Archive for the ‘Premier League’ Category
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]:
With alarm bells ringing for the Premier League, it is not just Manchester United affected by champions’ slump under Moyes
RIVALS CHELSEA, Manchester City and Liverpool may be enjoying the first season of the Premier League without Sir Alex Ferguson dictating the agenda at Old Trafford, but the honest truth is that David Moyes’ failure to keep the red flag flying high is not simply hurting Manchester United – it is damaging the world’s richest league.
This season’s unprecedented decline of Manchester United has already affected the Premier League’s global brand to such an extent that chief executive Richard Scudamore has warned fans around the world will switch off if Moyes fails to stop the rot. Make no mistake this is no exaggeration and it is the financial implications that will ultimately focus the attention of United’s owners the Glazers when they decide what direction to take in the summer.
While fans of other clubs may be enjoying the champions’ meek surrender of the Premier League title, the alarm bells are ringing loud and clear for the League’s administrators who fear the financial consequences if United’s slump continues. And that puts the spotlight on the Glazers, who – whatever the fate of Moyes - must soon decide whether to invest many millions on a huge rebuilding programme. The alternative will be to check out and sell the club to someone with deeper pockets or risk damaging the value of their asset.
The cost of United’s worst ever season in the Premier League is already being counted. Speaking in South Africa on a promotional tour, Scudamore conceded that the global popularity of the Premier League will wane if United continue to toil. “It’s a double-edged sword. When your most popular club isn’t doing as well, that costs you interest and audience in some places,” declared Scudamore. “There’s lots of fans around the world who wish Manchester United were winning it again, but you have to balance that off against, generally, we’re in the business of putting on a competition and competition means people can compete.”
The English champions are currently seventh in the table, 18 points adrift of leaders Chelsea and facing the prospect of no European involvement next season, unless Moyes can rally his troops to knock out the holders Bayern Munich in the quarter finals of the Champions League and then go on to win the competition.
On current form there is more chance of Ferguson coming out of retirement to take over as England manager at this summer’s World Cup. Nothing short of such a miraculous turnaround by a United team embarrassed by biggest rivals Liverpool and Manchester City in the past fortnight, will persuade the doubters that Moyes was right to be appointed the Chosen One.
Meantime, Moyes faces the first public show of discontent by fans at Old Trafford on Saturday with a group of fans planning to fly a plane over the stadium during United’s match with Aston Villa trailing a banner: ‘Wrong One – Moyes Out’. Such is the groundswell of anger and disappointment circulating the Theatre of Dreams that even Sir Alex Ferguson will not be exempt from criticism if United take too long to re-discover a winning formula.
And it is not just about winning, as Sam Allardyce is discovering at West Ham, where fans booed the Hammers after they beat Hull City because they are tired of the boring style of play being served up at Upton Park. The Academy of Football was built on playing the beautiful game the right way – and the same rules apply at Manchester United. where fans will not tolerate mediocre football whatever the results.
Moyes is without doubt a talented football manager. He proved that at Everton and impressed the greatest British football manager of all time when he was anointed by Sir Alex as his successor. The immediate problem he now faces is time. How much time will he be given to re-build and find a winning formula? But there is another factor that may ultimately prove even more decisive – and that is money. When it comes to the crunch how much are the owners prepared to gamble on Moyes getting it right.
Do they stick with blind faith in Moyes and back him to the hilt? Do they start again with another candidate, or do they cut their losses now and sell out to the highest bidder? How well United fare in the upcoming Champions League showdown with Bayern will inevitably have a big influence on how the club’s owners view both the question of time and money for their current manager.
As a fan old enough to remember the chaos that followed when Sir Matt Busby retired, I know that if United get it wrong we could be waiting another 26 years to get back to the top of the English game. And that is a doomsday scenario that would change the football world as we know it. You only have to look at how long it has been since Liverpool last won a League title to see that reputation counts for nothing when you want to be the best.
Personally I have backed Moyes from the start and would still love to see him deliver. But there has to be some positive sign that he has the strength of character to learn quickly from his mistakes. So far United’s resolve to stick with their man has been tested well beyond anyone’s expectations and yet the support he has received is impossible to imagine at any other top club in the Premier League.
Is it really Mission impossible?
With the Champions League quarter-final against Bayern looming many are predicting humiliation at the hands of the European champions. But wouldn’t you just love it if Moyes can mastermind Mission Impossible and defy the odds. All logic suggests it won’t happen and if it ends badly, as even the bookmakers suggest, the media and the accountants will turn up the heat on United’s manager. And yet . . . being the eternal optimist I can’t help thinking that football has a habit of turning up a surprise result when you least expect it!
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.
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.
