Tag Internationals

Tag Internationals

Reds look to Euros as Van Gaal hopes for injury-free break

November 13, 2015 Tags: Opinion 3 comments
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International week. Where football goes to die – or at least to a place where lengthy bouts of apathy dominate. Indeed, the qualification process for Euro 2016 has been almost without drama of any form. After all, with 24 nations qualifying from 56 hopefuls, the process has been, well, a touch easier to negotiate than in the past – albeit a test that Netherlands failed, leaving Memphis Depay and Daley Blind to enjoy the beach next summer.

The top two from nine groups automatically qualified, while the ‘best of the rest’, Turkey, will also be in France. Most of the usual suspects made it, together with a few ‘minnows’ who made the tournament for the first time, including Iceland, Albania and Slovakia.

England coasted through qualification, securing 10 wins from as many games – and will almost certainly reach the tournament quarter-finals, only to be knocked out the aforementioned Icelanders on penalties.

Wales and Northern Ireland also made it to the finals in France next summer. The Principality has not qualified for a major tournament since 1958, while the Irish have waited for 34 years since the 1982 World Cup in Spain, where Norman Whiteside made his international début aged 17 years and 41 days.

Up to 15 United players could be at the Euros, including Anthony Martial and Morgan Schneiderlin for the hosts. Wayne Rooney, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Michael Carrick expect to make Roy Hodgson’s England squad, fitness and form permitting. Ashley Young remains an outside bet for a place in Hodgson’s party, while Luke Shaw still retains a distant hope of recovering from a broken leg.

Elsewhere, Juan Mata and David De Gea will almost certainly be in Vincente del Bosque’s Spain squad next summer, although Ander Herrera will probably miss out unless the 25-year-old enjoys an outstanding second half of the season. He is yet to win a full cap.

Then there is Bastian Schweinsteiger, who will captain World Champions Germany, while Matteo Darmian is now first choice right-back for Italy, and Marouanne Fellaini will enjoy a place in Marc Wilmots’s Belgium squad. Adnan Januzaj could well make the Red Devils’ party too, although the youngster has not been involved of late. Patrick McNair has featured five times for Northern Ireland this season, including the Norn Iron’s draw away in Finland last month, and is likely to travel.

Former Reds Jonny Evans, Gerard Pique, Patrice Evra, Nani and Cristiano Ronaldo will also feature in the tournament, which begins in Paris on 10 June 2016.

So to the play-offs, where eight hopefuls must negotiate a two-legged play-off over the next week. Although no Manchester United are players involved, former Red John O’Shea features in Republic of Ireland’s double-header with Bosnia & Herzegovina, first in Zenica on Friday night and then Dublin next Tuesday.

Many others from Louis van Gaal’s squad take part in largely meaningless friendlies before the Reds meet Watford at Vicarage Road in 10 days’ time. It leaves Van Gaal waiting on a good injury report, and United supporters hoping that Rooney’s metatarsal snaps holds up in a tournament year.

On Friday, Rooney’s England faces Spain at Alicante’s Estadio Jose Rico Perez, although the captain is set to sit out the fixture. Whether Rooney’s demotion is made on the basis of rank awful form, or Hodgson’s assertion that he needs to rest his main striker, is open to interpretation.

“Obviously as a player you want to play football but you sometimes have to look at the bigger picture with the Euros approaching,” said Rooney, who recently passed Sir Bobby Charlton’s English national team goalscoring record. “We know we have a good, exciting squad of players, but also a young squad with room to improve. We need to improve if we are to compete at the tournament. That is what we are trying to do – to get to that next level that would give us a chance to win.”

De Gea faces competition from Iker Cassisa for a starting spot – despite the latter’s three-year-long run of poor form – while Mata is competing for a place in a star-studded midfield that includes Sergio Busquets, Andrés Iniesta, Koke, Cesc Fàbregas, Santi Cazorla and Thiago Alcântara. Manchester City’s David Silva is injured or the challenge for Mata would be greater still.  It is a list of talent that puts England’s run of good qualifying results, in a weak group, into some perspective.

Despite starting on the bench in Spain, Rooney could feature against France at Wembley next Tuesday where Evra, now 34, will undoubtedly enjoy the chance to take on his former team-mates. And to land one on Rooney, Reds’ of a crueller persuasion might add. Evra’s side also takes on Schweinsteiger’s Germany in Paris on Friday.

Meanwhile, in Cardiff, Danny Blind’s Netherlands team meets a much improved Wales, with Memphis included in the visitors’ party despite the 21-year-old being initially left out of the Dutch squad. Manager Blind cited the player’s inability to “function in a team” – a damning conclusion with which many at Old Trafford will agree.

Exclusion and reintegration caps a difficult couple of months for Memphis, who has also spent much of the autumn on the sidelines at Old Trafford, and faced criticism from media, fans and prominent Dutch pundits. It is a situation winger Arjen Robben says is common for young players.

