Friday 22 October 2010
So now we can all go back to our normal lives. We got angry. We kicked and screamed. We felt mugged off. And now.....a feeling of empty hollow with a touch of strange jubilation.
To view the events of this week in chronological order would be a waste of time. Everyone including their Mothers had their say, and eventually Rooney signed his contract...you know?..the one he didn't want.
In short, it was one great big happy domestic mess. Today the Manager and the Boy Wonder posed together in family bliss and all is (sort of) forgiven and forgotten. But I'm yet to hear a fan that represents that picture of bliss. Some fans are still fuming. Others feel dejected. A section wish to punish Rooney with their silence at games. Others say he is no longer "one of us" This family is now officially dysfunctional.
Personally, I do feel bit sick by it all. It's like one of those crass pantomimes that get put on at Christmas...the ones with the mildly sexist/racist jokes that turns your stomach every three minutes..all cheap and poorly acted. It was NAILED ON that Rooney was going. The City link was entirely credible and it seems it was just a matter of time before we saw Carlos Tevez Part 2. But somehow...the pre-emptive strike never came.
I feel Rooney and Stretford had every intention of taking their business elsewhere. The £400k a week on offer was just too good to turn down. Which makes it even more strange that Rooney has remained at United on a deal that is less than half that amount. On Twitter I hammered Rooney for being the epitome of greed. I understand that there's no loyalty in football..not really. But when someone is prepared to trot across a city to our biggest rival, and wear their filthy strip week in week out, rubbing it in our faces like that Argentine does, well it just doesn't sit very well. However, Rooney's statement in reaction to Fergie's orchestra of melancholy at Tuesdays press conference was not entirely untrue. In fact it was fairly accurate. Rooney questioned the future squad (note: not the current squad) and the clubs ambition to win trophies. This is nothing compared to what we've all said about the Glazers and their finances! He also hinted at the possible retirement of Sir Alex being a factor. Again, he is right. We all fear that nasty day when Fergie retires to that great big wine cellar in the Cheshire sky. But the fact remained he was saying to the world that he was leaving Manchester United...and it hurt us like hell!! It was the equivalent of fan rape.
The situation seemed like it could not be rectified. So what happened? Fergie gets everyone in a room and does one of his famous Jedi mind tricks. Just as he did to Eric Cantona post kung fu kick when he chased the King to Paris, sat him down and did his best Yoda impression, leading the Frenchman back to a court house in Croydon. The manager is the master of things like this. And his most hated enemy...the press...has been manipulated into becoming his most powerful weapon in his quest to retain Rooney. It's up there with anything Shakespeare wrote. A majestic tragi-comedy. It appears all Wayne really needed was great big cuddle...and an extra £90k a week..or the equivalent amount to which ONE of Yaya Toure's legs earns every week. It's a bit of a bargain when you look at it like that. If Fergie had really questioned Rooney's desire to wear the shirt then he would have been gone. Or Ruud Van Nistelrooyed as I call it.
Sir Alex is the ultimate chess player. The ultimate politician. The ultimate reverend preacher. He sells United to the world..and to his players. The protector of the faith. He said that "Rooney just needed reminding how big Manchester United are"..in a way that a priest takes confession and dishes out 3 Our Fathers and 4 Hail Marys..giving the member of his flock direction, forgiveness and absolution. Rooney has fallen back in line having well and truly seen the light. A vision of the future burned into his mind by Fergie. And for those jumping on the conspiracy theories, you need to calm down. This situation is not the same as Beckham or Ronaldo. Firstly, the boss wanted shot of Becks, and with Ron we knew he was always going to go to the club of his dreams. Neither of these apply to Rooney's situation. I doubt Wazza has ever dreamed of wearing one of Ricky Hatton's cast off strips!
So now we have to trundle along in a temporary kerfuffle. We're all a bit dazed. A bit confused and punch drunk. But the minute Rooney pulls on that shirt again, and produces the form he had pre World Cup...I get the feeling we will start to forgive a little more freely.
Time is a healer. Trophies cure disease. Rooney's rehabilitation starts today.
Monday 18 October 2010
Football is without doubt the biggest, most stupid sport in the history of the planet. The unthinkable regularly happens like a London bus timetable. And not just on the pitch, but also behind the scenes.
You probably live and are reading this article on Mars if you haven't yet heard the 'new' Wayne Rooney rumour..you know? The one about him wanting to leave our club. However, just as with his infidelity against his wife was about as secret as Ronaldo's desire to join Real Madrid, this new rumour is anything but....new.
Behind the scenes Rooney and his agent have been playing the same game that many before him have played. Rio Ferdinand did it. Psycho Vidic also did it. Even Roy Keane once did it. Hell! Denis Law even once made demands that made Matt Busby red with anger! And that is come contract talks playing the 'Well I could always leave' card. However, there is a clear difference between Rooney, and all the other great United players of the past. And that is that Roos form and reputation are currently residing in a bin bag. The always smiley Scouser has now replaced that with a permanent grimace. His life is in shreds. He can barely trap a ball. And now he has to go to Fergie and the Glazers and start telling them he thinks he is worth more than £120k a week.
There's a lot of half truths in this whole scenario. Do I think Wayne truly wants to leave? No. Do I think there is a real possibility that he will go. Absolutely yes. People forget how close Rio came to leaving after huge money demands. Many United fans haven't forgotten that and still mention it with venom today. Rooney's backroom team were always going to play this merry-go-round game..the one that Carlos Tevez played with us not so long ago. But with the way the money balance books look at the moment, I think that now in 2010, United have almost no opportunity to say NO to a humongous transfer fee that we once could have denied with ease. Of course, expect in the next few hours the official club statement that will say "Blah blah blah we will not sell Wayne Rooney blah blah" but the truth is that the club lie to us fans all the time...every single day of the week.
So the next question is 'Where will Wayne go?' Well I tell you now as it currently stands it wont be Spain. If Wazza wants to keep his wife happy (with a very sick sister) and he wants to earn the biggest amount of cash he could humanly earn, then there is just ONE CLUB he will go to, and we know who they are. If Wayne's agenda was purely football then I think I wouldn't be writing this article. We would be where we were 12 months ago..with Roo enjoying his football, finally showing the world class qualities we all know he can produce and scoring goals for fun. However, we now live in a world where Rooney is public enemy number one and his football has become a non productive side show. He is making errors with his touch and his positioning that he was when he was 18, and he clearly is a very unhappy individual. I thought he was more thick skinned than all this but I was very very very wrong.
Manchester City will pay the transfer fee that will make the Glazers wet their bed in excited delight. And they will pay the wage that will convince the boy from the council estate that he should just stare at his increasing bank balance daily to quell the noise of hatred coming from his former fans in Red. Shut the gates at Chez Rooney. Ignore our feelings. Have a bit of fun with a few ladies of the night. Read Ashley Cole's autobiography. All these things will protect him from this huge decision's ramifications. He will earn 2...3....maybe £400k a week. He could name his price. Even for a footballer it would be like winning the lottery of all lotteries. And at the moment he is vulnerable to such advances...just as much as United are vulnerable to anyone who has any cash they could chuck our way.
As it stands, MUFC are no longer a player in the big money market. Yes we probably could move a few things around and wheel and deal, and bring in the odd excellent player. The £30m spent on Smalling, Chich and Bebe shows that there is some sort of cash in the coffers, hidden under the couch. But we will not see us competing for the very best players. If we were, we would have stolen David Villa a year ago. We would have wrapped up Benzema long before Madrid ever even thought about him. We would have signed David Silva before he even knew what Eastlands was. But the truth is we don't have the clout. Yes we're the 'Biggest club in the World' dot com. But when it comes to brass tax, if you are a marquee player, or even a potential marquee player like Mesut Ozil or David Silva, you will sit back..listen to the highest offer, and then equate it to whether you could win trophies at said 'best offer' club. City, Madrid, Barca, Chelsea...damn even debt free Liverpool can all potentially offer bigger riches than Manchester United will be able to in the next few years. The pull of playing for Sir Alex Ferguson will soon also be gone. Sign for a club so much in debt that when they make a record turnover they still make a loss deep in the tens of millions? If I was Wayne Rooney these things and facts would go through my defused mind at the minute.
