Best, Bryan Robson, Roy Keane and Eric Cantona, as a true United legend, is now a useless, overweight, waste of space. A man who’s greed for money is matched only by his greed for pies and who would actually be doing United a massive favour by leaving at the earliest juncture, to give the Reds the maximum profit and allow Dimitar Berbatov and Paul Scholes to carry on leading the team.

Well despite trying my hardest to convince myself that Rooney leaving Old Trafford is not such a bad thing, I’m sorry but I’ve failed miserably and am now in fact more convinced than ever of the need for United to try and keep him. Although it looks highly unlikely, especially considering the actions of the hate mob who surrounded his house last night issuing death threats and acting like total morons, I for one think if there’s any chance of keeping Rooney, United should do whatever it takes.

It actually amazes me that people seem to think the loss of Rooney would not be that much of a disaster for United, that bigger and better players have left and United have always bounced back and will do once more.

Well let me make one thing clear, United with or without Rooney, will survive of that there is no doubt. United have survived the worst disaster imaginable only to come back stronger. United have gone over a quarter of a century without a title only to win 11 in 18 years and have seen countless players leave for ‘greener pastures’- possibly with cows in them- only to cast an envious eye over at Old Trafford as their former colleagues go from triumph to triumph.

Manchester United will always be one of the world’s biggest clubs, without or without Wayne Rooney. However my problem isn’t for the long-term prospects of the club as a whole- although I like every other United fan have more than a concern about the Glazer situation, my worry is can United afford to lose their best player and still challenge in the short-term? If Rooney goes then United won’t just be missing a player who’s gone from unsung selfless grafter in the shadow of Cristiano Ronaldo to prolific leader over the space of 12 months, they’ll be losing one of the few true superstars in world football.

It’s easy to use Rooney’s form as an excuse for him not being missed but as is often said ‘form is temporary, class is permanent’ and Rooney will without a doubt come out of the barren spell he’s wallowing in, with venom, sooner or later.

Last season United missed out on the Premier League title by two points- okay it was one and goal difference but you know what I mean- and had Rooney stayed fit towards the end, then the title would no doubt have been staying at Old Trafford.

Ditto the Champion’s League, if it wasn’t for the injury Rooney picked up in Munich, it’s safe to say United would have been facing Internazionale in the final, after all the semi’s against Lyon would hardly have been a major task. Rooney was immense last season and actually improved on the superb player he’d been in the previous two seasons.

There’s no reason why once he gets over the poor form and lack of full fitness that’s been dogging him since that seminal night in Munich, that Rooney can’t go on to get even better. After all at only 24 years of age he’s five years away from his peak and there is no end to just how good he could become.

I know as a United fan this is a very risky statement, as if Rooney joins City I’ll be forced to stand by it to the City fans I know who’ll be rubbing it back in my face, but I’ve got to be totally honest and say I believe Rooney is an exceptional talent that would walk into any team.

What’s going on behind closed doors between United and Rooney is anyone’s guess, but with the club’s statement of ‘no real developments’ and the drama of the United hate mob laying siege to his house, then the likelihood is that Rooney’s almost certain to leave.
If there is a slim chance that Fergie, David Gill or whoever can convince Rooney to stay then they should definitely take it. I know there’s a lot of anger at the way Rooney has acted and I’m thinking of selling Paul Stretford voodoo dolls at the next United home game, but if a bit of pride can be swallowed and a deal reached then I’m praying United make it.

In the past when big players have left such Paul Ince, Mark Hughes, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, David Beckham, and Kleberson, United have simply found new ones to replace them usually through the youth system or the young signings. I think the same could definitely happen again if Rooney left. Kiko Macheda, Chicharito and Danny Welbeck could all have bright futures at United but I can’t see them leading a title charge for at least another two seasons.

The worrying thing about Rooney leaving is that, Fergie may only have three or four seasons left in him at United and if this is a similar situation to 2003/04 where the rebuilding process began and took three years, then by the time it’s done he may be ready to retire. Call me a sceptic but I think there’s far too much deadweight in the United squad at the moment- I’ll leave the names for another blog, and losing Rooney may be the start of a massive overhaul that could take a while.

Let’s not forget that three of United’s most experienced and important players are not going to be around in two season’s time. Rooney is the type of player you can build a team around and despite the money United may get for him, who can they buy that’s in a similar class?

