International round-up

September 6, 2009 Tags: Opinion 10 comments

Manchester United have 16 senior players plus several juniors out on international duty this week, leaving Sir Alex Ferguson with time to attend the Elite Coaches forum in Nyon, Switzerland and the old guard holding the fort at Carrington. While Messrs. Gary Neville, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes have time to take it easy this week, then most of United’s squad is off fighting for World Cup spots.

Ben Foster, Wayne Rooney, Michael Carrick and Wes Brown are with the England squad this week. Firstly for Saturday’s 2-1 victory over Slovenia and then for the Group 6 World Cup tie at home to Croatia on Wednesday. While Foster sat on the bench, Ferdinand will not play with a thigh injury and Brown not picked. Carrick meanwhile had a half against the Slovenian’s in the centre of midfield, while Rooney was at the heart of the action for 80 minutes.

Typically Rooney was at the heart of both the action and headlines after being felled for a controversial 31st minute penalty. Running into the box, Rooney tussled for a loose ball only to go down under a shirt pull. The Slovenian’s cried ‘dive’. It wasn’t but the penalty was certainly soft.

In Scotland Darren Fletcher captained George Burley’s team to a 2-0 victory over Macedonia at Hampden Park in European Group 9. The win keeps Scotland’s World Cup hopes alive until they are soundly beaten by the Dutch on Wednesday and dumped out of the competition. Rest easy next summer, Darren.

Meanwhile, John O’Shea played for the Republic of Ireland in the nation’s fortunate 2-1 victory over minnows Cyprus in European Group 8. The late Robbie Keane winner in Nicosia saved the Republic’s blushes and keeps open the country’s hopes for a spot in South Africa next year. Ireland sit second in the table behind Italy but several points clear of Bulgaria, who are in third place. The green army is likely to finish second and be forced to qualify via a playoff after Wednesday’s qualifier in Turin. Darron Gibson was an unused substitute.

In the same group Dimitar Berbatov scored from the spot in Bulgaria’s 4-1 win over Montenegro. The United striker scored Bulgaria’s third in the win, although his team are five points behind Ireland in the chase for second spot.

In Group 3 Jonny Evans delayed an ankle operation to play at the heart of Northern Ireland’s central defence in their 1-1 draw away to Poland. It was a huge result for the Northern Irish who still hold hopes of securing second place in the group and therefore a play-off spot. The Irish next face group leaders Slovakia followed by a crucial away fixture in the Czech Republic.

Portugal’s increasingly forlorn hope of qualifying for the World Cup took another blow as they drew with Group 1 leaders Denmark. Nani came on as a second half substitute in the 1-1 draw in Copenhagen in which Cristiano Ronaldo also played. Carlos Queiroz’ fate is likely to be sealed with two matches against second placed Hungary on Wednesday and then in October.

Elsewhere Patrice Evra played for France in their 1-1 draw with Romania. France, who are second behind Nemanja Vidic’s Serbia in Group 7, could still qualify automatically but face a crucial match against Serbia on Wednesday in Belgrade. Zoran Tosic also features in the Serbian squad.

Finally in Europe Ritchie de Laet made Belgium’s squad but mercifully didn’t figure in the country’s 5-0 defeat to Spain. Belgium have no chance of qualifying.

Outisde of Europe Park Ji-Sung set up South Korea’s final goal in their 3-1 win over Australia. Both Korea and the Australians have already qualified for the finals next year.

Luis Valencia wasn’t so lucky as his Ecuador side lost 2-0 against fith placed Colombia in Medellin. Ecuador still have a chance of qualifying however, as fourth placed Argentina are only two points ahead.

Anderson didn’t make the Brazil squad, as the World Cup favourites beat Argentian 3-1 on their own turf in Rosario.

Outside of the of the seniors United sent 11 juniors to under-21, under-19 and under-17 squads this week. Man United youth report far better than we can:

England U21 – Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley
Italy U21 – Federico Macheda
Northern Ireland U21 – Craig Cathcart
Scotland U21 – David Gray
Serbia U21 – Adem Ljajić
England U19 – Reece Brown, Cameron Stewart, Matt James
Ireland U19 – Robbie Brady
Ireland U17 – Sean McGinty

Farewell Dwight Yorke

September 6, 2009 Tags: Opinion No comments

Dwight Yorke, the former Manchester United forward whose goals led the club to 1999 treble glory, has retired from football at the age of 37 and intends to become a coach. He is to take up the post of assistant manager of the Trinidad and Tobago national team as a first step into coaching. Yorke’s contract with Sunderland – his final club – was not renewed at the end of last season.

“It’s time to hang up my boots,” said the striker who scored 64 goals in 151 appearances for United.

“While I’m still in great shape, I’m not getting any younger. I’ve had the time of my life. I hope people will say that I played the game in the right way with a smile on my face.

“I’ve been blessed really. I’ve played alongside some of the greatest players the Premier League has ever seen in Roy Keane, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, David Beckham, Peter Schmeichel, and played for the greatest manager in Alex Ferguson.”

Yorke eventually fell out with Sir Alex Ferguson over the player’s excessive lifestyle, but the player contributed fully to one of the most successful periods in United’s history between 1998 and 2002. In the player’s first three seasons the club won an unprecedented three Premier League trophies in a row and the 1999 European Cup.

It was Yorke’s partnership with Andy Cole that the Trinidad and Tobago international will be best remembered for. Yorke finished top scorer in the 1999 season and the combination proved devastating. Famously the pair one-two’ed its way through the Barcelona defence on way to United’s 3-3 draw in the Noup Camp.

