Month September 2009

Month September 2009

Macheda and Welbeck under scrutiny

September 23, 2009 Tags: , Reads 3 comments

United’s principal back-up strikers, the reason manager Sir Alex Ferguson refused to spend big on a new striker this summer – Federico Macheda and Danny Welbeck – have failed to make an impact this season. Despite the departures of Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez, United’s two exciting young forwards’ paucity of appearances this season is stark: Welbeck has made the bench on just one occasion, while Macheda has failed to earn even that honour.

That Sir Alex Ferguson expected each to make an impact on the team this season is not in doubt. To that end Ferguson refused offers to take Macheda, 17, back to Italy on-loan, and talked up 18-year-old Welbeck’s chances of making the England 2010 World Cup squad.

Welbeck, locally raised and a huge Ferguson favourite, is hampered by his frequent growth spurts, which may slow his development. However, it is Macheda’s attitude that is in question. The Italian youngster, who burst on the scene with goals against Aston Villa and Sunderland last season, has already cultivated the kind of celebrity lifestyle that Ferguson abhors.

Ferguson has also objected to the amount of time each spends with their respective national associations. Welbeck has played for both England under-19s and under-21s, while Macheda has been away with the Italian equivalents.

“Welbeck has been called away so much with every single England squad [the Under-19s and Under-21s] that I don’t know if he is our player or their player,” Ferguson told The Times.

“Macheda has been away with the Italy youth teams all the time and has hardly been with us, either. They are away that much with the youth squads, they have forgotten where their real place is.”

It is not the first time that Ferguson has sought to cut younger players exposure to what he deems unnecessary international football. Famously, Ryan Giggs was often injured for international friendly matches during the early stages of his international career. Although denied, many suspected that Ferguson had instigated these squad withdrawals.

Ferguson is, however, demanding total commitment to the United cause from the pair. Rightly so. Ferguson will not allow the cult of celebrity – so enjoyed by younger footballers – to blight the nascent stage of the pair’s careers. Anderson has also been reminded of this rule.

Macheda is likely to start tonight’s home Carling Cup fixture against Wolverhampton Wanderers up-front, along with derby goal hero Michael Owen. Welbeck, meanwhile, may well have to settle for a place on the bench, or in one of the wider positions.

In a strong line-up, Ferguson is likely to bring in Fabio da Silva, Johnny Evans, Darron Gibson, Ritchie de Laet, Wes Brown, Gary Neville, Tomas Kuszczak, Zoran Tosic and possibly even Michael Carrick for the match.

FA – ‘a world class organisation’

September 22, 2009 Tags: Shorts 4 comments

The FA warned Gary Neville and Craig Bellamy about their future conduct after separate incidents in last Sunday’s Manchester derby. Neville vigorously celebrated United’s winning goal in front of his own fans in the South Stand, while Craig Bellamy punched an already restrained fan. Another example of the FA’s “world class” disciplinary processes?

Defending the organisation’s ineptitude, Ian Watmore, the FA chief executive told The Times that they had taken their lead from the referee, Martin Atkinson.

“With the Bellamy incident, we asked the referee what he would have done if he had seen the incident,” said Watmore.

“He said that he would have taken into account the emotion of the game and of that particular incident.

“We have to condemn the fan and the invasion of the pitch in such a situation. I’m not condoning what Craig Bellamy did, but we have to put it in perspective: a fan came on to the pitch and it was intimidatory.

“Bellamy shouldn’t have done what he did – and we don’t want that sort of thing happening every week – but, in this situation, we’re backing the referee’s judgement.”

That Bellamy ran more than 20 yards to face the restrained fan before striking him in the face was apparently not considered. Proving the point that it’s ok to beat up supporters, just as long as you’re not Eric Cantona.

Fornasier: no case to answer

September 22, 2009 Tags: Shorts 1 comment

FIFA will not prosecture Manchester United for poaching in the case of Michele Fornasier, the Italian teenage defender recruited from Fiorentia this summer, according to the world governing body. Fornasier, 16, joined United from the Viola for no fee as he was not under contract but the Italian club complained to FIFA about the transfer.

The case is one of a number of high profile transfers involving Premier League clubs and teenagers from overseas. FIFA banned Chelsea from registering players for two transfer windows after being found guilty of poaching French teenager Gael Kakuta from Racing Lens.

“We can confirm that we were contacted by Fiorentina with regard to the potential transfer of the player, Michele Fornasier, to Manchester United,” a FIFA spokesman told the Telegraph.

“However, no formal investigation has been opened since the documentation currently in our possession, from a purely formal point of view, is not apt to sustain such action.”