United will go on whether Rooney’s leading the attack or someone else, but there’s no doubt that with him in the team the future would look a hell of a lot brighter.

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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.

16
Sep
10

Always look on the bright side of life

Anderson found scouse humour somewhat strange

Anderson found scouse humour somewhat strange

It’s been a somewhat disappointing start to the season for Manchester United, with last-minute goals conceded, a season-ending injury to a star player and former big issue sellers –rather than German superstars -joining the club.  

However while missing out on Mesut Ozil, and being a few minutes away from a perfect league start is annoying it is far from the end of the season- unfortunately the same can’t be said for Antonio Valencia.  No amount of optimism or sugar-coating will hide the fact that the Ecuadorian’s injury is a massive blow to United as he was one of the shining stars in last-season’s campaign.

I’ve still not been able to bring myself to watch it on television- I was sat near enough when it happened to see all I want to of that horrific injury and the reaction of the Ranger’s players said it all.

My main concern with Valencia is not whether we see him this season but that he’s able to re-capture the form he showed last season and this isn’t a Neil Webb –ask your dad- type injury that robs him of a lot of talent.

The feeling around United following the non-event that was a goalless draw against far inferior opposition is that the start to the season has been something of a letdown with needless points dropped, Wayne Rooney making the news for all the wrong reasons, not to mention the –still- ongoing saga of United’s number four.  Some fans –including me- are beginning to resemble the cast of Eastenders, looking ready to burst into fits of rage or just sink into a mood of melancholy at the drop of any more points.

While Owen  Hargreaves is looking about as likely to play for United again as Carlos Tevez, the squad at Old Trafford still has enough quality to challenge for major honours- at least in theory.

The names Rafael Van Der Vaart, Tom Cleverley and Ozil have been spoken about more in the past few days by many United fans and while any of those three would be useful to the squad there’s still a wealth of talent available.

Anderson and  Michael Carrick have yet to really figure this season and both players know that this could be their last season at Old Trafford if they don’t step up their game. While I’ve been critical of both players in the past, I still think they’ve got enough talent to play a big part and hopefully they will.

When it comes to the points United have dropped- and believe me I was as frustrated as anyone at the final whistle of both away games- it’s still not as bad as it may seem.

Chelsea of course have gotten off to a flier but considering their form at the back end of last season and the fixtures they faced can anyone have expected anything less?  

The likes of Wigan, WBA, Stoke and West Ham are the sort of games Carlo Ancelotti would probably have chosen as his first four of the season if he had the choice. Now I’m not getting into any conspiracy theory here that Chelsea have deliberately been given an easy ride but let’s face facts no one can really have expected the Champions to drop points against those teams.

United’s two away fixtures have been  more difficult than any games Chelsea have had so far this season and while the manner of the draws is frustrating there’s still a chance that Ancelotti’s men may return from both grounds with less than maximum points.

It must also be remembered that from the corresponding fixtures last season, United took no points whatsoever, so it’s not all doom and gloom just yet.

While the draw with Rangers was without a doubt one of the most boring 90 minutes I’ve witnessed since England took on the titans from Algeria it’s still need to be put into perspective. Yes, Sir  Alex Ferguson should not have changed ten of his players from the previous game and yes that is the sort of match where the term ‘banker’ could not be more apt- unless applied to someone who works in a bank of course- but you’d still expect United to top their group.

Going to places like Valencia, Glasgow and anywhere in Turkey is never easy for teams but they’re hardly the cream of Europe and quite frankly if Fergie’s men can’t get a result from those games then the Champion’s League is beyond them anyway.  I fully expect Fergie to realise the limits of which players he can and cannot leave out- he’s already admitted as much about Dimitar Berbatov – and play a much stronger side in the remaining games.

When it comes to Rooney- although his performance against Rangers was subdued- he’s shown enough in the game against West Ham and for England that he’s putting his World Cup and subsequent  ladies of the night debacle behind him and getting back –slowly- to being the striker we all know he is.

Fortunately for Wazza unlike last season, this time round he actually has a world-class partner who’s playing like he is actually world –class so it’s not all up to him to provide United’s goals.  Berbatov’s start to the season- while far from perfect has been a massive improvement on last term and he’s looking sharp.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, United lost the title last season not due to defensive frailties but simply because of an over-reliance on Rooney- Chelsea had Frank Lampard to lighten Didier Drogba’s goal load- who did United have?- other than possibly ‘own goals.’