“Of course I will give him advice,” said the 31-year-old this week. “We try to help each other as players and the team to make steps. He is a talented player in a difficult situation, I can give him advice but the player has to cope with it, show strength and the right mentality. It’s not always sunshine, especially when you are young.”

Elsewhere in Europe Fellaini’s Belgium meets Italy and Spain in friendlies. Fellaini may be Van Gaal’s principal ‘Plan B’ these days, but the midfielder remains an integral part of the Red Devils‘ outfit. He’ll also face team-mate Darmian, who has started all five of Italy’s fixtures since June. Belgium also host Spain, while Italy welcome Romania, and – in one of the tastier fixtures of the week – Netherlands travel to Germany this week.

Globally, Sergio Romero was due to start Argentina’s World Cup 2018 qualifier against Brazil at Estadio Monumental in Buenos Aires, only for the game to be rained out on Thursday and rescheduled for Friday. Marcos Rojo also  starts is,although Antonio Valencia misses Ecuador’s trip to Venezuela next Tuesday through injury.

United also boasts some international representatives at youth level. The England under-21s team drew 0-0 with Bosnia on Thuesday with a squad that contained no United players – Jesse Lingard now too old and James Wilson injured. Although in younger age groups Ashley Fletcher received a first international call-up to the England under-20 squad, while Cameron Borthwick-Jackson was selected for the under-19s. Borthwick-Jackson enjoyed a late cameo against West Bromwich Albion for his club first team debut. Meanwhile, Portuguese-born Angel Gomes is included in the England Under-16 squad.

All of which adds up to an empty Carrington and a coach hoping on good news when his players return to Manchester next Thursday.

Dozen Reds head to the World Cup

October 17, 2013 Tags: , Opinion 7 comments
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As ever it was an international break of contrasting emotions. There is, of course, the tedium that international football sometimes brings, especially in Europe where identikit sides play out a standard of football that does not always compare well to the continental club game. Still, with places at next summer’s FIFA World Cup in Brazil at stake there was real tension in dozens of qualifying games across the globe. Not least for the dozen or so Manchester United players for whom next summer may bring glory, or an extended break.

And with the conclusion of the qualifying round – save for the few remaining play-offs – up to a dozen Reds will go to the World Cup in Brazil, with another handful hoping to make it through a final eliminator.

At home Roy Hodgson’s England qualified, in the end, with some ease, beating Montenegro and Poland in a double-header to clinch top spot in UEFA Group H. While England’s quality and playing style has been oft-criticised since an abominable showing at Euro 2012, Hodgson can legitimately point to a gradually improving side.

England is certainly some way short of the very best, but draw dependent will hope to qualify for the knock-out stages in Brazil, although a FIFA ranking of 10 means that Hodgson’s side will not be seeded.

Wayne Rooney scored the crucial opener in England’s 2-0 victory over Poland at Wembley on Tuesday, with Danny Welbeck and Michael Carrick also certain to be on the plane. Rooney’s strike against Poland was his 38th England goal – a sixth in eight matches this year – and a one scored without the protective headband worn in recent weeks.

“I went for a header just before the goal and it got knocked off,” said the 27-year-old, who is on course to beat Bobby Charlton’s England scoring record of 49 goals.

“Then I chased back and it was obviously still up there on the pitch as I didn’t have time to go back and get it. It probably helped me in some ways that it was off when the ball came in because I could direct it better. It is the first time I have headed the ball without it on, but hopefully come the weekend I won’t have to wear it.”

Chris Smalling and Phil Jones should also make the party, with Tom Cleverley’s participation very much dependent on the 23-year-old sealing a place in David Moyes’ United team. Ashley Young is seemingly out of favour at both club and international level, with Wilfried Zaha relegated to the under-21s for the time being.

However, former Red Ravel Morrison’s form is such that the West Ham United player could yet be a surprise call-up for the full team ahead of the World Cup.

Elsewhere in Europe there were mixed fortunes for Reds. David de Gea’s Spain qualified with predictable ease, although the 22-year-old ‘keeper will only go to Brazil if one or more of Vicente del Bosque’s first choice stoppers pulls out with injury. That said there is a legitimate observation that while Spain boasts strength in goalkeeping depth there are doubts about each of the leading contenders: Iker Casillas, Pepe Reina and Victor Valdes.

On the island of Ireland both north and south missed out on World Cup qualification. The Republic’s chances were officially extinguished by Germany last week, although in reality qualification has long since been a forlorn hope. Worse news came for former Red Darron Gibson who suffered a serious knee injury and is likely to miss the rest of the season.

In the north Jonny Evans was sent off against Azerbaijan as the Ulstermen finished fifth in a group of six, with qualification for a first major tournament since 1982 seemingly no nearer.

