Month August 2011

Month August 2011

Rant Cast 77 – Rooney’s full metal jacket

August 19, 2011 Tags: Rant Cast 6 comments

Continuing season three of Rant Cast, regulars Ed and Paul review Manchester United’s victory over West Bromwich Albion in the midlands, lauding the club’s younger players. We discuss the fresh defensive injury crisis at United; not for the first time in recent seasons. Then the pod crew debates Rooney’s new haircut and excellent early season form, Danny Welbeck’s position in the side, and whether the Reds can continue the fine start against Tottenham Hotspur on Monday night.

For finance freaks there’s a debate on United’s upcoming partial IPO in Singapore.

Hit us up with any feedback below or follow the pod on Twitter: Paul – @UtdRantCast, Ed – @UnitedRant.

This week’s exit theme tune is ‘The Manchester United Calypso’ by Edric Connor from 1956.

Stream this episode using the player below, click here to download the MP3 or subscribe on iTunes, where you can also leave a review!

Poll: will you invest in United IPO?

August 18, 2011 Tags: , , Polls 37 comments

Confirmation that Manchester United has applied to list on the Singapore Stock Exchange (SGX) before the end of 2011 means that ordinary supporters be able to own part of the club for the first time since 2005. The planned partial IPO was confirmed on Thursday when a preliminary application was made to SGX, reports Reuters:

English Premier League soccer champions Manchester United have filed a preliminary application with the Singapore Exchange for a planned listing, a source with direct knowledge of the deal said on Thursday.

The club, which sources have said hopes to raise as much as $1 billion from an initial public offering (IPO) by the end of the year, has appointed Credit Suisse as the global coordinator of the deal, the source said.

A second source said the owning Glazer family plan to use some of the funds raised from the offering to reduce the club’s huge debt pile, a burden which has made the Americans deeply unpopular with many fans.

The club is yet to comment on reports. Indeed, it is not yet known whether the IPO will be restricted solely to institutional investors or whether ordinary fans will be able to invest.

But if fans can access the flotation it presents a huge opportunity for supporter-ownership at Old Trafford. The question is, if the IPO is open to you, will you invest and own part of your club?

Poll: will you invest in United IPO?

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Asian IPO back on the agenda

August 16, 2011 Tags: , , , Opinion 57 comments

Belief that the Glazer regime is readying an Initial Public Offering (IPO) in the autumn has once again gained credence following widespread international media coverage today. The Wall Street Journal broke the news Tuesday that the Glazer family has selected the Singapore Stock Exchange (SGX) as the family’s preferred venue for a $1 billion partial-IPO after exploring options over the past few months.

It is, of course, not the first time that news of the Glazer family’s plan has leaked, with the Times and other outlets reporting in June a potential Hong Kong flotation. Proceeds of any IPO could be used to buy back a proportion of United’s £500 million bond and reduce the Glazers’ personal debt exposure. More to the point institutional investors buying into the offering will also expect a dividend return. As, presumably, does the Glazer family.

Plans, now at an advanced stage according to reports this week, involve the family offering a minority share six years after the Glazer family de-listed United from the London Stock Exchange.

“Manchester United plans a $1 billion initial public offering in Singapore, two people familiar with the matter said, as the record 19-time English soccer champion seeks to cut debt that has fueled fan protest,” reports Bloomberg News.

“Credit Suisse Group AG (CSGN) is working on the transaction, which may take place this year, said the people, who declined to be identified because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly. The Premier League team had been considering Hong Kong for the IPO but now favor Singapore, although no final decision has been made, the people added.”

Rules governing loss-making companies may preclude United from flotation in Hong Kong, reports said – denied in some quarters – with the club having lost a record £104.7 million in the past fiscal-year. Much of this related to lower income from player sales and the cost of swapping long-term bank debt for the bond last January.

However, EBITDA – earnings before interest, tax and other deductions – has grown by around 70 per cent over the past six years offering the Glazers hope of a substantial premium on the family’s £800 million ‘investment’ in 2005.

