Month June 2012

Month June 2012

Fixtures Wallpaper 2012/13

June 18, 2012 Tags: , , Media 5 comments

Download United Rant’s fixtures wallpaper for the 2012/13 season. This wallpaper will be updated with fixture dates when TV schedules are confirmed, and cup game dates/fixtures when known. The wallpapers are available in three sizes: huge, wide and large!


Huge Wallpaper – 2920 x 1642 pixels

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Wide Wallpaper – 1366 x 768 pixels

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Large Wallpaper – 1024 x 768 pixels

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United get Everton in season opener

June 18, 2012 Tags: , Shorts 7 comments

Sir Alex Fergsuon’s Manchester United will face Everton at Goodison Park to open the new Premier League season after the fixtures for the 2012/13 campaign were unveiled Monday morning. Last season’s runners-up will face David Moyes’ Toffees, Fulham and newly promoted Southampton before August is out as United aim for a 20th English title. The opening day is scheduled for Saturday 18 August, but Ferguson’s side is more likely to take up one of the televised slots either on Saturday lunchtime, Sunday afternoon or Monday night.

The first home tie of the season will bring Fulham to Old Trafford in August, with fixtures against Southampton, Wigan Athletic, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur before the end of September. However, the draw offers Ferguson’s side a tough looking run-in, with fixtures against Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea in the last two months of the season, including a potentially decisive fixture with Roberto Mancini’s outfit at Old Trafford.

Champions City begin the title defence at home to newly promoted Southampton, Chelsea visit Wigan Athletic, Arsenal start at home to Sunderland, Tottenham Hotspur play Newcastle United, and rank outsiders Liverpool, under new manager Brendan Rodgers, visit West Bromwich Albion.

The season’s first derby is at Eastlands on 8 December, while United travel to Liverpool on 22 September, visit Chelsea on 27 October and host Arsenal a week later on 3 November. United also faces a busy Christmas and New Year period with fixtures against Swansea City, then Newcastle United on Boxing Day, West Bromwich Albion, and then Wigan Athletic in the traditional ‘hang over fixture’ on New Year’s Day.

United’s last home fixture of the season, possibly the final game in Red for Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs, brings Welsh side Swansea City to Old Trafford, before United conclude the campaign away at West Bromwich Albion.

By then United will hope to have secured the Premier League title, although few will bet against more last day drama. And on balance Ferguson will be pleased with the fixture split, which offers neither a hugely tough start to the campaign, nor the worst possible conclusion.

The Champions League draw takes place in Monaco on 30 August, and while specific European destinations are yet to be unveiled, United will face fixtures away from Old Trafford after five of six group games – traveling to Liverpool, Newcastle, Chelsea, Aston Villa and City after European games .

With just two months until the season opener United’s schedule already looks packed. The Reds start a summer tour a month today, with two fixtures in South Africa against AmaZulu FC and Ajax Cape Town, one in China with Shanghai Shenhua, and one in Norway against Vålerenga.

Players not competing in the European Champions are due to report back for training on 1 July.

Premier League

August – Everton (A), Fulham (H)
September – Southampton (A), Wigan Athletic H, Liverpool (A), Tottenham Hotspur (H)
October – Newcastle (A), Stoke City (H), Chelsea (A)
November – Arsenal (H), Aston Villa (A), Norwich City (A), QPR (H), West Ham United (H)
December – Reading (A), Manchester City (A), Sunderland (H), Swansea City (A), Newcastle United (H), West Bromwich Albion (H)
January – Wigan Athletic (A), Liverpool (H), Tottenham Hotspur (A), Southampton (H)
February – Fulham (A), Everton (H), QPR (A)
March – Norwich City (H), West Ham United (A), Reading (H), Sunderland (A)
April – Manchester City (H), Stoke (A), Aston Villa (H), Arsenal (A)
May – Chelsea (H), Swansea City (H), West Brom Albion (A)

Domestic Cups (all tentative)

