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Fergie – England playing with tension

June 22, 2010 Tags: , International No comments

Sir Alex Ferguson has revealed details of the tension-ridden England World Cup camp in a US radio interview, as the Scot again called on the Premier League to adopt a mid-winter break. Ferguson, speaking to US radio station Sirius XM, says that the weight of expectation is weighing heavily on England players’ shoulders.

“I spoke to Wayne and I just said: ‘Relax and enjoy it,’” Ferguson said.

“I just sensed there was a tension in and around the camp from what I was hearing. I didn’t watch the Algeria game but I just get a feeling that the expectation is affecting the England team. Sometimes the expectation can be debilitating in terms of getting the players to perform to the levels required to get through their group.”

Ferguson also says that an exacting English season, which does not feature a winter break favoured on the continent, may adversely affect players’ performances in South Africa.

“The season we have in Europe, particularly in England, is tough,” the Scot added.

“Then the players all met up three or four days after the season finished and they have been together for most of that time, after a long, hard season. It’s a real task to ask players to perform at the best level they can after a season in England.

“Germany always take that month-long break in January.”

Captain Evra central to French implosion

June 21, 2010 Tags: , , International 1 comment

Prior to the World Cup’s start French coach Raymond Domenech awarded Patrice Evra the national team captaincy. The honour came with Thierry Henry’s fading star; Manchester United’s left-back replacing Les Bleus’ legend at the national side’s helm. With the team and coach at war, Evra may prefer the relative quiet of defensive duties.

How quickly the dream turns to dust.

French in-fighting, hardly new, began before the tournament’s start with William Gallas objecting to Evra’s premature promotion. The Arsenal defender, now the team’s senior player, instilled a tournament-long media boycott in protest at the apparent insult by Domenech.

More followed disquiet followed, with Chelsea winger Florent Malouda exchanging heated – reportedly bordering on violent – words with Domenech before being consigned to the bench for Les Bleus’ first match again Uruguay match.

Malouda’s anger just another expression of long-held antipathy for Domenech’s regime both inside the squad and among the wider public. Aside from alienating a series of senior players, the erratic coach is widely considered too studious, too closely wedded to the Fédération Française de Football (FFF) after years with both the Under-21s and national team.

Worse followed with Domenech’s team performing more akin to strangers than former world champions against Uruguay a week last Saturday.

Then, with France held scoreless at half-time against Mexico on Thursday night Nicolas Anelka, dubbed Le Sulk for good reason, let the frustration boil-over and reportedly called Domenech “the son of a whore” as egos within the camp reached breaking point.

The French lost, with new United recruit Javier Hernandéz scoring a stunning opener as Javier Aguirre’s side recorded a well-deserved 2-0 win in Group A.

Anelka’s confrontation had reached the morning papers as Friday’s news broke, the FFF sent the Chelsea striker home after Le Sulk refused to apologise when asked to by Fédération president Jean-Pierre Escalettes.

Domenech supported the FFF, much to his players’ disgust.

“Nobody can behave in such a way in the dressing room or elsewhere and high-level sportsmen and women have to lead by example through football,” said 58-year-old coach.

By Sunday little short of total war had been declared at Knysna, the French base for the tournament, as Evra confronted fitness coach Robert Duverne with both the accusation of leaking the Anelka tirade to the press and news of an impending players’ strike.

Evra’s accusation that a “traitor” – later denied as Duverne by the left-back – within the camp deliberately contravened the unwritten law of the dressing room by revealing the inner-most secrets of squad conversations.

Within hours the entire squad, now refusing to train, effectively forced Domenech to issue a demand on the players’ behalf for Anelka’s immediate return.

“The players are unanimously against the FFF’s decision to expel Nicolas Anelka,” said the statement.

The row, which has ended Anelka’s international career, will also bring the curtain down on Domenech’s era in shame, possibly as early as Tuesday when France play hosts South Africa in Bloemfontain. The coach is being replaced by former United defender Laurent Blanc after the World Cup ends.

