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Craig Bellamy’s fairytale triumph over Manchester City is a delicious irony that embarrasses the world’s richest club

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BY JOHN GUBBA

Love him or hate him, and Craig Bellamy has come a long way since he famously rubbished Newcastle United legend Alan Shearer, you have to respect the brilliance of the proud Welshman.

Shipped out on loan to his beloved Cardiff when Manchester City inexplicably dumped him a couple of years ago, it is poetic that Bellamy – arguably the best player in Roberto Mancini’s team at the time – rubbed his former club’s noses in it by knocking them out of the Carling Cup.

Bellers was outstanding in an epic semi-final with a match winning display and the goal that sealed Liverpool’s dramatic 3-2 aggregate win at Anfield. But the fact that City allowed him to join the Merseysiders on a free transfer makes you question whether or not the Arab funded Mancunians have more money than sense.

The truth is City have made a habit of falling out with their best players. Despite all the spin that turned their fans against former skipper Carlos Tevez, does anyone really believe that the Blues are a better team without the hard-to-handle Argentinian?

There is no doubt City have assembled a formidable side. But there is still a sense that Mancini’s men lack the mental strength they need to emulate Manchester’s champions over at Old Trafford. And there is a suspicion that their Italian boss is too quick to fall out with strong personalities.

It will be interesting to see if Mancini can go the distance with Mario Balotelli, or will the head-stamping bad boy go the same way as Tevez and Bellamy?

In Bellamy’s case there is no logic whatsoever to the way Mancini discarded him after an outstanding season back in 2010 – and for City to eventually send him packing on a free transfer is just crazy.

There is no doubt City’s loss has been Liverpool’s gain and for Bellamy now to be looking forward to a Wembley final against his hometown club Cardiff in the final is a fairytale outcome that is richly deserved.

The English Premier League is best on the planet and football fans are so fickle – just ask Robin Van Persie and Arsene Wenger!

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BY JOHN GUBBA

To all those fickle football fans out there who think one bad result or two is the end of the world, just take a look at the way Arsenal have bounced back from that 8-2 demolition by Manchester United.

Led by Robin Van Persie, the most outstanding striker of the season so far, Saturday’s remarkable 5-3 triumph at Chelsea was the Gunners’ eighth win in nine matches. So what do those ridiculous fans who were baying for the head of Arsene Wenger have to say for themselves now?

    Twitter-ific - Robin Van Persie is the Premier League's Top Gun

Twitter-ific - RVP's hat-trick at Chelsea took tally to 28 goals in 27 PL matches

When Manchester United crashed 6-1 at home to neighbours City it was one of the biggest upsets in the history of the Premier League. But does that make Sir Alex Ferguson’s men a bunch of no-hopers overnight? Of course it doesn’t – and that’s the point.

City boss Roberto Mancini won a lot of respect from United fans when he refused to crow about the way his side destroyed the Reds at Old Trafford. And the Italian knows only too well that there is a long way to go to win the toughest League in the world.

The truth is football fans in England are so lucky to have the Premier League – the most exciting and popular domestic competition on the planet. It will be fascinating to see if anyone can stop City’s mega millionaires becoming champions. But you can bet your bottom dollar there will be many more twists and turns before the destination of the silverware is decided in May.

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Time for Terry to get the boot – and Capello can go with him

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John Terry's abuse of Ferdinand - link here to the video courtesy of The Guardian

John Terry's abuse of Ferdinand - link here to the video courtesy of The Guardian

BY JOHN GUBBA

Whether or not John Terry is guilty of racially abusing Anton Ferdinand during Chelsea’s 1-0 defeat at QPR, it was not acceptable to see the England captain spitting venom at Rio’s younger brother in front of a worldwide TV audience.

Terry may be an inspirational figure to some of his team mates.But that does not make him fit to be a role model and captain of his country. How many times is the overhyped Chelsea skipper going to be allowed to bring shame on England? Fabio Capello made the mistake of reinstating Terry after he’d sacked him as skipper following the Wayne Bridge affair and ironically replaced him with Rio Ferdinand.