Capital One Cup Round 3 – 26 September
Capital  One Cup Round 4 – 31 October
Capital One Cup Round 5 – 12 December
FA Cup Round 3 – 5 January
Capital One Cup semi-final (1) – 9 January
Capital One Cup semi-final (2) – 23 January
FA Cup Round 4 – 26 January
FA Cup Round 5 – 16 February
Capital One Cup final – 24 February
FA Cup Round 6 – 9 March
FA Cup semi-final – 13 April
FA Cup Final – 11 May

Champions League Schedule

Matchday 1 – 18–19 September
Matchday 2 – 2–3 October
Matchday 3 – 23–24 October
Matchday 4 – 6–7 November
Matchday 5 – 20–21 November
Matchday 6 – 4–5 December
Round of 16 – 12–13 and 19–20 February, 5–6 and 12–13 March
Quarter-finals – 2–3 April, 9–10 April 2013
Semi-finals – 23–24 April, 30 April – 1 May
Final – 25 May (Wembley Stadium, London)

Media watch: good, bad, and off the reservation

June 17, 2012 Tags: , , Opinion 13 comments

The competition on the pitch at Euro 2012 has been fierce, sometimes more than a little dramatic and, yes, refreshingly attacking. About time after the negativity of World Cup 2010 in South Africa, where defences ruled and entertainment failed. While the distances between games at the Euros has sometimes been significant, travel notoriously difficult and hotels rabidly expensive, the tournament has largely taken place against a positive backdrop, incidents of racism and violence in the streets excepted.

Yet, while the football has been predominantly high-quality, and the atmosphere mostly positive, the same cannot always be said for the UK’s broadcasters; Sky’s normally outstanding Premier League coverage having been replaced for three weeks by the best on offer from the UK’s free-to-air channels.

After the distance, and not inconsiderable expense, of outside broadcast across 10 South Africa cities two years ago, how would BBC and ITV approach the logistically difficult tournament? Reluctantly, it seems.

Gone are the stunning vistas of South Africa, replaced in ITV’s case with a semi-permanent on-site studio built in an attractive, if modest, Warsaw square. The back-drop is no Table Mountain, but Warsaw’s National Stadium has sat, colourfully lit for most of the week, just over pundit Roy Keane’s right shoulder.

ITV’s studio is a modern effort, wrapped in edge-to-edge glass, if lacking any obvious tie to the domestic audience, given that England’s base in Krakow is some 300 kilometres south, and all group games hundreds more east in Ukraine. It’s unfortunately tragi-comic – born of the broadcaster’s logistical planning more than two years in the making. At least presenter Adrian Chiles has been kept honest by a stream of old town late-night revellers.

The BBC, meanwhile, stung by criticism of its extravagant £2 million Cape Town base at the previous World Cup – that of the awesome Table Mountain landscape – has retrenched into a minimalist Salford studio, replete with no vista at all, save for levitating computer-generated team graphics. This, in a time of austerity conscious penny-pinching, is the price of keeping the Daily Mail onside it seems. Still, critics might still point to the £70 million cost of broadcast rights, split between BBC and ITV.

What the Beeb has lacked in outside broadcast atmosphere the organisation has attempted to fill with an extensive roster of pundits. Accused of a back-slapping know-it-all-yet-deliver-little attitude at the World Cup, Aunty has employed a plethora of managers and ex-players to fill in the knowledge gap. Match of the Day could do with the same refresh.

Not that the core team has been knocked back, with Mark Lawrenson and Alan Shearer on location, and Alan Hansen and Lee Dixon joined by lead presenter Gary Linekar back in Salford. Melancholy’s Lawrenson, who’s knowing inner-pain has tormented the viewing public for nigh-on two decades, has taken up co-commentator duties alongside BBC regulars Guy Mowbray, Jonathan Pearce, and Simon Brotherton.

While Lawrenson suffers on our behalf, Shearer has been offered a new lease-of-life pitchside with the likeable Jake Humphrey. Stripped of the replay monitor, the former Newcstle United striker has been pressed into delivering something other than the bland descriptive – it has almost, if not quite, approached insight. Beeb producers take note.

