Archive for the ‘Manchester United’ Category
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.
Manchester United have youth on their side and rejuvenated Wayne Rooney will help David Moyes prove critics wrong!
There has been no shortage of ’experts’ in the media – not to mention rival fans envious of the Theatre of Dreams – who have spent much of the past two decades predicting the decline of Manchester United. The sudden retirement of the greatest manager in the history of British football and the subsequent appointment of David Moyes as Sir Alex Ferguson’s successor gave the prophets of doom new hope.
With the new manager overseeing the Red Devils’ worst start to a League season since the Premiership was born in 1992, the vultures eagerly licked their lips. This United team is “too old”, Moyes “is out of his depth” and talisman “Wayne Rooney wants to leave Old Trafford” were all the media fuelled chit chat that was the talk of pubs and clubs around Britain and Radio Phone-Ins that feed off the soap opera that surround the beautiful game.
The chatter so convincing for some observers that the majority of non-Manchester United fans – and even a large percentage of the glory hunters who have never even been to Old Trafford – were starting to talk about the decline of the Empire as if it was a fait accompli.
But the delicious reality for United’s faithful worldwide army of followers is that the doom-mongers have once again got it all hopelessly wrong.
The honest truth is that Moyes has skilfully overcome a difficult start to what most people have taken for granted is the impossible job of following in the footseps of Sir Alex.
From the start Moyes has told anyone who would listen that Rooney was staying at Old Trafford and was looking fitter and in better shape than he done for years. With seven goals already for club and country this season Wazza is back to form approaching his best and in the countdown to next summer’s World Cup in Brazil he looks like a player rejuvenated and hungry for a new era of success.
As Ferguson’s “Chosen One” only a fool would write off the former Everton manager after six League matches. While the Reds may currently lie six points behind early pace-setters Arsenal, the gap behind neighbours Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur is just one win and pre-season favourites Chelsea are only four points ahead of Moyes men. There is still a long way to go and the sensational full debut of 18-year old Adnan Januzaj with a matchwinning double at Sunderland before the international break illustrates the real strength in depth of a squad that has been built for longevity.
Yes of course there are a number of experienced, older heads at the club in Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra, Michael Carrick and the unbelievable Ryan Giggs who hits 40 next month. But the truth is that United have an outstanding nucleus of young stars.
There have been youth players making the grade at Old Trafford in every season since the Busby Babes made United great. And the current blend of home grown talent and imported youngsters is no exception.
To suggest that United are a team in decline because the players are too old is the biggest misrepresentation of the truth by that unrelenting gang of media hatchet men, self-interested critics and so-called experts.
Moyes could easily send out a formidable United team where the veteran of the team is Wayne Rooney at the ripe old age of 27 and the average age is just 23. And I am not talking about fringe players, for example;
David de Gea – 22
Rafael da Silva – 23
Phil Jones – 21
Jonny Evans – 25
Chris Smalling – 23
Adnan Januzaj – 18
Tim Cleverley – 24
Luis Nani – 26
Danny Welbeck – 22
Javier Hernandez – 25
Wayne Rooney – 27
The following subs have an average age of 22:
Ben Amos – 23
Marouane Fallaini – 25
Wilfried Zaha – 20
Nick Powell – 19 (on loan at Wigan)
Jesse Lingard – 20 (on loan at Birmingham)
Michael keane – 20
Will Keane – 20
Anderson – 25
Shinji Kagawa – 24
Fabio da Silva – 22
Robin van Persie – 30
Michael Carrick – 32
Ryan Giggs – 39
Antonio Valencia – 28
Ashley Young – 28
Patrice Evra – 32
Rio Ferdinand – 34
Nemanja Vidic – 32
Spending millions in transfer market not only way: Belgian wonderkid Adnan Januzaj destined to become global superstar
When we look back in years to come David Moyes’ first ever win at Old Trafford will be remembered for launching teenage sensation Adnan Januzaj on the road to superstardom.
The record books will show that Robin van Persie scored from the penalty spot to convert a debatable penalty and Wayne Rooney, his injured forehead protected by a padded scrumcap, completed a 2-0 win with a superb free-kick on the day £27 million signing Marouane Fellaini made his debut as a second half substitute.
But it was United’s other Belgian, wonderkid Januzaj who got the pulses racing when he came off the bench and made the kind of impact not seen at Old Trafford since Cristiano Ronaldo created similar excitement at the start of his United career.
