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1,000-up Wenger richly deserves tribute from Sir Alex Ferguson whatever maverick Mourinho says about Arsenal legend

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The day Old Trafford fell in love with the professor - The Arsenal manager was sent to the stands on 29 August 2009

I don’t care which team you support, anyone who loves the beautiful game owes a huge thank you to long-serving Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger.

Whatever Jose Mourinho may think or say, deep down even Chelsea’s maverick manager surely respects the outstanding contribution Wenger has made to the Premier League.

When the two men come face to face in the dugout at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, Wenger will be taking charge of his 1,000th match as manager of the Gunners.

It is an outstanding record that looked an impossible dream three seasons ago when his team were crushed 8-2 by Manchester United. It was a result that sparked a barrage of abuse from fans and so-called experts who called for his head. The way the man affectionately known as the professor has stuck to his guns and turned the cirtics around speaks volumes for his character.

by John GubbaDespite consistently losing his best players – Henry, Fabregas and most recently Robin van Persie – Wenger has never abandoned his purist principles in search of a winning formula based on an attractive passing game. For much of this season his team defied the odds by heading the Premier League, boosted by the outstanding early season form of Aaron Ramsey and new record signing Mezut Ozil.

The recent dip in form that has seen tomorrow’s rivals Chelsea take up the running at the top, last month prompted Mourinho to describe Wenger as a “specialist in failure” after the Frenchman commented that anyone ruling themselves out of the title race was doing so out of a fear of falling short – a clear jibe at his opposite number at Chelsea.

It all adds extra spice to the latest Chelsea-Arsenal showdown, a fixture that has been dominated by the Blues during Wenger’s resign with just four wins in 18 attempts home and away.

But the real achievement by Wenger has been the way he has changed the history of the club he has managed for close on 18 seasons. Not just with his trophy haul but by re-branding the Gunners image from ‘boring, boring Arsenal” to one of the most attractive sides in European football.

Many fans were asking “Arsene who?” when Wenger was appointed manager on 30 September 1996. But the Frenchman is now hailed the club’s best ever  manager and his 2003-04 Arsenal side were named the greatest in Premier League history after going for the entire season unbeaten, leading to their nickname The Invincibles.

Wenger’s tenure at Arsenal spans 17 top-four finishes, 16 consecutive Champions League campaigns, two doubles, three Premier League titles, four FA Cup triumphs and six Community Shield appearances. So far his 999 games in charge have delivered  572 victories . . .  a win percentage of 57.3.

Mourino described Wenger as "specialist in failure"

Mourino described Wenger as “specialist in failure”

Critics will point to the nine year trophy drought that prompted Mourinho to muse: ”I admire him and I admire Arsenal, because it’s not possible to have 1,000 matches unless the club is also a fantastic club in the way they support the manager, especially in the bad moments and especially when the bad moments were quite a lot.”

Wenger’s legacy – and there is no reason why he can’t carry on for a few more years – is that he  has become synonymous with the club, their move from Highbury to the Emirates Stadium and their brand of passing football.

The harsh reality of modern day football is that Arsenal’s lack of silverware for nearly a decade leaves fans divided between those who still trust Wenger to deliver and those who have lost patience with his methods. But let us all pay the Frenchman the respect he deserves as he reached his 1,000 match milestone. The fact that he becomes only the fourth manager in English football to join this exclusive club, along with Dario Gradi and Manchester United legends Sir Matt Busby and Sir Alex Ferguson, tells you what a remarkable achievement this is.

Fitting then to leave the final word to Sir Alex because the pair, now friends, had an intense rivalry that included five years when they were not on speaking terms after a match at Old Trafford in October 2004 ended a record 49 match unbeaten run by Arsenal.

“I congratulate Arsene in reaching this momentous landmark,” the Scot said in a statement issued on Friday by the League Managers Association.

“Having also reached the same milestone at one club, I cannot emphasise enough the level of dedication, resilience as well as sacrifice required and for that I have for the utmost admiration.

“Over the years we enjoyed some fantastic battles and you could say we had survived together and respected each other’s efforts to play good football. I always enjoy watching Arsene’s sides – Arsenal play the right way.”

Ferguson, who retired last year after 26 years at United, said playing against Arsenal always presented special challenges “that I burned many hours over the years thinking about. Perhaps the biggest compliment I could give Arsene is that I could never be anything other than competitive with my rival for 17 years.”

guardian-respect-999

Reach Your Goals with Sir Alex Ferguson and Phil Berg, the former Spurs and QPR youngster with winning formula for leaders

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Ferguson My Autobigraphy

Ferguson My Autobigraphy

BY JOHN GUBBA

During the summer I filmed a seminar themed the Unspoken Language of Leadership and the standout speaker was Phil Berg, who once pursued his ambition of becoming a professional footballer during spells as a youngster with Tottenham Hotspur and Queens Park Rangers.