In the other half of the draw, the choleric Martin Keown has occasionally been joined by former England ‘keeper David James for the BBC. It’s an eclectic mix, with retired ‘keeper James sharp-witted and smartly dressed, to Keown’s wild-eyed morose. It has shown too, with James struggling to contain his frustration at Keown’s unremittingly downbeat stream-of-consciousness.

Had Linekar the wherewithal, after years stuck on the sofa with Lawrenson, he might have been tempted to throw himself out of a Media City studio window; a martyr to the media cause. Except the studio is windowless – a cocooned mausoleum to Lawro’s pain.

Meanwhile, back in the BBC studio former Dutch international Clarence Seedorf has offered a relaxed counter-balance to Hansen’s highly-strung, serial-killer intensity. Seedorf is so laid-back that mere consciousness itself is seemingly an affront to his endless powers of relaxation.

It is not often that ITV out-does it’s publicly funded sibling, but it might just be the case despite the desperately try-hard Chiles doing his level best to cheapen the coverage. There’s chummy, and then there’s Chiles, who’s efforts universally grate over the course of a late afternoon to evening.

Meanwhile, in the commentary box Andy Townsend continues his one-man campaign to ‘end passing’, while Clive Tyldesley struggles on without any obvious link to that night in Barcelona with which to fill dead air.

Yet, on the pundit’s sofa ITV has hit the winning note, pairing off Keane, with his erstwhile rival on the pitch, Patrick Vieira, and the solid, if humdrum, Gareth Southgate. Joining on the suspiciously ethnic-looking cushions – surely a hand-me-down from the World Cup – is the excitable Roberto Martinez, who is both engaging and insightful, while Gordon Strachan remains as spiky as ever.

And the broadcaster struck gold with Jamie Carragher, who’s refreshing honesty chimes the right note, even if the scouse inflection is all-too-painful on the ears.

Yet it is with Keane, the former Manchester United midfielder and captain, that ITV scores the winning runs. Keane, painfully honest and intense, was described by one national magazine of ‘going feral’ this week such is the Irishman’s demented scowl. Like David Brent, Keano is best viewed from behind the safety of the sofa.

Not least if you’re an Irishman, with Keane saving his most delicious barbs for his fellow countrymen. While others praised an Irish support that ran to 20,000, Keane refused to tow a party line, chiding a stunned Chiles that “it’s nonsense to say how great the fans are. The players and supporters have to change their mentality. Let’s not just go along for the sing-song every now and again.”

Mind you, Keane once promised he would never take the easy punditry pound. Good for ITV’s Euro 2012 coverage that he did. Unsafe perhaps for the “bemused onlooker” Vieira who’s safety cannot be guaranteed should Keane go fully off reservation.

United Rant Live! Czech Rep. v Poland and Greece v Russia

June 16, 2012 Tags: , International 7 comments

Continuing the serious of, frankly, incongruous United Rant Live blogs during 2012, we’ll be covering the conclusion to Group A on Saturday night! There’s everything to play for in the ‘group of bored to death’, which turned out anything but.

Russia need only draw with Greece to qualify for the quarter finals, although a win will secure top spot in the group. Should Russia draw then the Czech’s could still finish top by beating Poland, and if the unthinkable happens and Greece beat Russia then Dick Advocaat’s men will be out unless there is a draw in the other fixture.

The Czech’s, meanwhile, can secure qualification with victory over Poland. A draw may be enough though, should Russia beat Greece as expected. Meanwhile, Poland must win or the co-hosts are out whatever happens in the other game. Finally, Greece can only qualify with victory and hope that Poland and the Czech Republic draw.

Confused yet?!

Join us for both games live from around 7pm UK time, with team news updates and pre-amble through the afternoon. There’s no Manchester United interest in this one, but the drama should be great nonetheless.



Euro Cast – bork! bork! bork!