While flotation will enable the Glazer family to cut club debt – depending on the mooted IPO’s success – the family is likely as keen on extracting dividends without drawing supporter ire. Bloomberg reported earlier this year that the Americans’ plans to withdraw extensive dividends of up to £120 million had been shelved on fear of further supporter unrest at the height of the so-called ‘Green and Gold’ campaign.

In the meantime the Glazers have refinanced the £220 million Payment in Kind (PIK) loan in a shroud of secrecy, while moving United’s ultimate parent company to Delaware, USA. The full early redemption cost of £249 million was almost certainly borrowed, with the family keen to pay down that debt through dividend drawing rights granted by the bond last year.

Yet questions remain both about the club’s real value and the Glazers’ long-term ownership plans. The reported a $1 billion partial-IPO of around 25 per cent of the club values United at more than £2.4 billion. That price is – based on any recognised method of enterprise valuation – a huge premium.

Moreover, the choice of SGX appears unusual, on the surface at least, with Hong Kong offering a larger and more liquid market at a time when European retail IPOs in Asia have not been universally successful. That is quite aside from the question of whether Asian institutional investors have any interest in a UK-based sports company.

While the Glazers’ bond offer was hugely over-subscribed, attractive as it was with guaranteed high rates of return and low risk, the family can offer no such assurances with the mooted IPO.

Then there is the question of supporter involvement. Indeed, more than 30,000 small-holding fans eventually bought into United’s London listing, although few into the 1991 IPO. Whether UK-based supporters will be able to access a Singaporean flotation is very much in doubt though; the IPO may in fact only be open to institutional investors. Presumably this a boon to the Glazer family that has no wish to admit large numbers of share-holding fans into an AGM.

The Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST) offered no immediate response, preferring to wait until the family’s plans are made more concrete.

“You’ve probably seen press reports that the Glazers are to float at least part of their Manchester United shareholding on the Singapore Stock Exchange and that this is a precursor to a full sale,” said a supporter group newsletter on Tuesday.

“Until we have more details we can’t give a full response but what we do know is we want to communicate with as many Manchester United supporters as possible and make sure every Manchester United supporter has the chance to share in ownership when the opportunity arises. It is quite possible that shares will not be available to ordinary supporters and that MUST will have to provide a mechanism for supporters to buy shares.”

Whatever that mechanism may be it seems unlikely that ordinary United supporters will build any significant share holding in the club post flotation – if an IPO happens at all. After all even if all 175,000 MUST members invest £1,000 each the block will represent just over five per cent of the club.

Then the wider question of what effect floating United overseas will have, – institutional investors are unlikely to be more in tune with supporters than the Glazer family –  is as yet unanswered.

De Gea trouble nothing if not predictable

August 15, 2011 Tags: Opinion 26 comments

David de Gea’s difficult start in English football is, of course, a lesson in predictability. Errors against both Manchester City in the Community Shield and West Bromwich Albion on Sunday in the Premier League have brought concerned looks from teammates and critical reviews from the nation’s media.

Neither comes as a surprise, with the former Atlético de Madrid goalkeeper barely out of his teens, ensconced in a Manchester hotel and struggling with the language. Focus for even the most experienced player moving team and country is hard to achieve; in a difficult position and in the media’s full glare de Gea’s early-season errors are certainly forgivable.

That the 20-year-old Spaniard is the subject of sarcastic headlines, knee-jerk reaction and character assassination is little more than par-for-the-course from a British media obsessed with negativity.

Indeed, on the season’s eve Sir Alex Ferguson warned that de Gea will require patience, a statement incorrectly interpreted as a lack of faith in the 20-year-old in some quarters. Nothing could be further from the truth with Manchester United having followed the Spanish Under-21 international for months before choosing de Gea ahead of more experienced rivals. In doing so Ferguson bought raw talent that will take time to adjust to a new country, style of football and the pressure inherent at Old Trafford.

Little surprise then that the 69-year-old Scot should back de Gea now, after the Spaniard failed to deal with Eden Džeko’s long-range effort at Wembley, while allowing Shane Long’s tame shot under his body on Sunday.

“He is young. He will learn. He will come through,” said the United boss, who is unlikely to drop de Gea in favour of Anders Lindegaard for Tottenham Hotspur’s visit in a weeks time.