If Berbatov can hit 20 goals this season then United stand a good chance of seeing the title return to the ‘Theatre of Dreams.’

The main worry defensively is the recent penchant for conceding late goals, what united need is a world-class defender with bags of experience who can help steady the ship, oh erm hang on. The return of Rio Ferdinand is exactly what’s needed and if he can stay fit then the one really worrying factor of United’s play this season could be resolved.

Even the Valencia injury may not be season-ending with recent reports indicating he could play a part at the back end of the season.  There’s also Gabriel Obertan to return who may well rise to the challenge of filling one of last season’s members of the PFA team of the year’s boots. Obertan has show signs in the reserves that he’s the real deal- now’s his chance to prove it.  

The point I’m making is that while it’s not been the start many United fans were hoping for, it’s far from the disaster certain people- including those in the press who love to see United fail- would have us believe.

What United could really do with is a home game against an arch-rival who are really struggling, to get the mood and confidence buzzing around Old Trafford again. If only we had a game like that coming up……………

13
Sep
10

five things we learnt from United’s draw with Everton

"your exit points are here and here"

"your exit points are here and here"

Manchester United’s defeat, sorry draw against Everton at Goodison Park on Saturday was tagged as a shining example of the drama of the Premiership by some in the media. For many United fans however it merely underlined certain frailties that haven’t been addressed since the Fulham game and left a bad taste in the mouth.

While following that disappointing result at Craven Cottage- from a United point of view, there were still some positives to be taken, it’s a little harder to keep your chin up when your side gives away a two-goal lead in stoppage time. It was so painful that I couldn’t put myself through it again on MOTD , me and a mate actually debating whether to watch a sky + recording of X-factor his missus had taped when we got home from the pub. Eventually though it was time for some honest reflection and while it still makes me feel slightly sick, it’s not time to buy a City shirt and sell my soul to the devil just yet.

There are several lessons to be learned from Saturdays game and none of them involve Wayne Rooney- that’ll be the last time he gets mentioned in this article I assure you. Evra’s human and men approaching middle age get tired are among two of the things we learned from Saturdays game at Goodison.

1. Kill or be killed. While three goals is usually enough to see United beat even the strongest of attacking sides, there can be no denying that there was ample chance to put the game well and truly to bed before the final two minutes. Both Dimitar Berbatov and Nani- it’s him again- could have, well should have, done better with chances they had when the game was at 3-1.

What’s particularly frustrating about it was that both players are capable of doing much better than they did with their final opportunities and it was a case of being far too lackadaisical and treating the game as though it was won. There’s no real excuse for not making sure. Berbatov has been on fine form of late and its seems harsh to apportion any of the blame for United’s failure to win at his door. It still grates though that what should have been a simple goal for Ryan Giggs or Nani had the Bulgarian squared the ball, ended with a rather timid shot that went wide. Nani’s decision making also again was called into question, as he also wasted a good chance at the end when he had better options.

2. Patrice Evra is human. It’s been a long, long time -in a galaxy far far away- that I can recall saying the words ‘Evra had a ‘mare’ but unfortunately on Saturday he did. Not since his debut against City can I remember my favourite United player looking so out of sorts. It was a strange sight to witness and not one I want to see again, but United’s left back gave the sort of performance that you’d associate with John O’Shea on a very bad day. It was totally out of character and hopefully not something we’ll see again soon. Why was Evra so bad? Well he’s had his fair share of bad press since the World Cup plus his appeal against his five match French ban was recently turned down so that may have affected him. Perhaps Fergie should have rested him for an extra week following the World Cup and he is actually suffering from a bit of fatigue. Either way United need all their top players performing to the best of their ability with some more tough games coming up. On Saturday Evra showed that he’s not infallible, let’s just hope it was a minor blip rather than any real problem the Frenchman is suffering from.

3. Rio’s return can‘t come quick enough. The name on almost every United fans lips at full time, was not Wayne..sorry I almost forgot, was not any missing striker, it was that of Mr Ferdinand, who’s return now seems to be more vital than ever.

