Tag Wes Brown

Tag Wes Brown

Farewell to old Reds

July 7, 2011 Tags: , , Opinion 28 comments

Wesley Brown and John O’Shea each agreed moves to Sunderland on Thursday, ending more than a decade of the pair at Old Trafford. Between them the players have appeared on more than 750 occasions for Manchester United, not representing the very best players at Old Trafford, but invaluable members of Sir Alex Ferguson’s squad nonetheless. With the pair’s departure Ferguson loses not only experience and loyalty but a genuine sense of what being a United play entails.

Brown, 31, completed a medical at the Stadium of Light on Thursday and has agreed a four-year with Steve Bruce’s Wearsiders. The fee, which is officially ‘undisclosed’, will net United £1 million for youth team product. Meanwhile, O’Shea, 30, also completed a move to Sunderland, having passed a medical and agreed a four-year contract with the club. United will earn a fee of around £5 million for the Waterford-born Irishman.

Each has lost his place in the United first team – some might say neither ever fully earned it – with Brown falling out of favour following a well-publicised argument with Ferguson during last summer’s tour of North America. Few players have ever returned from falling foul of the Scot’s ire; that Brown reportedly called Ferguson a “c*nt” cannot have helped the Longsight-born player’s cause.

Despite the breakdown in the relationship between player and manager Ferguson was magnanimous with his praise of Brown today, praising the 31-year-old’s commitment to the cause since his début in 1998.

“He was a product of the youth system and marked himself out from an early age as one of his generation’s most natural defenders,” Ferguson told ManUtd.com.

“In his time with us, he certainly became a favourite with the fans for his no-nonsense approach to the game and his infectious personality.

“It’s always the hardest of decisions to let loyal servants go. But life moves on and, unquestionably, Wes will get the chance to make a real contribution to Steve Bruce’s Sunderland and I’m delighted to be passing him into such good hands. Everyone connected with United wishes him a long and happy stay at Sunderland.”

Brown has always been one of the most naturally gifted English defenders; a home-made Rio Ferdinand whose talent was only ever limited by injury. It is no disservice to say that had it not been for one of the game’s most lengthy injury records Brown could have amassed more than a century of caps for England, and not just 23. He would surely have also made more than 500 appearances for United bar for frequent trips to the treatment room.

The player earned rave reviews for early appearances at right-back, including the 6-2 thrashing of Brondby in Copenhagen during the treble-winning season, but it was at centre-half that the defender was at his natural best, offering the Reds acceleration over 20 yards, a fearless competitive streak and perfect timing.

“It was disappointing not to have played as much as I could at Manchester United over the last couple of seasons so just to know that I’ll be back in, playing, I’m focusing on that really and looking forward to it,” said Brown.

“Last season, I couldn’t get into the team and that was frustrating but that’s football and you move on. Sunderland is a big club and Steve Bruce was a big factor coming into it. That’s what it came down to really. When I was younger, I used to watch Steve and I’ve known him a bit as well so it was fine. I know a couple of lads who have been here and they say it’s a wonderful club and I thought this was the place for me to come.”

Brown will join former Reds Phil Bardsley, Kieron Richardson and Fraizer Campbell on Wearside, together with O’Shea. United midfielder Darron Gibson is also wanted by Bruce, although Sunderland baulked at the midfielder’s opening salary demands during negotiations. Together the trio were the subject of a £12 million bid in late June.

Meanwhile, O’Shea arguably has never possessed the same natural talent as Brown but won over United’s supporters with a vibrant début campaign, largely at left-back. The popular chant of “Johnny marching down the wing” began during O’Shea’s early years at the club that promised so much but rarely delivered in subsequent campaigns.

O’Shea’s versatility undermined his attempt to earn a regular first-team place, while also offering the Irishman a longevity at Old Trafford that bemused many fans. The player appeared across the back-four, in central midfield and even in goal during more than a decade at the club.

“John has been a solid, consistent part of Manchester United’s squad for well over a decade which goes to show the fantastic pedigree of player we have signed,” claimed Bruce on Thursday.

“He is a wonderful professional both on and off the field and his wealth of experience and versatility will be great attributes for us. I’m delighted with the players we’ve been able to secure ahead of the new season.”

Allowing Brown and O’Shea to move on for relatively modest fees is part of an unwritten Old Trafford policy of rewarding loyalty with minimal barriers for the players involved. The reward: long-term security at Sunderland that would not have been available at Old Trafford.

Supporters and ex-colleagues will wish the pair the best, while room has been made in Ferguson’s squad for younger players to come through.