“David’s concentration cost him the goal. It was a slack goal to lose but it is an experience for the lad. I couldn’t believe he never got a free-kick in the second-half. The aerial assault on him was ridiculous. It was the same when Peter Schmeichel came. They punished him in his first few games against Leeds and Wimbledon. They have him a real torrid time.

“In the second-half today David he was targeted a bit. Not necessarily physically but there were a lot of challenges that should have been free-kicks but the referee decided to play on. He took a battering in the second half, when he should have been protected more by the referee but he wasn’t. Welcome to English football!”

There is little chance that Ferguson will drop de Gea for Spurs’ visit given the damaging effect to the player’s confidence that omission would surely bring. But the United coach is faced with deploying a hugely inexperienced back-four against the Londoners with injuries beginning to bite. Rio Ferdinand’s hamstring strain will keep the 32-year-old on the sidelines for at least six weeks, while captain Nemanja Vidić is out for a fortnight with a trapped nerve. With Patrice Evra also on the sidelines United completed Sunday’s match fielding a defence aged just 20.6 on average.

That inexperience – both in age and games played for the club – will face sterner tests than that of West Brom, a good side though Roy Hodgson has produced over the past six months. Following Spurs’ visit next Monday, United face trips to Bolton Wanderers and Stoke City, with home matches against Arsenal and Chelsea to come before Ferdinand returns. Life is unlikely to become any easier for United’s callow new goalkeeper.

Yet in analysing de Gea’s competitive performances to date it is also easy to overstate the player’s errors and ignore his many qualities. True, two goals have been scored which most ‘keepers at the highest level would expect to stop. The Madrid-born stopper also made two excellent saves at Wembley in the second period and a similar number at the Hawthornes. Add smart distribution to the list and de Gea’s raw talent is not in doubt.

Physically Ferguson team will work with the player, much as Javier Hernández endured a specialised weight training course for six months last season. However, those denizens of the long-ball at the Britannia Stadium will note West Brom’s attempts to rough-up de Gea on Sunday. Referee Stuart Jones studiously ignored three clear fouls on United’s number one in the Midlands; Ferguson will hope de Gea is offered better support in the weeks and months to come.

Questions of physique aside it the mental side of the Spaniard’s game that is of greatest concern to Ferguson now. The unflappable personality so highly praise by the Scot when de Gea officially signed in July will be tested severely in the coming weeks.

It is cliché but also a truism that at Old Trafford talent only goes so far. Behind the scenes Ferguson and goalkeeping coach Eric Steele will be working to rid the player of fear – another great requirement for any United player.

Fergie lauds teen Pogba as Reds future but what of the present?

August 14, 2011 Tags: , , , Opinion 58 comments

Manchester United’s failure to land a central midfielder this summer is with scepticism in many quarters, with the club’s inability to meet the wage demands of Wesley Sneijder and Samir Nasri pointing many critics towards a charge of Glazernomics. Yet, while United’s poor record the road last season was almost entirely down to a paucity of options in central midfield, manager Sir Alex Ferguson has chosen not to acquire new talent for the role this summer.

Far from meeting the challenge of Barcelona’s dominance in Europe, and Manchester City’s lavish spending domestically, some pundits believe that United may well have run simply to stand still this summer. Indeed, while Ashley Young offers a new flexible attacking option, David de Gea and Phil Jones are new-for-old replacements in Ferguson’s squad. The question of whether United is ‘net better’ from this summer’s transfer activity is yet to be answered.

Yet the 69-year-old Scot believes – critics might add he has little choice – that emerging youngsters can fill the void left by Paul Scholes and Owen Hargreaves this summer. Tom Cleverley’s positive 45 minute display against City in the Community Shield offers reason for supporter optimism. Meanwhile, 18-year-old Frenchman Paul Pogba is singled out by Ferguson as a real hope not only for the future but the coming season as well.

“We’re quite positive about him,” Ferguson said.

“If we hold Paul Pogba back, what’s going to happen? He’s going to leave in a couple of years’ time when his contract is finished. We have to give him opportunities to see how he can do in the first team. He’s got the ability, the physique and the athleticism.”