June 15, 2012 Tags: , Rant Cast No comments

In the second Rant Cast Euro Special regular presenters Ed & Paul discuss the first week of the Championships, which have brought some great games, goals and moments already – reviewing groups and games up to, but not including Croatia-Italy and Ireland-Spain on Thursday night.

Euro Cast covers the big talking points of the week, including racism, violence, TV punditry, and empty seats – and asks ‘why are there more mullets on show?’

With our predictions and preview for the week ahead.

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

And if you really love the show, you can always help cover our bandwidth and equipment costs by making a small donation!

Stream this episode using the player below or listen on iTunes and leave us a review! The podcast RSS feed is available here.

Glazers’ US IPO barely credible, let alone realistic

June 14, 2012 Tags: , Opinion 36 comments

Manchester United owner, the Glazer family, is exploring options to float the club in the United States, reports Reuters this week, after abandoning a mooted Asian IPO for the second time. Seeking up to £600 million in a partial floatation, the Glazers have now binned attempts to list the club in both Hong Kong and Singapore, with a New York IPO now proposed by the Tampa-based family. But just as Asian plans foundered on the Glazers’ ambitious over-valuation of the club, so presumably will any US float.

Plans to float in the States is one of a long line of proposed solutions to United’s £423 million debt, which has dogged the club since the Glazer family’s 2005 leveraged buyout. Two subsequent refinancing rounds have converted debt secured to buy the club into a long-term bond, while the family also paid down hundreds of millions in now infamous payment-in-kind hedge fund loans, presumably through a further US-based loan. The last published accounts showed gross debt at around £423 million, with net debt at £397 million.

The latest plan, claims Reuters, is to position United as a global “media business,” rather than appealing to the retail-centric institutional investors in Singapore, who failed to express the kind of interest the Glazers had sought. The Americans are also said to be pressing ahead with a dual-track listing in New York, offering only a small percentage of shares to the market with full voting rights, enabling the family to retain full control over the club.

“The U.S. listing would come either on the New York Stock Exchange or its electronic rival Nasdaq,” the Reuters article claimed, citing unnamed sources.

“A person familiar with the New York Stock Exchange, owned by NYSE Euronext, said an exchange decision is expected soon. U.S. One of the sources said Manchester United had always planned to position itself as a global media business rather than a sports franchise, suggesting that a U.S. listing would make more sense. Investors are familiar with the dual-class share structure that was under discussion for Manchester United’s Singapore listing, having seen it used by household names such as Google and Facebook.”

However, the family pulled the plug on Asia in part due to ‘volatile market conditions’, say analysts familiar with the situation – a less-than-subtle euphemism for the failure to attract interest at the price sought: a valuation in excess of $4 billion (£2.4 billion). Meanwhile, in a down-turned economy other sports and retail listings have failed in Asia, including the now postponed Formula One float, and the underwhelming Prada and Samsonite IPOs.

The mooted float in the US may suffer the same lack of investor intention though, unless the family lowers its proposed asking price, or promises the market a huge premium on future dividends – a logistic and legally impossibility.

Glazers’ Dilemma

Indeed, simple back-of-an-envelope calculations illustrate the Glazers’ dilemma in listing on any market, let alone in the US where there is no history of sports franchise flotation.

On takeover in 2005 the Glazer family paid 300p per share for 70 per cent, or thereabouts, of the club it did not already own, valuing United at £795.76 million on a price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of around 19. Seven years on, and although the volume of shares to be listed is unknown – ceteris parabis – United might be reasonably be valued at more than £2.215 billion on the same multiplier. This is a reflection of the steep rise in earnings before tax and deductions under the Glazers’ stewardship.

The line drawn by the Glazer family between the price paid in 2005 and a 2012 paper valuation in excess of £2.5 billion is conveniently transparent. But all things are, of course, not equal and revisiting the takeover is illustrative, predominantly, of the steep premium paid by the Glazer family in 2005. It was a deal front-loaded with significant ‘goodwill’ – that is, the value place on intangible assets such as United’s ‘brand’.

