Posts Tagged ‘neville

25
Dec
10

United in pole position for a very merry Christmas

Robbing the Megastore in a Santa costume was a stroke of genius

Robbing the Megastore in a Santa costume was a stroke of genius

With a heavy Christmas schedule on the horizon for all Premier League teams although it’s nowhere near ‘squeaky bum’ time, the next week or so could well decide the title race.

Although titles aren’t, at least historically, decided in December, with four games in nine days, there’s no denying that it’s a crucial part of the season which could potentially see United obtain a commanding lead.

Sir Alex Ferguson has set his team a target of being top by the end of the Christmas fixtures on January 4th.

Sir Alex stated: “My  aim is to try and be top by January 4.

“By that time, the top of the league will have taken shape.

“Maybe, because of the weather, it is difficult to think everyone will have four games. But if we do, and we are top, we will have done well.”

With home games against Sunderland and Stoke and away fixtures to WBA and Birmingham, all United’s festive matches fall under the ‘tricky’ category but there’s no reason why we can’t win all of them.

While a trip to St. Andrews has draw written all over it for practically any club, except Chelsea who lost of course, if United were to take ten points from a possible 12 then it would still be a good return and could well see United stay on top of the EPL.

There’s no doubt though if United are to enjoy a productive New Year, then some of the fringe members of the squad are going to have to prove their worth and this is where United could hold an advantage over their rivals.

The United squad is one of the strongest  in the league, with each position having at least two internationals vying for it. Take the strikers for example, with Rooney, Berbatov, Chicharito, the recently returned Michael Owen not to mention Kiko Macheda all available for selection.

Having five strikers is no use to anyone if they’re not of a high standard but all of United’s front men could arguably walk into nearly any Premier League side. Only Macheda who’s still a long way from the finished article and Owen who’s fitness still remains doubtful have question marks over whether they could start for the Reds.

The midfield is one area many United fans were hoping Sir Alex would strengthen in the Summer, with Rafael Van Der Vaart and Mesut Ozil being mentioned so much by many Reds, I actually thought we’d signed them both at one point.

While I still have my worries as to whether the current central midfield has enough truly world class players in it to take on the likes of Barcelona, there’s still enough quality to overcome most teams. Fletcher, Carrick and Anderson are on their day, capable of dominating any game. There’s also Ryan Giggs who can be deployed in a more central area if needs be. With Park, who’s available for the Sunderland game before he departs for the Aldi cup, Nani, Obertan and Bebe not to mention Giggs, then there’s enough players to cover the wide positions certainly against the likes of WBA and Stoke.

Another concern surrounding  United’s starting XI is in the central defensive positions, mainly the absence of either  Rio Ferdinand or Nemanja Vidic. While Chris Smalling has exceeded many expectations, Jonny Evans has had something of a torrid time of late and can no longer be trusted on current form. Admittedly the best way to help the youngster get over it may be to throw him back in the mix- but he’s looked so out of sorts lately I’d actually prefer to see either Smalling or Brown replace Rio or Vidic if one of them is rested.

United look much frailer at the back when Ferdinand isn’t there, I’d even go as far as saying he’s more important to the defence than Vidic- although only just. Despite Vidic wearing the captain’s armband, Rio is the true organiser at the back and he does a job that’s second to none in marshalling his defensive troops.

As for the full back positions, well with Evra the Da Silva twins, not to mention Brown and O’Shea, there’s enough there to cope with the fixture congestion- who knows Fergie may even give Gary Neville his 500th League game, although I’m not to sure now is the time for nostalgic generosity.

Things aren’t looking quite as rosy at United’s rivals; Chelsea skipper- the lovable -John Terry recently questioned whether his side have the strength in depth to cope with the busy Christmas period.

Terry said: “In the past we had a big squad and could rotate and put other players in, we don’t have that now, we have quite a young squad and it’s time for everyone to stay together like we always will.”

Carlo Ancelotti has been quick to play down Terry’s statement- shades of Capello in South Africa- claiming the Chelsea squad is in fine shape. The results speak for themselves and no wins in the last five games, gives credence to Terry’s observations.

Arsenal- Chelsea’s opponents on Monday- have their own problems to contend with- none of which have been helped by the more vociferous among United ranks. Arsene Wenger was quick to rubbish Nani’s recent claim that it was only Chelsea and United involved in the title race. Only a week earlier it was Evra upsetting everyone at the Emirates by claiming Arsenal were a “training centre” with few title credentials. Wenger would do well to worry about the comments of his own players before worrying about those coming from Old Trafford.

