Month July 2009

Month July 2009

City: it’s all about trophies not money

July 21, 2009 Tags: Opinion No comments

Why hasn’t United spent big this summer, despite receiving £80 million for Cristiano Ronaldo? Because manager Sir Alex Ferguson won’t “pay over the odds for mercenaries not willing to give their all for the club.” Now who could have the Glazer’s spokesperson on the Asia tour, Teshin Nayani, be talking about? Surely not. After all, the cross-town ‘project’ is all about trophies, isn’t it?

Carlos Tevez
“City’s boss and owner came with a very good proposal.

“They showed me that City has the ambition to be one of the biggest clubs in the world. This made it easy to make the move. Money was never important.”

Estimated wage: £150,000 per week.

Emmanuel Adebayor
“People who think that I have joined City for the money are wrong.

“If I had made a move for that reason then I would have been playing for Barcelona or (AC) Milan last season. They gave me bigger offers than Arsenal did for me to stay.

“I want to win silverware and trophies. That is my ambition. The team has got quality and a manager who knows what he wants and is a nice guy.”

Estimated wage: £170,000 per week.

Mark Hughes on Gareth Barry
“We can offer an opportunity to give players a chance to make a mark in the game.

“It is about understanding where we are as a football club and where we want to go.

“It is an opportunity to be part of something and hopefully in the near future we will be able to win trophies and be one of the better teams in the Premier League.

“It is not about money, it is about making your mark.”

Rafael Benitez on Gareth Barry
“When you are a player thinking of moving to a new club, you have to make sure it is for the right reasons, because, if it is just for money, you may make a mistake, like Gareth Barry did.

“It is 100 per cent clear that it was down to money.

“I have this idea that everyone in football at this level earns big wages and that money should not be the main thing. You have to enjoy your career, strive to improve and look to play at the highest level you can.”

Estimated wage: £100,000 per week.

Real Madrid on Robinho
“We have sold Robinho for reasons of a human nature and for sporting reasons.

“The fact that he has accepted an offer from Manchester City says that he is not going for sporting reasons.

“It’s an important sum of money. For reasons of human and sporting nature, it has been decided this is for the best.

“It’s a decision agreed by all the coaching staff, who understand it is best for the player and for the club.

“He’s a great kid, but badly advised.”

Deco on Robinho
“To leave Madrid to go to Chelsea is OK, but I have my doubts with respect to City.

“We will have to ask Robinho what happened. It’s not normal to change Real for City, only for the money.

“Robinho has the standing to play in a team which aspire to titles.”

Estimated wage: £135,000 per week.

Manchester City trophies in the last 34 years: 0

Tour bandwagon roll$ on

July 21, 2009 Tags: Opinion 2 comments

Manchester United beat a Malaysia XI for the second time in three days, with Michael Owen scoring once again in a 2-0 win. Despite today’s scheduled match in Indonesia being cancelled after Saturday’s Jakarta bombings, nothing it seems will stop United’s Asian money-making tour, which is set to earn the club more than $12 million.

It is a long time since any of United’s pre-season programme wasn’t about building new markets or the Reds’ brand. Indeed, the bandwagon rolls on to Ji-Sung Park loving South Korea for a match against FC Seoul on Friday, followed by a trip to China on Sunday. And in recent seasons United have played not only in Asia, but Africa and America too. Little about those tours have prepared United’s players for matches against Europe’s finest.

But there is football amongst the marketing, with United fans wondering how the club’s new signings Antonio Valencia, Gabriel Obertan and Michael Owen slot into a side now missing of Carlos Tevez and Cristiano Ronaldo. While Owen is the only new player in the Far East, Valencia and Obertan are expected to join the squad for the matches against Boca Juniors and Bayern Munich or AC Milan in Germany next week.

Fans will be pleased to see Owen scoring twice in as many games, whatever reservations there may be about the Liverpool hero joining the club. With no big money additions to the forward line, the former England international will need to get fit, stay fit, and regain some of his former glories if United are to challenge for an unprecedented fourth Premier League title. Given the player’s injury record it seems like a long shot, despite today’s goal.

