Archive for June, 2008

So just who is Fergie’s “one target”.. and what position does he play?

Posted on June 30, 2008  by Stretford-end  in Man United   5 Comments »

Tomorrow, July 1st, marks the official start of the transfer window.This time last year United fans were pinching themselves to hope that the moves for Anderson, Nani and Hargreaves were all completed and official after an early pre-season swoop.

This pre-season we’ve not had David Gill looking very pleased with himself walking through an airport, instead subjected to constant media speculation over a certain number 7′s future.

Indeed, even the most ardent United fan could be forgiven for forgetting that it was less than 6 weeks ago that we won the European Cup. The European Cup, for christ’s sake!

With the European Championships over (congrats to Spain, easily the best side in the competition), and Fergie due to start back at work today, you would expect some activity on the transfer front (at least on the arrivals side of things). Pique has left, 5 kids were officially released last week, while Saha and Silvestre look certain to have played their last game for the club – if we can find any takers, that is.

Speaking at the Great Scots Cup golf tournament for charity, Sir Alex said, “Managers are back at their clubs and you can get some dialogue now if they are interested, but I wouldn’t think (we would buy) any more than one player… We are looking at one or two things.” Worrying for fans such as myself who had concerns that our lack of depth in defence (full back areas, at least), a need for another striker, and surely a need for extra creativity given how we struggled when Rooney was absent last season, despite the heroics of Ronaldo.Fergie could of course be holding his cards close to his chest but when looking at his comments we should at least examine how we are stocked if they are true. One signing, would surely mean a defender coming in – the development of Anderson and Nani, the addition of Manucho to the first team squad, a fully fit Hargreaves, and a full pre-season from Tevez may be enough to persuade the gaffer that we need no back up going forward. The sale of Pique and the likely sale of Silvestre is accompanied by the fact that aside from Simpson, we have no defenders to come in with any kind of first team experience. Neville should return, but at left back we would be horribly exposed should Evra get a knock. And, for all the speculation, there has not been one left back seriously linked with the club – Veloso of Sporting appears to have his heart set on a move to Milan, while Lahm recently signed a new contract at Bayern, and I don’t expect either of the Brazilian twins to be ready for the first team on arrival.

Manucho, at 25, could only have been signed with a view to have an instant impact after his acclimatisation period in Greece. Whether he will get games or whether he will make a good impact is open to debate – whether he is the player fans would identify as the man they want leading the line in the absence of Rooney or Tevez surely isn’t.

In the wake of Fergie’s comments, there must be a good few fans concerned that the club will do as it did in 1999 – no progress, no statement of intent, instead just replacing what is lost in the squad.

What do you think? Is Fergie playing a poker face with the intention of quietly pulling off major coups? Or do you believe his comments, and think just one player will be signed – if so, who?

Leave a comment or post in our forum.

By Yolkie 

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Now Calderon backs away from Ronaldo transfer

Posted on June 23, 2008  by Stretford-end  in Man United   6 Comments »

Ramón Calderón says that “There is no case for Ronaldo” in an amazing U-turn by that Spanish gospel, Marca.

He went on to state that Real Madrid would not pay 100 million euros for “any player”, further distancing himself from a move that seemed increasingly likely over the weekend. 

“There is no case for Ronaldo as Manchester United don’t want to sell him.. in any case, Real Madrid will not pay €100m for any player”, Marca reports Calderón as saying.

United released a statement on Friday refuting any possibility of an agreement to sell Ronaldo, and the winger’s ego must have been dealt a bodyblow at the Real Madrid president’s public distancing given previous declarations of a lavish salary and declaring that money would be no object in his pursuit of Ronaldo.

With a stay at Old Trafford looking increasingly on the cards, Ronaldo finds himself in a situation where he may have to placate fans that he previously seemed to have no problem in upsetting. The fact that he has made no clear statement lays in his favour, but nonetheless, many United fans have been unsettled by the star’s reluctance to make a public declaration of an intent to stay.

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Scolari makes public denial of unsettling Ronaldo comments

Posted on June 23, 2008  by Stretford-end  in Man United   7 Comments »

The Portuguese FA have issued a statement on behalf of the new Chelski boss steadfastly refusing that he has made any comments attriubuted to him by the media concerning Ronaldo’s future.

“Luiz Felipe Scolari denies having made any of the declarations printed concerning the future of Cristiano Ronaldo.

“Furthermore, the national team coach has not made any contact with the media since the end of the match between Portugal and Germany when he spoke about the quarter-finals of Euro 2008.