 The freedom with which Cahill managed to score Everton’s second was slightly worrying, the fact that Mikel Arteta had enough time to make a brew before he banged in the equaliser was shocking. A few people pointed the finger at Jonny Evans for either -or both- goals and while I think it was a team -lack of- effort that contributed to them rather than one individual there’s no doubt that Rio’s return would help sort the defence out no end. The question is will Ferdinand be-in true Take That style- back for good? After all a man who last season was behind Ledley King in Premier League appearances can hardly be counted on to play the majority of games.

 In the past I’ve actually advocated giving Evans a chance even if Rio’s fit just because the Irish defender stays fit and would benefit from a stable run in the side. However, even I have to admit that it would be foolish not to put a fit Ferdinand back in the side. His organisational skills or ‘silks’ as he calls them on twitter, were sorely missed at Goodison. While were on the subject of changing the defence, is it not time to forget about playing Gary Neville in difficult games?

That may sound harsh but I for the life of me can’t work out why Wes Brown has become a reserve team regular recently and also why he no longer seems a viable option at right back? People will say Rafael is too inexperienced but how is he going to gain big game experience if he doesn’t play in the big games. Like Evans It wasn’t Neville’s fault for the goals but is he really the best man for the job at right back? I think not.

4. We‘ve got a squad so we need to use it. Having three outfield players over 34 playing a full 90 minutes was a bit of a strange decision by Sir Alex Ferguson to say the least. Both Neville and Scholes looked a bit dead on their feet towards the end of the match, and had either or both been replaced then things may have been different. Neville gave the ball away for their third while Scholes failed to pick up Arteta, yet can we be surprised? Neville’s hardly had any match practice while Scholes has been ever-present this season. I can understand why Fergie took off Evra for Park, but I don’t see what harm it would have done to introduce Rafael or Darron Gibson- or both -for Scholes and Neville. Then there was Nani who seemed to disappear towards the end, leaving poor old Gary Neville totally exposed down the right hand side. Why Fergie was reluctant to change it, when there were obviously tired legs out there baffles me slightly.

5. Teams aren’t giving up anymore. In the past even away from home it’s not been unusual for certain teams to simply accept that they’ve lost the game when United are leading with only a couple of minutes left. I’m not claiming that teams cannot be bothered, just that some opposing players allow their heads to drop slightly in the closing minutes as they succumb to the idea that the game is now lost.

 However, this is no longer the case. As Fulham showed two weeks ago and now Everton have proven, teams are not going to roll over and die against United anymore. If United are to wrestle the title from Chelsea’s grasp- and for the record I’m not buying into the idea that it’s practically impossible after only four games and no defeats- then they’re going to have to prepare for battle. A result against United is still the premier scalp for many players, and the air of invincibility that Fergie’s men had a couple of seasons ago has long gone.

Teams are willing to fight to the death- not literally , unless its Wolves if the press is to be believed- so it’s time for United to roll up their sleeves and get ready for 94-minute slogs. Last season many a United fan -myself included-laughed at the ‘noisy neighbours’ penchant for conceding late goals- well if their not careful that particular affliction could become one associated with the Red half of Manchester.

31
Aug
10

5 things we learnt from the victory against west ham

Rooney - 57 minutes without a goal!

Rooney - 57 minutes without a goal!

Five things we learnt from Manchester United’s game against West Ham.

Watching Manchester comfortably put West Ham to the sword at a rain soaked Old Trafford this weekend arguably told us very little about which way the title will be heading. United’s 3-0 victory did have some lessons to teach us though, a few we were expecting – Wayne Rooney needs time but is on his way back to his best- and one or two that were a bit of a surprise- Nemanja Vidic has leapfrogged Ryan Giggs on the captaincy stakes. Here’s five things we were able to ascertain from United’s fairly routine victory other than the fact that Louis Boa Morte and Keiron Dyer still exist.