Another player to have stolen the limelight in the Far East is Federico Macheda, who also scored against Malaysia today. The Italian, who played for just over an hour, showed some neat touches and took a simple chance early in today’s match. After the match manager Sir Alex Ferguson singled out last season’s Jimmy Murphy Young Player of the Year for special praise. United fans, who are proud of the young players that make the grade at Old Trafford, already have high expectations of Macheda.

But Owen and Macheda aren’t the the only players to have taken pre-season in their stride. Left-winger Zoran Tošić has also caught the eye in Malaysia, with some direct running and what can only be described as a beautiful left-footed delivery in dead ball situations. The Serbian’s start at Old Trafford has been muted, with just three substitute appearances, but with squad weak on the left side Tošić has an undeniable opportunity to play his way into the team.

The German leg of United’s pre-season will also see the return of Owen Hargreaves, who is desperately needed following the mauling by Barcelona’s midfield in last season’s Champions League final. While the Canadian-born international may not feature in the Audi Cup, he is set to begin training with the first team for the first team in almost a year.

And if Hargreaves doesn’t regain fitness perhaps the club can give him a gig in the Megastore – after all they should be doing a roaring trade.

No need to panic… ok now panic!

July 15, 2009 Tags: Opinion 12 comments

With the world’s finest player© sold, workaholic hero Carlitos off to Untied’s nearest rivals, a Liverpool legend signed as third choice striking replacement, and the spending officially finished – it’s got to have been the worst close season in history. Right?

To crudely paraphrase Salford’s finest, there’s panic on the streets of Manchester, and many fans are wondering to themselves, will Sir Alex ever be sane again? Well, if you’ve been panicking take one paper bag, breath deeply, and let Rant give you ten reasons why everything will be ok.

  1. We’ve been here before: Remember the summer of 1995 when Andrei Kanchelskis, Mark Hughes and Paul Ince were sold to Chelsea, Everton and Inter Milan? Maybe you panicked then too, and called one of those ridiculous GMR phone-ins to demand the manager’s head? But then Sir Alex came up with the goods and United won the Premier League and FA Cup double with his kids. Things were never the same again.
  2. Ruud van Nistelrooy: tra la la la la, scored 150 goals in 200 games for United while the Reds won almost nothing. Once again Sir Alex backed his own judgment, packed off the Dutchman to Real Madrid for a song and United secured their first Premier League title in three years.
  3. You can win with kids: in Danny Welbeck, Federico Macheda, Johnny Evans, Fabio and Rafael da Silva, Darron Gibson, Zoran Tošić’, Cory Evans, James Chester and Davide Petrucci United has the finest kids in the country bar none. Forget the media hype about Arsene Wenger’s children – no not that kind – they almost never progress beyond the Gooners’ Carling cup side.
  4. It’s time for Wayne: While Ronaldo stole all the headlines, Wayne Rooney continued to be the metronomic heartbeat of United’s team. Give the man a free role behind a main striker and the White Pelé will tear you apart. Back United’s best Scouser to win Player of the Year in 2010.
  5. United’s rivals are no better: Liverpool has made no significant signings and is set to lose one of their better midfielders in Xabi Alonso. Chelsea has spent £18 million on Yuri Zhirkov, a left winger-cum-defender, purely at the behest of owner Roman Abramovich, and recruited their fifth manager in as many seasons. Arsenal has bought an unknown Belgian defender but is about to loose one of the club’s better forwards. Sure, Manchester City is recruiting like oil is going out of fashion, but does anybody really expect a team of ten strikers plus Shay Given to challenge for the title?
  6. Dimitar Berbatov will come good: he’s just too talented not to. Sir Alex will work a system around the languid Bulgarian that suits his outstanding talent, brings the best out of Wayne Rooney and enables United to move away from being a one-trick pony.
  7. United does have a defensive midfielder: remember Owen Hargreaves, he’s quite good you know. Whether the Canadian-Englishman returns in August or January, Hargreaves will give United the bite and tenacity in central midfield that the team so badly needed in Rome last May. And if he doesn’t return to full fitness, Fergie will spend, it’s as simple as that.
  8. Carlitos isn’t actually that good: yes, fans loved his work ethic, and that back-healed strike that won United the game at Wigan, or the last minute goals that secured valuable points. But are his talent and end-product really worth £25 million? Ferguson thought not or he would have been in the team.
  9. The fixture computer has been kind: and given United some winnable games in the early part of the season that will boost confidence while the team beds down with new players and into a new system.
  10. Sir Alex Ferguson knows what he is doing: believe.