Just 18 years old and one of the jewels in the legacy left by Sir Alex Ferguson, Januzaj displayed the full repertoire of his dazzling skills, quick feet and tireless running that have already made him a crowd favourite at Old Trafford.
Legendary United talent spotter Eric Harrison, one of the architects of United’s famous class of 1992 that launched the careers of David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and the Neville brothers, has already gone on record to predict Januzay could be the next Ronaldo.
Harrison told the Manchester Evening News: ‘Januzaj is outstanding and I think he is similar to Cristiano Ronaldo. He can beat people and with Wilfried Zaha, I think there is some outstanding quality there.’
Comparisons with the Portuguese superstar have been evoked by an outstanding pre-season that included a sparkling display in the Rio Ferdinand testimonial. And today’s showing against Palace in front of a global television audience has created a real buzz.
Things in common with Ronaldo don’t end on the pitch. The pair also share the same birthday – February 5 – with Barcelona’s Neymar also born on that day. Another remarkable stat is that Januzaj’s Premier League debut comes 50 years to the date since George Best made his first appearance at Old Trafford on 14 September 1963 against West Brom.
There have been may young stars to grace the Theatre of Dreams and not every hot prospect lives up to all the hype and potential. But Januzaj looks like the real deal and the reality is that new Manchester United boss – unfairly targeted by the prophets of doom in the media who would love him to fail – is a man with an embarrassment of riches.
Wilfried Zaha is another kid capable of becoming a world star alongside established youngsters like Rafael and Phil Jones. With the return of a re-invigorated Nani also on the cards, Rooney looking like a man on a mission in the countdown to the end of season World Cup and van Persie maturing into one of the best players on the planet the future looks as bright as ever at Manchester United.
And just for the record, I am also predicting that mop haired Fellaini is going to be the huge success that Moyes wants him to be. United have never found a player to fill the boots of Roy Keane and the new boy from Everton is a different animal. But once again the Red Devils boast a midfield general with a touch of steel who will frighten the life out of opponents – and he has bags of goals in his locker.
Sorry to disappoint prophets of doom circling Theatre of Dreams: Empire will get stronger under ‘Chosen One’ David Moyes
Ever since Sir Alex Ferguson caught the world of football by surprise with his retirement, the clamour to predict the decline of the empire he has built over the past 26 years at Manchester United has been deafening.
The appointment of David Moyes as Fergie’s successor as manager at Old Trafford has been greeted by so many so called experts announcing a shift of power in the English game that there has been public perception that this is inevitable.
The Champions of England were relegated to third favourites to retain their title behind Chelsea, buoyed by the return of Jose Mourinho, and Manchester City, who have brought in Manuel Pellegrini to replace ‘failure’ Roberto Mancini.
The media have revelled in the uncertainty they have gleefully magnified about the future of Wayne Rooney, who remains a Manchester United player and is almost certainly going to remain so for the next year at least – unless there is an almighty last minute merry-go-round before the transfer deadline just 12 days away.
But the reality is this: David Moyes is an outstanding football manager who has the ability and the opportunity not just to keep the red flag flying high above United’s Premier League rivals, but to build on the foundations laid down by his mentor.
As the sorcerer’s apprentice, Moyes can take pride and confidence from the knowledge that he has more right to be called ‘The Special One’ than self-publicist Jose Mourinho because the Glaswegian is ‘The Chosen One’.
Watching and listening to Moyes in action is almost surreal because he is so closely modelled on the man he has replaced in the hotseat.
Once he gets a few more wins under his belt to build on the success of winning the Community Shield against Wigan and crushing Swansea on the opening day at the Liberty Stadium, the doubters will start to believe that this is the beginning and not the end of another glorious chapter in the history of Manchester United.
The next fortnight will tell us a great deal about the destiny of this season’s Premier League because by then we will know who the top clubs have recruited or lost and we will have seen Manchester United play hosts to Chelsea as well as travel to Merseyside to take on rivals Liverpool
Moyes’ opening five matches in the defence of United’s Premier League title also includes a trip to the Etihad to tackle neighbours City. A tougher start it would be hard to imagine. But rather than being a negative this can be a huge boost for the new boss because a show of strength now will silence the doubters and give him the support he needs to build on Fergie’s success.
