Month October 2010

Month October 2010

Review: Championship Manager 2011 for iPhone

October 31, 2010 Tags: , Reviews 12 comments

Championship Manager, the granddaddy of football management brands, returns to iPhone, with a raft of changes for the 2011 edition aiming at producing a more intuitive game. The name evokes memories of hours stolen away trying to steer Manchester United to domestic and European glory, while sealing that new multi-million signing.

The PC version of CM is no longer developed by Sports Interactive of course – the development studio released the first edition in 1992 but split from EIDOS in 2005 and reformed the rival Football Manager brand for desktop and handheld.

Indeed, CM 2011 for iPhone, developed by Beautiful Game Studios, is a very different beast from the behemoth spreadsheet monster that is FM on PC.

Whether that is good very much depends on your outlook. CM 2011 for iPhone very conspicuously concentrates on producing a lighter game experience than either its PC brother or the Football Manager brand on any platform. The inherent usability of the iPhone is exploited, with many elements within the game touch-to-click, although frustratingly not all.

The game loads with speed and within minutes the new manager is settled in at his club; buying, selling and training players, setting up the tactical system and playing matches. Matches are played at speed and – crucially for an iPhone game – chunks of the management experience are concluded at such velocity that it is almost impossible to be caught at the end of a bus, train or tram journey with a match in progress. The same certainly could not be said for Football Manager Handheld 2010.
Championship Manager 2011 iPhone
The flip side of the coin is that CM 2011 for iPhone feels lightweight. So much of the management experience is glossed over. Tactics are basic, comprising of positions, runs and pre-defined playing styles. The playing styles are essentially those of around a dozen famous European Cup winning teams.

Training too is limited, with managers choosing from a set of pre-define groups which appear to have random effects on individual players. Training becomes a system of trial and error, with ‘attack’, ‘defend’, ‘skill’ and others groups not obviously working for individuals.

The transfer market is simple – read basic – too. Much like its big brother scouts can be sent around to world to discover new players, although since there are no hidden attributes this is often an exercise in vanity since the search filter system is pretty comprehensive. Values are unrealistic though and the manager takes little part in the negotiations with potential new signings, except over price.

Rant secured the services of Maicon for £10.6 million, Wolfsburg’s Diego for £12 million and Sebastian Giovinco for £8 million. Who said there is no value in the transfer market?
Championship Manager 2011 iPhone
Conversely Rant could not offload John O’Shea, Wes Brown nor Oliver Gill for love and certainly not money. Although repeatedly fining the latter simply for being the ceo’s offspring brought superficial joy. What Larnell Cole was doing in United’s first team squad is a mystery known only to the developers.

The game’s low AI becomes apparent when matches are played, which follow a similar simplistic pattern to the rest of the game. Most frustrating of all, it is nigh on impossible to work out which players are performing well and which poorly, although there is at least a simple graphic to show a player’s condition. Is there truly no in-match rating system? It seems so. As such, substitutions become little more than a cosmetic exercise.

The 2D moving tactics board produces such bizarre movements at times it is rendered useless as any true representation of a match. One goal scored by Dimitar Berbatov, for example, came when the United striker ran fully 40 yards towards his own goal before turning and lashing the ball into the opposition’s top corner.
Championship Manager 2011 iPhone
Not that CM 2011 for iPhone isn’t playable. It very much is and the desire to win and develop a team is every bit as strong as with the game’s bigger CM and FM brothers. The strength of the game is in its ease-of-use and bite-sized chunks of play, not its depth.

For the casual user this is undoubtedly a boon. It is easy to dip in and out and the game is reasonably priced to reflect the casual user audience. For anybody wanting to replicate the PC experience in any form, the iPhone version leads largely to frustration.

Championship Manager 2011 iPhone is available now on iTunes, priced £3.99.

United score ‘usual’ Spurs win

October 31, 2010 Tags: , Matches 31 comments

Sir Alex Ferguson’s men beat Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford, with a thumping Nemanja Vidic header and a smartly taken – if loudly protested – Nani goal ensuring a fourth win on the bounce for the Reds. The win continues a run in which Spurs have never beaten United at Old Trafford during the Premier League era.