French Ligue 2 club Le Harve has also complained that United poached teenage midfielder Paul Pogba this summer. Pogba, also 16, is similarly without a contract, although the French club maintains that he has a pre-contract agreement in place. Le Harve also complained that United had paid Pogba’s parents, which was strongly denied by the Old Trafford hierachy.

“So far, no contractual claim against the player Paul Pogba and/or the club Manchester United has been lodged by the French club, Le Havre, at FIFA,” a spokesman said.

“The matter we are currently investigating concerns the request for intervention submitted by the Football Association on behalf of its member club, Manchester United, in relation to the international clearance for the player in question, following the refusal of the French Football Federation to issue the international transfer certificate of the player.”

Just how low is Carlos Tevez’ IQ?

September 22, 2009 Tags: Shorts 13 comments

Carlos Tevez has expressed his surprise at the reaction he received from United supporters at this weekend’s Manchester derby. The Argentinian was roundly jeered by United fans unhappy at the striker’s switch from Old Trafford to Manchester City this summer.

Tevez moved to City in a deal worth between £25.5 million and £47 million depending on various reports, but the striker then accused manager Sir Alex Ferguson of disrespecting him and denied that United had made him a contract offer, in direct contradiction of earlier statements.

“I must admit I did believe I would get a different reception from the United supporters,” Tevez told the Daily Mail.

“Initially everything was positive and I was greeted by my former team-mates and United staff without any problems at all.

“But as soon as I entered the field the atmosphere was very different. It was hard to take because previously I was always wanted by those people.”

It’s a claim of quite staggering stupidity from the former Boca Juniors and West Ham player, who had said prior to the game that he expected a good reception from the United supporters. United fans welcomed Tevez to Manchester, with a banner outlining the club’s major trophies. City hasn’t won a competition since they beat Newcastle United to win the 1976 League Cup.

A tale of two strikers

September 21, 2009 Tags: , Reads 2 comments

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… and few who witnessed Sir Alex Ferguson’s ecstatic dance down the touchline as Manchester United’s Michael Owen wheeled away from the vanquished’s goal could doubt which it was for the Scot. Owen, the free-transfer striker picked up on a whim and against all sane advice, became an Old Trafford hero in an instant. How stark the contrast then at the other end, where Carlos Tevez – Owen’s predecessor – crouched prone in disbelief.

Unsurprisingly the Argentinian’s every step was loudly jeered by the home support. United fans, ill-prepared for players jumping ship, turned tables on Tevez. No longer the total support offered towards the end of last season. And as Tevez walked out of the Old Trafford tunnel just short of the 1.30pm kick-off he looked genuinely surprised by the reaction.

The Argentinian was his usual self – all hustle and bustle – harrying Ben Foster into a mistake for City’s first equaliser. The City striker nearly scored too, striking the post with a first half shot. But the £25.5 million striker – or £47 million depending on which report you believe – then fluffed his best chance of the afternoon. The kind of miss Ferguson was not ready to pay over-the-odds for.

Owen by contrast waited patiently on the bench for his opportunity. Up front Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov were causing significant trouble to City’s outrageously over-priced central defensive partnership of Joleon Lescott and Kolo Touré, benefiting from another magical display from the evergreen Ryan Giggs.

Then came Owen’s moment, collecting Giggs’ sumptuous slide rule pass and striking it past Shay Given in the City goal with the outside of his right boot. It was a fabulous finish for which Owen can now be forgiven his Liverpool past. Something which the player is acutely aware.

“If there was any doubt before then maybe this has sealed the deal,” Owen said after the match.

“Me coming to Manchester United was always going to create a bit of noise but even if they didn’t take to me it is still a privilege to play for Manchester United. The fact I’ve scored the winner in the Manchester derby hasn’t sunk in yet.

“It’s one of those few moments in my career that I’ll look back on and see it as one of the highlights. To score in a derby is great, but for it to be as dramatic as that, you’d have to see it to believe it. It was such an entertaining game and it must be one of the best televised games of all time.

“As soon as they scored I heard the announcement which said there were four minutes, so immediately I thought that we might get a couple of chances. When they score, you think ‘that’s it, it’s probably going to be a draw’, but you never stop believing that you can do it.”

Manager Sir Alex was typically effusive in praise of former Liverpool, Real Madrid and Newcastle player. A manager who is always ready to back his own judgement, Ferguson was hardly going to do anything else.

“Michael was only on for something like 17 minutes,” said the Scot. “He was the best man to be on there when the game is going to be in their penalty box. There is no one better at taking chances.

“His positional play, first touch and finish were absolutely superb. World class.”

A lot more than could be said for Tevez.