Meanwhile, in continental Europe Belgium beat Croatia in Zagreb to seal qualification, before playing out a tame 1-1 draw with Wales in Brussels. Marouanne Fellaini will be on the plane to Rio, although the midfielder’s disciplinary record is a genuine concern – United’s £27.5 million player missed the fixture with Wales due to suspension.

Youthful star Adnan Januzaj has a legitimate shot at making the Belgium squad, continued development permitting, although the 18-year-old has consistently refused call-ups at youth level. The Brussels-born winger is Kosovar-Albanian by parentage and eligible for Belgium, Albania, Serbia and the non-affiliated Kosovo at international level.

Neighbours Holland qualified undefeated as Robin van Persie became the leading scorer in the country’s history with a hat-trick in the Oranje’s 8-1 mauling of Hungary last week. van Persie’s 41 goals in 81 internationals now beats Patrick Kluivert’s 40 in 79.

“My record had to be broken eventually,” Kluivert told Dutch television.

“I’m delighted because Robin and I work together ahead of each international. It’s only a pleasure for me as an assistant coach that he scores so often. I held the record for 10 years and I’m really proud of that.”

Elsewhere Patrice Evra and Nani will face play-off eliminators in November, with France and Portugal finishing second in Groups F and I. The play-off draw takes place on Monday, with a clash between the two European heavyweights possible. Croatia, Sweden, Ukraine, Romania, Iceland, and Greece make up the eight European teams fighting for the final four spots in Brazil.

In South American Antonio Valencia’s Ecuador qualified for Brazil 2014 with a 1-0 victory over Uruguay, although La Tri lost a final CONMEBOL fixture away at Ángelo Henríquez’ Chile in Santiago. Henríquez has scored twice in three full internationals to date, but is only an outside bet to make the final World Cup squad.

Finally, hosts Brazil beat South Korea and Zambia in friendlies this week. Neither of the da Silva brothers made the Seleção or is likely to unless injuries force manager Luiz Felipe Scolari’s hand.

Further north Javier Hernández sat on the bench as Mexico had the United States to thank for a World Cup lifeline. El Tricolor’s dismal qualification campaign will conclude with a play-off against Oceana’s New Zealand in November, but Mexico remain in the competition only after the USA scored twice in the last three minutes to beat Panama 3-2 in Panama City on Tuesday.

Hernández will go should Mexico qualify, but a starting place is no longer guaranteed. The 25-year-old has scored 35 goals in 53 internationals, but has featured in just two Premier League games for David Moyes this season.

In Asia Japan long since qualified for the World Cup, although Shinji Kagawa complained after the Japanese lost to both Serbia and Belarus in friendlies this week. The United midfielder believes that lack of domestic football is negatively affecting his performances at international level. It is a patter at Old Trafford that threatens to cause much disquiet among Moyes’ squad.

“There’s a matter of fitness and there’s also that atmosphere of playing for my country,” Kagawa said.

“Maybe it’s because I’m not used to being on the pitch of late, but I didn’t feel like I was able to enter these two games properly. I felt strongly after these two matches that I need to play more.”

The same might be said for Cleverley, Smalling, Jones and Hernández – one of many challenges facing Moyes in a year when everyone wants to play.

Reds emerge unscathed from international break… just about

September 12, 2012 Tags: , Opinion 7 comments

Manchester United’s players returned to training today after the international double-header of the past week, with just a few days preparation before the Reds take on Wigan Athletic at Old Trafford. Always the most inappropriately timed FIFA-sanctioned international, more than half-a-dozen United players departed the country for World Cup qualifiers and friendlies. And while Sir Alex Ferguson returned from a brief sojourn to watch Andy Murray win the US Open in New York unscathed, not all his players can make the same claim.

Over in Moldova Roy Hodgson’s England began World Cup qualification in fine fashion, beating the home side 5-0 in Chişinău, with United’s Michael Carrick and Danny Welbeck appearing off the bench. Meanwhile, Carrick’s midfield partner Tom Cleverley won widespread praise for an ambitious performance at the head of England’s midfield.

“Cleverley was excellent for 90 minutes and when you watch him, you understand why Sir Alex Ferguson is pleased with him,’ said England manager Roy Hodgson, who deployed the youngster as a shadow forward at Stadionul Zimbru.

“Tom stepped into that position and looks at home there. Tom’s come into a team alongside the likes of Lampard, Gerrard and Carrick and didn’t look at all out of place.”

Back at Wembley on Tuesday night Carrick again started on the bench along with Welbeck. While the latter made a highly effective late appearance as a substitute it was Cleverley, once again, that caught the eye – although this time for less celebrated reasons, with the 23-year-old missing three clear chances in an hour-long appearance. There will be far better days for Cleverley in an England shirt.

