Author Brett Sneddon

Author Brett Sneddon

Neville to call time on career

January 7, 2010 Tags: Shorts No comments

Gary Neville, the Manchester United captain, will retire from football at the end of this season according to a report in today’s The Sun newspaper. Out of contract in June, the club has no current plans to offer the right-back a new deal according to the report. Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes recently signed new deals at the club.

Neville has endured a number of injuries over the past couple of seasons, losing his place in the side to John O’Shea, Wes Brown and Rafael da Silva. The defender, who has made 12 appearances this season, could take up a coaching role at the club on retirement.

Neville, capped 85 times for England, has made 583 first-team appearances and won 16 major trophies for the Red Devils in a glittering 18-year career at Old Trafford.

Should Gary Neville retire?

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Cautious United defeated by Villa

December 13, 2009 Tags: , Matches 8 comments

Aston Villa won at Old Trafford for the first time since 1983 to halt United’s charge towards the Premier League summit. Chelsea had earlier drawn with Everton but Villa inflicted United’s first home defeat of the league season. Sir Alex Ferguson bemoaned “just one of those days” but in truth it wasn’t good enough from the home side

The Villain’s began the match with intent, winning two early corners and causing United’s reformed defence far more trouble than Wolfsburg had in midweek. Wes Brown and Nemanja Vidic, restored to the heart of United’s back-four, added experience but it was Ashley Young, pitted against makeshift right-back Darren Fletcher, who caused most problems.

Young was central to Villa’s opener, headed home by Gabriel Agbonlahor on 20 minutes. The England international beat Wes Brown in the air to score his fourth against United in as many seasons.

Surprisingly, Ferguson reverted to a 4-2-3-1 formation, leaving Wayne Rooney to lead the line, with Park Ji-Sung, Ryan Giggs and Antonio Valencia in support. It meant no place in the starting XI for Dimitar Berbatov or midweek hat-trick hero Michael Owen.

However, Rooney stoked controversy when he found the referee’s book for diving just minutes after the goal. The Scouser’s lack of protest served only to prove the referee correct.

United continued to create chances though, with Valencia wasting a good opportunity and Michael Carrick forcing a good save from Brad Friedel in Villa’s net. Rooney then went close with a shot thundered against the underside of the bar from six yards out.

At the interval Giggs made way for Owen but the former Liverpool striker lacked the sharpness demonstrated in the midweek Champions League victory. Berbatov and Darron Gibson soon joined the fray but United continued to miss chances as Martin O’Neill’s side defended doggedly.

United’s final ball had been poor throughout but when Carrick found Berbatov six yards out the forward miskicked horribly to waste a good opportunity, before Brad Friedel pulled off a spectacular save to deny the Bulgarian international minutes later.

“Second half I think we deserved something,” Ferguson told ESPN.

“There wasn’t much in it first half, they probably just shaded it and deserved the goal. Second half we pummelled them, had a lot of good chances and didn’t get any. It’s just one of those days it wasn’t going in.

“It’s not an easy league. I say that time and time again. If we get to January within touching distance of the leaders then we’re in with a great chance.”

Nevertheless, United wasted a great opportunity to join Chelsea on 37 points and the manager must take much of the blame. Sir Alex’ decision to field a defensive formation, opting for Park instead of Owen or Berbatov, backfired spectacularly. While Gibson did little to impress after three matches in the side, the trickery of Gabriel Obertan may have offered the penetration United lacked on the day.

It was Villa’s first victory over United in a decade. More tellingly, perhaps, it was United’s fourth Premier League defeat this season.

Team: Kuszczak, Evra, Brown, Vidic, Anderson (Gibson 68), Giggs (Owen 46), Park (Berbatov 63), Carrick, Fletcher, Valencia, Rooney

Owen hat-trick breaks Wolfsburg hearts

December 9, 2009 Tags: , Matches 4 comments

Michael Owen’s first hat-trick in four years helped an injury-ravaged Manchester United see off Wolfsburg and secure top spot in Group B. United’s injury crisis, with Sir Alex Ferguson missing nine defenders, meant that Patrice Evra, captain for the night, was the only recognised defender in the side that secured an unlikely 3-1 victory in Germany.

Evra, Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher created a three-man defence, with the energetic Park Ji-Sung filling in at right wing-back and Nani reprising the role on the other flank.

