Archive for September, 2008

Ronaldo’s playacting too much???

Posted on September 28, 2008  by Stretford-end  in Man United   7 Comments »

Everyone’s favourite foreigner, Cristiano Ronaldo, was again at the center of controversy yesterday having won a penalty that clearly wasn’t a penalty. However, you will not find me laying a single shed of blame on him for a decision that was clearly made by Mr Calamity himself, Robert Styles. No no, Ronaldo lost the ball after a fine tackle by Samuel and was inevitably grounded as you are in football. I was in the Stretford End and honestly thought that Ronaldo was going to get book for simulation, how wrong I was -along with 75,000 others.

The problem that I had with Ronaldo yesterday was his constant diving and slamming the floor when he didn’t get his way. We see it now and again from him, most noticeably against Wigan in the final game of the last season – where it looked like he was complaining about someone tackling him. Now, I have a number of views on what constitutes to diving (generally, people – in this country – believe if you’re young and foreign and you go to ground easy – you’re a diver and a cheat but when you’re older and British it’s ‘using your experience’) and I am a firm believer it needs to removed from the game – regardless of the fact if you think that you’re not getting enough protection. Dribblers are a rare breed in today’s game and there is no greater sight at Old Trafford that Ronaldo tearing down the wing beating man after man, but there comes a time when he has to realise that he can’t get his own way all the time.

Time after time he slammed the ground in frustration that a freekick wasn’t given and time after time Bolton broke on the counter. Now, with respect to Bolton, they’re not world beaters known for their fast moving attack minded football – which is why they didn’t capitalise on a number players being out of position when Ronaldo lost the ball. You could argue that Muamba should have scored late in the first half – which was a direct result of Ronaldo going to ground having lost the ball.

The lad has so many gifts, that we all know about, but his playacting was a burden yesterday and if we lose the ball high up the pitch against top opposition that can commit a number of men forward in a counter attack, we’ll be in trouble. So not only does this constitute to cheating, it also means that we could concede – if Ronaldo get annoyed. Do you think Ronaldo should cut this out of is it part and parcel of modern football? Do you think teams can pinpoint this as a weakness or do you think that i’m being unfair and Ronaldo was actually fouled yesterday?

‘Seriously Ref….he got the ball’
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Ryan Giggs – the Greatest ever?

Posted on September 23, 2008  by Stretford-end  in Man United   7 Comments »
Ryan Giggs - the Greatest ever?

With Monday’s release of the “Ryan Giggs – True Red” DVD, which chronicles his fantastic career, there is a question that surely, at this time, is a fair one – is Ryan Giggs the greatest player ever?

To give the question somewhat of a mathematical context, ability x longevity x achievement could be seen as some fair formula, although ultimately it all comes down to opinion, such is the objectivity that surrounds football.

In doing research for this blog I have to say that I have been persuaded to say “YES” – and I came into it believing that Best, Pele or Maradona was. I expect a few people will think I’m crazy but I will attempt to answer points made for any argument against.

First things first – he’s the most decorated player in the history of the English game, has scored dozens of important goals and countless fantastic mesmerising memories. He has embarrassed defenders at the highest level for over 17 years and continues to do so today.

Though his goal tally has often been criticised has not being good enough (143 goals in 745 games), a quick comparison with, say, Steven Gerrard (99 goals in 445), shows that it’s a very respectable record considering Gerrard has made a career out of taking penalties, free kicks and generally dropping off the striker. That’s not a criticism of Gerrard, by any stretch of the imagination, but more a marker to say how impressive Giggs has been.

Just as impressive is taking account of how many of those 143 have been special – either in the delivery of the goal or the context in importance terms, and indeed, sometimes, both.

Another criticism that is often leveled at Giggs is that his final delivery isn’t good. Codswallop, in my opinion. He has provided more goals over his career than anyone else in Premier League history, and to this day is capable of providing a pass no-one else can. His slide rule ball is the most undefendable in the entire league, and unexpected moments of class such as the pass for Tevez’s goal against Chelsea last season are an indication that intelligence wise, he is on another planet.

Goals at the highest level – well, for every stunning Maradona solo effort, so there is a Giggs replica. For every embarrassed defender Bestie left behind, so, too, there is a Giggs replica. And vital contributions at the most pivotal of times, too. Ryan Giggs has been no fearer of setting or stage – numerous goals to clinch numerous titles for United, numerous semi final strikes to swing the tie, or indeed, entire season’s worth of momentum back into United’s favour.

Some say he hasn’t been consistent enough. The rebuttal is simple – you don’t play an integral part in three almost completely different sides, in one of the most physically demanding positions, over a period of 17 years if you are a passenger. Sir Alex has shown that by ruthlessly disposing of players when they are considered to no longer have a role to play. In 2006 he was asked, at the age of 32, to play centre midfield with John O’Shea. That United managed to finish 2nd and included a run in where Giggs and O’Shea dominated a much heralded Arsenal midfield was testament to the maturity and fundamental ability of the Welshman. A closer inspection reveals that Giggs’ form often reflects the success of United and the overall style of the team.

