Month March 2010

Month March 2010

Reds spank Bolton to regain summit

March 28, 2010 Tags: , Matches No comments

In recent history Sir Alex Ferguson’s gamble in resting Rio Ferdinand, Park Ji-Sung and most pertinently Wayne Rooney at Bolton Wanderers may have backfired. But this is a Bolton side with a softer core than under Ferguson’s close friend Sam Allardyce and United ran riot to regain the Premier League lead despite the absentees.

Although the Scot insists Rooney’s knee is not a worry, despite the England international missing training this week, the forward’s absence was something of a surprise. But with two games against Bayern Munich, sandwiching the visit of Chelsea to Old Trafford in the next week, fitness protection was the name of the game.

Ryan Giggs, restored to the starting line-up, provided support to Dimitar Berbatov in attack with Nani and Antonio Valencia offering width from the flanks. It was all too much for Bolton in the end, although the score didn’t tell the story of a match in which the home side offered a real threat.

“The score makes it look as if it was easy but we never dominated the game,” Ferguson said.

“It was hard, as it always is here. It’s difficult to play when the ball’s in the air all the time. It took two magnificent saves from Edwin van der Sar to keep Bolton out in the first half.”

But first United created multiple chances in the opening minutes with Fletcher’s cross from the right and Berbatov’s flick at the near post to forcing a save from Jussi Jaaskelainen and then Jonny Evans blasting over moments later.

Not that the visitors had it all their own way with Nemanja Vidic making a last-ditch tackle to deny the home side and Edwin van der Sar providing a strong hand to stop Johan Elmander’s near post shot in the opening quarter.

Berbatov and Giggs then worked an opening only for the Welshman to fire just over. But the veteran’s left-wing cross forced the opening goal for Ferguson’s side moments later as Jay Lloyd Samuel put the ball in his own net for the 11th own-goal of United’s season.

Bolton continued to offer a threat and van der Sar, at nearly 40, produced a wonderful save to keep Ferguson’s side in the ascendancy.

The game ended as a contest 15 minutes into the second half after Valencia and Giggs worked an opening for Darren Fletcher, with the Scot’s shot blocked by Jaaskelainen, only for Berbatov to fire home on the rebound.

Now United opened up Bolton at will, with Nani offering brilliance from the left. First the Portuguese skinned Sam Rickets to offer Berbatov the Bulgarian’s second of the night with 20 minutes to go. Then the winger cut in from the left to provide Darron Gibson with an opportunity to finish with a trademark flourish in off the bar.

“We’ll all drop points before the end of the season, we just have to make sure we don’t drop as many as everyone else,” added Ferguson, who believes Arsenal remains in the race despite the Londoners’ draw at Birmingham City.

“Chelsea scoring seven did not put extra pressure on us, but when you see that turnaround in goal difference in four days it represents a challenge. Put the gauntlet down, though, and United will always accept it.”

Next to Munich with Ferdinand and Rooney likely to return despite the “minor knocks” suffered by the pair this week.

Rant Cast 24 – squeaky bum time

March 27, 2010 Tags: Rant Cast 1 comment

In this episode of Rant Cast regulars Ed & Paul review United’s 2-1 victory over Liverpool, discuss the club’s favourable Champions League draw and look forward to a weekend fixture against Bolton Wanderers. There’s an update on the latest with MUST and the Red Knights, together with the answer to a key question – is your bum getting squeaky yet?!

Stream this episode of the podcast using the player below or click here to download the podcast (right click & save as).

We welcome your input – send all feedback to cast@unitedrant.co.uk or comment below.

Subscribe on iTunes now.

Ferguson: I get nervous

March 27, 2010 Tags: , Shorts No comments

Famously Sir Alex Ferguson called it “squeaky bum time” – the finish to the Premier League title race that the Scot has won 11 times since his arrival at Manchester United. The legendary manager still feels the nerves with just seven games to go in the domestic season. It’s a title run-in that Ferguson expects to go to the last game of the season.

“It is probably the time when the players are doing their warm-up that you feel on your own because your staff are out there doing their jobs,” said Ferguson.

“It is all right at home because you have your office, but, away from home, there is always that killing time, walking about and sitting in your dressing room or whatever.

“Some people don’t show it but deep down inside they are all churning like the rest of us.

“That is what the game does to you. The thing, I think, for managers is the win, lose or draw situation. You are in to win and you can’t lose too many or you lose your job. There is no one in the game more directly responsible for results than the manager.

“No matter which way you look at it, we are all subject to winning games of football and, if we are not, we are on the dole line.”

United’s run-in continues today with a short trip across Lancashire to face Bolton Wanderers followed by a daunting series of games against Bayern Munich in Germany, followed by Chelsea and then the Germans back at Old Trafford.

