Archive for the 'Scousers' 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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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?”

 

 

 
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……………

25
Aug
10

Will United’s True Rivals Please Stand Up

Which fans will get the warmest welcome at OT this season?

Which fans will get the warmest welcome at OT this season?

Have United’s rivals changed? It seems an obvious answer at first doesn’t it? No it’s still Chelsea of course. Well if this were purely about the title race then that would no doubt be the case. However it’s a little bit deeper than that. The question is about true rivalry- not the ‘who’s stopping United winning a trophy’ type contempt fans have for their opponents but the historical rivalry that makes you refuse to say a certain team by name or disown your daughter for marrying one of their fans.

Traditionally the most hated visitors to the Theatre of Dreams have been fans of Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester City, or to give them their appropriate monikers- The ‘sheep sh*ggers’, ‘bin dippers’ and ‘bitters’.

The problem with all three of these teams is that other than the occasional blip -2009 for example- all three haven’t given United much competition in the trophy stakes. United haven’t faced Leeds in the Premier League for over six seasons now- has it really been that long? Time flies eh?

As for City and Liverpool, they may be in the same division as United but in terms of challenging for the title it’s been a rarity. Of course this could all change, not for the Scousers who’ll be lucky if they’re still in contention for a Channel 5 place come May but let’s be brutally honest, with all the ‘kamikaze spending’ going on down at Eastlands, everyone’s least favourite graffiti artists could soon be challenging for the title

Whether or not a team is challenging for the title shouldn’t really matter in terms of rivalry, after all, since I became old enough to form hatred of certain clubs, United have had many title rivals who’ve dropped off my radar. Blackburn, Newcastle, Arsenal and Chelsea have been the four teams where the term ‘six-pointer’ would apply to since the Premier League began. Now while having no real fondness for any of them, are they really true rivals in the traditional sense? I’d argue not. For starters Blackburn and Newcastle were not always in United’s division when true conflicts were being started and battle lines being drawn. There may have been fights between the red army and fans of either team in the seventies and eighties but there were fights against any team United played- so my dad tells me- so it’s hardly enough to consider them as traditional enemies. Blackburn and Newcastle may have challenged United at the top of the table back in the mid nineties but it would be a stretch to class them as real rivals.

Then there are the new contenders to the title challenging adversary status, Chelsea and Arsenal. Now while there’s certainly no love lost between either set of fans it’s not quite the same rivalry that United have with Leeds or Liverpool. For starters just when the Gooners were looking like becoming a dominant force in the English game and possibly usurping United, they faded slightly which meant the rivalry was not quite as intense as it had been. Then came Chelsea, sorry the ‘rent boys’, who’ve been United’s main title contenders for the past five years. Now while it’s easy to despise Chelsea, after all some of their fans are fat, racist d*ckheads- although there’s nothing wrong with being fat- and their players are the sort of men you’d happily use the last bullet in your Luger on, it’s difficult to class them as true rivals.

For starters, they’re newcomers to the top table of title winners, until the late nineties they’d been a lower to mid-table team if not worse for the previous two decades, then there’s the distance between the two clubs. Having rivals that live hundreds of miles away and that you only ever see on a match day means the level of disdain for each other is fairly limited. In the case of Liverpool fans for example, you can bump into one- hopefully fist first- on any night out or at work or wherever, whereas you’re hardly likely to see a Chelsea fan on a trip to the Trafford Centre.

Part of the problem when it comes to United is that everyone hates us so we tend to just hate them back, but that doesn’t make them true rivals.

A survey taken by footballfancensus in 2003 to ascertain which club fans considered their main rivals showed that United topped the charts with no less than 5 clubs seeing the reds as their nemesis. These clubs were Arsenal- really? Leeds- no surprises, Liverpool- ditto, City- shock and Bolton- wtf?!

