Friday 31 July 2009

The Calm Before The Storm....We Hope...

So far this has been an interesting pre-season, if only for trying to evaluate what the boss is gonna do without "those two" who no longer play for us.
Many are gonna use words like "transitional" and some will say "they've not a chance!". The truth is this could be one of the most exciting seasons in recent memory due to the fact that none of us have a clue how things are gonna go for us. Yeah, we will be there or there abouts. We will still play attractive football. But the one thing I care about is that we play winning football. And that Sir Alex gets that balance we will need. And attaining that balance comes from pre season training.
There has been pros and cons:
  • All the strikers have started firing early..not always a common feature of previous pre-seasons. Owen has looked very sharp. Berba looks fitter and more mobile. Kiko looks like he his 28 years old...and Roo is just the same ol' Roo.

  • Nani and Anderson have shown consistency in their performances. Both have got on the scoresheets and their standing in the first team is now growing. Downside is that Nani's final ball still looks quite suspect, and he needs a cure for that Trickeryitise he caught off Ronaldo before he left. (no need for 6 stepovers when 2 will do)

  • Antonio Valencia looks sensational. Quick, powerful and balanced. (Everything our young Nani should be thinking about achieving) He is going to terrorise the Premiership this season. I like it that he is a genuine winger..something Ji Sung Park, Fletcher and Gibson are not, when they play at wide right. He is also uncomplicated. 'If i can beat my man i will. If the space is not there I will play the ball to feet' Brilliant! He is gonna shine, and feed our pack of wolves up front.

  • Craig Cathcart looks like he is becoming a man. He is a welcome addition to our squad of defenders. Both he and Evans are great youth developments. They are the sort of players that can save a club tens of millions of pounds in the years to come.

  • Fabio has also looked more than comfortable at both full back positions. I think he and his brother are gonna scare the life out of some wide midfielders this year as they bomb forward..they will need radar, just to track them.

  • We have three quality keepers. Now im not Tomas' biggest fan, but it will pay to have three internationals vying for the sticks position. Is there another club in Europe with the depth in goal like United has? Nope.

  • And of course the biggest thing in pre-season? DONT GET ANY SERIOUS INJURIES! Minor knocks to Vidic and Brown are not problems. There is nothing worse than taking a team on tour, to then lose 3 or 4 to bad injuries. Its the difference between winning and losing trophies: keeping your squad in shape and fit. (Fingers crossed that i haven't jinxed us now for the Valencia and Chelsea games! No injuries please!!)

So all in all, more good than bad.

It appears that we will play something of a more traditional formation this year. No Ronaldo means more balance. Were we too reliant on his goals for success the last three years?Maybe. But the point now is that we do what United does best.....ATTACK!...(and defend well of course.) The three centre forwards will rotate with Rooney to form a pair. If we can get the service right, and i do not think we are too far away from that, then we will push hard for honours once again.

So, I'm off to Old Trafford now to pick up my new shirt for the season. It is a tradition and superstition that i have fulfilled now for a while, and makes me feel that the new season is here and tangible. I will walk around the hallowed grounds outside and think about Birmingham City. I always only think about the next match. And i will touch the feet of the statue of Best, Law and Charlton in reverence, hoping again. Hoping that 2010 will be our year.

Just heard some sad sad news

RIP Sir Bobby Robson - One of football's good guys

Wednesday 29 July 2009

Knee Jerk Reaction?

So the bad news of our Canadian Germanic English midfielder's knees, and rehabilitation, are starting to filter through.

The pre season tournament in Munich was going to be highly significant for me. Not because of the debut of Antonio Valencia. But because we would finally get to see Owen Hargreaves, back training with United. For me, he may well have been our most important player next season..but not now.

Doubts and rumours about fitness now dictate that Hargreaves may be out until Christmas. This would be a silent disaster for United. We know that the club have plenty of bodies in the midfield department to cover until Santa rides his slay. However, I felt and still do, that our Number 4 was the key to another title success this season. This is not only because of his stopping power a la Keane. But also because of his drive forward and his progressive nature.

So this all poses the question: "What do we do next?"

Sir Alex could always hedge his bets and rely on what he has. Lets face it, its still a formidable midfield..maybe not Iniesta/Xavi formidable, but right up there with most. Darron Gibson is improving fast and there are great signs that he is nearly ready to play a walk on part in this season's show. Fletcher will give us consistency. Carrick will give us vision. Anderson will give us flair. And I haven't even mentioned Giggs or Scholes. But I still get a pang of the jitters when i think of Hargreaves missing..that we need something MORE. Fergie will probably wait for him, but as the transfer window loomingly starts to close, I would go for one specific player. A player not on the radar of Madrid.

That player is Luka Modric.

Now i know that he does not have the physical fight that Hargreaves has. But I'm more than comfortable that Fletcher will provide that. What he does have is the sort of BRAIN we need. The brain that Paul Scholes brought to us (and still does occasionally) The eye to spring an attack. To arrive late into the box. The sort of player that defines the word 'elusive'. Last season proved to me that Modric can hack the Premier League. When he joined Spurs, I questioned his strength and size. English midfields are unforgiving. There is no space to be carried. However, he proved me wrong. His displays were both exciting and intelligent..equally happy playing wide, central, or in the hole. He is a combination of elements we do not currently have in one single, solitary player.....when you take Hargreaves out of the picture.

