Archive for the ‘Football’ Category
How Marvellous Macari’s big-hearted signing inspired TV gold and fantasy football script based on true story destined to win awards
As a documentary filmmaker who loves the unconventional, I adored Marvellous, a magical tale based on a true story about former circus clown turned kitman Neil Baldwin.
The fact that it magnifies and highlights an inspired signing by my old MUTV buddy Lou Macari – one of my boyhood heroes – is a delicious bonus.
This marvellous drama is a wonderful legacy for a magnificent footballing legend who has a genuine heart of gold and an affinity with the common man that is sadly lacking in so many of today’s so called stars.
Macari movingly says in the film that hiring sacked circus clown ‘Nello’ as his kitman at Stoke City was “the best signing” he ever made while he was manager of The Potters.
It was an inspired decision by a man who has endured so many heartaches of his own, from career threatening courtroom dramas to gut wrenching personal tragedy.
The way the BBC blurred this real story into a truly marvellous piece of television inter woven with fantasy and raw emotion was priceless. If you have yet to watch this televisual masterpiece it is only available on the BBC iPlayer until the end of October. [After that, see below for a link to the full programme on Neil Baldwin’s YouTube Channel.]
Hearing Macari talk firsthand about the film and the true events behind it at a sportsman’s evening in Berkshire this week reinforced everything I already thought about this ex-footballer/manager turned pundit. And more.
Little Lou was the footballer with the huge heart. A gem of a player I used to cheer on from the Stretford End when he was the darling of the Manchester United fans in the mid 1970s. I was there at Wembley in 1977 when Macari’s shot deflected off Jimmy Greenhoff to claim a 2-1 win over favourites Liverpool that won the FA Cup
It was Liverpool’s Bill Shankly who first told Macari he admired him because he was a player with a big heart when he unsuccessfully tried to sign him from Celtic before Tommy Docherty’s razor sharpe assistant Paddy Crerand recruited him for United.
That big heart of gold was all apparent at the Belgian Arms in Holyport on Wednesday night where this pint-sized man who does not drink held his audience in the palm of his hands.
Hearing Lou tell the story of how he was driven down South from Glasgow and ended up sat next to Crerand at Anfield after being offered a ‘”massive” £190 a week contract to play for Liverpool was priceless on so many levels.
Landlord Nick Parkinson, son of famous Manchester United fan and chatshow host supreme Michael, watched on as TalkSport’s Tony Lockwood coaxed a catalogue of inside stories from our celebrity guest.
For those of us who grew up watching old school sporting superstars like Macari this was a rare privilege that future generations are unlikely to ever experience. Can you imagine current stars like Gareth Bale or Raheem Sterling driving themselves on a 400 mile roundtrip on a wet Wednesday night to reminisce with 50 or so football fans. Not only that but he donated the £550 he raised by auctioning off a couple of tickets for a match at Old Trafford to the Stoke Foodbank charity.
Asked what he thought of Sterling being “too tired” to play for England, Macari’s response gave us an insight into how times have changed. “When I played the game it was our responsibility to be fit. If I had told Jock Stein I was too tired to play for Celtic I would have been straight out of the club.”
Equally fascinating was hearing Macari’s tribute to Sir Alex Ferguson “as the greatest ever” manager whose record “will never be beaten” and his comparison to Stein, the man who set him on the road to stardom in the late sixties.
MARVELLOUS: Written by Peter Bowker and directed by Julian Farino is a Tiger Aspect production starring Toby Jones as Neil Baldwin and Tony Curran as Lou Macari. If ever a drama was destined to win awards, it is is this feature-length masterpiece.
When Tim Krul saved twice in a sensational penalty shoot out win that eliminated brave Costa Rica and earned Holland a semi-final showdown with Argentina, this remarkable World Cup hit another unbelievable high.
It was also confirmation if any was needed that Manchester United have found a worthy manager to fill the hot seat at Old Trafford.
Has any national team boss ever made a bigger call than the one LVG made when he sent Krul on as a substitute seconds before the end of a pulsating extra time that finished goal-less.
It was a master stroke that unsettled the Costa Ricans who scored a flawless 5 out of 5 in their previous round’s penalty shoot out win over Greece.
Well done Krul who had only made two previous saves from spot kicks for Newcastle United. And well done Van Gaal for proving he is both a master tactician and a master of mind games.
2014 World Cup | How German Bundesliga is out-gunning English Premier League in goal charts | Statistics after 32 matches
OK – now for some World Cup facts and figures.