The statement concludes :

“Luiz Felipe Scolari regrets that his name is being used in connection with speculation and lies, and takes this opportunity to deny in advance any alleged declarations used by the media without their authenticity being thoroughly confirmed.”

While I do believe Big Phil has been bending Ronnie’s ear a bit it’s actually good of the Portuguese FA to do this – all official news over the last week has been settling for United fans who actually want Ronaldo to stay, and though the man himself is rumoured to announce in the next couple of days his official desire to join Real Madrid, it could now be that he will wait at least until after being assessed by United’s medical staff back at the club – meaning that any direct comment may wait until he’s spoken to Sir Alex, who is due back from holiday over the weekend.

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Stretford-end.com contacts the Sun..still waiting for a response!

Posted on June 23, 2008  by Stretford-end  in Man United   34 Comments »

Stretford-end.com moderator Yolkie contacted the Sun over the weekend with regards to Steven Howards piece on Saturday. What do you think of Yolkie’s e-mail and should we be refreshing our mailbox every minute waiting for a response?

Hello,

I’m writing in response to Steven Howard’s piece on Saturday 21st June regarding Ronaldo.

Manchester United fans who read the Sun have had to tolerate your evident disregard for our club for some time. I, myself, stopped reading in April after a game at Chelsea when you inexplicably attacked Sir Alex and his assistant in your column – a column in which you declared Ferguson had made a “tactical and selection blunder” in the game at the Nou Camp, and dismissed the penalty appeal at Stamford Bridge in the incident involving Ronaldo/Ballack, while at the same time stating the decision against Carrick was “perfectly correct” – comparing it to Gallas’ clear handball at Old Trafford.

Of course, you don’t need to be told that you got it horribly wrong when criticising Ferguson’s tactics, but the sheer hypocrisy in the same article was what initially turned me away – coupled with the undeniable fact that you have had major trouble accepting that Arsenal did not play the best football over the season.

I was alerted to your column in Saturday 21st June’s edition by a friend who thought it would make me laugh – but all in all, I found it compelling to read. It’s pre-season, United have just won the double, have done nothing of note in the transfer window and have denied the talk of the sale of Ronaldo. But you cannot resist having a swipe at United fans, with no real evidence to support your insults. Your first two paragraphs are presumably some kind of bold statement – when in actual fact, it has been rival fans calling him a “cheating, devious, underhand” individual and are crowing about him being the best in the world now that there are strong links attaching him to Real Madrid.

You go on to state that “even rabid Reds should realise the hypocrisy”, stating we “cherry picked” the best players, naming as examples, Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand, and Carlos Tevez. As a journalist you will know Newcastle were negotiating for Rooney, Man Utd simply came in with an offer, that was negotiated higher to almost extortionate levels, just because it was us. Of course we can never be sure of how much Everton invested in him, but something of which I’m certain is that they were handsomely rewarded. Leeds demanded £29m for Ferdinand – I suppose, again, it comes down to what you define “nicking” as. Personally, I don’t believe that term really applies to paying over the odds just because of the club you are. I wouldn’t exactly call it law of the jungle, Mr Howard, but you are very naive – clubs don’t sell players under contract that they don’t want to sell, it’s a little thing called “the transfer market” and has been part of the game of football since it’s conception. United aren’t the only club to buy a player when he had a contract, that’s why the fee is called “a transfer fee”.

“Nicking” may however apply to your beloved Arsene Wenger, who offers sky-high wages to mid-teens considered the best in the world in their age bracket to lure them away from their clubs, though I suppose that is exempt from your criticsm.

Concentrating on Ronaldo again, you make the point that Ferguson didn’t make him the player he is. You highlight the fact that not every single player has become the best player in the world under Ferguson’s tutelage as proof that he didn’t. Maybe he isn’t solely responsible, but is the fact that he resolutely refused to sell him after the World Cup not the biggest defining chapter in Ronaldo’s career – to return, in adversity, to develop the character to play without fear in any arena. Much as Beckham had to in 1998. Much as he shielded Giggs from the spotlight, as Giggs became the most decorated player in the history of the English game. Much as Eric Cantona resisted the temptation to quit as he was being hounded out of the country in 1995, and returned to inspire United to a double, and much as Roy Keane became the on pitch personification of his gaffer.

As I said, you make a good point, but it is surely only salient if you can identify a manager who has created a higher concentration of home-grown or acquired players into world class players with a greater success rate. People fail in every job, Mr Howard, it is not Sir Alex’s fault some don’t hit the heights. You conveniently neglect to mention that of those players that don’t succeed at United, a great number go on to earn a living as a professional footballer. I would even like to gamble that there are more ex-United players playing at a good professional level in the lower leagues than there are from any other club.