MUST: pay £25 to own part of club

March 26, 2010 Tags: , Opinion No comments

The Manchester United Supporters’ Trust (MUST) will fans to contribute a symbolic £25 towards a summer bid for the club, emails to members revealed today. MUST ceo Duncan Drasdo sent the annual survey, which also asked season ticket holders if they are considering not renewing this summer, to 145,000 members.

“Thanks to the passion and leadership of people like you, the Manchester United Supporters’ Trust is now over 145,000 members strong,” said Drasdo’s email today.

“But in truth this campaign has never been about numbers alone – it’s been about putting us in a place where we can have all our voices heard and make a real difference.”

That difference is financial, with the Glazer family apparently unmoved by the sea of green and gold at Old Trafford on matchdays this year. While the well orchestrated protest has forced the family to reconsider a planned season ticket price increase, only an acceptable bid will drive the Glazers out of the club.

“As Season Ticket holders, we are the most powerful members of this campaign. The Glazers rely on our financial commitment to the club. We are the lifeblood of United,” continued Drasdo.

“For too long, we’ve acted merely as individuals, leaving us with no choice but to accept whatever conditions have been imposed upon us, but if we act collectively we can have much greater power.

“That’s why we need every Season Ticket holder to tell us what they intend to do at renewal time. We will share that information with you so we can all make the best decisions about how best we can utilize that collective power.”

That may include a call for a collective boycott of season ticket renewals as MUST and the Red Knights attempt to force the Glazers’ hand this summer.

In recent weeks the club has embarked on a high-profile campaign to recruit fans to a “season ticket waiting list” that has not previously existed under the Glazer regime. Indeed, while no official boycott has taken place at Old Trafford other than those fans who formed FC United of Manchester five years ago, many thousands of season ticket holders have not renewed during that time.

Meanwhile, the Knights conceded today that a bid is not forthcoming before the season’s end, with the group of around 60 wealthy people formulating a strategy under Japanese investment bank Nomura’s guidance.

“In the next few weeks we will continue to work on our proposal,” a spokesperson for the Knights said today.

“We do not expect this to be finnalised before the end of the season. This will have the advantage of minimizing disruption during a crucial phase of the season.”

In a separate email to non-season ticket holding members, MUST asks if fans are prepared to invest money in a potential bid. This investment is unlikely to swing the bid in the Knights’ favour but will stand as a symbol of supporters’ desire for new ownership at the club.

The opening bid is expected in the time between the Champions League final on 22 May and the start of the FIFA World Cup in South Africa on 11 June.

United fully fit for Bolton trip

March 26, 2010 Tags: , Opinion No comments

For the first time in months Sir Alex Ferguson has an almost fully fit squad to choose from ahead of Manchester United’s trip to Bolton Wanderers this weekend. Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes are fit for the Saturday tea-time kick off against Owen Coyle’s side, with John O’Shea and Owen Hargreaves also close.

Ferguson’s side makes the short trip across Lancashire in search of three vital points with just seven games remaining in the Premier League season. Buoyed by Chelsea’s failure to beat Blackburn last weekend, United sit proudly at the head of the title race knowing that destiny is in the team’s hands.

However, with Chelsea yet to make the trip to Old Trafford and a visit to Eastlands for the Manchester derby coming up Ferguson is aware that United must not only beat Bolton on Saturday but contribute handsomely to the side’s goal difference.

“Chelsea’s win the other night has brought them level with us on goal difference and goals could be important,” said Ferguson on Friday.

“I’ve said that a few times over the years but I just have a feeling I’m going to be right this time. We’ve always been in a strong position with goal difference over the years, but it’s very tight this time.

“The only way to solve it from our perspective is to win our games starting with Bolton on Saturday.”

Indeed, the Londoners’ 5-0 destruction of Portsmouth also means that Carlo Ancelotti’s side has scored more goals than United this season – a key differentiator should the title race come down to goal difference. But with Arsenal also in action on Saturday, Ferguson is aware of the real threat Arsène Wenger’s side has become in the title race

“On paper they have the easier run-in, but at this time of the season I’m not sure that theory works or means anything,” Ferguson added.

“You can drop points anywhere as Chelsea did at Blackburn and your advantage on paper all of a sudden doesn’t look so good. I don’t think you can say with certainty you’d be confident going anywhere at this time of the season and winning.

“We just have to rely on our experience and hopefully we can keep a relatively clean bill of health between now and the end of the season. The name of the game is to win your games and hopefully we can do that. That’s our best way of looking forward.”

United will do that with Rooney in the side tomorrow after the club’s top goalscorer overcame minor bruising to his knee. The 34-goal forward is likely to partner Dimitar Berbatov in a two-man attack at the Reebok Stadium.

Meanwhile, Ryan Giggs could replace Nani on the left side of United’s midfield with the Welshman fully fit after a broken arm. Giggs, who came on as a substitute against Liverpool last week, has not started a United match in over a month.