Meanwhile, for France Patrice Evra returned to Les Bleus side for the national team’s victories over Finland in Helsinki and then Belarus at Stade de France four days later. Evra lost his place to Manchester City’s Gael Clichy during Euro 2012, but has seemingly found favour with new national team manager Didier Deschamps.

For Portugal Nani missed Selecção’s friendly with Luxembourg last week, although the winger played as the national team beat Azerbaijan 3-0 at Estádio AXA in Braga on Tuesday. Nani may not be Ferguson’s first choice this season, but the 25-year-old remains key to Portugal’s hopes of qualification for Brazil 2014 having scored 13 goals in 60 appearances.

In Brazil the national team, which qualifies automatically as hosts for 2014, played friendlies against China and South Africa, scoring nine goals in the process. However, United’s Brazilian contingent – Rafael da Silva and Anderson – were both absent from Mano Menezes’ side. Rafael appeared in most of Brazil’s matches in the past summer.

Meanwhile, in Costa Rica Javier Hernández started, but failed to score as Mexico beat the hosts 2-0 in San José. And if there had been any heat for Chicharito in the build up, with the striker not starting for United this season, the 23-year-old ended the debate with the winning goal in the return match as El Tricolor won 1-0 in Ciudad de México.

Back in Europe, the Reds’ £24 million summer acquisition from Arsenal, Robin van Persie, started games against Hungary at the Puskás Ferenc Stadion in Budapest, and Turkey three days earlier. van Persie scored his 30th international goal against the Turks, only to hobble off at half-time with a minor thigh knock against the Hungarians. The 29-year-old striker will face a late test to decide whether he is fit to face Wigan this weekend, although the injury is not thought serious.

“We took off Robin for precautionary measures,” Dutch manager Louis Van Gaal told SBS6 television. “It doesn’t seem to be too serious, but you never know. We didn’t want to take any risks.”

In a similar vein Shinji Kagawa played for Samurai Blue as the Japanese beat UAE 1-0 in a friendly at Niigata’s Denryoku Big Swan Stadium last week, only for the midfielder to miss the World Cup victory over Iraq. Manager Alberto Zaccheroni omitted the playmaker with a minor back complaint, although there is no guarantee Kagawa will make either of United’s upcoming matches against Wigan or Galatasaray.

“It happened in yesterday’s practice,” Kagawa told Nikkan Sports. “I was holding the ball and went to make a move and in that instant it started to hurt. “I won’t take long [to recover].”

There are no such fears for flying winger Antonio Valencia, who captained Ecuador to two positive results in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying. Ecuador beat Bolivia 1-0 at Estadio Olímpico Atahualpa in Quito, before securing a highly creditable 1-1 draw with Uruguay in Montevideo. Former City striker Felipe Caicedo scored the goal which earned Valencia’s side the valuable point in the Uruguayan capital, three days after scoring the winner against Bolivia.

One man on the way back from injury, Jonny Evans, played in Northern Ireland’s matches against Luxembourg and Russia. The Irish emerged with a single point after drawing 1-1 with the central European minnows at Windsor Park, while Russia chalked up a comfortable 2-0 victory in Moscow. Evans created a goal for Dean Shiels, while coming through the fixtures with no fresh injury to the left ankle which underwent surgery this summer.

There was even better news in the shape of international débuts for two United youngsters – flying Norwegian striker Joshua King, and Irish winger Robbie Brady. King came of the bench against Iceland at Laugardalsvöllur, Reykjavík as Norway lost 2-0 to the hosts, and again as the Norwegians beat Slovenia 2-1 in Oslo. The 20-year-old striker, who spent last season on loan at Borussia Mönchengladbach and Hull City, failed to score on either occasion.

Meanwhile, Brady made a scoring début for the Irish against Oman at Fulham’s Craven Cottage. Brady scored three times in 39 appearances for Hull on loan last season, but even better was to come for the Irish with the 20-year-old scoring and making two more as the Republic ran out 4-1 winners.

“I’m delighted with the way it went, with a goal and an assist, but I thought I could have done more,” Brady said. “I wasn’t disappointed, but I felt I could have done a bit more. Maybe got on the ball a bit more, all-round really. I’ve gotten on well with everyone. The guys are great. They’ve made me feel part of the group.”

There are likely to be many more nights like this for the highly regarded youngster, and while Sir Alex will undoubtedly show pride in two more coming off the production line into the international scene, the 70-year-old Scot, much like his countryman in New York, will simply be “relieved” if all his charges return home unscathed.

Enjoy the Olympics, just don’t bring baby… or an oversized hat

July 11, 2012 Tags: , Just for fun 10 comments
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This summer, before the real thing finally gets underway on 18 August and Manchester United return to Premier League action, Old Trafford will play host to nine men’s and women’s Olympic football matches during the group and knockout stages, with GB, Spain, Brazil and Uruguay men’s teams due to play in Manchester.