I think Modric would be a raging success at United. He plays the game the right way...The United Way! He would slip into any of the systems that we play. The huge catch point as ever is money. Now did any of us, hand on heart, think Michael Carrick was worth £18 million? No. But his contribution to the cause has been excellent. He has continued to improve. His transfer fee now means nothing. Its been paid back with success. Modric would probabaly cost over the £20 million mark. As ever, a filthy amount of money...but, is it in the grand scheme of things? I'm not one of those that believe that just because we have a Ronaldo size amount of money in the bank that we should just throw it about, like a Salford wideboy. But if they can get the fee right (and Spurs ALWAYS sell when you get the fee right) then Modric would be ours.

I sincerely hope that Hargreaves makes it back. I truly do. But as i consider my own fantasy league options as i study English football's pre seasons, the boss must be considering his own.

The option of Modric versus the cash we would pay for him is a most attractive one.

Luka Modric's value: equivalent in Pounds Stirling to Ronaldo's arse...

Monday 27 July 2009

The Burning Question of Wayne's World

There is no doubt in anyone's mind, United fan or other, that Wayne Rooney is a world class footballer.

He is also, however, not a world class central striker

The bang of the press' drum always seems to kick to the beat of "why is Wayne not playing through the centre?" For me? It is crystal clear.

Our nicknamed dubbed White Pele is without question the most talented Englishman in living memory. A physique of a human pit-bull. The guile and precision of a cultured Brazilian. And the power of rocket fuelled driven legs. Its fair to say the boy wonder has it all, and in abundance.

But he does not.

Like all English football fans i have followed the Merseysider's career incredibly close since he was 16 years old. There was no doubt, even back then, that we were witnessing something and someone special. From the moment he smashed his first goal in for Everton against a stunned Arsenal, too his one man show for England at the Euros (before injury cut him and the nation's chances down) to when he slipped on a United jersey for the first time, to score probably the greatest debut performance hat trick ever witnessed. Yes. This boy has the X Factor!

But there is one side of Wayne which still lacks. He is not the "real deal" in the central striker's position. Without boring the world with goal stats and the like, Rooney's first touch with his back to goal is still only average at best. Go on! You watch him!! He craves space, so he can weave his magic, hence why he drops for the ball so consistently...and with that there is nothing wrong! His demeanour dictates that he wants to be involved. But as the central striker, life can be lonely at times. The game plan is not for this player to drop deep for the ball. Because when we break we need this position in...erm....POSITION!!! It is not Wayne's best placing in a team. Maybe for England, whose strikers are not fit to lace Roo's boots. But not as far as United are concerned.

And yet the cries from all and sundry are the same. "Why is Rooney not playing as the central striker every week?" It is a crap statement. Rooney's effectiveness "in the hole" is undoubted. On his day, he is the best in the world in this role. Able to be free. Play where he decides. Hunt down the ball. And then turn to either drive at the opposition or slide in the perfect ball for.....the central striker. He is also a marvel on the left. He will work with his full back to both defend, and attack at pace. Never shirking a tackle. Always the willing labourer. His contribution on the left was sorely overlooked at the end of last season, despite United winning a third league title and destroying Arsenal in their own backyard, with the man playing wide. Yes, it went wrong in Rome. But in the cold light of day, lots of things went wrong in Rome.

So, i am pretty bored with hearing this argument, because there is little proof in the pudding. (Did anyone witness his second half display in the pre season game in China? He played up top central, but could not help himself into dropping deeper or wider. This is not what we need from this position!) Maybe one day, our number 10 will mature into the best striker in the world. But i doubt it. It is like saying that the only way Cristiano Ronaldo could score goals is if he plays up front. And we all know that the vast majority of his 70 odd goals in the last two years did not come from there, but from a more free role, and wider. This is where i see Rooney best used for United. Either dropping off the front in a 4-4-2 or playing wide left in a 4-3-3. He is not a fox in the box like Michael Owen, and it would be a waste of such a talent expecting him to become this.

So my plea is simple:
Let Wayne be the player he is destined to become...not one which we wish him to be. He will still be a hero. Still attain the status of a legend. But i would rather take the shackles of the strikers role away from the boy for good. Then i can stop this year after year holding-my-head-in-my hands in Tier 3, when he inadequate works the role with a poor first touch or by missing yet another one on one with the keeper. He was born to smash the ball in from 20 yards...not 5. He can still be a United attacker, if not the most advanced one on the pitch.

Saturday 25 July 2009

Help the aged

Manchester United should resign David Beckham.

There, i said it!!

And this is coming from someone who is by far and away NOT a member of his fanclub and never was. Not even in the 1990s.

Now I understand that most football fans would see this as a ludicrous statement. A step backwards. Signing a 34 years old man who is clearly past his triumphant best. No longer with that incredible engine. Not being able to take on the full back in that wide right position. Maybe not even being able to cover the full back when he gets forward. It would be an unmitigated tactical disaster.

That is, if you played him wide right.