“The players don’t want to train, it’s a scandal,” the FFF’s team director and FFF managing director Jean-Louis Valentin said, resigning in disgust at Sunday’s strike.

“It’s a scandal for French people, for the youngsters who came here to watch them train. I’m resigning, I’m leaving the Federation. I have nothing more to do here. I’m going back to Paris.”

When the French blow-up it goes nuclear.

But Evra’s part runs further than his role as the not wholly popular new captain, even aside from the training ground confrontation with Duverne. Although not the ring-leader in total mutiny, Evra supported leading players – thought to be stars “past their prime,” including deposed captain Thierry Henry, the aforementioned Gallas and Malouda.

“A rebellion? No, a caprice. A strike? No, cowardliness. Don’t deceive yourself. The republican solidarity that our players showed the world yesterday is an illusion,” ran the lead editorial in French sports newspaper L’Equipe.

“Evra has once and for all shown that he has muddled up the role of captain with that of a gang leader.”

Domenech today held a press conference without his captain Evra, with suggestions now circulating that the United left-back will be stripped of both the captaincy and his place in Les Bleus’ side.

It is perhaps then with some irony that Evra’s leadership has now brought new unity to a camp riven with divisions over personnel, tactics and the coach’s role – even if that solidarity is based on a mutual hatred of the coach and federation.

Training today behind closed-doors, the French squad now faces a make-or-break fixture against the hosts tomorrow, with Uruguay and Mexico requiring only a draw to end France’s run in the tournament.

Most French fans it seems will be supporting the Africans.

All bar Rooney impervious to criticism

June 21, 2010 Tags: , , International 8 comments

Perhaps the most shocking element of the fallout from England’s meek performances at the World Cup is not that striker Wayne Rooney has borne the brunt of criticism but that so few others have been singled out, let alone stepped forward to shoulder any responsibility for failure. Rooney alone is now the media’s principal target.

Fabio Capello’s decision to drop goalkeeper Rob Green for England’s match against Algeria Friday night has ended that debate and in turn increased the pressure on Rooney.

Indeed, Rooney’s performances in South Africa have been quiet in the face of minimal support from midfield or the English flanks. Dropping ever deeper against Algeria, Rooney reverted to the striker of years past in a desperate attempt to bring himself into the game when others could not.

But while the media – and especially England fans – have largely heaped the pressure on Manchester United’s 34-goal striker, England’s troubles lie elsewhere in the mediocrity of a poor quality team and manager resistant to change.

In the match against Algeria, as the with England’s draw with the USA, Capello’s side failed to retain possession of the ball; the English disease. While former Germany great Franz Beckenbauer exaggerated the depths of England’s travails – calling Cappello’s tactics “kick and rush” – the side’s age-old inability to retain the ball while maneuvering opponents out of position again came to the fore.

Defensively more secure against the North Africans than in England’s previous World Cup match, Capello’s team was still unable to assert any significant assault on the Algerian net. Resorting first to hitting hapless forward Emile Heskey from back-to-front, the English then worked the channels to no great effect, eschewing any attempt to play through midfield.

While Capello made the sensible decision to break up the ego-laden partnership of Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard for Friday’s draw, neither that celebrated pair nor the returning Gareth Barry offered any creativity from midfield, let alone a decent pass to a team-mate.

Meanwhile Tottenham Hotspur’s normally dangerous Aaron Lennon was reduced to cutting inside and playing a square ball rather than taking on his opponent.

Unsurprisingly Capello has retained both the formation and personnel that qualified for the World Cup so impressively. The Italian’s record of domestic success and apparent ability to turn around England’s fortunes following Steve McClaren’s shambolic reign earned the 64-year-old the right to stick firmly to plan A.

But it’s a system that uses few of England’s better players in their club positions. Rooney, now the lone forward at Old Trafford, is asked to drop a little deeper with England. Gerrard, frequently used just behind the road-running Fernando Torres at Anfield, is now consigned to the left-wing. Even Frank Lampard normally operates from the security of a three-man Chelsea midfield.