Campbell sold, so why cant United produce a decent striker?

July 14, 2009 Tags: , Opinion 2 comments

Fraizer Campbell’s sale to Sunderland for an initial £3.5 million was confirmed yesterday but it begs a serious question. While United’s academy has regularly churned out international class defenders and midfielders, no striker has made the grade since Mark Hughes in the early 1980s.

In the interviening years United has produced international players such as Ryan Giggs, David Beckham, the Neville Brothers, Paul Scholes, and more recently Johnny Evans, Wes Brown and John O’Shea. None of them strikers. By contrast, over the past twenty years the youth team has only ever produced forwards that have gone on to have decent, if unspectacular careers. Jonathan Mackem was once a £5 million signing by Manchester City, Sylvan Ebanks-Blake was Wolves’ top scorer in the Championship last season, and David Healy has gone on to be one of Northern Ireland’s leading goalscorers.

There have been the imports too. Many United fans still regret the sale of Giuseppe Rossi to Villareal two years ago. Arriving as a callow 16 year-old, Rossi announced himself to fans with a spectacular series of goals for the reserve team. Unfortunately the Italian, who has gone on to be the mainstay of the national team’s forward-line, was never able to break into United’s first team on a regular basis.

Meanwhile, former youth-teamer Erik Nevland has forged a good career since leaving United, which is culminating in a spell at Fulham. Before him, Jovan Kirovski went on the play for Borussia Dortmund, winning the Champions League in 1997, before running his career down at David Beckham’s LA Galaxy.

Of the current crop there are very high hopes for local boy Danny Welbeck, who has shown enough in his brief appearances for the first team to suggest he has a big future at Old Trafford. Welbeck’s first touch is classy and his application appears to be in the right place. Moreover, with no big-name summer striker arriving at the club, Welbeck ought to get more outings for the team in the coming season.

Then there is 17 year-old Federico Macheda, imported amid significant controversy from Lazio a year ago. Macheda’s spectacular strike against Aston Villa, followed by another against Sunderland, won United enough points to take last season’s Premier League title. Macheda will certainly go on to have a good career – whether he gets enough games at Old Trafford to stay is another question.

And that leaves Campbell, who was good enough a year ago for United to turn down £7 million from Hull and Wigan. A season further down the road and Campbell’s inability to break into Tottenham’s first team has reduced his value, and seemingly convinced Sir Alex Ferguson that the boy has no future at Old Trafford.

Fergie normally gets these decisions right.

Read my lips, no new signings

July 13, 2009 Tags: Opinion 8 comments

Michael Owen will be manager Sir Alex Ferguson’s final prominent signing of the summer, according to the boss himself. While speculation has focused on who will replace the departed Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez, Sir Alex insists that United has acquired the right signings, at the right price.

Speaking at the unveiling of Michael Owen, Antonio Valencia and Gabriel Obertan this afternoon, Ferguson blamed the inflated transfer market for the failure to land a big-name signing.

“Everywhere in England and in Europe the players’ values have shot sky high,” said Ferguson.

“I don’t think any of the transfers that you see happening are realistic but for some reason the market seems to have caught fire this summer. It is a very unusual summer and difficult to get value because of that.

“It’s always been the case that Manchester United have to pay a bit extra. But this summer we were not prepared to do that because we have got some very good young players.

“There didn’t need to be a kneejerk reaction to losing Cristiano Ronaldo. We did very well to keep him for six years. He wanted to go, and we allowed him to do that.

“We shouldn’t panic because one or two players are leaving. I think we have a very, very good squad with good young players in all positions.