That athletic frame has drawn comparisons with Patric Vieira, a lazy analogy born seemingly of players’ similar French-African roots and height. Indeed, those who have watched Pogba’s progress in United’s FA Youth Cup winning side last season witnessed a player of significant finesse, quick feet and attacking prowess. The comparison with former Arsenal midfielder Vieira is one that Ferguson rightly rejects.

“He could be a surprise for us. I took him to the charity game in Monaco and he played 25 minutes in the second half against Marseille’s first team and he did very well. He got involved right away and I said to myself, he’s not bad,” added Ferguson.

“He’s a big physical boy. He has a great physique, 6ft 2in, athletic. The new Patrick Vieira? That’s just because of his height and build. Patrick was a great player but this boy is only 18. Look at Patrick when he was 18, he was playing centre half for Cannes. He only emerged as a midfield player at AC Milan.

“But I believe Pogba has the equipment to be successful. Seeing youngsters like him come through helps me, it helps us all. It’s still one of my biggest thrills to see a youngster coming up through the ranks. The kids are the foundation of the club. I think the foundations are looking good at the moment. This helps to drive me.”

Yet there is much work to be done if Ferguson is to fast-track Pogba into the first team picture. Despite his potential Pogba would surely struggle in the Premier League’s more physical encounters. Meanwhile, Ferguson believes that the former Le Harve midfielder must develop a greater range of passing if he is to make it to the very top.

“You don’t want to be putting the lad under pressure yet, but he’s got all the equipment all right,” added the United boss.

“He’s strong and athletic and he’s almost ready to be considered. We are just trying to work on his distribution. He has been playing a short passing game and we think he could do with a bit more range. We will be giving him opportunities this season because if you don’t use good players you end up losing them. We can’t hold him back, and wouldn’t want to do anyway.”

Along with United’s other great midfield talent in the FA Youth Cup winning side, Ravel Morrison, Pogba can expect games in the Carling and FA Cups in the coming season. Ferguson is almost certain to pick fringe sides in the early rounds of both competitions, with United entering the Carling Cup at the third round stage in September.

Morrison, meanwhile, is unlikely to be fast-tracked into the first team picture until the youngster’s many off-the-field distractions have cleared. The club’s willingness to protect the 18-year-old Wythenshawe-born player, despite multiple court appearances over the past 18 months, says much for the talent on offer; arguably the most fluid English central midfielder with the ball at his feet since Paul Gascoigne.

In Morrison, Pogba, Cleverley and perhaps Anderson – if the €30 million Brazilian can ever find some consistency – Ferguson has built with the future very much in mind. The players represent an exciting quartet of midfield talent very much in the United tradition.

Yet, for all that future promise the feeling that United has sacrificed short-term progress at the Glazer’s financial altar is inescapable. Despite Barcelona’s utter destruction of the Reds’ midfield at Wembley in May the Catalan club has acquired in Cesc Fabregas and Alexis Sanchez two talents of the highest order. That – Nani aside – no United midfielder would make Barca’s squad, let alone first team, is telling.

Poll: Is United ‘net better’ than last season?

August 13, 2011 Tags: , , Polls 30 comments

Sir Alex Ferguson claims that Manchester United’s business in the transfer market is concluded for another summer. Having overseen a busy transfer window, Ferguson insists that United will now focus on youth, with bids for Arsenal’s Samir Nasri and Internazionale midfielder Wesley Sneijder shelved. Indeed, the 69-year-old Scot says that United’s central midfield future lies in Tom Cleverley and Paul Pogba’s hands.

“When you take that roll call of players, I’m certainly not looking to add to that. I’ve been saying that for weeks but you [the media] have all been writing differently – that I’m going to buy this one or that one. But we’ve said nothing, we just carry on with our business. You can forget [Sneijder] I’m happy with the young players I’ve got.

“We’re quite positive about [Pogba]. If we hold Paul Pogba back, what’s going to happen? He’s going to leave in a couple of years’ time when his contract is finished. We have to give him opportunities to see how he can do in the first team. He’s got the ability, the physique and the athleticism.”