The destructive pace of the early 90′s, the cultured never say die, take on all comers of the late 90′s/early 00′s, and the current continental, composed magnificent footballing side of today. It is no coincidence that Ryan Giggs, in the autumn of his career, was superb again last winter as United produced some of the finest football in their history.

The final thing people often say about Giggs is that he never achieved anything at International level. But, Puskas and Best never played a major tournament either – and all success is relative. Dunga, coach of the Brazilian national team, said in 2006 after a friendly against Wales that he was glad Giggs wasn’t Brazilian as he would give him too big a selection headache. Quite a compliment considering players in the attacking midfield position included a peak condition Ronaldinho and Kaka.

Like Sir Bobby Charlton before him, Giggs will probably only be truly appreciated after he retires – a shame, and an even greater shame that the new breed of fans in todays “must win at all cost” mentality don’t appreciate the likes of our current legends and want them to be pushed aside for younger players who may be faster but are naive – tell me that Fabregas or Ronaldo can technically compare with Ryan Giggs and I will laugh in your face. They are simply not capable of doing with a ball what Giggs can.

He may be unappreciated by many fans but not among his contemporaries – “He is the player chosen by God“, Luis Figo said of him, while Alex Del Piero says “How could I possibly appraise him? Fantasy star? Yeah, that’s Ryan Giggs… this is embarrassing to say but I have cried twice in my life watching football players.. the first was Roberto (Baggio) and the second was Ryan Giggs.”

Zidane said, “If he was French I would have been on the bench.” This from a man who is considered by most to be the greatest player of his generation, despite having a career that was significantly shorter at the highest level.

Listening to the current crop of players at United you can sense the respect among his peers, especially among the likes of Ferdinand and Rooney.

Below I have highlighted just a few of Giggs’ finest goals throughout his career for United, and you will probably be surprised at the extent of the catalogue.

To add to the list, on the 21st May, 2008, Ryan Giggs set a new appearance record for the club, scoring the winning penalty in the European Cup final. That in itself was somewhat of an achievement considering he’d missed his only previous penalty, in a shootout at the Stretford End against Southampton more than 16 years earlier!

His highlights don’t start and end with his goals, however. Man of the match performances in Europe during the years of 96-2001 at Old Trafford against the likes of Juventus twice, Porto, Real Madrid, Fiorentina, and Bordeaux, a man of the match display in the Intercontinental Cup setting up the winning goal, those runs that saw him go past 6 or 7 players (notably against Anderlecht and Sunderland) which resulted in penalties, volleying from the halfway line at Charlton which was a crossbar’s width away from probably the second greatest goal of all time? The backheel flick around Julian Dicks at Upton Park on the halfway line, before running and crossing for Cantona? Scoring via Ashley Cole in the infamous “I’ll see you out there” game? The string of performances in the second half of the 99/2000 season that made him probably the best in Europe at that time? Setting up 4 goals against Roma?

What about the trick he performed against Arsenal in 1993 that I’m not sure even has a name, that I’ve never seen performed before or since that time? These are just a few memories of the top of my head, I could sit here all day writing them.

The blog is already massive and I haven’t even mentioned that all this is from a man who has played his entire career for the club he supported as a boy. He’s simply lived the dream, and millions of United fans around the world have lived it with him.

Ryan Giggs had, and still has, the ability to thrill, entertain and wow fans like no other talent in the world.

I may be among a minority of even United fans to believe it, but I’m nailing my colours to mast – Ryan Giggs, you truly are the greatest footballer to have lived.

It was going to be a long night for Ryan

Enjoy the trip down memory lane -

First goal -

Man City 4/5/91 Old Trafford. Was it his? Probably not, but the record shows it.

91/92

Norwich – 7/9/91 Old Trafford – skinned the keeper and rolled it in from impossible angle.

West Ham – 23/11/91 – stunning volley.

Boro 11/03/92, OT, semi final clincher in League Cup, volley on difficult angle.

(Scored in two Manchester derbies (one dubious, one magnificent from 25 yards), at Boundary Park, Elland Road, a semi final winner, all before being 19.)

92/93

19/9/92 Spurs WHL “That goal” skins one, megs another, rounds the keeper, classy finish

28/12/92 – Coventry – magnificent 20 yard curler in top corner

18/01/93 – QPR – Loftus Road – latches onto through ball at speed and showing expert control, lifts it over the keeper from 18 yards

23/01/93 – Brighton – FA Cup – great near post free kick

05/04/03 Norwich – away – in a vital game, Giggs latched onto an early Cantona through ball to score what was becoming a trademark, round the keeper and into the net, to set the tone for a pulsating early show.