The tournament kicks off on 26 July, with the final game at Old Trafford due to take place on 7 August. But the real action kicked off last week, when United legend Bobby Charlton ran the Olympic torch past the ‘Theatre of Dreams’.

While few take the under-23 plus three over-aged players Olympic football tournament seriously, there could be some top names on show at Old Trafford. Indeed, United’s Tom Cleverley and Ryan Giggs should play for Stuart Pearce’s GB team, while David de Gea will captain Spain during the tournament, and Rafael da Silva is with the Brazilians. Rafael’s team-mates Neymar and Lucas Moura, who are the subject of much transfer speculation this summer, will also travel for the games.

So while the tournament may not be well-regarded, the entertainment could prove surprising. That’s if those lucky enough to have secured a ticket for any of the matches, actually make it into the ground. After all, the organising committee, in its infinite wisdom, has drawn up a very long list of items banned from ‘London 2012 venues’. Edited here for brevity, but for not context:

  • All types of knives and bladed items or any other weapons
  • Implements such as extendable batons, sharpened combs, modified belt buckles and loose blades modified into weapons
  • Firearms, ammunition and explosive devices
  • Personal protection sprays such as CS or pepper sprays
  • Fireworks, explosives, flares and smoke canisters
  • Laser pointers and strobe lights
  • Hazardous and toxic materials
  • Glass bottles, glass vessels, cans, flasks
  • Liquids, aerosols and gels in quantities greater than 100ml
  • Alcohol
  • Large flags, banners and poles greater than 1 m in length
  • Tents, placards, spray paint, large industrial style “permanent“ marker pens
  • More than one soft-sided bag of 25 litre capacity
  • Walkie-talkies, phone jammers and radio scanners
  • Personal/private wireless access points and 3G hubs
  • Items too large to be electronically screened
  • Bicycles, folding bikes, roller-skates and skateboards and scooters
  • Pets or animals
  • Controlled drugs or any substances which look like controlled drugs
  • Frisbees and similar items
  • Musical instruments: trumpets, drums, and other devices capable of causing a disturbance
  • Noisemakers such as hunting horns, air horns, klaxons, drums, vuvuzelas, football rattles, clappers and whistles
  • Signs or items with corporate or inappropriate branding, sponsorship, promotional or marketing material
  • Professional-style cameras or recording/transmitting devices
  • Prams / push chairs
  • Unauthorised charity collection utensils
  • Large or non collapsible umbrellas
  • hampers and cold boxes

In addition, notes the organising committee’s helpful email to ticket holders, there are restrictions on the use of some items inside venues, including:

  • Oversized hats
  • Excessive amounts of food
  • Flags of countries not participating in the games

But fans will be delighted to know that they CAN bring the following items. Rant suggests liberal use of breast milk in particular:

  • 10 containers of up to 100ml capacity each, giving a combined maximum capacity of one litre
  • 200ml of sun cream
  • Essential medications must not exceed a combined total of one litre
  • An empty plastic water bottle
  • Soya milk for babies
  • Sterilised water for the baby
  • Formula, breast milk or cow milk specifically for babies
  • Baby food of various consistencies

Much of which will disappoint regular Rant readers given our penchant for bringing unusual items to games, including, but not limited to: intercontinental thermonuclear ballistic missiles; the flag of Vatican City; an umbrella to keep out of the Manchester rain, 201ml of sun cream, you know, just in-f*cking-case; an atmosphere; a large sign bearing the moniker “John Terry is a c*nt”; a MasterCard; a half-full bottle of Evian to keep the vocal chords nimble; an Anderson-sized McDonald’s order; sherbert dip.

We can, and will, however try to sneak in the items not proscribed by the IOC, such as condoms, a dildo, anal beads, and a gimp mask.

Mind you, Rant will of course be wearing its lucky match-day pants during the games:

olympics pants

 

Matches held at Old Trafford during the Olympic football tournament

Group stage
26 Jul – UAE v Uruguay (men’s, 17:00)
26 Jul – GB v Senegal (men’s, 19:45)
29 Jul – Brazil v Belarus (men’s, 12:00)
29 Jul – Egypt v New Zealand (men’s, 14:45)
31 Jul – USA v N Korea (women’s, 17:15)
1 Aug – Spain v Morocco (men’s, 17:00)

Quarter-finals
4 Aug (men’s, TBC)

Semi-finals
6 Aug (women’s, TBC)
7 Aug (men’s, TBC)

Happy Olympics, folks!

Enjoy the Olympics, just don’t bring baby… or an oversized hat

July 11, 2012 Tags: , Just for fun No comments

This summer, before the real thing finally gets underway on 18 August and Manchester United return to Premier League action, Old Trafford will play host to nine men’s and women’s Olympic football matches during the group and knockout stages, with GB, Spain, Brazil and Uruguay men’s teams due to play in Manchester.