In the intervening years the global financial outlook has deteriorated markedly, while sharply rising staff costs and uncertainly surrounding UEFA’s Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations adds more than a little fog to any valuation even on the most generous projections of United’s future income.

US-based magazine Forbes uses a more pragmatic P/E multiplier of 12 in it’s 2012 list of “Soccer Team Valuations,” placing an approximate value on United of £1.39 billion. Even this may be generous. Forbes applies a multiplier of 8.7 to the structurally-unacquirable – and more profitable – Real Madrid, 13.6 on Barcelona, 13.1 on Arsenal and 10 on Chelsea. Perhaps a better guide still is the 10.3 multiplier at which an ailing Liverpool was sold to Fenway Sports Group in 2011.

Calculation of an IPO pricing is, as ever, part art as well as science. Elsewhere in New York the world’s most valuable company Apple is trading at P/E 14, and Google at 17.

There is almost no comparable sports franchise listed in New York, which ought to say something. However, stretching the ‘sports’ term to World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. (WWE) yields an interesting comparison. In the same period as United’s last reported accounts WWE, on very similar earnings, yielded a market cap of around $1.39 billion (£894 million). The market considered the price a bubble, and WWE is today trading at less than half its previous share price.

Little wonder sceptics doubt the Glazers’ ability to list on NYSE at the price seemingly desired. The market is likely to reject the listing by under-subscribing the IPO, or much like the recent Facebook listing, the share price will tumble on open trading.

However, it is unlikely the Glazer family will get that far according to some observers. Independent United blogger and analyst Andy Green called the proposals “desperation” on the Glazers’ part in an interview with Reuters, Thursday.

“First it was Hong Kong, then Singapore and now New York,” said Green.

“The Glazers assumed they would get a high price in Asia and they haven’t – I’m not sure they will in the US either given there’s no tradition of listed sports clubs.”

Television Rights

That said the Glazer family will certainly cheer the Premier League’s new television rights deal struck with BSkyB and BT this week that will yield more than £3 billion between 2013 and 2016. It is a 70 per cent uplift in domestic media income, which alongside international rights still to be negotiated, could net United £20 to £30 million more annually in Premier League media rights.

Sky paid £2.28 billion for the rights to five of the seven available packages, which secured 116 live matches a season. BT acquired two packages for a total of £738 million, with the telco able to broadcast 38 matches per season.

The additional income, claims Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore, will enable United and other English clubs to compete more effectively with Real Madrid and Barcelona who sell their broadcast rights individually.

“This will take our clubs up a notch closer to those clubs who benefit from the individual selling model, say in Spain,” Scudamore said.

“I hope this will keep our league as competitive as it can be, under a collective selling model, with the other leagues. We have just come off the back of a fantastic season and, yes, it has been good for us that we are in the market and selling something at the time when what we are displaying on the field, and therefore able to broadcast, is an attractive proposition.”

Attractive though the proposition may be, more than 20 years of Premier League history has taught that the symbiotic relationship between television income and players’ wages is almost perfectly correlatory. The television income bubble has not burst, but neither has players’ desire for ever more lucrative contracts been satiated.

Manhcester United wages and TV income

Source: Andy Green,

Perhaps, then, the real question with the IPO is not whether the Glazer family can get this one away, at the price they want, and with associated bond buy-back so heavily promised last time around, but what the strategy is post failure. It’s a scenario that, unlike the Premier League rights process, will bring little cheer to the American family.

Nor to United supporters concerned that the club should become competitive in the transfer market once again. After seven years of parsimony, it need not take a cynic to spot that dose of realism.

United Rant Live! Germany v Holland

June 13, 2012 Tags: , International 7 comments

Germany versus Holland in one of the iconic fixtures in the international football calendar, invoking memories of the 1974 World Cup final, and the feisty clash between the sides at the 1990 version of the competition. Those are just two in 38 fixtures between the countries that remain the best of enemies. There is unlikely to be any love lost when the sides meet once again, in Khakiv, at Euro 2012.