It will be interesting to see if Capello stands by his man now, whether or not Terry is found guilty by the FA. Personally I’d like to see Terry booted out for good – and he can take Capello with him. I’d rather see England lose than succeed with Capello and Terry at the helm.

Terry, who claims it has all been a “big misunderstanding” is in line to be recalled for Chelsea’s clash with Arsenal on Saturday after being left out of the midweek Carling Cup win at Everton. Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Police has announced it is assessing evidence from the incident after receiving a complaint.

Earlier, Ferdinand thanked fellow players for helping him cope with the situation.

“I’d like to thank players like Jason Roberts  for the support they have given me,” Ferdinand told the Telegraph. “Not just professionals at other clubs but my team-mates at QPR. They’ve been fantastic for me. Having team-mates around you, like I have, is nice to feel and nice to see.”

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HOW CITY’S STUBBORN BRINKMANSHIP SCUPPERED CARLOS TEVEZ SALE TO CORINTHIANS

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Tevez says he wants to return to South America to be closer to his family and his two young daughters.

Tevez says he wants to return to South America to be closer to his family and his two young daughters.

BUY NOW - Man City Match of the 70s DVD Man City Match of the 70s DVD - click to BUY NOW

UPDATE: 20 July 2011 – Is anyone surprised that City’s decision to move the goalposts scuppered the deal which fell through when the Brazilian transfer deadline passed. You can’t blame Corinthians for refusing to be held to ransom after City had announced the deal was agreed. Now Tevez and City are in limbo. Watch this space!

BY JOHN GUBBA

For a club boasting to be the richest in the world, it does appear rather unseemly that Manchester City are using Wednesday’s transfer deadline in Brazil to squeeze every last penny out of the sale of their skipper to his former club Corinthians.

On Sunday, City boss Roberto Mancini announced a deal had been reached for the 27-year-old –  City had previously rejected a bid of £39 million – with only personal terms still to be agreed. But 48 hours before the transfer deadline in Brazil, Corinthians revealed City had moved the goalposts and want more money for Tevez, who previously played for the Sao Paulo club from 2004 to 2006.

The truth is that City, accustomed  to getting their own way since Sheikh Mansour bought the club in 2008, are finding it hard to come to terms with the fact that that even their mega riches do not guarantee keeping their best player. It is a bitter pill to swallow and the Eastlands club  do not like the taste.

Tevez divided Manchester when he made the controversial move from United to City. But you can not fault the Argentine’s commitment on the pitch and he has proved value for money ever since he arrived in England and kept West Ham in the Premier League.

KING CANTONA’S RETURN WILL CROWN TRIBUTE FOR SCHOLES THE GREATEST ENGLISH FOOTBALLER OF 21ST CENTURY

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Eric Cantona look forward to his return

Eric Cantona look forward to his return

BY JOHN GUBBA

How fitting that Paul Scholes – the outstanding English footballer of his generation – will be honoured by the return of Eric the King to Old Trafford.

Eric Cantona will coach the legendary New York Cosmos who take on Manchester United on Friday 5 August in the testimonial for the incomparable Scholes.

Cantona quit United in 1997 after winning four titles and two domestic doubles in his five seasons at the club.

“I am looking forward to returning to Old Trafford in my new role with New York Cosmos,” said Cantona.

“I wish to congratulate Paul for such an incredible career at Manchester United.”

Scholes, who announced his retirement in the wake of United’s Champions League final defeat by Barcelona, said: “I have spent my whole footballing life at Manchester United, so this will be an emotional farewell.

“I hope the fans enjoy the night, especially seeing the boss and Eric battling it out in front of the dugouts.”

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Paul Scholes the greatest English footballer of his generation

Paul Scholes the greatest English footballer of his generation

MANCHESTER IS THE NEW MILAN: A CITY UNITED AS THE CENTRE OF THE FOOTBALLING UNIVERSE. CAN LIVERPOOL STRIKE BACK?