In the case of Arsenal fans seemed more concerned with the fact that United were their chief opponents in the Premier League title race, rather than any true tradition.
Leeds and City are to be expected with Leeds there has always been a mutual contempt between their fans and United’s which is exacerbated by other factors such as, violence, and the fairly close proximity the clubs are to one another, there’s also the fact that United faded in the seventies when Leeds were successful only for the roles to be reversed in the eighties, reversed once more in the early nineties before United became dominant and Elland road went on to play host to League One football.

City fans of course pretty much check United’s team news before they’re own and consider it a successful season if they win f*ck all and United don’t win the league.

As for Bolton, I’ve never really understood this one, it’s not as though we’ve even been in the same division for that long and we’ve certainly not been chasing the same trophies. I can only imagine its down to sheer jealousy of seeing your better looking, more intelligent neighbours, winning everything in sight while your own team considers 16th place a glorious triumph.

United fans themselves chose Liverpool as their primary foe, which is no surprise as they tick nearly every box when it comes to creating a rivalry. They took over from United as the dominant force in English football in the seventies and eighties only to have the favour returned in the nineties and noughties. Both sets of fans have engaged in physical contests over the years and there is of course the cultural divide. Despite being only thirty-odd minutes away from each other, in terms of accent, fashions and tastes Mancunians and Scousers are often miles apart.

The strange thing is, more often than not when I’ve been travelling or living in London, I’ve tended to get along well with the Scousers I’ve met. Whether it’s because we’re Northerners down south or wherever, or just the fact that we still share a similar p*ss taking sense of humour, but put me in a bar with a Scouser anywhere other than Manchester and it’s usually a good laugh.

In a different survey conducted by footballfancensus in 2008 to work out which English football rivalries were the fiercest United and Liverpool’s was ranked third in the country. The census ranked the top twenty rivalries, with nine out of Liverpool fans considering United their fiercest rivals and over two thirds of the United fans feeling the same towards their opponents from down the M62. The census also took into account the respective league and cup records of both teams, impact on attendances and other things such as reaction to players who’ve played for both clubs, or been linked with them and media coverage.

United made the list again, this time at number twenty for their rivalry with Leeds.

If the survey were to be taken again would it be any different? Probably not, although for many younger United fans unless Leeds achieve promotion soon, it’s unlikely they’re going to be considered true rivals.

Although Chelsea remain United’s main rivals in the League and it already looks this season as though that will remain the case, it’s doubtful that they’ll become the sort of arch-enemies the Scousers have been over the years- although by no means certain.

One thing is obvious, if City were to become football rivals with United in terms of success and title challenges and Liverpool were to continue to experience a barren spell then it would only be a matter of time before the ‘bitters’ overtook the ‘dippers’ in the rivalry stakes.

24
Jul
10

Forlan- far from a United a ‘flop.’

forlan with a body very similar to mine

forlan with a body very similar to mine

During the World Cup only one thing became even more irritating than the sound of thousands of vuvuzela’s constantly blaring out. No it wasn’t the sight of Emile Heskey making another England appearance nor was it the shots of random celebrities in the crowd, including Dutch politicians, which the camera seemed to cut to every few minutes. No the thing that really irked, riled, and annoyed me was every commentators insistence that Diego Forlan had been a flop at Old Trafford.

Whenever the golden ball winner scored a great goal or did something majestic, which was quite frequently, we would be treated to some pundit exclaiming how remarkable it was that such a good player had failed so miserably in the Premiership.