So just as Tevez thought it would be great to leave a club that just won the Premier League three times in a row for a team with literally more oil than most of Arabia, I think the Evertonian lad will be tempted by the same wares. Why should he be different to the Argentinian?? Cos hes English? Rubbish quasi-thinking. I'm sure the part of his ego that thought he would never get caught with his pants down will probably take the reins of decision making once it comes to crunch time. Not for a minute do I think Fergie and Rooney have fallen out...no way. But Sir Alex has zero control on monetary matters at MUFC anymore..as much as we would all like to pretend that its still the year 1996. And Rooney's advisers will do exactly what Kia Joorabchian did, and that is advise his brainless client that 'maybe it's time for a move..you know lad that football is such a limited career' Wayne Rooney will sign for Manchester City because it will be even harder to actually sign for Manchester United. Do you think Wayne looks at the money elsewhere, seeing all the uber players joining the likes of City and that he doesn't think...'Id like a piece of that.' Do you think he looks at United's recent signings and that he thinks we have the same ambition and potential as Madrid or City? Do you think he thinks the Glazers are good owners? Do you think he may smell a ship sinking and that he's got the keys to a speedboat to paradise? None of us could ever have predicted this position, but this is reality and this is where we and Roo sit...on the edge of a cliff watching the Blue ship sail off into the distance. All we can do is pray is that that ship has great big hole that will make it sink...but it's looking more and more like a cast-iron battleship everyday!
If you had told my United loving family in 1968 as The Babes paraded the European Cup to all, that they would be watching 2nd division football in just a few short years, they would have told you with the same confidence that we have that its IMPOSSIBLE for such a fall in grace. But I always believe pride comes before a fall. If we batten down the hatches now, throw all the non believers off the cliff a la Rooney, and concentrate on the Chicharitos, and Rafaels, and Cleverleys in our ranks...we may...WE MAY....just surprise the superstars of Man City and their piers. Its time to take stock. Its time for a new direction.
We love Manchester United. No player...no damn owner...will ever change that. We could be playing lower division football and we would still sign the same songs that we do today and yesterday. The heart of Man Utd belongs to us...and not Rooney, and not Tevez, and not the Glazers. Adversity may be looking us in the eye, but we will spit in it. We may be about to take a huge emotional pummelling, but as we fall to the canvas all bloody and broken, we will look up at our detractors and enemies...and we will laugh at them. Yes the joke will be on us, but we are galvanised by history. Things may be about to get ugly...but that's life. The bookies now have Roo at 1/6 to leave..that's incredibly short odds, with only 7/2 to stay. The wheels have started to turn. If he stays we will rejoice. But if he goes we will be ready to roll up our sleeves and we will build again.
Thursday 30 September 2010
In many ways it is a non issue.
United do indeed have leaders throughout the team so does it really matter who wears that big 'C' on his arm, and gets to lift the silverwear?
To me at least, the answer is yes. And it has a two fold explanation to it. One part is historical and one part is practical, but neither has anything to do with common sense:
When I was a boy (violins start to play) the captain of Manchester United Football Club was Bryan Robson. He was heroic. A leader. A man's man. He led the team on the pitch and was the symbol of the club off it. While Liverpool scooped up title after title we all just gave thanks that we had the best captain on the planet. It mattered to us. Since then we've seen real United icons wear the armband. Since 1982, United have only had FIVE captains. That is an amazing stat in modern football. Robbo, Bruce, Cantona, Keano..and of course Red Nev. I understand that there is a modern slant on the captaincy, as to 'who gives a toss who wears it'...but to me it still represents something..
Which leads me to Nemanja Vidic now leading the team out.
Don't get me wrong. I have great respect for Vida. The man leads by example. Smashing defenders with the efficiency of a Jaap Stam and showing the bravery of a warrior. But in my opinion the guy should not be captain and that is simply because he does not skipper the side when Rio plays. Ferdinand does that job when he starts...as would Neville. I totally get Fergie's reasons for appointing Vida but my opinion still stands true..that the guy who is actually running the show for the team on the pitch deserves 'THE HONOUR' of wearing that armband...and it is an honour to captain Man Utd.
The Valencia game highlighted all this to me like a beacon! Vidic lead the team out, yet Rio lead the team on the pitch. I would rather there was a hierarchy to the captaincy rather than this 'oh he plays the most so he should have it'... I think that's crass. Those who purely lean on the side of common sense will say "but surely its better to have a stable captain", but I say "surely its better to have the RIGHT captain"..you know! The one who actually does the job for 90 minutes!
Ultimately, I don't think any of this will effect results, so I see why some United fans think its some negative tirade against Vidic or what not. But the only reason why I raise the subject is that I view that strip of material as being representative of the history of my football club. You don't just get it cos you play the most...otherwise we would have had Ronaldo as captain not so long ago. He played the most...why not have him as captain every week? In the future, if we are lucky enough to see United lift more silverwear in our lives, I want the real skipper on the pitch to be the lucky guy who gets to be immortalized in all those pictures, lifting the cups, that we look back on over and over again. Not just a guy who was the fittest or the most regular pick.
To some of us die hards, the footnotes in history interest us.
(ps. before anyone comments and gets upset that I haven't mentioned our wonderful smash and grab in Spain last night, as I've said before, I try not to do match reports. Last night was a great European victory at a stadium we thought we would struggle at. The manager got his tactics spot on...and that's why in Sir Alex we trust)
Tuesday 28 September 2010
We are yet to set foot in the month of October, yet it's already feeling like an incredibly emotional season. After last minute muggings on Merseyside, disappointment in West London, a borderline farce against the champions of Scotland, and a huge opportunity lost against Bolton, I'm not sure how any of our hearts are gonna take all this as the games come thick and fast!
Three wins and three draws is by no means the worst start in the world. That is only 6pts off the maximum we could have achieved so far. But there is a niggling feeling that there's been a certain level of under achievement happening in front of our eyes. We've always been slow starters. That is the United norm. But the surrendering of late goals, and a lack of potency at times at the other end of the pitch have raised unusual question marks.
The biggest blot of course is against Rooney. His form is shot and I guess we all know why. After the revelations of his not-so-private life I was quick to jump to his defence. Not in an expected showing of blind loyalty, but because I really felt that he would suck it up and stick two fingers to the sky at his detractors on the pitch. However....I was wrong. I'd say Wayne is operating at maybe 50% of his powers at the mo. It shows in his body language and his facial expression. I think he has a mountain to climb this season as he tries to sort out his life off the pitch. How reliable he will truly be to the cause of the team in the immediate future is now fully up for debate.
But we do have options...
The overall form of Dimitar Berbatov has been pleasing (though he went missing at the Reebok) and it looks like Kiko Macheda will feature this season more than last. But it's Michael Owen that has got my attention. I think most forget that before his season was cut short by the most dodgy of pitches at Wembley, that the former Scouse lynch pin was in a great vein of form. Had we had him available for the rest of the season post Carling Cup last year, would he have made a difference? We will never know but in my opinion it would have been a fourth straight championship with him fit, especially after Rooney's ankle injury against Bayern.
Owen now has 3 goals in less than three halves of football. His goal against Bolton was the sort of opportunism that we have sorely lacked so far this season. With our style of play it's always very hard to think of how you accommodate a player like him, but maybe us having to diversify our formation to fit him in may not be a bad thing. Last year, teams worked us out at times. We were very 'Rooney heavy'. We got battered in several ties, that in previous years would not have happened. This year we have different challenges. We are now 'Rooney-lite' and it appears we need to find more goals from somewhere within. Berba and Nani may well score substantially more than last season, but I really think that Owen is the key. He is the predator in our squad. The one player whose business is only about scoring. He's not going to get involved in other areas of the pitch as all our other strikers will do. We have to utilise and arm his weaponry NOW cos we cant wait for Wazza to get his head together. Of course Chicharito is also an option to Sir Alex, but I think it would be unfair to burden the boy at such an early stage of his career. Slowly but surely for his development. He will play his part this year.