It was a great return for Yorke, the man from the tiny island, who arrived at Old Trafford after nearly 10 years at Aston Villa. Despite leaving the club for United in a contentious £12.6 million deal – and later playing for Birmingham City – Yorke is still held in high esteem at Villa Park as one of their greatest ever players. So he should be. Yorke has always been the player with a smile on his face. Talented but also very much a man of the people.

Yorke’s off-the-field activities and the arrival of Ruud van Nistelrooy put paid to his United career after four seasons. The forward’s relationship with ‘model’ Jordan, with whom he had a son, was played out in the public through the tabloids – a scenario that Ferguson is never happy with.

The player was eventually sold for £2 million to Blackburn in the summer of 2002 but it was a sad end to a wonderful, if short, United career. He played out his days with Blackburn, Birmingham, Sydney FC and then Sunderland – reinventing himself as a deep lying midfielder late in his career.

But for such patriotic man it is perhaps the 2006 World Cup finals in Germany that was Yorke’s proudest moment. He captained the tiny Trinidad and Tobago to thier first tournament.

“I’ll always count myself lucky,” said Yorke.

“I was a boy on a beach from a little Caribbean island that got the chance to fulfil his dream of winning trophies at the highest level and captaining his country in their first ever World Cup Finals.”

Le Larve report United to FIFA

September 5, 2009 Tags: , Shorts No comments

French Ligue 1 outfit Le Harve have reported Manchester United to FIFA in the case of French under-16 captain Paul Pogba, who signed for reds earlier this summer. In a case with echoes of the one that Chelsea lost against Lens earlier last week, Le Harve will claim that Pogba had a contract with the French club and that United induced the player to break the agreement.

“The player had a no-hire agreement, and so had to sign his first contract in France,” Louvel told radio station France Info.

“But he didn’t sign it because Manchester United contacted the parents and made astronomical and excessive financial propositions for a 15-year-old boy.

“We have submitted the case to Fifa. The letter to leave has not been agreed by the French Federation, so today Fifa has been referred.

“I hope we will get the same result [as in the Chelsea case], which could justify to those clubs they can’t do anything and they have rules to respect.”

Le Harve’s argument centres on the pre-contract agreement that the player is said to have signed, which states that his first professional contract will be with the French club. Gaël Kakuta also had a similar agreement with Lens, which is widely regarded as legally unenforceable in English law.

FIFA it seems has a different view.

Nonsense Rio to Spain rumours

September 5, 2009 Tags: Shorts No comments

Tabloid rumour mill The Sun today reports that Rio Ferdinand is set to quit Manchester United for the warmer pastures of Real Madrid or Barcelona next summer. The typically weak ‘exclusive’, which carries unattributed quotes from ‘a source’, says that Ferdinand is seeking to boost his business profile as he enters his 30s.

MANCHESTER UNITED are heading for a Ronaldo-style battle to hang on to Rio Ferdinand. The England defender is a target for Barcelona and Real Madrid – and knows a move to Spain will boost his growing business career.

Ferdinand is under contract until 2013 but United could be tempted to cash in on a player who is 30 and who has suffered from recent injury problems. A move to Spain would give brand Rio the kind of platform both David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo have exploited at Madrid.

A source revealed: “Rio can see the sense of it. Not only would it be a fresh challenge as he nears the end of his career, it would also fit all his projects off the pitch.

“Rio has big business plans, which are already taking shape, and would really take off if he moved to one of the big Spanish clubs.”

The laughably inaccurate story, which is based on little more that quotes from a presumably Spanish-based agent, is typical of the negotiation-by-media tactics used by Real Madrid in the past.

Rio Ferdinand is under contract at United until 2013 and is one of the highest paid players at Old Trafford. He has repeatedly stated that he wants to end his career at United.

Rant Cast 4 – Chelsea’s transfer ban

September 4, 2009 Tags: Rant Cast No comments

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

  • Chelsea’s transfer ban
  • United 2 – 1 Arsenal
  • The international break
  • Fergie being offered the Scotland job
  • Spurs away

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.

Fergie: ban diving cheats

September 4, 2009 Tags: , Shorts No comments

Sir Alex Ferguson has backed UEFA’s decision to ban Arsenal’s cheat Eduardo for diving and says that the punishment will send out a message to the football community. Arsenal’s Croatian striker ‘simulated’ a foul to win a penalty against Celtic in the Champions League qualifier, second leg. UEFA has now banned the player for two European ties, meaning Eduardo will miss Arsenal’s opening Champions League group matches.

It was followed by an outrageous Emmanuel Eboué dive that earned the Ivorian defender a yellow card at Old Trafford on Saturday.

“Quite rightly something should be done. You hope that message gets across,” said Ferguson, who is attending the UEFA Elite Club Coaches Forum in Nyon, Switzerland during the international break.

“Not one coach is proud of the fact that they have players who simulate to get decisions. Coaches can’t be proud if they have won the game that way. I certainly wouldn’t be,” the Scot added.

“We all agreed that education is the best way forward, from youth teams through to first team players. We all have a responsibility, particularly the players of today, on how it impacts on young people.”

But Ferguson backed Arsène Wenger’s refusal to condemn Eduardo’s blatant cheating.

“I wouldn’t say it publicly but I wouldn’t be pleased if it was my player who did that,” the United manager added in Wenger’s defence.

“When you make a public criticism of your players you are in danger of losing the morale of the dressing room. Your job is to protect the dressing room and keep it solid. You become insular and protective of your own players in your team. We’re all selfish that way.”

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?