Month April 2010

Month April 2010

Rant Awards 2010

April 26, 2010 Tags: Opinion 2 comments

The PFA handed out its player and team awards last night, with the Football Writers due to do the same in around a week’s time. Wayne Rooney picked up the PFA gong with four United players in the team award. All well and good but nothing compares to the prestigeand sheer boast-about-ability of the Seventh Annual United Rant Awards.*

Player of the Season
With 34-goals in all competitions former Evertonian Wayne Rooney has held together United’s season after the departures of Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez last summer. Deployed predominantly as the lone-striker, Rooney has successfully adapted his game to the new role, even adding 10 headed strikes into the mix. Rightly voted PFA Player of the Year, Rooney will also make the shortlist for the European and World Player of the Year Awards if England performs well during the World Cup in South Africa this summer.

Runner-up – Patrice Evra
Third place – Darren Fletcher

Young Player
In truth United’s younger players in the first team squad have largely disappointed or suffered from injury this campaign. With 27 appearances, Jonny Evans stands alone as a beacon of consistency in an otherwise underwhelming season for Anderson, Danny Welbeck, Fábio and Rafael da Silva, Darron Gibson and Federico Macheda. Evans has benefited from injuries to Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, although the Irishman suffered with ankle trouble for long-periods himself. Here’s to greater progression from United’s younger stars in 2010/11.

Reserve Player
Sir Alex Ferguson will have a range of under 20-year-old players to choose from in next season’s Carling Cup campaign but Oliver Norwood has stood head and shoulders above the rest for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reserve league winners. The creative midfielder drew praise from the manager after leading the second string to the FA Premier Reserve League North championship last week. Norwood certainly looks ‘most likely’ in Solskjaer’s group to make the next step up.

For the moment as much as the goal, Rant’s award goes to wonderful Rooney breakaway strike against Arsenal at the Emirates in January. Reminiscent of Ronaldo’s goal in the Champions League semi-final last season, Rooney finished Nani’s lightening-quick end-to-end break to seal a fabulous win. It took 9.2 seconds from Park Ji-Sung’s interception inside the United penalty area to Rooney’s finish past Manuel Almunia.

Ferguson must seriously consider the future of each goalkeeper in his first team squad following a season of poor form and injury but Edwin van der Sar’s stunning one-handed save at Bolton Wanderers wins the Rant award this year. The veteran Dutch stopper tipped Fabrice Muamba’s right-footed drive away to preserve United’s first half lead at the Reebok Stadium in March. “It was a match-winning effort,” said Ferguson of the save.

New Recruit
With very little competition in this category Antonio Valencia walks away with the prize. That shouldn’t belittle the Ecuadorian’s contribution and growing confidence in the United side this season. Charged with playing in Ronaldo’s shadow, the former Wigan Athletic winger has scored give Premier League goals and contributed nine assists during an excellent first season at the club.

* we may have actually forgotten to do the 2009, 2008 and 2007 versions but somewhere on the Interweb lays the 2006, 2005 and 2004 awards!

Transfer round-up 26/4

April 26, 2010 Tags: Shorts 5 comments

With the Premier League two games from a conclusion the transfer gossip rumour mill is now in full swing, with the usual range of misguided paper talk! In today’s ad-hoc rant round-up Sir Alex Ferguson has his heart set on an expensive Argentinian, a teenage Dutch winger and a fight for France’s midfield playmaker.

Kun Aguero on United’s list claims that Ferguson is preparing a £35m for Atletico Madrid’s Argentina striker Sergio Aguero, 21. The rumour ignores Aguero’s well-known wage demands, which at £100,000 week net would make the Argentinian United’s biggest earner by far.

Mauro strikers at United?
United will bid for Argentinian striker Mauro Boselli this summer, according to the News of the World. The 24-year-old Estudiantes striker will join the 375 other forwards at the club this summer if a £5 million bid is successful.

Marseille’s Steve Mandana wants to join United
“Logically I’ll be at Marseille next season but one cannot be sure of anything. I have had no contact but everyone knows one day I would like to join the English league. It seems that Manchester United is looking for a goalkeeper but my name was not mentioned,” said the French international ‘keeper.

Schepers creepers?
The Daily Mail claims United wants to sign “highly-rated” 17-year-old Dutch winger Bob Schepers, who plays for Second Division side SC Cambuur-Leeuwarden in Holland. Everton manager David Moyes is also interested, according to reports.