03/05/93 Blackburn – 30 yard free kick to celebrate winning the title.

93/94

21/08/93 Newcastle – stunning free kick at the Stretford End.

04/01/94 Liverpool – Anfield, Giggs beats a defender and chips Grobellar for an iconic goal.

22/01/94 Everton – Old Trafford – In a game notable for the first after the death of Sir Matt Busby, United put on a great display, creating chance after chance but failing to score – until Giggs met a Keane cross to head brilliantly in.

05/02/94 – QPR – Loftus Road – Giggs skins 4 defenders and coolly finishes to Clive Tyldesley’s immortal “the boy’s a genius!”

13/02/94 – Sheff Wed – Semi Final 1st leg – defender doesn’t deal with it, Giggs races in, rounds keeper, almost on byline at the edge of the box somehow scores.

27/04/94 Leeds away – combines brilliantly with Hughes to score, brilliantly.

01/05/94 – Ipswich away – Giggs almost karate kicks the ball in to all but seal United’s second successive title.

94/95

14/09/94 – Gothenburg – scores United’s first ever “Champions League” group stage goal, then scores the winner.

95/96

21/10/95 – Chelsea away – a stunning solo effort at Stamford Bridge, bamboozling the defenders before stabbing home.

18/11/95 – Southampton – Giggs scores United’s quickest ever goal, after just 16 seconds, then adds to it a couple of minutes later!

06/04/96 – Citeh (away) – Keith Curle invites him to shoot. Infact, orders him to. Giggs can’t score from there, can he? Yep, afraid so. Magnificent 20 yard drive into the top corner.

05/05/96 – Boro away – scores the third in a 3-0 win to seal a third title. A cute strike from 20 yards giving the keeper no chance.

96/97

4/12/96 – Rapid Vienna away – our Ryan skins two defenders on halfway, plays it to Eric, runs almost full circle leaving the defender for dead and scores across the keeper from 20 yards to seal Champions League qualification.

18/01/97 – Coventry away- tackles to win a loose ball, regains his balance, and scores beautifully with his right foot from 20 yards to announce to the world “yep.. I have one”.

05/03/97 – Porto – not content with running the show from midfield, Giggsy decides he wants a piece of the action and smashes in at the Stretford End to complete a stunning break and amaze English football.

97/98

01/10/97 – Juventus. After terrifying the Juve defence all game (prompting Zinedane Zidane to rank it as the greatest first time he’d seen a player play, alongside Ronaldo 9), Giggsy put the icing on the cake by running through and drilling in from 16 yards. Barry Davies exclaimed “Oh! I don’t believe that!”, and nor could any United fan.

25/10/97 – Barnsley. Carries the ball around 50 yards before effortlessly placing it from 20 yards into the top corner. Oh yeah, with his right foot.

98/99

16/09/98 Barcelona – Giggs keeps his composure after watching David Beckham skin and race past his marker (yes, it did happen), to rise above his marker like a salmon (yes, it did happen) and score an unlikely goal. But it did happen.

26/12/98 Nottingham Forest – technically brilliant, chipped finish on the angle to complete a fantastic move between Sheringham and Beckham.

07/04/99 Juventus – last minute equaliser that was lashed into the roof of the net to rescue the tie heading into a fateful tie in Turin.

14/04/99 Arsenal, Villa Park – Do I really need to describe what is probably the best goal of all time? In extra time, carrying a niggle, Giggs is sent on from the bench to “keep the ball” as United are down to ten men. Picking the ball up in his own half he decides to skin the most physically dominating midfielder in the game and then skin the most miserly defence in Europe before finishing with incredible power, scoring the goal that every schoolboy dreams of scoring, the goal that breathed new life into United’s season and inspired tired legs. Then celebrated by exposing his hairy chest. Lovely stuff.

99/00

18/12/99 – West Ham, Upton Park. Exquisitely flicks the ball to Yorke, collects the return stabbing in. More for the outrageous flick than the goal.

00/01

13/01/01 – Bradford, Valley Parade – Giggs shows ridiculously composed control to collect a 30 yard high ball, killing it instantly, then turning his marker inside out before drilling past the keeper via the near post. In my humble opinion, the kind of goal which has been so understated but wouldn’t have been if anyone else had scored it.

14/04/01 – Coventry – Scores a 15 yard header in the top corner to seal the title at Easter. Oh yeah, all kinds of goals.

13/05/01 – Southampton away – although in defeat, one of the great solo goals – Giggs beats two men, plays a one two with Yorke, taking two other defenders out, then coolly finishing.

01/02

10/04/02 – Deportivo – Fewer sights in football are as great as seeing Giggs put defenders on their arse. He didn’t disappoint here, beating another just for good measure, and scoring at the near post. A great European goal.

02/03

23/08/02 – Chelsea away – Giggs scores his 100th United goal, tremendously curling from 12 yards in off the crossbar.

