Posts Tagged ‘Fergie


United’s Pre-season Given Added Edge By Fergie’s Comments

Fergie - lots to consider in the next few weeks

Fergie - lots to consider in the next few weeks

Staying up late most nights this week to watch my beloved Manchester United take on various ‘soccer’teams from the US -and Celtic- hasn’t been the most exciting of times if I’m perfectly honest. While the game against Celtic was entertaining the subsequent ones against Philadelphia Union and those other footballing titans Kansas City Wizards have been fairly dull and raised a few questions that a week ago I neither felt the need nor the inclination to address.

With Dimitar Berbatov producing the sort of performance everyone knows he’s more than capable of against Celtic, there were already murmurs of whether Sir Alex Ferguson may start him next season in a return to the old 4-4-2 formation that was once United’s perennial modus operandi. Then there was the game against Philadelphia Union, where despite playing well below-par United still managed to triumph- if you can call a friendly win in the US a ‘triumph’- mainly due to the poor quality of the opposition. Sunday night’s game against the Wizards of Kansas City was even more dissapointing than the one against Philadelphia as United succumbed to a side that had only ten men for half of the game. Of course this wasn’t a full-strength United side, mind you unless Wayne Rooney is on the pitch it never is, this was a team made up of reserves and youngsters. However despite this, a few questions have already been raised by certain sections of the press, in this game and the previous two.

Chris Smalling’s penchant for costly errors, which seemed to afflict him as soon as he signed for United, raised its ugly head against Celtic, which was quickly seized upon by the media as another example of a catalogue of mistakes the youngster has made in the past six months. Roy Hodgson joked that Smalling was “getting hismistakes out of the way” at Fulham, let’s hope from a United perspective he’s merely doing the same in pre-season. Although he’s hardly shone, certain apsects of Smalling’s game have impressed me, not least his aerial ability and his obvious pace.

Kiko Macheda’s anonymous performance against Union-or is ‘the Union’, raised a few question marks as to just how much United can rely on him next season, while Rafael Da Silva’s and Mame Diouf’s, not to mention Darron Gibson’s, lacklustre displays against the Wizards- or is it just Wizards-had certain Fleet Street members doubting their ability to be first-team players this season.

There’s already a bit of semi-hype about Javier Hernandez’s debut and how important it will be. Now I for one don’t think you can garner too much insight into any players ability from a friendly game in a different climate, against barely professional standard opposition- no offence Celtic fans. Yes, you can judge a player’s fitness and see how well certain partnerships are developing but by and large I think their fairly pointless in terms of player assessment.

Two seasons ago in pre-season both Frazier Campbell and Chris Eagles looked great, scoring goals and giving the defences of Kaizer Chiefs, Portsmouth and Espanyol no end of trouble. Fergie rewarded both youngsters by showing them the Old Trafford exit not long after.

Last year’s pre-season saw some at Old Trafford arguing the case for Anderson to be given free-kick taking duties following a cracker against Boca Juniors- I know, it seems unthinkable now.

With news that Fergie’s undecided as whether to include Anderson and Owen Hargreaves in the squad he submits to the Premier League though, it gives the pre-season friendlies an added edge as it could well be a chance for one of the youngsters on the fringes of the squad to stake a real claim.

With each game being something of a subsitute merry-go-round not to mention some shocking refereeing its seems a bit harsh to try and judge whether someone is ready for the United first-team based on these outings. However with the clock ticking as to when Fergie has to make a decision on his 25-man Premier League squad and it still being uncertain as to whether Hargreaves and Anderson will be fit enough to be included, the previously ‘pointless’ friendlies could actually go some way to dictating United’s season.

While that may seem a tad melodramatic, whoever is chosen for the squad will no doubt play some part in the upcoming months. With Fergie’s preference of constantly changing his starting XI as well as United’s ridiculously bad luck with injuries- though not as bad as Arsenal‘s before any of you Gooners start- it’s obvious every member of the squad will have an important role. Last season’s two-point title costing deficit had many United fans- myself included, lamenting every dropped point and wondering how failing against the likes of Burnley and Blackburn could have cost The Reds the title.

With two more friendlies, plus the Charity, sorry ‘Community Shield’- am I alone in dreading a trip to Wembley to see Chelsea bragging about winning both trophies?- before the season starts then four Premier League games before the squads need to be submitted, the next two games could prove vital to Fergie’s thinking. After all he may be reluctant to try and assess young players in the opening few league games, with every point being vital and weakened United sides failing to deliver in the past.

I just hope that with the heat, the added pressure, the poor refereeing and the brevity of some of their time on the pitch, some of the young United players out in the US manage to do themselves justice.


Is Fergie wrecking England’s world cup hopes?

