Archive for the 'Transfers' Category


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.


Time for United fans to show Rooney what he’ll be missing

Rooney - on his knees, no doubt a position a few United fans would like to see him in

Rooney - on his knees, no doubt a position a few United fans would like to see him in

October 20th 2010 mid afternoon, just after dinner time- or lunch if you’re a bit southern will go down in history as a JFK-type ‘where were you when you heard the news’ type moment for all United fans.

It was a real ‘say it ain’t so’ event, when Sir Alex Ferguson told the world what some had expected, many had doubted and nearly all could not believe: Wayne Rooney didn’t want to be Manchester United player anymore.

I myself was working for a Manchester radio station busy stood in the rain asking members of the public what they thought of the imminent budget cuts. I got the news from a delighted scouse mate who phoned me with the news.

Not wanting to play into my -only- scouse mate’s hands I responded with the following series of lies:
“He’s overrated anyway, he’s been sh*t for months, I think it’s actually a good thing ‘cos we could use the money to buy 3 or 4 much needed players.” I was that convincing, I almost believed myself.

As I stood in the Mancunian rain, like thousands of other United fans, a whole host of thoughts were running through my head.
“Will he really leave? Will he go to the bitters? Will he be gone by January? When will it ever stop raining?!”

A call from the office ordered me to Old Trafford to ask fans around the ground for their opinions. A piece of cake I thought, until I was given one final stipulation- “try and get Mancunians, we need some Manc voices.”

Now despite the myth that’s often perpetrated by nearly all City fans, the one that seems to have become law to anyone from outside Manchester. All Mancunians do not support City, there are plenty of United fans in Manchester, in fact there’s hundreds of thousands. Finding a Mancunian at the United Megastore at 3pm on a Tuesday afternoon is fairly difficult, a bit like finding a scouser in full time employment- not unheard of, just extremely rare.

I arrived at the ground and was struck by the fact that the number of reporters actually outnumbered the amount of fans or passers-by. Sky Sports, were there along with an assortment of national and local journalists.

I asked one reporter how it was going? Had he managed to speak to many people?
“Mainly Irish and foreigners.” He said, with a look of disappointment.
“Any Mancunians?” I asked hopefully.
“Not one.” He replied inevitably.

I decided to interview whatever fans I could get my hands on feeling that at least some voices were better than none. There were one or two people going from interview to interview, as though they were on the red carpet at the oscars, basking in their fifteen minutes.

I grabbed the nearest person who didn’t have a camera stuck in his face. My question was simple “What reaction do you think Rooney will get the next time he plays for United?”

Over the next two hours I spoke to about twenty fans, some were even Mancunian, and the responses varied from “we’ll get behind him as always” to “He’ll get booed as soon as his name’s mentioned.”

Part of the problem was everyone still seemed unsure of Wazza’s motives and more importantly his destination.

One bloke stuck his head out of the car as I was interveiwing someone and shouted “f*ck City!” Although I was annoyed I had to start again, I couldn’t help but agree.
If Wayne Rooney did the unthinkable and went to the noisy neighbours, then it would be a disaster for both United and the striker himself.

The reason it would be a disaster for United is that despite his poor run of from Rooney is still one of the world’s top players. He’s in that exclusive club that includes the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Didier Drogba.
A player who on his day can carry an entire team and crucify any defence in the world. If United lost him to City then I think its safe to assume the balance of power in Manchester would shift.

Losing Carlos Tevez to them was one thing as despite his blistering from since he arrived at Eastlands, Tevez was only in and out of the United line-up, as much a substitute as he was a starter. Tevez was a good player for United of that there can be little doubt, but he wasn’t a Rooney. The scouse striker almost single-handedly carried United to the title last season and if it wasn’t for his injury against Bayern Munich- that now seems to have somehow altered the whole course of his career- who knows what could have been acheived.

Put Rooney in City’s team and not only will United lose arguably their most gifted player but City will finally get that true member of the elite that they’ve been missing.

The reasons it would be a disaster for Rooney, are that not only will he never be able to walk through the streets of Manchester without receiving some form of verbal abuse, his reputation will be one of the ultimate Judas, but more importantly, he will be leaving a team that was built around him, a club that loved him and fans who adored him.