I still think that as a footballer, Mr Beckham has alot to offer. His performances for AC Milan last season were interesting. Playing in a more narrow role, with the play in front of him. Giving him time to move into a wider position to whip in one of his trademark crosses when the opposition's defence had retreated under pressure. But essentially playing in a central midfield 3...something United have done many times last season, when we have played a lone central striker, and Rooney wide left.

Now I understand that United fans worship the 4-4-2 formation. "Its the United way" they holler. And in the main I agree. But I also like United to have the personnel to play 4-3-3 and 4-5-1. When we have played with a narrow midfield, we have lacked something (see the Champions League Final...Anderson, Carrick and Giggs. Our obvious choice of players to execute this system, all looking lost, not playing tight enough in the middle. Not confident enough to just sit and face the opposition man for man, hanging a tad deeper when needed) Beckham would give us this passing expertise and midfield know-how to play these formations better.

Now age is a problem, but I don't see David as a long term solution. We have a very young squad. Bringing in someone who knows the pressures of United, has played well over a hundred times on the international arena, and would walk over hot coals to see United win, is just the sort of player we need...TODAY! No bedding in for Beckham, no difficult first season, no Berbatov. He is an instant quality addition to the squad for the short term. Henrik Larsson has proved this can be done. It is not impossible.

The main issue is fee and wages. The talk is that he would be made available at around the £11 million mark. The addition of the David Beckham brand to any club means that this fee is chicken feed. Even two years of his service would be worth twice as much as that fee, in merchandise. So because of this the fee is inconsequential. His wages? I would bet you now, he would take a huge cut to rejoin our team. He loves United. He would probably settle for a pay as you play deal, like Michael Owen.

However, in the real world there is one stumbling block. The manager would NEVER go for any of this! And that is where this idea ends. Fergie admits he was wrong to sell Jaap Stam as he thought he was passed his best. However, he was correct in selling Beckham at the time. The bright lights had started to blind the player's eyes and it was time to cash in and move him on.

But this is different

I do not really buy into all of this "United need a destructive midfielder" We have Fletcher and Hargreaves (fitness permitting) to facilitate these roles. Until one of these two are no longer available for selection then we can wait. But a ball playing, passing and creative type? Yes. We could do with one of them. And do we need a free kick and set piece specialist? Yes. Indeed we do.

And for now...just FOR NOW...Beckham could be the answer.

Good enough for the Milan shirt. Good enough for ours?

Friday 24 July 2009

The Fears & Worries of a Manchester United supporter aged 33

My writings are normally quite here is a home-truth...

Now if you knew me, you would know that in real time, i am the utter most pessimistic United fan in England. Cramped by silly superstitions, always finding "the good" in the opponents, whilst highlighting my teams inefficiencies. This is born of being an MUFC kid of the 1980s. I had one FA Cup win to celebrate in that first decade of being a Red (I was too young for the 1983 Brighton cup final win) That was as good as i thought it would EVER get. So to this day that sticks with me. Those early thoughts of my team. I do not think of United as some trophy consuming behemoth. I think more that all this success is temporary...and that will not matter, because i will support United until my dying or not. Its the badge that means everything.

This leads me to think about 2010. After this season, and the dust has settled on the African continent's first World Cup finals, United could well be in a state of transition. I am convinced that this will be the last season for Messrs Giggs, Scholes and Neville. Three living footballing legends. Talk will be about retiring the Number 11 shirt. Of who will be the next full-time skipper. And of the best passing midfielder this country has had in generations, that Sir Bobby Charlton calls "My favourite United player ever." Three massive players. Now we know Sir Alex knows this and is already thinking about recruits, but what...BUT WHAT!..if this all happens after a season of disaster for United?

Edwin Van Der Sar will retire as well, leaving us short in the goalkeeping department. What if Nani and Anderson do not "step up to the plate" and have awful seasons? What if Kiko and Wellbeck turn out to be Frazier Campbells rather than Ruud Van Nistelrooys? What if Owen Hargreaves never fully recovers from injury? What if Michael Owen flops!?

And what if Liverpool win the league!!??

These are things which pass through my brain almost every week.

And that is because i do not believe in the myth of Manchester United.

Now this myth has slapped me across the face before, and thankfully so. As i stood behind the goal in Moscow to watch John Terry slip like an Essex girl in 8 inch stilettos, to keep us in the game...well, the myth made me believe. When Giggsy mis-kicked the ball into the path of Teddy in the last minute of the 1999 Champions League Final, the myth grabbed me again. And when i watched Steve Bruce come forward to head home the ball in the 96th minute against Sheffield Wednesday, which prompted Brian Kidd's and the boss' touchline jigs...well, the myth just put me in a headlock! All United fans know that this mythical scripting is common with us (for last year, see 'Unknown Italian comes off the bench to score last minute winner..Kiko who?" and "Lets give Spurs a two nil half time lead when we need a win")

Yet I still do not believe it

As far as I'm concerned, United's success is down to one man, and that is the manager. He creates the teams. He instructs them. He motivates the individuals. Yes, of course the players are the ones that should have the glory as it is them that bury the ball in the net and make last gasp tackles. However, organically speaking, its all down to Fergie. This leads me to think of the one unthinkable, yet thoroughly feasible, question that may be asked at the end of the season...