Rooney- every reason to be looking knackered.

Wayne Rooney ‘s season, has been one of personal triumphs, regardless of how the League campaign ends, his goals, performances and all- round heroics, mean that he will be able to look back over 2009-10 with a degree of satisfaction.

It’s not just that Wazza has stepped out of Cristiano Ronaldo’s shadow, carried the United team so often that he’s in danger of resembling Peter Beardsley, or finally ended his fondness for rushes of blood to the head. It’s that in a season when United have been by their own standards, quite often p*ss poor, Rooney’s been able to maintain a title challenge that by rights should have been dead and buried at Christmas.

Sir Alex Ferguson, knows a thing or two about football. Yes I know that’s something of a controversial statement- right up there with Emile Heskey could do with a few more goals, or Adrian Chiles is getting annoying- but oblige me. Fergie realised quite a while ago that Rooney isn’t just important to United’s title challenge, he’s essential. In fact I’d argue that United would have a greater chance beating one of the better teams in the league by playing without a goalkeeper than they would without WR10 – well it worked for Ronaldo so I thought I’d give it a go, but it just sounds like a post code in Worcester or somewhere, so I won’t do it again.

With some of the results United have achieved – or should I say the teams playing United have achieved- when Rooney’s been missing, it’s obvious no match can be taken for granted. This isn’t like the good old days of Andy Cole, Dwight Yorke, Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solksjaer- backed up by a free-scoring midfield. Then Fergie could rest any combination of two of those and the other two would step in and do a job. This isn’t 1999-2001. If United are to win even the supposed ‘bankers’ this time round, more often than not every Stretford Ender’s favourite scouser has to be on the team sheet.

Don’t get me wrong footballing colossus’s such as Bolton and Wolves have been put to the sword without Rooney- well Bolton were, Wolves were unlucky. But as Blackburn proved, without Rooney United are not so much a ‘force to be reckoned with’ as a team bereft of a leader, goalscorer, threat or idea. They need Rooney, like Frank Ribery and Carlos Tevez need to be good at football to attract beautiful women- although in Ribery’s case even that isn’t enough- allegedly.

Lately we’ve seen Rooney being picked when he could obviously do with being rested, and the results have been mixed. Against Bayern Munich at Old Trafford, he seemed okay to begin with but then following a dirty, clever, know-exactly-what-his-weak-spot-is-so-hit-him-there-type of challenge, by Mark Van Bommel – he was effectively a passenger for the rest of the game- until he was subbed far too late for my liking.

Then after being rested against Blackburn, which surely meant he was in absolutely no condition to play whatsoever, he was back for the Manchester derby.

It’s here that the real depth of the problem facing, Rooney, Fergie and in-turn England, comes to light. Before the game it was rumoured that England’s brightest star, had needed fluid draining from his ankle to be able to play. Now I’m no doctor but surely if someone requires fluid draining from any part of their body then their certainly not fit enough to be running round a football pitch in one of the most hyped-up games of the season. Even if ankle-fluid-draining-gate is untrue, the fact is Rooney looked far from his normal self at Eastlands, so much so that he didn’t even look all that surprised when the bench decided to bring him off.

The point I’m trying to make, is that against Bayern and City, he arguably should not have even been in the squad. He obviously needs rest and is not getting it at the moment and highly unlikely to get it until the season ends.

You could argue that even a below-par Rooney is better than a fully fit somebody else- Dimitar Berbatov for example, but then if you can’t trust your £30million plus striker to step up when he’s needed then whats the point of him being there?

Against Bayern Munich, for every man that says Rooney being on the pitch, at least following his injury was a mistake, there’s someone who thinks he was right to play, as it brought space to others, because Bayern were so wary of him. There’s also the point that Fergie did ask Rooney of he was fit to carry on and got the ‘thumbs-up’ signal which is universally accepted in almost every country as meaning ‘happy days’ or something to that effect- except in Bangladesh, Iran and Iraq where it’s obscene- in case you were wondering.

Then there’s the derby, yes Rooney was subdued slightly but United won and surely the ends justify the means, even if he wasn’t on the pitch when the winner was scored.

So what should Fergie do, rest Rooney and see United lose? No. Of course not, but there must be a real danger that the way things are going Rooney may end the season being wheeled out-literally- against Stoke on the final day.

As long as United are in the title race- which could well go all the way to the last day and Rooney says he’s fit, which barring an amputation he’s always going to claim- in fact even then I think he’d argue a case for playing- a bit like the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail “it’s only a flesh wound.” Sorry , I digress, yes, Rooney will always want to play and Fergie will always play him, at least for the next two weeks.