Neither Hargreaves nor O’Shea make United’s squad for the short trip but with the Canadian-born midfielder joining first team training this week expect a return this season. Meanwhile, Irishman O’Shea trained on Thursday and will join the first team squad for United’s fixture against Chelsea on 3 April.

Nani signs new four-year deal

March 26, 2010 Tags: Shorts No comments

Nani has signed a new four-year deal with Manchester United that will keep the former Sporting Lisbon player at Old Trafford until 2014. The 23-year-old winger has experienced a renaissance in recent weeks after a disappointing start to the season that culminated in rumours of the player’s departure in the January transfer window.

The new deal will increase the player’s wages, previously in the third tier of earners at Untied, to an estimated £65,000 per week.

“I am delighted to have signed a new contract. It has been like a dream come true to play for Manchester United,” the Portuguese winger told club mouthpiece ManUtd.com

“The coaching staff have taught me so much about the game and I’m playing alongside some of the best players in the world. I’m looking forward to winning many more trophies with this team.”

Nani, who has appeared 96 times for United, including 72 starts, with 12 goals for the club. He also has 33 caps for Portugal and is likely to feature in his nation’s squad for the FIFA World Cup in South Africa this summer.

“Nani is an emerging talent within the team and has developed tremendously since joining the club,” added Sir Alex Ferguson.

“We are delighted he has signed a new contract and I am sure he will have a long and successful future here at Manchester United.”

It’s a certainty very few fans held with conviction just a few months ago.

FC United lights way with return to spiritual home

March 25, 2010 Tags: , , Opinion No comments

FC United of Manchester is to build a 5,000 seat stadium in Newton Heath – the birthplace of modern Manchester United. Disaffected supporters set up FC United after the Glazers’ takeover in 2005, with games being played at Bury’s Gigg Lane this season. The new ground will offer a permanent home for the Red Rebels.

The democratic supporter-owned and run club proposes to include community sports facilities at the stadium, which has been given an ‘amber’ light by Manchester City Council. The stadium, which requires £3.5 million in funding, is to be built at the existing Ten Acres Lane sports ground (above) in the North East of the city.

“FC United, New East Manchester and Manchester City Council have been working closely over the past two years to develop the plans and consultation will now progress with local residents, community groups and FC United members who own the club,” said a club statement today.

“FC United is working to secure the finance for the £3.5m development, which will include a public appeal for donations, a Community Shares issue and grant funding.”

Managed by Karl Marginson, FC United lies 12th in the Unibond League Premier Division, which is the seventh rung of the football pyramid, following three promotions in five years. Despite just missing out on a spot in the Unibond play-offs last season the club has failed to progress on the pitch this campaign.

FC United eschews shirt sponsorship as a direct result of the perceived over-commercialisation of football that took place at United in the lead-up to the Glazer takeover. But renting a stadium costs the club around £3,000 per match – a situation General Manager Andy Walsh is keen to change.

“The announcement will be a big boost to the club and we also want the development to be of benefit to Newton Heath, the discussions with the council have been very positive and we are grateful for their support,” added Walsh.

“The significance of this location is historical while it will also showcase a new model of facility development, based on football supporter ownership and community involvement.”

The Ten Acres Lane stadium will be ready by the 2012/13 season said the club today. FC United averages crowds of just under 2,000, although nearly 3,000 saw the side’s first FA Cup tie earlier this season. The new ground may even attract a greater local following given the level of dissatisfaction at Old Trafford with the Glazer family’s ownership.

Not that FC United supporters have eschewed all affinity with big brother just six miles across town. Green and gold is regularly seen at FC’s matches, although the side plays in a very traditional red and white kit.

Perhaps most pertinently the club has kept ticket prices to a minimum, with a “pay-what-you-can-afford” policy meaning season tickets cost from £90 for adults and £21 for children.

With no little irony, FC United’s is a model of club ownership that the Manchester United Supporters’ Trust (MUST) is keen to follow should a Red Knights’ backed bid prove successful in the coming months.

Could Hargreaves make Bolton return?

March 25, 2010 Tags: Shorts No comments

Owen Hargreaves will not feature in Manchester United reserves fixture against Burnley tonight as he steps up training with the first team squad. The Canadian-born midfielder, who has missed 18 months following operations to cure tendinitis in both knees, made a 45 minute return to action for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reserve team last week.

“Owen won’t play for the Reserves tonight,” Sir Alex Ferguson told ManUtd.com.

“He’s going to be training with the first team and we’ll see where that takes him. We’re keen to get him back involved because he’s an experienced player and will be a valuable addition for us in the run-in, when having a strong, fit squad is vital.”

Hargreaves, who suffers constant pain in his knees that needs regular injections, could play some part in United’s Premier League run in, although the midfielder is not registered for European competition.

The England international could even make a surprise return for United’s trip to Bolton this weekend.