Park set to sign new contract

August 26, 2009 Tags: Shorts 1 comment

United’s South Korean winger Park Ji-Sung is set to sign a new four-year £65,000 per week contract, according to reports today. Park, 28, signed for United from PSV Eindhoven in the summer 2005 and is set to be rewarded for his fine form over the past two seasons. Park’s contract expires at the end of June 2010 when he would be free to walk away from Old Trafford for no transfer fee.

However, managing director David Gill is said to have opened talks with Park’s representatives, with a view to securing the future of a player who has become key to Sir Alex Ferguson’s plans.

“It is hard to reveal specific content about the deal, but when we sign with United, we will make an announcement,” said Park’s agent somewhat unrevealingly.

Ferdinand set for quick return

August 26, 2009 Tags: Shorts 1 comment

Rio Ferdinand is set to recover from injury inside three weeks as he sets the away match against Tottenham Hotspur on September 12 as his likely return to action. The defender, who suffered a torn thigh muscle injury on the opening day of the season, has missed United’s games against Burnley and Wigan Athletic as he recuperates from the problem.

“It’s improving, I’m a bit ahead of schedule,” said Ferdinand. “I’ve been training really hard the last few days. I’m not where I want to be obviously on the pitch, but in a couple of weeks I’ll be back on the pitch playing again. Hopefully the match after the internationals I will be fit so that’s what I’ll be aiming for.

Fellow defenders Nemanja Vidic, Gary Neville and Wes Brown have all recently return to action from injury, while Johnny Evans has said that he requires an operation on his left ankle.

Brown fit for Arsenal clash

August 25, 2009 Tags: Shorts No comments

Wes Brown is set to be declared fit for the weekend’s game against Arsenal, according to reports today. The defender, who has suffered a series of injuries throughout his United career, has been hampered with a thigh problem this season. But the Manchester-born defender is set to offer manager Sir Alex Ferguson additional options as United’s defensive injury problems begin to ease. With Nemanja Vidic making his first appearance of the season against Wigan Athletic last Saturday, Johnny Evans requiring an ankle operation and Rio Ferdinand unfit for another three weeks, Brown may start against Arsene Wenger’s side.

Vidic: “I’m going nowhere”

August 25, 2009 Tags: Shorts No comments

Nemanja Vidic has rubbished reports that he is set to leave Manchester United for Barcelona this summer and reiterated his commitment to the club. The player has been linked with the European champions amid reports that his wife is unsettled in Manchester. However, the big Serbian defender, who was United’s Player of the Season last campaign told reporters that he has no intention of leaving.

“Anyone who is a fan of United or the players would only have to see how I played to know how committed I am to United,” he said.

“I never speak about my future so I don’t really know why someone else does. I spoke with my agent about this and what he said. I know about all the rumours about me but I don’t want it to have an impact on the club. It’s not a good time for my club to be hearing those rumours.”

Anderson to be forced out

August 25, 2009 Tags: Shorts 3 comments

Anderson could be on his way out of Manchester United after a bust-up with Sir Alex Ferguson, according to today’s Mirror. The player, who joined United in the summer of 2007 for around £17 million, is said to have reacted badly to the manager’s decision to leave him out of the Community Shield side to face Chelsea. While the Brazilian was restored to United’s team to face Burnley at Turf Moor last week, Ferguson reportedly told the youngster that he could leave the club if he couldn’t accept the Scot’s decisions. Despite a positive first season at Old Trafford many fans felt the player performed poorly last season.

The real Wayne Rooney stands up

August 25, 2009 Tags: Opinion 9 comments

This could be Wayne Rooney’s season. No, this will be Wayne Rooney’s season. It has to be. For too long has this prodigious talent stood in the shadow of a certain Portuguese maestro at Manchester United. No, not Nani. Now that this distraction has left, it’s time for Rooney to show why Sir Alex Ferguson made him the world’s most expensive teenager in world football back in 2004.

Rooney burst onto the scene at Everton – who could forget that goal against Arsenal? – having broken goalscoring records at every age group level. At the time, he scored more goals than matches he played in. Scoring a hat-trick on his United debut only cemented his place as a legend in the making. But Rooney never seemed to match the progress that Cristiano Ronaldo was making on the pitch.