Now while even the most die-hard Forlan fan would struggle to argue the case that the Uruguayan’s time at Old Trafford was a rip-roaring success, I feel certain things should be put into perspective.
For starters, Forlan hardly got a decent run in the United side making the vast majority of his appearances as a substitute. Arriving in January 2002, Forlan started just seven games, making a further eleven appearances from the bench. While he may have failed to find the net in any of those games, he was only 22 years old and had never played for a club in Europe let alone one the size of United, so it was only to be expected that it may take him time to adjust. However the media were not so charitable quickly labelling him Diego ‘Forlorn’ –absolutely hilarious, no wonder it was re-used in the World Cup to the title ‘Diego leaves Bafana Forlorn’ in a leading South African paper.
The following season the now under-pressure striker found himself making more appearances- mainly from the bench. One particularly frustrating time for Forlan came against Zalaegerszeg in the Champion’s League when the striker came on in the 70th minute as a substitute for David Beckham with United three goals up- two on aggregate. Only a few minutes later United won a penalty which Forlan volunteered to take, only to be waved away by Roy Keane who insisted that Ruud Van Nistelrooy take it ,who duly scored.
Such an embarrassing incident may have caused lesser players to shy away from volunteering again for penalty taking duties but only three weeks later Forlan put his name forward for another Champion’s League penalty, fortunately it being the last minute of a game United were winning 4-2 and Roy Keane being absent, the Uruguayan was able to break his duck coolly sending the keeper the wrong way.
Despite finally finding the net for United, rather than receiving praise or even a grudging acknowledgement from the Chelsea and Arsenal fans at Fleet Street, he merely received more scorn. With the next day’s headlines highlighting how long it had taken him to score, some even being as petty as to actually count the minutes.

It was in this season-2002/03 that Forlan endeared himself to practically all the Old Trafford faithful with some extremely important goals, an equaliser at home against Villa and a last-minute stunning winner against Chelsea, went a long way to convincing United fans he was good enough to don the red shirt. One of my fondest memories of Forlan was watching him run around chasing the ball with his shirt in his hand after he’d removed it celebrating a winning goal against Southampton, only for the Saints to restart the game before he could get it back on.

Let’s not pretend that these goals are behind many United fans holding a torch for Forlan, the reason the striker still gets his name sung has nothing to do with any shirt removing antics or equalisers against teams from the midlands. No, Forlan’s name is still sung occasionally at Old Trafford, for one reason and one reason alone- his two goals in United’s win against Liverpool at Anfield in the 2002/03 title winning season. With those two strikes, one a gift from Jerzy Dudek, the other a well taken angled shot, Forlan more or less wrote himself into the United legends, history book- almost. Arisotle once said‘one swallow does not make spring’ to which he could have added two goals at Anfield do not make a United career. The reason many fans may look back at Forlan with fondness is that as well as that brace at United’s arch-rivals, his other goals in that 2002/03 season were instrumental in bringing the title back to Old Trafford. While Van Nistelrooy may have scored a lot more, without Forlan’s winners against the likes, of Southampton, Chelsea, and of course Liverpool, not to mention his equaliser against Villa, it’s highly likely the Gunners would have retained the title they won the previous season. He may have only scored six Premier League goals that season, but they were mightily important ones.

Unfortunately for Forlan, and United the following season was a fairly disappointing affair as the ‘Invincibles’ of Arsenal swept all before them. For Forlan it was even more of a letdown as he scored fewer goals than the previous season and failed to make the squad for the FA cup final against Millwall. Again though, Forlan did not get a decent run in the side, starting the same amount of games as he was substitute for -15. His return of eight goals was hardly awe-inspiring but considering his lack of a steady run in the team it was far from disastrous.

The 2004/05 season began with a trip to Stamford Bridge, against Chelsea for a certain ‘Special One’s’ first game in charge. For Forlan it would be the end of his Premier League career as coming on as a substitute he had, what can only be described as a ‘shocker’ shooting wildly and at one point even appearing to trip over the ball, to the delight of the Chelsea fans. He was soon shown the exit at old Trafford with his performance at Stamford Bridge seemingly being the final straw for Fergie. However Forlan himself has another explanation as to why his poor showing may have signalled his departure. He told the Champion’s League Magazine:

“(Manager Sir Alex) Ferguson wanted me to play with high studs, the interchangeable ones that suit wet pitches,”
“But I feel more comfortable in low ones. I agreed to change boots, but I didn’t. Against Chelsea, I slipped in front of goal and wasted a chance.
“Afterwards, I rushed to the dressing room to change boots. Ferguson caught me. He grabbed the boots and threw them. That was my last game for United.”