Valencia will be a tough challenge. It's true that they are not a team with a David Villa or Silva anymore, but a trip to Spain is always tough and they currently lead the very early La Liga table. But remember what Michael Owen did in Wolfsburg last year? Should he be given the opportunity at The Mestalla he may well just do it again.
So it's mixed emotions so far, but when have United ever done ANYTHING easy? We have a position in the league that we would have taken a month ago, and we only have to glance west to the shore where Liverpool exist to see what staring the relegation zone of the league looks like. The key to success in the next few weeks could come from a player that cost us nothing, and quite possibly the return of two midfield crocks in Anderson and Hargreaves. You cant help but think United need some sort of inspiration, and it could well come from the most unlikeliest of sources.
Sometimes it's the unfashionable that really kick start your season.
Wednesday 15 September 2010
It would be very easy to just go off on one now about last nights game. There is nothing worse than seeing a half-arsed team selection before kick off to then witness a half-arsed team display over ninety notoriously dull minutes. It was predictable at 1930, and the prophecy was true come 2145.
We've now already drawn three matches this season. It is still very early days but I think most United fans are starting to get edgy after surrendering points at both Fulham and Everton, and now...and worst of all for me personally...a drab, lifeless performance at home against a 'functional' Rangers side, in a match that will only be remembered as the game that Tony Valencia tragically snapped his leg in half.
As many know, I am the whole hearted advocate of Sir Alex, and yes there are many of us. He doesn't often get it wrong but he dropped the ball last night. To make TEN changes from the previous line up and not even have your form players (Berba, Nani, Vidic, etc) on the bench smacks of some ill planning and preparation. When I saw the team sheet before the game last night I immediate thought Fergie was playing a poker style bluffing game, whilst knowing he didn't hold much in his hand. We played two full backs who have had zero game time recently. We played a brand new centre back pairing..one playing his first game in months and one making his European debut. We played two central midfielders who don't have a trick between them (no matter how hard they work) We played Park in a wingers role, one that isn't really his style in a midfield 4. And we played a brand new strike partnership, again one making his European bow and one coming back from the most almighty of personal scandal.
Rangers must have killed themselves laughing when they saw all that! (I must say I have no problem with the way the Scots set themselves up on the night..parking the bus in front of the goals. What did we really expect??!)
And all this against a manager who knows Sir Alex inside out..a man with a bottomless pit of knowledge on us. The score was written before a ball was even kicked.
On other nights, United would have struggled through, put a batten charge on for the last ten, and got a goal or two. But with zero invention, and an empty vat of creativity, that team was never gonna prevail. I expect better of our manager. I know his strengths and his minuscule weaknesses. His foresight is normally invaluable. Yet he put out a Carling Cup line up for what is a must win game...a home match in your opening game of The Champions League. Ive already seen United fans say oh well so what we will still walk the group. That is a stupid thought. These same fans were saying we would thrash Rangers as well last night. We have to find that happy ground between arrogance (which comes from following the biggest club in the world) and complacency (which again comes from following the biggest club in the world) Its a trick to stay between these two goalposts. Yet as the fans fall over the line on one hand, the team falls over the line on the other side. It worries me...it always worries me.
So after months of us all praying that Dimitar Berbatov finds some form which he has, we decide to give him the night off! Same can be said for Nani. All eyes look forward to Liverpool now. The beauty of football is that despite 'only being as good as your last game' there's always the challenge of a new opponent around the corner. United..and Ferguson..need to start slipping through the gears soon. History dictates that we are always slow starters, but one year that wont be an excuse and we will be out of the reckoning before we can blink
Now is a time for action
PS.. all the best to Tony Valencia. Brought back horrible memories of Alan Smith and David Buust. Lets hope for a full recovery for the lad.
Monday 6 September 2010
So the 'revelations', which most of us knew back in April, have finally been splurged out by the gutter press for their rabid circulation to devour and choke upon in a glutinous feeding frenzy.
Yes, Wayne Rooney has been with a lady of the night (allegedly COUGH)
This of course makes him a very very bad man in many peoples eyes..because it has never ever been known that a man 'hire' a woman to take part in his own fantasy bed Olympics, and it has never ever happened to any other footballer in the history of the world...
Wazza has been a proper fool...yes. We are ALL agreed on that. Wayne will get a proper roasting from his wife, family and Sir Alex (not necessarily in that order) And one day he will have to look his son in the eye and say "I cheated on your Mother while she was carrying you in her womb".....none of it makes pretty reading does it?
But as far as United fans are concerned: 'How and why do we actually care about this?'
Now I used to buy the Red Tops when I was a teenager. A bit of slap and tickle, some decent sports coverage and the odd story about aliens, cats up trees, blah blah blah. It was 'daily light entertainment' Then somewhere in the 90s it became celebrity obsessed. First Princess Diana, then Michael Jackson, then all the politicians, and somewhere along the line a 'hotel roasting' by some footballers made it as good copy for headlines.
Then I stopped buying those papers.
With footballers private lives...I get why people are interested. These guys are this generations' film stars...dripping in diamonds and bling. Whereas I had four TV channels, posters on my wall and attending matches for my football fix as a kid, today they have 24 hr access to these superstars via Twitter, Facebook, Google, Sky TV and the rest. Saturation has been met. A huge part of the population actually believe they have some 'connection' with these people...and therefore they....'care'
This is where the murky line starts to provoke me.
I'm not particularly old skool. I'm technology savvy. I have an uber smartphone. I write a blog. But it will always deeply confuse me that despite the way the celebrity world works why Joe Bloggs in the street thinks that he and his wife and their kids and their next door neighbours need worry about who Wayne Rooney is doing the fandango with.
Many will say "but I'm interested cos he plays for my club..its my right to be interested!' To that I say OK..but what actually makes a generation of people sit up and judge a man that they really do not know? Quasi-morals? Yes. Bloody mindedness? More likely. Gossip mongering? Absolutely.
Others will say "But we ALL took an interest when JT and Cashley went on the scandal carousel..Roo deserves everything he gets!" Once again there is credence in this. But nothing is black or white is it?? Mr John Terry did actually have an affair with the (former yes) girlfriend of an England team mate. That makes it a football matter in my honest opinion. Whereas Rooney's situation at this present time appears only to be a private and family matter. Is that inter-club bias? I wont say no to that. But for me there is a line in the sand between the two episodes.
I'm not gonna defend Rooney. The boy is an idiot. But as a football fan first, and someone that despises all that celebrity nonsense, I have no actual interest in the Rooney story. Its away from United. His private life does NOT belong to us. You learn facts like these as you grow up and mature. Id have once gobbled this whole story up as a teen! It would have torn my yet undeveloped moral fibre to pieces! I would have been pontificating to whoever would listen about how he had shamed the badge. But the truth is if it doesn't hurt his form...then I really couldn't give a toss.
Every man and woman has to answer their own demons eventually...and I say that in a 100% non religious way. What goes around comes around. Sometimes we are good, and other times we shame ourselves. This is the place where Rooney is now. The last thing he needs is us to judge him as well..a bloke we will never know. I'm sure he is doing all of that himself. A multi millionaire he may be. But forgiveness is not something you can buy. And neither is redemption.
I for one have nothing to forgive Wayne Rooney for. So I will cheer the boy on at Goodison next weekend. Our opponents will be (rightfully) throwing ten tonnes of stick at the lad in the coming weeks. We've got to be partisan and chuck it right back.
Friday 27 August 2010
In a surprise move over the last few days, United starlet Tom Cleverley has been sent out on loan to get some vital experience under his belt.
After comments from both manager and player regarding Tom's position in the squad this season, it was felt that he would remain at the club and fight for a midfield starting position. However, with the blinding form of Paul Scholes, the return to fitness of Anderson, and the presence of Carrick, Fletcher, Giggs and Gibson, it was felt that it would be better for Cleverley to get some short term action out of the United reserve set up.