25/02/03 – Juventus away – Ryan was getting a bit of unfair stick about his form and answered his critics in typical fashion – scoring 2 at the Delle Alpi, the second a glorious solo effort finished past Buffon with his right foot. As Tyldesley says in commentary “the type that only Ryan Giggs can score”.

05/04/03 Liverpool. It’d been 2 years since Giggs last Old Trafford league goal, that title clinching header. What better way to break your duck than scoring in a 4-0 win over the Dippers, arriving late to pounce like a theif in the night, and leaving the Liverpool keeper looking all around him, bemused.

16/04/03 Arsenal away. Giggs had scored in consecutive games against Liverpool and Newcastle and now faced this third in the “title crunch” triple header. And head he did, expertly converting Solskjaer’s cross.

03/04

16/08/03 Bolton. With Beckham gone, people wondered where United’s set piece threat would come from. They needn’t have worried. Giggs scored via the post from 25 yards on the opening day to remind everyone about a certain number 11.

09/11/03 Liverpool away. Two goals at the Kop in a United win. The second in off the bar. Nice one.

04/05

28/09/04 Fenerbache. In a game probably best remembered for a certain Mr Rooney scoring a goal or two, Giggs got the ball rolling with an expertly taken header from 12 yards – equalling Sir Bobby in the European goal ranks.

28/12/04 Aston Villa away. Another of those underrated gems. Giggs extravagantly flicks a long ball with his heel onto O’Shea. He flicks it back to the Welshman who cuts inside and scores confidently from 20 yards.

26/01/05 Chelsea, League Cup semi. Showing that no amount of money can compensate for sheer class, Giggs scores one of the competitions greatest ever goals, magnificently evading Terry and flicking the ball over Cech on the volley from about 15 yards. Stunner.

07/05/05 – West Brom – quick free kick across goal. Very cute.

05/06

11/12/05 – Everton. Latches onto a long Scholes pass to score a similar goal to the Chelsea one. Very, very classy.

26/3/06 – Birmingham. Received a ball from Rio, nutmegged his marker, swapped passes with Rooney, outpacing the entire Brum defence at the age of 32, and scoring with a nice low drive.

06/07

26/08/06 Watford – an exhibition of style, composure and great awareness. Giggs beat the offside trap and, in flashes of 1992, nonchalantly skinned the keeper before scoring.

24/02/07 Fulham away. Did he mean it? If so, one of the most brilliant half volleys of all time – on the angle, Giggs rescues United’s title hopes. Knowing Giggs, he probably did.

07/08

08/12/07 Derby – Ronaldo shoots, keeper spills, Giggs scores rebound. It’s the exception to the rule of Giggs’ goals generally coming from his own brilliance, but nonetheless, it was his 100th league goal. All for United, of course.

11/05/08 Wigan away – and in typical Giggs fashion, his 101st came on his record equalling appearance for the club, to seal the title on the last day, with all the composure that had become his trademark in his later years.

By Yolkie

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United, Chelsea, goals and Glenn Hoddle’s crime towards fashion

Posted on September 20, 2008  by Stretford-end  in Man United   1 Comment »
United, Chelsea, goals and Glenn Hoddle's crime towards fashion

Lets not beat around the bush – May 2008 was a month to remember, not only for me to roll in a stag do and getting married in Cyprus but to remember May 11th and May 21st – two days that will live long into the memory of any Red. On both occasions, not that I have to tell you, we beat Chelsea – the billionaire boys clubs from the capital. Chelsea have got a little too much stick over the past five years to be honest; their football is dull, they’re arrogant, they have no history and they employ Peter Kenyon – well they should get stick for the last one. You have to start somewhere – yes Chelsea had only won the league once in 1955 – before winning back to back titles in 2005 and 2006. However, their growth indirectly helped us and the English Premier League – Chelsea raised the bar and United, Arsenal and I suppose Liverpool had to raise their game to compete with a football club with the unlimited resource of money.

‘John Terry…miss a penalty? Don’t make us laugh…..’

One criticism that I do have of Chelsea is their massive mistake from last season – getting rid of Jose Mourinho. Phil Scolari is a larger than life character with a superb record spanning a number of countries and most importantly gets the best out of his players – that still doesn’t hide the fact that personal problems between the owner and the manager were the main reason for the sacking of the Portuguese self proclaimed ‘special one’. Yes of course he could be a smug tosser at times but he was an exceptional man manager and knew how to defend his players to the press by placing all the blame and attention on him. He was also tactically astute and Chelsea’s loss last season was indeed the rest of the Premier League’s gain. Avram Grant did something that Mourinho couldn’t do in getting Chelsea past Liverpool in the semi-final of the European Cup apparently – the same Liverpool who twice had fuck all to play for other than a place in the European Cup final against a Chelsea side who were fighting for a number of honours – Mourinho would have done it eventually, its a hard competition to win.