Wolfsburg required a win at the Volkswagon Arena to seal the club’s place in the knockout stages of the Champions League, while United needed only a point to secure top spot and a potentially easier tie in the next round.

Wolfsburg, surely sensing an opportunity, looked threatening against the makeshift United defence and should have taken a 17th minute lead when Andrea Barzagli found himself unmarked five yards out. The midfielder’s close-range header flew over a grateful Tomasz Kuszczak in United’s goal.

Carrick was then fortunate not to concede a penalty when he felled Makoto Hasebe with a mis-timed tackle eight yards out. While the midfielder was not under control of the ball, the referee got the decision wrong in awarding a corner.

Woflsburg wasted two further guilt-edged chances when Barzagli and then  Zvjezdan Misimovic headed over when well placed.

But United countered well on the break and teenage striker Danny Welbeck slotted in neatly on the half hour only for the referee to rule the Manchester-born striker’s effort offside.

Then came United’s break a minute before the interval. Paul Scholes played a ball out to Nani on the left-wing and the infuriating Portuguese winger repaid the manager’s faith by looping a pinpoint cross to the back post for Owen to outjump his marker and nod in. One chance, one goal from the diminutive striker.

Wolfsburg, almost inevitably, struck back after the break. Midfielder Marcel Schafer crossed from the left and reported United target Edin Dzeko powered a header past Kuszczak. The Polish ‘keeper, who is starting to show some real confidence in Edwin van der Sar’s absence, could do nothing to prevent the equaliser.

Kuszczak was in good form and he denied Grafite, Misimovic and Dzeko as Wolfsburg looked for the winning goal to take the side into the next stage.

Antonio Valencia and Gabriel Obertan came on for Nani and Welbeck and ten minutes later United scored to end Wolfsburg’s hopes of qualification.  Obertan brilliantly danced his way through the German’s defence – beating three players in the process – and delivered an inch-perfect pass across the six-yard line for Owen to slot home.

Wolfsburg, desperate to find an opening, piled forward but United ended the game with a superbly taken third. Obertan found Owen on the counter and the former-Liverpool striker ran half the length of the pitch before expertly chipping in for his hat-trick and three points for United.

Fabio Capello take note.

“It was a fantastic performance,” said Ferguson of Owen’s hat-trick.

“Michael’s finishing and positional play were superb. He has proved his worth and I’m delighted with his performance.

“Obviously, in some games recently we have only played with one striker and Wayne Rooney has been it. Against Wolfsburg we used a different system.

“I made the point some weeks ago that Owen’s training performances have improved steadily. I have had no worries about him.

“The evidence of a player is always on the field and Michael has given us that.”

Team: Kuszczak;  Evra, Carrick, Fletcher; Park, Scholes, Gibson, Anderson, Nani (Valencia 74); Owen, Welbeck (Obertan 74)

Kids KO Spurs to reach semis

December 2, 2009 Tags: , Matches 2 comments

Darron Gibson’s brace was enough to put Manchester United into the Carling Cup semi-finals last night as Sir Alex Ferguson’s men beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 at Old Trafford . Following United’s loss to Besiktas in the Champions League, the pressure was on the current crop of Old Trafford youngsters to perform against a Spurs side now third in the Premier League.

The result was scant reward for Spurs, who started the match brightly and created several chances in the opening period. However, it was Gibson who twice scored against the run of play to take the game for the home side. The 22-year-old Irish international’s first goal, a low drive past Heurelho Gomes, left the Spurs ‘keeper helpless on the quarter hour. And Gibson’s second, following neat work by Dimitar Berbatov and a smart layoff from Danny Welbeck, was an explosive finish into the top corner on 34 minutes.

Harry Redknapp’s side tested United on a number of occasions in a first half  dominated by the away team, despite the Reds’. Both the in-form Jermaine Defoe and recalled David Bentley forced saves from Tomasz Kuszczak, preferred to Ben Foster, in the United goal.

Nemanja Vidic, showing signs of returning to his imperious best with a solid performance at the back, then stopped Robbie Keane with a great challenge to deny the livewire Irish international.

On the home side, Gabriel Obertan continued to impress with some good running from the right-wing. The Frenchman’s rapid progress has already eclipsed the Portuguese misfit Nani, who was left out of the match squad once again. Anderson, pulling the strings from the centre of midfield, put in his finest performance of the season to date.