Following Holland’s surprise loss to Denmark on match-day one, Bert van Marwjick’s men desperately need the points in the industrial Ukrainian town, while Germany is looking to build on a narrow win over Portugal. Indeed, a Germany win will send Joachim Löw’s men into the next round, and Holland out of the tournament.

There’s tangential Manchester United interest in this clash, with the perennial tabloid column-filler Wesley Sneijder starting for Holland, while young midfielder Keving Strootman should also be involved. On the German side former United trainee Ron-Robert Zieler will be on the bench.

Join United Rant for our latest live blog at Euro 2012, with Ed and Jony Ball from around 7pm, with preamble and Portugal – Denmark updates 5pm.



Profile: Nick Powell

June 12, 2012 Tags: , Opinion 24 comments

It never rains, but it pours, as Sir Alex Ferguson signs not one, but two attacking midfielders this summer. Five years after Anderson joined Manchester United from Porto, the 70-year-old United coach has bolstered the Reds’ midfield options this window. Not before long, many supporters might add. While the £18 million deal to bring Shinji Kagawa to Old Trafford will be ratified when the international window opens on 1 July, the club today confirmed the capture of Crewe Alexandra teenager Nick Powell for an officially undisclosed fee.

While many expect Kagawa to make an immediate impact at Old Trafford, playing just off Wayne Rooney at ‘number 10’ next season, Powell signs with an eye firmly on the future, although the Haslington-based youngster will likely join United’s pre-season tour to China, South Africa and Norway. Branded “an exceptional talent” by Ferguson, Powell scored 16 goals in all competitions last season – just his second campaign in professional football.

Powell’s acquisition will cost United up to £6 million, although less than half is reportedly being paid up-front, with bonuses due to Crewe depending on player and club targets met over the course of a four-year contract. In that Powell’s is an archetypal modern United transfer – a player with undoubted talent, who may well improve, and who’s value could rise in the future.

Also to type, United greeted the latest deal with the usual fanfare – a mass emailer urging fans to join the “season ticket priority list” – canned quotes for the media, and a picture of a beaming ceo with the new acquisition!

“We have scouted Nick for months now,” claimed Sir Alex. “He is an exceptional talent and has been schooled well at Crewe. I’m delighted he has chosen to come to United. He has a lot to offer and we are all looking forward to working with him.”

Meanwhile, Powell proclaimed his excitement at the opportunity to work with “Sir Alex and the world-class players in the squad.”

But aside from the commercial impetus, there is genuine reason for long-term optimism, with Powell one of the most sought-after youngsters in the Football League system. While the 18-year-old is yet to appear at a higher level than League Two, Powell has represented England and under-16 through under-18 levels, and was followed by scouts from almost every leading club last season.

Deployed as both an attacking midfielder and shadow-forward at Crewe, Powell has been described by regular followers of the Football League as a “complete footballer in his ability to drift deep, act as a targetman and dribble past opponents.” He could become anything from a ‘number 10’ to a central midfielder as his career develops.

The teenager first joined Alex as a five-year-old, making his first team bow, age 16, in the 2010–11 season under former manager Dario Gradi. It was a gentle introduction to professional football though as the youngster made 19 appearances in his début campaign – 18 of them from the bench. Indeed, while Powell was used sparingly, he also took some time to find the shooting range that has persuaded United to invest so heavily. The youngster failed to hit the net in his first 27 matches for the club until scoring against AFC Wimbledon in October last year.

It was under new manager Steve Davis in the campaign just finished that the player genuinely flourished, with a series of eye-catching performances and a glut of goals, including a thumping 35-yard strike in a 4-3 win over Gillingham, and a goal at Wembley in Crewe’s 2-0 League Two play-off final win. Powell finished the campaign with 16 goals in 45 appearances.

The performances earned Powell Crewe’s Player of the Season award, and the Football League’s Apprentice of the Year for League Two gong. None of it went unnoticed, with Ferguson and assistant Mike Phelan attending Crewe’s fixture with Aldershot Town last May. It sealed United’s decision to secure a prodigious talent.