The tournament kicks off on 26 July, with the final game at Old Trafford due to take place on 7 August. But the real action kicked off last week, when United legend Bobby Charlton ran the Olympic torch past the ‘Theatre of Dreams’.

While few take the under-23 plus three over-aged players Olympic football tournament seriously, there could be some top names on show at Old Trafford. Indeed, United’s Tom Cleverley and Ryan Giggs should play for Stuart Pearce’s GB team, while David de Gea will captain Spain during the tournament, and Rafael da Silva is with the Brazilians. Rafael’s team-mates Neymar and Lucas Moura, who are the subject of much transfer speculation this summer, will also travel for the games.

So while the tournament may not be well-regarded, the entertainment could prove surprising. That’s if those lucky enough to have secured a ticket for any of the matches, actually make it into the ground. After all, the organising committee, in its infinite wisdom, has drawn up a very long list of items banned from ‘London 2012 venues’. Edited here for brevity, but for not context:

  • All types of knives and bladed items or any other weapons
  • Implements such as extendable batons, sharpened combs, modified belt buckles and loose blades modified into weapons
  • Firearms, ammunition and explosive devices
  • Personal protection sprays such as CS or pepper sprays
  • Fireworks, explosives, flares and smoke canisters
  • Laser pointers and strobe lights
  • Hazardous and toxic materials
  • Glass bottles, glass vessels, cans, flasks
  • Liquids, aerosols and gels in quantities greater than 100ml
  • Alcohol
  • Large flags, banners and poles greater than 1 m in length
  • Tents, placards, spray paint, large industrial style “permanent“ marker pens
  • More than one soft-sided bag of 25 litre capacity
  • Walkie-talkies, phone jammers and radio scanners
  • Personal/private wireless access points and 3G hubs
  • Items too large to be electronically screened
  • Bicycles, folding bikes, roller-skates and skateboards and scooters
  • Pets or animals
  • Controlled drugs or any substances which look like controlled drugs
  • Frisbees and similar items
  • Musical instruments: trumpets, drums, and other devices capable of causing a disturbance
  • Noisemakers such as hunting horns, air horns, klaxons, drums, vuvuzelas, football rattles, clappers and whistles
  • Signs or items with corporate or inappropriate branding, sponsorship, promotional or marketing material
  • Professional-style cameras or recording/transmitting devices
  • Prams / push chairs
  • Unauthorised charity collection utensils
  • Large or non collapsible umbrellas
  • hampers and cold boxes

In addition, notes the organising committee’s helpful email to ticket holders, there are restrictions on the use of some items inside venues, including:

  • Oversized hats
  • Excessive amounts of food
  • Flags of countries not participating in the games

But fans will be delighted to know that they CAN bring the following items. Rant suggests liberal use of breast milk in particular:

  • 10 containers of up to 100ml capacity each, giving a combined maximum capacity of one litre
  • 200ml of sun cream
  • Essential medications must not exceed a combined total of one litre
  • An empty plastic water bottle
  • Soya milk for babies
  • Sterilised water for the baby
  • Formula, breast milk or cow milk specifically for babies
  • Baby food of various consistencies

Much of which will disappoint regular Rant readers given our penchant for bringing unusual items to games, including, but not limited to: intercontinental thermonuclear ballistic missiles; the flag of Vatican City; an umbrella to keep out of the Manchester rain, 201ml of sun cream, you know, just in-f*cking-case; an atmosphere; a large sign bearing the moniker “John Terry is a c*nt”; a MasterCard; a half-full bottle of Evian to keep the vocal chords nimble; an Anderson-sized McDonald’s order; sherbert dip.

We can, and will, however try to sneak in the items not proscribed by the IOC, such as condoms, a dildo, anal beads, and a gimp mask.

Mind you, Rant will of course be wearing its lucky match-day pants during the games:

olympics pants

 

Matches held at Old Trafford during the Olympic football tournament

Group stage
26 Jul – UAE v Uruguay (men’s, 17:00)
26 Jul – GB v Senegal (men’s, 19:45)
29 Jul – Brazil v Belarus (men’s, 12:00)
29 Jul – Egypt v New Zealand (men’s, 14:45)
31 Jul – USA v N Korea (women’s, 17:15)
1 Aug – Spain v Morocco (men’s, 17:00)

Quarter-finals
4 Aug (men’s, TBC)

Semi-finals
6 Aug (women’s, TBC)
7 Aug (men’s, TBC)

Happy Olympics, folks!