Anyhow – enough on him – the big clash tomorrow between the European Champions and the Runners up. Since the Premier League started, Chelsea have always been considered United’s bogey team. I remember in the 1993/94 season when Chelsea, through Gavin Peacock (without the goatie), did the double over United winning 1-0 in both games. The FA Cup final sort of made up for that, with the comical Frank Sinclair show in full flow bringing down Andrei Kanchelskis and diverting the ball into the path of Sparky to score after Eric had already converted a penalty that Eddie Newton had given away. Choccy finished the scoring off – but I would have to say that this is my favourite victory over Chelsea, which handed us our first double.

Turning his cap back to front was Eric’s first rebellious act in a United shirt.

Another game that I remember well, over the past twenty years, is the 5-3 FA Cup game in 1998. It was a crazy game, where United went 5-0 up, with a well worked freekick from Beckham who proceeded in clapping his ears in response to the ‘awful remarks’ made towards his ‘amazingly talented’ wife (then girlfriend) Victoria Adams. Another Beckham goal and a brace from best buddies Andy Cole and Teddy Sheringham completed the United scoring before Chelsea hit three in a matter of thirteen minutes. I remember macho man Graeme Le Saux scoring a screamer, which would have been met with an ironic ‘waaahey!’ – although when Vialli scored the third – jumped into the goal to retain the ball and sprinted back to the centre circle, I was shitting myself. The game finished 5-3 to United and it was a good quality, old fashioned cup tie.

I know you slagged off the handicapped but that blazer/shirt combo is unacceptable.

The subject i’m about to discuss now requires a more in depth analysis into cultural and social differences between the South and the North and most importantly the animosity towards the England national team. I was listen to TalkSport the other day and I heard a Chelsea fan ring up and say something along the lines of:

‘John Terry missing that penalty in Moscow – i’m over that – if he’d have done that for England, i’d have needed counseling’

This was in response to the admission by Liverpool defender, Jamie Carragher, who had admitted in his autobiography that winning with Liverpool meant more to him than with England. It would be interesting to hear Chelsea fan’s thoughts on that comment and how they weigh ‘club vs country’ – considering that Chelsea are a southern football club. I could never imagine a red saying those words that the Chelsea fan said – and i’m not placing every Chelsea fan with this opinion – i’m just intrigued to see how differently the English national team is viewed from a North/South divide. Like I said though – this would require a much longer and detailed post, however I would be interesting to get Chelsea fans opinion on this.

So to tomorrow and another mammoth clash, which United must get something out of. From a United perspective there has been a number of great victories over Chelsea in the past twenty years – other than the Moscow penalty shoot out, what would you classify as the best United v.s Chelsea game you’ve seen?

George Best looking like he’s taking on Chelsea all by himself
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Patience is a Virtue my friend…..

Posted on September 18, 2008  by Stretford-end  in Champions League, Chelsea, Man United   No Comments »
Patience is a Virtue my friend.....

The witch hunt isn’t out quite just yet for someone to blame at the, shall we say, disappointing recent results. It started with a 2-1 defeat to UEFA Cup winners Zenit St Petersburg in which Paul Scholes got himself sent off for punching the ball into the net. Sandwiched in between that and the horrendous performance away at Liverpool was the comical transfer saga of moody face himself, Dimitar Berbatov. I’ve blogged enough about the Bulgarian forward and think he is an absolute quality footballer – but did we really need to fork out £30Million odd on him? Then we come to the game against Villarreal – the scoreless draw experts against us it would seem – however I wouldn’t quite get your box of tomatoes and rotten fruit yet, I quite enjoyed the game.

Berbatov, so good he is about to control the ball with his nose hair.

Ok it was a disappointing result, but there were a lot of positives out of the game. Firstly, the performance – United passed the ball much better than on Saturday, although were allowed to do a lot easier due to the significant less amount of pressing enforced by the laid back Eastern Spaniards. Yes, the yellow Submarine really was deep and as mentioned in the match report for the game, United missed the guile and creativity of a Scholes or Carrick in terms of creating chances through the middle of the park. Speaking of Park, the Korean was clearly brought down twice in the penalty box, which should have resulted in a penalty on both occasions – however both officials gazed at each other like nervous lovers and immediately waved play on. We can’t always get the correct decisions – but in both these instances they were stone wall penalties.

“I swear, on the holy book and this pink shirt, I did not dive”

So, we’re actually in a better position at this point than we were last season – remember the stick we were getting having drawn with Reading and Pompey. Lost to Citeh, unbelievably, and scrapped a 1-0 win over Tottenham with a thunderbolt from Nani. We had five points out of a possible twelve, whereas now we have four points from a possible nine, the only problem is, we have Chelsea on Sunday, who haven’t lost at home for four years. To be honest, it does feel strange that we have had big game after big game so early on the season – especially when it usually takes us some time to get going.