Fergie signals end of era with Jones signing

June 9, 2011 Tags: , , , Opinion 78 comments

It turned out to be an extraordinary day of transfer activity, so soon into the summer window, as Sir Alex Ferguson closed in on £16 million Blackburn Rovers defender Phil Jones. The England Under-21 international has reportedly agreed terms on a five-year deal and is likely to become the first of several signings before the window closes at August’s end. Manchester United will likely also confirm the signatures of Aston Villa’s Ashley Young and the Spanish goalkeeper David de Gea in the coming weeks.

Yet, as Isaac Newton might agree, every action has a reaction, especially when wage budgets and squad sizes must be balanced. Not equal, perhaps, but for United the inbound talent ensures the revolving door marked exit remains busy this summer. Just as United supporters embrace the new-boy Jones, then a heartfelt goodbye will be heard for John O’Shea, Wes Brown and Darron Gibson, reportedly the subject of a £12 million bid from Sunderland today.

Supporters have, after all, been promised one of the busiest summers in recent memory, with significant deadwood cleared out of Old Trafford’s burgeoning squad, balanced by returning loanees and heavier expenditure than has become the norm under the Glazer family’s ownership over the past six years.

Indeed, this summer is promising to create more change in the United squad than has been seen for years. It is an accelerating evolution that will end a cycle at United in a less gradual way that is typical under Ferguson’s stewardship.

Moreover, in Brown and O’Shea, Ferguson is losing significant experience. One club men at that. Between them the latter pair has amassed more than 750 appearances in the Red shirt, adding to the departures of Paul Scholes, Gary Neville and Edwin van der Sar, which robs Ferguson of more than 1500 club appearances.

In experience’s place comes youth. Young, at 25, is the oldest of United’s most discussed signatures, while de Gea is just 21. Arguably though Jones, 19, is the most exciting of the trio; a classy centre half already noted for his leadership skills.

Indeed, some observers rate Jones ahead of Chris Smalling, who so thoroughly impressed during his debut Old Trafford season. With Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur chasing Jones’ signature, United has certainly paid top dollar for the player but one who could represent the club for more than a decade.

“I think he’s an amazing young talent and he could easily go on and become an England centre-half in years to come,” admitted Harry Redknapp today, with the Spurs’ manager admitting defeat over Jones’ acquisition.

“I was in for Phil Jones. We were interested in him but it looks like he’s gone to Manchester United. I think he’s a great singing for Man United. We’re struggling to find people that are better than what we’ve got. It’s not easy unless you pay massive money and massive wages.”

United has certainly spent ‘massive money’ buying out Jones’ reported £16 million release clause. And it is of course a gamble for a player with less than 50 senior games for Blackburn plus a dozen international age-group games.

But Ferguson has never been scared of risks in the transfer market, splurging up to £27 million on teenage Wayne Rooney in summer 2004. de Gea will also represent a significant gamble when the Spaniard’s signature is confirmed sometime after 1 July.

Not that the teenage defender Jones will go straight into the United side of course, with Jones likely to act as back-up to Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Smalling at centre-half next season. It is an area of United’s squad that felt threadbare at times, with Brown, Evans, Ferdinand and even Vidic injured during over the 2010/11 campaign.

Yet, while Jones may not be for the present, there is no little irony in a signature that will affect Jonny Evans most acutely. The Northern Irishman was once dubbed United’s future but has arguably forced Ferguson’s hand with a series of sub-par performances over the past year. Jones’ acquisition is unlikely to be terminal for Evans’ United career but the Belfast-born player may now find more opportunities at full-back than in the past.

While Jones, de Gea and Young begin their United careers Brown and O’Shea have earned both respect and gratitude for their efforts in the United cause over more than a decade. Both graduates of United’s academy, neither have fulfilled the glorious promise of youth but have served the club with distinction and pride.

Brown has always been one of the most naturally gifted English defenders over that time; a home-made Ferdinand whose talent was only ever limited by injury. It is no disservice to say that had it not been for one of the game’s most lengthy injury records Brown could have amassed more than a century of caps for England, rather than just 23. He would surely have also made more than 500 appearances for United bar for frequent trips to the treatment room.

Making his début in 1998, Brown earned rave reviews for early appearances at right-back, including the 6-2 thrashing of Brondby in Copenhagen during the treble-winning season. But it was at centre-half that the Longsight-born player was most natural, offering the Reds acceleration over 20 yards, a fearless competitive streak and perfect timing.

O’Shea has never possessed the same natural talent but won over United’s supporters with a vibrant début campaign largely at left-back. After all, it is no accident that United fans laud “Johnny marching down the wing.”