In the opening 32 matches every country has played twice and it really has been a goal studded tournament.
A staggering total of 94 goals have been scored in the first 32 matches. That’s just under 3 goals a game.
The most popular scoreline has been 2-1 . . . unpopular in England’s case . . . with no less than nine matches finishing that way. The highest scoring game so far a 5-2 win by France against Switzerland.
Now then here’s some ammunition for that age old argument which is the best League in the world? Top of the this table – is the German Bundesliga – leading the English Premier League by 18 goals to 17 . . . five ahead of the Spanish La Liga
ALGERIA 4-2 SOUTH KOREA
The Germans League top the goalscoring charts courtesy of the two goals scored by the South Koreans in their 4-2 defeat by Algeria in match 32.
PORTUGAL 2-2 USA
The English Premier League had taken the lead when Nani scored for Portugal in the preceding 2-2 draw against the USA.
ARGENTINA 1-0 IRAN
Messi’s dramatic injury time winner for Argentina against Iran puts the Spanish La Liga on 13 goals in third place.
GERMANY 2-2 GHANA
Miroslav Klose’s equaliser in Germany’s 2-2 draw against Ghana added one for Serie A
BELGIUM 1-0 RUSSIA
Origi’s late winner for Belgium against Russia also took the French tally to eight.
NIGERIA 1-0 BOSNIA & HERZOGOVINA
And there was another Premier league goalscorer over the weekend when Stoke City’s Peter Odemwinge scored the winner for Nigeria against Bosnia & Herzogovena
Meantime, a look at the clubs with the most goal scorers also puts the Germans on top.
Bayern Munich out in front with NINE goals.
Manchester United second with SIX goals.
Ahead of Spanish giants Barcelona [FIVE] and Real Madrid [FOUR]
But that of course does not hide the fact we’ve only seen two English born goalscorers so far . . Daniel Sturridge and Wayne Rooney. England’s final chance to add to that tally comes against Costa Rica on Tuesday.
There’s no doubt about it – Brazil 2014 is already one of THE greatest World Cups we’ve ever seen. And we’ve just been served up another stupendous match involving Holland, the team of the tournament so far.
Neutrals expected a landslide when Australia, the lowest ranked team to reach the finals, went behind early on. But the drama that followed makes this one of the best games in a thrilling opening week of the greatest show on earth.
20 min: It was Arjen Robben at his explosive best when he tore through the Aussies to open the scoring on 20 minutes.
But 60 seconds later we saw a fabulous contender for goal of the tournament from Tim Cahill. The former Everton and Millwall man unleashed a goal every bit as special as that famous strike by Dutchman Marco Van Basten in the 1988 European Championships
54 min: Even the Aussie fans were pinching themselves in disbelief when Mile Jedinak gave their side the lead after the break.
58 min: But Robin Van Persie showed his class to put the Dutch level. And Australia missed a golden opportunity to put Australia back in front.
68 min: Then Memphis Depay caught out Aussie keeper Mathew Ryan with a long range winner that almost certainly guarantees Holland a place in the knockout stages.
For those of us who watch the English Premier League we’re used to seeing plenty of goals, plenty of drama and plenty of upsets. But World Cups rarely provide this much entertainment.
For me it’s already the best World Cup since my own personal favourite in Mexico 1970 when Brazil beat Italy 4-1 in the greatest final I’ve ever seen.
The future is orange! With Klopp again rejecting United, Van Gaal will be new supremo at Old Trafford and Giggs the apprentice!
There will be a genuine buzz of excitement at the Theatre of Dreams on Saturday when Ryan Giggs starts what I confidently predict will be another glittering chapter in his remarkable career at Manchester United.
It will be his first match as player manager and this is not good timing for visitors Norwich City who are in for a torrid afternoon because I have absolutely no doubt that the United stars who drastically underachieved under David Moyes will be bursting to prove themselves.
Following the inevitable sacking of Moyes four matches before the end of the club’s worst ever season in the Premier League, Giggs is a hugely popular choice to take charge – albeit in a caretaker role at this stage.
Twenty-four years ago Giggs was handed his first professional contract as a player in the week of his 17th birthday. The Welsh wizard has won every honour in the game and embodies everything the club stands for.
Along with the rest of the superstars born in that famous Class of 92, Giggsy has been mentored throughout by Sir Alex Ferguson, a pivotal father figure who gave all his proteges that burning desire to be the best and overcome all odds.
It is exactly those qualities and his proud Old Trafford pedigree that will make him a successful coach and a key figure in the upcoming era that looks destined to unfold under the new emperor Louis van Gaal.
