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UNITEDRANT

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.

Fergie trusts players, do fans?

September 1, 2009 Tags: Opinion 10 comments

The transfer window shut firmly today and with it United’s business for the summer ended. Having brought in two senior players and a further three in the ‘promising’ category, manager Sir Alex Ferguson has declared himself happy with his squad. But after the departures of Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez earlier in the summer, the question is, do the fans feel the same?

“The bulk of the £80m fee we got from Real Madrid for Cristiano Ronaldo is still there, of course, and it seems to be burning a hole in the pockets of a lot of fans,” said Ferguson today.

“But you don’t suddenly scrap your transfer policy because of one defeat even if it was a bad one [to Burnley at Turf Moor].

“I have explained our strategy, based on my confidence in our squad with a few new faces, existing players maturing and more eager beavers on the way up, and I have no intention of abandoning it. I know we have the right squad.”

It’s a commendable show of faith by Ferguson, whose transfer policy – a few exceptions aside – has centred on buying players under-25 in recent seasons. It’s a policy that flourished with the development of Cristiano Ronaldo; bought for £12 million, sold for £80 million six years later.

Ferguson has built such a bank of credit over the seasons that to question his judgement is churlish. When it comes to players, the manager is normally right. In youth Ferguson may trust, but even the great man cannot guarantee success. For every hit there is also considerable risk in betting the house on youth. Indeed, of the younger players brought into the squad in the past two seasons none have conclusively proven that they will make it at the highest level. Coming into the new season there is considerable young talent at Ferguson’s disposal. Yet there are question marks over first team regulars Anderson, Nani and Ben Foster. Moreover there is no certainty that Fabio and Rafael da Silva, Gabriel Obertan, Mame Biram Diouf, Kiko Macheda or Danny Welbeck will make it either. Nor 23 year old new signing Antonio Valencia for that matter.

United must also deal with the inevitable decline of Gary Neville, Edwin van der Sar, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs; and the increasing injury prevalence of Rio Ferdinand as he enters his 30s. The result is that United cannot possibly line-up with 11 top class players as they have in the past. Ferguson has an awesome squad at his disposal but one with fewer proven stars than in the past. Indeed, only the aforementioned Ferdinand, together with Nemanja Vidic and Wayne Rooney can reasonably be described as world class this season.

United’s midfield is of particular concern. While well stocked, it is light in terms of proven quality.

There are also question marks about how the team will adapt to Ferguson’s tactics this season which – necessitated by the departure of Ronaldo – have evolved from a flexible three up front to a more conventional two.

That’s a lot of uncertainty and risk. A dip into the top end of the transfer market could have mitigated some of that. Ferguson felt it unnecessary and time almost always proves him right.

Poll: Arsène Wenger is…

August 30, 2009 Tags: Polls 4 comments

Arsenal Manger Arséne Wenger completely lost the plot in his side’s defeat to United at the weekend. Wenger started the week lashing out at UEFA for threatening to ban the cheat Eduardo, and ended it blaming the referee, fourth official, Elvis and the Man in the Moon for his side’s 2-1 loss. Wenger defended Eduardo’s outrageous dive against Celtic, and then did the same went Emmanuel Eboué repeated the trick against United. Confirmed liar Wenger seems to be losing the plot…

Arsene Wenger is...

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United face Wolves in Carling Cup

August 30, 2009 Tags: Shorts No comments

Manchester United will commence the defence of their Carling Cup with a home tie against Wolverhampton Wanderers at Old Trafford after the third round draw. The tie is likely to be played at 8pm on Wednesday September 23rd.

The match against one of the Premier League’s new boys will give manager Sir Alex Ferguson’s reserves and fringe players another chance to build on last year’s successful experience. Youngsters including Fabio da Silva, Darron Gibson, Ritchie de Laet, Craig Cathcart, Federico Macheda, and Danny Welbeck are likely to play.

Carling Cup third round draw:
Arsenal v West Brom
Chelsea v QPR
Bolton v West Ham
Barnsley v Burnley
Hull v Everton
Leeds v Liverpool
MANCHESTER UNITED v Wolves
Manchester City v Fulham
Sunderland v Birmingham
Peterborough v Newcastle
Carlisle v Portsmouth
Nottingham Forest v Blackburn
Stoke v Blackpool
Scunthorpe v Port Vale
Preston v Tottenham
Aston Villa v Cardiff

Ties will be played week commencing Monday, 21 September

Rooney happy to take pens

August 30, 2009 Tags: Shorts No comments

Wayne Rooney is more than happy to take United’s penalty kicks this season after scoring against Arsenal at the weekend. With Michael Carrick having missed in United’s defeat to Burnley at Turf Moor, Rooney resumed duties on Saturday, sending Manuel Almunia the wrong way in scoring United’s equaliser. It was Rooney’s fourth goal in as many Premier League matches this season. Rooney won the penalty after being fouled by the Arsenal ‘keeper.

“No-one really knew who was our penalty taker. Then we got one at Burnley but Michael Carrick unfortunately missed it so from then on I said I’d take them – and thankfully I scored,” said Rooney after the game.

“There was no doubt over the penalty. The ‘keeper’s come and took my legs from me and I had no option,” he added.

Rooney has now scored four and missed two of the penalties he has taken in a United shirt; this being the first of the six he has dispatched to the ‘keeper’s left. Assuming that Rooney has now taken up penalty taking duties for the season, it should add five to eight additional goals to this season’s tally.