Further on, you comment that he is bored of the defenders in England, nod to Real Madrid’s greater trophy count, and the fact that he will line up alongside “Robben and Van Nistelrooy” as three big factors that make a move attractive to him.

It is on these three points that I have grave doubts over your pedigree as a football journalist.

As a professional writer of the sport, do you honestly believe that the defenders in the Villareal or Real Madrid teams pose a sterner test to him than those of Chelsea or Liverpool? That Racing Santander, Athletico Madrid and Mallorca provide a substantial leap in terms of gulf in class over Arsenal, Aston Villa, or Everton?

The English league has four fully professional divisions and as a country has possibly the greatest concentration of professional clubs fighting for trophies. Real Madrid do have a greater trophy haul but with fewer strong opponents is that really any different than using the argument to prove that either Glasgow club are far bigger than either Real or United? Five of Real’s European Cup wins came in the era where the Busby babes were tipped to be the dominant force, as Munich ended those dreams. Another followed before United won their first one – it’s very well using their history as a reason, and it is a very proud history, but your argument holds no more water than it would if you were arguing that he should move to Liverpool. Preston North End were proud unbeaten champions of the first league championship, why isn’t everyone lining up to play for them?

Which nicely leads in to the quality of teammates he could prospectively play alongside. Are the likes of van Nistelrooy and Robben favourable when compared to Tevez and Rooney, and friends Nani and Anderson? I appreciate that the point would be made but surely, again, it’s only a worthwhile argument if the point you are attempting to make is overwhelmingly conclusive. Furthermore, you use in inverted commas the term ‘the great players at Old Trafford’ as if it is somehow derisory – but how is a move from the current European Champions anything but a step to a lower calibre of player? Old Trafford boasts players who have a far greater success rate than those at Real. In Gary Neville, Ryan Giggs, and Paul Scholes, we have legends that even the great Raul hasn’t matched in terms of success, bar one more European Cup.

You state that “it’s becoming too easy for him, like it did Henry”. I am aware that you are either a huge fan of Arsenal or another side that will not conflict your love-in with the Gunners, but surely you cannot be serious? Henry moved in 2006 after 2 years of decline at Arsenal, which was mirrored by the teams performances, and he moved at the last chance that Barcelona would make a move that didn’t look like just an easy way to end his career. Ronaldo is at the peak of his game, despite your protestations, because of the effort, quality and selflessness of his teammates. He has just won the European Cup and Premier League, and has already achieved arguably more in 5 years at Old Trafford than Henry ever did at Arsenal. Ronaldo may move, but using it as a chance to somehow elevate Henry to his status considering his decline (something, which, tellingly, has accelerated incredibly despite playing against these supposed magnificent opponents) is poor journalism.

A final, telling point, is your insistence that Ronaldo should be allowed to “pursue a move to his dream club which is Real Madrid”. As you will.. or I should say, should, be aware, Ronaldo’s “dream club” is Benfica. I’m aware that the situation as it stands may be a repeat, and Ronaldo could join great rivals in the name of the almighty dollar/pound/euro, but to somehow explain the situation in terms of United standing in the way of a players dream and suggesting they are guilty of doing worse than Real in the past is ridiculous.

As a journalist your role should be to at least evaluate the facts and present them in a considered way, but you have neglected to do this, and instead have once again abused your position to slate United.

I do not expect you to respond to this email or even read it, but it enabled me to get the chance to get things off my chest. If you do read it, I hope that you at least take on board that perhaps it is time to stop such shameless and clear disregard for Man Utd – what you are currently doing is not journalism, it is just a soapbox.

Regards

Howard – Angry.
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Never mind Ronaldo – who’s coming in!

Posted on June 22, 2008  by Stretford-end  in Man United   17 Comments »

Since the end of the Champions League final all talk regarding United in the media has been about where Ronaldo will be in August. Well, other than the first line of the blog, this post will be a Ronaldo free zone! Euro 2008 has supplied us with some really good games and some sublime individual performances. This post has a look at some of the best players in the tournament so far and whether or not a transfer bid is possible for the player. You may wish to vote in our online poll on who you would most like to sign for next season.

Sneijder (Holland) 

The scorer of two wonderful goals against the 2006 World Cup winners and finalists, caught the eye of many football fans that have been impressed with his performances towards the end of last season. Comfortable with either foot, he plays his best football as an attacking midfielder in the final third of the pitch. Signed by Real Madrid last summer for £21Million the former Ajax man scored nine goals in his first La Liga season. Deadly from set pieces and versatile in attack, Sneijder would be a very decent acquisition for United, adding to attacking options. He would not come cheap though, and United would be looking at paying over £25Million for his services.