'Who is gonna be manager of Manchester United next season?'


The pessimist in me knows that this is coming. This filthy, stinging question. Now OK...maybe not at the end of this season (hopefully not!) but it IS coming. Sir Alex is a man who is contemplating his seventies. He is not super human. One day he will say "What the F am i bloody doing this now for?" and will finish. It is inevitable. This is the day i think our luck may just break. This is because with the loss of this one man, we are back on parity with Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and all the big guns in Europe. ..

Because we have a Sir Alex Ferguson...and they DON'T.

So the flip side of my personality says this: Lets enjoy it and enjoy him (Fergie) now while we have them. Lets appreciate what we have got this moment in football time. Let us not believe in legend, but in those that deliver for United week after week. Let us not take for granted that we will produce teams of such grace and panache...just because of the mythology of Manchester United.

Because its highly possible that we may "Do a Liverpool"

And that means we may have to wait until 2030 for another title.

Until then, I will keep wearing my lucky socks/pants/jeans/coat to Old Trafford. I will keep eulogising about the quality of the opposition and how "we could get beat by this lot today". And I will keep staying awake at night thinking, are Darron Gibson and the Da Silva twins really the real deal? (I hope they are!)

Who said football was enjoyable?

Thursday 23 July 2009

A reply to Ian

Firstly, thank you all for the comments and emails regarding the blog so far, keep them coming and thanks for your input

One comment, from Ian, has been particularly thought provoking, and i wanted to address it within the VFT3 blog articles:

Ian said...
"I have to point out that Keane famously took a shot or two at our fans during his tenure at Old Trafford. Remember the prawn sandwiches? I, like most United supporters, didn’t think he was in the wrong to ask for more support from the fans. In fact, it validated my fandom by acknowledging that my support was important to the team’s success. I was embarrassed not by the fact that he berated us but by the fact that he had to. I felt the way I think I would were I a player Keane had ripped for not trying hard enough on the pitch: embarrassed for not giving fully to the cause and determined to do my part in the future.
If it was acceptable for Keane to chastise our fans for not cheering hard enough for our team, then why is it unacceptable for Wenger chastise his for actually booing their team. You are right that every unit of the club, including the fans, should be working toward the same goal. This singularity of purpose is what binds us all together and turns the club into something greater than just some physically talented players, an old manager, and a few businessmen in suits counting the money with a mass of supporters cheering and waving scarves. This pulling together, “us versus them!” bond and passion makes the club greater than its individual parts and that is why we (players and manager too) all care so much. This principle is vital to it all and should be respected and protected by rules. You accuse Wenger of breaking these “unwritten rules” but I would say it is the fans that actually break them when they boo one of their own while he is playing, and especially when he is already struggling with form. No one could think booing a player or manager helps the team win.
We can all agree that it is acceptable for the captain or even another teammate to have a word with an underperforming teammate, letting him know that more is expected. But you wouldn't want to see that teammate really dressing down one of his own, during a game, would you? Remember Boyer and Dyer? (Possible exception to this if it’s the keeper-lol Schmeichel!) Your entire argument is based on the idea that above all else, the fans shouldn't be embarrassed under any circumstance. But what of the embarrassment the fans heap on their own players and managers? Some would say that fans have paid their hard earned money and therefore have the right to boo if they please. I hate that argument and I think it contradicts your earlier point about us all working for toward the same goal. Imagine you ate at a restaurant and didn't like your dinner, would you shout obscenities and boo the chef from your seat? What about if you bought a new computer and after a couple of years you were unhappy with its performance, would you find the man in the factory who installed the hard drive and boo him as he worked?

We aren’t invested in their performance the way we are with our team you might say but this is all the more reason to support, not undermine. In football we are all teammates in a way and turning on your own in such a visible and venomous way is, to me, even less acceptable.
If the fans are part of the club, as we all feel that we are, then Wenger did what he would do if any other part of the club showed blatant disrespect to a teammate. We are all so quick to call for a change personnel but would Fergie have even made it to his second season if he were starting out now? Or would he have been run out of Old Trafford by the Boos before he ever had the chance to lift us to glory. We demand that our players and managers remain loyal, kiss the badge and love the club as we profess to love it, but should they not produce man of the match honors for a little long or lose one too many, we turn on them like snakes, behaving in a way we would never tolerate. In my opinion Keane was right to call out the fans and Wenger was right to do the same. And anyone who booed Ronaldo for wanting to play for the team his father and he supported as a boy must not have been bright enough to imagine what they would have done had they found themselves at Real and heard United asking them to come over. You speak about honor but somehow ignore the fact that it is the fans that are most lacking in that trait. Like the blog by the way."

Wow! Good stuff Ian. You should write a United blog (if you already do not!)

Firstly, there is one fundamental difference between Keano's prawn sandwich comment and Wenger's. Roy was directing himself towards the lack of atmosphere at OT at the time and he was correct. I didn't find this embarrassing, even when every national newspaper picked up on the quote. I was not embarrassed because his comment was entirely true..and we knew it. However, if i was a Gooner (and thank the Lord I'm not!) I would be entirely aggrieved that my manager had specifically generalised that it was me and my fellow fans that had forced out our star striker from the club, rather than the fact that Arsenal obviously want the money for a player that had under performed recently..when they heard twenty-five million quid, Arsene's ears heard CHA-CHING! I am not one for any sort of censorship. I believe anyone at any club can say what they want..but words must be chosen carefully.