Other players have left United in the past and lived to regret it, as one fan ironically stood next to the United Trinity statue said to me yesterday: “In a few years time, Rooney should sit down with the likes of Scholes and Giggs and compare medals, and I bet he wont have as many.” Rooney leaving United is his right but the least he could do for the fans is not throw it all back in their face by leaving for a few quid more to one of their arch-rivals.

However, going back to my original point, as many fans said to me yesterday, they’re already willing to give Rooney abuse. This though could be music to Manchester City’s ears, if Rooney wants the ultimate reason to join City, then United fans making his time at Old Trafford a living hell, could just be enough to make him head to Eastlands.

If there’s any glimmer of hope of convincing him to stay then the fans need to show him why the likes of Giggs and Scholes have stuck around for their entire careers. Getting behind Rooney and proving that the fans still love him could well make the young striker change his mind, after all a few months ago he seemed set to stay at United for life, there’s always the chance he could change it back.

Even if it doesn’t change his mind back, it will still show Rooney and the rest of the world that the one thing you can never accuse United fans of is not having a bit of class.

It may be difficult for some fans to chant his name, knowing that he could be wearing bitter blue one day, but I for one will be giving him the same support I give any United player. It may stick in my throat a little but the ‘White Pele’ hasn’t lost all the Old Trafford faithful just yet.


Could Jovetic be the new Scholes?

Jovetic waited patiently at the hairdressers for his refund.

Almost six months ago, Fiorentina midfielder Jovetic was linked with a move to Manchester United, following a series of dazzling displays.
Two goals against everyone’s favourite granny robbers from up the M62 meant, as Diego Forlan will testify, that he was more than welcome to ply his trade at Old Trafford.
The 20 year-old Montenegrin played down talk of a move away from Florence, insisting that although, United’s interest was flattering he was perfectly happy where he is.

Jovetic stated:

“I read about the transfer stories around me and am honoured by Manchester United’s interest but I am very happy in Florence.
At Fiorentina I have everything I need to grow and improve as a player. I have a contract with the Viola for another five years and I have no intention of leaving.”

While that may seem to spell the end of the chance of a summer transfer to sunny Manchester, there’s always the possibility that Jovetic may have been telling his club what they wanted to hear.
After all no official bid had been launched so the transfer talk was just that. Talk.
The first question should be would United even want to sign one of Serie A’s most exciting players, after all that same moniker was attached to a certain Argentinean midfielder almost a decade ago.
Juan Sebastian Veron’s signing for United was one of the few times a real sort-after foreign player near the peak of his powers made the decision to go to Old Trafford. What should have been the icing on the cake for an already successful team turned out to be a near-disaster, I say near because Chelsea had the decency to save United half their loss- oh and Veron played well in the Champions League- occasionally.
Veron was that much of a disappointment Sir Alex Ferguson could be forgiven for never wanting another midfielder from Serie A ever again.
The fact is though, one of United’s biggest problems on the pitch isn’t going to simply go away and if it’s not addressed by next season then a title challenge may not materialise.

Paul Scholes has ceased to be the attacking force he once was for almost five years now, yes he can still pick out a pass and score the odd goal but he’s not someone you can rely on week in week out to produce goals.

Some have touted Darron Gibson as a possible successor and while this would save United a lot of money and bother, I’m not sure he’s anywhere near world-class despite a good goal against Bayern Munich.
United need someone who’s capable of carrying the ball, scoring goals and being a genuine threat against any team and for me Gibson just isn’t quite good enough.

United have an abundance of the same type of player- the holding midfielder. Both Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher can perform in the role, while Owen Hargreaves- if he ever does come back from injury- is one of the best players in that position in the world. What United need is someone to play in-front of the holding midfielder and give Wayne Rooney some much needed support- both in the goal scoring and the genuine-attacking-threat-through-the-middle department as well.
With Nani and Antonio Valencia on the wings United have players that can cause any full-backs a problem but in Carrick, Fletcher, Hargreaves, Scholes Anderson and Gibson there isn’t really a stand-out attacking force who would trouble a lot of defences.

Following the Bayern Munich defeat I claimed United were not that badly off in terms of the squad and that’s an opinion I stand by. However if there is one area where the team does seems to be missing something it is from an attacking central midfielder.