Philipp Lahm (Germany)

Lahm has become one of the most sought out after full backs over the past few years. Contracted to Bayern Munich of Germany, Lahm has constantly impressed with his lung bursting dribbles up the right or left flank and also his determination to get back and defend for his side. Lahm lined up against United for Stuttgart in the 2003/04 season when the Germany side beat United 2-1 in the Gottlieb-Daimler Stadium. Lahm scored a memorable goal against Costa Rica in the 2006 World Cup and has put in some great performances in Euro 2008. He has recently signed a contract with the German Champions to keep him at the club until 2012, so a transfer bid in the region of £20Million will be needed in order to require his services. Lahm can sit in as left or right full back but Sir Alex Ferguson will, if bought, use the German as a right full back. This will have both Evra and Lahm bombing down either flank and joining up with the attack. This transfer would have seemed more probable had it not been for the superb performances of Wes Brown this season, who appeared 52 times for the reds this season – the most appearances by any player for United.

Andrei Arshavin (Russia)

Russia were humiliated by Spain in their first group game and only just manged to overcome a poor Greece side at the start of the tournament. Both games were played without Arshavin, who was suspended due to being sent off in the last qualifier against Andorra. By the end of the Sweden game it was clear to see how important the player is to Russia and why the missed the playmaker in the first two games. Arshavin setup the first goal and scored the second in a 2-0 win off the Swedes, which guided the Russians into a quarter final tie against the impressive Dutch. Holland were most people’s favourites having beaten Italy, France and Romania (a side they failed to beat in qualifying) and looked good value before the game to reach the semi finals. Russia completely outplayed Holland in every area, restricting their one touch passing game in the final third and also playing a deep back line that stopped the effective counter attack that Holland had shown against all three previous opponents. Arshavin was at the heart of the Russian attack, providing an assist for the second Russian goal and scoring the third. In both games Arshavin was given the UEFA man of the match award. His best position is as a second striker that can pick the ball up deep and commit defenders with is dribbling ability. Arshavin has announced that he wishes to leave Zenit St Petersburg and would command a £15Million transfer fee, expect this to rise if he can play a pivotal part in a semi final victory over Spain or Italy.

Other Noticeable Performers

David Villa – The solution to most clubs transfer problems, with all of the big four linked to the Spaniard. Villa is currently top goal scorer in the finals having bagged a hat trick against Russia and a winning goal against Sweden, Villa will be a top priority for any top club that wants a quick, skillful striker that has had a season to forget at struggling Valencia. Can command anything up to £30Million, depending on who’s buying and whether he wishes to leave. Wouldn’t leave United with much height up top for crosses.

Sergio Ramos – The golden boy of Spanish football had a tough first season at Madrid after a string of poor performances at the center of defence. Shifted to right back after the decline of Salgado and has put in some very effective performances for both club and country. Bought from Seville in 2005 for a record £21Million making his transfer a record domestic transfer. Would play at right back for United but would command, again, over £25 Million. Has already quashed claims that he will be part of a transfer exchange involving United and some Portuguese player.

Luka Modric – The destroyer of England and making Gerrard and Lampard chase shadows for ninety minutes. Sounds like a player who United fans could take to in an instant, but unfortunately has signed for Spurs for £16Million prior to the finals. Excellent player, with superb vision and passing ranged. Once used to the physical side of the game, expect the player to dictate matches.

So there are Stretford-end.com’s transfer targets from the Euro 2008. What do you think? Are any of these players possible transfer targets? Would you want to sign these players? And have we overlooked any players that you feel have had a good tournament and should be considered by Fergie? Lastly, are there any players that aren’t playing in the tournament that you would like to sign? For instance there has been a number of sources linking United with Eto’o of Barcelona.

Have your say in the transfer forum also.

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The Real-ity of Madrid

Posted on June 22, 2008  by Stretford-end  in Man United   3 Comments »

The Real-ity of Madrid

Should Manchester United back down from their very public position and enter negotiations with Real Madrid for the sale of Cristiano Ronaldo, here are a few things for the Portuguese to consider.

1) By courting Madrid he is pushing his value way down – he is ‘weakening’ United’s selling positon. Now, you may say, Ronaldo won’t care about that as long as he gets what he wants. But rumours of a £100m bid and £300k a week will be way off the mark. Real may have stated that they can afford any price (in which case I would be tempted to ask for £200m), and United won’t take Real rejects – expect an opening bid of £40m, rejected out of hand, probably negotiated up for around £44m. United are not renowned for selling players for big prices, so Ronaldo will suffer the indignation of not even being the world’s most expensive player.