Personally I'm disappointed to see Cleverley go, but I thoroughly see the reasoning. I just don't think the reserve league is a place to get young talent ready for playing big time Premier League football, and I think the loan system is the best way forward in this area. However, for this move to be a success we have to hope that Wigan actually play the lad. I remember all too well when Newcastle took Giuseppe Rossi from us, only to let him warm their North Sea wind frozen bench, when he could have been on ours.
With the possible transfer of Charles NZogbia away from the club, there should be ample opportunity for Cleverley to get the vital Premier League experience he needs and a good solid run in the starting line up
I wish Tom all the best on his loan move and hope to see him in a United shirt very very soon.
CLICK HERE to view and join Tom Cleverley's official Facebook page. It is updated by Tom himself and his representation
Thursday 12 August 2010
So none of us saw that coming. Over seven million pound coins on an unknown bloke who has represented his country at the World Cup...that being the homeless version.
The signing of the apparently flair driven, Tevez dribbling, deep lying attacker come winger called Bebe, in technical terms is not surprising. We've all been banging on for months how we need a player that occupies that space between the centre forward and midfield..and now we've got it. However he appears not to be German and also does not respond to the name Mesut.
The possible signing of Ozil has become a thing of Twitter legend, with wild rumours about the young German being spotted at airports, service stations, and Nani's house. But in real terms it was felt that United didn't have the 8-12 million it was needed to prise the player away...so we all focused on the Cleverley and Gibson options...and then United magic most of that possible Werder transfer fee on a complete unknown quantity!
The rumour mill dictates that Bebe was being chased by Madrid (who isn't?) and that Carlos Q was the man who thrust the young dreadlocked boy in our direction... Im always a bit suspicious of these players who materialise below the radar. Zoran Tosic? Not really heard of before he signed. Mame Biram Diouf? Banging in goals in a league no one this side of the North Sea watches. Manucho? Excellent African Nations Cup leads to loan moves here and there...and Hull.. And then offski. I'm just always worried that if I haven't heard of them..that they cant be that good.
However, you will never find me criticizing the managers transfer policy. Personally I agree there is little value in the market, but I disagree that every United signing must be young and cheap enough so we can possibly 'do a Ronaldo with them' in 6 years time. For every Cantona signing that Fergie has made, there is a Djemba Djemba. For every Ronaldo theres a Kleberson. But generally the boss gets it RIGHT. He forms squads that have both purpose and versatility..and I think that is the balance he is trying to create with this 'tweaking' of a signing.
As ever Mr Bebe will be given a fair crack of the whip from the Faithful. His Youtube video looks interesting, if not wholly exciting, and he does appear to play in that position many of us thought we have been lacking in. £7 million is NOT a cheap transfer fee, but we all know that if the lad becomes a success that it will be a drop in the ocean.
And lets face it...with a name like Bebe (Baby) then theres gonna be a multitude of dodgy cover version chants coming from the Stretford End soon enough!
Hit me Bebe one more time. Glory glory.
Thursday 22 July 2010
So on one hand Manchester United are being linked will all and sundry as usual, and on the other Sir Alex is saying he is not going to sign anyone...as usual. You will be used to this transfer window role play by now if you are a die hard.
So on this tour of our American owners homelands, it's the normal pre-season chance for many of the kids and reserve players..all competing for a coverted place in the Red Devils side..but this all feels a tad slightly different at the minute.
One of the reasons I say that is because it really does feel like we are now the poor man of English football. Not really in the cash sense of the word. But we know now that if a decent player comes up, then City will nab them..even if it's just to use them to mow the Eastlands pitch rather than play the game. David Silva could well become the worlds most famous groundsman in the next twelve months! The allure of United will always be there for potential targets, but it feels that we have to search that bit more harder now for our new blood, or pray that neither City, Madrid or Barca want any of them...'Biggest Club In The World'?? Maybe in fanbase terms..but most of these players are businessmen and it's really not a time to be signing contracts to a club kicking on with a billion pounds worth of debt.
But I am totally cool with that when it comes to player recruitment. If we cant sign the £30 million plus players in world football then so what? Some of the clubs greatest players have cost peanuts from this last generation. A paltry million pounds for Cantona in the 90s. Cole, Yorke, Sheringham and Solskjaer were all great business. Denis Irwin cost peanuts..as did Patrice Evra. And even Vidic and Ronaldo were relatively cheap. Yes, there has been big signings and also some mistakes along the way..Juan Veron cost a small fortune, but the success of Rio and Rooney as big money signings offsets that. Berba is yet to justify his fee, but could a successful first season by (3 months ago) an unknown Mexican supplement the goal tally we need for success? United never do things the easy way.
Which leads me on to the youth at the club..
The primary reason why things feel different this pre-season, is we are seeing a crop of young players who are very much nearly men. Danny Welbeck looks to have become physically stronger over the course of the summer as his body matures. I remember Fergie saying the shock he previously had with both OShea and Fletcher, when they left at the end of the season as kids (a few years back) and returned at pre-season like physical monsters! That's how I see Welbeck. Technically he still has to improve. But if he is powerful and mobile, he will get more chances.
Also off the production line on this tour are Cleverley, Kiko, Rafael, Fabio, DeLaet, and Corry Evans. Add to that the relatively young pros like Obertan, Mame Diouf, Gibson (no longer one of the kids) and Jonny Evans (positively a senior now!) then you start to see the skeleton frame of a fantastic young side..one which Arsenal would love to produce, but in no way do they currently have that kind of depth of quality, and range of ability. I didn't even mention Smalling then..lets wait and see with him. And there is the very exciting prospect of Paul Pogba, an 17 year old who could have the world at his feet very soon. A Michael Essien/Patrick Viera type player who also scores goals...his time will come soon. Davide Petrucci is also an immensely talented young man who could become a United dynamo!
For me Cleverley is the wild card this year. We don't quite have a player like him in the squad. He had a phenomenal season in the Championship last year as Watford's player of the year and brings a scurrying Gordon Strachan like quality to our modern day midfield. He has got the tricks in his feet, and the drive and desire to succeed, and I think he will surprise a few opposition teams this year if given the chance. In fact...could he be that creative midfielder that we've been begging Fergie to buy??
I also expect the DaSilvas to play alot more this year, barring injury. They are without doubt in my mind the future of United's full back positions...Philipp Lahm? Who the hell needs him! Despite the odd error, at 20 years old I have rarely seen such exciting talents for United in these two positions. They are brave as lions and are totally progressive in their play...something we demand at the club. I trust Fergie to turn them into top class players very soon.
On the other hand, Kiko and Obertan are part genius, part enigmas. Neither has really had a run in the first team, and it is obvious they will need football this year. Do you keep them and break them in slowly? Or is a loan the best option. I know for sure that if both only feature in a dozen or so matches this season that their progress...and their confidence...will be thoroughly stunted.
So I'm quietly optimistic about 2010/11. Every media source is writing us off, and all I'm waiting for now is for Alan Hansen to say "Ye cannae win anything with kids" These lads are progressing well. With the guidance of some brilliant senior footballers at the club, and maybe then add the spark of a Nani, or a Valencia, or even an Anderson..then I think we have every chance of winning silverware this season.
So as Manchester City collect a fantasy league squad of players to fulfill an ambition that they dared not even dreamed before the oil money came in, it will give us immense pleasure to put them in their place with a bunch of old guys and a collection of kids. It would surely be one of Fergie's greatest achievements..and I bet he can smell blood right now.
Tick Tock? I think yer clock just broke.
Tuesday 13 July 2010
I must say Nike have out done themselves this time...a totally 1970s retro cool version of the shirt that we got relegated in back in the day..you know..the one that Macari, McIlroy and Stevie Coppell wore. I think its a great looking piece of apparel...and I'm definitely not buying it.
It's evident that the whole Red Knights saga has left many United fans with a bitter taste in their mouths. From only months ago marching around in Green and Gold and spouting songs about Malcolm Glazers untimely demise, to now eagerly discussing how excited they are about purchasing their new shirt, and defending their right to still be called a real United supporter. It makes me laugh on one hand, but on the other makes me want to break down and cry.