There is no comparison with what happened 40 years ago when Sir Matt Busy handed the reigns to a young and inexperienced Wilf McGuinness. In those days United had an ageing team in desperate need of rebuilding, despite the presence of Best, Law and Charlton – all in the twlight of their careers.
The modern day United is a club that dwarfs the past because there is a structure in place that has been built on solid foundations, with excellence in every department not least the playing side where talisman Robin van Persie is a majestic footballer at the height of his career and improving with age.
There is an exciting blend of youth and experience with those added ingredients of confidence, self-belief, talent and above all else an unquenchable never-say-die will to win.
There are those who will doubt Moyes’ ability to deliver until he has put trophies in the cabinet. And there are many who will enjoy stoking up the pressure the longer that takes.
But I know that Moyes will succeed because Sir Alex was never going to let anyone fills his shoes who was not going to be the right man for the job. And in surrounding himself with the likes of Ryan Giggs and Phil Neville, as well as his established backroom team from Everton, there is a great sense of stability and continuity. Not to mention that Moyes will always have the support and advice of his predecessor whenever he needs it.
My prediction is that Moyes will not need the time that Ferguson was given in his early days at the club and the conveyor belt of trophies is going to keep rolling into Old Trafford. In fact I expect the new kid on the block is destined to make Manchester United bigger and stronger because he is starting from an unprecedented position of strength for a new manager.
All truly great football managers come from Glasgow and it will not be long before Moyes is seen in a different light by the fans and the media who were calling for what they believed would be a more glamorous big name appointment.
Becks retirement: Iconic football legend David Beckham deserves his special place in history of the beautiful game
There is no player in the history of the game who has done more to promote English football than David Beckham. And his retirement at the age of 38 will trigger tributes from around the world because his contribution to the sport has been unique.
Icon, celebrity, legend, superstar, ambassador. No one can bend it like Beckham. And no-one has given back so much to the beautiful game.
He may not be the greatest footballer who ever played the game. But Becks represents something special. Throughout his career he has made the most of his incredible talent, consistently revelled in proving the critics wrong when they have tried to write him off and brought glamour, dignity and pride to representing his country and a glittering array of the world’s most famous football clubs.
At Old Trafford he starred in the team that won an unprecedented Treble in 1999. But when Manchester United sold him to Real Madrid in 2003 after his infamous fall-out with his mentor and father-figure Sir Alex Ferguson, Becks was being outshone by a galaxy of stars.
It has been the same in Madrid, Milan, Los Angeles, Paris and during his long and illustrious England career. But there is no footballer who has worked harder to make the most of his god given talent, to defy the critics who regularly tried to write him off or to win over the fans who did not always love him.
There is no greater measure of the man than the way he turned around the obscene hatred he endured after being sent off in the 1998 World Cup for petulantly kicking out in that epic quarter-final defeat by Argentina.
The way he singled-handedly dragged England to the 2002 World Cup with an unbelievable performance in the decisive qualifying match against Greece was the stuff of legend, crowned by his remarkable injury time free-kick that completed the journey from villain of 98 to glorious hero.
Born on 2 May 1975, David Robert Joseph Beckham made his name playing for his boyhood heroes Manchester United. As a youngster he attended one of Bobby Charlton’s football schools in Manchester and won the chance to take part in a training session at FC Barcelona. After trials with Leyton Orient, Norwich City and Tottenham Hotspur, he became part of a famous group of youngsters who won the FA Youth Cup for Manchester United in May 1992.
He went on loan to Preston in 1994/95 before returning to Old Trafford and making his Premier League debut for Manchester United in a goal-less draw against Leeds United on 2 April 1995. At United he went on to win six Premier League titles, two FA Cups and the European Champions League with United in that famous Treble-winning year of 1999.
In 2003 he signed for Real Madrid where he spent four years winning the La Liga championship in his final season before joining LA Galaxy. His five-year spell in America included a mid-season loan spell with AC Milan in 2009. He finally left the States to join Paris Saint-Germain in 2013 where he bows out at the top after winning the French League.
Beckham’s international career saw him win 115 caps for England between 1996 and 2009, including six years as captain. Twice runner-up for the FIFA World Player of the Year, he was the world’s highest-paid footballer in 2004 when his commercial earnings boosted his salary at Real Madrid.
This is the day that Manchester United fans have feared for so long that it feels like the end of the world. Sir Alex Ferguson is retiring as manager.