2) Upon entering personal negotiations Real Madrid are unlikely to offer 300k – currently on £120k, you would imagine they would attempt to entice Ronaldo with £150k. Not exactly the biggest downfall when you’re a supposed humble multi-millionaire, but a stark contrast from the “dream” and reality. A trend that is only likely to continue.

3) Having agreed reduced personal terms, Ronaldo will be quick to learn that he won’t inherit the number 7 shirt he wears in iconic fashion for United and Portugal. Expect, now, his sponsors to step in – the CR7 Nike range has been carefully worked on for a while and Ronaldo will throw all that away because he is NOT Raul. If this latest jolt of reality doesn’t sour the dream, perhaps the discovery that van Nistelrooy wears 17 will. Now this would not be a problem if he is as humble as he says he is and he only wants to play for Madrid. But you would imagine now that he’s not feeling as wanted as he once was.

4) Upon presentation to the media a wonderful gala atmosphere will surround Cristiano for the first few days, but when the spark wears off, he will discover that Real fans hold Robinho in higher regard than him and were more fearful of Robinho’s departure than they were excited about Ronnie.

5) So, Ronaldo, sporting number 9 or 19 turns out for Real alongside Heinze, van Nistelrooy and Robben. Back at United, Rooney, Tevez and Scholes take to the field. Egos at Real, personalities at United. An ego in the shape of van Nistelrooy that was sacrificed at United to placate Ronaldo. The point being made here that the team he is joining is not the galacticos it once was, and that he will quickly find that the other players are not revolving around him. Expect much disdain when Robben horribly miscues another from 20 yards, expect arm flailing when van Nistelrooy fails to pull back a square ball into the box. But, again, he wants a new challenge. He’s certainly got that.

6) Playing devil’s advocate, let’s say Real win the league and United don’t. The lack of any real quality opposition makes it another La Liga canter for Real, and United, who had built such a wonderful footballing system, struggle to maintain the balance without Ronaldo. Both sides exit at Quarter Final stage in Europe. Ronaldo sees his move as a great success and wants adulation – but Real are looking at their next big project. Fabregas, Kaka, Messi – the last two of which they are willing to break the bank for. Cracks will appear among Robben, Robinho, Ronaldo and van Nistelrooy – Real quickly address the need for at least 2 or 3 massive players to return to the “Galactico days”.

7) A move for Messi will see mass revolt from the Catalans but the little Argentine refuses to court it. He’s happy at Barcelona. Real Madrid however dangle the carrots and amid rumours of a £180m buyout in Messi’s contract, offer Barcelona a record fee of £96.4 million. Barca take the money, Madrid buy the player now regarded as the best in the world for a fee that properly reflects it (think how they did this with Zidane, a year after they flirted with Figo). Ronaldo and Messi co-exist in the same side but Messi is always seen as “the better one”.

Conclusion – Aside from the speculatory end, this is a realistic and time honoured process that players who leave Old Trafford or join Real Madrid go through.

Should we be forced into letting Ronaldo go (though I can’t see how we can be, no means no) then fellow fans should start to hear the alarm bells ringing – the situation would be likely to repeat itself with Nani, and possibly Anderson (though the Brazilian has made all the right noises so far, and is likely to be the next major component in United’s systems).

Stay, Ronaldo, and become a true legend of the club, and British game.

Leave and become another pawn in the (admittedly, glamorous) game of Real Madrid.

The saga has gone way too far and I think that this will be my last word on the matter.

For now.

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Superstar of the tournament – Karim Benzema…apparently

Posted on June 18, 2008  by Stretford-end  in Euro 2008   1 Comment »
Superstar of the tournament - Karim Benzema...apparently

Walking along Paphos harbour a couple of weeks ago with my new wife on our honeymoon I turned to her with a slightly slanted eyebrow, chesty as a peacock and quite arrogantly said ” Do you know who will be the player of the tournament?”, “Who?” was her reply to a question she didn’t fully understand, “Karim Benzema” (in a sort of slightly foreign tone – in the way I thought an Algerian would pronounce his name). “Watch” I said, knowing gladly that she wouldn’t even watch 34 seconds of the finals, “He’ll take the Championships by storm”. My Alan Hansen moment was concluded yesterday with Benzema and his French pals sent packing from Euro 2008.