It was a shame, that boots would see Forlan booted out of Old Trafford- sorry, there’s no excuse for that one, as with the arrival of Wayne Rooney, as the Uruguayan himself has stated they could have forged a good partnership- certainly one with Van Nistelrooy never quite happened for Wazza.
The rest as they say is history, Forlan would go on to score a ridiculous amount of goals at Villareal then Atletico Madrid, twice winning the european golden boot, before grabbing his national team by the scruff of the neck and almost single-handedly dragging them to a World Cup semi-final.

Along the way Forlan would endear himself to United fans even more by knocking Liverpool out of the Europa League. Regardless of whether he returns to the Premier League- it’s looking increasingly doubtful, there will always be a place in the hearts of many at Old Trafford for the man who ‘came from Uruguay and made the scousers cry!’

19
May
10

Gary Neville is a Red……..he hates everyone.

Scholes almost wished he hadn't scored the derby winner

Sometimes life throws up little surprises that really make your head spin, volcanic ash, Lib Dems in government-sort of- Alan Shearer saying something remotely interesting. One thing that never ceases to surprise is the predilection for spouting agitating nonsense of a certain Mr Gary Neville.

It seems Neville can’t go more than a few weeks without making some arbitrary comment about footballing matters that more often than not don’t really concern him.

His latest vitriol was aimed at England manager Fabio Capello following the Italian’s decision to omit Wes Brown from his World Cup squad.

Speaking to the Times of Malta Neville stated:

“I’m slightly surprised in some ways that there is only one right-back in the entire squad, but I’m probably more surprised Wes Brown isn’t in the 30, to be honest.”

It seems Neville either doesn’t regard Jamie Carragher as a viable option at right-back or has simply forgotten that the Anfield vice-captain can fill that position.

As a United fan, I’m a big admirer of Wes Brown. During the double winning season of 2007-08 Brown played more games than anyone else and was superb throughout the entire campaign, which culminated in him setting up Cristiano Ronaldo’s goal in the Champions League final. I remember him bursting on to the scene in 1998-99 and performing admirably against the likes of Barcelona. However one criticism I have of Brown is that when he returns from injury it often takes him a few games to get back into his stride. The beginning of this season was a case in point as against the likes of Birmingham and Burnley Brown really struggled. If he was to be suddenly called upon in a big world cup game he may be a real liability and I personally would hate to see him at fault for costing England the chance to progress and being lambasted by the over-zealous media.

You could argue that Brown is more used to playing at right-back than Carragher is so therefore should be on the plane to South Africa. However while that may have been true in the past, this season Sir Alex Ferguson has used Brown almost exclusively at centre back, preferring Rafael Da Silva, John O’Shea and Neville himself in the right back slots.

There is of course the possibility that the Manchester United skipper was actually surreptitiously criticising the national coach for not picking Neville himself. It must have really pained Neville to see a member of his favourite team Liverpool edge him out of the squad- even more so when that player had previously retired from the international scene. While many, myself included thought Neville may have done enough to be taken as Glen Johnson’s understudy Capello obviously otherwise.

Questioning the national coach’s decision making is one thing but just in case Capello was not particularly bothered by Neville’s comments, he decided to go one further by insulting the Italian’s decision to try and coax Paul Scholes out of international retirement. Neville said:

“Capello spoke to Scholes to try and bring him back into the squad, but Scholes retired a good few years ago from international football and he’s not the type to go back on that.

“I’m not surprised Capello tried to get him out of retirement because if there’s one player I would try to pull out of retirement, it’s Scholes.

“Capello maybe got a bit desperate at the last minute and wanted Scholes because he’s still probably the best midfielder in England, but Scholes decided to stick to his guns.”

Again, while you can see Neville’s point that Scholes would be a useful part of the squad- his form for United the past few weeks has been vintage- the question remains is calling Capello ‘desperate’ really necessary? The answer is arguably no.