Most of his squad was not even born when Fergie arrived at Old Trafford from Aberdeen in November 1986 and set about “knocking Liverpool off their perch.”
To simply catalogue his achievements and a record breaking haul of 38 trophies in 26 years that have made him the most successful British manager of all-time is only part of this epic story.
The Governor from Govan is not just a man, not just a legend – but simply the best.
He has not merely won trophies. The Emperor has built a dynasty. He has restored pride and glory to the most famous football club in the world. He has created a never-say-die spirit that gives the Theatre of Dreams a mystical aura that is indefinable. During Fergie’s reign his successes on the pitch have been reflected in the transformation of Old Trafford into one of the world’s greatest stadiums – the Mecca for a global following who worship the Red Devils. He has made generations of players past and present feel a unity and a belonging that is unique in the game. He is the godfather who oversees the family that is Manchester United.
We all knew that this day would come. But that does not diminish the feeling of shock that is reverberating around planet football as United’s vast army of fans in every corner of the world come to terms with the news.
Peter Schmeichel - who won five domestic titles and the Champions League, in United’s Treble winning year of 1999 – summed up the feelings of many when he tweeted: ‘Disappointed, shocked, sad. Didn’t think THAT day would be today.’
The voice of MUTV, my old pal Paddy Crerand was audibly shocked when he went on BBC 5 Live and declared: ”I’m just stunned. God help the poor fellow that’s going to have to follow him because the standard he has set is incredible.”
United’s chief executive David Gill, who said working with the Scot had been the “greatest experience” of his career, paid tribute by adding: ”What he has done for this club and for the game in general will never be forgotten.”
Fifa president Sepp Blatter tweeted: ”His achievements in the game place him without doubt as one of the ‘greats’. It was an honour to present Sir Alex with award at 2011 Ballon D’Or. Will his longevity at the top ever be repeated?”
Paul McGrath, who played under Ferguson during his early days at Old Trafford, simply tweeted: ‘Sir alex ferguson . Respect .!’
Michael Owen - who recently admitted his career would have lasted so much longer if he had started out at United and not Liverpool – said: ‘What a privilege to have played under arguably the best manager the world has ever seen.’
Paul Ince explained why the timing has been such a surprise: ”I was totally shocked. What he has done is unbelievable. You can’t explain winning all those Premier League titles not to mention the Champions League, FA Cups – he has done the lot and you will never see anyone of his kind again. Two weeks ago he was talking about staying on for another two years so it has come as a massive shock.”
The sense of shock was also reflected on by Dwight Yorke who said ”Is the timing ever right for Sir Alex Ferguson to retire? I don’t think so. I think he has really taken the football world by surprise.”
The tributes from around the world will be endless and #ThankYouSirAlex will trend on twitter for days to come.
When the great man walks out for the final home match of the season against Swansea City on Sunday, for the last time as Manchester United manager at Old Trafford, it will be one of the most emotional afternoons in the history of the club. It will be the day Fergie collects the Premier League title for an unbelievable 13th time, making it a record-breaking 20th League title in all for the Red Devils. It will be a day to reflect not just on the achievements of Sir Alex in winning trophies. But also to say a huge thank you to a man who has built an extraordinary Empire.
Why Sir Alex Ferguson must not walk away from Old Trafford when he vacates the Manchester United hot-seat
When Sir Alex Ferguson finally relinquishes the Manchester United hot-seat, and the frightening prospect for supporters of that happening in the next few days will be the biggest talking point in world football until the stock-exchange listed club make a formal statement, the greatest manager of all time must not be allowed to walk away from Old Trafford.
The Empire built by the Governor from Govan needs ongoing input from the man who created it, whatever the pundits and outsiders will have you believe. My firm belief is that there has to be a pivotal role for Sir Alex at the club once he steps down as manager.
The popular view among many so-called experts is that Ferguson will not want to replicate the disastrous scenario that followed the retirement of Sir Matt Busby. A catalogue of errors resulted in United being relegated to the old Second Division just six years after becoming the first English club to win the European Cup.
Not until well after Fergie’s appointment in 1986 did the Red Devils finally end a 26 year wait to become champions of England for the first time since Busby’s success in 1967.
But there is no comparison between the massive club that Manchester United have evolved into with the set-up that existed back in Sir Matt’s day. What Fergie has created is a complex multi-layered pyramid that is too big for any mere mortal to walk into and take over single-handedly overnight.