Ferguson’s faith in youth comes despite bids for both Nasri and Sneijder this summer; the former having agreed to join Manchester City, and the latter unwilling to take a pay cut to join United. Meanwhile, Ferguson left 18-year-old Pogba with the reserves while United toured the States this summer.

The question, with Ferguson now declaring business finished for the summer and no central midfielder signed, is whether United is ‘net better’ than last season?

Is United 'net better' than last season?

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David de Gea
Phil Jones
Ashley Young
(Tom Cleverley from loan)
(Danny Welbeck from loan)

Edwin van der Sar
Paul Scholes
Owen Hargreaves
John O’Shea
Wes Brown
Darron Gibson (probable)
Thomas Kuszazck (probable)

Rant Cast 76 – and it’s back

August 12, 2011 Tags: Rant Cast 11 comments

Welcome to a brand new season of Rant Cast and on this week’s show regulars Ed and Paul talk about Manchester United’s summer tour of the United States; assess how the club’s new players are bedding in and review the Community Shield action. We talk about Paul Scholes’ testimonial, Wesley Sneijder’s on-off-on very much off transfer from Internazionale and preview the opening game of the new Premier League season at West Bromwich Albion.

It’s good to be back and ever better to have you back! Hit us up with any feedback below or follow the pod on Twitter: Paul – @UtdRantCast, Ed – @UnitedRant

This week’s exit theme tune is by Akashic 11.

Stream this episode using the player below, click here to download the MP3 or Subscribe on iTunes now.

We welcome your input – send all feedback to or comment below. Follow Rant Cast on Twitter @UtdRantCast.

Premier League kicks off with Baggies tie

August 12, 2011 Tags: , Matches 186 comments

So here it is, three months on from Manchester United’s coronation as Premier League champions in May and Sir Alex Ferguson’s team is ready to mount a spirited defence. Installed as favourites from the off, United is seeking a 20th domestic championship in what could still be Ferguson’s final season in charge at Old Trafford. In the Scot’s way are Manchester City and Chelsea, each desperate to land silverware over the next nine months, Arsenal, reeling from Cesc Fabregas’ loss, and Liverpool, resurgent under Kenny Dalglish.

Indeed, United’s campaign could not start with a more difficult programme over the next two months. Ferguson’s outfit faces each of last season’s top six sides before Christmas, while the United manager wrestles with a much-changed team. New signings Ashley Young and David de Gea should make their Premier League debuts for the club in United’s opening fixture against West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthornes on Sunday. Meanwhile, teenager Phil Jones should make the bench, and returning loanee Tom Cleverley is in the squad after impressing last weekend.

However, United kicks off its defence with up to six players missing. Ferguson is definitely without concussion victim Javier Hernández, along with Antonio Valencia, who has a knee problem, and virus afflicted Darren Fletcher. Meanwhile, Michael Carrick, Patrice Evra and Danny Welbeck could also miss United’s opener with injury. Rafael da Silva will not be involved after dislocating his shoulder on Friday.

Hernández is four weeks away from full fitness according to the 69-year-old United manager, while Carrick was forced to pull out of England’s squad during the week with a tight hamstring and Evra missed France’s match with a knock. Carrick could make the game but Evra is rated doubtful. Fletcher and Valencia are now back in full training but are unlikely to be ready for the first team until late August.

“We’ve got a doubt with Patrice Evra,” Ferguson said on Friday.

“He got an injury last Sunday, he missed the France game. We’ll give him until tomorrow but he is doubtful. Darren Fletcher’s training very well and he’ll play in the Reserves on Monday, so will Valencia. Chicharito is still maybe 10 days away from taking part in any football training. It’s not a concern, it’s just a precaution given the fact he had concussion a couple of years back.

“They’re the only injuries we’ve got really. We’ve got a strong squad at the moment, a big squad and I’ll be taking 22 players down to West Brom.”

Ferguson’s key selection decision may come in central midfield, with the club privately briefing media on Thursday night that the bid for Internazionale midfielder Wesley Sneijder is now dead. The Dutchman’s £200,000 per week wage demands have seemingly scuppered a deal that would have cost United up to £100 million over a five-year contract.

