Month October 2009

Month October 2009

Obertan promises brighter future

October 28, 2009 Tags: Opinion 5 comments

Barnsley in the Carling Cup is hardly the auspicious start that most Manchester United signings hope for. Injured, questioned and even derided since the France under-21 international’s £3 million move from Bordeaux, for Gabriel Obertan a début has been three long months in coming. Success Tuesday shows that after Ronaldo, life may go on.

Obertan, who has eight caps for France under-21s, suffered a serious spinal injury prior to the move across the channel in the summer. It was a setback – well understood by United manager Sir Alex Ferguson prior to the youngster’s acquisition – that has kept the Clairefontaine graduate out of United’s 15 games this season.

Rated highly by Ferguson’s coaching staff who have watched the youngster for more than two years, the winger has appeared 54 times for Bordeaux in addition to 15 games on loan at Lorient. At 16, Ferguson says, Obertan was among the very best in Europe for his age group.

“We’ve taken our time with Gabriel as we want him at 100 per cent,” said the United manager following Tuesday’s victory over Barnsley.

“He’s very quick, he can play both sides or through the middle, and he brings a real versatility to us.

“At 16 he was one of the outstanding young talents in Europe, but over this last year-and-a-half, he’s been playing with a back injury. We expect big things from him. He’s a nice boy, he speaks good English and he’s had no problems settling in.”

Yet it’s a career that has stagnated and not just because of injury this season. Obertan, transformed from leading starlet into loanee at Lorient one of Ligue 1’s less-fashionable clubs, is no longer the player Ferguson bought into at 16.

United – somewhat surprisingly for some in French football – provides Obertan with a route towards redemption. In three games for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reserve team this month Obertan has demonstrated the pace, awareness and outstanding touch that brought Ferguson’s eye two years ago.

Indeed, in what turned into a tough night for United at Oakwell Tuesday, Obertan was a stand-out attacking figure on début. While it’s too early to declare the Frenchman the next Thierry Henry – as opposed to the next David Bellion – the early signs are promising.

The attacker’s intelligent use of the ball, creative instincts and obvious teamwork against the Yorkshire side contrast so starkly with the infuriating Nani. Obertan’s ability to hit an early and accurate cross was also eye-opening.

So much so that the Portuguese winger may now come under pressure from United’s new signing. In three years with the club, the former Sporting Lisbon wide player has lurched from the stylish to the ridiculed. Nani’s direct, attacking performance in United’s recent victory over CSKA Moscow last week is one of the winger’s career highlights. Far too often though, Nani is lost in a sea of misplaced passes, blind alleys and wasted stepovers.

Yet width is an area in which United is both strong in numbers and weak on quality. While Antonio Valencia, Ferguson’s £16 million acquisition from Wigan Athletic this summer, is slowly growing in stature there are question marks hanging over the rest of United’s wide men.

Park Ji-Sung, who recently signed a new four-year contract, has long been a favourite of the United manager. So much so that in the really big games Park has tended to play a major role. But as was the case in the 2009 Champions League final, many supporters question Park’s inherent quality at the very top-level.

Then there is Zoran Tosic who, in nearly a year at Old Trafford, is no closer to the first team than on the day of his signature. Considered too lightweight for the Premier League on arrival from Partizan Belgrade, Tosic remained in the reserve team never to return.

Even Ryan Giggs, so majestic this season, cannot go on forever.

Obertan offers not only hope of better quality on United’s left flank but a more consistent approach. On a night when Danny Wellbeck was again excellent, and Michael Owen scored a peach of a goal, Obertan was the highlight.

Obertii, Obertaan, Life goes on! After Ronaldo life goes on… Ferguson might say.

Additional reporting by Paul.

United linked with Spanish duo

October 28, 2009 Tags: , Shorts 1 comment

Manchester United, linked with a move for Valencia stars David Villa and David Silva, is considering a £50 million bid according to reports today. United evaluated the Spanish pair as replacements for Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez in the summer but the duo remained at Valencia after no club agreed to pay an inflated transfer fee.

The Spanish club, which is more than £80 million in debt, will be forced to sell in the January transfer window according to Valencia director Fernando Gomez, who admitted the club is in financial trouble.