Manchester transfer derby
The People says Manchester City boss Mancini will fight it out with Ferguson for £30 million-rated Bordeaux midfielder Yoann Gourcuff.

Gallery: Rooney wins player of the year award

April 26, 2010 Tags: , Shorts No comments

Wayne Rooney picked up the PFA Players Player of the Year trophy in a ceremony last night. It is the first time Rooney has won the award, voted on by fellow professionals, having scored 34 goals this season. Rooney, who won the Young Player of the Year awards in 2005 and 2006, also made the PFA Team of the Year.

Aston Villa’s James Milner (below), linked with a £24 million move to United this summer, won the PFA Young Player of the Year award. Former Leeds United defender Lucas Redebe (below) won a special merit award.

Three other United players – Darren Fletcher, Patrice Evra and Antonio Valencia – also made the PFA Team of the Year.

Voting takes place in January, which might explain the absence of Chelsea’s Florent Malouda and Frank Lampard, whose campaigns have really taken off in the past two months. Similarly, Arsenal’s Thomas Vermaelen’s good start to the campaign but poor form this year is discounted in the team award.

Wayne Rooney

Wayne Rooney

Wayne Rooney

PFA Awards – all winners

Player of the Year: Wayne Rooney (Manchester United).

Young Player: James Milner (Aston Villa).

PFA Merit Award: Lucas Radebe.

Premier League Team of the Year: Hart; Ivanovic, Vermaelen, Dunne, Evra; Fabregas, Milner, Fletcher, Valencia; Rooney, Drogba.

Championship: Camp; Gunter, Coloccini, Williams, Diaz; Dorrans, Whittingham, Nolan, Adam; Carroll, Chopra.

League One: Davies; Richardson, Kisnorbo, Doherty, Harte; Hoolahan, Puncheon, Snodgrass, Bailey; Lambert, Holt.

League Two: Schmeichel; Brayford, C Dawson, Sharps, Kennedy; Davies, S Dawson, Jones, Law; Hughes, Le Fondre.

MUST asks sponsors to choose sides

April 25, 2010 Tags: Shorts 8 comments

The Manchester United Supporters’ Trust (MUST) projected its latest campaign message directly on to Old Trafford Thursday night, much to security staff annoyance. The trust, which now has membership of more than 154,000 supporters, asks Manchester United’s corporate sponsors to choose a side: the Glazer family or the fans.

MUST projected logos of new shirt sponsor AON, together with principal commercial partners including Audi, Betfair, Smirnoff and Nike on the East Stand façade and the North East quadrant as CES staff attempted to disrupt the stunt.

The MUST projection states that the Glazers are damaging MUFC, before asking sponsors if they are “damaging their brands” by association with the American family.

MUST campaign

Belief, desire and no little guts

April 25, 2010 Tags: , , Opinion 8 comments

Manchester United’s victory over Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford is a lesson – as if  really needed – in Sir Alex Ferguson’s over-whelming hunger for silverware this season.  This is far from a vintage United side, stripped of it’s best players in the summer and again now through injury, but don’t let Ferguson hear you say that.

Understandably the Scot kept news of Rooney’s injury under wraps on Friday, despite later admitting that the young Scouse striker had suffered a groin strain during training on Thursday.

It’s an injury that may keep United’s 34-goal forward on the sidelines for the two remaining fixtures – away at Sunderland in a week’s time before the season’s dénouement at Old Trafford 9 May.

Such is Rooney’s importance to both the tactical and mental side of United’s make-up this season that fourth-placed Spurs would surely have taken a huge boost from news of the striker’s absence.

Not without just cause . United post Rooney’s ankle injury in the Allianz Arena three weeks ago, has a decidedly flat feel to it.

Indeed, Bayern’s “beautiful defeat” and Chelsea’s linesman-aided victory at Old Trafford together with the underwhelming draw at Blackburn Rovers all but ended United’s season.

At least that was the script.

Thus to Spurs and with Harry Redknapp’s Champions League hopefuls having beaten both Chelsea and Arsenal within a week, form and Rooney’s absence might fairly point to the first result for the Londoners at Old Trafford since 1989.