The Englishman played at the 2006 World Cup without fully recovering from a metatarsal injury. Such was the hype and pressure placed on this young man’s shoulders that some British journalists would have you believe that he could walk on water and juggle a ball at the same time. They were right about the latter. Indeed, many blame Ronaldo for Rooney not being able to realise his true potential. It started with the famous winking incident in the World Cup quarter-final that led to Ronaldo contributing to Rooney’s red card. The Scouser may have stamped on Ricardo Carvalho but there’s no denying that Ronaldo’s protests to the referee had an effect.

While United did everything to appease Ronaldo after this debacle in order to get him to return to England, not many in Rooney’s shoes, as big as they may be, would have forgiven the Portugese player’s actions that night. But that’s Rooney for you, always putting team before self. These concessions have carried onto the pitch as well because Rooney has been wasted on the wings in the past few seasons at the tactical expense of Ronaldo’s floating role up front. Rooney said nothing in public because the team was winning.

Rooney’s work ethic and selfless play has meant that fans have not seen the player in his favoured forward position as much as we should, especially in the biggest matches. It was desperately frustrating to watch Rooney in the Champions League final against Barcelona last season, out of place and out of touch with the game. Rooney certainly has the class and ability to be mentioned alongside the likes of Lionel Messi, Kaká and Fernando Torres. But this will only happen if the team is built around him. The good news is that for the first time in Rooney’s United career, Sir Alex Ferguson has decided to do just that this season. At least that’s what he says.

Rooney enjoys dropping deep into midfield to pick up the ball and be involved in build-up play. Alongside Dimitar Berbatov, playing along the shoulder of the last defender and holding up the ball like glue as he always does, Rooney will be given a free license to feed off the Bulgarian. Berbatov is capable of finding space for others where few can, allowing the former Tottenham man to play Rooney into areas where he can do the most damage. It’s a defender’s worst nightmare to see Rooney running at them.

How Rooney links up with Michael Owen will also be crucial, not just for United but England as well. Rooney, barring injury, is guaranteed a starting place for his country at the World Cup next year. Meanwhile, Owen will spend this season proving to Fabio Capello that he deserves the place alongside his new teammate. With Rooney playing to show he can be United’s new main man and Owen finally joining a team that can create chances for him, this season be a turning point in their respective careers. Each has had their fair share of bad luck with injuries. Owen’s problems are well-documented, while Rooney has picked up knocks just as he starts to hit form. That he has missed 19 league games in the past two seasons is testament to this. They both have something to prove.

We’ve seen Rooney score some breathtaking goals, now it’s time for the player to add some scruffy tap-ins to his repertoire. In Ronaldo, United has lost a 30 goals-a-season player. In Rooney, playing through the middle, the team has that and more. Rooney has the potential to be a better player than the Portuguese ‘winker’. Averaging 20 goals in each season with United so far, imagine what Rooney could do playing up front for the majority of games?

Wayne, be selfish, run more with the ball, shoot more, and be the player you’re meant to be. Advice like that can only be given to a handful of players in world football, and Wayne Rooney certainly falls in that category. This will be his season.

The accused

August 24, 2009 Tags: , , Opinion 9 comments

In the euphoric midst of United’s demolition of Wigan on Saturday, fans could be forgiven for failing to notice the director’s box at the DW stadium. There, sat behind United director Sir Bobby Charlton, were several United players. They say a picture paints a thousand words and the image of Michael Carrick, Ji-Sung Park and Oliveira Anderson in their club suits spoke volumes. The three players, who were once considered vital members of United’s first team squad, looked isolated and anxious. Defendants soon to enter the dock might be an apt analogy for the three, who have caused so much debate amongst United fans. How has it come to this? It’s time to take a closer look at the alleged crimes of those now known as ‘the accused’.

Michael Carrick: accused of being an overpriced and inadequate replacement for Roy Keane, his arrival caused much disquiet amongst the United faithful. However, Carrick formed a formidable partnership with Paul Scholes, leading United to a ninth Premier League title in 2007. Carrick’s supporters will also point to last season’s match against Inter Milan as a true reflection of the player’s quality. But it’s a worry that all of the doubts harboured about Carrick when he first signed for the club remain three years on. Here are the charges:

  • Failure to exert any authority even against mediocre opposition (evidence: Burnley away). Few United fans would expect Carrick to routinely dominate against top teams like Chelsea but after three years there has been no improvement in Carrick’s ability to dictate the flow of games
  • Lack of leadership. Carrick is the last person the team can look to for inspiration
  • Lack of goals. He has never scored more than four Premier League goals. In comparison to his English peers such as Lampard and Gerrard, it’s embarrassing.