I will give two United related examples. When asked this week about our dismal performance in the Champions League final, Sir Alex refused to be drawn on it, only saying "I will not talk about it, we threw it away and that is it" He had the platform to criticise his players (and some would feel that he would have been justified) but he observed the "unwritten law" so to speak. Also, when talking about the fan-base he commented "without the fans there is no Manchester United. Its all about the fans" Now you could put that comment down to throw away football rhetoric. But he is correct. No fans. No revenue. No wages. No club. You must understand Ian that i openly encourage 'emotion' in football. Fans singing and yes, even booing. Players snapping at each other, team mates or not.

Because this sport we love means that much.

What i object to though, is the press being used as a vehicle to launch a premeditated attack on a facet of your own club..and that facet pays the bloody bills. Wenger should give his fans something to sing about. His comments about Adebayor's exit are incorrect and inflammatory. If Sir Alex had mentioned this when commenting about Ronaldo leaving, I would have been up in arms. (I respect Ronaldo's decision to play for his boyhood club, but would he take a pay cut to play for Real? Would he leave if his boyhood club were Leyton Orient? All valid questions..but a different point entirely!)

As we all know, football is all about opinions. I publicly criticized the quality of players such as Fletcher and OShea in previous seasons, but will now admit that they have improved, and were vital parts of the team last year. But it was an opinion in 2006 that has now changed in 2009. Anyone of us, managers and players included, can vocalise our footballing emotions when needed.

Wenger has the power to make those fans rejoice, the same way that Roy Keane and Sir Alex had/has with us. Maybe if he publicly exercised that power, his 60,000 home gates may start to make the more favourable noises he craves.

Wednesday 22 July 2009

"He's here, he's there, he's every f%$king where..."

..Ber-ba-toooov, Ber-ba-toooov

Once again another song we are not likely to hear from our faithful at the Theatre any time soon.

Looking more like a lead actor in a French Noir film, smoking a cigarette and sporting poetry as he glides across the Old Trafford grass, rather than an international world class striker, Mr Berbatov has not endeared himself to any reds, as of yet, due to his languid style. Many claim to have actually seen Dimitar on the halfway line, reading aloud a play by Balzac, while United defended a corner. And many have also seen him sunbathing on the pitch, on a deckchair, when the Manchester weather permits such an unexpected surprise, for cloudy Lancashire.

Are these sightings true!? Or is the man just plain bloody lazy!?

Everybody knew what we were getting when Sir Alex sent a big fat cheque to North London for the Bulgarian's services. Berbatov has NEVER chased back, has NEVER made a last gasp sliding tackle, and will NEVER thrown his head at a ball that was just about to be booted into Row Z by a John Terry-esque character. For this is NOT what the man does. In 2008, it was clear we needed a different type of striker. One that was not all blood and thunder like Rooney. Not all heroic bravery like Tevez. And not one, that was a million stepovers like Ronaldo. Everyone agreed we needed a Cantona...a Sherringham. Someone who would drop a little..look up and calm the play down when needed. We all agreed that there was only one footballer in England that fitted that bill. And we signed him.

Twelve months on, and paper gossip dictates that our number 9 would be offered to Athletico Madrid, or even Valencia, in part exchange for their own prodigious striking heroes. So we no longer need that Cantona/Teddy type of striker? We no longer need someone with a deft touch? Funny how opinions change in a few hundred days!

Admittedly, i have been less than impressed with Berbatov so far. As a fan witnessing him from the stands his play is less than almost makes you NOT want to cheer for him. But the truth is and always will be, that while he plays for us, we will always want him to unequivocally succeed.

Because We need Dimitar Berbatov now as much as he needs Us.

Nothing has changed at United in the striking department. OK, we've lost Tev and Ron. But the fact remains that we still need that talisman. The one who can give balance to our striking options. When you think about it there is not another striker in Europe like Berbatov, not at the top level. He has a first touch to die for, vision which dictates he must have three pairs of eyes, and a calm consistency not seen since Matthew LeTissier walked (not ran!) around Premiership pitches destroying opposition at will. He is the footballing equivalent of a chess player.

We need Dimi now. Today. This is his time. The man has openly admitted that he needs to play better and score more goals, and has promised such. The balance of himself, Roo, Owen and Kiko (not forgetting Danny Wellbeck) is exciting enough to put fear into every English and European defence we encounter. If we can get the supply chain to the strikers correct (and lets face it, in recent memory, when have we played with two providing wingers? Ronaldo nullified any of that because he provided himself!) then we can march toward title number 19.

So lets not discount the boy with the slicked backed hair just yet. Maybe he will decide to lose the imaginary cigarettes and emerge as a United hero sometime very soon...

"When the seagulls follow the trawler it is because...oh shut up!"

Sunday 19 July 2009

The Unwritten Laws of English Football

(GROUP) group noun [C]1 an organization of people with a common purpose or interest, who meet regularly and take part in shared activities.