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A City United by a unique League and Cup double on the same day - but what a disgrace that the Premier League trophy was not presented to the Reds. Were they worried this would eclipse City's FA Cup win

A City United by a unique League and Cup double on the same day – but what a disgrace that the Premier League trophy was not presented to the Reds. Were they worried this would eclipse City’s FA Cup win

BY JOHN GUBBA

Welcome to the dawning of a new era with the City of Manchester now well and truly the centre of the footballing universe. And mark my words this is great news for United because there is nothing like a new challenge to keep you on your toes.

In case you needed a reminder the United are still the top dog, it was sweet irony that once again United eclipsed City on the day Roberto Mancini’s men claimed their first trophy in 35 years.

As City beat Stoke 1-0 at Wembley to win the FA Cup thanks to Yaya Toure’s late strike, United fans were already back in Manchester celebrating another Premier League triumph and a record-breaking 19th League title courtesy of their 1-1 draw at Blackburn secured by Wayne Rooney’s penalty.

Does anyone doubt Rooney's dedication to Man Utd now? After scoring the penalty that clinched the Reds' 19th Premier League title win, Wazza celebrated in bizarre fashion by shaving the number '19' into his chest and posting a photograph of it on Twitter.

Does anyone doubt Rooney’s dedication to Man Utd now? After scoring the penalty that clinched the Reds’ 19th Premier League title win, Wazza celebrated in bizarre fashion by shaving the number ’19’ into his chest and posting a photograph of it on Twitter.

But this was a day for Manchester to be United in celebration. Not just because the City can proudly boast the unique feat of winning two trophies on the same day. It is great for Manchester to be the undisputed Mecca of fooball. Even Milan can no longer match the glamour of England’s hotbed of football. And the odds are that the new intensity is here to stay.

I remember the end of the 60s when United and City last dominated football in this country. It was great for both clubs. And this time that great rivalry can last much longer than it did back in the days of Best, Law, Charlton and Lee, Bell, Summerbee.

With Liverpool getting their act together under the legendary Kenny Dalglish, what are the odds on the North-West giants occupying the top three positions in the Premier League next season and eclipsing the fading stars of Chelsea and Arsenal.

My bet is that Sir Alex Ferguson’s record-breakers will face a rejuvenated challenge from Liverpool next season as the Merseysiders seek to match United’s 19th League title. When Chelsea frivolously handed the Pool £50million for Fernando Torres Dalglish invested the money wisely and now has a good mix of established stars and exciting upcoming youngsters.

But the real fascination will be how much ground can neighbours City make up on Fergie’s champions after ending their 35 year wait for a trophy to add to their qualification for the Champions League.

There is no doubt City must spend another vast fortune if they want to rival the Reds at the top table. But that will be harder said than done despite their untold riches and their Champions League status.

The reason is the introduction of UEFA’s new Financial Fair Play rules.

Michel Platini has warned that the likes of big-spending Manchester City and Chelsea, and some of Europe’s biggest clubs, will have to ‘face the music’ if they do not comply with the new FFP regulations.

UEFA’s latest figures show that financial problems affecting European clubs are getting worse, with spending on player wages up almost 10 per cent – and increasing at a faster rate than income.

Under their new rules, clubs will face possible bans from European competition from the 2014/15 season if they spend more than they earn in the three years before.

Sir Alex Ferguson hugs Ryan Giggs as United celebrate record 19th title - both have won an unprecedented 12 Premier League trophies

Sir Alex Ferguson hugs Ryan Giggs as United celebrate record 19th title – both have won an unprecedented 12 Premier League trophies

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Can Liverpool strike back? Kenny Dalglish with Andy Carroll (left) and Luis Suarez

Can Liverpool strike back? Kenny Dalglish with Andy Carroll (left) and Luis Suarez

NOT ONLY HAS FERGIE "KNOCKED LIVERPOOL OFF THEIR BLOODY PERCH" – HE’S THE GREATEST FOOTBALL MANAGER EVER

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All salute Sir Alex Ferguson - the greatest football manager of all time

All salute Sir Alex Ferguson – the greatest football manager of all time

BY JOHN GUBBA

OK it’s never over until the Fat Lady sings and Manchester United still need one more point to confirm that record-breaking 19th title that will finally achieve Sir Alex Ferguson’s mission of “knocking Liverpool off their bloody perch.”