My question, although not as comical as Domenech’s marriage proposal five minutes after the final whistle, was to me a fair but doomed question from the start. Fair because the 20 year old had taken France by storm scoring 21 goals in 37 games (and adding 7 assists to his name) for the French Champions but doomed because of the aging legs that surrounded him in the two games that he played. France were a shambles, which although us English are meant to laugh at – I could help but remember the players of the last ten years that had written Les Blues into football history. The most noticeable absentee is the magical Zidane – whom the side were crying out for in the finals. Benzema (although a full 15 years younger than Zidane) would have benefited immensely from the attacking passing, creativity and flair (to create space) of the magical number 10. This French side mainly operated in a 4-4-2 with two deep lying center midfielders (Makelele and Toulalon) and relied on Benzema, Henry/Anelka, Ribery and the amazingly overrated Malouda to score the goals and make things happen. Benzema at times showed what he is capable of, brushing aside his markers and bursting past defenders to only run into another challenge or be crowded out. I believe Benzema’s failure to set the tournament alight was mainly down to the team that he was in rather than the contribution of the player himself.

So what made me come out with this crazy prediction in the first place for a player so young and inexperience but bursting with potential, talent and enthusiasm? Well, the two games against United this season the lad was immense – one of the best performers against us in the tournament. If you’re not a United fan you may not have heard about it due to the fact there was another game on that night but anyone that saw the goal he scored in the Stade de Gerland will remember what a classy striker he is. For this reason I felt that he would be a fantastic player at United and I really do hope that, even though he didn’t set the summer alight, he makes a move to Manchester as we’d love him at Old Trafford and i’m guessing so would Fergie.

So would you welcome Karim Benzema to the club? If so and you think it is possible what type of money do you think he will command? Maybe this could be the time to part exchange Saha? I can’t imagine him coming cheap and I think that Lyon will want £25Million+ for the boy, they’re no mugs, after all they sold Malouda to Chelsea for £13.5Million!

‘Karim, she said yes!’
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Ronaldo….So whats it gonna be?

Posted on June 17, 2008  by Stretford-end  in Man United   1 Comment »

Everyone that reads this blog, forum, site (whatever part you read) knows that we are a big fan of the Portuguese magician in terms of ability – but in terms of integrity and loyalty, the boy has a lot of growing up to do. We tend to see two Ronaldo’s at Old Trafford. The Viva Ronaldo we love, tearing down the wing and making a mockery of the opposing full backs game plan and then there is the other Cristiano Ronaldo, the one that usually comes out when he’s with the national side, that become a tad pretentious and slightly pompous.

There is no question that to be that good you have to have an ego the size of the river seven bridge (trust me driving to the Millennium stadium – that bridge is long) and your arrogance shines through on the pitch which rallies up the fans, especially if its against Liverpool. But the way in which he’s conducted himself since the final in Moscow has been nothing short of appalling. Opposing fans will get on their high horse, claiming ‘he owes you nothing’, or ‘it happens to everyone – get over it’ but to honest I don’t really care what opposing fans think – every decent human being knows something about respect and loyalty, two qualities which seem to have averted the large arsenal of powers that Ronaldo has. Although these two qualities should be familiar to Ronaldo considering he played with a player that had the two in abundance – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is a well publicised legend at Old Trafford . That goal in the Nou Camp nine years ago, the professionalism and attitude that allowed him to score 126 goals for the Reds since 1996. Although widely reported at the time, Solskjaer has recently admitted that Tottenham came in for him in 1998; a time when he was second choice to Sheringham and Cole. This speaks volume for the man; that he was content at Old Trafford and fought for his place, which would eventually place him in the Manchester United history books. Solskjaer, although not as naturally talented as Ronaldo, provided versatility and quite possibly one of the top three finishers the Stretford End had ever seen. He is sadly missed at Old Trafford but everyone is aware of the good work he is doing behind the scenes.

Ronaldo has time and time this month failed to declare what he wants to do next season – citing his national team’s chance as more important than talking about his future. Fair enough about his nation – it’s been obvious since 2003 that he is passionate about Portugal and being the footballer that he is he should be competing at the highest level of international football. But what about the club and city that he has departed after such a wonder season? Ronaldo owes Fergie some loyalty and above all a public display of affection for the club that helped nurture the talent that he has today. He’s had a number of troubled times at United and from my understanding the club stood by him and helped him through difficult times.

If you want to stay say it. If you want to go say it. Just don’t drag this out so that it’s ‘all about Ronaldo’ and maybe have a look at your former team mate who could teach you a thing or two about integrity.

The legend of Old Trafford….alongside Ronaldo.