In the Dutchman’s stead – with Samir Nasri off to City this week – Ferguson will choose from Anderson, Ryan Giggs, Carrick and Cleverley in central midfield. Cleverley excelled against City in the Community Shield at Wembley and Ferguson admits that the second-half performance from his young side has given the Scot much food for thought ahead of the Baggies tie.

However, with Darron Gibson consigned to the reserves Ferguson is desperately short of central midfield options. Whether there is a plan B that includes dipping into the market is as yet undefined.

“I think picking my team is made easier by the second-half performance last week in some ways,” added Ferguson.

“I still have to respect the experience of the ones who came off at half-time. When you’re 2-0 down in these big games, you don’t expect what we saw. But Welbeck has played two or three times for us at Wembley in the League Cup final and FA Cup semi-final, so, for him, we know his temperament for the big occasion.

“What we wanted to find out was how Jones equipped himself, Smalling and Cleverley too, and they did fantastic. We should know about Cleverley because he’s been with us a long time, he’s been with us since he was 12 years of age. You get to know boys in depth during that time, you get to know their temperament and their character.

“The only reason I didn’t start Cleverley was I just felt the powerful players they have in midfield like Yaya Toure made me a bit cautious about playing him from the start.”

West Bromwich Albion versus Manchester United, Premier League, The Hawthorns, Sunday 14 August, 4pm

Elsewhere Ferguson is likely to select experience in last season’s top goalscorer Dimitar Berbatov, even if Welbeck passes a late fitness test. The youngster played 85 minutes against City at Wembley, leaving Berbatov fighting for his place in Ferguson’s team

Indeed, Michael Owen might be in line for a start but for a minor knock picked up on United’s tour of the United States this summer.

If competition for places in almost all positions characterises United’s squad this season, then it is required with a highly competitive campaign ahead. Ferguson believes that up to six teams are in competition for the Premier League title, with the ‘real stuff’ beginning this weekend.

“They all knew last week was the Community Shield,” said the United boss.

“It was not the real stuff. That starts on Sunday. Wembley was an occasion. There was rivalry and everyone was motivated. We have to show that in every game. It is going to be tough. It will be a hard campaign, it always is. We will waken up to the fact last week was a different game.

“City are still short of a bit of fitness, have Aguero to come in, Tevez to come back and they might buy another two players.The experience Chelsea have is better than anyone. Terry, Drogba and Cech have been there for yonks. They have been involved in the last seven titles. You cannot, in any way, dismiss them.

“The expectation will be on Liverpool to improve given the money they have spent and you can’t rule Arsenal out either. They used to talk about a top four. Now it is the top six. That is even more interesting for everyone.”

If the Reds are to wrap up a 20th championship the Scot believes his side must improve away from home, starting with West Brom on Sunday. While United dropped just two points at Old Trafford, the away record was worse than any title-winning side since the mid-1970s. United won just five away games last season; just two sides have ever won a 20 team title with fewer away wins: Newcastle United in 1906-07 and Sheffield Wednesday in 1929-30.

That away form will face another stern test on Sunday, with Roy Hodgson revitalising the Baggies since joining as manager last winter. West Brom comfortably avoided relegation and will be targeting a top half finish come May.

Hodgson will be without Steven Reid who has a torn calf muscle but Peter Odemwingie’s ankle and Youssouf Mulumbu’s abdominal strain have cleared in time to play. Meanwhile, winger Jerome Thomas and midfielder Paul Scharner will play if fit and new £7 million signing Shane Long could make his début.

Match Facts
West Bromwich Albion versus Manchester United, Premier League, The Hawthorns, Sunday 14 August, 4pm.

Likely Line-ups
Albion (4-4-2): Foster; Jara Reyes, Tamas, Olsson, Shorey; Brunt, Mulumbu, Scharner, Dorrans; Long, Odemwingie. Subs from: Fulop, Fortuné, Dawson, Roofe, Mantom, Jones, Mattock, Cox, Thorne, Wood, Thomas, Tchoyi, Morrison.

