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Fergie turned down Scots job

September 4, 2009 Tags: , Shorts No comments

Sir Alex Ferguson was offered – and turned down – the chance to manage Scotland for a second time, The Guardian reveals today. The Scottish Football Association (SFA) offered Ferguson the role after previous incumbent Alex McLeish vacated the post for a job at Birmingham City, according to the report. George Burley was eventually appointed Scotland manager in January 2009 but not before the SFA had attempted to lure the United boss to the post with an offer of a part-time role.

Ferguson previously held the post in 1986 after the untimely death of Jock Stein, working closely with his then assistant manager at Aberdeen, Archie Knox. Famously Ferguson left Liverpool centre-back Alan Hansen out of the squad that went to the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. It’s a grudge that the BBC pundit has seemingly held to this day.

But Ferguson, a proud Scotsman who has turned down the chance to manage England no less then three times, has no interest in returning to international football, even in a part-time capacity.

With Scotland, captained by United midfielder Darren Fletcher, likely to be knocked out of the World Cup qualification in the next week Burley is expected to be sacked.

Ferguson is unlikely to be on the shortlist this time.

Rooney: My biggest year

September 4, 2009 Tags: Shorts No comments

Wayne Rooney says it is the biggest season of his career to date, as he faces up to the task of replacing Cristiano Ronaldo’s goals for United and qualifying for the 2010 World Cup with England. The striker, who has been playing in a central role for both club and country recently, has scored four goals in as many games for United this season.

“It’s definitely going to be the biggest year for me,” said Rooney.

“I was looking forward to the start of the season. It was a bigger challenge because we had lost Cristiano and Carlos Tevez. We haven’t played as well as we can do, but we have still got three good results.

“The first four or five games have gone reasonably well. In fact it is probably the best start I have had to a season for United goalscoring wise.

“I am really enjoying it. The manager has come out and said I will play up front and obviously I am pleased about that.”

Rooney has scored 10 goals in his past 13 internationals and puts much of his goalscoring form – for club and country – down to working with England manager Fabio Capello.

“He said to me ‘get in front of the goal more’,” said Rooney.

“He is on the training pitch all the time – and telling me to do certain things.

“He explains what he wants you to do, how he wants us to play, what team shape he wants us to do, explains about the other teams, where the threat comes from. He’s definitely the best manager for England.”

Chelsea ban could impact reds

September 4, 2009 Tags: , Opinion 1 comment

Chelsea today received one of the stiffest penalties ever sanctioned by world governing body FIFA after it lost a case heard by the body’s Dispute Resolution Chamber (DRC). The London club, which has been banned from buying any players for the next two transfer windows, was punished by FIFA’s following a contractual dispute between French club Lens, Chelsea and the player Gael Kakuta. But while many rival supporters will find humour in Chelsea’s punishment, the issue of transferring under-18 players internationally is a red hot one. One that could end up impacting on United too.

“The French club had lodged a claim with FIFA seeking compensation for breach of contract from the player and requesting also sporting sanctions to be imposed on the player and the English club for breach of contract and inducement to breach of contract respectively,” said FIFA in a statement on its website today.

“The DRC found that the player had indeed breached a contract signed with the French club. Equally, the DRC deemed it to be established that the English club induced the player to such a breach.

“As a result the player was condemned to pay compensation in the amount of €780,000, for which the club, Chelsea, are jointly and severally liable, and sporting sanctions were imposed on both the player and Chelsea,” it concluded.

In addition to Chelsea’s punishment, Kakuta was personally banned from playing for four months. Chelsea, has also been forced to pay Lens “training compensation” of €130,000. The London club has already said that it will appeal the decision.

But Chelsea, who were fined £300,000 over the Ashley Cole ‘tapping up’ affair four years ago, is not the only club to engage in the shady practice of signing kids from abroad. Arsenal, Liverpool and United too have manipulated the international transfer market to pick up players when they are younger and cheaper. Although the London club is the only English side to have been punished for ‘inducing’ a player to break his contract.

In recent seasons United has signed Giuseppe Rossi, Gerrard Piqué, Federico Macheda, Davide Petrucci and Paul Pogba amid a storm of protest and recrimination from each of the players’ parent clubs. Indeed, United has made millions from the re-sale of Rossi and Piqué – and potentially saved millions in transfer fees on the others.

To date there is nothing to stop English clubs signing up under-18 players from continental Europe – or indeed further abroad in the case of United’s da Silva twins and Rodrigo Possebon. And while there is absolutely no proof that United has acted illegally in the case of the aforementioned kids, the club’s reputation and actions have repeatedly been questioned.

“We are still pursuing our case,” Le Havre managing director Alain Belsoeur told The Times in the case of Pogba.

“It is a very serious case. We are confident that we’ll win because it is in the best interests not just of our club but of sport.

“We spend five million euros on our academy every year out of a turnover of 12 million euros. It is a huge investment. We do that to give a chance to our players to develop for our first team, not to be an academy for others. What is the point of investing in an academy if the players leave at 16? This is clearly a message from FIFA to protect the education system.”