People may say a striker should be Fergie’s priority especially if as seems to be expected at the moment everyone’s favourite headband wearing Bulgarian has finally run out of time at Old Trafford.
The fact is though, if Rooney’s fit then 4-5-1 may well be the formation Fergie favours next season so signing a striker could well be pointless. Also as I’ve said before Kiko Macheda has impressed me immensely and I feel next season he may well prove he is a genuine United player.

What Chelsea- and even Arsenal have had over United this season is a goalscoring midfielder who can get well into double figures. Cesc Fabregas has stepped up when the Gunners needed him after Robin Van Persie’s injury and if he stays at the Emirates, those two together next season could be title winning attacking force. At Chelsea Frank Lampard still finds himself pointing to the heavens on a regular basis, so much so that Didier Drogba can afford to be rested occasionally and Nicolas Anelka can afford not to turn up now and again.
If United had someone who grabbed as many goals as the aforementioned midfielders then the ribbons currently on the Premier League trophy would be staying on it next month.

Jovetic’s goalscoring record is impressive with 11 goals for his club in all competitions which if he was at Old Trafford would make him the club’s joint- third top scorer – with own goals.

Of course the other question after whether United need him, is would he go there. Well as usual I’ve got an insightful revelatory answer of: I’ve no idea. Sorry but let’s be honest no-one knows what goes on in the mind of youngsters nowadays let alone Montenegrin youngsters who’ve had a storming season in Serie A. The only way to find out of course is to try and buy him, otherwise he’s never going to simply turn up at Carrington wearing a bib and demanding to be given the chance to play. The fact that Fiorentina are out of contention for a Champion’s League place may be enough to make Jovetic consider his future.

Although he may look a bit like the Neville brother’s ugly sister his goal scoring ability, plus his youth and attacking flair could make him just the sort of player to give United an edge that’s been missing for a few years now, and take just a little bit of the burden off PFA player of the year Wayne Rooney- let’s face it, it’s a foregone conclusion.
Whether Fergie would fork out what would no doubt be a fairly large sum to prize him away from Italy remains doubtful to say the least but I for one, wouldn’t be complaining if he did.


Why Sir Alex should go all out for Buffon

Buffon loved Tatton Park on November 5th

News that Juventus may be willing to sell goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon has already sent the rumour mill into overdrive with speculation that his destination could be Manchester. Both Manchester United and Manchester City have already been linked with the Italian number 1 as reports claim the ‘Old Lady’ is ready to part with one of her favourite sons. Although it has been suggested Buffon would only leave if Juventus were to fail to qualify for the Champion’s League, with the Turin club currently occupying sixth place in Serie A, that is becoming a distinct possibility.

Buffon is regarded as the best goalkeeper in the world by many and rightly so as his performances over the years have been nothing short of exceptional. It will come as no surprise to anyone that City, with an Italian manager and limitless funds are supposed to be interested in making Buffon another one of their ‘big name’ signings. The price for the 32 year-old is rumoured to be anything between £25-35 million and while that may make many clubs baulk, to the ‘richest club in the world’ it’s merely pocket change, after all City have already spent a combined total of £38 million on gems Joleon Lescott and Kolo Toure so spending less on a player who could actually help prevent goals must seem like a no-brainer.

United on the other hand are nowhere near their ‘noisy neighbours’ in the financial stakes but they may be able to stump up the funds for a bid after all the comments made by their chief executive David Gill recently. Gill, in response to criticism over the Glazer’s ownership of United and subsequent amount of debt the club are now in, has claimed that anything up to £100 million could be available for Sir Alex Ferguson in the summer. Although that figure seems about as likely as a ‘we want Glazers in’ protest at Old Trafford there could be at least enough money to launch a decent attempt to get Buffon.

While City may have a financial advantage over their more successful neighbours they may not have the appeal to lure a player of Buffon’s stature. One thing which may scupper any chance of getting the Italian will be whether they’re in the Champion’s League. After seeing his side crash out of the Europa League-albeit from the sidelines- to Fulham, Buffon may not wish to spend another season facing some of Europe’s lesser known sides. If City do make the Champion’s League they will be in a strong position to tempt Buffon, but regardless of what City fans- or Gary Cook may claim- they are simply not as well thought of in terms of history, prestige, fan base, or appeal as Manchester United are, in Italy or anywhere else in the world. If City are to get Buffon, it will be because he decides that money is the motivating factor-either that or he’s a secret City fan who always wanted to wear the shirt of men such as Andy Dibble, Martyn Margetson, Nicky Weaver and John Burridge.