United (4-4-1-1): de Gea; Smalling, Ferdinand, Vidic, Fabio; Nani, Carrick, Anderson, Young; Rooney; Berbatov. Subs from: Lindegaard, Jones, Evans, Cleverley, Giggs, Park, Diouf, Welbeck, Owen,

West Brom: n/a
United: W

Mike Jones (Chester)

Stability key to Reds continued success

August 11, 2011 Tags: , Opinion 3 comments

Club captain Nemanja Vidić says that stability fostered under Sir Alex Ferguson’s leadership is key to Manchester United’s success in the coming season. The 29-year-old central defender, who joined the club in January 2005, has no concerns about the influx of new players, which threatens to destabilise the team ahead of the new campaign.

Indeed, Vidić, who took on the captaincy full-time last summer, believes that the roots Ferguson has laid at Old Trafford will serve Phil Jones, David de Gea and Ashley Young well in the coming months. With three players also having returned from loan, and thrust into the first team squad, summer 2011 has been one of far more change than is customary under Ferguson’s leadership.

The reconstruction process has been ongoing for some time of course but it is more reminiscent of the relentless change seen at rivals Manchester City and Chelsea in recent years. Change, with Ferguson in charge says Vidić, is no threat to United’s dominance.

“What he brings to the club is stability,” Vidić told CNN World Sport.

“He builds a road which all players follow – even now when we have three, four new players. We have a system, we are playing for so many years and when they arrive to the club they know who is the manager, and as players what is expected of them.

“At other clubs you have the problems in terms of the change of the coaches, they are changing new players and coaches. Sometimes they really have the problem, to build the team.”

While City has retained Roberto Mancini a sustained Premier League title challenge is required if the Italian is to keep his job into a third season. City’s decision to fire Mark Hughes, for example, demonstrates the ruthless nature of both modern football and the Abu Dhabi regime at Eastlands.

Meanwhile, over at Chelsea Roman Abramovich is on his seventh manager, having appointed Portuguese coach André Villas-Boas this summer. The Russian oligarch’s desire for victory in Europe has become all-consuming and failure to deliver instant success will inevitably lead to 33-year-old Villas-Boas’ departure next summer. It is this lack of stability that United has not faced in 25 years.

Even at the Emirates the pressure is on Arsène Wenger to deliver a first trophy in six years despite the Frenchman’s longevity at Arsenal. Failure and the price on Wenger’s departure will shorten markedly.

If that means United is under less pressure than domestic rivals this season that may well be so but captain Vidić understands the very unique demands Old Trafford now exerts. More than two decades of success under Ferguson has bred not only a winning mentality but, sometimes, a sense on entitlement.

“If you want to play for Man United you have to win everything,” adds Vidić.

“You have to be successful, otherwise, new players come and you have to fight for your place. I still have hunger to play, hunger to win the trophies.

“As long as I think like that, I will be good, but I would really like to win the FA Cup as well. I haven’t won the FA Cup yet, this is the trophy I really want to win.

“I’m just hoping we are going to reach our form from the beginning of the season, because we have a tough schedule. We have really tough games in the first few weeks, if you perform the best, we can, I believe, we can win the title again.”

Vidić’s personal position is safe of course; a far cry from just over a year ago when persistent thigh injury and a willingness to leave for greener pastures threatened the Serbian’s future at Old Trafford. The defender’s new contract, sustained fitness and a captain’s responsibility brought the very best out of the former Spartak Moscow defender last season. Yet, with Chris Smalling and Jones impressing despite the inexperience on offer Vidić knows that little bar the Serbian’s very best is required if he is to retain his position in Ferguson’s side.

In the longer term Ferguson will, of course, retire. The smart money has for some time been on summer 2012, although the Scot shows absolutely no sign of calling it a day. Indeed, Ferguson has repeatedly said that health concerns alone will dictate his role as United’s chief.

With that change will come the single most important appointment at the club since Sir Matt Busby’s retirement in 1971. On that occasion United’s executive management failed, bringing instability, change and decades of hurt to Old Trafford. Ferguson’s introduction in 1986 and the board’s support through the difficult 1989-90 season laid the foundation for the multi-billion pound institution that United has become.