Little wonder then that Rooney has been presented with so few half chances in two matches to date, let alone a genuine opportunity to release the pressure.

Why then such heavy criticism laid at the Scouser’s door when neither Gerrard nor Lampard have shone to date? After all should Capello, as some English media and supporters are now clamoring for, drop the United striker it is hardly going to help the team retain the ball.

There is of course far greater focus on what Cristiano Ronaldo yesterday called “the big players” – he should know having failed to score for Portugal during open play for nearly two years. On the team’s best player lies the burden of responsibility.

There is also a strong element within the English supporter base that has no love for United’s representatives within the squad – even Rooney.

The sensible – perhaps even safe – option for Capello in England’s final group game against Slovenia on Wednesday afternoon is to go with plan B, and restore the player’s preferred 4-3-3 formation against the Eastern Europeans.

John Terry’s rapidly aborted attempt at a players’ coup yesterday not only revealed the Chelsea-player’s Sir Colin Campbell-esque denial that he is no longer captain but also a widespread belief that restoring the majority of England’s best players to their club positions is the route to success.

After all, using Rooney as England’s principal forward cannot yield fewer results than Heskey has to date no matter how far the United man has under-performed. Nor can pushing Gerrard into ‘the hole’ behind United’s striker isolate the Liverpool-captain any further. Bringing Joe Cole into the left-side of a three man attack will also add much needed variety to England’s play.

Perhaps most importantly the switch will surely liberate Rooney to perform as he has for United all season.

The alternative – the media’s option – is to drop England’s best player, in one fell swoop securing his status as preferred scapegoat while ensuring the English return home even earlier than many expected.

United lads look to World Cup games with hope

June 17, 2010 Tags: , , , International No comments

Patrice Evra, Ji-Sung Park and Wayne Rooney face crucial World Cup fixtures over the next two days. While Korea beat Greece, both Rooney and Evra suffered disappointing opening draws. Amid stories of fighting in the French camp and English press criticism, only Park’s Korea, who face Argentina today, play without pressure.

South Korea captain Park faces his good friend and former Manchester United team-mate Carlos Tevez today, as new tournament favourites Argentina look to build on a opening win over Nigeria. The lunchtime kick-off at Soccer City Johannesburg could go a long way to deciding which team wins Group B.

But friendship, which has remained despite the players now on opposite sides of the city, is set aside for the fixture, says the Korean.

“We have played together and I think it is great that we will play against each other, but this is not just a friendly, this is the greatest place to play football,” Park told Sky Sports.

“We are both adversaries for now and we will both be doing our best to win the game.

“We had two years together at Old Trafford and we know each other very well.

“If you know your opponent, you are going to tell your defenders what it will be like, so we are both in the same boat.”

Although fatigue may have played a part in the low-key opening fixtures, Park’s multiple injuries during the season mean he is fresher than most. It’s an advantage, says the 29-year-old winger.

“I think a lot of the European players are a little tired and may not be on top form, but I have rested well and had a good training schedule.

“I am at the top of my condition and physically I think I am very well-prepared.”

Meanwhile, French captain leads his side out against Mexico tonight in Polokwane, with United’s new striking recruit Javier Hernandéz on the opposite side. Despite stories of in-fighting and clashes with the team’s coach Raymond Domenech dominating the media, Evra insists that French spirit is high for the crucial Group A fixture.

Mexico drew its opening fixture against South Africa, while France failed to beat 10-man Uruguay. However, the South Americans’ 3-0 win over the hosts last night means that victory in today’s fixture is essential for both France and Mexico.

“I like to play within a very good team spirit,” said Evra, who was appointed to succeed Thierry Henry as France’s captain.

“I am always making sure that the group remains together and in good spirits and we remain friends, play closely together and are frank with one another so we don’t take our problems out onto the pitch.