Another factor which may prevent City even trying to get Buffon is the form of Shay Given. Ireland’s number one has been pretty exceptional since his move to Eastlands and while he may not be as good as his Italian counterpart, replacing him could have a detrimental effect on others in the team. If Mancini is willing to drop players who’ve performed outstandingly for him, who else on the City team would feel safe? It may sound a little bit far-fetched, after all Mancini didn’t buy Given so doesn’t really owe him anything, but even trying to buy Buffon could send the wrong message to the City players. You could argue it would merely keep everyone on their toes, the idea that no matter how well you play you can always be replaced, but in a squad that’s already seen a transfer merry-go-round, not to mention 4 managers in as many years, getting rid of one of your best performers may just ruin team morale and add to the sense of instability.

Manchester United have no such worries about stability with the longest serving manager in the Universe and one of the world’s oldest keepers. While Edwin Van Der Sar would hardly be thrilled at the prospect of moving aside for a younger model, at nearly forty years-old he will surely see the sense in it. Fergie’s problem will not be upsetting team morale should he go for Buffon, it will be actually outbidding his neighbours. The best way for the Scot to get Buffon at Old Trafford will be to convince the keeper to come, thereby making a decent bid acceptable to Juventus. If Buffon says he wants to go to United and they put in a reasonable offer, then it may just be enough to scupper any plans city have regardless of their wealth. Not only would the sight of Buffon at Old Trafford, mean that United fans can again see a lovely headband on display- since Dimitar Berbatov had his haircut- it would also mean that the team would have arguably the best ‘back five’ in world football, some may argue, of recent times. That may sound ridiculous but if they can keep Vidic and Brown returns with some of the form he showed in 2007/08 the defence with Buffon behind them would be a truly mouth-watering prospect for any United fan-and a nightmare for the opposition. Replacing Van Der Sar should be a priority for Fergie, as for me Tomasz Kuszczak and obviously Ben Foster are not the answer, after all the years it took to replace Peter Schmeichel, Fergie may realise that leaving his successor the task of replacing VDS would make a tough job even tougher. One thing Sir Alex will want when he finally hands over the reins is to be able to know that the team he’s leaving behind is in good shape, without an established keeper that may not be the case.

There is one final reason-as if creating the best defence in world football isn’t enough- for Fergie to really aggressively pursue Buffon- to quieten the anti-Glazer mob. The United manager has made no secret of the fact he is a little worried the protests may distract his players, and while I do not agree with that idea- he could feel a real marquee signing would bring about a bit of harmony. If United bought Buffon, for £30 odd mill, could the Green and Gold brigade really argue that the Glazers are not backing the club financially? It would certainly go some way to calming a lot of angry United fans.

From Buffon’s point of view going from arguably the biggest club in Italian football to the biggest in Britain may appeal to him. From a United point of view I certainly hope so.


Vidic looking for fools gold?

Vidic- probably the best bodyguard a boy could have.

When David Beckham stepped onto the Old Trafford pitch on Wednesday night, he seemed to have a little tear forming in his eye as the crowds chants of ‘there’s only one David Beckham’ rang in his ears. The former England skipper could have been forgiven for shedding a tear or two as it is one of the worst kept secrets in football that ‘one of Manchester United’s biggest fans’ wanted to leave the club about as much as Ronaldinho wanted to join it.

While Beckham may have been pushed rather than jumping from Old Trafford, there can be little doubt that when he left he may have expected to win at least one Champion’s League winner’s medal to add to the one he won at United. In the seven years since he left Beckham has had limited success, at least trophy wise, winning one La Liga and-the one trophy every player dreams of- the Western Conference with LA Galaxy. Hardly a rewarding return for a player deemed one of the best in the World, particularly when joining a team full of other so-called superstars, sorry ‘Galacticos.’

