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Nani red card disgrace Real insult: Curse of anti-British referees ruining Champions League and threatens EPL quota

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BY JOHN GUBBA

The history books will show that a goal by Cristiano Ronaldo on his return to Old Trafford earned Real Madrid victory over Manchester United and a place in the Champions League quarter-final. But anyone who watched this epic clash of the giants of world football can have no doubt that a Turkish referee tipped the balance in favour of a Spanish side that was second best over both legs.

The harsh reality is that a hugely controversial red card for Nani has destroyed United’s hopes of emulating the glorious Treble triumph of 1999. And this is not the first time the conspiracy theorists can point to what looks like a blatant case of anti-British refereeing.

Only last month Celtic were on the receiving end of a shocking display by the match official that contributed to their crippling 3-nil home defeat by Juventus. Who can forget the outrageous Rob van Persie sending off in 2011 when he planted the ball in the net for Arsenal against Barcelona a millisecond after the ref had blown for offside. And we all remember the way Chelsea were refused a succession of blatant penalties in their 2009 semi-final against the Catalans.

This time it is United’s players and global following who are left shattered, inconsolable and feeling deprived of the chance of glory in a match that will forever be remembered for one of the worst refereeing decisions in the history of the Champions League. It is always a huge disappointment when a major football match is decided by a controversial decision by a match official. But never has this been more blatantly the case than Madrid’s ref assisted win in Manchester.

The full extent of the damage to English football may ultimately be felt by the whole of the Premier League. UEFA are looking for any excuse to reduce the EPL from four to three qualifiers for future competitions and with no qualifiers for this year’s quarter-finals because Arsenal are already dead and buried in their tie against Bayern Munich, this has been a disastrous season for English clubs.

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Former skipper Roy Keane mischievously argued that the red card was justified in a blatant attempt to wind up his former employers and shamelessly gratify anti-United viewers on ITV. But any rational football fan will agree with Sir Alex Ferguson who furiously protested from the touchline over Nani’s dismissal.

There was no doubt that Nani only had eyes on the ball when he attempted to make contact with the ball in the middle of the park. But Cuneyt Cakir waved a red card in the face of the Portuguese winger after his acrobatic attempt to win the ball resulted in a high challenge on Alvaro Arbeloa. The Spaniard theatrically rolled along the turf and the Turk stunned a worldwide audience by reducing United to 10-men.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rCyWro_AqxQ

Nani Red Card For Karate Kick on Arbeloa - Manchester United vs Real Madrid (5-3-2013)

Nani Red Card For Karate Kick on Arbeloa – Manchester United vs Real Madrid (5-3-2013)

Not only was it a shocking decision that robbed United of a victory that was firmly in their grasp at a time when they were firmly in control of the match, leading 1-nil with 56 minutes on the clock, it destroyed a beautiful game of football. Even though he refused to be drawn on whther or not the referee had got it hopelessly wrong Jose Mourinho admitted:”The best team lost.” And there can be no more honest assessment by a winning manager than that, even if he does have one eye on the ultimate prize of one day replacing Sir Alex Ferguson in the king’s throne at the Theatre of Dreams.

United fans will not forget Mourinho’s humility when it comes to winning the public vote to become Fergie’s successor. Equally, supporters will respect the way former idol Ronaldo was equally apologetic when he struck the decisive blow after an outstanding equaliser by Luka Modric cancelled out the opening goal turned into his own net by Sergio Ramos after a telling ball in by Nani.

All this on the night Ryan Giggs celebrated his historic milestone of 1,000 career appearances with yet another outstanding performance at the heart of United’s midfield. And Wayne Rooney was left on the bench as Fergie pulled off a tactical masterstroke and nullified Madrid with a classic counter attacking display  that worked perfectly until Nani unjustly received his marching orders.

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listen to ‘Former player Paddy Crerand reacts to Man United’s exit from the Champions League’

Below: No penalty: Did the ref ignore Ramos clearly holding back Danny Welbeck in the box?

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Newcastle embarrassed United more than Blackburn because they won easily and now the Reds must bounce back against City

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BY JOHN GUBBA

Losing at home to Blackburn was a disaster, but the crushing 3-nil defeat at Newcastle was far more embarrassing for Manchester United because the Champions were well beaten – and on this form could even struggle to finish in the top four.

United are just three points behind rivals City with 18 matches remaining. But the reality is the Reds must rediscover their form, and they must do so quickly or the  New Year blip will turn into a crisis. The stakes could not be higher when Manchester’s top two go head to head in the FA Cup third round at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.

The Cup showdown is the perfect opportunity for Sir Alex Ferguson’s men to answer the critics. But the pressure is on because injuries have taken their toll on a United side that previously won five straight League matches culminating with two crushing 5-0 triumphs before the unexpected back-to-back defeats in this latest nightmare five day spell.