But Redknapp’s side and more importantly United each reverted to type. It is now 67 ties since White Hart Lane’s finest has beaten any of the top four on the road – a remarkable record for a club that traditionally lies just outside the cartel.

Whatever the merits of United’s charge towards a fourth straight Premier League title or Spurs’ claims on a place in Europe’s elite, the home side emerged victorious as much for its mental strength as technical merits.

Patrice Evra’s insistence on playing on while depositing his breakfast on Old Trafford’s well-manicured turf was admirable. That Nani repeated the trick only underlined a squad-wide desperation to beat Chelsea to the title this season. Rooney or not.

Determination that shone through not only on the pitch but the dugout too.

Ferguson’s tendency to roll the dice once again bore fruit. The gambler’s instinct always pervades and in hauling off Rafael da Silva – no mug on the day – for Federico Macheda and shifting Darren Fletcher to right-back, the Scot pulled off the match-winning substitution.

Indeed, the Italian’s astute pass to set up Nani for United’s second goal demonstrated maturity beyond his limited tenure in the game.

That Rafael celebrated the goal with the gusto of 70,000 other United supporters said much of team spirit within the camp in the final days of the Premier League season.

If the Brazilian teenager failed to keep his cool the same cannot be said of Ryan Giggs, who twice beat Heurelho Gomes from the penalty spot as if it mattered little more than a training ground kick around.

“His experience showed in the end because he took two really good penalties,” said Ferguson Giggs’ decision to take his first Premier League penalties in more than 20 years at United.

“We played well, that was important, but most important was we kept our nerve.”

Indeed, with Rooney absent United stood taller than many expected.

Meanwhile, Chelsea face Stoke City today, with captain John Terry missing following his dismissal against Redknapp’s side last weekend.

The Londoner’s mental strength is in doubt, having blown more opportunities to seal the title this season than Carlo Ancellotti should forgive himself for.

If the Potteries club pull off a result few will be surprised.

“I hope Chelsea are feeling the pressure,” added Ferguson.

“We have two games left, we are top of the league at the moment and we have done our job.

“Who is to say what is going to happen?

“Now we will have to see what Chelsea can do.”

Giggs earns Spurs with penalty double

April 24, 2010 Tags: , Matches 4 comments

Patrice Evra was once, twice, three times violently sick on the Old Trafford turf but Harry Redknapp’s Tottenham Hotpsur left Manchester forced to stomach the pain of defeat. Evra’s all too literal contribution to a gutsy 3-1 Manchester United victory sent Sir Alex that Ferguson’s side top of the table with just two games remaining.

The French fullback may have left everything on the pitch in pursuit of the points but Ferguson’s side overcame even greater obstacles at Old Trafford to heap pressure on Chelsea in the Premier League title race, with the Londoners not playing until tomorrow.

Missing both Wayne Rooney – absent with a groin injury that is likely to keep the striker on the sidelines for the remaining matches of the campaign – and Rio Ferdinand, Ferguson could be forgiven for feeling as anxious as the Old Trafford crowd after the visitors’ second half equaliser.

“The most important thing today was that we kept our nerve,” claimed the Scot, in the face of palpable tension from a capacity Old Trafford crowd.

“There were no signs of nerves whatsoever – even after they equalised. Experience helps us.”

Indeed, long before Ryan Giggs’ brace of coolly taken penalties and Nani’s exquisite goal sealed United’s victory, the visiting side threatened to spoil Ferguson’s chase for honours.

Such is the increase in Spurs’ star this season that the visitors’ limp performance surprised many in the crowd, not least the Londoners’ manager.

In truth a tepid first half rarely saw the best of either side, with neither United nor Harry Redknapp’s Champions League chasing outfit able to stamp their mark on the encounter.

Ferguson chose to pack his midfield, no doubt cognoscent of Luka Modric’s contribution to Spurs renaissance this season. But with Rooney absent, Dimitar Berbatov ploughed an often frustrating lone furrow in an opening period short on excitement but high on tension.

Not until the half-hour did United seriously threaten Heurelho Gomes’ net, with Berbatov finding time and space to strike a dipping volley just wide of the Brazilian’s goal.

King then superbly blocked another Berbatov strike, this time from inside the area, before Antonio Valencia fired straight at Gomes when clean through.