The successor to his United number seven shirt a certain Cristiano Ronaldo or CR9 as he’s known to his mates, was learning that life at the Bernabeu is not all sunshine and rainbows-as Rocky Balboa said to Rocky junior. Real Madrid’s exit from the Champion’s League had a double meaning for many Ronaldo fans. On the one hand it highlighted that despite what some people may have believed Ronaldo cannot do it all on his own, last season some commentators -particularly after his goals against Porto and Arsenal-seemed to think that the man currently featured on the side of buses wearing nothing but underwear was the sole reason United got to the final. I’m not saying that United would have gotten there without him, but as the victory this season at the Emirates proved, along with the demolition of Milan, a Ronaldo-less United is still a force to be reckoned with.

Although Ronaldo shouldn’t be too worried, after all it is only his first season and you’d be a foolish man to bet against him eventually helping Real Madrid to some form of glory, he will obviously have been given pause for thought.

When it comes to leaving United for the continent very few players actually go on to achieve very much. Paul Ince was one of the first United players, at least in the Premier League era, to decide that the grass was greener once you went from the ‘banks of the River Irwell to the shores of Sicily.’ His time at Internazionale was far from a failure, as he was widely admired by the fans during his two-year stint at the San Siro. However a UEFA cup final appearance-where Inter lost on penalties- was scant reward for a player who’d won six trophies in as many years at Old Trafford. By the time Ince’s replacements were lifting the treble, the self-styled Guv’nor was enjoying a trophy-less time at Anfield, the highlight of which seemed to be scoring an equaliser against United in front of the Kop which culminated in him celebrating as though he’d won the World cup.

Peter Schmeichel decided there were too many games in the Premier League so went to Portugal to spend the twighlight of his career at Sporting. However despite winning a league title in his first season he was soon back in blighty tarnishing his standing with United fans by being part of a successful derby-day City side, before redeeming it again by helping to prevent Liverpool qualifying for the Champion’s League. He may well have been much better served by simply staying at Old Trafford and saving himself all the air miles- plus sparing United fans the trauma of watching Massimo Taibi keeping goal. Although to be fair the fact he played for both City and United no doubt helped the Coronation Street writers name a dog after him- worth more than any winners medals I’m sure you’ll agree.

Ruud Van Nistelrooy was a player who decided he preferred paella to pasties and went to Madrid with a reputation as one of Europe’s most lethal strikers. Van Nistelrooy’s was something of a success story as he twice won La Liga- compared to the solitary title he won at United. It must be noted though that in the three full seasons since he left, United have won three titles, a Champions League and been runners-up. Whether Ruud regrets leaving is anyone’s guess but he may just have cast a slightly jealous look over some of his former team-mates at one time or another as any form of European success has eluded him despite being the Champions League second-highest top scorer off all time.

Gabriel Heinze’s transfer out of Old Trafford was probably the most acrimonious in recent history as the little Argentine angered United fans –sounds familiar-by trying to engineer a move to Liverpool. Instead he was shipped off to Real Madrid- hardly a bad alternative-where he won La Liga in his first season. He did get a trip to Anfield though, but unfortunately for him it was as part of the Madrid side that were demolished 4-0 in the Champion’s League.

When considering his options this summer Nemanja Vidic may do himself a favour by looking at some of the recent players to leave sunny Manchester for a place with actual sun. Although according to reports it is Mrs Vidic who is unhappy with her lot in the North-West, the Serbian could point out that with Blackpool a mere 30 minutes away ,The Trafford Centre on your doorstep along with the Lowry Centre, Manchester has got everything you could want from a city and more. He could also remind her that she won’t get curries like they serve in Rusholme in Barcelona that’s for sure. If that doesn’t work though and to be fair it isn’t likely to, Vidic could argue the fact that for many leaving Old Trafford regardless of where you go to, it is invariably a step down. You may get more money at some other clubs but the chances of you winning more trophies are slim to say the least. As players such as Giggs, Scholes and Neville have proven over the years, the longer you stay at United the more success you achieve. Whether that’s good enough for Mrs Vidic though, remains to be seen.


is Darron Gibson good enough?