There are those who believe Giggs already has the charisma and ability to grow into the role of United manager and success on his watch in the season’s four remaining matches against Norwich, Sunderland, Hull and Southampton would strengthen that argument.
But my belief is that future for the Reds is orange!
My sources tell me that Jurgen Klopp was offered the opportunity to succeed Sir Alex Ferguson as manager but turned the job down before it was offered to Moyes. Klopp in my view would be a perfect fit for United and now the opportunity is here again, if he could be persuaded to leave his beloved Borussia Dortmund, he would be a manager the fans adore.
His swashbuckling style and engaging persona, along with his proven track record at the highest level make him a dynamic manager who would be an irresistible force at Manchester’s top table. But his heart currently belongs in Dortmund and his statements today appear to rule him out of the reckoning.
“Man Utd is a great club and I feel very familiar with their wonderful fans,” Klopp was quoted as saying in the Guardian. ‘But my commitment to Borussia Dortmund and the people is not breakable.”
That leaves Van Gaal. who turns 63 in August, as the front runner. And clearly the prospect of the Dutchman taking charge after this summer’s World Cup in Brazil when his stewardship of the Netherlands team expires makes him perfectly placed to step in.
The fact that he has already made it known that he is “very keen” on the job at Old Trafford suggests he is confident of being given the nod, even if he has not officially had it already. And that is good news for Giggs because Van Gaal is a manager who always insists on having someone with the DNA of the club within his inner circle.
Like any top manager, Van Gaal will bring members of his preferred management team with him. But expect a role for Giggs. Just how prominent that will be will largely depend on how well he performs in his four matches as caretaker. A good showing will put United’s most decorated player in the rrame for being the new manager’s apprentice and eventual successor.
While United trumpeted Moyes’ appointment as being consistent with the club’s philosophy of long-term planning, turning to a manager in his sixties is not necessarily a short-term fix. Fergie of course remained in charge into his seventies and still has an importance voice in the boardroom. Giggs learning the ropes as a coach under a new manager with a long track record of success who may well take on the role of director of football could be a winning combination designed for longevity.
There will be many arguments put forward over the coming weeks for other candidates including Jose Mourinho and Roberto Martinez, both of whom would do outstanding jobs at Old Trafford. But life is all about timing. And much that I admire both Mourinho and Martinez, everything points to Van Gaal who can add the fact that he has rejuvenated the international career of United’s injured marksman Robin van Persie to his outstanding CV.
My only reservation about Van Gaal is that his management style and abrasive nature will not make him popular across the board. But that did not hold back Ferguson. And at this stage of proceedings Manchester United need a strong manager who will put the club back on their perch at the top of the English game. Not just winning trophies but playing football to be proud of.
Mourinho could have been that man if he had not returned to Stamford Bridge and declared his undying love for Chelsea. While Martinez, who previously turned down Liverpool because in my estimation he wanted the bigger job at United, has now committed himself to Everton. So my conclusion is that unless Klopp has a change of heart, Van Gaal is the man and Giggs will be his apprentice.
Why experts thought David Moyes was the right manager for Manchester United – but Ryan Giggs is favourite to take his job
When David Moyes was appointed manager of Manchester United in May last year it was always a question of how long would he be given to find a winning formula.
The verdict that Moyes was the right man for the job was unanimous when I interviewed a panel of experts including England manager Roy Hodgson on the day the identity of the manager to succeed Sir Alex Ferguson at the Theatre of Dreams was confirmed.
But less than 12 months later the bookmakers have stopped taking bets on David Moyes being sacked, after a nightmare first season in charge, and installed Ryan Giggs as the 5-1 favourite to replace him.
Here is what the experts, desperate to see a British manager succeed in the biggest job in club football, said about Moyes on the day he was appointed:
ROY HODGSON: “I think if someone has got to step into these enormous shoes that Sir Alex has left behind and to work in the shadow of such a great man David is right the man to do it.”
ALAN CURBISHLEY: “I’m sure he’s gong to be a great success and I’m so pleased he has been given a chance.”
TONY GALE” “For me David Moyes is a good manager and will be for Manchester United.”
PATRICK BARCLAY” “If you look at the players he has bought in the transfer market his record is right up their with Sir Alex Ferguson.”
ALVIN MARTIN: ” There is never a guarantee in football. You can be the best manager in the world but if you take over at the wrong time there is always a risk when a new manager is appointed. But I would feel pretty sure that David Moyes is more than well equipped to deal with it.”