Spurs’ players protested vociferously about Nani’s goal, scored with six minutes to go, which referee Mark Clattenburg awarded following consultation with his assistant. But Heurelho Gomes committed a cardinal sin by failing to play to the whistle and Nani, coming from behind the Spurs ‘keeper, scored after the Brazilian threw the ball on the ground in expectation of a free kick.

Harry Redknapp called the decision “scandalous” but with United having been denied a penalty when the Portuguese winger fell in the box after Younes Kaboul’s shirt-pull, Nani’s quick-thinking brought an eventual reward. The ball, still being live, was there to be played deemed the officials.

“It was bizarre. No-one knew at the time what was wrong,” Ferguson told ESPN.

“One minute the goalkeeper had the ball in his hands and next it’s in his net. Nani looked back and looked at the referee and the referee said play on, so what can he do but put the ball in the net?

“You can look at the referee and look at the linesmen and blame them, but the goalkeeper should know better. He’s an experienced goalkeeper. I thought he made a mess of it.

“The referee played on because the goalkeeper took possession of the ball. He then went to take a free kick thinking it was a foul. He made an error.”

The goal provided a controversial end to the match but in truth United fully deserved the victory following an outstanding defensive display and controlled second half performance.

The visitors brought, arguably, its best team to Old Trafford in a generation but failed to create any significant chances after the break despite matching United during open play for much of the game. For all Tottenham’s attractive football it too often lacked an end product.

Yet, Spurs’ midfield offered much to admire, with Rafael van der Vaart always threatening until a 77th minute injury forced the Dutchman off.

United had the better of the opening exchanges though, with Park Ji-Sung’s outstanding low driving rebounding off Gomes’ right-hand post. The South Korean’s form has been little short of abysmal this season but this was better by far.

Anything the Korean could do, van der Vaart matched, with the Dutchman similarly hitting the woodwork with a long-range drive minutes later. But Gomes’ almost gifted United the opening goal, spilling Michael Carrick’s drive and recovering moments before Javier Hernandez could drive the ball home.

It mattered little though, with United taking the lead from a set piece, after Nani’s swinging free-kick was met by a Vidic’s outstanding header. The Serbian is always a threat but Spurs’ poor marking hardly helped the Londoners’ cause.

Not that the visitors were ever out of the game – Luka Modric brought an excellent save from van der Sar, volleying Jermaine Jenas’ floated corner and Gareth Bale ran 40 yards before driving wide with his unfavoured right foot.

United remained in control though, with Rio Ferdinand and Vidic excellent, ably supported by Rafael da Silva and Patrice Evra on the flanks. Darren Fletcher and Carrick played their part as the defensive screen too, making 11 interceptions in the match; 10 more than the Spurs’ midfield put together.

The came the bluster of the final minutes. Spurs claimed an injustice, surrounding the officials for a full five minutes after the final whistle, but with referee Clattenburg later explaining that he had awarded Gomes the advantage it is hard to see what grounds the visitors had.

“It was a little bit strange,” added Fletcher.

“The referee said the ball was still in play, so when the goalkeeper’s put it down Nani’s put the ball in the back of the net, it was quick thinking on his part.

“I felt it was a penalty anyway, so maybe a little bit of justice.”

Indeed it was. After all, Spurs gave it away. The ball, not the match that is. United deservedly won that.

Match Facts
United – 442 – Van der Sar; Da Silva (Brown 64), Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Nani, Carrick, Fletcher, Park; Berbatov (Scholes 64), Hernandez (Obertan 87).

Spurs – 4411 – Gomes; Hutton, Kaboul, Gallas, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon, Jenas (Palacios 66), Modric, Bale; Van der Vaart (Crouch 77); Keane (Pavlyuchenko 62).