“The club made a great effort to keep our players this summer but our economic situation remains very serious,” said Gomez.

“It was a success to keep them, but there comes a point when you can’t stand it any more.  We may have to sell Villa.”

United has most of Ronaldo’s £80 million fee largely untouched and the purchase of Villa would enable Sir Alex Ferguson to increase the number of senior strikers to four. Silva, 24, is  a long-term replacement for Ryan Giggs should the Dorien Gray of the United side ever retire.

No case for the defence

October 28, 2009 Tags: , Opinion 1 comment

Less than a year ago Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic was the best central defensive partnership in Europe. Along with goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar, the pair kept a series of clean sheets. Now each is a shadow of the former player, lacking in confidence and making errors that are costing Manchester United games and points.

Ferdinand’s recent form has been the subject of much debate. The mistakes include a chipped pass that directly contributed to Manchester City’s third goal, which was only redeemed by Michael Owen’s last-minute goal in the 4-3 derby victory. There was also the former-Leeds player’s mistake for England in the 1-0 defeat against the Ukraine earlier this month. Sunday at Anfield, it was Fernando Torres who out-muscled and outpaced the defender to score the opening goal.

Much of Ferdindand’s poor form is the result of injury and lack of match readiness. The defender has been in and out of the side, playing only a few of the games in which manager Sir Alex Ferguson would have wished. Despite this, most United supporters believe that with a run in the team, Ferdinand’s composure and form will return.

Of more concern is Vidic’s apparent decline. The Serbian, who débuted against City shortly after signing for United in January 2006, made a nightmare start to his Old Trafford career. But the defender’s signature during the winter transfer window allowed the former Spartak Moscow star time and space to adjust to the Premier League by the start of the 2007/2008 season.

Moreover, Vidic complimented Ferdinand. The Serbian became United’s rock to Rio’s continental approach, right up until the nightmare performance against Fernando Torres in United’s 4-1 defeat to Liverpool at Old Trafford in March.

Performances have followed a similar pattern. Against Barcelona in the Champions League final Vidic allowed Samuel Eto’o to waltz past for the opening goal. More recently, during United’s visit to CSKA Moscow, Vidic made repeated mistakes.

Last Sunday, Vidic was unfortunate to pick up an initial booking against Liverpool, with the Anfield crowd playing a significant part. It was also frustrating to witness the defender sent off for hauling down Dirk Kuyt, when Jamie Carragher got away with a booking for the same crime. But let us not forget the Serbian’s mistake in fouling Kuyt in the first place.

Aside from a bruised nose – and lost bragging rights – Sunday’s match matters little in the grand scheme. Liverpool, not good enough to mount a serious title challenge, will take victory as a season’s highlight. United fans can forget about defeat when celebrating a 19th league title in May. Nobody needs reminding of that fact more than Liverpool.

Of more immediate concern, though, is how to restore Ferdinand and Vidic to the finest central defensive partnership Europe has seen, and fast.

Who should be United's central defensive partnership?

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Fergie: I wouldn’t have been sacked

October 27, 2009 Tags: , , Shorts No comments

Sir Alex Ferguson has denied that Mark Robin’s headed FA Cup goal against Nottingham Forest in 1990 saved his job. Manchester United take on Robins’ Barnsley tonight in the Carling Cup fourth round. But the United manager does not believe defeat to Forest would have seen the end of his United tenure, as is widely believed today.

“You never know in football. Who’s to say how the club would have reacted if we’d lost and if crowds had tumbled?” Sir Alex told The Telegraph, today.

“One thing’s for sure though. Bobby Charlton [a United director] would not have let it happen. He knows better than anyone the heartbeat of this football club.

“This football club needed the foundation of youth and we were doing some great work on that side of it. Bobby knew we were on the right road.”

Ferguson, who has seen Mark Hughes, Roy Keane, Steve Bruce, Paul Ince, and Bryan Robson go into management from his 1990’s teams, praised Robins for his management success to date.

“Mark did a great job at Rotherham,” said Ferguson.

“They were going into administration and it’s not easy if that happens because you can’t get any players.

“He had to work with what he had and I think that’s a good start in management, I really do. Learning the hard way is the best way.