Even so, Old Trafford reserved the biggest cheer of a low-key half  for Owen Hargraves, who joined United’s bench despite sitting out two days of training this week. The injury-plagued midfielder has missed the past 18 months following surgery to both knees.

Minutes into the second period and the spring heat-wave that descended on Old Trafford claimed its first victim, with Evra violently sick. The Frenchman played on after lengthy attention, later unsurprisingly replaced by John O’Shea.

But United’s most consistent defender this season remained on the pitch long-enough to play a key role in the opening goal. Berbatov – increasingly influential – smartly played Evra in to force Benoit Assou-Ekotto into the foul that brought the first of United’s two penalties. Giggs beat the ‘keeper’s dive to, albeit briefly, relieve the tension in M16.

The goal should have liberated the home side. Instead, with Valencia sacrificed for Michael Carrick, United sat back on the lead and invited the visitors forward.

As Ferguson’s outfit dropped deeper Spurs pressed on, winning the corner from which King headed home the visitors’ goal.

For a quarter-hour the match could have fallen either way but Ferguson’s gamble, introducing teenage striker Federico Macheda for Rafael da Silva, paid hefty dividends.

Indeed, the Italian’s pass found Nani, who wonderfully chipped Gomes to finally break Spurs’ resistance.

Minutes later and the Portuguese winger’s charge into the box drew a second foul – this time from Wilson Palacios – and referee Andre Marriner had little option but to award a second spot-kick of the afternoon.

Giggs fired home. Incredibly these were the Welshman’s first penalties in the Premier League for the club.

Now Ferguson and the crowd could finally relax.

“Nani’s finish was absolutely brilliant,” said Ferguson, although Rooney’s new injury will temper any excitement.

“To have the audacity to do that tells you all about the lad’s courage.

“We had a bit of sickness with two or three players today, but we’ve got eight days to recover, so hopefully we’ll be okay.”

Ferguson substituted Evra in the second period before seeing Nani also throw up on the pitch late in the game.

“Evra just felt it yesterday, but he felt okay to play and it just happened. Maybe the heat brought it on a little bit, it was a warm day.” the Scot added.

“I don’t know what’s happened, whether it’s something he ate or is something going around the place.”

Nevertheless, Ferguson’s delight with three points in – on paper at least – by far United’s toughest fixture of the Premier League run-in is understandable.

Moreover, the result heaps pressure on Carlo Ancelotti Chelsea to match the result or face a trip to Anfield next weekend requiring a win.

Then we’ll see who’s sick with nerves.

Fergie gets lifted ahead of Spurs tie

April 23, 2010 Tags: , Matches No comments

Sir Alex Ferguson says that the last-minute victory over Manchester City last weekend has lifted Manchester United’s morale ahead of Tottenham Hotspur’s visit to Old Trafford Saturday lunchtime. The Scot, who denied any retirement talk, says that the squad is in high spirits ahead of the crunch clash with Harry Redknapp’s fourth-placed Spurs.

Ferguson will include Wayne Rooney, who has trained all week, Rio Ferdinand and Wes Brown in an almost fully fit squad. Aside from long-term injury absentees Michael Owen and Anderson, only Owen Hargreaves misses out with a minor calf strain in a buoyant squad.

Indeed, the Scot says that the atmosphere at Carrington this weeks points to a title-winning charge over the final three games of the Premier League season.

“There has been a lift in the camp this week,” said the 68-year-old Scottish manager.

“There has been always a great atmosphere in our training over the years but then you get a lift like last week and the change is very noticeable. It’s been very competitive. The players are lifted and charged up. I trust them and I hope they can do it for me again.”

United, just a point behind leaders Chelsea with the Londoners yet to visit Anfield this season, have vast experience in Paul Scholes, Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs in a time of extreme stress.

But Ferguson says pressure is irrelevant to his resilient squad, with the team prepared to wait until the final minute against Spurs to win if necessary. Still, with Chelsea not in action until Sunday United can take a two-point lead in the Premier League with a win on Saturday.

“Chelsea have a lot of experienced players but pressure does come into it at this kind of year,” added Ferguson.

“It’s going to be nervy for some players and supporters. Some players will get nervy, no question about that. It happens.

“When Scholes scored I was resigned to the game finishing nil-nil. It would have been very difficult for us to win the league after that but we won the game with the last kick of the ball and we have done that far too many times for it just to be a coincidence.”