Hughes loses dignity as reds take derby

September 21, 2009 Tags: , Matches 5 comments

United put the upstarts City in their place in a Manchester derby classic. It was a match full of drama, goals and plenty of hapless defending, with the winner coming from a former Liverpool hero. You couldn’t write a script this good. But as United fans filtered out of Old Trafford delirious with the result, Mark Hughes was busy ruining what little respect the red side of the city may have held for him.

For the neutral it was a match that had everything; most fans will have left with a few extra grey hairs. Three times United took the lead in normal time, only for City to peg Sir Alex Ferguson’s side back on as many occasions. While ‘plucky’ City can be pleased with their character in fighting to keep on terms, in truth the home side were vastly superior.

But for some truly awful defending – gifting City their first and third equalisers – United would have won at a canter. It was a point not lost on Ferguson after the game.

“We made three horrendous mistakes which you don’t even half associate with our team and it kept them in the game,” Fergie told Sky Sports after the match.

“I am unhappy about the goals we conceded because it spoilt [an otherwise] really emphatic victory – we could have scored six or seven.

“The fact that we made the mistakes probably made it the best derby game of all time so you-re left wondering, what would you rather have had – won 6-0 or won the greatest derby game of all time, and I would rather have won 6-0.”

Before all the drama, the derby came to life as early as the second minute, with Rooney holding off two City defenders to slot past Shay Given in the visitor’s goal. Patrice Evra created the chance, finding space on the left flank to cut back for United’s leading scorer. Magic.

City were back in it within a quarter hour, Ben Foster losing the ball to the returning Carlos Tevez, and Gareth Barry slotting home the little Argentinian’s pass. Comedy defending but it wasn’t funny for United’s number one. That Foster is still playing with such nerves six weeks into the new season is deeply worrying. Foster, talented though he is, got himself out of position on more than one occasion, gifting City their first equaliser. With Edwin van der Sar back inside a month, Foster has even more reason to feel under pressure.

United were dominating possession and the chances continued to flow, especially in the second period. Dimitar Berbatov in particular will regret not taking at least one of his four good opportunities before being substituted for Michael Owen.

United’s pressure was telling though and City’s expensively assembled central defensive partnership struggled all afternoon with United’s pace and movement. Ryan Giggs was utterly peerless, having a hand in all four United goals. At 35 years old, Giggs can still tear them apart after all these seasons. It was the Welshman’s running and passing that helped create a dozen chances for United in the second half.

In the end for all United’s free flowing attacking football City lost the match by defending set-pieces and crosses poorly. United’s second and third came from the unlikely head of Darren Fletcher, who had yet another storming game in central midfield.

In between Craig Bellemy twice pulled City back into the game. His first an outstanding strike from 25 yards, after cutting in from the left onto his favoured right boot. City’s third equaliser came with just seconds to go, Rio Ferdinand guilty of being lazy in possession and gifting the Bitters a chance at an undeserved point.

But as long as Ferguson lives and breaths United will continue to play until the final whistle. Giggs’ wonderful pass released Michael Owen in the 96th minute, the striker’s first touch was true and his neat finish sent the home crowd into raptures. Fergie’s Mourinhoesque arm-pumping dance down the touchline was bliss personified. His staff and substitutes invaded the pitch in an end reminiscent of that in the same stadium against Sheffield Wednesday in 1993.

In the post-match analysis Fergie couldn’t resist the opportunity to goad the defeated opposition.

“There has been a lot of expectation on Manchester City and with the spending they have done they have to win something,” Ferguson told Sky Sports.

“For us, it’s unusual for us to accept that they’re the top dogs in terms of media attention but you know, sometimes you have a noisy neighbour and have to live with it. You can’t do anything about them if they keep on making noise but what we can do, as we showed today, is you can get on with your life, put your television on and turn it up a bit louder.

“As far as the players are concerned, they showed their playing power and that’s the best answer of all.”

Watching despairing City supporters’ faces – still bitter after 34 years without silverware – as United’s fourth hits the back of the net was sheer poetry. That their team contained the returning Carlos Tevez iced the cake.

But another United old boy, the City manager Mark Hughes, was unable to lose with dignity, complaining about the amount of added time and United’s ecstatic reaction to the winning goal. Hughes also went on to defend Craig Bellamy, who hit out at a United fan, just as he had supported Emmanuel Adebayor’s in the wake of the striker’s deliberate stamp on Robin van Persie a week ago. Hughes should be bigger than that.

“They did seem quite excitable at the end of the game. It was reminiscent of Brian Kidd and Sir Alex in days gone by. And I saw Gary Neville running on like a lunatic as well, so it showed how much it meant to them,” said Hughes.

“It’s something we’ll take out of the game. We knew we could come here and compete against the United of today.”

Compete City did, but bitter City remain.