Darron - wondering why his names spelt with an 'O'

By the time you read this I may well be tucking into a nice fat slice of humble pie with a side portion of my own words whilst wiping the egg from my face. If Darron Gibson starts, and plays well against A.C Milan then the answer to my question will undoubtedly be ‘yes’ and I’ll be forced to run off with my tail between my legs- right that’s enough embarrassment metaphors for now.

The reason I query Gibson’s value to the Manchester United side is that I’m not so sure that he is truly is good enough to be part of the Premier League champion’s midfield. This may sound a little harsh given the fact that he’s only young and has been on the score sheet several times already during his United career not to mention the fact he’s lifted two League Cups in as many years and managed to bag himself a handful of Irish caps to boot. However, allow me to explain my concerns. Carrick’s ban means there’s the distinct possibility Gibson may start against Milan if Fergie decides he wants to stick with Rooney upfront on his own as he has done for all the big games of late, and regardless of the lead United take into the second leg, there can be no doubt that it’s going to be an almighty test.

Gibson has been an important part of the United squad this season, not just in the cup competitions but also in the Premier League where he’s made ten appearances, half of which have been as substitute. Gibson really made his mark in the quarter-final of the Carling cup where he bagged a brace against Spurs, then followed this up with his first League goal of the campaign a few days later. It seemed that Gibson may have been making a bid to become Scholes’s heir apparent and the press were quick to point out that he may be able to fill that void when the time comes, particularly following the West Ham away game where they were both on the score sheet. Since then though Gibson’s chances have been limited and he’s yet to have a steady run in the side as Scholes, Carrick and Fletcher have started to look like a real midfield unit.

Whenever Gibson has been called upon his performances have been a little inconsistent at best, with his fondness for shooting almost anytime he’s near the opposition area often becoming a little frustrating. There’s also the fact that at 22, Gibson can no longer be classed in the same bracket as Macheda or Welbeck as he’s getting to that age where you think it could already be make or break time this season in terms of his United career. With news that Owen Hargreaves may be actually, making a return, potentially, to playing for the first team, perhaps, some time in the near future, possibly, then Gibson really needs to stake his claim of being good enough to stay at Old Trafford.

Without going into the stats, and how many passes, assists, shots or whatever Gibson has actually made, one of the most noticeable things about him when you actually watch him play is his size. Far from being fat, he’s a big lad who doesn’t seem to be the quickest player on the park and is not going to give you the sort of engine you’d get from a Fletcher, Hargreaves or even an Anderson. Gibson seems closer to Michael Carrick in that he often picks out passes over varying ranges rather than running about like a terrier. The one thing that Gibson has over his Geordie colleague is that he’s not afraid to have a shot, something that Carrick can often be criticised for not doing enough of. Shooting’s all well and good of course as long as some of them go in but lately he seems to be reminding me more and more of Anderson in the shooting stakes, although that’s probably a bit harsh as he does test the keeper every now and again, something the Brazilian could never be accused of.

Gibson’s on a contract until 2012 so there may be the feeling among the Old Trafford coaching staff that even if this season is only so-so for him, next season he’ll be able to step it up a notch and become the player he’s shown signs of being. However you only need to ask Frazier Campbell to know that just because you’re young on a contract and have shown glimpses of real ability doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t be shipped off to a lower club if Sir Alex feels the money’s right or you’re not quite United class.

If Gibson does start against Milan and produces a man-of-the-match performance culminating in David Beckham swapping shirts with him at the final whistle in a ‘the torch has been passed’ type of gesture then I’ll be left to try and take my foot out of my mouth- sorry, I just couldn’t help myself. However if as I suspect and I’m sure I’m not alone in this feeling, Gibson produces something of a lacklustre showing then it may be the game which his United career struggles to recover from.

Alternatively, Fergie may decide to start with Berbatov and not play Gibson at all. In that scenario I feel that the Irishman would be something of a loser, as with Carrick then returning from his ban, Giggs coming back from his injury and Hargreaves, maybe, possibly, potentially, returning for the run-in, he may have to wait until next season to show his worth. Let’s just hope for him, that by then it isn’t too late.


Top Five Fergie surprise striker signings.

King Eric at Old Trafford- showing off the soon to be famous collar.