But O’Shea’s versatility undermined his United career, while also offering him a longevity that bemused some fans. The Irishman appeared right across the back-four, in central midfield and even in goal during more than a decade at the club.

Yet, while there is little surprised in Gibson’s departure, with United reportedly refusing to offer a contract extension beyond 2012, nor in Brown’s, O’Shea’s flexibity appeared to have guaranteed a place in next season’s squad. After all the Waterford-born defender started nearly 30 games for the club in all competitions last season.

And that is where the fun of transfer silly season becomes most acute. Sunderland’s is, at this stage, just a bid. Neither officially accepted by player nor club. One that could but seems unlikely to fail.

Rio returns to rally Reds

September 2, 2010 Tags: , , Shorts 13 comments

Rio Ferdinand completed 45 minutes in Manchester United Reserves’ 2-1 victory over Oldham Athletic last night as the England captain returns from a knee injury sustained at the World Cup. Ferdinand, 31, played in a strong reserves outfit that also included the returning Anderson, Wes Brown and Federico Macheda.

Reserves coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says that Ferdinand is already ready for a recall to the first team, after completing the first half in the Manchester Senior Cup clash at Bower Fold, Stalybridge.

“Today was about distances and getting tighter to the ball. He is available for selection again,” said Solskjaer.

“Rio is always the same player. It is a while since he has played but he was still calm.

“He has got through an important 45 minutes, straight after two very hard training sessions yesterday and the day before so we are delighted with him.”

“It was always planned that he would play 45 minutes. I am not sure he needs any more games. Rio is a naturally fit lad.”

Sir Alex Ferguson can now select the defender for United’s visit to Everton on 11 September, before his side faces Rangers and Liverpool at Old Trafford. Midfielder Anderson and defender Brown could also be available for the fixtures as United’s injury list shortens.

Defender Brown played 90 minutes as he returns from yet another injury. The 30-year-old also completed a lifelong dream, partnering his brother Reese in defence, with the younger sibling replacing Ferdinand at half time.

Second half goals from Nicky Ajose and Kiko Macheda secured a 2-1 win for United.

Brown quits internationals

August 9, 2010 Tags: , Shorts 17 comments

Wes Brown has retired from international football despite being called into Fabio Capello’s first post-World Cup England squad. Brown, overlooked for the World Cup, retires at 30 with 23 caps following a début against Hungary in 1999. The defender told Capello in person following Manchester United’s Community Shield victory.

Brown, who would surely have won more caps bar for injuries over a 12 year career with United and England, said that younger players now deserve to play in the national team.

“After a lot of thought and with a very heavy heart, I have decided the time is right for me to retire from international football,” said Brown in a statement this evening.

“At the age of 30, I feel it is right for me to stand aside and let younger players come through, which allows me to concentrate on my club career.

“I regard it as an honour and a privilege to have represented my country at every level from under-15s upwards. I have always been very proud to play for England and wish them well in future tournaments.”

The defender follows Paul Robinson in retiring from international duty. Shame then that other senior England players such as John Terry and Frank Lampard failed to follow suit.

Brown figured heavily in United’s pre-season programme in Canada, USA, Mexico and Ireland but was overlooked by Sir Alex Ferguson for the club’s Community Shield match win over Chelsea today.

The fight for right back

August 2, 2010 Tags: , , , Opinion 44 comments

The 2006-2007 season saw Manchester United regain the Premier League title for the first time in four years. It also marked Gary Neville’s most recent appearance in the PFA team of the year. Near the end of the campaign Neville suffered a long-term injury, which kept him out of consistent first team action for nearly 18 months.

Since then United has yet to settle on a starting right back, with four men competing for the spot – a problem Sir Alex Ferguson is yet to resolve.

During the following Premier and Champions League double winning season Wes Brown took a hold of the position, with 52 appearances in all competitions. Throughout the season the Longsight-born defender was solid and even popped up with some major contributions going forward in the form of a goal against Liverpool and an assist in the Champions League final against Chelsea.

After getting off to a decent start in the 2008-2009 Brown was hit by another major injury, just as Neville returned from his layoff, allowing teenager Rafael Da Silva to make the first team. Despite the return of United’s captain and the Brazilian phenomenon’s rise to prominence it was in fact John O’Shea who laid claim to the slot, starting most of United’s big games in the position that season.

Last season saw a plethora of injuries to the United backline and everyone from Ritchie De Laet to Darren Fletcher got a chance in the right back role. Now as the Red Devils kick off a new campaign the right back question is still unresolved, with few clues about who will start against Newcastle United on August 16th.