The worry is Sir Alex Ferguson’s men do not have a strong enough squad to paper over the cracks, unless they dig deep and add re-inforcements in the transfer window which is now open.

 

 

In the meantime, it is up to United’s big names to earn their money. Wayne Rooney looked out of condition at Newcastle and not surprisingly was benched before the end. Nani is not at his best, and the same goes for most of United’s squad.

There is no doubt Rooney is one of the best players in the Premier League, and on his day Nani is as good as anyone. But reputations count for nothing when the whistle goes. Every success has to be earned and the players owe it to the fans to work harder to find the consistency expected of Manchester United.

Meantime, let’s give credit to Newcastle for their outstanding display of the season. Manager Alan Pardew summed up the night when he said: ”We won because we controlled the game in terms of what we wanted to do. We would not let them play. Physically and aerially we had an advantage and capitalised on that. We broke up their play so many times today. We beat the champions 3-0 and probably deserved that scoreline. We have had a great season so far without turning over one of the top teams. Today we had our best team out there and it showed.”

 

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Why Cristiano Ronaldo would love to return to Manchester United

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BY JOHN GUBBA

When I met Cristiano Ronaldo in Portugal a few weeks ago it was clear that his love for Manchester United still burns brightly -  so, take it from me, a dramatic return to Old Trafford will be no surprise if Real Madrid fans drive him away from the Bernabeu.

While filming his Portuguese team-mate Nani for a documentary I was producing for the Manchester United TV Channel, there were two key moments during our 12 day filming schedule when Ronaldo’s feelings for the Reds shone like a beacon.

The Portugal captain dismissed his national media as ‘freaks’ when they criticised his team for conceding three goals in a 5-3 win over minnows Iceland during their Euro 2012 qualifying campaign. But his first  sight of me holding up the MUTV flag on my microphone brought an immediate smile and thumbs up that was genuinely affectionate.

Cristiano Ronaldo would love to return to Manchester united

It's all in the eyes . . . Cristiano Ronaldo would love to return to Manchester United

A couple of days later when I snatched a couple of questions during a press conference before his country’s showdown with Denmark, Ronaldo made it absolutely clear that Manchester United will always have a special place in his heart. It was not what he said but the unmistakable sparkle in his eyes when he spoke about United.

It was so clear that Helder Conduto, the match commentator for state broadcaster RTP Portugal turned to me and said: ” United are in his heart, there’s no question” the moment Ronaldo departed. ” One day he’d love to return to Manchester.”

A couple of weeks later, to mark Sir Alex Ferguson’s 25th anniversary as Manchester United manager, Ronaldo’s passionate tribute to the manager who turned him into a world star left no one in any doubt that he will jump at the chance to return to Old Trafford when the time is right.

The fact that Ronaldo was booed by Real fans despite scoring 108 goals in his first 111 games for Madrid has raised questions about whether or not his time at the club is drawing to an end. It will be a wrench to leave the club he supported as a boy, but no more than it was when he left United in an £80 million pound move in the summer of 2009.

It is a long time since United made a dramatic signing that took the world of football’s breath away. And the obstacles in the way of such a momentous transfer would make Ronaldo’s return one of the biggest transfer stories ever. So let’s be honest it really is a long shot – but if you ask me what I want for Christmas . . .

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Rising star Nani deserves to be shortlisted for FIFA’s top award

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BY JOHN GUBBA

Lionel Messi may be the favourite to win the 2011 Ballon D’Or and claim the title of the best player in the world for a third successive year – but it is testament to the progress of Portugal’s Nani that the Manchester United star is included in FIFA’s shortlist of 23.

Nani joins team-mate Wayne Rooney and Manchester City’s new hero Sergio Aguero in a list dominated by the best of Barcelona who have no fewer than eight players nominated. Former United star Cristiano Ronaldo is also included.

But it is no surprise to me that Nani has been elevated to such heights after spending the past month working on an upcoming documentary for MUTV on the kid from Cape Verde.

MUTV documentary will pay tribute to Nani-mania

MUTV documentary will pay tribute to Nani-mania

BETTER THAN RONALDO

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http://youtu.be/eX8jspzs4zU

 

The list will be reduced down to three on Dec 5 with the winner being announced in Zurich on Jan 9.

Player nominees: Eric Abidal (France), Sergio Aguero (Argentina), Karim Benzema (France), Iker Casillas (Spain), Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal), Dani Alves (Brazil), Samuel Eto’o (Cameroon), Cesc Fabregas (Spain), Diego Forlan (Uruguay), Andres Iniesta (Spain), Lionel Messi (Argentina), Thomas Muller (Germany), Nani (Portugal), Neymar (Brazil), Mesut Ozil (Germany), Gerard Pique (Spain), Wayne Rooney (England), Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany), Wesley Sneijder (Netherlands), Luis Suarez (Uruguay), David Villa (Spain), Xabi Alonso (Spain), Xavi (Spain).