Neville just can’t seem to help himself, and while you could argue that similarly to the earlier comment he’s merely praising one of his team-mates, the whole thing seems rather pointless, merely designed to generate more anger his way. As soon as I saw the headline ‘Neville questions Capello’s squad’ I could picture nearly all of England rolling their eyes in disgust.

Neville always seems to have something to say and even United fans can sometimes find him slightly embarrassing.

Since injuries stopped him from being a permanent member of the United team, Phil’s more outspoken older brother seems to have decided to make himself the club’s unofficial spokesman.

You could argue- in fact I have in the past- that he’s less of a spokesman and more of a ranting clown, randomly spouting garbage to anyone who cares to listen or print his at times semi-moronic dribbling.

This season he’s done himself –if no one else- proud by criticising Carlos Tevez- not worth the money, Liverpool –deserved what they got in Europe, Chelsea- not an exceptional season and now Capello.

While I can often agree with Neville, in fact in nearly all of what he’s said I can see his point, the question is why does he always feel the need to say it?

It’s not merely his words that cause outrage amongst opposition fans, his goal celebrations- running towards Liverpool fans, gestures- giving Tevez the bird and even snubs- refusing to shake then-Manchester City goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel’s hand before a game, all seem the actions of a die-hard black shirt rather than a club captain.

The attitude that often pervades among United fans is ‘us against the world’ and many of Neville’s supporters would no doubt argue that he’s merely embracing this ethos. After all if I’m totally honest the sight of former Liverpool players, pretending to be objective about United on nearly every football programme can often grate as can some of the national media’s love of all things London.

Neville could be a welcome antidote to much of this if his credibility wasn’t so tarnished by his often childish churlishness.

Part of the sad thing about all this is due to his antics many people have become clouded when it comes to Neville’s footballing ability. People can easily dismiss him as merely some form of village-idiot forgetting how good he actually was and still can be.

Neville actually made the England team before his mates David Beckham and Scholes, playing every game -bar the semi-final where he was suspended-in Euro’ 96.

He was also instrumental in United’s dominance during the nineties and noughties, making nearly 600 appearances and winning every major honour there is in the game.

People have been waxing lyrical about Patrice Evra recently, yet for me Gary Neville was every bit as good in his heyday, getting forward well linking up with Beckham- then Cristiano Ronaldo. He was also excellent in defence, the timing of his tackles and his all-round energy enabling him to cope with practically any left winger in the world.

It seems though that much of this is in danger of being forgotten as Neville seems more concerned with making himself everyone’s least-favourite United player.

He’s entitled to his opinion and as club captain of one of the biggest clubs in the world he’s always going to have people willing to listen, I for one just wish he’d try and do what most players who are hated do- let his football and success do the talking.

10
May
10

United’s near-miss shouldn’t hide the truth.

Hopefully those ribbons won't be on for too long.

Finishing runners-up in the league, getting knocked-out in the early stages of the FA Cup and a quarter-final Champion’s League exit hardly a good season makes at the ‘Theatre of Dreams.’ A Carling Cup win, while pleasing, is not really the sort of accomplishment United fans will be shouting at Liverpool fans come next season- although City fans now that’s another story.

It’s safe to that a season which saw seven league defeats, everyone’s least favourite Yorkshire men coming to Old Trafford and dumping United out of the FA Cup, plus losing twice to Chelsea, will not be a DVD release-type of year looked back upon decades from now with the same reverence as 1998-9 or 2007-08.
The loss of Ronaldo and a certain Argentinean got the season off to a somewhat sombre start which wasn’t helped by an early loss away to relegation certainties Burnley.

United’s season never really got going- at least not in the league, in the past the most successful team in Premier League history have remained just that by stringing together awe-inspiring winning runs- usually when other teams have faltered. It’s not been uncommon for United to put together an 8 or 9 match-winning run or maybe a record-breaking run of clean sheets.

This season United’s best winning run in the league was five matches, which while hardly pathetic is not the sort of dominant cavalier charge that has put would-be title challengers in their place in seasons past.