“Since the first day you could feel this team was closely-knit and after each training session there are little gestures that cannot lie.”

Rooney, meanwhile, is under pressure to score having failed to hit the net since an early-April ankle injury hampered the end to the striker’s season. With a disappointing draw against the United States behind the team, pressure is mounting on both Rooney and Fabio Capello to deliver a result against Algeria in tomorrow evening’s Group D match.

“I’d like to score, but if I’m not scoring I’ll keep working until I do,” said Rooney, who has scored 25 times in 61 internationals.

“I don’t worry that much about it. We’ve got players in the team who can score goals. For us to do well, I need to play better than I did and to score goals, but I don’t feel under extra pressure.”

“It was difficult for me to play as well as I wanted after I got the injury against Bayern Munich. I played when I probably shouldn’t and lost my match fitness and sharpness.

“Even in Austria (during high altitude training) I had a few niggles and I held myself back but since we’ve come over here I’ve felt sharp and been flat out.

“When I was playing well and scoring goals earlier in the season I was sharp and hungry in training. That is how I feel at the minute.

“Of course I want to score. I don’t mind not scoring if we win but I know for us to win, it will be more or less down to me to score the goals, whether it is now or later in the competition.”

Rooney, rated as one of the finest players on the planet over the past 12 months, says the tournament is an opportunity to consolidate that view with some stand-out performances. So far other leading players such as Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaká have failed to inspire in a low-key start to the tournament.

“This is a great opportunity for me to prove myself at world level,” added the 34-goal striker.

“I look at what Maradona and Pelé did. They took the World Cup by the scruff of the neck and virtually won it single-handed.

“If I can manage half of what they achieved, it would be great.”

World Cup scouting report I

June 14, 2010 Tags: , International 6 comments

With nine matches at the World Cup now complete fans have witnessed a low-key start to the tournament,with few teams willing to risk losing first time out. With a number of reported Manchester United transfer targets to watch, interest remains high and Rant looks at a handful of speculated targets and those who could do well at Old Trafford.

Simon Kjaer
The Danish central defender, who stands out with long shocking blonde hair and an alice band, is currently on Palermo’s books in Italy’s Serie A but is consistently linked with an expensive move to the Premier League. Outspoken Palermo President claims a bid from either United or Manchester City, with Nemanja Vidic’s departure from Old Trafford seeming more likely by the day.

Kjaer, who featured in Denmark’s uninspiring 2-0 defeat to the Netherlands at Soccer City Johannesburg, looked comfortable in possession but was frequently caught out by the Dutch forwards’ movement, getting the wrong side of Robin van Persie on more than one occasion. Worst was to come in the second half, when the 20-year-old defender reacted slowly to Eljero Elia’s shot and was beaten to the rebound by Dirk Kuyt for the Netherlands’ second goal.

Mesut Özil
Werder Bremen’s talented Turkish-German midfielder was outstanding in a 4-0 win over Australia last night, dictating tempo and floating in between midfield and attack. Contracted to the German club until June 2011, many suspect the midfielder will move on this summer to a bigger European stage. Not that Özil’s talents have come as a surprise to English scouts, with the 21-year-old simply brilliant for Germany last summer against England in the European Under-21 Championship final.

United’s lack of creative talent in central midfield with Paul Scholes’ legs getting no younger has many fans salivating over the youthful Özil. Arsene Wenger is a known admirer of the player who will cost around €10 million with less than a year on the player’s contract remaining.

Tactically, Özil remains something of a throwback with the player’s floating role in the German side not one many Premier League teams deploy. The risk, undoubtedly, is that Özil would get lost in a traditional 4-4-2 system.

Eljero Elia
The Dutch Young Player of the Year demonstrated much of his undoubted talent in Hamburg’s run to the Europa League semi-final last season. A winger of genuine pace, the 23-year-old surprisingly slipped threw Ajax’ famous youth academy before joining ADO Den Haag and then Twente Enschede. The player moved to Hamburg for around €8.5 million last summer. But with Hamburg finishing outside the European places a strong World Cup tournament will surely alert major powers to Elia’s talents.