I really want to know why Arsene Wenger is still manager of Arsenal Football Club.

No. Not because of his distinct lack of success in recent seasons. Not because of his inability to hold on to players he has taken on and then developed for the long term (Overmars, Ashley Cole, Flamini, Hleb, etc etc) Not because of his lack of eagerness to spend any of Arsenal's funds, despite them generating more match day revenue than any club in the world...yes more than United, Madrid, Barca..anyone!

I want to know why he is still manager of Arsenal Football Club for one solitary reason...and that is for the lack of respect he shows his team's supporters and the utter contempt he fails to hide when commenting on the subject of them.

I was shocked beyond belief with his comments regarding the sale of Emmanuel Adebayor. He took a swipe at the fans for not backing Adebayor, leaving the poor dear Togo international to feel unappreciated, unloved and unwanted.

What a complete pile of drivel!!!

“We have lost a great player and we wish him well,” said the Gunners boss.“He's done extremely well for the club. I don't believe that last season he got enough support. That was playing a part in my mind and in his mind, certainly, as well. I believe he wanted to do well but he didn't find the confidence he had the season before. There was a little resentment you could feel through last summer. Believe me, he's a great player and he'll show that again at Manchester City”

So Wenger's words can be taken directly in context:

  • Adebayor has been a great player for Arsenal and has performed well.

  • The supporters didn't like him

  • Adebayor lost his confidence because of this

  • It played on both the player's and the manager's minds

  • Adebayor remains a great player and Wenger wishes he still had him

Did i just interpret all of that correct? Did i get anything out of context? Is Mr Wenger pointing a finger at..erm...THE FANS?

I obviously do not care what happens at the North London club. I have no interest at all. But if i were an Arsenal fan today i would want that man out of my club. We all know many of Wenger's attributes, and they are numerous. But you would never hear Sir Alex Ferguson linking the sale of any football player to the fact of their unpopularity, their relationship with anyone (including himself) or for any reason that was non-football related. So because of this, Wenger has now started to break the unwritten rules which exist in English football. The ones of loyalty, of always respecting your supporters, of always positively trying to enhance the club you are employed by...not 'real' laws as people know full well..but ones which are probably more important that any others of the real ones!

When Ruud Van Nistelrooy allegedly fell out with a young Cristiano Ronaldo, whose father had very recently passed leaving the young man perplexed by the event, Ferguson knew he had to make a decision on who stayed and who went. Ferguson backed his young player, and moved the prolific Dutchman on. But Ferguson refused to create a public domain to give substance to the events or the reasons. When Roy Keane became a disruptive influence in the dressing room, he terminated his contract 18 months before it expired. But publicly he thanked the player, as a man of honour would. And when Jaap Stam blabbed to the press about dressing room secrets and his 'taping-up' by Ferguson, he was out the door so quickly his feet didn't touch the floor, to the point where he was being pictured in a Lazio shirt almost in tears because he did not think for a minute that his actions would have such alarming consequences. But again Fergie kept his mouth shut about the reasoning.

And that is how it should be.

Manager, Chairman, Board members, Players, Staff and Supporters. All wanting the same thing. Not always agreeing (in fact rarely agreeing) But respecting that essentially we all want the same thing, so lets not stab each other in the back, or give our enemies course to have a good old laugh at us.

Wenger has now broken this unwritten bond of trust. He has blamed his own fans for the departure of the club's front-line striker. Not attributing it to the validity of Adebayor's lacklustre performances last season. Not to the fact of Adebayor using the press to manufacture a move to Milan. And not to the fact that another club has met his valuation for a want-away player. No. He attributes it to a lack of support. This is totally despicable.

So now Arsenal FC are the biggest laughing stock in England. One of the best clubs in the world, selling players because once it a while said player was "boo-ed" Oh dear oh dear oh dear. Nobody at Old Trafford has attributed the sale of Ronaldo to the fact that he was wholly unpopular amongst the Old Trafford fans last season following his vulgar flirtations with his Spanish whore (of a club), threatening our loving marriage with him. Or the fact that "Viva Ronaldo" was only sung towards the back end of the season, when his form returned and we turned a blind eye. And that is because it is not the truth. The truth is United got £80 million for a guy with two legs, two arms and a head. ALOT of cash for one individual in what is a team sport. That is the real truth.

If the Gunners fail on the pitch again this season, or if Wenger gets offered another challenge by someone else (Manchester City??) I think their union will come to an end. And in my eyes? that would not be soon enough. For a football club needs a heart and soul. It is not the mechanical robot that Arsenal seem to be today..made of some incredibly special parts, technologically advanced. But essentially devoid of passion. Machines do not know what passion is.

And that is the managers fault..for he is the Professor and architect.

"Give us a ring when Hughes gets the sack Ade!"

Friday 17 July 2009

Just a football team from North West England...

Supporting a football team...and i mean REALLY supporting them.. (you will know what this means if you DO) is a labour of love. Sometimes painful, with varying degrees of intermittent joy, but generally with the mundanity of a maintenance job nobody would ever choose to do with a free will. Punch in, what time's the game? What do i have to cancel to get my United 'work' done? How long will it take to travel to this game? Will i get a chance to eat? Punch out.