Ji-Sung Park: few United fans had heard of the South Korean prior to his move to United from PSV Eindhoven in 2005. There was even the suspicion that the player was bought solely to sell shirts in Asia. Four years on and here are the charges:

  • Offers United nothing but work-rate. Park seems incapable of consistently putting in the excellent performances of the standard seen in the Champions League semi-final against Barcelona the season before last
  • Lack of goals. Three goals over the last two seasons is not good enough.

Oliveira Anderson: during his first season at the club United fans saw the Brazilian as a potential successor to Paul Scholes. Remember the player’s duels with Gerard and Fabregas the season before last? But Anderson’s development has not gone to plan. He’s clearly very talented but after two years the former Porto midfielder has made limited progress. Here are the charges:

  • Lack of goals. There was hope in Munich but it’s fading fast
  • Lack of fitness. How many games has Anderson looked exhausted after an hour?
  • Poor positioning, movement, and decision making.

The accusation: each is guilty as charged. The verdict: United’s judge, jury and executioner Sir Alex Ferguson holds the answer.

United hit five, Rant takes credit

August 24, 2009 Tags: , Matches 8 comments

The message was loud and clear: United is back and how. Victory against Wigan Athletic may be commonplace but it was the five second half goals that has truly ignited United’s season. The response to last weekend’s underwhelming win over Birmingham City and the midweek defeat at Turf Moor was emphatic. But if United could have scored ten at the newly renamed DW stadium then there will still be concerns that there was profligacy in front of goal in the first half and a midfield that feels lightweight.

But what a response to criticism that the team lacks creativity and penetration without Cristiano Ronaldo. This was a United side that managed just four strikes on target against Burnley Wednesday night; there were nine more at the DW on Saturday. United, in this vein of form is always going to score goals, albeit against a Wigan team that was more than generous in defence. Roberto Martinez has brought his ethos of attacking passing football from Swansea but in this company his team needed a little more grit.

It took United nearly an hour to get started though and the flurry of late goals gave the scoreline a flattering feel. Wayne Rooney’s free-header for the opener was symptomatic of Wigan’s defending in the second 45. Indeed, better finishing from United’s forwards would have led to a cricket score given the number of chances that the team created.

But Wigan’s bright midfield three of xxx, xxx and xxxx were never out of the game, and the home side could have had three itself.There must still be a concern that United’s midfield lacks quality of the highest level. Paul Scholes, who was very fortunate not to see red after raising his hands, joined the excellent Darren Fletcher in central midfield. While Scholes is increasingly showing his age, The Scottish Player is no longer the love that dare not speak his name with the United fans. On a day when Rooney once again excelled in a central role, it was Fletcher that took the man-of-the-match plaudits. But United’s midfield four was sometimes overrun by Wigan’s three, and despite the away side hogging the possession better teams than the Latics would have cause United significant problems in the middle of the park.

On the wings Nani and Antonio Valencia were dangerous, although the mindless booing of the former Wigan player was as predictable as it was petty. Valencia created the space and delivered the cross for United’s opening goal, while Nani curled in a fine last minute free kick. Cristiano who?

Manager Sir Alex Ferguson will have been pleased to see both Michael Owen and Dimitar Berbatov score too. Owen’s superbly taken strike, clipped past the ‘keeper with his left foot, was easily the hardest of the chances he has created in the start to his United career. Meanwhile, Berbatov was bright and hard-working once again. Criticism of his performances last season were unfair, and it is clear the Bulgarian has put in the work during pre-season this time around.

United now face fixtures against in-form Arsenal and then Tottenham Hotspur. They are the first big tests of the season, despite the defeat at Turf Moor. United can ill afford to waste chances again in what are likely to be two tight games.

Rant Cast 2 – injury crisis!

August 22, 2009 Tags: Rant Cast 1 comment

In episode two of Rant Cast regulars Ed & Paul talk about:

  • That defeat against Burnley
  • United’s injury crisis
  • The upcoming transfer window
  • Nemanja Vidic to Barcelona rumours

Stream the episode below or click here to download the podcast (right click > save as).

Email all feedback to cast@unitedrant.co.uk.

Subscribe on iTunes now.