I could saddle you all with a million statistics about the Glazers ownership and the like, but what is the point? The Green and Gold movement is not about bringing down the Americans in a vicious war. We wear these colours because we understand what is happening to the club...the one we love. But it now appears that from myself being a moderate on the subject, as Ive always claimed to be, I am now being aligned with the hardcore element of the support! The ones that stand in front of the club shop and let off gas bombs and spray LUHG where ever they go...well...im afraid to say that ain't me.
What I stand for when it comes to this emotive issue is simple. I want the Glazers to sell. And the reason for that is because we have evidence that we are now their cash cow. When they first bought the club I gave them the benefit of the doubt. I didn't really care who got the profits as long as the club was structured to succeed. But now its clear that Manchester United will cease to exist sometime in the future, if it continues to service an incredible debt, and has the misfortune of a few barren seasons included. Now there is plenty of 20 somethings who have no idea about what it was like to support United in the years we won NOTHING, but those years may only be just around the corner. And if they are, with the debt we now carry, we are on the road too destruction and extinction.
Which points me back to that lovely kit..
I will not be buying it and that is because merchandise is very important to the Glazers business. The obvious reason for this is because it serves their financial model..the one they use when they talk to their bankers and try and attract new sponsors. If I buy that top, which I do so very badly want, then I am condoning that financial model. I am standing up and wearing on my chest 'I may not like the Glazers, but I will continue to fund their fat arses' As a season ticket holder I obviously get the 'oh but you buy your ticket which is the same'...It is not. If I give away my ticket to a fan who will not give two hoots about the survival of the club then it's all over for United as we know it. I pay for my ticket as a minimum, to give me a voice at the Theatre, and to allow me to stand with like minded fans that would bloody die for this club. The days where we once upon a time may have rioted and burned Old Trafford to the ground have thankfully gone..again some younger fans wont have a clue about all that..but the fact that we turn up every week, and dont let the world forget that we are The Faithful and we wont see United die...well, I think that's worth giving the Glazers a few hundred quid for. They hold the keys. It's up to us to rent a seat.
Yet other United fans have the cheek to play the devils advocate roulette wheel and try and use their faux reasonings for buying the top. They claim that they too want the Glazers out, that they care about the club and its future....BUT OH MY GOD they soooo need that new shirt...it's how they identify with the team!!! Utter rubbish. You buy that shirt because you cant resist to buy it. You cant help yourself but to parade yourself in Nike's latest invention, showing the world your 'colours' You think this makes you a Die-Hard..a member of The Faithful..a true Manchester United supporter.
Well I'm afraid to tell you that you are wrong.
If people want to buy the shirt, then personally I'm totally OK with it. But what I will say is please don't kid yourself and think you are aligned with the sort of fan that I am and many of my piers are. I'm not prejudging you. I just don't want you standing next to me the day we get rid of the Glazers, for you to pretend that 'you did your bit' If you want to follow United (not support, but follow) then that is cool. Millions do that from around the world. And if that means you buy United product then fine. But do not think that when judgement day comes at Old Trafford, that you'll be able to raise your hand and say 'I gritted my teeth and did the very small amount that only one fan could do'...because you will be a fraud.
So happy purchasing to the many fans who will wear that cracking looking new top in a few days time. But I will be Green and Gold til the club is sold. Go look in the mirror. If you see a real United fan..one who would walk over hot coals to go watch the reserve team play, then I trust you to do what you know is right.
Friday 9 July 2010
I felt sick yesterday when I heard the news that all good United fans were wishing their ears not to listen to.
Owen Hargreaves is back in the States because of his injury again.
When Hargreaves was purchased, which seems like an age ago now, I was delighted. And that was because I believed he was that mythical player we like to call 'The Missing Piece of the Jigsaw'.....and I was right. That year we won the league and European Cup double, and despite injury, Mr Hargreaves (and a certain Argentine) drove us on to glory with our usual suspects.
But now, in the year 2010, Hargo has not started a game for the club for what will soon be two years. Both United and England have suffered for this..what would have happened in that Champions League final against Barca if Hargreaves had played? Would United have got that extra couple of points last year to get championship number 19 if he had bossed our midfield? Would England have faired any better in the World Cup with a genuine driving force?
All 'Ifs' and 'Buts'..but all valid questions of retrospection.
The news that Hargo has again been packed off to Colorado is a bitter blow to him, but also to the progression of United as a team. A fit again Hargreaves would have had the press and Sir Alex wheeling out that old chestnut 'He's like signing a new 20 million quid signing' ..and they'd have all been right. Emotionally there's a balance to be met when dealing with injured players. Of course a club must always be patient and United have been brilliant in the past to talent which has been cut down with injury. But maybe time has now officially run out for Hargreaves.
I personally have begged whatever God or beast that controls our destinies the chance that Hargreaves will play again for United, but yesterday I feel that that request was firmly answered. Once I get that bolt from the blue, my mind changes tact in a split second. I believe we have to now face facts. If Hargreaves ever made it back to the level that we demand at Manchester United it would be a minor miracle...but how long are we supposed to wait??
Another 4 weeks? Maybe 3 months? What about 6?
You can only let the head rule the heart for a certain period of time.
I think most United fans feel that we need an injection of talent this transfer window. There is now a hugely diminished chance that Hargo will even get the opportunity to earn a new contract, and that is shrinking by the day. With a mooted £25 million bid in the Ferguson pipeline for Mehmut Ozil, who is in the last year of his contract at Werder Bremen, and the epic performances of Darren Fletcher, who has made the non-Hargreaves months so much easier to deal with, it is time we all looked ahead, rather than to the treatment table.
Despite only playing a handful of games, I will miss Hargreaves. He is the closest thing United have signed to both Bryan Robson and Roy Keane..lots of blood and thunder and putting yourself where it hurts. Lady Luck has been cruel to the lad, but the timer on the oven is nearly pointing to 'cooked' I hope maybe we can retain him in a coaching capacity, and give him a post playing career..but once again i guess that is thinking with your heart again rather than your head. As I just mentioned, Darren Fletcher has turned into a glorious footballer..one which I certainly didn't predict. His combination of aggression, work-rate, tactical knowledge and ball skill is a testament that even those with limited ability can become top class professionals of genuine value. Some football fans still don't see this in him. But most of us know better. I'm happy for Fletcher to become United's enforcer for the season ahead and probably for a long time after. If Arsenal had a Darren Fletcher last season, they would have won the league.
So...thanks for that freekick against Arsenal, Hargo. Im happy to say I was there and screamed the house down with 70,000 other Mancs. And thanks for the penalty scored in Moscow. We all died a thousand times behind that goal in the Luzhniki Stadium that glorious night, but we all somehow knew you would bury your kick.
As the song goes..Oh Owen Hargreaves you are the love of my life. Our time together was fleeting, but never ever forgotten.
Thursday 8 July 2010
The panes of glass in the transfer window have well and truly been cleaned up for its grand central placing in all football fans' minds when we get the World Cup over and done with this weekend. For us from countries that didn't do so well (ahem...England, Italy, France, etc) it couldn't really come quick enough. We are already drowning in speculation of new players, and eat every morsel of nourishment that is fed to our salivating mouths.
The latest (and biggest for United fans) one that has surfaced is about the alleged impending swoop by our club for Wesley Sneijder.
Now I don't claim to be a mind reader, but when we sold ol Cristiano to those fellas at Madrid, I begged for Sir Alex to sign Sneijder as part of the deal. The Spaniards were willing to let go of him for under £15 million and I just thought it was too good to be true. Even a year ago it was evident that Paul Scholes was slowly edging his way to the knackers yard in the sky, and at that price it was too good to be true....so of course we let him sign for Inter Milan.
Fast forward 12 months on, and the Dutchman has won the treble with a dogmatic Inter team, and is now staring a World Cup final in the face. His value has trebled, and it's fair to say he now sits at the table that was exclusively reserved for Mr Xavi and Mr Ineista. It's not a particularly meteoric rise, as his quality has always been there, but it's been a quick succession from being a very very good footballer to be a truly marquee name.