“When I was at East Stirling, there were only eight players when I joined the club. I had to get five players quickly just to get a team on the pitch. They gave me £2,000 to get five players!”

The kids are alright

October 27, 2009 Tags: , Matches No comments

Manchester United’s young players take up the mantle tonight when the club takes on Barnsley in the Carling Cup. With the first team still reeling from defeat at Anfield Sunday, United’s kids will provide some light relief to United’s downcast supporters. On the opposite bench will be former United striker, Mark Robins.

On the menu tonight will be a course of United’s exciting young talent including, we presume, Danny Wellbeck, Federico Macheda, Darron Gibson, Ritche de Laet, the da Silva brothers and Joshua King. With Wellbeck, Macheda, and the da Silva brothers closest to the first team significant focus will be on the quartet.

Wellbeck, called out as a potential inclusion in the England World Cup squad by Sir Alex Ferguson, is disappointed with the level of involvement in this season’s campaign. Prior to the disastrous draw with Sunderland, where the England under-21 international started on the left-wing, Wellbeck had made just one bench (outside of the Carling Cup) all season.

It’s a similar place for Macheda, whose season has been a major anti-climax after the 17-year-old’s impact towards the end of the last campaign. Indeed, the Italian, hauled off in the last Carling Cup round following Fabio da Silva’s red card, has seen his attitude questioned by senior staff.

The da Silva brothers each have reasons to make an impact in tonight’s match. Rafael has missed the season to date with a shoulder injury, after the major impact the teenage Brazilian made last campaign. Fabio, who suffered a similar injury last season, is yet to make the same impact on the team. Ferguson described the youngster as “outstanding” after the left-sided defender’s performance in United’s Champions League match at CSKA Moscow.

But as much attention is focused on the opposite bench as Sir Alex Ferguson’s team selection. Former Old Trafford alumni Mark Robins, appointed manager of Barnsley this summer, spent six years at United.

Robins is best remember at Old Trafford for his goal against Nottingham Forrest in the Third Round of the 1990 FA Cup. Dubbed the ‘goal that saved Fergie’s job’, Robin’s header from Mark Hughes cross was the first step on the way to victory in the final that season.

The Ashton-under-Lyne born striker burst on the United scene as a callow 18-year-old, scoring 17 goals in 69 appearances for United, although many of those games were from the bench. Sold to Norwich City in 1992 for £800,000, Robins also went on to play for Leicester, Copenhagen, Reading, Ourense, Panionios, Manchester City, Walsall, Rotherham United, Bristol City, Sheffield Wednesday and Burton Albion in a journeyman career.

In addition to the 1990 FA Cup Robins was also victorious with United in the 1991 Cup Winners’ Cup, the 1991 European Super Cup and 1990 Charity Shield.

Robins joined Rotherham in 2000 first as a player, then coach and finally becoming manager in March 2007. He replaced the popular Simon Davey as manager of Barnsley this summer.

Not that Sir Alex holds any sentimental value in former United players coming face-to-face with the old team. If Robins challenged Ferguson to a game of tiddlywinks, the Scot would give everything to win.

To which end Ferguson will also draft some senior players into the team tonight, with both Wes Brown and Jonny Evans likely to start in central defence and Michael Owen, Nani, Anderson and Ben Foster playing some part.

Gabriel Obertan, United’s £3 million signing from Bordeaux this summer, has played three reserve games in succession and could start.

Andre Marriner j’accuse

October 27, 2009 Tags: , Opinion 12 comments

Andre Marriner, the Birmingham-born official who drew Sir Alex Ferguson’s ire during United’s defeat at Liverpool Sunday, stands accused of gross-incompetence. While Ferguson will receive an FA ban for questioning a referee’s fitness, Marriner will not face any punishment despite a series of inexplicable decisions during the Anfield match.

Mr. Marriner, Rant accuses you of being guilty of the following charges:

  • Count 1: failing to send off Jamie Carragher
  • Count 2: incorrectly showing Nemanja Vidic red
  • Count 3: failing to award a penalty to Michael Carrick
  • Count 4: ignoring the spot kick claims of Ryan Giggs
  • Count 5: being soft on Lucas.