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Stretford-end.com Player Reviews 2007/08

Posted on June 14, 2008  by Stretford-end  in Man United   No Comments »

Our player reviews for the season just gone, what do you think of our rantings:

van der Sar :

It’s no coincidence that since signing van der Sar we’ve looked infinitely more composed at the back, and have won back to back titles. Towards the end of the season he did look a little shaky (the Riverside and Ewood Park visits in particular) but great saves at key moments in key games – the Arsenal game and the Champions League final – ensured this was a successful personal season for the Dutch stopper. 8

Brown :

Had to fill in all season for the club captain and ended up with a new contract and two trophies, as well as professional applaud for being part of the meanest defence in the league and Europe. No mean feat. 8.5

Ferdinand :

Too easy to put “simply the best defender in the world”. Rio has matured immensely since signing for us, progressing every year, and was immaculate in almost every game. A worthy wearer of the armband in the absence of Neville and Giggs. 9

Vidic :

The perfect foil for Rio and in world football his closest rival for best centre half. Vida is tough as nails and popped up with a vital goal early season at Everton – while his absence at Stamford Bridge was costly. 9

Evra :

Doesn’t get nearly as enough credit for his brilliant defensive work, which he too has improved over his time at United. Arguably the best left back in the world – it’s certainly baffling to see Abidal in front of him in the French side. 9

O’Shea :

Subject of much derision from opposition fans but the truth is if he or Fletcher were products of youth systems of any of the other teams in the top 4, he would be heralded as a great player. As it is, O’Shea had to relinquish his mantle as vital scorer to Tevez, but still managed to play more games than the likes of Hargreaves, Anderson, Scholes and Fletcher – no mean feat, and a reflection of the managers faith in him. 7

Carrick :

Seemed to have a little confidence crisis early season but after Christmas it was clear to see he finally felt he was worthy of a place in the starting line up – and a string of top performances in important games left him almost undroppable. 8

Hargreaves :

Injury hampered his first season but Hargreaves impressed at key times with crucial contributions – none more so than his stunning free kick against Arsenal. His addition, in so much as his cultured approach, seems to have eased the nerves and naivety that threatened to engulf the team in key European games.8

Scholes :

Returned from a mid-season injury to instant criticism of a loss of form – the Ginger Prince was not the only legend to suffer from a post-winter slump but it was worth remembering that his control of the tempo in critical games was key, as was his contribution to the amazing football of the autumn. His goal against Barcelona was stunning and fitting after the 99 story. 7

Anderson :

Fighting it out with Tevez for best signing, Anderson may not have scored the goals of the “little witch”, but the way in which he burst onto the scene in October and proceeded to outshine and outplay Fabregas and Gerrard TWICE has laid quite a foundation on which to build next season. Has a box of tricks that rivals Ronaldo’s and with a full pre-season, “Jiggy”, as he’s affectionately known to team-mates, could be a surprise contender for player of the season next year. 8.5

Giggs :

The physical embodiment of how fate can play a part in football – Giggsy too suffered a post winter slump that enabled the bashers to quickly and conveniently forget his brilliant autumn form. But goals to win both trophies overshadowed the fans’ critical comments. 7.5

Ronaldo :

Of course, without doubt, the player of the season, the best player in the world – seemingly motivated by the incredible decision by FIFA to name Kaka with the official title in December, Cristiano played on a different planet for 6 months of the season, not only showcasing his incredible array of tricks, but adding to them goals, and incredible goals at that – the strikes against Sunderland, Villa, Portsmouth to name just 3 will live long in the memory, as will the arrogant twitch of the lips and snaky shake of the hips. Potentially, with the right attitude, Ronaldo could well go on to be the best player in the history of the club. 10

Nani :

Nani showed real flashes of his undoubted potential this season – I’d even go as far as to say that he showed a little more consistency than Ronaldo when they both started, respectively. Numerous assists and two amazing goals from United’s struggling start to the season helped in immeasurable terms – though theatrics and his ridiculous red card were a let down, these are the things that can be cut out in time as he adjusts to the culture. 7.5

Rooney :

Roo comes in for some incredible criticsm, and I don’t use that term lightly – his goal tally this season was frowned upon, 12 in the league – but, when you consider that those were scored in 27 games, notch it against an impressive 18 in 43 games, then refer to the fact that Eric Cantona, in the season widely acknowledged as the one where he led us to the double in 1996, scored 14 in 30 league games (with penalties), then you begin to realise that the only criticsm you could level at Rooney is that he has, as yet, failed to surpass the total career record of Pele or Maradona, or that at the side of Ronaldo he hasn’t surpassed the number 7. United fans in the know recognise that Rooney is perhaps the most important cog of this current team machine, an opinion supported by the fact that of United’s 5 league losses, he was absent for 4, and came off injured after scoring the equaliser in the 5th at Chelsea. Without doubt England‘s greatest talent, the scorer of great goals, and the greatest football mind in the team after Giggs and Scholes. 9

Tevez :