Former United centre half, Gary Pallister, raised concerns this morning on Radio five, stating that this poor run of form would cost United in the long run. Although of course the results will hinder the progress of the club, in the league especially, I don’t know how we can really hit panic stations just yet. I mean we had Tevez missing the opening game, Rooney picking a virus up in Nigeria, Cristiano Ronaldo injured, Nani suspended, Anderson in China, Hargreaves injured, Giggs injured, Scholes suspended, Carrick injured and Berbatov hasn’t played at all this season – thats a big list. Once the team gets settled, players get back to match fitness, I have no doubt United will turn on the style. There is so much ability in this side – and it will shine through, we just need to be patient.

Pallister is concerned with the start made by United.

Chelsea on Sunday will not be an easy game. Firstly, the quality of the Londoners is immense and the side will be high in confidence after their 4-0 victory over French runners-up Bordeaux. Secondly, having been pipped to both trophies last season – they’ll be an extra edge to the game – which will of course be greeted to the tune of ‘Viva John Terry!’. Vidic is out, Carrick is out and it is doubtful that Ronaldo will start. Will Fergie attempt to play all three forwards again in an unbalanced lineup as he did against Liverpool? I hope not, although something will have to give. I hope he will go 4-4-2 with Rooney and Berbatov leading the line, Brown in to replace the suspended Vidic and a midfield quartet of Hargreaves, Anderson, Scholes and Giggs or Nani – which can then shift to a 4-3-3 if need be. Michael Essien is out, which is a big blow to Chelsea, however they have a decent, if a little less mobile, replacement in Jon Obi Mikel and i’m sure Drogba will make an appearance somewhere along the line. Combined with John Terry’s successful appeal, did you ever think there would be any other outcome, Chelsea will put out a very strong line up to try and make the gap even wider at the top come 5pm.
Fergie made a jibe at the age of the Chelsea squad in pre-season, something that seemed to ruffle some feathers in the Chelsea camp. When you look at the two sides – you see two great teams that are very different in style and to be fair to Fergie in terms of age also. We can talk all day long about history and tradition of both clubs – however, in today’s game, Chelsea are a massive force that will want revenge for last season’s events. One thing some fans forget is that there can be a period of domination – but that domination can’t occur every season, year after year – as much as fans want to see their side win, there has to be realistic expectations. Can United win a triple Premier League crown again? Or can United be the first side since AC Milan in 1990 to win back to back European Cups? Both answers are yes of course they can but in order to start playing with the style and grace that we all know is there – the team must get some consistency going. I’ve blogged many times about the difficulty in picking up Rooney, Tevez, Ronaldo and Giggs when they interchange positions so frequently – the process takes time – so yet again we must remember, patience is a virtue my friend.

Come on, stop laughing….
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Ronaldo into the Kop Cauldron – a Fergie masterstroke in the making

Posted on September 12, 2008  by Stretford-end  in Man United   No Comments »

Rumours are surfacing that Sir Alex Ferguson is set to spring a surprise by welcoming Cristiano Ronaldo back from injury far earlier than expected in one of the next 3 games.

If true, not only would this be a welcome boost as a return from his ankle op – this could be a masterstroke with so many potential ramifications.

“Wait”, I hear you say, “Of course having Ronaldo back is a good thing. He scored sh*tloads and is the best player in the world”. Well of course for these reasons Ronnie back is great news – but there are underlying, extenuating circumstances that could make the return all the more glorious.

Fergie knows, Ronaldo knows, the entire United fanbase know that our Portuguese wizard is walking somewhat of a tightrope among the Old Trafford faithful. It’s 50-50 whether he will be booed or cheered when his name is next read out on the teamsheet. In fact, even indifference. United fans are a loyal lot and tend to forgive players for their shortfalls but when it seems that a player has blighted the club – well, as the banner reads and the saying goes, it’s MUFC the religion. These incidents aren’t so easily forgotten.

However, with the Anfield trip coming up in little more than half a day from the time of this blog, Fergie’s admittance that he might include Ronaldo in the squad could have a massive effect.

Regardless of the result, including Ronaldo in the squad at Liverpool of all places will encourage United fans on the fence to cheer his name – even those stoutly against Ronaldo will surely be loathe to boo him at Anfield (or even Stamford Bridge, for that matter). In such a scenario, if we bring him on, it will be to a hero’s reception. Cue post-match declarations from Fergie that he had trust in the fans, just as he did after the World Cup. Cue re-affirmation from Ronaldo either publicly or personally that he made the right choice to stay. Cue greater team spirit. And the domino effect goes on.

Such tactics may not necessarily have a bearing on the result tomorrow or even that at Stamford Bridge but Fergie has always had his eye on the bigger picture and don’t be surprised if a token gesture of a place on the bench for Ronaldo is gifted by our wily boss – such a decision could turn out to be be a significant masterstroke.