Yet, in Arsenal’s recent troubles, Liveprool’s fall from grace and the constant change at Stamford Bridge lies an important lesson. It is one that captain Vidić understands well.

Manchester United Premier Cup

August 10, 2011 Tags: , Opinion 6 comments

Manchester United director Sir Bobby Charlton led the opening ceremony for the world finals of the Manchester United Premier Cup (MUPC), which took place at Carrington and Old Trafford last week. The United legend – alongside tournament alumni Kiko Macheda and Ben Amos – were present at the draw and opening ceremony for the tournament, which featured 20 of the best under-15 teams in the world.

Following four days of competition Pachucha FC of Mexico beat South Africa’s Orlando Pirates 1-0 in the final at Old Trafford on Saturday. United’s age group side finished 12th after Tom Martin’s Under-15s lost twice in the group stage of the competition to drop out early.

The Premier Cup was developed by Nike in 1993 as a grassroots tournament but evolved to become the world’s premier Under-15s event in 2003 when United added the club’s name to the competition. Now in its 18th year the tournament has grown considerably in strength, with more than 8,000 teams from around the globe entering the regional qualification contest.

Indeed, 25 players who appeared in the FIFA World Cup in South Africa last year had previously competed in the MUPC, including six players from winners Spain. Alumni include, for example, Xavi Hernández, Carlos Tevez, Lionel Messi, Barcelona new-boy Alexis Sanchez and Chelsea’s £50 million misfit Fernando Torres.

The tournament has also proven a fruitful hunting ground for United in the past, with Rafael and Fabio da Silva competing for Fluminese in the 2005 competition, which took place in Hong Kong. United signed the pair in no small part on the back of performances in the tournament.

“There have been some fantastic players playing at MUPC over the years,” said United manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

“It’s a great chance for youngsters to express themselves and share their skills. But the great thing to it I think is the mix of cultures – there are teams from South America, from China, from all countries throughout the world. I really think it benefits young people to mix with other cultures and get to understand each other; for me that’s one of the real benefits of this tournament.”

The tournament format divided 20 teams into four groups of five teams, with United facing Fenerbahçe, Hannover 96, Bangkok CC, and Pachuca in the group stages. It proved too much Martin’s outfit though, which was hammered 6-1 by Fenerbahçe on the opening day before drawing with eventual winners Pachuca. United then beat Hannover 2-0 on day two, before losing to Bangkok by the same scoreline. The Reds finished third in the group and failed to make the knock-out stages.

“The standard at Premier Cup has always been high and it’s no different this year. Overall the boys gave everything, and we can’t ask for more than that,” admitted United coach Martin.

The knock-out stages offered some competitive football, with Pachuca beating a strong Chelsea side at Carrington in the semi-final; the London side came into the match having yet to concede a goal. Meanwhile, Orlando Pirates beat Brazil’s EC Bahia 4-3 on penalties following a 1-1 draw in normal time. Victory earned the Pirates a minor place in history as the first African team to reach the MUPC final.

The final, which took place at Old Trafford in front of more than 3,000 spectators, saw Pachuca edge to victory over the Pirates. Pachuca’s Ochoa Chavez made the most of a long ball, placing a header into the top right hand corner after just two minutes to claim victory for the Mexicans.

Did the next Messi, Xavi and Tevez appear in the tournament? That much is impossible to tell but once again the cream of the world’s Under-15s have offered a taste of the future.


Fair Play Award: EC Bahia
Most Valuable Player: Bakkali, PSV
Golden Boot: Aydin, Fenerbahce


  1. Pachuca FC
  2. Orlando Pirates
  3. EC Bahia
  4. Chelsea FC
  5. Fenerbahce
  6. Right to Dream
  7. Boca Juniors
  8. Valencia CF
  9. PSV Eindhoven
  10. Universidad de Chile
  11. FC metz
  12. Manchester United
  13. Cosmos Academy West
  14. Catania Calcio
  15. Kyoto Sanga FC
  16. Bangkok Christian
  17. Ulsan Hyundai MS
  18. Hannover 96
  19. Hubei FA
  20. Onehunga Sports