Meanwhile in defence, 20-year-old Belgian full-back Ritchie De Laet put in a convincing performance, comfortably containing David Bentley on Spurs’ right. If Ferguson was concerned about lack of cover for Patrice Evra, he need not be.

In the end the second half was little more than a training session for United, with Spurs lacking the creative edge – or apparently the drive – to force the away side back into the match. A point made somewhat bitterly by disappointed Spurs manager Harry Redknapp after the match.

By contrast, Sir Alex was full of praise for the central midfield, calling out Gibson and Anderson as the “two stars” of the match.

“Once Anderson imposed himself on the game, he was able to attack players in the middle of the park and we finished up comfortable winners,” Ferguson said.

“And Darron Gibson is the one player in our club who can score great goals from outside the box. He has such tremendous power in his shot.”

“That second goal was excellent, there was so much movement involved, on and off the ball, and the finish itself was absolutely terrific.

“We have to look upon this as a really good win for us.”

Gary Neville, club captain, praised the younger players while insisting that the time has come to integrate Gibson and others into the first team.

“In the first half today we didn’t play the best football, but Gibbo scored two goals and that makes it routine for you,” Neville told Sky Sports.

“I don’t think they’re younger players, they’re playing for their countries. They deserve to be there by right.”

“They are Premier League players of that quality, they are obviously developing. It’s going to be difficult but we’re in the semi final and we want to continue to do well this year.”

With Irishman Gibson fast developing a reputation for excellent long-range shooting, many pundits feel the Derry-born midfielder could he be a ready-made replacement for Paul Scholes.

The semi-final draw takes place this evening at 21.55 following the two remaining quarter finals, which include Arsenal, Manchester City, Blackburn and Chelsea.

Team: Kuszczak, Neville, Brown, Vidic, De Laet, Anderson (Tosic 82), Park, Gibson, Berbatov (Macheda 62), Welbeck, Obertan (Carrick 62).

Hungry United chew through Toffees

November 22, 2009 Tags: , Matches No comments

Manchester United returned to Premier League action after the international break and moved to second place in the table with a convincing win over Everton. United, dominant for long periods, opened the scoring through Darren Fletcher’s outstanding volley and never looked back as Sir Alex Ferguson’s men kept Chelsea’s lead to five points.

Fletcher beat Tim Howard with a swerving shot that flew into the top corner. A candidate for goal of the season from the Scotland Captain. The goal came after some excellent full-back play by Patrice Evra, who’s cross found Antonio Valencia in the box for the Ecuadorian to knock down for Fletcher just outside the penalty area.

United’s midfield general, criticised for his performance in the 3-0 thrashing of Scotland by Wales last weekend, showed excellent composure to score with a volley that even Mark Hughes would have been proud of.

Louis Saha, on his first return to Old Trafford since his move to Everton, then tested van der Sar with a shot on the swivel with the Dutchman equal to the strike. United’s former striker seems to have put his fitness issues behind him with his fifteenth appearance of the season.

Everton introduced Yakubu Aiyegbeni for Dan Gosling at the interval and the Toffees’ best chance of the match fell to the Nigerian. The striker outmuscled Wes Brown before beating van der Sar with a low shot that went inches wide. The substitute then played Tim Cahill behind United’s back four, with an alert van der Sar quick off his line in producing a smothering save.

But United continued to dominate. Wayne Rooney’s shot, picked up by Ryan Giggs at the corner flag, eventually found Michael Carrick on the edge of the box who slotted home to double the home side’s advantage.

United wrapped up the victory when Paul Scholes set up Valencia, who’s shot deflected off Leighton Baines to leave the Red Devils five points adrift of Chelsea.

United will take heart from the performance, even if Everton was as poor as United good. But there is a concern with Michael Owen, who started the match but failed to make an impact. The former-Liverpool striker created a couple of good chances but does not look as if he is enjoying his football at the moment. The striker’s lack of goals looks as if it’s starting to take a mental toll.

United, who will look to continue this form throughout December, will be in a good position to mount a serious title challenge when Chelsea loses the heart of its team to the Africa Cup of Nations in January, according to Ferguson.

“We have to look at all the games as must-win now,” the manager said.

“We need to get on a run and be somewhere near the top of the league by New Year’s Day. Then, in the second half of the season we can have a real go and give ourselves a chance.”