Yes. a complete labour of love. Because if it wasn' just would not do it. Time consuming, and like a drug dependency. Emptying your wallet at every turn. And even at the end of that, the manager may not pick the exact eleven that you would demand he picked, after you spent 3 hours studying the opposition last night. Not pleasant.

But this is what really supporting your team means, United or otherwise. No aspiration. All perspiration.

So all in all, this raises the question about Manchester United's popularity beyond the shores of the United Kingdom. Millions of fans of the globe's favourite sport, all drawn like moths to a red coloured flame, that flickers in the North West of Merry England. A football team crowned "the worlds most popular club" with an unrivalled appeal from continental America across the planet to the Far East, and seemingly everywhere in between. (I was once on a camel trek in Egypt, when the young animal handler looked up to see my United top, and screamed with a huge smile "Yes sir yes sir ANDY COLE DWIGHT YORKE")

So the question is begged, can you be a real "proper" United supporter, if you can not physically embroid yourself in the fabric of club whose stadium sits plumb in the middle of Stretford's deprived Victorian streets?

The short answer is yes

United no longer belongs to Mancunians. United no longer belongs to the English. It has evolved. This evolution is vulgar to the die-hard United fans, the people the Italians would call our Ultras. The ones that travel with the club. The ones that sing songs about our players and spits abuse with chants about Liverpool, City, and Leeds. (Chelsea and Arsenal are not 'natural' rivals of the club) But the truth is the message to these die-hards, and i count myself as one of them, is "Get over yourselves!" The concept of the global club is with us.

Watching the crowds in Malaysia greet Rooney et al, and the mass hysteria just a training session causes, shows that the global branding of football needs these fans..and ultimately this means football needs Manchester United. In-spite of the vulgar spending of Real Madrid who are arguably the biggest club in the Latin World, United's allure shines just as bright today, even after losing "the best footballer in the world" TM and the Argentina bull himself. Who says people follow individual footballers now and not teams?? Pah!

These fans are just as relevant in this modern world of football as every United season ticket holder and myself...and if that's not acceptable to the man in the streets of Salford, as any Manc would say, "If ya don't like it pal, just do one!" With the creation of FC United, the splinter team formed as a reaction to the Glazer's acquisition of the club, i feel these "home" teams will give the outlet to the common English fan, who needs to feel that he can actually pat a player on the back when he scores, can walk from his home to watch his team play, and can drink in the local pub, where its more than likely that the team's centre forward's sister serves behind the bar.

For the rest of us...we have to go along with the evolution of the modern game. It is inevitable that the English league will be disbanded in its current format in the coming years (your guess is as good as mine) and that a breakaway European Super League will be created, with United at the centre of it. So the labour of love will be the same, just with slightly different rules. Punch in, what United work is there today? What time is my flight to Madrid? Will United sign that lad from our feeder youth team in Brazil?

Yes...very similar to how it is today.

Thursday 16 July 2009

The peculiar case of the flying Portuguese winger

"Manchester United have replaced Cristiano Ronaldo with a young protege called Luís Carlos Almeida da Cunha."

Now that is not a headline you are going to see anytime soon.

Yes, Cristiano has left us. Yes, United will almost definitely produce another "young protege" off the production line (ours, or someone else's!) and YES...Mr da Cunha is already the multi-million pound property of Manchester United. The problem you might ask? He goes by the nickname of 'Nani'

As we know, dear Nani came from the same feeder school as Ronaldo, and arrived as the next big thing from Portugal. Fast, skillful, with step-overs 'til the cows came home. Sound familiar? With a price tag of around £15 million (almost a third more than it cost us to purchase our former number 7) we all thought "WHAT a bargain!"

So what the hell has happened?!?!

Now I've watched Nani in the flesh many times. I was there when he scored his first goal for the club which was a 30 yard blockbuster against Spurs. The promise in those white boots of his are undoubted. But the facts are clear. Last season was a huge let down for the player. At best, looking mildly out of place in the first team, to normally, playing the role of the invisible man who couldn't even see himself!

Now do not get me wrong. I have had no problem with the boy's application. He will run, he will tackle (albeit like Paul Scholes) and he TRYS. However, effort isn't enough. Not for a flair player who's job it is to beat the last man, cross inch perfect balls and, every now and then, scare the goalkeeper whitless with a monster strike from no-mans land. All of these things are Nani's job.

2010 will either be the making of Nani the Man, or it will be the year that Nani the Player is confined to the scrapheap that both Kleberson and Djemba Djemba keep warm at night. In fact, he may not even get a season to prove it. I feel if the manager can manufacture the purchase of Douglas Costa, or Alexi Sanchez, both exciting flair players, then that will be all she wrote for the lad. However, with transfer fees through the roof, with average skilled centre backs being offered £300,000 per week to play for a health experiment in sky blue, and a Galactico factory being built in the centre of Spain, maybe..just maybe...young Nani will get one last crack at the whip.

Lets hope he takes his chance.....should he actually get it.

