Posts Tagged ‘Bebe

24
Sep
10

Why the League Cup still matters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

23
Sep
10

Five things we learnt from United v Scunthorpe

Phelan tells the streaker to get back in position

Phelan tells the streaker to get back in position

Watching Manchester United reserves- apart from Rio Ferdinand- turn over a mid-table Championship side is hardly enough to give us an insight into the key to Champion’s League glory. However despite all the changes Sir Alex Ferguson made – I don’t care whether Mickey Phelan was on the sidelines we all know who picked the team- and the ease with which United won there were still valuable lessons to be learnt. While the rest of the Premiership’s big boys-bar Arsenal- were licking their wounds and labelling the Carling Cup ‘unimportant,’ United’s romp gave some if it’s fringe players the chance to grab the limelight.

Michael Owen may still have a future at Old Trafford and Bebe is not the anti-christ- despite what the Daily Mail may claim- are just two points we were able to garner from United’s fairly routine Carling Cup victory.

Chicharito does not need to be waiting on the wings. Javier Hernandez has been compared to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and it seems Fergie has decided to do to the young Mexican what he occasionally used to do to the young-looking Norwegian and stick him out on the wing. Fergie has also done this in the past with Danny Welbeck and it hasn’t been all that successful and I believe Welbeck’s first-team performances have suffered because of it. During the Rangers game I noticed that when Michael Owen came on, Chicharito was moved out to the wing and I hoped it was just a one-off to accommodate three strikers for the final ten minutes as United searched for a winner. Last night however with Owen, Kiko Macheda and Chicharito all starting it was fairly inevitable that one of them would be shifted out wide and the smart money was on it being the Little Pea. Chicharito shone at the World Cup as a striker and to see him being used as a wide player is an obvious waste of his talents. Although it was far from a terrible performance by the Mexican it was obvious from early on that this isn’t a position that suits him and hopefully we wont see him there again too often.

Chris Smalling is growing bigger. Okay so its against Scunthorpe but what the heck I’m going to get a little bit carried away and say that Smalling has really impressed these last couple of weeks. His performance against Rangers was solid- although admittedly even my wheelchair-bound grandma could mark Kenny Miller- especially with Rio next to her- but he still did well. Last night his performance at the back was solid but he also showed glimpses of what he’s capable of going forward. He took his goal superbly and looked extremely comfortable on the ball- dare I even say Rio-esque. The thing with Smalling is it was almost expected that he’d take a long time to settle into life at United as since signing for the club his performances for Fulham had been dare I say Titus Bramble-esque. Smalling is coming along nicely however and with two full ninety minutes under his belt plus a cracking goal – dare I say it was Rooney-esque- okay I’ll stop that now- his confidence will surely be sky-high. Who knows could Jonny Evans be looking over his shoulder in the next few months?

Tomas Kuzszcak is not the answer. Whoa! I hear you scream, a so-so performance in the Carling cup is no reason to pour dandelion and burdock on the chip barm that is Kuszczak’s United career. However I feel that the young Pole has never quite convinced either Fergie or many of the United faithful that he’s the man to replace Edwin Van Der Sar. The fact Fergie preferred Ben Foster at the beginning of last season showed that Kuszczak needed to win the United boss over and the ‘keepers recent comments that he would be willing to move away from Old Trafford to gain first-team football can hardly have helped. Last night Kuszscak looked a little dodgy on crosses and should have done better for Scunthorpe’s second goal. While it is hardly likely to be the final nail in the coffin of his United career it could well turn out to be one of them.

Owen is not a Jamie Carragher loving past it scouser who should be shipped off to Villa just yet.
A few weeks ago I questioned whether United really needed Owen anymore, with Macheda, Chihcharito and a couple of other strikers who’s names escape me occupying the Old Trafford dressing room. Following his decision to once again don a Liverpool top then his anonymous cameo against Rangers I was practically convinced it was time for him to leave. However Owen’s well-taken brace showed that there may still be a future for him at Old Trafford- Fergie may also feel his experience and finishing ability could be useful to some of the young strikers to learn from. Of course Owen could well be off to join his old boss Gerrard Houllier at Villa in January, but following last night’s performance, plus the fact Fergie still seems to hold him in high regard, it may be a little longer before we see every United fans second favourite scouser leave Old Trafford.

Bebe is not the second coming of Ali Dia. Contrary to some of the -mainly- Daily Mail’s reporting Bebe is not the disaster he’s been labelled. Quite why there has been so much negativity around a player who is a real ‘rags to riches’ tale- quite literally- is beyond me but the Portuguese winger’s fifteen minute cameo was enough to see he does have a lot of talent. The signs were there against Aston Villa reserves last week but with a few tricks, lightening pace and the confidence to run at players and shoot from distance, Bebe is showing that he’s a quality player. Whether he’ll figure much this season remains to be seen but Tiago Manuel Dias Correia is definitely an exciting prospect for the future.

14
Aug
10

United’s new signing raises a few questions

Bebe- his Nani will be looking after him

Bebe- his Nani will be looking after him

Sir Alex Ferguson is no stranger to pulling the odd surprise from up his sleeve when it comes to some of signings. Not even the bookies have seen the United’s managers shock signings coming over the past twenty years. Eric Cantona, Andy, sorry Andrew, Cole, Henirk Larrsson and Michael Owen have left both United’s opponents and even fans dumfounded as nearly everyone was oblivious to their prospective arrival.