Like the experts I interviewed last May, I expected Moyes to grow into the job he was chosen to do by the greatest British manager of all time Sir Alex Ferguson. But the decline under the former Everton boss has been so spectacular that it is now no surprise that the consequences of failure appear to have proved fatal to aspirations of the proud Glaswegian being given extra time in the Old Trafford hot seat.
When former player David May said what so many fans and experts were thinking after another embarrassing 2-0 defeat against Everton at Goodison on Easter Sunday and admitted on MUTV that the new manager appears to be ‘out of his depth’, he was immediately suspended from his role as a pundit on the club’s television channel. But the backlash among fans on social media outraged by May being punished for giving his honest opinion has only fanned the flames of discontent.
The harsh reality, as I predicted in this column a month ago, is that Moyes’ future was destined to be decided when the owners ask themselves how much they are prepared to gamble on Fergie’s successor getting it right.
The smart money is now on Moyes departing sooner rather than later with Giggs being installed as temporary manager while the board consider their options.
Giggs would be a hugely popular choice to take charge – albeit in a caretaker role – 24 years after being handed his first professional contract as player on his 17th birthday. There is no one who embodies everything the club stands for better than the Welsh wizard who exclusively told visionsport TV what he thought about Manchester United in his first television interview back in 1993.
David Moyes & Manchester United | What the experts predicted [VIDEO]:
Why Wayne Rooney is priceless to Manchester United and his diamond studded boots will net one lucky fan a fortune
Wherever you stand in the debate about whether or not WAYNE ROONEY is worth £300,000 a week, the honest truth is that Manchester United could not afford to let their talisman leave Old Trafford.
With the club in transition under new manager David Moyes and facing the real possibility of no Champions League football next season, keeping Rooney on board was a big statement that United still mean business.
In pure financial terms, the £85M cost of keeping Wazza until 2019 was a shrewd investment because the cost of replacing him would have been higher when you factor in both the transfer fee and wages.
When it comes to attracting new stars in the summer the message sent out by keeping Rooney and investing in record signing Juan Mata is a positive one that other top players will appreciate.
In my view Rooney remains truly world class and you have to give Moyes huge credit for revitalising a hugely influential player who had lost his way under Sir Alex Ferguson.
Bought for 18K, worth 150K
The England marksman looks destined to become the United skipper and in the summer he will be hoping to make a big impact at the World Cup in Brazil.
He is a marketing man’s dream and the reality is that whatever Rooney touches turns to gold. One lucky fan is set to net a small fortune by selling a pair of his old boots.
Snapped up for 18,000 pounds at a charity auction five years ago, they are now worth 10 TIMES what a sharp-eyed Manchester United fan paid for them.
The Nike boots were worn by Rooney in a Champions League match. But the reason they are so valuable is that artist Luisa Di Marco turned them into a collector’s item by encrusting them with gold and precious diamonds.
The stones that make the boots unique were set by Embee jewellers of London using 31 carats of black diamonds, 10 carats of white diamonds and the number 10 is made from rose gold. The laces are dipped in gold and finished with diamonds on the ends. And both boots are signed by Rooney.
If the boots are not sold in the next six weeks the owner plans to put them up for auction at a sporting dinner on the eve of the Monaco Grand Prix on May 24. Meantime. check out my video report below filmed at the fabulous Boulters Terrace Bar http://boultersrestaurant.co.uk
Fabulous 40 is magic number for sporting legends Ryan Giggs and Sachin Tendulkar – heroes united by universal adoration
On the day that Ryan Giggs hits 40 the world of sport has rightly been paying homage to one of the greatest footballers the world has ever seen. The Manchester United superstar’s remarkable longevity is not unique. He is the fourth outfield player – and the seventh in total – to grace the Premier League at 40. But none can match the extraordinary level of sustained success achieved by the Welsh wizard.
Just two days before reaching his incredible milestone, the most decorated footballer in English soccer turned in yet another remarkable 90 minute display in United’s outstanding 5-0 Champions League demolition of Bayer Leverkusen. It was a midfield masterclass from arguably the greatest ever player in the history of the club to demonstrate that he is still hungry for more success.
The magnificent seven who have graced the Premier League into their fabulous 40s are Kevin Phillips, Teddy Sheringham, Gordon Strachan, Brad Friedel, Mark Schwarzer, Mike Pollitt and Giggs, whose appearance in Germany was his 953rd for United. Even more remarkable is that Giggs has done it for one club, scoring 168 goals along the way.