Previously linked to a move to Liverpool, Elia has said he does not plan to move away from the Bundesliga side this summer. The player’s brilliant cameo performance against Denmark today may change all that.

Miloš Krasić
The floppy-haired CSKA Moscow midfielder excelled in two fixtures against United in the Champions League last season prompting media speculation about a move to Old Trafford. Although the Serb is highly likely to move this summer he has gone on record saying his preference is for a transfer to Italy. Rafael Benitez’ Inter Milan is reportedly interested.

However, the right-sided midfielder struggled to make an impact as Serbia lost to Ghana on Sunday afternoon. The Black Stars’ victory owing much to the African’s adventurous outlook, with Serbia negative and unsurprising. Indeed, Krasić took the brunt of media criticism in the Serbian press today for a poor quality performance.

Rafael Van der Vaart
Linked to a £20 million move to Old Trafford, van der Vaart’s season has swung from lows to high and back again. The Real Madrid midfielder began the season without a squad number and seemingly on his way out of Santiago Bernabeu. However, Kaká’s injury proved a blessing, with the Dutchman excelling over the closing weeks of the season. Word on the street has it that the Madrid hierarchy would gladly sacrifice the former Ajax playmaker if the right bid is forthcoming.

The left-sided midfielder began Netherland’s match against Denmark this afternoon but consistently took up the same positions as his more illustrious compatriot Wesley Sneider and was eventually substituted for the aforementioned Elia.

Vidic blames missed chances

June 14, 2010 Tags: , International No comments

Manchester United’s giant defender Nemanja Vidic admitted his side was punished for failing to take chances, after Serbia lost its first World Cup finals match as a fully independent nation. The group D fixture, held in Pretoria, ended 1-0 to the Ghana after Serbia’s creative players largely failed to perform for Radomir Antić’s side.

Ghana, the more offensive team throughout, struggled to break down Antić’s celebrated back-four until Udinese defender Luković saw red in the 74th minute for a second bookable offence. Substitute Stuttgart midfielder Zdravko Kuzmanović then inexplicably handled inside the area with just five minutes to go, allowing the outstanding Asamoah Gyan to convert the resulting penalty and secure the Black Stars’ win.

“I think it was a penalty. I think he touched the ball with his hand,” Vidic admitted after the match.

“But I think we had a few chances. We didn’t score a goal and we got punished. It was a very important game to lose but we have to keep going and to focus on the next two matches.

“I leave to you to decide if it was a red card or not. I have my opinion but I’m not going to tell it to you.”

Vidic criticised – as many have – the new Jubilani ball but admitted that both sides have to play with it.

“I think many players said a lot of things about the ball. I need just to say when it’s going long or crosses it’s a very difficult ball for the forwards and the defenders,” he explained.

“But it’s the same, for them and for us, it’s the same ball.”

Serbia’s famed back-four stood firm but Antić’s attacking players failed to spark at Loftus Versfeld Stadium. While Nemanja Vidić and company repelled Ghana’s effervescent forwards, questions will be asked of Miloš Krasić, Marko Pantelić and Nikola Žigić who created few chances in a low-quality match.

Serbia must now win twice against Australia and Germany to guarantee progression in the tournament

Park wins as Rooney left disappointed

June 12, 2010 Tags: , , International 3 comments

Manchester United’s Park Ji-Sung scored as South Korea opened its World Cup programme with a comprehensive win over Greece in Port Elizabeth. Recalling the effervescent approach the Koreans took on home soil in 2002, Huh Jung-Moo’s side were energetic, lively and fully deserved the 2-0 win over the Euro 2004 champions.

Korea’s performance was in stark contrast to a poor England display in Rustenburg as Wayne Rooney’s side embarrassingly drew with the USA, where there were very few positives for manager Fabio Capello.