Given the overwhelming goal tally of Ronaldo you may initially think that he had the most important role in United’s success in 2007/2008. However, the last of Fergie’s summer signings proved that he was worth the hype and more appropriately the hassle of the chase. Without Carlos Tevez there would have almost certainly been defeats at Ewood Park and White Hart Lane, which would have broken the title chase, and there would have been no draw in Lyon, making for a potentially disastrous home return. As it was, and as mentioned in our season review, fortunately for United he was a proper Johnny on the spot when it mattered, rescuing crucial results at crucial points in the season – not only in terms of scoreline but in team confidence. 9

Saha :

On “his day”, as he showed in 06/07, Saha can be a real handful. Unfortunately for him and United fans, his days are few and far between, and perhaps the final straw of Fergie’s patience was finally taken when Louis cried off after a warm-up in mid season. He contributed little of worth or worthwhile note throughout the season, and though he has been touted as a possible departure in the summer, it’s difficult to see which club would take a chance on him. Even Newcastle. 5

By Yolkie

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Town – Legendsville, Population – Cristiano Ronaldo

Posted on June 09, 2008  by Stretford-end  in Man United   2 Comments »

For one moment, lets forget about the complicated transfer triangle that involves United, Madrid and the magic man that is the young Portuguese superstar – and concentrate on the sublime talent on show in Cristiano Ronaldo. He can play in the centre and make other teams look shite, other than England, and is an inspiration to many young kids throughout Manchester and the world – but what is stopping the man becoming the best ever after Euro 2008?

I recently returned from a holiday in Cyprus and brought a wide range of football reading material along with me. Manchester United’s perfect 10 was in my collection by the former Manchester United reporter for the Manchester Evening News, David Meek, who selects his ten best United players. The players range from Duncan Edwards right up to one Cristiano Ronaldo, however this book wasn’t the one that caught my attention for over my 17 day break. A book that looks into Italian Football (Forza Italia), by the exceptional Football journalist Paddy Agnew, over the years since the author moved Rome in 1986. The book covers the rise of AC Milan, the Juventus doping scandal and all things controversial about Italian football and to be honest it is a fantastic read. But the main chapter that really hit home was about the greatest footballer that ever lived, Diego Armando Maradona.

Maradona, for me, was a true footballing genius, raised in the slums of Buenos Aires and reached the heights of Mexico in 1986 to become the best footballer in the world. Agnew speaks about his influence in the Napoli side that helped the Southern minnows win their first Serie A title in 1987, which was followed up by another title in 1990 and the UEFA cup the season before. What Maradona did for that club and that city borders on the unimaginable. This highlights the genius of the man, but hides what went on in the background of the tormented legend.

Maradona’s legacy has always been dogged by drugs, call girls and a small penis (if you watch fantasy football that is). This does have a massive affect on the opinion of a footballer and the fact that although they are only human they do take an arrogant approach to how they see life. Maradona was excused a number of times throughout his Napoli career due to his immense football talent when he went over the mark – one being that he missed a trip to Moscow in a UEFA cup tie due to the fact that he was sleeping off a night of a cocaine filled orgy – something that no one else could get away with. He also was once given a 3.5 rating in an Italian Newspaper (a rating that summed up his performance as more than useless – or more useful to the other side). This promoted the short Argentinian to burst into the studio where the journalist was sitting (for an interview), tear up the article and then shove the paper into the man’s mouth – Maradona could simply do anything he wanted, which also involved organised crime.

So what does Maradona, Italian Football and cocaine filled binges have to do with Cristiano Ronaldo? Well, nothing really, except for the fact that I totally believe that Ronaldo can achieve the same level of genius that Maradona reached over his career – except without the baggage. Ronaldo hit 42 goals this season – an unbelievable return from a wide man, but it’s his style of football that makes everyone stand up and take note. The man can dribble, can shoot, can head the ball and most importantly can get people out of their seats in awe of his breathtaking ability, very much like Maradona. Yes, both players achievements aren’t really comparable (Napoli really were not a side expecting to challenge for the title) but both players are skillful dribblers that are capable of the impossible.

Cristiano Ronaldo has the opportunity of becoming the best player of his generation, which then leads to the opportunity of immortality. However, this legend status will be achieved without the baggage that accompanied past geniuses, such as Gascoinge, Best and Garrincha (all booze related). Some reds may disagree with me over Ronaldo with regards to his legend status – however in terms of ability I really do think (as long as he stays with United) he can become one of the best players ever.

So what do you think? Can Ronaldo achieve legend status? Will this status be hindered or helped by off field antics?

Ronaldo – top footballer and duck impressionist.
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