Reds face up to early season disruption

July 4, 2012 Tags: , , , , Opinion 8 comments

Sir Alex Ferguson could face a challenging start to the new season, with Euro 2012, injury, and the Olympics disrupting Manchester United’s preparations ahead of the Premier League’s start on 18 August. Seven United players will miss the Reds’ pre-season tour of South Africa, China and Norway after appearing in the Euro 2012 tournament this summer. Meanwhile, four Reds are set to appear in the Olympics, with the gold medal match scheduled to take place in London just a week before the new season kicks off. It could leave Ferguson without a dozen players during United’s pre-season programme.

United’s Euro 2012 players – Wayne Rooney, Phil Jones, Ashley Young, Danny Welbeck, Patrice Evra, Nani and Anders Lindegaard – will not travel with the touring party after being given extra time to recover this summer. None will miss the big kick-off, injury permitting, but neither will the group benefit from the pre-season matches required to be match fit for the start of the new campaign. The group will each return to training late, although Rooney played just twice at the tournament, Evra once, while Jones and Lindegaard spent Euro 2012 on the bench.

United began pre-season training on Monday 2 July, with Sir Alex’ side taking on Amazulu FC in Durban on 18 July, followed by matches with Ajax Cape Town in Cape Town three days later. United’s tour moves on to China, where Ferguson’s side meets Didier Drogba’s Shanghai Shenua, followed by a fixtures with Valerenga in Oslo, and Barcelona at the Ullevi Stadium in Gothenburg. The lengthy and five country summer tour concludes with a match against Hannover 96 at the AWD Arena on 11 August.

Adding to Ferguson’s early season challenges, it appears likely that four players will also take part at the Olympics. Fixtures in the under-23 tournament are spread across the UK, with the football tournament starting on 25 July and concluding just a week before the new Premier League season finishes on 11 August in London.

David de Gea is included in Spain’s strong Olympics squad, with La Roja’s juniors one of the tournament favourites. The provisional Spanish squad also includes Juan Mata, Javier Martinez, and Jordi Alba, each of whom appeared at Euro 2012 this summer. Luis Milla’s young Spaniards are heavily based on the squad that secured the European U-21 championship last summer.

Challenging Spain for the tag of tournament favourite is Brazil, with coach Mano Menezes including Rafael da Silva in his provisional 35-man squad. The 50-year-old manager will cut his squad to 18 players by 6 July, and Rafael’s is not guaranteed. Brother Fabio, who this week joined Queens Park Rangers on loan for the 2012/13 season, is not included in Menezes’ tournament party.

Anderson, who played in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, is not included after losing his place in the Brazilian side, while the 24-year-old only qualifies as an over-age player.

Meanwhile, in the British Olympic squad Ryan Giggs and Tom Cleverley have been included by coach Stuart Pearce. Giggs’ inclusion had been long expected, adding an experienced bent to a young Anglo-Welsh squad. No Scots or Northern Irish players are included in Pearce’s squad.

Giggs is signed up to another campaign at Old Trafford, but will now miss pre-season to be part of Pearce’s squad, with the British taking on Senegal at Old Trafford in Britain’s first Olympic football fixture since 1960. Team GB play the United Arab Emirates at Wembley before the final Group A game against Uruguay in Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium on 1 August.

While Ferguson encourage Giggs’ participation, with the 38-year-old Welshman having missed out on tournament football with Wales, the United manager blocked all other over-age players taking part, including Rio Ferdinand, Darren Fletcher and Michael Carrick. Chris Smalling misses out with the thigh injury that ended his hopes of being included in Roy Hodgson’s Euro 2012 party.

Cleverley’s inclusion is a mixed blessing though, with the 22-year-old having missed much of 2011/12 with a recurrent ankle injury. While Cleverley could play in at least three matches during United’s pre-season period, he will not join United’s touring party at any point. Cleverley, though, says he is taking part with Ferguson’s approval.

“Throughout my career I want to experience many things,” said Cleverley. “The Olympics would be a fantastic part of it. I’m buzzing about it. I cannot wait. It is a great way for me to bounce back after the disappointment of not going to the Euros with England.

“It’s a young squad, apart from the older-age players, and after England’s Euro 2012 experience a lot of people are talking about putting the accent on youth. This is a chance for me to remind people early. They’ve put trust in us and I want to repay that faith.”

“I need to hit the ground running for the new season and this is a great chance for me. The manager was happy for me that I was shortlisted and had no problems about me being in the Olympics. I will miss United’s pre-season tour and, ideally, I would have liked to do both. But after my injury spell out last season, Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick were doing so well I didn’t get much game time. So I need minutes on the pitch and I feel that playing in high-stake competitive matches like I’ll get at the Olympics is right for me.”

Elsewhere Ferguson has ensured that Javier Hernandez is not included in Mexico’s squad, despite suggestions that the 24-year-old could be his country’s flag-bearer at the Games. Meanwhile, new signing Shinji Kagawa will not be part of Japan’s squad for the three-week long tournament.