Attendance – 75,223
Man of the Match – Vidic

Possession: United 48% – 52% Spurs
Attempts: 18 – 11
On target: 10 – 5
Corners: 1 – 4
Fouls: 12 – 10

Momentum with Reds but tough Spurs challenge lies ahead

October 29, 2010 Tags: , Matches 97 comments

Manchester United returns to Premier League action after the midweek Carling Cup sojourn, with the momentum now firmly in Sir Alex Ferguson’s camp. Saturday’s challenge could hardly be more difficult in domestic terms but an unbeaten start and three wins on the bounce means confidence is at a high as Tottenham Hotspur visit.

For perhaps the first time in a generation Ferguson will cast envious eyes at the visiting Spurs side. Harry Redknapp has assembled a high quality squad that is now realistic challengers both domestically and in Europe. Indeed, the visitors’ midfield including Gareth Bale, Luka Modric, Rafael van der Vaart and Aaron Lennon is a formidable outfit.

Indeed, Ferguson must contend with absences in both midfield and attack if United is to maintain a successful record against Spurs. The Londoners have not won at Old Trafford for 21 years or beaten United anywhere for nine – a total of 25 matches.

Ferguson though will again be without Wayne Rooney, who may miss more than the previously estimated three weeks with an ankle injury. Asked if Rooney’s prognosis had changed Ferguson said “I think it may be longer.”

“Wayne is away at the moment, so there is no recovery,” he added.

“He did his remedial work before he went away but thereafter we are happy that he is resting.”

Rooney’s continued absence means that the Scot must choose whether to match Spurs’ five man midfield or reward Javier Hernández’ fine recent form. The Mexican has scored three goals in the past week and been praised for his composure under pressure but may find a place on the bench or wide in a three-man attack his reward.

Ferguson also has a dilemma at right-back, with in-form Gareth Bale a key weapon in the visitors’ armoury. The Scot will probably choose between John O’Shea or Rafael da Silva to combat the Welshman’s pace.

United also has concerns on the left side of midfield, with Park Ji-Sung horribly out of form and Ferguson not yet fully trusting the merits of Gabriel Obertan or Bébé. Patrice Evra moved into midfield against Stoke City last weekend and may reprise the role if United’s manager deploys four in midfield.

Elsewhere Paul Scholes is set for a recall and Ryan Giggs could make the bench after training this week. Meanwhile, former Spurs midfielder Michael Carrick says that confidence in the United squad is high.

“We need to focus on putting a good run together,” Carrick told ManUtd.com.

“But you can’t look too far ahead and start planning how your run will pan out. We’ve got a huge game against Spurs and we’re focused on that first, but around the camp the atmosphere is bubbly and the lads are happy. It’s a really positive vibe at the moment. Hopefully that carries us through.

“The games come thick and fast now, and thankfully we’re in the cups and fighting in the league. The challenge is there for us to stick together and really mount a challenge.

“That’s what we’re focused on. The games we’ve drawn, we feel like we’ve thrown them away. But we’re still unbeaten, which gives you confidence, and we’ve got three wins in a row.”

Aside from Rooney and the long-term injury victim Antonio Valencia, Michael Owen will miss at least a month with a hamstring problem, while Ferguson says Owen Hargreaves convalescence has suffered a recent set back.

Meanwhile, the visitors will be without Tom Huddlestone, with either Wilson Palacios or Jermain Jenas coming into the side. van der Vaart is likely to occupy his normal role behind Peter Crouch at the head of Tottenham’s midfield.

It is now 67 games since Spurs last won away to one of the Premier League’s big four. Redknapp will never have taken a better team to Old Trafford.

Whether it is good enough to break that streak is as yet undecided.

Opposition
Spurs – 4411 – Gomes; Hutton, Gallas, Bassong, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon, Palacios, Modric, Bale; Van der Vaart; Crouch. Subs from: Kaboul, Bentley, Pavlyuchenko, Keane, Jenas, Dos Santos, Kranjcar, Cudicini, Sandro, Stipe Pletikosa.

United squad
Van der Sar, Kuszczak, Amos, Smalling, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, O’Shea, Evans, Rafael, Fabio, Brown, Anderson, Bébé, Nani, Carrick, Scholes, Giggs, Gibson, Fletcher, Hernández, Berbatov, Macheda, Owen, Obertan.