At United’s Carrington training ground Fergie has assembled a support system that is second to none. From the coaches and backroom staff to the top-secret medical science department that has helped guide players like Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes to extended careers setting new standards in longevity.
The scouting network and youth academy that continually churns out youngsters with the pedigree, character and education to make the grade at the highest level are integral parts of the Empire that has consistently given United the edge in tackling all challengers, no matter how much money they invest in trying to conquer Fergie’s Kingdom.
There is also a big difference between the strength and depth of the current United squad assembled by The Boss compared to the ageing team in need of re-building handed over to Wilf McGuinness by Busby in May 1969. Even with George Best, Denis Law and Bobby Charlton all still at Old Trafford, the squad that narrowly failed to retain the European Cup in 1969 was wafer-thin at a time when the club did not have the resources or the financial muscle that exists today.
Much will depend on whether Fergie’s successor is an established manager with the stature and aura of Real Madrid’s Jose Mourinho, who the media have already told us is heading back to Chelsea, or an upcoming long-term leader with the potential to build a new era at Old Trafford.
Personally, I would like to see a former United legend like Ole Gunnar Solskaer, who understands how Old Trafford and Carrington ticks, to be moulded into the role for the long haul. Equally the highly rated David Moyes, once previously shortlisted as Fergie’s No.2 before he left Preston for Everton, has the pedigree and the potential to faithfully follow in Fergie’s footsteps.
But I also think there is an essential short-term role for a top coach with the high profile and experience of competing at the highest level to keep the ship steady while the apprentice is prepared for the top job.
Either way, there is a key role for Sir Alex to sit in the background and oversee the transition of power to the next generation because there is so much more to managing Manchester United than handing over the responsibility for coaching and team selection.
That is why, should the rumours turn out to be true that age has finally caught up with Sir Alex and the news that he faces a pre-season hip replacement will certainly restrict his involvement come August, I expect we will not be seeing The Boss walk away from his Empire – even if he does hand over the responsibility for managing the first team.
David Beckham – Derby County v Manchester United, 1996/1997
production company: VSI TV for VISIONSPORT
Born on 2 May 1975, David Robert Joseph Beckham is an iconic footballer who made his name playing for his boyhood heroes Manchester United. As a youngster he attended one of Bobby Charlton’s football schools in Manchester and won the chance to take part in a training session at FC Barcelona. After trials with Leyton Orient, Norwich City and Tottenham Hotspur, he became part of a famous group of youngsters who won the FA Youth Cup for Manchester United in May 1992.
He went on loan to Preston in 1994/95 before returning to Old Trafford and making his Premier League debut for Manchester United in a goal-less draw against Leeds United on 2 April 1995. He went on to win six Premier League titles, two FA Cups and the European Champions League with United, and was in the team that won the Treble in 1999.
In 2003 he signed for Real Madrid where he spent four years winning the La Liga championship in his final season before joining LA Galaxy. His five-year spell in America included a mid-season loan spell with AC Milan in 2009. He finally left the States to join Paris Saint-Germain in 2013.
Beckham’s international career saw him win 115 caps for England between 1996 and 2009, including six years as captain. Twice runner-up for the FIFA World Player of the Year, he was the world’s highest-paid footballer in 2004 when his commercial earnings boosted his salary at Real Madrid.
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First of all let me say I have huge respect for both Roy Ferdinand and the current England manager Roy Hodgson, whom I predicted in this column when he was appointed would restore pride in wearing the Three Lions. But like players, managers are prone to making mistakes. And Hodgson has been guilty of failing to use his common sense.
Ferdinand will be heading to Rio one way or another. The betting now is that it will be as a pundit, judging by the impact he has made on Al Jazeera and the fall-out of this latest saga. Whether or not Hodgson makes it there too, with or without the Manchester United defender in the England team, is likely to remain in doubt until October at least. And the shadow of Ferdinand will not go away until England qualify.
It is typical of the media, especially because he plays for Manchester United, that Ferdinand has been singled out as this week’s public enemy No.1 by an array of pundits, ex-players and headline hungry journalists. But this is not his fault and if Hodgson was on top of his job this ridiculous scenario would never have happened.
Hodgson has done himself no favours by naievely walking into a media storm of his own making by the way he has handled his non-selection and subsequent flawed selection of the former England skipper. It was bad enough that the boss made a mess of things in the first place when he omitted Ferdinand in favour of John Terry at Euro 2012. But the re-selection fiasco that has preceded Tuesday night’s crucial showdown in Montenegro could have been so easily avoided with a simple phone call.