..and now suddenly United want him....to replace Scholesy.
The press report that United have made a £29 million bid, which is all very nice. But does anyone really think that will make the Italians sell?
I don't. And here is why:
The market now consists of three elements...
At the bottom of the tree lie 99% of all football clubs, from your Athletico Madrids to your Wolfsburgs. From your Aston Villas to your Fiorentinas. Then in the middle lie a hub of teams that are considered 'very good/elite'. We are one of those elite clubs..along with Chelsea, Inter, AC Milan and Barcelona, going through to Arsenal, Liverpool, Juventus and Bayern Munich and ending with the likes of Spurs, Roma and Lyon.
And at the top of the tree lie two teams:
Real Madrid and Manchester City.
Now anyone can distinguish the difference between these two clubs. One is a multiple times European champion, and the other wants to at least play Champions League football! But that's were the comparisons stop. City have already shown their muscle this summer with the signings of Yaya Toure and David Silva...ok they are not marquee names as such, but they are considered as immensely talented. Add a Fernando Torres to this, and God forbid a Nemanja Vidic, and you suddenly have a team capable of winning any club trophy on the planet. City have signalled their intent, and unfortunately they have the bank balance to back it up..
Which leads me back to Sneijder..
If Wesley becomes available there is only two places he is going. Mourinho now holds control at Madrid, and Sneijder is his boy. On the other hand, if Sneijder wishes to become wealthier than his wildest dreams he may well have a chat with Yaya, who has been given a £200k a week contract, and that may well turn his..and his agent's head.
It is folly to believe that any footballer would turn down the sums of cash that only City and Madrid can offer. You often hear the players mouth the old cliche that 'a footballers career is a short one blah blah blah' and when it comes to wages, they get their agents to act as such...huge 3-5 year contracts, so they can sit on their yachts in the Med for the rest of their lives after the age of 36. It's nice work if you can get it. Its also crass to think that players move clubs in the modern age for the reasons of prestige. Would Cesc Fabregas want to 'go home' to his local club if it was Espanol? I doubt it. At the highest level players only really move clubs because their team no longer wants them (as when Sneijder left for Italy) or if they are offered a King's random. Simple and ruthless. It's a business.
So just from a point of logic, Wesley Sneijder will not be wearing a United shirt anytime soon. Like many fans I want the Glazers out, but I did also think they would understand that a marquee signing was needed when you lose two in both Ron and Tev. It's clear that United now have a 'ceiling' when it comes to the total transfer package of fee and wages. This is no bad thing, both financially and from a stance of morality. But when we start talking about the biggest and best players in the sport the truth is none of them will be heading to Old Trafford. £29 million is ALOT of money..but it's just the small change of coins dropped down the back of Man City's sofa!..or just a small slice of Perez pie!! Any player that is 'that' high profile and is on our radar will almost definitely be snagged by the new Big Two..even if it's just to spite us!
So I advise my fellow United fan...don't get wrapped up in the hype. The agenda is for us to go after players that have 'that' potential, and are not already winning their teams Champions Leagues and World Cups. I heard mentioned today that Lucas Podolski was now a target. After a fine World Cup his name is back up there, but it was only five minutes ago that his name was mud in club football. At around £16 million, he is the sort of target we need to concentrate on. Chicharito wasn't really getting anyone excited four weeks ago, and now suddenly post World Cup he already looks like a bargain at £10 million! Lets hope that translates into Red Devils form and goals sometime soon.
And lets face it..it's what Fergie normally does. Evra and Vidic were cheap as chips. Valencia looks a steal. Carrick and Hargreaves were slightly overpriced but well within budget, and we have a wealth of talent from the youth system, whether it be Ryan Giggs all the way through to the DaSilva twins.
One or two 'really good footballers', and I think we will be on the verge of silverwear once again. If Fergie can get the jigsaw pieces sorted early, fitting them together may well be the easy part.
And if we really do have some money to spend, I suggest we take a look at both Rafael Van Der Vaart and Alexis Sanchez..both who would be well within our capture net. And both who could become potential superstars of the game.
Tuesday 6 July 2010
The script was written before even a ball was kicked.
Young Mister Rooney got his mandatory dodgy injury towards the back end of the season with his ankle going pop, gets dragged through to the summer carrying knocks galore after a hard year, and then arrives at a World Cup already completely jaded, along with his other numpty England internationals.
It was always going to be a horror show in my eyes.
The criticism levelled at Wayne Rooney in many ways has been largely deserved. When you put yourself up there, you are there to be shot at. And in England we love nothing more than to decimate the reputations of people and players that only last week we were lauding. Rooney looked lackluster in the four England games..half the player he is in the Red shirt. Why this is is not clear. Whatever effected Roo obviously was a collective problem. A Lampard that scores goals for fun for his club looked lost. Gerrard showed bits of quality, only to get continually pulled out of position at vital times through a lack of discipline. And the rest just laboured along.
It was rubbish and so typically English.
Some of the stuff thrown at Rooney in the post mortem of the World Cup has been vile and disgusting. Yes the lad opened his gob to a camera in anger and said something he shouldn't. But now he is being used as the symbol and embodiment of England's failure, when only three weeks ago the filth rags of the British tabloids were quoting that it was possible that Roo could walk on water in the cause of World Cup glory. Anyone with half a brain never believes the so called flagwavers tale that England can face adversity a la the 'two world wars' and turn that into a Dunkirk spirit success on a strip of grass in Africa. Yet the hysteria that has followed just goes to show how many England fans do indeed have LESS than half a brain!
The United die-hard in me really would love Rooney to just pack England in now. Gossip sites have said that Ashley Morality Cole has had texts intercepted that say he hates playing for England....and for once I can see why that mindset exists. United players have always had it hard playing for England. Butt, Scholes and the Nevilles would have their touches booed by the so called Three Lions fans whilst representing their country. David Beckham had effigies burned of him post the 1998 World Cup. And now we have Wazza.
England supporters want to destroy Rooney because he didn't produce what they wanted...and that was winning the World Cup all on his own. And why did they think this? Because The Sun told them that it was possible. Because The Mirror said it was possible. Because The Star said it was possible. England DO have good players, but as a team we KNOW they are not that good. And why? Because they haven't proved it for years. We talk about our success at Italia 90...yes we got to a semi final but the truth was that England were uninspiring during that run, hardly knew where the back of the net was, and without Gary Lineker would have been going home a lot earlier...but we've convinced ourself that we were great in 1990 and that is how the English history books will tell the tale for the rest of football time.
So I say to you England fans...stick Darren Bent in your England team..or Carlton Cole..or Bobby Zamora. And if you think Emile Heskey had so much more of a greater World Cup than Roo then stick with him...BUILD YOUR TEAM AROUND HIM! My opinion now is you do not deserve Rooney battling for the country in years to come. Stick with your Crouch-a-likes instead.
I wont be supporting England in the near future..I've had enough of it. I cant align myself with a set of fans that destroy their team when they've had a few bad games..no matter how big thoses games were. Did you all see how the Argentines welcomed back their team? They took an even bigger beating than us at the hands of Germany, yet their fans turned up in their thousands to welcome back the players and staff, and to let them know that despite the disappointment and adversity that they were all still ONE.
Would we ever see that in England??
So I hope Wayne comes to your ground sometime soon in our Red...and shows you exactly what he is all about.
It is all you deserve.
Sunday 27 June 2010
Today is a black day for the English National Team. I really don't need to point that out. Four games of underwhelming quality provided by multi-millionaire players who'd really rather be docked off a Monte Carlo port in their ridiculously large yachts, than play football in Africa's 'Winter conditions'
Many things will be said about England's shambles of a tournament starting with Terrygate months ago, to the England captain getting injured in his first training session not 24 hours off the plane, to Capello's bizarre loyalty to the 4-4-2- formation and an Aston Villa striker who hasn't scored since February, and ending with the completely stellar capitulation at the hands of the oldest of enemies.