Count 1.

The Evidence: 87th minute, Michael Owen, set free with a clear run on goal, was deliberately hacked down by ‘Dipper Jamie Carragher. With no covering defenders, Owen would surely have been able to shoot undeterred.

The Verdict: Guilty. The rules say that denying a clear goalscoring opportunity is a crime punishable by red, so why didn’t Carragher see crimson? Former referee Graham poll says Owen didn’t have the ball under control but a striker of Owen’s class and pace doesn’t need to ball at his feet for control of the situation.

The consequences: The game finished in the 97th minute – that’s 10 crucial minutes United should have gained a man advantage.

Count 2.

The Evidence: Vidic saw red for a second bookable offence deep into injury time, hauling down an opposition attacker on the half way line. His first yellow, shown earlier, gained for tackling Fernando Torres, twice.

The verdict: Guilty. There is little argument about the Serbian’s second yellow, with only 60-yards distance between the player and a straight red for a professional foul. But Vidic only saw yellow first time out because he didn’t hear the whistle. That he took the ball cleanly only mitigates the crime.

The consequences: Vidic will miss United’s match with Blackburn Rovers in a week’s time.

Count 3.

The Evidence: Carragher tackled Michael Carrick inside the area, got a toe to the ball but clattered the player in the same movement.

The verdict: Guilty. It has long been a tenet of football’s laws that if a player takes the man with the ball a foul is given; unless it’s at Anfield’s Kop end. Commentators and – even – ex-referees have said the defender made contact with the ball. Factually this is correct but it makes little difference to the decision Marriner should have made.

The consequences: A successful United penalty with the game all-square could have completely changed the game.

Count 4.

The Evidence: Ryan Giggs, running into the area, received a shove in the back causing the Welsh winger to hit the deck.

The verdict: 50/50. It was a foul but a soft penalty, if given. Not a black and white decision for Marriner, who can be given the benefit of the doubt.

The consequences: A penalty might have been tough on Liverpool but who cares?

Count 5.

The evidence: Lucas Leiva commited nine fouls during the match; three in succession early in the first half.

The verdict: Under the totting up procedure Lucas should have seen at least one yellow card in the first period. That’s to say nothing of the merits individual fouls, which could have brought added yellow cards. More than that, Lucas’s treatment is the flag-bearer for Marriner’s general attitude on the day.

The consequences: Liverpool’s aggressive stance affected United’s play on a day when the visiting side failed to include a combative midfielder. Marriner’s lenient decision-making played into the home side’s hands.

Rant Cast 10 – ey up Barnsley in the cup!

October 27, 2009 Tags: Rant Cast 2 comments

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

  • The defeat to Liverpool
  • The trip to CSKA Moscow
  • Barnsley in the Carling Cup
  • Blackburn Rovers at home

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

Email all feedback to or comment below.

Subscribe on iTunes now.

Poll: United’s chances this season are…

October 26, 2009 Tags: , Polls 1 comment

Following defeat to Liverpool at Anfield United’s ambitions to win a fourth consecutive Premier League title received a set back. Goals from Fernando Torres and David Ngog were enough to beat United on a day when Ferguson’s men created very few chances. But is United’s squad fatally flawed or will Sir Alex Ferguson’s men recover to lift the trophy in May?

United's Premier League chances this season are..

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Evra: we didn’t create anything

October 26, 2009 Tags: , Shorts 1 comment

Patrice Evra admitted that Manchester United didn’t play well enough to beat Liverpool. The French defender, who returned to the side after missing the midweek trip to Moscow, started United’s 2-0 defeat at Anfield. Evra says that United created far fewer chances than is normal against an aggressive Liverpool side.

“The advice was to play our football but we didn’t do that and I don’t know why. Liverpool were aggressive but we didn’t play and that’s why it’s so frustrating to lose,” said the former Monaco left-back.

“The display was poor today. Normally when United play we create at least five or six clear chances but we only had the one when (Antonio) Valencia hit the crossbar. It’s not enough if you want to win against Liverpool.”

Evra is likely to sit out United’s Carling Cup trip to Barnsley on Wednesday before returning to face Blackburn Rovers at Old Trafford next Saturday.