“Nick has shown everyone what a talent he possesses,” said Crewe boss Davis.

“He got better as the season went on and played a vital role in us winning promotion. He is a match winner and was deservedly named as our player-of-the-season for the contribution he made. He has added goals to his game and I think he will only continue to improve and develop at a top club like Manchester United.

“If he can continue to progress then there is no reason why he cannot become the top player we all believe he can be. Everyone at Crewe Alexandra is delighted that Nick has signed for Manchester United”

United supporters will likely see Powell in action during the club’s multi-leg, money-spinning, summer tour across three continents. Indeed, although there have been suggestions the player may head out on loan it is unlikely to happen prior to the January transfer window, with Ferguson and his coaching team undoubtedly keen to work with the player closely.

Then there is, of course, the question of whether the youngster can make a break through into the first team next season. The sizeable fee, which could rise to around £6 million according to today’s reports, suggests that Powell may be given every opportunity to break through sooner than some of his 18-year-old contemporaries at Old Trafford.

Facts and Figures

Name: Nicholas Edward Powell
Position: Midfielder/striker
Date of Birth: 23 March 1994
Height: 6′ 0″ (183cm)
Weight: 10st 5lbs (65kg)

Career Data

2010/11 – 17 appearances, 0 goals
2011/12 – 45 appearances, 16 goals

England U16 – 7, 1
England U17 – 17, 5
England U18 – 1, 0

Football League Young Player of the Month – December 2011
League Two Apprentice of the Year – 2012
Crewe Alexandra Young Player of the Year – 2012
Crewe Alexandra Player of the Year – 2012
Crewe Alexandra Goal of the Season – 2012


Nick Powell

United Rant Live! England v France

June 11, 2012 Tags: , International 2 comments

Eight years on from England’s 2-1 defeat to France at Euro 2004 and the sides meet again in Donetsk, Ukraine, late Monday afternoon. Once again France will start favourites to emerge victorious, with England hampered by injuries, a late change of manager, and a general lack of quality! But can Roy Hodgson’s men ‘park the bus’ against France and pull off an unlikely result?

There’s plenty of Manchester United interest in this one, with Danny Welbeck and Ashley Young set to start for the Three Lions, and Patrice Evra with France. Suspended Wayne Rooney will watch from the sidelines, while Phil Jones will be on England’s bench.

Join United Rant for our third live blog of the tournament, with Ed and Jony Ball from around 4.30pm, with news updates throughout the day.



Welbz and Young: England’s lone rangers

June 10, 2012 Tags: , , , International 32 comments

With Euro 2012 well under way attention has turned, momentarily Rant suspects, from the tittle-tattle of transfer market gossip to the world’s second biggest football tournament™, which is taking place in Poland and Ukraine over the next three weeks. In between bouts of organised racism, fans from 16 countries hope to witness some high quality football. Before Spain or Germany inevitably walk off with the trophy, of course.

There’s plenty of Manchester United-related interest in this one, with seven current players and six ex-Reds taking part – Wayne Rooney, Ashley Young, Phil Jones and Danny Welbeck for England, Patrice Evra with France, Anders Lindegaard with Denmark, and Nani with Portugal.

Many United supporters will also point to Rio Ferdinand and Michael Carrick’s bizarre exclusion from the England set-up. The former of whom had Roy Hodgson fluffing his lines in a BBC interview on Saturday, with the England coach now claiming that Ferdinand is “too good” to sit on the bench. There’s Rant thinking Rio might have been “too black” to be in the same squad as John Terry. But then, Rant is the cynical type.

England, meanwhile, enter an international tournament with the lowest expectations since Bobby Robson’s side lost all three group matches at Euro 1988 in Germany – to Holland, the Soviet Union and Ray Houghton’s Ireland. There’s unlikely to be much shock should England return home early once more after three difficult fixtures in the next 10 days.