Almost 23 years after he first pulled on a United shirt as a raw 17-year-old, he still plays with the verve, vigour and guile of a man at least 10 years younger.
It has been an historic month for famous forty year old sporting legends, with arguably the greatest cricketer in history Sachin Tendulkar crowning his majestic career with a spectacular flourish in his final Test Match for India against the West Indies in Mumbai.
An estimated television audience of over a billion people watched Tendulkar crown his 200th Test Match with a dazzling 74 that fell short of yet another century by the only man to score 100 international 100s, the feat he achieved when he scored his final ton against Bangladesh in March 2012.
Like Giggs, Tendulkar can proudly declare that he was still hitting extraordinary levels of achievement at the end of his fourth decade in his chosen sport. And there is at least one other parallel between these giants of the sporting world. Both are true legends because they are admired by fans of their rivals as much as the supporters of the teams they have graced for so long.
Such is the universal love for Tendulkar that in New Delhi the Pakistan Taliban commander, in a video message widely circulated on social networking site Facebook, has warned the Pakistan media to stop paying tribute to the Indian cricket legend.
“We have been monitoring Pakistani media, including news channels and newspapers, for the past three weeks and got to know how was Pakistani media praising Indian cricketer during his farewell. It was unfortunate to see Pakistani media went to great extent to pay tribute to Indian cricketer by running video clips on TV channels and writing huge articles in his praise. On the other hand, it was sad to know same Pakistani media badly criticised Pakistani cricket team as well as its captain Misbah-ul-Haq. We condemn this move of Pakistani media and expect it will not repeat the same in future,” said the commander in the video.
“Shame for Pakistani media that spoke highly of Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar. No doubt, he has been a great cricketer, but, he`s Indian after all, so stop promoting him,” warned the Taliban leader.
To my knowledge there has been no equivalent plea from the big chiefs at United’s rivals Manchester City or from any other quarter tired of the adoration for Giggs. Watching the old master turn back the years with his latest contribution for Manchester United in Germany on Wednesday night, it was music to my ears to hear a life-long Arsenal fan pay tribute to the memory of Giggs’ wonder goal in the 1999 FA Cup semi-final replay that shot down the Gunners. And that underlines my point.
True sports fans appreciate greatness, whoever they perform their magic for. It is that respect and appreciation that unites us all. In Giggs and Tendulkar we have been privileged to witness two of the greatest sportsmen of them all. And that is something beautiful that no tribal jealousy can deprive us of.
The difference is that Giggs is a freak of nature who still has more to give and where it will end is almost impossible to predict.
Don’t call me Dean! How Daniel Sturridge is keeping up the family goal-scoring tradition and believes in Wayne Rooney partnership
Two decades on from the spectacular goalscoring exploits of Dean Sturridge, his nephew Daniel is enjoying the limelight with both Liverpool and England – and the ace marksmen is hellbent on making the world remember his name at next summer’s 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Dean Sturridge made his mark when he topped scored with 20 goals to help Derby County win promotion to the Premier League in 1995/1996. It was a spectacular season for the Rams that launched Sturridge – who went on to complete 10 years with Derby – onto the biggest stage in domestic football.
“People still call me Dean now,” says the current England ace Daniel, adding: “I’ll say ‘wait a minute I’m Daniel’.
The 24-year-old has found a new lease of life since moving to Liverpool, scoring 21 goals in 29 games since he has been regularly accommodated in the central striker role he has always enjoyed the most. Initially benefitting from the 10-match ban for Luis Suarez, Sturridge has since formed what he describes as a “telepathic” partnership with the world class Uruguayan hitman.
If Sturridge can forge a similar understanding for England with Wayne Rooney, the sky is the limit for the hotshot who showed no lack of ambition when he decalred as a 19 year old at Chelsea: “If a player said he didn’t want to be one of the greats in football, then he would be lying because everyone wants to make a stamp on football.”
“It can definitely be as good,” says Sturridge of his partnership with the Manchester United striker. “Wazza is a world-class player and it is easy to play with him. I enjoy playing with him. We complement each other’s game. In training, it is almost like we don’t need to work on things. We know where we are, where team-mates are.”
On recent form England will go to Brazil as no hopers. But as all top managers will tell you, you always have the ability to beat the best when you have top strikers. In Sturridge and Rooney, Roy Hodgson’s men potentially have one of the most lethal strike forces in world football. And if they do hit it off next summer, the days of people getting Daniel Sturridge’s name wrong will definitely be a thing of the past.