"Boss! I found him" - Rio just beats Giggsy in finding the wayward winger

Wednesday 15 July 2009

Dear Carlos,

Oh how we loved you so. The way you fought for every ball. The way you connected with the crowd. The heart you had, bigger than the Sun itself. We worshipped you. We sang you songs. We took you to our collective bosom and held you there. Cherished.

But thats all over now.

Do not think for a second that we are fools. The riches you have been offered at Middle Eastlands are immense. It will take you a lifetime to count the sixty-four million pound coins they are going to pay you in the next five years. You and your family will be secure forever.

But dont try and spin us a yarn about any of this. You could have stayed at United, where you would have earned just £25million! You didnt need to mouth off like you have continually for the past few months. You could have just been honest.....and kept our respect.

But thats all over now.

Thanks for all your hard work over the past 24 months, but now you are a Bitter Blue. You can go and die for their shirt now. Because it only makes sense as they will pay you the most. Please do not talk about what great fans we are. It does not wash. We are not interested.

Good luck dear Carlitos, but of course we do not really mean that.

From every United fan that has screamed Ar-gen-tina to you xx

Tuesday 14 July 2009

So the manager says that is it! more spending for our Blessed United during this transfer window..hmmmm.

Now we all know that Sir Alex loves to tell a good ol' porkie pie every now and then, but i think that maybe this time he may not be standing in an offside position. It was inevitable that with the huge sale of CR7 for what is an obscene amount of money, the transfer market was going to spiral out of control. So, thank you Real Madrid and thank you Manchester City. The two most irresponsible clubs on our dear Earth, in what is supposedly a global recession. Now, you wont find me going on a money rant. I have always accepted that big money moves through the biggest clubs. I have no objection to the amount of money footballers earn, no matter how disgusting that is. I also have said for a year that if Real came up with around the £70 million mark that we should pack Ron's suitcase for him and book him on the next plane to Spain. However, now that we have this pot of gold sitting in the Manchester United bank account, the case was always gonna be that every club in the world was gonna want their unfair share of it for their coffers

£60m for Ribery? I don't think so. Samuel Eto'o wanting £150k a week wages? Highly unlikely for a player we could only offer a 3 year contract to. Douglas Costa? Alexi Sanchez? Yes, taylor made young talent for United, but at £20 million!!! Give me a break! ..and that is exactly what Sir Alex is thinking.

Now I do believe that there is some value left out there. We are no stranger to talents that fall into the £20m bracket. Huntelaar and Ashley Young are two such players. Both young, and proven, and with plenty of hunger. Now I'm sure the boss knows all of this, but this is the type of players we need to get hold of in the short term. I really don't think we can fully challenge with the squad as it stands today. Now i don't mean that minus Ron and Tev we are now nothing...far from that. Michael Owen is incredibly shrewd business and Valencia is a very exciting prospect. Obertan? well he is anyones guess!

The main issue is Owen Hargreaves. He is the best combative midfielder we have had since Bryan Robson, but of course his knees are made of bolser wood. I prayed for his arrival for a year before he arrived from Germany, and he proved himself undoubtedly in the 34 games he played in a European and domestic double. But we cant wait..not forever. If Hargreaves cannot recover from this cruel injury, Fergie needs to splash the cash in January. And this is the reason he his probably holding his horses.

Hargreaves would leave a huge hole in our midfield, as he did last season (which wasn't exposed until the Champions League final) I hope he does recover because he will become a club legend..but only if he gets back 100% There is no other midfielder in world football that does what Hargreaves does so well..destroy, clean up and distribute..and all that at pace. Only Gattuso of Milan can claim to be anything like, but his age is against him. Now we all know the attributes of Anderson and Carrick, and the development of Darren Fletcher has been stunning the last two seasons. However, with Scholes and Giggs both coming to an end of their illustrious stay with the club, we need to look at the numbers. One or two additional long term injuries to those just mentioned would mean it is near curtains for silverware this year. Our midfield would still compete well until the knockouts of the European stage, but against big, hard, strong English midfields, we would struggle week in, week out.

So its a big decision for the manager, but as ever we trust in him. God forbid, maybe its better we just sit tight for Hargreaves, than maybe recruit a Kleberson or Djemba Djemba! Its now time for the likes of Nani and Tosic to seize their chance, and we must not forget the exciting addition of Adem Ljajic in January, nicknamed "Little Kaka"...and does Manucho actually still play for us? So quickly the forgotten man! ..and if Wellbeck and Macheda can chip in some goals and Roo, Berba and MO all click, well you just never know...

Monday 13 July 2009

Everything Manchester United......

So why do this?

its a valid question.

i believe that with all that goes on in my life, and continues to burn bright and influence me from day to day, that i still manage to think about United at least 300 times a day (or for the mathmatically minded 12.5 times an hour, not accounting for any sleep) I have a formulated and passionate view about everything the club is involved with..whether it be the next game, a new signing, internet gossip or the rain that falls on our heads at the theatre of many dreams, week after week.

So a blog seems to be a good way of channeling all of that. Now maybe no one will read it..but maybe they will. Its all an open forum. So if you do stumble across my musings here, please dont take offense at anything..its just the ramblings of a man that sits in Tier 3 at Old Trafford and how his heart bursts with football

Glory glory Man United