Ronaldo - inclusion in the Anfield clash could be monumental in United's season

By Yolkie 

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Hello Dimitar, Bye Bye Carlos?

Posted on September 07, 2008  by Stretford-end  in Man United   21 Comments »
Hello Dimitar, Bye Bye Carlos?

Dimitar Berbatov is a sublime forward with many gifts that will, no doubt, push United forward and challenge for both the Premier League and Champions League. However, will the purchase of the Bulgarian come at a costs of losing out on the permanent purchase of an Argentinian. Carlos Tevez signed for United, on loan, in August 2007 in a transfer wrangle that would have rivaled both Ronaldo’s and Berbatov’s ordeals this summer. However, let this not be forgotten, that our number 32 is still only on loan till next season. There have been reports of a permanent record breaking transfer, however this has not yet been finalised.


Carlos Tevez scored so many vital goals last season

Carlos Tevez is a world class forward that was a vital part of our success last term and it would be a massive loss if we did not retain his services for the next few season. We already know that he isn’t going to be United for years to come – which is acceptable, he gives his heart and soul for United and was superb against both Portsmouth and Zenit St Petersburg recently. However, after the Berbatov signing, can we merit forking out another 32 Million pounds? Remember, there will be no shortage of takers for the former South American footballer of the year – with Chelsea or our good friends Real Madrid.

The concerns that I raised last week were not against the judgement of the gaffer regarding Berbatov or the qualities of the Bulgarian forward – it was merely in support of our unique style of play and for the man who may miss out on playing time – Carlos Tevez. Of course a large squad, of quality, is needed to succeed at top level football – thats a given – but in Rooney, Tevez and Berbatov we have three of the best forwards in the league and I do not believe that the three can be accommodated in the same side.

Some fans and journos have also suggest that the Berbatov deal means that Ronaldo is going – which is a load of rubbish. Why on earth would Fergie fight tooth and nail to keep the boy at Old Trafford, to only lose him 6/12 months later – having recovered from injury? I believe that Fergie will want to line up with Ronaldo on one flank, Carrick and Scholes in the middle of the park, with Nani, Hargreaves or Park occupying the other side. Which leaves two spots up top, which means that one out the three will miss out. On the basis of form, Berbatov hasn’t played – but of course he’ll play having spent so much on the player, Rooney had a decent game against Portsmouth but has not looked as impressive as Tevez did in the two games they’ve played together.

So who should start? We ran a poll last week and you voted in your droves with the selection of all three strikers leading with 33%. Surprisingly, for me anyway, Tevez and Berbatov was second with 28%, whilst Rooney and Berbatov was in third with 22% and last was our pairing from last year in Rooney and Tevez with 16%. I am intrigued to see how all three could line up together and i’m sure at some point of the season they will but with Ronaldo coming back from injury can all of this attacking talent play together? Ronaldo can never be considered a midfielder. He is an forward, who can put both the fullback and winger (if playing a 4-4-2) on the back foot and allow United to press on even further. The best way, although much easier said than done, is to force Ronaldo back into his own half – as done by Clichy at the Emirates this season. With the attacking freedom that Ronaldo is given, is it really a possibility that all three strikers can play together?

Rooney and Tevez struck up a devastating partnership in 2007/08

A major part of this is the form of Wayne Rooney, who over the past couple of seasons has had some raised eyebrows – unfairly in my eyes. I’ve spoken before about Rooney’s work rate and movement that is so vital to the success of United over the past two seasons. When Wayne Rooney was on the pitch, with the exception of the Portsmouth FA Cup game last season, Manchester United didn’t lose a game.

I’ve heard people spout nonsense like ‘Manchester United ruined Rooney’ or ‘He’s not the player he used to be’. I literally am bamboozled by such remarks. When Rooney signed for United in 2004 he was a young international starlet who was coming into a side that was in transition – that he would then become part of. He, single handedly at times, lead the line so well in that season when Ruud VanNistelrooy was injured and played a massive role in the 4-2 win at Highbury, which ironically – considering his current climate – was overshadowed by a brace from Ronaldo. I believe Rooney is a worldclass player with sublime vision, great strength and desire to succeed. He is also capable of scoring a decent amount of goals with a vast amount of quality.

I’m both intrigued and excited as to how Fergie will line us up over the next few weeks and I have no doubt that Berbatov will be a success – but hopefully not at the cost of losing Carlos Tevez.

Berbatov is going to be a success at United but can all three line up together?

So please leave a comment as to how United will line up over the next few weeks (with or without Ronaldo) and your thoughts on Carlos Tevez – am I making an issue out of nothing? If all three line up at Anfield, will it be Rooney that adopts a left sided role? Looking forward to seeing your lineups.

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… just how do we judge the greatest ever?

Posted on September 03, 2008  by Stretford-end  in Man United   2 Comments »

It’s certainly a proverbial topical hot potato, and it has been discussed many times in many places, however, not yet in this blog, so this will be Stretford-End.com’s attempt to analyse that most divisive of conundrums – how do we decide football’s elite on a historical basis?