Wenger reaping rewards for putting faith in Aaron Ramsey when Welsh youngster looked destined for Manchester United
You can say what you like about the durability of an Arsenal side searching for their first silverware in nine seasons. But the Gunners boast one of the standout players of the season so far in Aaron Ramsey . . . and the most successful Premier League manager in Arsene Wenger.
Ramsey, whose career was threatened by an horrific double leg break in February 2010 inflicted by a tackle from Stoke City’s Ryan Shawcross, is making the kind of impact that will soon see him being compared to fellow Welshman Gareth Bale if his progress continues.
And you have to credit Wenger for putting his faith in the prodigiously talented youngster, who once looked destined for Old Trafford.
Much has been said and written about the professor stealing a march on his rivals when he pulled off the standout signing of the summer with the spectacular £42.5 million capture of German superstar Mesut Özil.
But just as crucial for the Gunners was the business Wenger did five years ago when he persuaded the Cardiff City youngster to opt for a move to North London rather than the North West.
The Bluebirds’ youngest ever player at just 16 years and 124 days when he made his debut in 2007, Ramsey soon became one of the most sought after youngsters in Europe, attracting interest from Everton and Manchester United.
While United reportedly offered £5 million for him to be loaned back to Cardiff, it was the Gunners who secured Ramsey’s signature when Wenger matched that bid and promised to put him straight into his first team squad.
That crossroads in his career will give an extra edge to the showdown between defending champions Manchester United and this season’s pacesetters Arsenal on November 10. But whatever the outcome, there is no doubt that Ramsey is a player with the world at his feet.
FACT FILE: AARON RAMSEY
:- Born 26 December 1990, he joined the Youth Academy at Cardiff City when he was eight years old.
:- He made his debut for the Bluebirds on the final day of the 2006/2007 season, when he came on as a substitute in a the final minute of a 1-0 defeat by Hull City. He was still 241 days short of his 17th birthday.
:- Signed for Arsenal in the summer of 2008 for £5 million.
:- Made his competitive debut for Arsenal in a Champions League qualifier against FC Twente on 13 August 2008
:- Given his first run out in the Premier League a month later against Blackburn Rovers.
:- His first goal for the Gunners came in a 5-2 Champions League win at Fenerbahce on 22 October 2008, making him the fifth youngest scorer in Champions League history.
TITLE RACE: ROONEY v RAMSEY
While Aaron Ramsey has been the player whose outstanding early form has been arguably the biggest surprise of the season so far, even more spectacular has been the way Wayne Rooney has shrugged off doubts about his future at Old Trafford.
Rooney has a great record against the Gunners, a side he has enjoyed superb form against, ever since he burst onto the scene with that famous strike as a 16-year-old for Everton to become the youngest goalscorer in the Premier League. Not surprising that Wenger and Jose Mourinho both wanted to sign him in the summer. What top manager wouldn’t want to sign him?
Ramsey, meanwhile, also has form against United. In 2010/2011, he scored the winner at the Emirates. It came at the end of the season that celebrated his return from his career threatening injury, after signing a long-term contract with Arsenal.
There will be many other potential matchwinners on show next Sunday, with Robin van Persie and Olivier Giroud both hitting the target on a regular basis. But Rooney v Ramsey at Old Trafford will be a fascinating showdown between two players at the top of their game.
HOW WAYNE IS STAKING HIS CLAIM TO BE UNITED’S NEXT LONG-TERM SKIPPER
Manchester United’s new manager David Moyes deserves enormous credit for standing by his former Everton protegee and helping the England striker rediscover his best form. Wayne Rooney looks lean, mean and determined to prove the critics wrong who have been too quick to write him off.
In fact it will be no surprise to see Moyes hand Rooney the captain’s armband, further underlining the new boss’s pre-season insistence that there is no way Wazza will be leaving United any time soon.
With the countdown under way to next summer’s World Cup in Brazil, Rooney has looked in menacing form and is hopefully destined to make an injury-free impact on a major international tournament for the first time. Meantime, he has been United’s most consistent performer and the main reason why the defending champions are still in touch with race for the Premier League title.
Rooney has shown his leadership qualities by lifting his team mates during a difficult start to the season and with Patrice Evra and other senior players nearing the end of their United careers, the case for making him skipper is stronger than ever.
Given the captain’s armband on several occasions by Sir Alex Ferguson,Rooney has already had the honour of being captain for Moyes in the Capital One Cup win over Liverpool.
Meantime, his leadership skills will be needed against form team Arsenal, even if he is not the player who leads United out against the table-toppers.