Rooney’s subdued display – save for a long-range second half strike – summed up England’s night in which few parts of Capello’s outfit met the standards expected against an obdurate United States. Those of a crueller disposition might add that his side rarely does.

For once though a United player will not become the national scapegoat for English failure – for now at least – with goalkeeper Robert Green’s first-half howler in the Massimo Taibi category for catastrophic errors.

While England dominated possession and created the better chances, 14th ranked USA has burst Capello’s bubble far earlier in the tournament than many expected. Lucky then that Algeria and Slovenia will pose far fewer challenges than Bob Bradley’s outfit.

Meanwhile in Port Elizabeth Park, who is Korea’s captain for the tournament, scored his side’s second as Jung-Moo’s as the 2002 semi-finalists dominated the group B match against a remarkably impotent Greece. With tough fixtures Argentina and Nigeria to come, Korea’s win offers the Asian side an outside chance of qualifying for the last 16.

Park capitalised on a fatal defensive area before characteristically driving into the box and slotting past Kostas Chalkias for the killer goal.

“It’s a great honour and pleasure for me to have been chosen,” said Park of his selection as Korea’s captain.

“We had a good result in our first game, so I am very happy. Since this is the first World Cup which is being held in Africa, I am very happy that we managed to win this game.”

“Personally, I was very honoured to score, but ultimately, it comes down to the team winning, and I am very happy that I managed to contribute to the team’s victory.”

Scheduled to meet first or second place in group A if the side qualifies, Park rightly pinpoints the match against Argentina in five days time as the fixture that will decide Korea’s fate in South Africa this summer.

“Argentina is, of course, the strongest team in our group and people are saying they could make the final,” Park added.

“Before the World Cup, we played a friendly against Spain and we thought about Argentina as we were playing that game.”

“Of course, there is a lot of difference between the two teams, but the unexpected can happen in this World Cup, and that is what we are looking to do.”

The Korean’s dynamism contrasts with England’s rigid 4-4-2 that neither draws the best out of Rooney or plays to the squad’s strength in midfield. Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard, who failed to gel in the centre of midfield once again, will surely not play together again this tournament.

Although the latter scored, the axis with the Chelsea midfielder has rarely worked and there is little reason to believe Gareth Barry will not return the moment he is match fit.

In the meantime Capello might think about getting the best out of both Rooney and the team by deploying the United striker alone and bringing additional bodies into midfield.

Yes, apparently Emile Heskey does count as a striker partner.

World Cup opens with Chicarito, Evra and the vuvuzela

June 11, 2010 Tags: , , , International 1 comment

Forget the crime, travel nightmares and rip-off prices; concentrate on the football. That’s the message as the World Cup opened amid the vuvuzela din in Johannesburg. There’s plenty of it, with 64 matches in total. Manchester United interest came early, with Mexico’s Javier ‘Chicarito’ Hernandéz featuring in a 1-1 draw with South Africa today.

This evening, at the truly magnificent Green Point Stadium in Cape Town, French captain Patrice Evra took to the field against former red Diego Forlan and reported United transfer target Luis Suarez. It’s a cliché of course but 30 days of back-to-back matches is truly a festival of football. Magnificent.

It’s a tournament with a unique character too and not just because of the incessant low rumble of an approaching swarm that is recalled by South Africans’ favourite match-day horns. The sheer local pride in hosting the first tournament on African soil is palpable.

On the pitch the hosts took the lead today with a stunning opening goal in the 94,000 capacity Soccer City Stadium before Hernandez’ Mexico struck a late, fully deserved, equaliser to finally silence the banks of vuvuzela. The striker, who officially becomes a United player during the tournament on 1 July, completely missed a header six yards out only for midfielder Rafael Marquez to shank the ball home.

Hernandéz, perhaps surprisingly, started the match on the bench despite seven goals in 13 internationals to date, with West Ham United reject Guiermo Franco starting up front in a 4-3-3 formation. But with Mexico trailing, the 22-year-old Guadalajara-born forward came on as a second-half substitute.