Future Arsenal star Cesc Fabregas claimed his team were ‘scared’ following their recent defeat at Old Trafford and with Chelsea winning the last five contests against the Gunners, scared is the last thing Arsenal can afford to be.

The only other real title contenders are our friends from M11, who have tricky trips away to both St James’s Park and the Emirates over the next 11 days. City seem like a club in disarray despite being in third place. With the on/off Carlos Tevez saga, Balotelli doing his best to endear himself to everyone in world football and the recent home defeat against Everton, all is not well in the house that Sheikh Mansour’s money  built.

The fact that Arsenal play both Chelsea and City means that at least one of them are guaranteed to drop points over Christmas and with a bit of luck it might even be all of them.

The notion that there are no easy games in the Premier League anymore may well be true, but there are ‘easier’ games and the four United have over Christmas would certainly fall into that category.

With the United squad in fairly decent shape- bar long-term victims Valencia, Hargreaves and a short-term problem to Paul Scholes, a set of winnable fixtures and good recent form, there’s every reason to hope this could be a very merry Christmas at Old Trafford.

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02
Sep
10

Premier League most hated XI

Drogba -everyone's favourite post match commentator

Drogba -everyone's favourite post match commentator

Over the years there have been many great players who’ve graced the Premier League, making it the most enjoyable entertaining and exciting domestic competition in the world. Players such as Cantona, Shearer, Henry, Ronaldo, Fabregas and Franny Jeffers have given even the non-football lovers a reason to tune in to Match of the Day on a Saturday night as they show us how the beautiful game can be truly just that. There have also been another set of players though, throughout the years, men who may have footballing ability but also have the knack of causing most of us to scream in anger whenever they touch the ball. I’m talking about the sort of players who if your daughter brought them home, you’d wish she was a lesbian. Players we love to hate.

Now, not many of us actually know Premier League players on a personal level, but we can pretty much garner all we need to know about someone from their attitude on the pitch. Some players such as Paul Scholes for example, will never be truly hated, which is somewhat surprising considering he’s fouled every single Premier League player at least twice, because they just get on with the game in a quiet manner. However for every Paul Scholes, there’s a Robbie Savage, the sort of player that even some of his own fans struggle to find a fondness for. Here’s my own personal Premier League XI made up of players you’d rather glass, than have a pint with.

Goalkeeper- Jens Lehman- Where do we start with Mr. Lehmann? Who can forget his chuckle-brothers esque shoving match with that other loveable chap Didier Drogba, or perhaps chasing a hapless linesman for 30 yards to berate him for a disputable decision. Lehmann also had a penchant for running out of his area often when not really required and for shoving, pushing, and generally antagonising anyone who came near him at a corner. He left Arsenal in 2008 after 199 appearances , during which he picked up a Premier League and FA cup winner’s medal- and got himself sent of in the Champions League final. He was soon up to his old tricks in Germany, racing out of his area allowing Cologne’s Wilfried Sanou to fire into an empty net from 45 yards, he then got in trouble for attending Oktoberfest immediately after, despite being told not to. No doubt he found a few Colonge fans to buy him drinks.

Left back There was only ever going to be one wasn’t there, in fact its so obvious I’m not even going to put his name. The Chelsea left-back is actually one of the best in the world and has won every domestic honour there is several times, but he’s also one of the most hated men ever to put on a pair of football boots. When he’s not refusing to be booked by referees, he’s busy lamenting the fact that Thierry Henry got more chants than he did, or complaining that £3 million plus a year, is enough to make you crash your car- more than a few people were probably wishing it did.

Right back- Gary Neville- I’m sorry but let’s be honest, while there are United fans that love Neville, they both live in Stretford apparently, for many, he’s become something of an embarassment. He may be one of the best right backs Old Trafford has ever seen, but more often than not his behaviour leaves a lot to be desired. Constantly saying anything to wind up the opposition, Neville is hated by anyone outside Old Trafford and even a few inside. As his appearances have become fewer his comments have increased, as have his actions. When he’s not giving players the bird, refusing to shake former collegues hands, or hiding behind Roy Keane in the tunnel, he’s making statements on anything from -deep breath now- Liverpool’s European exit, Carlos Tevez’s worth, Fabio Capello’s management ability, or how Premier League players are worth their wages. If Fred the Red ever retires, United have a ready made mascot.