It isn’t really United’s lack of a long winning run which prevented the Premier League title remaining at Old Trafford for a record-breaking fourth consecutive season- and more importantly to many fans 19th title win in total. Losing twice to your nearest title rivals is not necessarily a recipe for disaster, after all last season Rafa Benitez’s men did the double over United yet still failed to prise the trophy from Sir Alex Ferguson’s grasp, but the two losses to Chelsea this season more or less sealed the titles fate.

While it is deeply disappointing to come so close to the title- and making history to boot- there is a need for some sober reflection on how the defending champions never quite put forward true title winning credentials.

Losing to Everton, Fulham, Aston Villa, Liverpool, Burnley not to mention twice to Chelsea is the sort of statistic unheard of at United and while many excuses can be found for each loss- injuries, poor decisions, missed penalties etc, there’s no denying it’s not good enough.

Which brings me on to my point, had United won the league, it would only have papered over some of the cracks which need addressing.
A few weeks ago I wrote an article on these very pages urging Fergie not to panic and try and replace half the first-team as some more over-exuberant observers had been advocating.

While I still stick by the idea that United are only one or two players away from being the best team in the land there are certain factors which cannot be ignored.
First on the agenda and this may go down like a BNP joke at a Bar Mitzvah but I’m going to state it anyway, the atmosphere at Old Trafford at times this season has been shocking. Getting out-sung by around one-fifteenth of the supporters in the ground is a bit of a joke and no matter how much I’d like to pretend the Old Trafford faithful are the loudest in the land, it simply doesn’t ring true. Too many times this season opposition fans have been the far too audible while many United supporters have been far too quiet. I’m not going to get into the whole prawn-sandwich debate but from the times I’ve visited Old Trafford this season, I’ve often left disappointed with the atmosphere rather than the result.

Secondly there’s Rio Ferdinand. I honestly feel I don’t need to explain this but for anyone visiting from another planet or Chadderton, allow me to elucidate. 24 league starts in 2008-09 was something of a disappointment softened only by the emergence of Jonny Evans as a true first-class defender. This season half that number of starts is practically useless, as soon as Rio comes back into the team, he’s out again, which does nothing for stability not to mention confidence. United need Rio fit and playing regularly and if that’s not possible then they need to sign a top defender who can play week in week out. Chris Smalling is not the answer, at least not in the near-future. If United do not sign a top defender- after all they’re hardly easy to come by then maybe Fergie should give Evans a real chance and make him a regular starter- regardless of whether Rio’s fit or not. This may sound crazy after all Ferdinand is still one of the best defenders in the world, but it may give the defence much-needed stability. It could also see Evans grow in confidence and become the player he’s shown signs of over the past two seasons.

Thirdly Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Owen- for the purposes of brevity I’ve lumbered them both together. Neither can be truly relied upon to perform for United at the highest level, Owen is far too injury prone while Berbatov is far too p*ss poor prone. If United are to have any form of striking plan-b then, a new striker must be top of the agenda. Kiko Macheda has the potential to become a world-beater but next season may be a bit to soon for every United fan’s favourite Italian.

Finally there’s the attacking central midfielder that’s been missing at Old Trafford ever since Paul Scholes stopped being the force he once was. To be fair to Scholes in the past few games he’s been United’s best player but he cannot be relied upon to do it week in week out and has not been the goal-scorer he was for about 4 seasons now.
Antonio Valencia and Nani look more than up to the task on the wings, and there’s the prospect of Gabriel Obertan carrying some of the form he’s shown for the reserves for the first-team next season. Let’s not forget Ryan Giggs and Ji-Sung Park of course, who can still do a job albeit not regularly- at least not in Giggs’s case.

These factors may have been brushed under the carpet had Steven Gerrard not bet half his wages on a Chelsea title win- I’m joking of course, although mainly to avoid libel. United really didn’t deserve to win the title, as I told my very few scouse friends last season ‘the table doesn’t lie.’ For United to regain the premier league crown it’s going to take more than Chris Smalling and Javier Hernandez.