Add injuries to captain Nemanja Vidić, and Fletcher into the mix, and Ferguson faces up to United’s pre-season programme without a dozen players. It’s a disruptive element that will ensure some younger faces in the Reds’ touring party this summer.

United Rant Live! Portugal v Spain

June 27, 2012 Tags: , International 4 comments

Just three games to go at Euro 2012, with Portugal meeting Spain in Donetsk on Wednesday, followed by Germany versus Italy in Warsaw on Thursday for the right to play in Sunday’s final. It should prove to be another fascinating round of matches in an excellent tournament to date, with Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani and co aiming to pull off a shock against World and European champions Spain in the Iberian derby on Wednesday.

Much will depend on how Portugal approach the match, having displayed such attacking verve in matches against Denmark, Holland and Czech Republic, after opening the tournament so negatively against Germany. Indeed, Spain remain favourites despite the frequent accusations of the “boring” football served up in the tournament to date.

As ever, Portugal’s hopes lie with Ronaldo, who now has six European Championship goals in total. Having hit the woodwork four times already, the former Manchester United man could have scored a lot more. Only Alan Shearer with seven, and Michel Platini who has nine, have scored more in the tournament’s history.

The omens may not lie with Portugal though – the Spanish have beaten their neighbours just twice in the past 54 years, but the head-to-head record has Spain with 16 wins to Portugal’s six. The Portuguese have lost four of five previous semi-finals at major tournaments too – the only victory coming against Holland at home in 2004.

Spain, meanwhile, has gone 10 Euro finals matches without defeat since losing to Portugal in the 2004 tournament. Del Bosque’s side has also kept eight consecutive clean sheets in knock-out games at tournaments. Iker Casillas is unbeaten in more than 13 hours of knock-out football, since the great Zinedine Zidane scored a last-minute goal for France at the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

Both teams report a reasonably clean bill-of-health for the tie. Portugal striker Helder Postiga will miss the match with a thigh injury, with coach Paulo Bento likely to deploy Hugo Almeida in his stead. Postiga aside, Portugal should start with an unchanged line-up.

Meanwhile, Spain manager Vicente del Bosque has no new injury concerns after the quarter-final stroll against France, although the former Real Madrid manager must decide whether to recall striker Fernand Torres or persist with Cesc Fabregas as a ‘false 9’.

Join United Rant for live comment, analysis and chat during the first Euro 2012 semi-final. Early thoughts throughout the afternoon, with preamble, team news and pre-match comments from around 7pm.


 

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United Rant Live! England v Ukraine and Sweden v France

June 19, 2012 Tags: , International 46 comments

The “big man is back” Wayne Rooney once proclaimed on his return to the England side after a pre-World Cup 2006 injury. The tournament ended with Rooney dismissed during England’s quarter-final defeat to Portugal. Six years on, and it’s crunch time in Group D at Euro 2012, with England facing up to an early exit should Roy Hodgson’s side suffer defeat to Ukraine on Tuesday night.

However, victory over a mediocre Sweden side last week, together with Rooney’s return to the side from suspension, leaves England favourites to qualify along with France from Group D. Spain and Italy await in the knockout stages, and victory tonight will not ensure that England avoids the world champions, with France holding a slender goal difference advantage heading into the final Group D fixtures.

There’s plenty of Manchester United interest in these games, with Rooney likely to start alongside Danny Welbeck in attack for England, and Ashley Young on the wing. Meanwhile, Patrice Evra and Phil Jones are likely to be on the bench for France and England respectively.

Join United Rant for live comment, analysis and chat on England v Ukraine and Sweden v France from 7pm, with updates, team news and preamble throughout the day.

 

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United Rant Live! Czech Rep. v Poland and Greece v Russia

June 16, 2012 Tags: , International 7 comments

Continuing the serious of, frankly, incongruous United Rant Live blogs during 2012, we’ll be covering the conclusion to Group A on Saturday night! There’s everything to play for in the ‘group of bored to death’, which turned out anything but.

Russia need only draw with Greece to qualify for the quarter finals, although a win will secure top spot in the group. Should Russia draw then the Czech’s could still finish top by beating Poland, and if the unthinkable happens and Greece beat Russia then Dick Advocaat’s men will be out unless there is a draw in the other fixture.

The Czech’s, meanwhile, can secure qualification with victory over Poland. A draw may be enough though, should Russia beat Greece as expected. Meanwhile, Poland must win or the co-hosts are out whatever happens in the other game. Finally, Greece can only qualify with victory and hope that Poland and the Czech Republic draw.

Confused yet?!

Join us for both games live from around 7pm UK time, with team news updates and pre-amble through the afternoon. There’s no Manchester United interest in this one, but the drama should be great nonetheless.

 


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