Centre back- William Gallas- Who can forget the sight of the happy-go-lucky Frenchman sitting in the St.Andrews centre circle sulking, as Birmingham’s James McFadden tucked away penalty. The fact that Gallas was captain only made it more ridiculous. He took a leaf out of the Roy Keane school of youngster morale boosting by claiming in an interview that Arsenal’s younger players needed to “show more courage” if they were to succeed, perhaps sulking in the centre circle is a good way for them to start. Gallas was subsequently dropped from the squad for the next match before being stripped of the captaincy. A must for every dressing room in need of a sense of camaraderie or wishing to give a good example to the younger players.

Centre back- John Terry- Sorry Chelsea fans, well actually I’m not, but it’s yet another Chelsea defender who falls into the most hated category. His Guinness record breaking crying marathon following the Champion’s League final, apparently it lasted 34 days, still makes me wonder how anyone on earth could call him the ‘new Bobby Moore,’ I don’t recall England’s World Cup winning captain, sobbing his eyes out as he’s pictured with Pele in 1970. A player that often finds himself booed at away grounds- except at Old Trafford where, following Moscow,  he always gets and ironic cheer.

Left midfield- El Hadji Diouf- Although he can play in a number of positions for the purposes of this team he’s out on the left wing. What can you say about Diouf, honest, genuine, decent, clean, none of these words coud be used to describe a player who is almost as famous for spitting at people as he is for any footballing acheivements. Celtic fans, Arjan De Zeeuw and fans from Middlesboro have all been treated to a ‘gobby’ from the lovely lad from Senegal. Diouf isn’t a one-trick pony however, no no, he’s got more to his game than just spittting. How about a bit of abuse to those horrible nasty ball-boys at Goodison Park, that’s what’s missing in the modern game. 

Right midfield- Cristiano Ronaldo- okay, I still love Ronnie, but as someone said to me when he was still at United: “He might be a tw*t, but he’s our tw*t.” I had to agree.

Centre midfield- Steven Gerrard- arguably the most difficult time I’ve ever had as a football fan was supporting England with Gerrard wearing the captain’s armband. His camera -kissing celebration at Old Trafford as Liverpool stormed to another trophyless season was bad enough but it was his ‘accidental’ assist to Drogba to gift Chelsea the title cemented my dislike of him. He should have been banned for a year, mind you making him England Captain was probably punishment enough.

Centre midfield- Lee Bowyer – The former Charlton,

Leeds, West Ham  and Newcastle man has found an army of haters wherever he’s gone. It’s not just the fact that he holds the record for the most bookings in Premier League history or that he’s even been sent off for fighting with his own team-mates, its also that, well he’s just got one of those faces, hasn’t he?

Striker- Craig Bellamy- It takes a special player to get a list of enemies as long as Bellamy’s but the diminutive Welsh striker has managed to leave a trail of p*ssed off people behind him, wherever he’s gone. A career that took in Norwich, Coventry, Liverpool, Celtic, Newcastle and West Ham saw arguments with managers, and team-mates, ‘putt’ the striker on the most hated list of many. When Bellamy joined newly rich Manchester City  life at Eastlands was fairly quiet for the little Welsh one, although he did find time to assault a United fan- who was being held by stewards- in the Manchester derby, United fans don’t hold grudges though, even giving Bellamy a bit of money on his next trip to Old Trafford. There was also his public support of John Terry which no doubt endeared him to Chelsea fans. He’s a player that can often be seen winding up the opposition and he usually succeeds in that endeavour. Bellamy’s loan move to Cardiff left Pentonville rather disheartened as they were looking for a new forward.

Striker- Didier Drogba- For me one of the  funniest sights in recent Premier League history was Drogba having a ‘fit’ after being flying kicked by Jonny Evans, only to be booked by the referee. The Chelsea forward has become so known for falling over at the drop of a hat, that he’s even admitted it in interviews. Talking of interviews his post-match analysis following Chelsea’s Champion’s League exit to Barcelona was legendary. When he’s not diving, sulking and swearing he does score a lot of goals, but he’s done enough over the past few years to edge his way on to here.

Subs bench– Mark Bosnich, Emmanuel Adebayor, Kevin Davies, Duncan Ferguson, Robbie Savage, Michael Brown, Stephen Hunt.