Is it a generational impossibility – old timers and long time terrace stalwarts swear that talents in the shape of Pele, Puskas and Best will never be matched, today’s fanatics tend to hold up Zidane as an unparalled majestic of the modern game, while those inbetweeners staunchly believe that Maradona was simply untouchable by any of his sporting contemporaries.

After an extraordinary couple of days where the British transfer record added a couple of names to the top of its list in Manchester – with United’s acquisition, Dimitar Berbatov, humbly conceding he is far from the most talented player in the Champion’s squad, a sense of perspective is called for, but also perhaps appropriately, a sense of assessment.

City’s deadline day signing of Robinho has a feeling of the West Ham Argy-Bargy in 2006, but as the record transfer to these shores, it is still unlikely that anyone you meet, even the most staunch City fan, would say their new super signing is the best player or talent in Manchester, let alone the Premiership, or the world. A little harsh considering the lad hasn’t kicked a ball in anger yet, but a sign of the times – the fluctuating transfer market gives as little credence to historical transfer fees as it does to the current economical credence, but perhaps a more accurate approach for the purpose of this blog would be to analyse the impact of the rise in popularity of the game against the historical standings and judgment of the standard of player.

Few would argue that United’s record breaking £115,000 transfer of Denis Law way back when bears any significance to Monday’s £32.5m City capture of Robinho, simply because of the economic shift, even in these times of the dreaded credit crunch. However, Robinho was one of many to be dubbed “the new Pele” – a curse that has struck generationally, and internationally. Robinho was the next in line after Ronaldo, whose injury problems were probably compounded by the psychological burden of expectancy after a thrilling start to his career. Pele, for his fantastic goals tally – even taking out the ‘mythical’ ones – he still scored more goals than made appearances for Santos, his ability to do it at the highest level, and his achievements with the national team (even though the retrospective decision to award him a World Cup medal for a final he wasn’t even on the bench for is a little too pandering for my liking), make him a real icon for the national prodigies to live upto.

In Argentina, Saviola, Aimar, Tevez and Messi are all expected to be the “next Maradona”, and closer to home, Wayne Rooney at 18 was declared by many to be “the white Pele” – his susbequent transfer to Manchester United quickly shifted public opinion despite his career progression, which is superb by comparison to anybody’s standards, but this only leads to a telling open statement – were the players of yesterday really as glorious as they were made out, are the players of today so far from comparison that they aren’t worthy of being described in the same breath?

In 1993 Ryan Giggs was hurled into the spotlight. A young winger making a living out of taking the p*ss out of defenders, scoring fantastic goals and a pin-up the match. The comparisons to George Best were inevitable – today, anyone you ask will probably place Best as the best (pardon the repetition) player in the history of the club.

I believe that this simple comparison is probably the most compelling in terms of the point I’m trying to make.

Georgie’s success was magnificent and iconic for the club – but who says Ryan’s isn’t better? Indeed, the argument of whether today’s game is harder than that of the golden era of the 60′s and 70′s is perhaps fundamental to the entire point. Maybe natural talent in that time was ‘better’ because of the standard of pitches and the notoriety of hardman defenders. Maybe with more structural defensive discipline as the game advanced, with the concentration drummed into players that make simple mistakes unforgivable, and the fantastic diets todays players are afforded, the quality of all players at the top level is far advanced in the modern game. I’m a fence sitter on this argument, but I can certainly see both sides of it. Ryan will probably never score as many goals as George, certainly he won’t better his ratio, but I would argue he has given us a greater number of magical moments. As the most accomplished player in English football, and given the spread of his medals has lasted throughout his career as first choice left winger for 16 years in, generationally, the most successful club side ever, there’s a fair argument to say he’s even the best player in British football history. To that point, too, is the argument for Paul Scholes. He may not have given as many individual thrill moments as Giggs or Best but his on the ball quality and intelligence place him comfortably alongside any of his career peers.

It’s an argument I know would get laughed out of any pub or football debate but one I would argue staunchly.

Equally, though, it could be argued for so many other players. Wayne Rooney is often described (since the unfair “white Pele” comments) as the “best English talent since Gascoigne”. Well, alongside Scholes, I would say his achievement and career development rank him favourably against any England player since our World Cup winning squad. Cristiano Ronaldo, should he continue to accelerate his stunning career, should have every hope of becoming the best player of all time. Why not? Zidane was not recognised as one of the leading players in Europe until his later years but is now thought of as the best of this generation, despite Giggs’ and Scholes’ careers and achievements spanning further and greater than the Frenchman’s – at least at club level.

It is with this point I bluntly ask the question – what qualities do YOU take into consideration when you form your opinion of the greatest ever players, and by those standards, who do you believe is the greatest?

By Yolkie 

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