Indeed, FIFA seems determined to act, and the Chelsea case may be the first shot across the bows in a wider battle. Smaller European clubs, like Lens, are willing FIFA on.

“We expected this kind of decision,” Lens president Gervais Martel said today.

“The player was under contract with us and they came and stole him away from us. Chelsea didn’t follow the rules. They contacted the player when he wasn’t even 16 and while he had been contracted to our training group from the age of eight.

“It’s an important message given that protecting up and coming youth players who are contracted to clubs is an issue being followed closely by Uefa president Michel Platini.”

Chelsea’s guilt may be a clear breach of contract on the player’s part but the issue of youth transfers is very closely linked in the corridors of power. Platini, together with his counterpart at FIFA Sepp Blatter, would like to see a wholesale ban on the transfer of under-18 players and heavy compensation payable in cases where young players are taken from their parent clubs. Indeed, training compensation payments are already being demanded by parent clubs for players transferred for a second time or third time. This happened in the case of Dimitar Berbatov when the Bulgarian moved from Tottenham Hotspur to United last summer and CSKA Sofia demanded hundreds of thousands from United in compensation.

United, together with their Premier League rivals, will be looking at the Chelsea case with increased interest tonight. FIFA, it seems, is on the the lookout.

Obertan nears fitness

September 3, 2009 Tags: Shorts 5 comments

New signing Gabriel Obertan will be fit to make his Manchester United debut in four to six weeks, according to manager Sir Alex Ferguson. The French winger, who was signed for about £3 million from Girondins de Bordeaux, is currently out with a spinal problem.

“Gabriel has had a spine problem, but I think he’ll be back in about a month to six weeks’ time,” Ferguson told Inside United magazine.

“We’re taking our time with him because we want him back and at 100 per cent. He’s very quick, he can play both sides or through the middle and he brings a real versatility to us.

“At 16 he was one of the outstanding young talents in Europe, and he’s said to us that over this last year and a half he’s been playing with this back injury and no-one thought about getting a scan. We expect big things from him. He’s a nice boy, speaks good English and should have no problem settling in.”

Obertan was loaned out by Bordeaux to Ligue 1 outfit L’Orient for the second half of last season and his signing was taken as a major surprise by both player and Bordeaux’ coach Laurent Blanc. Question is – will Obertan be the new Eric Cantona, or the new David Bellion?

Hargreaves in, Tosic out of Euro squad

September 3, 2009 Tags: Shorts No comments

Owen Hargreaves has been included in Manchester United’s Champions League squad but there is disappointment for Zoran Tosic, who misses out on the bloated 35-man squad.

Hargreaves, who is set to return to training on September 23 after undergoing operations on both knees to cure a career-threatening tendinitis problem, may be able to compete in the latter matches of the first group stage.

United are allowed to register up to 25 players for the Champions League and an additional 10 young players players, including Anderson and Jonny Evans. UEFA rules permit any player born on or after 1 January 1988 who has been eligible to play for the club for any uninterrupted period of two years since his 15th birthday to be registered outside of the 25-man squad limit.

There is also room in the squad for new signing Gabriel Obertan, who has been picked ahead of the Serbian Tosic.

United’s Champions League squad:
1.Van der Sar
2.Neville
3.Evra
4.Hargreaves
5.Ferdinand
6.Brown
7.Owen
9.Berbatov
10.Rooney
11.Giggs
12.Foster
13.Park
15.Vidic
16.Carrick
17.Nani
18.Scholes
20.Fabio
21.Rafael
22.O’Shea
24.Fletcher
25.Valencia
26.Obertan
27.Macheda
28.Gibson
29.Kuszczak

Additional players registered:

8.Anderson
19.Welbeck
23.J.Evans
31.C.Evans
33.Hewson
36.Gray
37.Cathcart
38.Zieler
39.Chester
40.Amos

Anti-football? No, United is football

September 2, 2009 Tags: Opinion 14 comments

Arsenal’s delusional manager Arséne Wenger criticised Manchester United for playing “anti-football” in the home side’s 2-1 victory over the Londoners at Old Trafford on Saturday. That – somehow – United had won by kicking the victims Arsenal out of the game. It’s a familiar refrain from Wenger, whose brittle team is so often beaten by opponents prepared to do little more than press.

Wenger’s argument was no different in 2004 when United ended the Gooners’ ‘unbeaten’ Premier League run of 49 games. He wasn’t right then; he is ever so wrong now. Wenger’s whinge is little more than smoke blown to mask his increasingly obvious personal and professional deficiencies.

Wenger’s ire was seemingly directed at Darren Fletcher, whose work rate and endeavour helped drag United back into the game. When has football ever been different? The beautiful game has always needed players prepared to put in a ‘reducer’ or two, break up opponents’ attacking play and win the ball back. Without it, football would be little more than basketball played with the feet.

But far from practising anti-football Sir Alex Ferguson is the father of modern attacking football. The man, who when it is really needed, will bet all on red, even when the odds are on black.