“We asked about Benzema and we had a value for him. Lyons have done well because they got €42m but I think we took a sensible view.

“It’s the end of our business, so forget all these stories about who we’re supposed to be getting.”

Many United fans will be disappointed that the manager is not willing to open the cheque-book up and spend some of his reported £125 million summer transfer budget. A top class forward, left winger and defensive midfielder would undoubtedly enhance United’s team. But assuming that Ferguson’s budget is still available should he want it (and that may be a leap of faith given the club’s debt), then there is much to be admired in the boss’ approach. The United board has long been criticised for paying over the odds. This summer, in the face of bankrupt spending by Real Madrid, and the petro-dollars available at City, Ferguson has placed faith in value, youth and his own intuition.

While United does retain an interest in Gremio’s attacking midfielder Douglas Costa, it is likely that a deal will only be done for the Brazilian if his club backs down from their demanding for an eye-watering £20 million. The under-21 international is undoubtedly talented but when leading pundits in Brazil question whether United are “being conned,” then the club is right to set a price, and stick to it as they did with Karim Benzema.

Moreover, most United fans will appreciate the faith that is being placed in the talented youth team duo of Danny Welbeck and Federico Macheda. Ferguson has built his reputation on placing faith in the vitality of youth and there’s nothing wrong with doing so again.

The major risk is that of Owen, whose form and injury record over the past few seasons is far from impressive. With no top-class forward now likely to join United this summer, Owen will be relied on more than many United fans had first thought. It’s a risk that Owen rejects.

“It does irritate me that so many people have doubts,” said Owen, who has been handed Ronaldo’s number seven shirt. “If there is one thing I am angered by, the injury thing would be it.

“There is no doubt I have had injuries in my career. But there is a long list of players that have had a broken metatarsal. I was foolish trying to rush back for the World Cup and my leg had just come out of plaster. But I played 33 and 32 games in the last two years in a team that was not in Europe and did not go on a decent cup run. Still I was continually labelled injury-prone, which gets up my nose.

“I am 29 and have played over 500 games for club and country. That says it all.”

However, even if Owen remains fit and regains the form of old, the consequence of not spending big this summer will be felt on the pitch. History shows that Owen, Valencia and Obertan – 12 goals between them last season – cannot replace Tevez and Ronaldo who scored 41.

Traitor Tevez joins City

July 13, 2009 Tags: Opinion 35 comments

Having spent the best part of the last two months bleating on about how hard done by he was at United, Carlos Tevez has now done the dirty on the fans that hero-worshipped him and signed for Manchester City on a five-year contract.

Tevez blamed his Old Trafford exit on manager Sir Alex Ferguson – for not picking the Argentinian striker enough in the major games. But confirmation of the long expected move across town has exposed Tevez for the treacherous liar he is. With no European football at City, and plenty of competition for striking places, Tevez will almost certainly play in fewer big games next season, not more. £150,000 per week should help ease the pain of sitting on the bench.

“It is terrific news,” former United legend Mark Hughes Mark said on confirmation of the deal.

“Carlos is an international player of the highest class who possesses all the attributes that will help drive this club forward.

“He is not only outstanding technically but he is a reliable goal scorer and someone who will contribute fully to the team ethic. He gives us another exciting, attacking dimension.

“I cannot wait to welcome him to City. I am sure our fans will give Carlos an exceptionally warm welcome.”

Tevez, who will keep his number 32 shirt at City, can expect more than a warm welcome from the fans when he returns to Old Trafford next season. The real shame is not that Tevez left Old Trafford – he just wasn’t good enough for United – but that a fans’ favourite has been exposed as a hypocrite. Those United fans who drowned out Sir Alex’ end of campaign address last season will have more than a moment’s pause for thought now.

Indeed, Sir Alex suggested that Tevez’ had little intention of signing on the dotted line at Old Trafford.

“I half expected Carlos Tevez would be going a long time back,” said Ferguson at an Old Trafford press conference today.

“I think he maybe did a deal around January because I spoke to him and gave him an offer on the night we played Inter Milan and he never came back to me.