His dream of a career as a professional sportsman was never fulfilled. But Phil’s love of sport has stood him in good stead en route to a successful business career that currently enables him to travel around the world as a much sought after motivational speaker.

His company Reach Your Goals is more than a passing recognition of his passion for the beautiful game. Helping individuals and companies hit their targets and achieve their goals is a skill that he has honed and developed over a colourful career in business. Quite simply, there is no one better at bringing the best out of upcoming talent and established entrepreneurs.

While Sir Alex Ferguson is currently carving out a new identity as an expert on leadership with his new book My Autobiography (brilliantly ghost written by Paul Hayward), Berg has opted to share his learnings in a brand new DVD produced and directed by yours truly.

It became clear to me while filming and editing Phil’s unique presentation that there are some great parallels to be drawn between the greatest British football manager of all time and the king of the motivational speakers who has a wonderful gift for inspiring individuals with his engaging delivery and priceless collection of Bergisms and anecdotes.

Reach YOUR Goals! Out soon on DVD

Reach YOUR Goals! Out soon on DVD

Great leaders know how to lead and it is that formula that Berg, like Ferguson, understands and  knows how to articulate.

Their styles, techniques and delivery are different but the underlying messages are the same. Ferguson found fame and fortune as a football manager who enjoyed outstanding successes with both Aberdeen and Manchester United. But he possesses the skills to have been a dynamic leader of any big business or corporation. He could have been the CEO of any  major company – from BP to Microsoft. It is no surprise that Fergie’s managerial secrets have been the subject of a case study by Harvard Business School.  At Old Trafford he built an empire that extended way beyond the football pitch creating a business pyramid with solid foundations, delegating to trusted lieutenants who bought into his philosophies and goals.

Berg’s mantra “before you achieve a plan you have to set the goal” instantly reminded me of Fergie’s inaugural war-cry on being appointed Manchester United manager back in 1986 when he targeted “knocking Liverpool of their bloody perch” as his raison d’etre. Thirteen Premier League titles later in a mind-boggling tally of 38 pieces of silverware, the Glaswegian achieved his goal and then some in a role  that many had previously regarded the impossible job.

If you want to be a successful leader and have the choice of buying yourself one book and one DVD this Christmas, there are no surprises that my recommendations are Fergie’s “My Autobiography” and Berg’s “Effective Networking for Leaders”

Wayne Rooney was right to question why Manchester United failed to sign Mesut Özil

There are many headline grabbing storylines that have emerged from Ferguson’s book with sections dedicated to David Beckham, Arsene Wenger, Roy Keane, Rafa Benitez and others – but it is one throw away putdown of Wayne Rooney that stands out like a beacon in the light of Manchester United and new manager David Moyes currently toiling behind early season pacesetters Arsenal.

While both recognising Rooney’s great contribution to the club and his loyalty lapses during the Liverpudlian’s well-documented temptations to leave Old Trafford, Sir Alex inadvertently invites support for the England star. Criticism of United for failing to sign Mesut Özil when he  joined Real Madrid in 2010, is a sentiment that will resonate loud and clear with United fans who recognise that the Gunners have revitalised their club with a transfer coup that threatens to give Wenger’s men supremacy in the post-Ferguson era.

Phil Berg started out as a young footballer with Spurs and QPR

Phil Berg started out as a young footballer with Spurs and QPR

Manchester United have youth on their side and rejuvenated Wayne Rooney will help David Moyes prove critics wrong!

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To Be Continued ID

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.

by John GubbaThe 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
Tom 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

Theatre of Dreams - May 2013
As for the old ones how many clubs in the Premier League would turn down the following, even if they do have an average age of  32 including the 39-year-old Giggs:

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

Sorry to disappoint prophets of doom circling Theatre of Dreams: Empire will get stronger under ‘Chosen One’ David Moyes

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BY JOHN GUBBA

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.

David Moyes after United's 4-1 win at Swansea City on the opening day

David Moyes will build on United’s opening day 4-1 win at Swansea

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

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BY JOHN GUBBA

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.

Source: i.dailymail.co.uk via john on Pinterest

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.

Sir Alex Ferguson: Not just a man, not just a legend – but simply the best #ThankYouSirAlex

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The Governor from Govan will continue to watch over his Empire

The Governor will continue to watch over his Empire

BY JOHN GUBBA

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

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BY JOHN GUBBA

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.

For the best tribute to Sir Alex Ferguson watch MUTV on Sunday night

There will be a role for Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United when he retires 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.