Premier League needs Jose Mourinho but it will be harder second time round at Chelsea for the Special One
Jose Mourinho spoke from the heart on his return to Stamford Bridge when he declared: “I am sad that when I go back to Old Trafford Sir Alex will not be there any more.” Whether or not, that sentiment is tinged by any disappointment that he was not offered the chance to succeed Ferguson, the truth of the matter is that Chelsea’s new manager was summing up just why the Premier League needs him so badly.
Under the glare of the media spotlight it would be foolish to expect Mourinho to reveal any trace of remorse that it was David Moyes and not he who landed the top job at Old Trafford. And it was hard to defect any lack of sincerity when he insisted the Chelsea post is the one he really wanted because “it is my job.”
What can not be disputed is that Mourinho is priceless to the Premier League, even if he is unable to pick up where he left off last time around by locking horns with his old friend and foe Sir Alex Ferguson. The Glaswegian’s retirement merely underlines why the Portuguese maverick is so valuable to a League that has relied so heavily on the stature and gravitas of the departed Manchester United manager for so long.
Love him or hate him (and he has not been universally popular in Milan or Madrid), Mourinho is box office. Fergie has left a giant void that is near impossible to fill. But the returning Blues boss will do his best in his own special way and the media love him because his celebrity status embraces an even bigger audience than pure football enthusiasts. More than 250 of the world’s media witnessed his return this lunchtime at a press conference broadcast live on Sky TV and TalkSport – proof in itself that the self-appointed “Special One” who now calls himself “the Happy One” is a ratings winner.
Whether or not he can emulate the success of his first stint in charge, there is no question that the managerial merry-go-round – that has left Arsene Wenger as the last man standing with more than three years experience in a Premiership hot seat – desperately needs Mourinho on board.
What may come as a surprise to some is that this time around we are witnessing a much calmer, more measured, mature Mourinho. There is still a glint in the eye and a swagger that tells you this guy means business and life will never be dull while he is back at the Bridge. The English game definitely needs him. But the big question is ‘can he be successful second time around?’
In all honesty, it is hard to imagine Mourinho not winning silverware again. The difference this time is that expectations are higher than ever and the demands for instant results make it all the harder the longer it takes to deliver. Roman Abramovich has not been one to hang around whenever his managers fail to give him the trophies he insists upon and it would be interesting to see how the Russian copes if it takes time to re-gain the Premier League for example.
“In football, you never know, but I want to believe it’s possible,” Mourinho told the media hanging on his every word when asked if he could oversee a new era of glory.
This time there were no outrageous predictions or boasts, perhaps in anticipation that this time it will be much harder to exceed expectations. What was fascinating, however, was to witness the new Mourinho in action, dispelling myths and showing respect.
Avoiding barbed questions from journalists looking for a swipe at his former club Real Madrid, it was clear from the start of his second spell as Chelsea manager that this is a very different Mourinho. At 50 years old he is still young in management circles. But the brash upstart who achieved so much when he first breezed into the Capital nine years ago is now a much modified model. Not so easily sucked into delivering headline grabbing statements which will be frustrating for some.
Proving many of the so-called experts wrong, he resisted the opportunity to start the mind games early and take a swipe at any of his new rivals. On the contrary, he praised new United boss Moyes and spoke highly of Manuel Pellegrini, the man destined to replace Roberto Mancini at Manchester City. Equally, he refused to pass judgment on his predecessor Rafa Benitez in a calm and measured performance that was respectful rather than provocative.
It was Mourinho the diplomat when he insisted reports that he fell out with Abramovich during his first spell at Stamford Bridge were wide of the mark. And it was encouraging news for all Chelsea fans when he declared that he shares a common goal with the Russian “to succeed and have what this club wants which is stability.” Now that really would be something special for Blues fans.
There are few transformations in sport that can match the way Craig Bellamy has turned from a foul-mouthed rebel to a charmingly passionate footballer who has dedicated the twilight of his career to making history with his hometown club Cardiff City.
It is ironic that Bellamy has matured into an inspirational character and proved that people can change, just like the club he supports has reinvented itself and swapped its colours in the process of claiming a glorious promotion to the Premier League.
When Bellamy completed his return to Cardiff last summer he said taking his boyhood heroes to the top flight would be his greatest achievement. The way Bellamy has played such a pivotal role in making that dream become a reality crowns a fairytale promotion for the Bluebirds, who last played in the top league in 1962.
Promotion for Malky Mackay’s Cardiff comes 53 years to the day since they last won a place in the elite of English football. It completes a remarkable transformation for a club that controversially rebranded from blue shirts to red before the start of this promotion winning campaign.
Malaysian owner Vincent Tan has even suggested he may change the club’s name to Cardiff Dragons in his quest to maximise marketing and revenue potential back in Asia, where red is deemed a lucky colour and dragons are regarded as more impressive than bluebirds.
There is something quite poetic about the way Cardiff’s success in changing their identity and their fortunes is mirrored by the impressive way Bellamy has changed his own character and his image.