Officials
Referee: Mark Clattenburg
Assistant referees: Darren Cann & Simon Beck
Fourth official: Mark Halsey

Form
United – WDDWWW
Spurs – LWWWLD

Rant Cast 45 – age ain’t nothing but a number

October 29, 2010 Tags: Rant Cast 12 comments

In this episode of Rant Cast regulars Ed & Paul look back on Manchester United’s midweek Carling Cup victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers and ahead to the games with Tottenham Hotspur and Bursaspor in the coming week. We say happy birthday to Edwin van der Sar and wonder who United will bring in to replace him.

Finally, we take issue with Rio Ferdinand and explain exactly why Wayne Rooney wasn’t nominated for this year’s Ballon D’Or.

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.

Follow Rant Cast on Twitter @UtdRantCast

Subscribe on iTunes now.

Birthday boy Edwin turns 40

October 29, 2010 Tags: Opinion 1 comment

Edwin van der Sar turns 40 today, becoming the first quadragenerian to play for Manchester United since Billy Meredith in the 1920s. The Dutchman, possibly in his last season before retiring next summer, has appeared 231 times for United since joining from Fulham in 2005 and 888 in a career that now spans nearly 20 years.

In a career of remarkable longevity van der Sar has won 25 major team honours and countless individual awards, together with amassing 130 international caps before retiring – for a second time – from the Dutch national side in 2008.

The Dutchman has created a stature at the very highest level of the game that few ‘keepers can match in recent times.

“There are certain criteria to be a goalkeeper here: good experience, personality and a track record,” said Ferguson recently.

“Edwin has all of those qualities. He didn’t cost us a lot of money, about £2m, so he’s right up there with my best signings.

“We really should have gone for him when Peter left. We went in too late. Martin Edwards, the chairman at the time, had an agreement with Mark Bosnich which took the wind out of our sails.

“Edwin is such a great example of what can be achieved and how long you can last in the game if you keep the light of enthusiasm and ambition inside you.”

van der Sar had already agreed to join Juventus when Ferguson’s call came. The Dutchman’s word to the Old Lady was kept and Ferguson seemingly spent another six years seeking a permanent successor to Peter Schmeichel.

Indeed, Ferguson used 10 different ‘keepers before settling on van der Sar five years ago. While Fabien Barthez and Tim Howard initially succeeded at Old Trafford, others were calamitous failures. The Scot’s purchase of Massimo Taibi ranks alongside the worst in nearly 25 years at Old Trafford; Ricardo, Raimond van der Gouw and Roy Carroll not talented enough to succeed.

Bosnich, meanwhile, arrived at Old Trafford for a second spell at the club overweight and seemingly unable to deal with the inevitable pressure of being United’s ‘keeper.

The question now is whether 40-year-old van der Sar will commit to United past summer 2011 or retire as widely expected. The club’s goalkeeping coach Eric Steele recently said that “Ed has made his mind up and said this is his last year.” The player later described Steele’s comments were “nonsense” and denied that a decision is imminent.

Should van der Sar indicate he will stay at the club beyond 2011, Sir Alex Ferguson will offer the Dutchman a new contract in a heartbeat. With Gary Neville, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes also on the cusp of finishing their careers, and Michael Owen and Owen Hargreaves out of contract, any postponement will bring Ferguson a welcome delay in finding a replacement.

It seems an outside bet though and the challenge of adequately replacing van der Sar is one that Ferguson is yet to resolve. Tomasz Kuszczak, the erstwhile number two, is also likely to move on in the summer after fours years as an under-study.

Yet, United’s net has been cast globally in the search for the right replacement. The club’s scouts have watched Atletico Madrid’s brilliant teenager David de Gea, Denmark’s late-developing Anders Lindegaard, Igor Akinfeev of CSKA Moscow and Germany’s Manuel Neuer in recent months. French stopper Hugo Lloris is also under consideration, although there is little chance of United meeting Olympique Lyonnais’ prohibitive valuation.