The 5′ 8 in” forward showed some neat touches and plenty of movement without fashioning a chance in 17 minutes on the pitch but with Franco abjectly poor the new United star could well start against France in six days time.

Meanwhile, French captain Evra vowed to win the World Cup for the motherland ahead of Les Bleus’ opening fixture against Uruguay tonight. With arguments rocking the squad this week – Florent Malouda’s anger at coach Raymond Domenech almost coming to blows yesterday – the left-back will need to demonstrate all his leadership skills to bring unity to the side.

“I am very confident and I have trust in the squad,” said Evra, who was appointed captain to succeed Thierry Henry.

“I think we can go right to the end [of the tournament]. Anything can happen in football but that is what drives us. We are in very good health both on and off the field and that is what we need.”

Evra’s promotion came at the expense of Arsenal’s William Gallas, who is now refusing to speak to the media as a result. It’s a remarkable rise for the captain, who arrived at United via footballing backwaters such as Marsala, Monza and Nice.

“It’s difficult to talk about one’s self but I have put in some hard work to this point,” Evra said yesterday.

“I have not had any gifts but I am determined. My first six months in Manchester were difficult but my psychology has helped me get this far.”

No doubt more hard work lies ahead if France is to match the performance in Germany four years ago when, led by the inspirational Zinidine Zidane, the French made the World Cup final.

World Cup Rant Cast – tournament preview

June 11, 2010 Tags: , Rant Cast 2 comments

The FIFA World Cup takes place in South Africa, promising a month-long celebration of all that is great in travel chaos, rip-off prices and crime! But as the tournament opens we can forget all the troubles and concentrate on the cheap hookers feast of football that is to come. Regulars Ed & Paul look to the best and worst of the tournament in the first of four cup special Rant Casts!

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

We welcome your input – send all feedback to cast@unitedrant.co.uk or comment below.

Follow Rant Cast on Twitter @UtdRantCast

Subscribe on iTunes now.

Proud Scot Fergie helps English opponents

June 10, 2010 Tags: , International No comments

England’s opening opponents at the FIFA World Cup have been given a helping hand by proud Scotsman Sir Alex Ferguson, according to USA head coach Bob Bradley. Ferguson, who rejects all suggestions that he is anti-English, opened up the Carrington training complex to the 52-year-old American coach earlier this season.

Ferguson coached Scotland at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico following Jock Stein’s unexpected death and has rejected the Football Association’s advances on three occasions.

“I have had a number of really good opportunities to watch Manchester United train, to watch them play, and to spend some time with Sir Alex. He is inspirational – everything that goes on in that club, you can see his personality in it,” said Bradley.

“Some managers have been great in terms of being open. They know all about soccer in the US and know about our results. I have been lucky to get to particular clubs and I appreciate all of them.

“I saw there are different ways to be successful. When you spend time with the Premier League managers you appreciate the willingness to talk about the workings of the club.

“The times I have been at Man U you realise Sir Alex sets the tone in a down to earth way. Sit in the cafe and you see Giggs, Scholes, players from the reserves and you see their interaction and the way it should be done. It is a big club but there is a down to earth, realness, and grounded quality to it.

“I have done seminars with him and been to United on several occasion to see him. I will go down there and watch them train and spend an hour in his office talking. You pick up different things from someone like Sir Alex and it helps you in your own philosophy. He has such energy, if you have the chance to speak to him he is really bright and funny.

“He asked me if I knew Princeton University where I coached was founded by a Scot. You look on his bookshelf and see books about American presidents – you find a really interesting guy. When you have a chance to watch people like that and speak to them a little bit it is special.

“If you can built not only a system of playing and a professionalism, but also a family environment where everyone feels part of it, that’s huge. That is what I learned there.”

USA face England in Rustenburg on Saturday with a 7.30pm kick off, with former United stars Tim Howard and Jonathan Spector likely to start for the Americans and Wayne Rooney for England.