And the start couldn’t be much tougher for Hodgson’s men, with a vibrant France the first opponents on Monday afternoon. The sight of the aforementioned Terry, reportedly carrying groin and hamstring injuries, trying to keep Karim Benzema, Franck Ribéry, Olivier Giroud, Hatem Ben Arfa and Samir Nasri at bay will surely bring a rueful smile to Ferdinand’s face. After all, while Terry is built like a tank, he also turns like one, to bastardise an infamous piece of mid-1990s commentary.

But there is hope for Hodgson’s men, with England set to follow Chelsea’s lead by ‘parking the bus’ against the French in Donetsk. It isn’t going to be pretty, but anti-football can be effective on occasion. The question is how does England strike the balance between allowing the few creative players to flourish, and carrying out Hodgson’s plan A – to make the Three Lions difficult to beat.

Indeed, United’s Welbeck and Young will likely be the focus of England’s attack for Hodgson’s side on Monday, with Liverpool’s Andy Carroll on the bench. Hodgson may be all for anti-football this summer, just not that anti-football it seems. The United duo should offer plenty of food for thought to France’s somewhat pedestrian central defensive partnership of Phillip Mexes and Adil Rami.

But all that pace and dynamism is wasted if England can’t get the ball into Young and Welbeck’s feet. Early reports suggest the technically limited Stewart Downing and James Milner are to be prefered to the more attacking, but defensively suspect, Arsenal duo of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott in wide areas. While Steven Gerard will play the central midfield position, at which he has never shown any tactical discipline, along side Scott Parker – a wholehearted but limited midfielder.

France’s inevitable midfield superiority will be hard on both Young and Welbeck, with the later in particular likely to spend long periods without the ball. It’s a challenge Young appears to have taken on with gusto. After all, the United winger has scored six in his last 10 internationals to become the national team’s leading man in Wayne Rooney’s absence. Young is once again set to take on Rooney’s ‘number 10’ role for the national team, with Welbeck leading the line.

“When you play for Manchester United, the pressure’s on every week,” Young told reporters on Sunday.

“Everyone wants to beat Manchester United, so when it comes to playing with pressure, it’s no problem. I enjoy having a challenge. I remember the manager, Sir Alex, saying to me when I first joined United that it would be a big challenge for me. I’ve played a whole season now and I’m full of confidence. I’m looking forward to Monday.

“I’m a versatile player. I have been throughout my career: up front, either wing or off a main striker. I want to be creative, to get on the ball, to play. That’s exactly what I’m looking to do on Monday. I played this role for a whole season at Aston Villa and I’ve played it [for England] in the last few games. I’ve been getting on the scoresheet, getting assists. It’s up to me to use my brain, be clever, find the pockets of space and get on the ball. I think I can do that.”

True, Young has excelled in the position for England in recent games, offering a direct, intelligent, and pacey style that will compliment Welbeck’s movement into the channels. Welbeck’s inclusion will also encourage England to play the ball on the ground at least. Carroll’s would surely do the exact opposite.

But this is England; this is international competitive, and waste possession is what every England side has done at recent tournaments. At least the ones England actually qualified for. It points to a lonely late-afternoon for United’s dynamic forward duo.

Meanwhile, former United defender and France coach Laurent Blanc is wary of Welbeck’s threat, while mindful of England’s likely negative mindset.

“They’ll drop back, have a bank of four with some quick players in there, and try and hit us on the break,” said Blanc.

“We need to be careful with that and make sure we’re not caught off guard. If there’s space in behind our back four, they’ll counter-attack. If they play Welbeck, we’ll have to leave him as little space as possible to exploit.

“But we’ll play our own style. If we sat back and waited for the English to come at us, it’d be 0-0 and we might end up only threatening to score a goal from a set-piece. No, there’ll be two very different philosophies on show and I hope the side that plays more football will win the game.”

Few, least of all England’s players, will bet on Hodgson’s side playing more football on Monday. But if the Three Lions are to get anything from the match, then United’s lonely forward duo surely hold the key.