As Mark Lawrenson pointed out in the Mirror this morning ”What does the England boss do all week? Are you telling me he could not have called Sir Alex Ferguson or Rio himself and said: “I’m planning to bring you back in the squad. Are there any issues with that?”
Sir Alex Ferguson’s support team at Carrington boasts a sophisticated sports science team that has worked wonders in helping to extend the careers of a succession of star players. The return to form and fitness of Ferdinand is further testimony to the value of a set-up second to none in the Premier League. And it is Hodgson’s job to know what is going on behind the scenes and not use guesswork.
If being England manager simply meant selecting a squad of names and pinning it to the notice board, it would be an easy job that most of us could do part-time. The game has moved on from the days when news of an England call-up was announced to the media before the players, or at least it should have done. Hodgson knew there were potential issues in selecting Ferdinand out of the blue after his public humiliation of the player last year. What is equally worrying is that he alienated Ferdinand in the first place, especially with England being so short of quality in central defence.
As Alan Hansen said in his column in the Daily Telegraph: “If you look at the Premier League this season, it is not surprising that England are so desperately short. The standard of defending has deteriorated to the lowest level I think I have ever seen.”
Managing a national team, especially superstars continually in the glare of media scrutiny, requires many skills, not least the ability to motivate, build team spirit and read situations correctly in order to avoid strength-sapping conflict. My belief is that Hodgson made the mistake of writing Ferdinand off when he alienated him in the summer and now that error of judgement has come back to haunt him. It is a measure of England’s desperate lack of quality at the back that we are still a long way short of replacing the formidable defensive partnership that Ferdinand and Terry once forged.
It was predictable that the media would criticise Ferdinand’s decision to travel to Qatar to sit in a TV studio on Friday night, when he could have been playing in the 8-0 thrashing of San Marino. But there is no way Rio would have made that trip if the medical experts back at Carrington thought it was putting his delicate back at risk. Meanwhile, the reality is that Ferdinand was only needed for the game in Montenegro and if Hodgson had done his homework and tried a lot harder to repair the damage he caused in the first place, maybe this could have happened.
What is indisputable is that Ferdinand has been outstanding for Manchester United this season. The statistics confirm he has been the best defender in the League. His career has been rejuvenated with the assistance of the medical support team who scientifically manage his training programme and advise the manager on the optimum time he should spend on the pitch. Hodgson should have been aware of this and in communication with the United throughout the season. No wonder Sir Alex and Ferdinand were taken by surprise when Hodgson announced his squad on March 14.
Great managers embrace sports science and understand the power of psychology, diplomacy and motivating their players to give everything for the common cause. If England fail to qualify for the 2014 World Cup, the way Hodgson has blundered his way through his man-management of key players will be called into question.
Whatever the result of Tuesday night’s crunch encounter in Montenegro with the side that currently tops England’s group, who makes it to Brazil will almost certainly remain in doubt until the final qualification matches are completed in October – and the ordeal will continue to the play-offs if England fail to top the group. My prediction is that England will make it to the World Cup. But if they do, let’s hope Hodgson has learned a few lessons and can avoid giving the media the excuse to undermine morale before the team gets on the pitch.
Michael Owen a former England striker has announced his retirement from football at the end of the season.
Debuting for Liverpool at only 17 years old, before his famous solo goal for England against Argentina in the 1998 World Cup.
Owen, 33, who scored 40 goals in 89 internationals, played for Liverpool, Real Madrid, Newcastle United and Manchester United and is now at Stoke. Including a hattrick against Germany in England’s famous 5-1 victory over their rivals in 2001.
He said: “It is with an immense amount of pride that I am announcing my intention to retire.
“I have been very fortunate in that my career has taken me on a journey I could only have dreamed of.”
He has scored 220 goals in his club career, winning the Premier League, FA Cup, League Cup (three times) and Uefa Cup. Owen was named European Footballer of the Year in 2001 – the first Englishman to achieve the accolade since Kevin Keegan in 1979.
“Having progressed through the ranks at Liverpool to make my first-team debut at 17, before embarking upon spells at Real Madrid, Newcastle United, Manchester United and Stoke City, not to mention representing my country on 89 occasions, I now feel it is the right time to bring the curtain down on my career,”