The club also invited Algeria’s World Cup goalkeeper Rais M’Bolhi and Thailand stopper Kawin Thamsatchanan for trials at Old Trafford in a search that is both global and intensive.

For his part, van der Sar is understandably reluctant to make a decision on retirement too early.

“When I was younger, I thought maybe I would finish in my mid-30s, but that is a normal time to be thinking about it when you are younger and for players at this level,” said the former Ajax, Juventus and Fulham ‘keeper.

“That would have been the obvious time to finish, but I only came to United late in my career and maybe that is why I am still enjoying it.”

Three Premier League titles, a Champions League winners’ medal and a new top-flight record of 1,311 minutes without conceding a goal in 2009 have followed in his time in Manchester.

In common with many supporters and his manager, perhaps van der Sar might  concede he join United six years too late.

Where did the Bébé money go?

October 28, 2010 Tags: Opinion 17 comments

Reports that 30 per cent of the transfer fee Manchester United paid for Bébé – Tiago Manuel Dias Correia – went to agent Jorge Mendes raises further questions about the intriguing deal. United reportedly paid €9 million for the 20-year old when he joined from Vitória de Guimarães in August, with €5.5 million going to the Portuguese outfit.

Mendes’ agency Gestifute received the remaining €3.5 million for its share in Bébé, reports Portuguese sports paper O Jogo. United told the Telegraph on Thursday that the club had not directly paid Gestifute any money for its role in the deal.

Still, the report once again raises the spectre of third-party player ownership, with the practice now outlawed in the Premier League following Carlos Tevez’ controversial transfer to West Ham United in 2006. Quite how Gestifute came to ‘own’ a third of Bébé’s registration is as yet unexplained.

The O Jogo article also caused widespread media confusion in the UK, with both Talksport and Sport.co.uk incorrectly reporting United had picked up a £4.8 million “bargain” in Bébé.

The Gestifute agency has become a powerhouse in Portuguese football and now represents some of the leading figures in or from the country, including Nani, Anderson, Cristiano Ronaldo and Jose Mourinho. Indeed, Vitória offered glowing praise of the agency on completion of the Bébé deal earlier this year. No wonder, as Vitória effectively flipped Bébé, signing the forward on a free transfer in June and then selling him on for a fee without a competitive game played.

The €9 million fee – £7.9 million at today’s exchange rate, although widely reported as £7.4 million – was roughly confirmed in notes to United’s end-of-year accounts. The audited annual figures show a post-balance sheet transaction of £8.3 million was paid in respect of player registrations after 30 June, 2010.

Bébé was United’s sole transfer window acquisition post the 30 June accounting deadline for the 2009/10 financial year, although Dutch youngster Gyliano van Velzen also joined the club. No fee has yet been agreed between United and van Velzen’s former club Ajax while a dispute over his international clearance continues.

If the distinction between the £8.3 million figure reported in United’s accounts and the widely reported £7.4 million fee is as yet unexplained – United’s press office could not confirm the fee at time of going to press – then more details may yet emerge when Vitória President Emilio Macedo addresses the club’s annual General Assembly on Friday.

Some costs are known however. Signing on bonuses paid to the player are included in United’s salary not acquisition costs within the accounts, with Bébé believed to earn just £90,000 per year. Should the player perform to expectations the Portuguese will see his salary rise sharply.

Meanwhile, no clarification of how Gestifute distributed its profits on the deal has yet been made. The role or profit of other agents or Bébé’s former club Estrela da Amadora may yet become clearer in time.

Whatever the true figures, Bébé’s transfer remains controversial despite the player’s promising full début against Wolverhampton Wanderers in the Carling Cup on Tuesday. The 20-year-old was deployed in a wide right role and scored, albeit with a heavy deflection, in United’s 3-2 win.