As he did with Michael Owen, every so often Sir Alex Ferguson will shock many in the footballing world by signing a striker, no one ever expected. Whether it’s a rivals leading scorer, a costly teenager, an experienced loan signing, or an unheard of Norwegian, Fergie can be full of surprises. Here’s a top five of the united manager’s surprise striker signings.

5. Henrik Larrson

Signing a 35 year-old, striker, with no Premier League experience, on loan from Swedish Club Helsingborgs, must have sounded like one of the worst ideas Fergie had come up with since the Massimo Taibi fiasco. However when said striker is Henrik Larsson, its not as daft as it sounds. Larsson’s time at Old Trafford may have been brief but his impact was enormous. Any doubts that he was fit enough for the English game were quickly dispelled on his debut an FA cup tie against Villa. Larsson ran around like a 17 year-old, creating chances and bagging a GOAL. Fergie was so impressed with the diminutive stars efforts that he asked the Premier League for special dispensation so Larsson could receive a winners medal- he’d only played 7 games. The Premier league said yes, obviously recognising his contribution as United stopped Chelsea winning a third successive title.

4. Andy Cole

Just as Fergie had relieved one of his main rivals of their prized asset in 1992, he did the same again in 1994, when he managed to convince Kevin Keegan to sell goal king Andy Cole. Amazingly United bit-part player Keith Gillespie-along with 6 million quid- was the carrot that convinced the emotional manager to part with his record-breaking striker. The transfer shocked everyone in the football world not least of all the Newcastle faithful , some of whom went to see Keegan at his office to ask how he could do such a thing. King Kev said he had a long-term plan, unfortunately for him so did Fergie, who’s United side would go on to win the double the following year. Both United’s and Cole’s greatest triumph came in 1999 when they won the treble in the Nou Camp. Although it was Sheringham and Solksjaer who scored the goals few could forget Cole’s influence. His goal in the semi-final against Juventus was one of his finest moments. “Yorke’s been brought down…penalty surely…..Cole!! Full speed ahead Barcelona!”

3. Wayne Rooney

Right now, Wayne Rooney looks like something of a bargain at £27 million, having already won every trophy there is and currently spearheading United’s campaign. However back in 2004 Fergie forking out a huge sum for an 18 year-old whose goal-scoring record was one in four was something of a surprise. Rooney though, has already paid back his fee and then some. He’s well on his way to becoming a legend of Cantona-esque proportions, after being in the shadow of Van Nistelrooy and then Ronaldo, the ‘white Pele’ seems to have raised his game a level to become United’s talisman. The fact that he seems happy at Old Trafford must sound like music to United fan’s ears after the departures, injuries and ageing of some of the class of ‘08.

2. Ole Gunnar Solksjaer

Practically no-one outside of Norway had heard of the baby-faced assassin prior to his move to Old Trafford. It didn’t take long for him to make his mark though, coming off the bench to score on his debut against Blackburn back in 1996. Coming off the bench to score would become something of a Solksjaer trait as he was often used as a sub while making over 200 appearances for United. Three games seem to sum up his career more than any during the 1999 treble winning season. In the FA cup at Old Trafford he scored a last minute winner to knock out Liverpool and send Old Trafford into delirium. Later that season coming off the bench away at Nottingham Forest he grabbed four goals in just 11 minutes as United romped to an 8-1 win. A few months later he scored one of the most important goals in United’s history -an injury time winner against Bayern Munich in the Champions league final- after coming off the bench-again. Now coaching United’s reserves, you’d have to go a long way to find a more popular man amongst the Old Trafford faithful.

1. Eric Cantona

The story of how the impossible became possible and King Eric made the trip across the penines is now part of United folklore. Howard Wilkinson called Manchester United chairman Martin Edwards to enquire about Denis Irwin. Fergie sat on Edwards’ desk said: “No chance” and then almost as an after thought “Ask him about Eric Cantona.” Amazingly, of course Sergeant Wilko had fallen out with his mercurial striker and was willing to let him leave. There can be little doubt that, this one conversation changed the course of premier league history and a Cantona-led United brought the title to Old Trafford for the first time in 26 years kicking off United’s dominance of the nineties and noughties in the process. The £1.2 million price only seemed to add insult to injury. Many a Yorkshireman must still shake his head at just how foolish Wilkinson could have been.