“I phoned him on holiday and he never got back to me and I texted him twice and he never got back to me then either, so obviously he had made his mind up a long time ago.

“He was a good player and did well for us. But he obviously assessed the situation and wanted to go somewhere else.”

History says that there’s only one way out of Old Trafford, and that’s down. Good luck Carlitos, you’ll need it.

Is Eto’o the target? Expect this to run

July 12, 2009 Tags: Opinion No comments

Barcelona forward Samuel Eto’o is likely to make a summer move to Manchester United, but don’t expect the deal to be sealed anytime soon, if reports in today’s Daily Telegraph are to be believed. The Cameroon striker, having seen a move to Manchester City collapse amid fighting over money, is reportedly  willing to accept a large reduction in the wage on offer at Eastlands in order to secure Champions League football next season. With his bridges burnt at Camp Nou and Eastlands –  and few suitors willing to match the striker’s financial demands – United are now head of the queue according to reports.

This is a suprise revaltion – after all Eto’o was expected to agreed a £25 million, £200,000 per week, deal to move to Eastlands. However, his apparent demand for half the fee from Barcelona scuppered the deal, with City pulling out late last week. The striker, who is in the final year of his contact at Barcelona, now has few viable options other than United.

While the reasoning in today’s Telegraph is sound, its hard to envision United spending huge amounts of money on a 28 year-old forward who will miss six crucial weeks of next season at the African Nations Championship.  Like many in the game, manager Sir Alex Ferguson is a known admirer, but with United concentrating on younger, cheaper targets, Eto’o is only likely to move to Old Trafford if the Reds hold out for a substantial reduction in the proposed fee. A scenario in which United may need to hold their nerve until the final day of the transfer window.

United may have substantial funds in the bank following the sale of Cristiano Ronaldo and Frazier Campbell this summer, but the club was believed to have a policy against spending large sums on players they have no hope of making a return on.

Eto’o to United is only a realistic scenarnio if the player holds out for a move to Manchester as his best option. While United may take a gamble on the player if the fee drops to below £15 million, it must be doubtful that the player move for football rather than money. Given that Eto’o has already rejected £100,000 per week to stay in Barcelona, it would seem unlikely.

If Eto’o does move to Old Trafford, the player will have to buck the trend in which the majority of talent is heading to or remaining in Spain. With tax at a maximum of 23% in Spain, compared to 50% tax plus 11% NI in the UK for high earners like footballers, the trend may be towards a drain of talent away from the Premier League in the coming years. Indeed, when players as talentless as Jermaine Pennant can earn the equivalent of £80,000 per week in Spain, then we know the era of Premier League dominance of Europe is now at an end.

In the meantime United fans will continue to wait and see if the club is able to sign up a big name replacement for Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez.

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United games shifted, fans shafted

July 10, 2009 Tags: , , Shorts No comments

At least ten Manchester United games will be moved from their original times and dates before December after Sky and ESPN announced their initial covered fixtures. The list means that by the end of the 2009/10 season more than half of United’s season will have be moved for TV coverage. Once again this season’s fixtures will be randomly assigned designed to maximise viewings figures rather than the consideration of traveling supporters. See you all at Portsmouth away  for the inevitable Sunday 27 Dec 8pm fixture!

Fixture changes up to the end of December:

  • United v Birmingham, Sunday 16 August, 1.30pm (Sky)
  • Burnley v United,  Wednesday 19 August, 7.45pm (Sky)
  • United v Arsenal, Saturday 29 August, 5.15pm (Sky)
  • Tottenham v United, Saturday 12 September, 5.15pm  (ESPN)
  • United v City Sunday, 20 September, 1.30pm (Sky)
  • United v Sunderland, Saturday 3 October, 5.15pm (ESPN)
  • Liverpool v United, Sunday, 25 October, 2.00pm (Sky)
  • United v Blackburn Saturday, 31 October, 5.15pm (ESPN)
  • Chelsea v United Sunday, 8 November, 4.00pm (Sky)
  • United v Everton Saturday, 21 November, 5.15pm (ESPN)