Back in 2005 we saw the worst of Bellamy when he sent abusive text messages to Alan Shearer after Newcastle’s FA Cup semi-final defeat by Manchester United. Bellamy was on loan from the Magpies at Celtic at the time and was universally shunned for insulting the Geordie legend.
For years the Welsh international divided opinion throughout a colourful and controversial career that took him from Newcastle and Celtic to Manchester City and Liverpool. His regular bouts of surly arrogance often overshadowed his undoubted talent and he did himself no favours when he infamously confronted Liverpool team-mate John Arne Riise with a golf club.
But there is another side to Bellamy, who has dedicated much of his time in recent years to his charity work with the Craig Bellamy Foundation, which educates disadvantaged youngsters through a football academy in Sierra Leone. Cardiff fans have seen the best of the Welshman who first caused genuine disbelief in 2010 when he started his campaign to get his hometown club promoted and initially went there on loan from Manchester City.
Three years later Cardiff City’s promotion remarkably means that 10 percent of the Premier League is now Welsh. Rivals Swansea having also celebrated this season by winning the Capital One Cup at Wembley.
Meanwhile, Bellamy’s reformation has coincided with a change in lifestyle influenced by Dr Steve Peters, author of mind-management book The Chimp Paradox, who helped the 33 year-old come to terms with the death of his friend and mentor Gary Speed.
Forget politics Paolo Di Canio will be judged by results on pitch – and odds favour clubs loyal to managers
BY JOHN GUBBA
The spotlight on the Premier League is so intense that it was no surprise that Paolo di Canio (above) stepped into a media frenzy when he controversially replaced Martin O’Neill at Sunderland. David Milliband guaranteed that when he cited the Italian’s self-confessed admiration of the former Fascist leader Benito Mussolini for his resignation from the board.
The big mistake Di Canio made was being slow to unequivocally declare that he is not a racist. Now that we have all moved on and the battle for survival on the football pitch enters its final countdown, the big question is ‘Has Sunderland’s outrageous gamble on a manager unproven at the highest level been a huge error or a stroke of genius?”
The odds are that Di Canio will fail. My guess is that Ellis Short was banking on the new manager syndrome producing a rapid reaction and a couple of wins to reverse his club’s fall like a stone down the League. But the Black Cats were silenced at Stamford Bridge after taking a surprise lead, and next up is Sunday’s biggest north-east derby in years when Di Canio takes on Alan Pardew’s Newcastle United at St James’s Park.
This is the pivotal battle that could make or break Di Canio’s quest for survival. While a surprise win would give Sunderland hope, defeat would leave them on the same points as third bottom Wigan having played two games more, with only five matches remaining.
Queens Park Rangers and bottom placed Reading are as good as relegated already and what they have in common with Sunderland is that all three clubs have sacked their managers this season. Of the other teams in the mix, Wigan, Aston Villa, Stoke City, Norwich, Newcastle and West Ham United have all remained loyal to their managers and that is why I believe they will all finish above Sunderland.
Only Southampton in 11th place have prospered since ditching Nigel Adkins in favour of Mauricio Pochettino. Personally I believe Adkins deserved more loyalty after two successive promotions, and it is testimony to the good job he has done that the Saints have marched clear of relegation.
In my book, any team that panics and sacks their manager during the course of a season deserves to be relegated above a club that stands by their man. The mere fact that sacking the manager does not guarantee survival, and the later that happens the longer the odds of success, is good for the game. That is why I hope that Di Canio fails in his mission to save Sunderland. Any political view he may or may not have is irrelevant.
But Benitez and Chelsea challenge theory sacking boss makes it harder to succeed
Meanwhile, there is one club that continually defies logic. Chelsea have made a habit of winning trophies after sacking managers. The longer this continues the more damage billionaire owner Roman Abramovich is inflicting on the beautiful game. But you have to admire Rafa Benitez for the way he has persevered despite being the most unpopular manager in the history of the club. The Spaniard has worked wonders since deciding he had nothing to lose by standing up against the fans and the owner.
With two trophies still on his radar after guiding Chelsea to the semi-finals of both the FA Cup and the Europa League, the additional prize of a top four finish to qualify for the Champions League could yet produce an unlikely treble that would put Benitez in danger of becoming popular with Chelsea fans.
While his opposite number Roberto Mancini will feel under pressure to deliver silverware when Chelsea take on Manchester City on Sunday for a place in the FA Cup Final, there is a feeling that Benitez has nothing to lose because he is out of a job whatever happens in the final month of the season. If that gives Rafa the edge, it will be another hammer blow for job security in football management.
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,”
Nani red card disgrace Real insult: Curse of anti-British referees ruining Champions League and threatens EPL quota
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.
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.
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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Below: No penalty: Did the ref ignore Ramos clearly holding back Danny Welbeck in the box?