Rant Cast 6 – first Manchester derby of the season

September 20, 2009 Tags: The Pod No comments

In episode six of Rant Cast regulars Ed & Paul talk about:

  • Victory against Spurs and Besiktas
  • The Manchester derby – Carlos Tevez, Mark Hughes, City’s money
  • Peter Kenyon!

Stream the episode below or click here to download the podcast (right click > save as).

Email all feedback to cast@unitedrant.co.uk or comment below.

Subscribe on iTunes now.

Classic United versus City

September 18, 2009 Tags: , Matches 1 comment

To whet your appetite ahead of the weekend’s 152nd Manchester derby, which began in 1881, here are some modern classics. Forget the Blue Noses who mention Dennis Law’s back-heal, or the five goals scored at Maine Road in 1989. Consign them to history. Think about United’s five in 1994, comeback from three down a year earlier or Roy Keane’s assault on Alf-Inge Haaland in 2001.

Manchester City 2 – 3 Manchester United, Maine Road, 1993
One of United’s greatest ever comebacks – this time in City’s backyard. Trailing by two Nial Quinn goals, United returned with strikes from Eric Cantona and Roy Keane, winning it in the final minute of the match. Sweet.

Manchester United 5 – 0 Manchester City, Old Trafford, 1994
With that 1989 match at Maine Road still all too fresh in supporters’ minds, United’s flying Russian winger Andrei Kanchelskis went on the rampage, scoring an Old Trafford hat-trick. It was the match that finally shut the Blue Noses up and allowed right-minded Manchester folk to lift their chins up once again!

Manchester United 1 – 1 Manchester City, Old Trafford, 2001
Roy Keane’s long running feud with the Norwegian Alfe-Inge Haarland led to this horror tackle by the midfielder. Keane saw red and was banned for three matches. Keane’s biography, in which he suggested that he wanted to hurt the City player, cost the Irishman a further five match ban and £150,000 fine. Such a pity then that Keane and Carlos Tevez couldn’t meet on the pitch this weekend, some of a crueller disposition might say.

OT welcomes City’s nouveau riche

September 18, 2009 Tags: , Matches 1 comment

City arrive at Old Trafford this weekend having usurped the champions as the wealthiest club in the Manchester, with ambitions of extending that superiority to the pitch. The City ‘project’ has come some distance since last summer, with more than £200 million spent on a series of high profile, if over-expensive, new players. If there was any doubt that the club’s Abu Dhabi-based owners are serious about breaking into the Premier League’s top four, then there shouldn’t be any now.

The Eastlands outfit cross town in good form, having won four Premier League games in a row, including a controversial 4 – 2 win against Arsenal last weekend. But manager Mark Hughes heads back to his old stomping ground with around £100 million worth of talent unavailable. Carlos Tevez is unlikely to be fully fit, Roque Santa Cruz has yet to play this season and Emmanuel Adebayor has taken it upon himself to perform boot-based facial surgery on an old team-mate, while picking a fight with his former club’s supporters.

Sir Alex Ferguson, meanwhile, will hope to pick from a full squad – less the suspended Paul Scholes and injured Owen Hargreaves and Rafael da Silva. Rio Ferdinand will face a late test on his fitness, having picked up a minor groin injury after the victory over Tottenham Hotspur last weekend. Johnny Evans stands by to partner Nemanja Vidic, while Ferguson will pick from Michael Carrick, Anderson and Darren Fletcher in central midfield.

There will be a close focus on United’s tactical outlook for the match, with the manager having used Wayne Rooney as a lone striker against Besiktas in midweek and in the home game against Arsenal. Are City to be considered a genuine threat this season, or will the manager go for the jugular and include Dimitar Berbatov alongside Rooney?

With Hughes missing key talent and United at home, Ferguson must sense that now is the time to set down a marker.

“They’ve had a softish start to the season with two or three easier games, but the result against Arsenal on Saturday was the one that surprised people. Scoring four goals against Arsenal was an emphatic result,” said Ferguson.

“When you get off to a good start, it definitely galvanises you and gives you the confidence. And of course, they have such a big squad and a lot of players – they have about seven centre-forwards. But when you have spent that kind of money, and the wages they are paying, you have to win the league with that kind of investment.

“That is where the difficulty will come for them and it will be very difficult for City when you see the likes of ourselves, Chelsea and Liverpool and Arsenal.

On the terraces fans are looking forward not only to United’s team taking City down a peg or two but welcoming the liar Carlos Tevez back to Old Trafford with a special brand of warmth and affection. Ferguson, though, isn’t concerned about the little striker’s return. “I am not bothered whether Tevez plays or not,” said Ferguson. “Manchester City’s best player won’t be playing. Adebayor is their star player”

Ouch.