There is, of course, a long way to go before a promising performance against a much changed Wolves side justifies the £7.4 – £8.3 million United apparently spent on bringing the player to Old Trafford. In the annals of United’s history Bébé’s remains one of the strangest; that Sir Alex Ferguson has not previously seen the player, the high fee for effectively a third division player, and the role of Gestifute in the deal.

No suggestion of financial impropriety is made of course but in an era of apparent austerity for United, with £720 million debt on the club or parent company’s books, Bébé remains an extravagance. This sentiment is all the more stark given other transfers this summer – the £8 million paid by Tottenham Hotspur for Rafael van der Vaart and £12.4 million paid to Werder Bremen by Real Madrid for Mesut Özil, for example.

And in media terms it’s the story that keeps on giving. One suspects that this week’s revelations over the transfer fee are not the last in Bébé’s time at Old Trafford.

The Rooney effect: wages rocket

October 27, 2010 Tags: , , Opinion 30 comments

Reports that John O’Shea is to sign a new four year contract worth – wait for it – £80,000 a week is proof if any is needed that intense wage pressure remains in football, despite the downturn in transfer market spending. Even Manchester United, relatively prudent on the wage front for so long, is now no longer immune to the madness it seems.

Aside from wage inflation in the wider football community, the effects of Wayne Rooney’s lavish new £180,000 a week contract will now be felt throughout the club. One of the key challenges for United in raising the bar for Rooney’s aggressively negotiated deal is the trickle down effect on the club’s squad. While the United’s leading players will seek, if not parity, then close to it with the 24-year-old striker, even squad players such as O’Shea can now expect a hefty rise.

The Irishman is out of contract in 2012 along with a rash of other United players and the club is expected to conclude talks with each by next summer. That O’Shea turns 30 in April is seemingly not affecting the club’s thinking on a new long-term deal for the Waterford-born player.

Meanwhile, Patrice Evra’s new offer is reportedly worth around £100,000 a week. The Frenchman, out of contract in 2012, also turns 30 this season. Anderson, also a free agent in two years time, is likely to settle for a little less unless Ferguson finally loses patience beforehand. Bless.

While no negotiations have begun with Dimitar Berbatov, the Bulgarian is out of contract in June 2012, as is Scottish midfielder Darren Fletcher, who can expect at least parity with O’Shea.

The new contracts are among several deals at Old Trafford in the recent past. Park Ji-Sung signed a three-year deal last season that pays the South Korean a relatively miserly £65,000 each Friday, while Nemanja Vidic finally accepted a £90,000 deal in late summer that will keep the Serbian at Old Trafford until 2015.

The increase in wages at United reflects salary inflation in the wider football industry, although fans may ponder where exactly O’Shea could earn the £4.16 million a year he is set to receive at Old Trafford. The deals may also account for the creation next April of a new higher rate tax band of 50 per cent on wages over £150,000 per year. And even Bébé earns that much.

Despite the heavy pressure on wages during the Glazer family’s tenure at Old Trafford, United’s wage-to-turnover ratio remains a very healthy 46 per cent. Wages are growing but revenues have grown faster in the past five years. The ratio is easily the lowest in the Premier League, with notoriously parsimonious Arsenal on 49 per cent.

In recent seasons though United has fallen behind both Chelsea and Manchester City in the Premier League wages ‘league table’. According to City’s last accounts, the blue half of Manchester spends more than £133 million on wages, compared to United’s audited £132 million. However, with City yet to report its 2009/10 figures, a further rise is expected at Eastlands, accounting for the deals that brought David Silva, James Milner, Jérôme Boateng and Aleksandar Kolarov to Eastlands this summer.

Chelsea spends an eye-watering £149 million per season – 68 per cent of turnover – to head the Premier League wages table. But even Roman Abramovich is a skinflint compared to Europe’s leading clubs. Real Madrid’s provisional salary budget stands at £190 million, while Barcelona has recently set a budget for sporting salaries of £192 million for the current season.

The challenge for United of course is to keep the overall budget below the 50 per cent cap the Glazer family has set as policy in a period of heavy pressure, while remaining competitive for leading players. Indeed, if the club is forced into raising salaries for even mediocre performers such as O’Shea then pressure is likely to be felt elsewhere in the business to find new revenue streams and cut other costs.