Is Wayne Rooney world class? Why England’s finest will shape up and accept challenge to fulfill potential

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Wayne Rooney - staying at United

Wayne Rooney - staying at United

BY JOHN GUBBA

How pathetic and predictable that the media jumped on the band-wagon of concluding that Wayne Rooney is on his way out of Old Trafford after he was left on the bench for Manchester United’s Champions League crunch encounter with Real Madrid this week.

There is always a stampede of opportunistic journalists and headline writers across every form of media, from newspapers and bloggers to radio and television, who revel in trying to knock sporting heroes off their pedestal, especially if they play for Manchester United.

Ignore all the media gossip and agent-inspired spin whenever you read a story about Rooney because the truth is 99.9 percent of speculation is absolute rubbish, even when so-called experts claim they have been briefed by reliable sources.

The truth is the media spend most of their time trying to guess what is really happening and there are only ever a small handful of people in the know. But newspapers do not care if they think a headline will sell more copies or attract more online viewers. It is that simple.

When Sir Alex Ferguson says Rooney is going nowhere and there is total silence from the player himself then you know that the media got it hopelessly wrong.

Speaking at his press conference pre Sunday’s FA Cup quarter-final against Chelsea, Fergie put the record straight when he said: “The Wayne Rooney nonsense first? Or do you want to talk sense? The issue you’re all going on about is rubbish. There’s absolutely no issue between Wayne Rooney and I. The suggestion we don’t talk on the training ground is nonsense. The decision to not play him was purely tactical and he understood that. Wayne will be here next year, you have my word on that.”

Forget the headlines, the real issue for me is that Rooney has underperformed on occasions over the last couple of seasons, not to mention the last three major international tournaments. And if he wants to continue to be regarded as truly world class, United’s England star must show he still has the hunger and desire to fulfil his true potential.

Despite all his goalscoring milestones, there is a sense that Rooney has never quite delivered at the highest level. Even though his record in the Champions League will suggest otherwise.

A remarkable statistic before the Real Madrid encounter was that Rooney had a better record in the Champions League knockout stages in goalscoring percentage terms than Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Didier Drogba or Robin van Persie. But there is no doubt in my mind that Rooney can do better. And that is the challenge he faces if he wants to be regarded as one of the true greats in Manchester United history.

My guess is that Rooney wants the everlasting glory to match his trophies and goalscoring exploits and being left on the bench will give him the nudge he needs to step up and get back to his best. There is no better club in the world to help him achieve his goals and in Robin van Persie he has a the perfect striking partner to make that happen.

Fergie clearly still thinks Rooney will deliver. And that will only change if he fails to respond by working hard to do his absolute best for Manchester United.

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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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What a huge error of judgement by Newcastle United boss Alan Pardew: hypocrite who manages “wee club in the north-east”

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BY JOHN GUBBA

It is hardly surprising that Sir Alex Ferguson’s actions during Saturday’s thrilling victory over Newcastle United and his subsequent reaction to criticsm from beaten boss Alan Pardew has caused a media frenzy. But the truth is that Fergie has hit the target once again with his  brilliant response to the ill-judged words of the Magpies’ boss..

When the Football Association confirmed no action will be taken against Ferguson for confronting referee Mike  Dean and his assistants before the start of the second half over the controversial way they allowed Newcastle’s second goal to stand, it was a slap in the face for Pardew.

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The Newcastle manager made his feelings clear when he announced that Ferguson’s conduct was worthy of a dismissal, adding that Dean will have been “slightly disappointed” he did not take action at the time.

But Sir Alex deliciously put Pardew in his place when he accused him of hypocrisy,  describing him as a manager of a “wee club in the north-east” and passionately defended his right to confront referee Dean.

It was pure theatre at his Friday press conference at Carrington when The Boss declared: “Alan Pardew has come out and criticised me. He is the worst at haranguing referees. He shoves them and makes a joke of it. How he can criticise me is unbelievable. He forgets the help I gave him, by the way.

“I was demonstrative but I was not out of order. The press have had a field day. The only person they have not spoken to is Barack Obama because he is busy. It is unfortunate but I am the manager of the most famous club in the world. Not Newcastle, a wee club in the north-east.

“I was demonstrative. I am always demonstrative. Everyone knows that. I am an emotional guy. But I was not abusive. I shouted Mike over. We walked towards each other. I was only on [the pitch] three or four yards. That has been overplayed. The problem for me is that the profile of this club is huge.”

For the record, Pardew was given a two-match touchline ban and fined £20,000 after accepting an FA charge of improper conduct for pushing an assistant referee earlier this season. He was also sent off during the 2-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur on 18 August when he pushed Peter Kirkup after claiming the ball had gone out of play during a Tottenham attack.