All this leaves the question, will there be anything left of Wayne Rooney for South Africa? As the last World Cup proved an unfit Wayne Rooney is no good to anyone. Alternatively, is Fabio Capello faced with the same dilemma as Fergie? Leave Rooney out or play an unfit Wayne Rooney? Either option is fraught with problems.

One thing’s for sure, Alex Ferguson won’t be losing any sleep over England’s worries when it comes to WR10- okay so that really doesn’t work and I definitely won’t do it again. Many England fans however, may just have a little cause for concern.


Top six manager rants

Sir Alex Ferguson’s recent rant at the assembled journalists during a Manchester United press conference is nothing new in the footballing world. i don’t mean the fact Fergie was annoyed with the media, this is a new development that the usually media-friendly, bubbly, friendly, smiley-happy Scot must’ve picked up in the last few days. No I’m talking about the ‘manager rant’ which has become as common a sight in football as Chris Kamara’s laugh and Alan Shearer’s ridiculously benign comments. There have been many outbursts by managers over the years some genuinely shocking, others shockingly genuine and some well, just a bit silly and uncalled for really.
Here’s my own personal top five in descending order.

5.Rafa Benitez -Last season the Liverpool manager gave us all a good laugh with his infamous rant against Fergie. The United manager had tried a bit of the old mind games by claiming that then top-of-the-table Liverpool could “choke”. Well Benitez wasn’t having any of it and responded with some ‘facts’ to put United and Ferguson in their place. Unfortunately for Benitez, that place ended up being first where United finally caught Liverpool up in terms of titles won.

4. Joe Kinnear – You’ve gotta love Kinnear, what better way to ingratiate yourself with the Geordie journalists on your second day in the job as Newcastle United manager than kicking off and calling several of them the C -word. Straight out of the Ron Atkinson book of PR, Kinnear’s rant was something of a shock not just for the assembled journalists but also for Newcastle’s press officer who after the outburst stated somewhat incredulously “this is all off the record of course lads.”

3. Sir Alex Ferguson– Of course no list of manager rants would be complete without Fergie, although it is not what we know he’s capable of behind closed doors- boots flying, hairdryer treatments, etc- it’s still good to see the United boss is willing to let loose at the press- unless it’s the BBC of course in which case he’ll just send out Mickey Phelan. A few months ago he got himself into hot water with the FA for criticisng referee Alan Wiley’s fitness, he later apologised, which is apparently only the second time in his 68-years he’s ever done so- the first was for signing Ralph Milne.

3. Diego Maradona– Who could blame every Englishman’s favourite Argentinian for having a pop at the press after his team qualified for the World Cup? After all the qualifying campaign had been a mitigated triumph, a 6-1 defeat to Bolivia, a 3-1 home defeat to arch-rivals Brazil, over 100 players used, and Lionel Messi seemingly struggling to play in Maradona’s system surely meant the Argentinian media would be ready to heap praise on the national coach. Let’s not forget the campaign had also included last-minute wins against the mighty Peru and a late decider against Uruguay completing qualification to clinch the last automatic spot.

Yet for some reason sections of the Argentinian press were a little bit concerned to say the least. Well following qualification Maradona-or ‘Hand of God’ as he’s known in Blighty, thought he’d rebuild his relationship with the press by telling them to, how can I put this? Perform fellatio on him. Here’s his rant with subtitles, those of you who speak Spanish Parental Advisory is definitely advised!

2. John Sitton- This list was originally going to be a ‘top five’ but it suddenly dawned on me I’d nearly overlooked one of the finest rants in modern football history. Sitton was appointed manager of Leyton Orient -along with Chris Turner- with the club at near-bankruptcy and bottom of the Second Division. The club sought to alleviate some financial stress by being filmed for a documentary which should have been titled a comedy.

After a poor perfomance at home against Blackpool, Sitton finally well and truly lost it. His half-time talk is the stuff of legend. How could he motivate such a struggling bunch of despondent men? Sacking defender Terry Howard was his first piece of motivational confidence building, then after labelling the board a ‘circus’ and fans ‘cockroaches’ Sitton accused some of his players of thinking they were “Bertie big b*llocks.”
As if that wasn’t enough he offered two others the chance of fisticuffs after the game, rather bizzarrely suggesting they bring something to eat for the occassion. Genius.

1. Kevin Keegan- There was only ever going to be one winner, Keegan’s outburst is arguably the most famous football interview ever. In 1996 Keegan’s Newcastle United had seen a 12 point lead at the top of the premiership evaporate to challengers Manchester United. Fergie had tried his best at mind games by claiming that teams, specifically Leeds United, were trying harder against Man U, than they were against Newcastle. With one game remaining Keegan took the bait and launched into an hysterical outburst which made the whole country chuckle-it even came 17th on Channel 4’s 100 Greatest Sporting Moments.