You could write a book about it...but no one would want to read it.
The hardest thing to take is there are absolutely ZERO positives to be taken away from the whole thing. No Owen Hargreaves like performances from last time. Not even a robot dance from a funny looking man. Just utter and conclusive bewilderment at the entity called 'English Football'
So it begs the question....just what is wrong with us??? Is it just those playboy footballers on the pitch, or is it something a tad deeper?
Now I could bring up our nations strange fixation with celebrity, and our general 'throw-away culture', but this would lead to an article that would need chapters and verse! So lets break things down....
The biggest problem we saw today was not lack of heart (as I'm sure the tabloids will point to as reason in the coming days) It was not even a team formation I was personally hugely against (having watched Wayne Rooney blossom in a 4-5-1 these past twelve months) The biggest issue that I saw today was one simple thing...and that is every English players first touch..or more specifically, the lack of it.
To not be able to control a ball with your first touch normally means that you wont make it to any decent standard as a player. Yet here we are, on the biggest stage of all...and our players cant even do the basics. To add to this our passing was also embarrassing. All of our ten yard passing became hospital balls, and at the other end of the scale you had Steven Gerrard attempting to play 'glory balls' three miles long to absolutely no one. It was utterly chronic to witness.
For me this is England's single most pressing issue. It's got nothing to do with pride, and honour, and solidarity, and everything to do with technique. When you cannot covert the ball..love and caress it..you have got little chance. Watch the Brazilians, Argentinians and Spaniards. Hell! Watch the Slovakians, the Chileans and the Mexicans!! I would even go as far as saying that South Korea now pass the ball better than we do. It is shameful.
This simple yet fundamental failure of the skillbase of our national game has little to do with the players in the Three Lions today, and everything to do with the way we approach football as inhabitants of the United Kingdom. It starts with our children. Introduced to the sport which is sold to them as a hustle and bustle game. A sport that we sell to them as being a religion, and one they must not fail at. Parents stand on touchlines across Britain screaming "Get stuck in son!" "Bloody smash him kid!" and "Chase it CHASE IT!!!" We demand that they understand the physical nature of our brand of football. You must be fast. You must be strong. You must play at one hundred miles an hour. It stinks of machismo, and is all more for the benefit of the parents who live vicariously through their offspring....for this is the 'English Way'
If said child conforms to these set of principles they progress through our system. By the age of seven they are taught to 'run the channel' if they have attacking prowess. Or if they are more defensively inclined we teach them the 'technique' to head the ball high into Outer Space. At 11, they are playing on full size pitches, and being paraded to scouts from clubs who look for centre-backs with 'size' and wingers who have 'pace'.. Finally as a teen they may just make it into some professional teams youth academy, where they will get kicked pillar to post by boys they are attempting to kick from pillar to post. Eventually they may become a Pro.
All of this is the path of the English footballer, all described in a mere two paragraphs. And the sad thing is there really is not a lot more to it!
Ball skills are forsaken. The first touch is mentioned like a dirty word. Competition is promoted ahead of actually learning your craft. Ive witnessed it first hand both as a parent, and as a child myself. As a kid I always had a good first touch. This was because I ran round our council estate with a football glued to my foot from the age of 7 to 14. I liked to play up front, but I was small. In my local side the lad who was a foot taller than me, and a yard quicker than me would always get picked ahead...even though I could 'Cruyff turn' him into dust. I could curl a ball into the top corner more times than not, but because I couldn't out jump my marker, and that he would smash me into the middle of next week to stop me, gave me a distinct disadvantage in the Coach's eye. And as I said...it was all about competition..and not learning the game. I can remember once beating two lads on the right, getting to the by-line and putting in an inch perfect cross..only for my Coach to tell me that "You dont get any F-in points for trying to be Michel F-in Platini" and that I should have lumped the ball in from deep. Flair was not to be encouraged, or even accepted.
I still see this set of principles as a parent now. The same mandate. If you're fast then you are 'good at football'. If you are physically bigger than the norm for your age then you are 'good at football'. If you are as brave as a lion then you are 'good at football'
Virtually no emphasis is put on skill.
In Holland it is well known how they teach their kids. No 11 a-side games til they are much older, with everything being about possession of the ball, retention of the ball, EVERYTHING TO DO WITH THE BALL!! Not pace or power. Not height. Not strength. But the things that make players like Lionel Messi special. That made Dennis Bergkamp and his fellow Ajax graduates little geniuses..
The things that make our game.. 'beautiful'
Yet here we are. On our knees after probably our worst World Cup ever. And there is absolutely no quick fix. No manager in the world of even Mourinho proportions could sort out a whole nation's ideological issues. It is us and our British mentality that is to blame. It's how we have defined our culture. All fisticuffs and crunching tackles. We would prefer to be beer-bellied Phil Mitchells than trust "that foreign muck!" The first rule of the game in most footballing nations is that you must be able to control and pass a ball first and foremost. Yet in Britain it is one of the last.
Now I could go on and talk about how the FA should be gutted from the inside out. That the proposed National Centre of Excellence lack of being built at Burton is a total disgrace to the powers that be. And that our pros should be able to play simple passing football like the Germans. But it would all be just futile written words.
Our very British attitude of 'Lets not do anything before we have a disaster' is the only thing that triggers change to our bland palettes.
Was this World Cup a disaster?
Maybe not enough of one to the scores of parents that bark at their children on the little league touchlines of Blighty.
Tuesday 15 June 2010
Everyone and their mothers are jumping up on their soapboxes to tell us just how annoying the vuvuzela is.
The instrument originates from Mexico and South America...where such noise making instruments are common place in football stadiums. The ever colourful and bashful Brazilians have their Samba rhythm section at all their games...but as most Brits hear a version of this on Strictly Come Dancing, it is more than acceptable to our Simon Cowell controlled palettes.
BBC sports commentator Farayi Mungazi said the sound of the horn was the "recognised sound of football in South Africa" and is "absolutely essential for an authentic South African footballing experience". I understand totally why this decibel challenging instrument is annoying so many. Nobody really likes sitting with their head stuck up an active beehive. But the protest against the vuvuzela has a deeper significance for me.
One of the main points of this World Cup was to finally include Africa in sharing the hosting duties of our greatest tournament. Despite the poverty and issues of stability and safety, South Africa was chosen after finally dissolving itself of 'White Rule' and we all stood back and applauded that a society could sort out its issues, no matter how testing and how long it would take. Mandela was touted as our modern day Gandhi, and we all got a warm feeling in our hearts.
So here we are, a global football community..moving forward together. And what do we go on about? The sound of a bloody horn! Mungazi also said there was no point in taking the World Cup to Africa and then "trying to give it a European feel"...and I totally agree with him.
For me this is all a question of our society's tolerance levels. We pontificate about the cosmopolitan developed genes we have in the West, yet we cant stand the noise of an authentic African football match....and we are gonna let the whole world know about it!
"Ban them horns!" "They destroy atmosphere!" "They make me sick!" "Its a disgrace!" "I wont watch anymore of this World Cup!"...just a minuscule amount of statements I've heard and also read on Twitter, Facebook and the like. So how would we feel if the Africans said..."Erm..excuse me England..we don't like your travelling brass band..playing Rule Britannia, etc...so we are gonna call for FIFA to ban it"....what would we all say to that? There would be jingoistic Facebook groups set up to counter protest within a heartbeat. We'd beat our chest and stick a certain couple of fingers up in the correct direction.
Yet here we are...telling another nation...what they should do...in their own back yard.
This is an African world cup.....IN AFRICA.....
Not in England. Not in the United States of America. Not anywhere else.
It is for them to create the atmosphere that they normally create. And it is for us to applaud them and be tolerant. For us to understand that in different places they do things differently. I personally dislike hearing all the 'YOU-ESS-AAIII' chants from Americans...because it's quite a grating repetitive ditty..but I would never ever tell them that they were wrong for chanting this...because it would make me an ignorant idiot.