  1. 1. He comes from Serbia he’ll f*cking skipper ya. Nemanja Vidic wore the Captain’s armband and certainly did the role justice. With some fine tackles, one on Carlton Cole was particularly impressive not to mention a range of passing I’d almost forgot he had, the Serbian was on top form. While Vidic’s ability may be no real revelation the fact that he was handed the Captain’s armband over Giggs, may just mean that Fergie wants a skipper who’s going to start practically every game. The only question remaining now is will Rio Ferdinand be relieving him of his leadership duties when he returns from injury- judging by Saturdays display Vidic certainly doesn’t deserve to lose them.
  2. Get ready for the Nani rollercoaster. Last week following his penalty miss, many United fans were left feeling a little annoyed with Mr Luís Carlos Almeida da Cunha, however the winger banished that miss to the distant memory banks with a performance against West Ham that was at times mesmerising.  Nani’s link up lay with Dimitar Berbatov was mouth-watering and gave us the impression that Nani may have just gate crashed Rooney and Berbatov’s strike partnership and turned it into a three pronged attack. While Nani is still occasionally guilty of giving the ball away and should have done better when put through by Giggs, a player of his ability is allowed a modicum of inconsistency as long as he can be relied upon to be a threat. It’s looking like the ‘next Ronaldo’ tag could finally be rightfully forgotten as the Portuguese winger carves his own name into the list of Old Trafford favourites.
  3. Defenders beware Rooney is returning. With all the talk of how many minutes, games, hours, seconds, episodes of Coronation Street Wazza had gone without a goal it was a relief to finally see that bit of statistical annoyance squashed. While Saturday’s performance was by no means vintage  Rooney it was arguably his best one since Sunderland last season. His goal from the penalty spot was well taken and may just relieve some of the pressure that seems to have been heaped upon one of the best strikers on the planet since before the World Cup. All strikers have barren spells but not many carry their team almost single handed to a title challenge as Rooney did last season. Hopefully the media can now concentrate on how long it’s been since Darren Fletcher took a throw-in or something equally as frivolous and let Rooney get back to the business of giving defenders-well in fact whole teams -nightmares.
  4. Spreading the love. Nani and Rooney’s goals mean that six United players have now got on the score sheet since the season started- not counting last season’s third highest scorer- own goals. That’s quite impressive considering were only three games in and highlights the fact that the over-reliance on Rooney may become a thing of the past. United’s most successful teams have always had goals spread throughout the team and other than last season and maybe the Ruud Van Nistelrooy era, there hasn’t been one sole United striker everyone’s relied upon. Even when Cristiano Ronaldo was breaking records, Rooney, and a certain Argentinean along with the supporting cast all weighed in with goals. A return to the sort of Total Football ‘everyone doing his bit’ type of scoring we’ve seen in previous seasons at Old Trafford may be the best way to stop opposing teams finding a way to try and snuff United out.
  5. Michael’s face a real fight. Michael Carrick and Michael Owen’s fifteen minute cameos hardly cemented their place in the starting line up against Everton next week, it did however show that both men are still inSir Alex Ferguson’s thoughts, the question is are they likely to be given a chance soon? With Chicharito being the new buzz word around Old Trafford Owen may have been pleased to even come off the bench , while Carrick has been out of favour for some time now. With Berbatov and Rooney looking like a solid partnership Owen may well have to settle for sub appearances and the occasional start against the ‘lesser teams.’  Carrick may well get a chance when Fergie decides to rest Paul Scholes but when will that be? Scholes gave another master class performance on Saturday- I’m sorry to add to the hundreds of people who’ve used that term to describe the ginger one’s displays but it really is the most apt. With Everton away next Saturday, Fergie is unlikely to rest his midfield maestro for that one, then there’s the first CL game against Rangers- which will no doubt be seen as a ‘must win’ in order to get off to the right start. After the Champions League game comes the visit of every United fan’s favourites Liverpool, so Carrick may have to wait a little while before he’s given a start. With Anderson back from injury and Darron Gibson, plus Tom Cleverly- if he isn’t loaned out – also waiting in the wings, then Carrick has got a real fight on his hands to regain his place. His cause isn’t helped by the fact it’s now becoming apparent there’s only two central midfield places up for grabs rather than the three of last season.
26
Aug
10

Why there’s still hope for Hargreaves

Fergie and the curly haired one discussing the City mural

Fergie and the curly haired one discussing the City mural

Sir Alex Ferguson, will have to take time off from showing FIFA dignitaries round Old Trafford and ignoring the BBC to pick his final 25 man Premier League squad this week.

The deadline is the 31st August by which time Fergie needs to have chosen 25 players for his squad which will last until the transfer window re-opens in January. Eight of these players must have spent at least three years at an English or Welsh club three years prior to turning 21.

The recent United reserve game against ‘Noisy Neighbours Kamikaze Spending’ XI highlighted the strength in-depth at the manager’s disposal.