The United manager’s latest acquisition has left everyone reaching for the nearest search engine to find out just who on earth Tiago Manuel Dias Correia.

While I won’t waste anyone’s time regurgitating the biography I’m sure anyone who’s remotely interested in Bebe has already read, I will simply state that this signing while not likely to be the final piece of the jigsaw for European domination does raise a few questions that have yet to be addressed.

For starters are United really skint? According to reports, Bebe cost around 7.4 million quid, now while that is hardly in the stratosphere and less than what Stoke City have just forked out for Kenwyn Jones, it’s still a fairly large amount of money. It’s not loads but it ain’t peanuts. If United are penniless then spending over £7 million on a player who’ll be lucky if he makes the bench for the Carling Cup this season is foolish to say the least. Say what you may about Sir Alex, as many often do, but foolish is not something you’d associate with him – unlike angry or moody. Both David Gill and Fergie himself have claimed that despite the protests of many and the debt the club are in, there is still money available for transfers. While most people have been sceptical of this to say the least, I’ve often though there may be some truth to it, simply because if there wasn’t I can’t imagine Fergie lying on behalf of the Glazers. Yes they pay his wages but that doesn’t mean he has to be their puppet- unlike Gill who I trust slightly less- and if he were to state there is no money, could they sack him? No one is bigger than the club but Fergie is pretty much untouchable, if the Glazers think they’ve got problems with the green and gold campaign getting rid of the manager would start a Mancunian Armageddon.

Secondly if money is not the Mesut Ozil issue then what is? The young playmaker has been the most spoke about German since the Queen got married to that Greek fella. It seems there isn’t a club in world football that hasn’t been linked with the scary eye-browed one of late. Money has been mentioned as an obstacle to him joining the ranks at Old Trafford however with the asking price thought to have been anything from £13 to £20 million, if United can afford over £7 mill for a sixth choice striker- or a fifth choice winger depending on where he’s preferred, then surely they club could have spent a few more on one of the brightest young stars in the game. The reason for Ozil not signing- unless he does as part of a conspiracy to leave me with egg on my face – must be either a choice by the player himself or Fergie. Whether Ozil has let the powers that be know he has no intention of playing for United is unknown but also highly unlikely as no formal bid has been made. The likelihood is that Fergie has decided not to pursue him, the question is why? Well if it’s not money that leaves for me two likely reasons- faith in the current squad including Darron Gibson and Tom Cleverly or an unwillingness to remove a potential squad member at Ozil’s expense.

With Premier League clubs having to submit a 25-man squad to the FA by the end of August, and with only players under 21 years old being exempt, every squad place is precious. If United’s squad consisted of- VDS, Kuszczak, Neville, Brown, O’Shea, Vidic, Rio, Evra, Evans, Scholes, Park, Giggs Carrick Obertan ,De Laet , Fletcher, Gibson, Nani, Anderson, Valencia, Rooney, Berbatov, Hernandez and Owen then that would leave one space. Owen Hargreaves is –yet again- currently recovering with no real return date- yet again- in sight. If Fergie did buy Ozil then the door would surely be shut on Hargreaves making the squad. Although it still seems unlikely the Canadian-born England midfielder will make the squad at least he does have a slight chance. Hargreaves has retained his squad number the question is will we be seeing at Old Trafford again anytime soon.

Another question is should Fergie trust the judgement of Carlos Queiroz? The former United number two has been instrumental in convincing Fergie to buy a player yet to play a competitive match in the Portuguese top flight. Normally such a gamble would never have been entertained, after all even Chris Smalling had played several Premier League games before United signed him .Yet the word ‘untested’ would be something of a compliment to Bebe who has only played 26 games in the Portuguese third –tier. I’m not about to get on the lad’s case before he’s even kicked a ball in a United shirt and he may well be the real deal, it just seems a little strange, with all the striking options at Old Trafford- including five under the age of 25, Fergie saw fit to add another. Quieroz may have overseen one of United’s most successful periods but his judgement has been called into question on occasion and I just hope Fergie’s faith isn’t misplaced.

The final question I’ve been left to ponder is whether we’re seeing a drastic shift in United transfer policy? The signing of Chris Smalling after only a handful of games for Fulham last season was a surprise to many United fans as it’s not something that happens very often at Old Trafford. Most players that arrive via a transfer are usually already established, it is very rare for a relative unknown to be bought- or at least it was. While United have bought young players in the past, Da Silva twins for example, it now seems to becoming a little bit more commonplace and the prices the club are willing to spend on somewhat unproven players is increasing. Admittedly in the case of Hernandez, sorry I mean Chicharito, it was a move that already looks like paying off, but with an outlay of over £24 million for three players who are- or at least were- fairly unproven, is this a drastic change in transfer policy for United? Spending large amounts on unknown players has never been the norm at Old Trafford but with clubs like Real Madrid, Chelsea not to mention some ‘noisy neighbours’ able to outbid United, the club may feel the way forward is to take a bit of a gamble on promising stars. Fergie has lamented the over-inflated prices of the transfer market and he may feel this is the only way around it.