United’s penny-pinching in recent seasons has seen several rounds of redundancies in back-office staff and even an end to visitors’ snacks in the Carrington canteen.

Fortunate for the Glazer family then that six players are out of contract in the summer. None of Edwin van der Sar, Gary Neville, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Owen Hargreaves nor Michael Owen has been offered a new deal by the Old Trafford hierarchy.

There is speculation that the American owners may loosen the purse strings in the coming summer. Talk of bringing in marquee names  is cheap though.

O’Shea’s new contract is definitely not.

Keeping Park no longer makes sense

October 27, 2010 Tags: Opinion 78 comments

It is not as if Park Ji-Sung has been consistently poor in his time at Manchester United. The South Korean’s first season was okay and he has been an important part of Sir Alex Ferguson’s cultured approach in Europe. There’s no doubt about his effort and work rate. Park also appears a decent human being – no tabloid exposés, at least.

Still, circumstances dictate that it is time for goodbyes.

Various media reports put Park’s weekly wage in the neighborhood of £65,000. He is at best a squad player. In truth, Park has only played regularly in 2005/06 and 2008/09 seasons. It makes little sense to retain a £65,000-per-week-player who cannot get into the first team, especially with the spectre of Glazers’ debt looming over Old Trafford.

Considering that United bought the plater for around £4 million from PSV Eindhoven five years ago, the club is unlikely to find it difficult to make profit even in today’s depressed market.

One could argue that Park’s marketing prowess more than makes up for his relatively high wages but Asian players aren’t required for a club to be successful commercially in Asia.  Barcelona do just fine in the region despite not having any Asian players. In fact, Park’s supposed commercial appeal, especially in his home country, is overblown. Of twenty three Manchester United sponsors, only two – Seoul and Kumho – hail from Korea.

Besides, United is a widely recognised club; the Korean sponsors are not likely to abandon the club, and the Korean fans won’t stop buying the replica shirts, just because there is no longer a Korean player in the United line up. With less than 2 per cent of United’s revenue hailing from overseas markets, there is no conclusive financial reason for keeping Park at the club.

Park is a modern player – his raison d’etre is to take on attacking full-backs and deep-lying playmakers, both thoroughly modern inventions in football. Ironically, it is Park’s willingness to defend that ultimately limits his usefulness. He is frequently deployed to mark someone out of the game, which severely limits Park’s usefulness in 442 even when in a nominally attacking position.

Even in more dynamic systems like 433, where incorporation of attacking midfielders is necessary, it is hard to justify his inclusion as a winger considering that Park is technically average and contributes little offensively. This is true, despite the South Korean’s goal in the Carling Cup last night.

Indeed, one can also make a moral argument that playing Park is a cowardly way out – United can peg back full-backs and deep-lying midfielders by attacking them!

There isn’t one right way to play football of course and United fans certainly don’t seem to care that the recent trophy haul has been brought about by a rather defensive, and one could say un-United, approach. But Park still remains an unattractive option even if United must play defensive wingers. Valencia and Nani are both far superior players offensively and they both put in a lot of work defensively. In the recent fixture against Stoke, for example, Nani made 17 tackles – the rest of the team only put in 25 combined.

Park has sometimes been played as a defensive attacking central midfielder, memorably in fixtures against Milan and Liverpool. But again, Anderson, who has long been deployed in such role, remains a more ‘attractive’ option.

Perhaps even more relevant to Park’s future is the timing of his departure. The midfielder is now 29 and will turn 30 before the end of current season. There has been a marked decline in his pace recently and the situation isn’t going to get any better. He is a surprisingly injury prone player who has suffered knee problems in recent seasons. It suggests the player is close to burnout through overuse.

It leaves United with an expensive player whose physical attributes are on the wane and usefulness in the squad limited. The smart thing to do is sell, after all Park’s value in the transfer market can only decrease.

An overly cynical approach perhaps but humanity isn’t often found in modern football landscape.