Many supporters are campaigning for youth, with Rafael promoted as the man most likely to make the role his own. Sir Alex has shown lots of confidence in Rafael in the past, starting the 20-year-old in big games, most notably the second leg against Bayern Munich in last season’s Champions League quarter final. Rafael was infamously sent off that night, an event that led to the Germans winning the tie.

But Rafael’s promise showed in how well the player performed in direct competition against Franc Ribéry before the red card, getting forward regularly and keeping the lively French midfielder quiet for the most part.

The criticism of Rafael is his defensive naïvety. The Brazilian sometimes gets caught too high up the pitch and is forced into making poor decisions like the one against Munich and earlier in the season when he conceded a penalty against Manchester City. But Rafael has improved in the tackle over the past year and if there is still a major question mark defensively then the youngster is undoubtedly United’s best right back moving forward.

O’Shea represents the cautious option, with little pace and a tendency towards the lethargic in possession. Defensively Ferguson will have very few concerns though. The Irishman proved himself in the position throughout the 08-09 season and despite a slow start during the early part of his United career, O’Shea has become a fans’ favourite as a result of his work ethic and acceptance to play any role required.

Brown, however, showed himself a liability at centre back last season, and when he did get a chance at right back the brilliance demonstrated in United’s double winning season had disappeared. Brown is another player who Ferguson is delighted to have in the squad because of his versatility. It will still be a surprise to see the 30-year-old start at right back considering it has been more than two years since the role was his.

Then there is club captain Neville, who is likely playing in his last season with United. His playing time will probably reflect that fact. Neville is a good influence on the younger players at the club but the frequency with which the 35-year-old is skinned by mediocre left wingers is worrying. The ultimate pro may just have to accept a bit part role with United this coming season.

In the end the right back position will probably be fought over by O’Shea and Rafael, barring any injuries. While the romantic choice is the Brazilian, the most likely outcome is that he will share the role with O’Shea based on the opponent, with Neville providing cover against weaker opposition.

Brown out, O’Shea in

March 8, 2010 Tags: , Shorts 2 comments

Wes Brown has broken the fifth metatarsal in his left foot and will miss the rest of the season, reports suggest today. The injury, which forced the defenders’ half-time substitution at Wolverhampton Wanderers, will keep the 30-year-old out of the World Cup in South Africa. Brown has suffered another injury-hit season, appearing 25 times.

Sir Alex Ferguson, who has only just welcomed back Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic from long-term injuries, has suffered the loss of all first team defenders this season, except for Patrice Evra.

Brown’s injury means that Rafael da Silva will start United’s Champions League tie with AC Milan at Old Trafford on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, John O’Shea, absent with a blood clot in his thigh since November, could make a surprise return to action by May. The Irishman, who suffered the injury in Ireland’s World Cup play-off with France, was expected to sit out the rest of season. The defender has taken medication to ease the injury but could make the United side for the final few games of the season.

Brown: City gave us a ‘massive’ lift

February 10, 2010 Tags: , Shorts No comments

Wes Brown says that beating Manchester City in the Carling Cup semi-final last month has given the squad a huge lift as the title run-in begins. With just 13 games to go, including tonight’s crucial match at seventh-placed Aston Villa, Brown says that the squad is brimming with confidence despite the loss to Villa in December.

“Those two games were brilliant,” said Brown, who has made 24 appearances for United in an injury disrupted season.

“Coming off after the second leg knowing we had beaten them and earned a place at Wembley gave everyone a massive lift.”

Defender Brown, who may shift to right-back tonight to accommodate the returning Nemanja Vidic, says that United now must win every game if the team is to win an historic fourth Premier League title in a row.

“Once we get to this stage of the season it is no longer about wanting to win,” he said.

“We have to win. We have to play well and we have to score goals. Recent results mean we have a lot of confidence at the moment. Hopefully we can keep it that way.

“When you look at the table now, anyone could take it, but knowing other teams have dropped points only matters if we keep winning.

“What does gives you a bit of a confidence is knowing that when you go into a game, you finish it by being top.”

Mr. Glass injured again

September 2, 2009 Tags: Shorts 4 comments

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

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

Brown fit for Arsenal clash

August 25, 2009 Tags: Shorts No comments

Wes Brown is set to be declared fit for the weekend’s game against Arsenal, according to reports today. The defender, who has suffered a series of injuries throughout his United career, has been hampered with a thigh problem this season. But the Manchester-born defender is set to offer manager Sir Alex Ferguson additional options as United’s defensive injury problems begin to ease. With Nemanja Vidic making his first appearance of the season against Wigan Athletic last Saturday, Johnny Evans requiring an ankle operation and Rio Ferdinand unfit for another three weeks, Brown may start against Arsene Wenger’s side.