With the likes Wes Brown, Gary Neville, Anderson, Rafael Da Silva, Darron Gibson and Kiko Macheda all starting for the reserves it shows not only just how strong the United squad is but also how difficult it is going to be to keep everyone happy.

Fortunately for Fergie, players under the age of 21 don’t count towards the 25 so it will make the United manager’s task a hell of a lot easier as of the new recruits this summer only Chicharito is over the age of 21, while many fringe members of the squad have yet to reach that milestone.

The home grown rule will affect United a lot less than some other Premier League teams as the core of United’s squad is made up of English players.

Rio Ferdinand, Wes Brown, Gary Neville, Michael Carrick, Paul Scholes, Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney are all obviously English, while Jonny Evans, John O’Shea, Darren Fletcher and Darron Gibson have been here for at least three years since before they turned 21. Oh and there’s also that welsh bloke who plays on the wing now and again.
The fact is filling the home grown quota shouldn’t be a problem so the rumours of Mickey Phelan making a comeback to bolster the squad are totally unfounded.

Due to players who aren’t ’21′ not needing to be registered it means the likes of Macheda- who bagged a brace for the reserves last night -Tom Cleverley- who grabbed the other goal- Rafael and Fabio Da Silva, Chris Smalling, Gabriel Obertan and Bebe can be brought in and out of United’s match day squad without any drama.

There is of course the question of Owen Hargreaves and whether Fergie will name the perpetually injured midfielder.
The answer I believe is yes, simply because he can afford to. The fact that players who aren’t 21 when the season year starts, not the actual season itself, don’t need registering means that players who have turned 21 in the past few months, such as Obertan and Cleverley won’t count. That rule could be the one that saves Hargreaves’ United career, as it leaves space for him to be included.

If Hargreaves is likely to return to ‘fitness’ anytime in the next few months there are still the doubts regarding how the player’s confidence has been affected by his ongoing injury saga, a point Fergie has raised in the past.

With his contract due to expire in the summer, he may struggle to find a new deal at United, however at least for the time being he does still have a United future. By my reckoning United will actually only need to name a 24 man squad due to amount of youngsters they’ve got.

Here’s the 24 men I believe will be named by Fergie next week.

Goalkeepers
Edwin Van Der Sar, Tomas Kuzczak

Defenders
Wes Brown, Gary Neville, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, John O’Shea, Patrice Evra, Jonny Evans, Richie De Laet.

Midfielders
Anderson, Michael Carrick, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Darren Fletcher, Nani, Antonio Valencia, Ji-Sung Park, Darron Gibson, Owen Hargreaves.

Strikers
Michael Owen, Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov, Javier Hernandez.

Considering you can also add to that list the likes of Smalling, Fabio, Rafael, Obertan, Cleverley and Macheda then if injuries go United’s way there’s every reason to expect yet another title challenge this season.

21
Aug
10

Will Fergie call time on his bbc feud this sunday?

Fergie pondering whether he can handle Jonathan Pearce's questions

Fergie pondering whether he can handle Jonathan Pearce's questions

There are some interesting clashes in the Premier League this weekend, a rampant Chelsea side is to visit a shell-shocked Wigan and the surprise package Blackpool visit the Gunners looking to ‘do a Hull’ and pull of another major upset, this time at the Emirates.

Yet one contest shines out from the others as being a true battle of wills, a David v Goliath type encounter, except they’re both Goliath, a real clash of the Titans. In one corner is a true footballing colossus, winning everything and anything over a glorious period unsurpassed in the modern era, in the other a giant, an integral part of the British game that has touched every fan at least once over the years. I’m not talking about West Brom versus Sunderland- although the similarities are obvious, no this match is even greater -it is of course, the big showdown between Sir Alex Ferguson and the BBC.

The past few years on Match of the Day have been noticeable for two things, Gary Lineker has slowly but surely gotten a little bit less inoffensive -okay I know that means more offensive but it just didn’t seem the right way to describe his grating smugness- and the post match interview of either Carlos Quieroz and now Mickey Phelan have rivalled only Alan Shearer’s analysis in terms of inducing boredom.

Ever since the BBC’s Panorama programme dared to suggest that Fergie’s son Jason may be involved in underhand dealings as a football agent, the United manager has refused to even entertain the idea of speaking to them. Not even Henry Kissinger and Kofi Annan combined could muster enough diplomacy to tempt Fergie to end his feud.
Fergie has said of his ongoing quarrel with ‘Aunty’ :

“The BBC is the kind of company that never apologise, and they never will apologise.