The United manager was also effusive in his praise of Fletcher, who’s outstanding strike started proceedings for the home side.

“Darren is an improving player.

“Each year we have seen his performance level go up and up and it is still doing so.

“But I have to admit I did not expect that goal [against Everton]. It was really well taken.”

Rooney set for contract talks

November 15, 2009 Tags: Shorts 1 comment

Wayne Rooney will sign a contract that will keep him at Old Trafford for the rest of his career, if the former Everton forward has his way. But contract talks comes as a blow to Real Madrid and Barcelona, each of whom covet the £85 million rated England forward. Rooney now earns more than £100,000 per week at Manchester United.

Rooney, who skippered England against Brazil in tonight’s international friendly in Doha, also dismissed rumours of an imminent move to the continent.  The forward, who signed from boyhood heroes Everton in 2004, declared himself flattered with tabloid transfer stories but unwilling to leave Manchester United.

“It is nice to be noticed but I am really happy at United,” said the 24-year-old striker.

“I can’t see myself leaving. I have two years left on my contract after this year and I’m sure we’ll be negotiating a new deal in the next few months.”

“I love the place. It is 30 minutes from home and all my family, and I have got a great chance of winning trophies,” added Rooney, who lives just south of United’s training base at Carrington with wife Colleen and newborn son Kai.

Rooney has won the Champions League, FIFA Club World Cup, three Premier League titles and the Carling Cup since his arrival from Merseyside.  The striker has also established himself as the key player in Fabio Capello’s England squad ahead of next summer’s FIFA World Cup.

Nani outburst could hasten exit

November 12, 2009 Tags: , Shorts 1 comment

Misfit Nani has taken a towards the Old Trafford exit after slamming Sir Alex Ferguson’s management style and blaming the Scot for badly handling his stuttering career. In an interview with Portuguese paper I, reported in The Sun, the 23-year-old reveals his experience of the  hairdryer, frustration at missing big games and accuses Ferguson of breaking promises.

Nani, who stated that he has no plans to leave United, could become the latest in a long line of players who have fallen out with United’s Scottish boss.

Jaap Stam, David Beckham and even United’s former captain Roy Keane have all lost the media battle with the manager in the recent past.  Tomasz Kuszczak could befall a similar fate following his recent outburst about Edwin van der Sar.

“He’s tough.  If things are all right, then they are all right.  But when he thinks something is wrong, everything is screwed,” Nani told the paper.

“He can go from complimenting you to just plain trashing you in a matter of minutes. Has it happened to me? Hell, yes! He’ll say ‘Nani, how could you miss this or this’?”

Nani, who said that Ferguson’s rotation policy affects his confidence, admitted that it would be better if he scored more goals. The winger has hit the net just twice in 13 appearances for the Red Devils this season.

The winger had seen this season as a big opportunity after the departure of compatriot Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid but the pressure has become overwhelming. The player’s latest outburst, following a disapointing campaign, might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

Rooney warned over “12 men” comment

November 10, 2009 Tags: , , Shorts No comments

The FA has warned Manchester United forward Wayne Rooney over his future conduct after the striker walked off the Stamford Bridge pitch, Sunday, mouthing the words “12 men” at Sky’s TV cameras. Rooney, booked for protesting John Terry’s winning goal, made public his displeasure with referee Martin Atkinson’s performance.

The FA, long taking a harsh line with any implication of bias, issued the warning in the aftermath of United’s 1-0 defeat by Chelsea.

Atkinson awarded Chelsea a free-kick after Darren Fletcher challenged Chelsea full-back Ashley Cole. The award prompted an angry reaction from United’s players, who clearly felt the Scot had won the ball. Didier Drogba was then seen to foul Wes Brown as Terry rose to head into the net for Chelsea’s match-winning goal.

Ferguson and players attack referee Atkinson

November 9, 2009 Tags: , Reads 5 comments

Sir Alex Ferguson slammed referee Martin Atkinson following Chelsea’s 1-0 victory over Manchester United at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea skipper John Terry, scorer of the game’s only goal, glanced in Frank Lampard’s free-kick to hand Chelsea a five point Premier League lead. Ferguson, already in hot water with the FA, blamed Atkinson for awarding 77th minute set piece.