Think back to the 1998 – 1999 season. United’s ‘treble’ campaign. Yes, United boasted what is probably the best midfield quartet of the last 20 years. [Pop quiz – name a better one.] In Giggs, Keane, Scholes and Beckham, Ferguson boasted four world stars. But it wasn’t United’s wonderful midfield that won the club so many trophies – it was always Ferguson’s belief that his team would score one more than the opposition. One down in the final minutes of a European Cup final?. Throw on two more forwards. Still haven’t scored? Push the goalkeeper up front too. It was wonderful to watch. Truly a golden era.

Despite the ‘Europeanisation’ of Ferguson’s teams in the intervening years the man is still prepared to take the risks that other managers – especially Wenger – cannot. In May Rant praised the gambler Fergie, who had won United the title, despite Liverpool’s superior late season form, by taking huge risks when it really mattered. It was true in 1999 and it is true today.

On Saturday United’s team – playing badly – was prepared to battle and force its way back into the match. The sheer weight of will and expectation brought two goals. Arsenal could never have recovered from a similar position. Indeed, Arsene Wenger’s greatest strength and principal weakness is his religious belief that his team should always play the same way. Metronomic triangles whether the team is 1-0 up or 5-0 down. There is and has never been a plan b.

Wenger buys players with the same mindset. Andrei Arshavin, Arsenal’s gifted Russian forward, criticised the team’s failure to continue attacking when 1-0 up.

“I am upset with the result,” the Russian said.

“Yes, we suffered a first defeat, which, I think, should just give us additional strength. We will draw our conclusions from how this happened.

“Why did we lose? Once we scored, the team should not have retreated into our half, but instead should have continued to play our brand of game – to attack the goals of the opponent, rather than play to retain the lead.

“In the second half Manchester pressured us a little and this ‘little’ was enough to score two goals against us. After that we started playing again, but it was already not enough. Three points lost.”

Commendable maybe but it’s not as if United’s approach is the catenaccio so loved during the era of Italian dominance. Wenger’s inability to see the wood for the trees is at the very heart of his paranoia. Perhaps he is increasingly detached from reality? The Frenchman seems to believe he is on a higher plane. That is his team has a moral superiority.

Perhaps this is why the public and professional reaction to Eduardo’s blatant dive against Celtic last week was so strong? Wenger holds his team up as a standard bearer. It is not. But by these standards is he judged.

Yet, his team are no more a standard-bearer for attacking football than for footballing fair play. United has, in fact, scored more goals than Arsenal in 10 out 13 seasons that Ferguson and Wenger has faced each other since the former Monaco manager reached English shores. That’s 981 goals by United to 912 by Arsenal in the Premier League. And in the five years since Arsenal last won a trophy United have added three Premier League titles, a Carling Cup and a European Cup.

If this is anti-football, we’ll take more of it.

Fergie after Morimoto

September 2, 2009 Tags: Shorts No comments

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is after Japanese striker Takayuki Morimoto according to reports. The striker, who is with Italian Serie A outfit Catania, is thought of as one of the most exciting prospects to come out of Asia in recent years.

Catania general manager Pietro Lo Monaco said today that Ferguson is a fan of the striker, 21, who was likened by AC Milan’s Alexandre Pato to Brazilian legend/fat boy Ronaldo. The report should be taken with a pinch of salt though – Lo Monaco has said he will sell the youngster next summer.

“We’ll transfer him to a big club at the end of the season. We, as a small club, can do nothing more for him,” said Lo Monaco. “We’ve already received important offers from England and France this summer.”

“Alex Ferguson highly rates him.”

Mr. Glass injured again

September 2, 2009 Tags: Shorts 4 comments

The perpetually crocked Wes Brown has been injured again – this time on international duty with England. The defender, who has spent almost as much time in the treatment room as the pitch during his decade-long United career, picked up a minor knock in manager Fabio Capello’s first training session with the squad on Tuesday. But the injury is serious enough that Brown will not play against Slovenia on Saturday unless he makes it through a training session beforehand.

Brown played for United at centre-half in the weekend’s 2-1 victory over Arsenal and is crucial to Sir Alex Ferguson’s short-term plans with Johnny Evans and Rio Ferdinand both out. While Ferdinand hopes to return for the September 12 match against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane, Evans is likely to be sent for an operation on his left ankle, keeping him out until the end of October.

‘Incredible’ Rooney at United for life

September 1, 2009 Tags: Shorts No comments

Wayne Rooney will stay at Manchester United for life because he loves the club, said the young Scouser today. Meanwhile, the manager credited with revitalising the player’s international career – Fabio Capello – has described Rooney as “incredible” as the United forward seeks to maintain  his scoring record of 10 goals in his last eight internationals, with a double header for England against Solvenia and Croatia in the coming week.

“I’ve always said I love this club and, as long as I’m wanted here, I’ll play here, Rooney told The Sun today. “It’s as simple as that. I can’t see one reason why I should want to move. I’ve everything I want. My family are just 30 minutes away, I’m settled and I honestly can’t see me going anywhere else unless I’m told otherwise by the manager.”

Capello, who is deploying the United player in his favoured role ‘in the hole’ behind a striker, says Rooney has is central to England’s 100% qualification record. “Rooney is an important player, he’s incredible and young – he can improve a lot with more experience and confidence in himself,” said the Italian.