So people....enjoy this World Cup. Appreciate that the world has progressed in certain regions...this tournament was once thought never to be possible on this continent. It's there to be celebrated. I know the vast majority of fans out there attending games think the vuvuzela has been a great addition to the atmosphere of a match...and as a very regular attendant of English football matches, where I sit with many fans who'd rather eat a packet of crisp than sing, and nip off ten minutes before the end to 'avoid the traffic' I fully give the vuvuzela my undying support.
And if you really cant stand the noise just turn the TV down!
Well done Bafana Bafana. Your colour will enlighten our history books in years to come.
Saturday 12 June 2010
Of course it's very easy to point towards a goalkeeper that conceded 66 goals last season..Robert Green, who had his 'Scott Carson' moment, which will go down as one of those famous English failures on the biggest stage of all. But of course it is only half the story..
After the obvious deflation that all of us England fans will feel post match, it is quite clear to me why we didn't win this game...and its born of an age old problem. This problem seemed to be invisible to the pundits of ITV, who covered the match in the UK. Allegedly we didn't win this game because of a goalkeeping error. Well even those with zero football knowledge would have been able to deduce that. However the real problem of why we couldn't drive on and take the points is one that all English men and women have discussed in pubs and homes up and down the country since the year dot!
Once again for me the huge egos of Lampard and Gerrard have effected a performance and result for England..and as you know I don't mean in a good way! Of course, Gerrard took his goal beautifully. Credit to him for that. But as a central pair they refused to work in tandem, asserting no control on possession of the ball for any period of time, allowing the USA to have way too much opportunity going forward, and ultimately allowing a huge failure to happen on the night.
Of the two, I think Lampard was the most to blame. He looked lacklustre at best. His link play was so poor that in the last period of the game Wayne Rooney was playing in the positions you would expect Lamps to pick up on. Gerrard had moments of inspiration bar his goal, including some good tackles and crosses..but this is a team game! You would think that these two much lauded world class midfielders have never even met each other! Their communication issues are born of the two huge club egos that they both carry...both icons for their teams..who can not put this aside when they wear the 3 Lions on their shirts.
This is such a poisonous element for the whole side as it effects the heartbeats of England...none more of that than of Wayne Rooney's. The boy struggled all night, neither playing as a striker or linking successfully with the central midfield two. The thing to realise is that OUR PLAYERS DO NOT LACK TECHNIQUE! They show their class every week for their clubs. But today once again we saw today how England ruin themselves with a cocktail of bad decisions and ego mania.
As an addition there were other issues on the night. One being the performance of Shaun Wright Phillips, who proved that maybe his room in the team hotel should have been that of his City teammate Johnsons, or even Theo Walcotts. Ledley King's injury was a huge blow as Jamie Carragher looked like a player with zero pace.... and when Emile Heskey is your best player in the team for simply bullying the opposition, linking play to a good standard, getting caught offside way too much and drilling the teams best chance of the night into the mid drift of Tim Howard...well you know you've got problems.
Algeria will offer England all sorts of different problems next Friday...but the truth is that we have little chance of success in this tournament when players cant put their egotism aside and just get down to basics and play good, simple football. If we persist to lump balls up to Heskey, bypassing our only world class striker and leaving great talent like Joe Cole on the side, then it could be a very early end to the World Cup for our nation.
Tuesday 8 June 2010
Here is a link to my new joint MUFC publication, featuring an article by Katie Preece (@manugirl11 on twitter) It is a piece written by an American United fan about our American owners, and the burden they have saddled every United fan with...have a read and leave a comment.
CLICK HERE TO READ THE LATEST EDITION FROM THE FAITHFUL
Glory glory Man United!
CLICK HERE TO READ THE LATEST EDITION FROM THE FAITHFUL
Glory glory Man United!
Friday 28 May 2010
So we're a visible minority are we?
Well we've all read David Gill's ill advised comments in recent hours. Pining his colours to the Glazer family mast. And criticizing the Old Trafford Faithful for giving a damn about their club. Nice one David.
In many ways I have had a small amount of sympathy for Gill, and the top brass employees of Manchester United in the last few years. It's their job at club level to makes sure the football operation is executed in such a manner, so that the Glazers commercial ventures have the substance they need to succeed. No trophies means no success..both in terms of amassing pots in the Red's museum and in terms of the Americans coffers. The two are intrinsically linked.
In my opinion up until this year, Gill has been a better chief exec than his predecessor Peter Kenyon. He has been less pompous and flash in his position, whilst still supporting the manager. He was also a defender of the United model pre-Glazers, and there's a dirty great big flag reminding one and all of his words from back in the day regarding the football club and debt. But here we are in 2010. And the man is the Glazer family's 'Go To' guy. He is a PR puppet now, rather than the guy who is the custodian of our football team. And in the stands we all know this.
Respect has been ebbing away from Gill over the past 12 months, passing through his fingers quicker than water. His latest comments are deliberately aimed at being inflammatory to every United fan who wears a Green & Gold scarf to matches, and has been said to create what I believe to be an 'elitist division'
What i mean by this is the first instance is that Gill is attempting to make an enemy of The Faithful...and its like a slick move on a chess board. He would love nothing more than us protesting fans to be so sickened by him and his bosses that we chuck the towel in and walk from the club. He would love nothing more than to leave Old Trafford to the millions of travelling football tourists and the casual business day tripper fans to fill up OT every week. He is not interested in stadium atmosphere. He is not interested in a hardcore fan base. He is certainly not interested in any of us. He is only interested in keeping his pay masters happy..it all sort of reminds me of Baldrick from the Blackadder TV series...coming up with a cunning plan that's just..well...not so cunning.
In the second instance he is trying to divide and conquer the common United fan. He mentions that there are loads of 'fans' out there that don't care about the money side of the business and just care about the football. In layman terms..he is right. But it is not these fans that really concern or connect with us. Yes they may feed the Glazer's bank balances by buying shirts and hats, but they have little connection with the club, or the area. (Note: I am not saying you are not a 'real and proper' fan if you don't come from Manchester, but the culture of the 'glory supporter' is apparent in all major sports. I have followed the Boston Celtics for 20 years now, but I have zero knowledge on the politics of the team or the structure of the organisation and I've been to Boston once. I own a Kevin Garnett Number 5 jersey and my son has a Paul Pierce Number 34. For all I know they could be owned by an alien from Mars.) He knows that if he can keep these 'fans' in check, and divide them from those that live and breathe the club, that he will be quids in. All very devious..but predictable.
None of this is not going to happen.
We are not going anywhere. We will not be divided.
In my opinion, I've heard nothing from the Red Knights or MUST that suggests that they have the power to do anything in the short and medium term. This battle against the owners will probably last years. And we have to be prepared to dig our heels in. The minute we give up our season tickets then the fight is lost. We lose our voice. Permanently.
David Gill wants this.
But he cannot have it.
It is true that the ground isn't sold out like it used to be. And it is true that there may even be a dip in attendances next year. But the club will never see anything below the 60,000 mark..and this will ensure that whoever ditches their ticket, that it wont make a blind bit of difference to Gill or the Glazers..its actually what they crave for. Their massive sponsorship deals will carry them through. And can you imagine if the Glazers took full control of United's TV rights..how much cash they could generate with that? A damn sight more than the current level of debt is at. And what would a European Super League do for profits? It's the reason why they are issuing 'hands off' statements today. They are not stupid.
So I call upon my fellow fans to wear your G&G again next season. We will protest long and hard. Find new ways to show our disdain. I wont be buying the new kit, cos it will be forecasted targets missed like £s from kit sales that will make the Glazers swallow some humble pie. Merchandise is king in the sports world, and this is but one of many ways to still see and support your team, but make life very very uncomfortable for the few that suck money out of Manchester United. Anything with that official club badge on...just avoid like the plague. It may not sound like much...but it is a start..heading in the right direction.
Gill will regret his words one day. Lets hope it is sooner rather than later. Anyone know a good United loving sugar daddy? Cos I think that's what we are gonna need soon if we are to topple these canny businessmen.
All we can do is BELIEVE.