Ferguson complained that the referee was in the wrong place to award a free kick, for Darren Fletcher’s clean challenge on Ashley Cole, and that Didier Drogba fouled Wes Brown as Lampard swung the ball in. Moreover, Drogba was standing in an offside position – in front of Edwin van der Sar – as Terry’s header hit the net.

“The referee’s position to make the decision [for the goal] was absolutely ridiculous. He can’t see anything. It was a bad decision,” said Ferguson.

“You lose faith in refereeing, that’s the way the players see it.

“That goal should never have been allowed. We’ve dominated the game. We’ve had great chances to win the match and not taken them – and that’s our fault.

“We had great opportunities to get to the edge of the box and some really good chances in and around the box, but we should be finishing it off. We’ve only ourselves to blame in that respect. But you do need a break – and we never got the break we needed.”

United, now five points behind the Londoners in the title race, will feel hard done by after dominating for large periods of the game. With central defensive pairing Rio Ferdinand and Nemnja Vidic missing through injury, Wes Brown and Jonny Evans tempered the threat of in-form Chelsea duo Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka. The United pair were subject to criticism after the 3-3 draw with CSKA Moscow last week but Ferguson can take confidence from a brave performance by Brown and Evans.

“It’s very hard to take, we played really well,” Brown told MUTV after the match.

“I thought we played really well as a team and passed the ball brilliantly. We were the better team and had more chances. We should have done better with our chances, but we definitely didn’t deserve this result and it’s tough because we go home with no points.

“I don’t think the referee played well and we’ve been let down by that goal. The decision to award the free kick was harsh. Then Drogba was holding me and pulling me down, obstructing me from challenging for the ball when the free kick came in the box. The ref didn’t see that either – what can we do about it?”

Antonio Valencia, who caused Chelsea problems as he pushed up on the right-wing limiting Ashley Cole’s forward surges, was unlucky when denied a penalty during the first half after John Terry clearly tugged the Ecuadorian to the floor inside the box.

Ryan Giggs and Michael Carrick also went close for United, with the former Tottenham Hotspur man finding space to shoot three times from outside the Chelsea box. Then Wayne Rooney almost found the net in the second half, first with a drive just inches wide from the edge of the box, and then with an effort that nearly curled into Cech’s top left corner.

United’s game-plan only came unstuck when Atkinson – out of position – failed to spot Drogba’s foul on Brown as Terry flicked in Lampard’s free-kick. United can also feel aggrieved by the decision to award the free-kick in the first place after the oustanding Fletcher’s tackle on Ashley Cole and the assistant’s failure of the to spot Drogba’s offside position.

“We didn’t think it was a foul in the first place [Fletcher on Cole] – Fletch went in and came out with the ball,” defender John O’Shea told after the match.

“The ref’s angle of it and the Chelsea players’ reaction won them the free-kick. And then Wes was clearly fouled by Drogba as the ball came in. The referee’s position was terrible – he was stood right behind one of the Chelsea players and was too far away to see it.

“Lots of decisions seemed to go against us – I crossed the ball towards the end and Lampard clearly stuck his arm up [to block it].

“It was just outside the box, but the linesman was ten yards away and surely had to see it. The little things just didn’t go for us and we’re very disappointed in that sense.”

Despite the result United can take plenty positives from this game. Ferguson’s central defence looked strong against, arguably, the Premier League’s strongest attacking duo. And in midfield Fletcher and Anderson dominated against Lampard and Ballack.

Unfortunately the headlines will once again be dominated by a poor refereeing performance. While Atkinson’s fitness did not prevent the official from making the correct decision, his positioning certainly did.

Barcelona plans huge bid for Rooney

November 8, 2009 Tags: , Shorts 7 comments

Following Cristiano Ronaldo’s “come and join us” plea to entice Wayne Rooney to Real Madrid last week, the News of the World this morning reports that Barcelona is lining up an £85 million summer swoop to make Wayne Rooney the world’s most expensive footballer.

The Spanish club, current European Champions, believes that United’s massive £700 million debt means that the Glazer family is under increasing pressure to consider bids for all the club’s top players, according to the report.

However, Rooney is unlikely to agitate for a move, having recently stated that he would like to see out the rest of his career at United and even try to beat Ryan Giggs’ appearance record. Moreover, the player’s wife, Colleen, recently gave birth to the couple’s first child, Kai, and neither is thought to want to disrupt the family.