“They did a story about my son that was a whole lot of nonsense. It was all made-up stuff, brown paper bags and that kind of carry-on. It was a horrible attack on my son’s honour and he should never have been accused of that.

“But it is such a huge organisation that they will never apologise. They don’t even care if you sue them or whatever, because they are so huge and have insurance. They carry on regardless and it’s breathtaking.”

Now unless the entire BBC boardroom get down on their knees and beg Fergie for forgiveness while simultaneously singing ‘sorry seems to be the hardest word’ by Elton John, then is seems unlikely the somewhat stubborn Scot will back down. After all, Fergie’s a staunch socialist from Govan who in the past has taken on every one from almost every single opposition manager to even the owner of United – not the Glazers unfortunately but previous one John Magnier – apparently over the matter of horse semen. The fact is Fergie is famous for not backing down, he runs Manchester United like no other manager in a top European side, almost without having to answer to anyone, his success and the longevity of it have afforded him an unparalleled status within the club not seen since the days of Sir Matt Busby over forty years ago.

The BBC seemed to be gaining the upper hand in one of the longest feuds the corporation has ever had with any leading football manager, by way of the Premier League introducing a new rule whereby each manager will have to attend a post match press conference and speak to all members of the press, including the BBC. Fortunately that idea is not going to be implemented until next season, the reason I say fortunately is because I believe it would be a recipe for disaster forcing Fergie into anything. Can you imagine the monosyllabic answers he’d grudgingly give if he was forced to.

MOTD Interviewer: “Sir Alex you’ve just seen your side beat Liverpool at Anfield with six goals from Gary Neville, how does it feel?”

SAF: Long pause………..“good.“ Forcing Fergie to give interviews would not be conducive to gaining interesting responses or an insight into what he’s thinking, it would basically make cr*p telly which defies the entire point. The best solution to the entire stalemate would of course be for Fergie to put his anger aside and try and forgive the BBC and move on, but that is easier said than done as the manager obviously feels very passionate about what he saw as an erroneous and damaging accusation regarding his son’s integrity.

There has been a few suggestions though that Fergie is actually thawing slightly towards the BBC, call it getting soft in his old age, or just fed up of only speaking to MUTV and Sky after the more successful matches but there have been whispers that he may agree to an interview with MOTD very soon.

David Gill has, again only allegedly, been in secret talks with the Beeb to try and see if some sort of reconciliation can be reached. Quite what these talks involve is anyone’s guess, perhaps its an offer for Fergie to appear as a host on Have I got News for You in exchange for his compliance.

I do understand Fergie’s grievance, after all it can’t be nice seeing your son accused of illegal activity by the same corporation your expected to do interviews with every week, but isn’t it now time to finally put it all behind him?

Fergie’s proved his point, since 2004 when he first stopped giving them interviews he’s won three titles and the BBC has not been able to speak to him about any of them, nor the games that were involved. Listening to Mickey Phelan almost repeat the question put to him as an answer is as pointless as it is tedious. No disrespect to Phelan who’s done a great job as both coach and assistant manager at United, but do we really want to hear from Joe Biden when Barack Obama is in the next room?

Fergie says he wants the BBC to apologise, he said:

“The thing with the BBC is they never say they are sorry. … just say sorry, they were wrong. That’s all they have to do and I told them that. Sometimes even the BBC has to be big enough to do that. I forgive easily. I don’t hold grudges at all.

“What I’m doing with the BBC isn’t a grudge, it’s a stance. There’s nothing wrong with saying you are wrong about something – it’s a quality.”

The problem is for the BBC to say sorry may mean some from of admission of wrong doing which could undermine the whole reputation of the Panorama programme not to mention its validity. Panorama is regarded as one of the leading lights in investigative journalism and to say sorry for a story it ran would be against much of what it stands for. Fergie could take a leaf out of his mate Sam Allardyce’s book, who also refused interivews with the BBC after the same programme accused him of wrongdoing but eventually relented after having proved his point.

The game against Fulham on Sunday may well be the first MOTD interview from Fergie in over five years, although if United lose, it may well be time for Mickey Phelan to face the BBC once more, I just hope that regardless of the result we once again see the United manager on a programme that is still essential viewing for many fans.