Inevitably, Ferguson is full of praise for Spurs, who are undergoing something of a renaissance under Redknapp. The Cockney manager has taken the Londoners from two points above the relegation zone last season to the verge of Champions League qualification.

“I think they are the best Tottenham team of my time in England,” added the Scot.

“On the one hand I congratulate them for beating Chelsea but, on the other hand, we now face the problems that Chelsea faced and we have to play against them.

“Spurs are going for fourth place and I’m sure they will come to have a go. We always expect that of Tottenham and, looking at their form in the last two games, I don’t think anyone below ourselves and Chelsea, possibly Arsenal, have reached that kind of form.

“What you saw from Spurs against Arsenal and Chelsea was championship form, convincingly beating two of the best three teams in the league.”

Ferguson will likely deploy Rooney in the lone front-man role, with two of Antonio Valencia, Ryan Giggs and Nani in support from wide areas.

The principal choice for the Scot is in central midfield with former Tottenham player Michael Carrick, Darron Gibson, Paul Scholes and Darren Fletcher fighting for three places.

A certain starter is 35-year-old Gary Neville, outstanding against Craig Bellamy last weekend, and potentially World Cup bound such is his experience and form.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if he went to South Africa,” added his manager.

First things first – beat Spurs on Saturday.

Rant Cast 28 – replacing Fergie

April 23, 2010 Tags: Rant Cast 2 comments

What a week it’s been in football. We discuss United’s last-minute winner against Manchester City and the prospects for the upcoming match against Tottenham Hotspur. Regulars Ed & Paul talk about unsavoury terrace chanting and whether it’s ever acceptable and we ponder the rumoured retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson next season.

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 or comment below.

Subscribe on iTunes now.

He kisses the badge on his chest then buys a pregnancy test

April 23, 2010 Tags: , , Opinion 4 comments

… or at least that’s the rumour doing the rounds on the Internet this week. The totally unconfirmed reports suggest this badge kissing football captain cheated on his wife with a 16-year-old, who later fell pregnant. The international vice-captain is said to have sought a court injunction against newspapers wishing to print the story this week.

Following the John Terry – Wayne Bridge – Veronica Peroncell love-triangle, the propensity for footballer’s sex-lives to shock has certainly diminished.

But completely unconfirmed reports that this footballer’s wife has also been having an affair with an unnamed player, believed to be the 26-year-old married English-born left-footed Scottish international midfielder at a mid-ranked Championship club, certainly adds to the spice.

Rant couldn’t possibly comment except to say that if the footballer is seeking a high court injunction this week then he is unlikely to succeed. Terry followed the same path, only to find the Chief Justice no longer amenable to the old privacy arguments. After all if those in the public eye engage in seedy behaviour then why should career protection come first in law?

Terry, who lost the England captaincy, his form and much of his dignity during the Peroncell affair, has never truly recovered from the huge invasion of his private life. The Chelsea defender’s form nosedived during the late winter months and there is a reasonable argument to say England manager Fabio Capello should no longer consider him an obvious pick.

Whether the latest rumour about a high-profile Premier League footballer is true or not the lesson is clear. In World Cup year well-paid international players are under greater scrutiny than ever, with tabloids keen to print every last salacious story they can get hold of. Privacy be damned!

The papers will pay the kiss-and-tell WAGs or mistresses well for the story too. After all Peroncell reportedly received more than £750,000 from Terry in ‘hush money’ simply to keep her tabloid silence. It’s a newspaper-driven charge that the French model later refuted strongly.

It mattered little in the Terry case. The Internet rumour mill and rapid communication tools such as Twitter hardly help celebrities keep a lid on their secrets. This week, high court injunction or not, many thousands of Internet users now have a different opinion of a certain badge kissing footballer than 24 hours ago.

If the rumour is proven of little substance then the damage to the player’s reputation may never recover anyway. Proven true then a rapid transfer out of the country will surprise nobody in the football community.

It’ll hit home financially too. Tiger Woods found to his cost that lucrative endorsements and advertising contracts soon end when a squeeky-clean image is no longer viable.

The player in question this week certainly has a great track record in the dock. He might need it if the Sunday papers are not to be replete with stories of his alleged sexual behaviour and that of his wife.

Should the rumours prove true then the consequences – much as in the Terry case – are far-reaching for player, club and national side alike.