But the party has already started – and no one will stop The Red Devils now after a pulsating 2-1 win against Chelsea that will deservedly bring the Premier League trophy back to Old Trafford.

The really big question now  is can United crown arguably Fergie’s greatest ever season by beating Barcelona at Wembley to win the Champions League? With Ryan Giggs playing the best football of his career, Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez an unstoppable force, and the brilliant Edwin Van Der Saar playing behind  the best back four in Europe, United have the ammunition to end the season with the ultimate victory.

And that will make a mockery of the critics who keep telling us this is not a great United team. While other clubs have squandered millions, United’s miracle worker has quietly re-built yet another team capable of winning everything. And it’s the unerring longevity of the Glaswegian that makes him so special.

When Ferguson famously arrived at Old Trafford 25 years ago and said his aim was to emulate Liverpool as the most prolific club in England, this is what he was talking about. Remarkably, when United complete the Premier League formalities, this will be Fergie’s 12th title. United’s previous seven titles came between 1908 and 1967.

Not only has the greatest football manager of all time achieved yet another impossible dream. But once again he has made fools of the Southern-biased media who can’t wait to see him fail.

Seven months ago Chelsea looked odds-on to retain the Premier League title and the prophets of gloom were writing off Manchester United and their manager as a spent force. But then came Fergie’s masterful handing of the Wayne Rooney saga that – as I predicted at the time – re-ignited United’s latest trophy haul.

At a time when the stakes have never been higher and other football clubs have much bigger budgets than the Red half of Manchester, United have proved why they are the greatest football club on the planet. If United can add victory over Barca on May 28 no one will be able to deny that Fergie is simply the best.

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HISTORY BECKONS – VICTORY FOR MANCHESTER UNITED OVER CHELSEA MEANS RECORD TITLE NUMBER 19

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http://youtu.be/G2G_Hddh2OE

BY JOHN GUBBA

There is much more than the Premier League title at stake when Manchester United face down defending champions Chelsea in the mother of all showdowns at The Theatre of Dreams on Sunday.

When Sir Alex Ferguson famously arrived at Old Trafford 25 years ago and said he’d arrived to knock Liverpool off their perch this is what he was talking about. A record breaking 19th League title will see The Red Devils finally eclipse their Merseyside rivals.

The football world asked themselves who was this crazy Glaswegian who thought he could achieve what seemed an impossible feat when he made his proud boast all those years ago.

“How long did this guy think he was going to be in the job,” says former England boss Graham Taylor, a reaction that was pretty much the universal response from everyone in the game.

But here we are a quarter of century later and the last man standing who can stop Fergie achieving that impossible dream is Carlo Ancelotti manager of a resurgent Chelsea side who have clawed back a 15 point deficit to stand just three points behind the League leaders with three matches remaining.

Fergie must get past Ancelotti to claim United's record-breaking 19th title

Fergie must get past Ancelotti to claim United's record-breaking 19th title

Victory for the Blues will put them top on goal difference with two to play. But any other result will surely put United on the road to the prize that United fans want above all other.

It s going to be a classic content, the occasion guarantees that it will be something special. And how great will it be for Fergie to effectively secure the record 19th title with victory over Ancelotti in front of a full house at Old Trafford – not to mention 600 million homes around the globe.

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BARCA ARE THE TOP DOG – BUT THEY’RE NOT UNBEATABLE

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Barca heading for Wembley - but how good is this team?

Barca heading for Wembley - but how good is this team?

BY JOHN GUBBA

Barcelona deservedly made it to the final of the Champions League by seeing off Real Madrid – but let’s be honest Pep Guardiola’s team are certainly not unbeatable.

Barring a disaster in their semi-final second leg against Schalke, it’s going to be a repeat of the 2009 Final. And Manchester United are the one team with the strength of character to conquer the Catalans if they get their tactics right.

Two years ago in Rome, United were outclassed largely due to the fact Cristiano Ronaldo went missing and the Reds were effectively playing with 10 men.

But let’s wait and see what happens at Old Trafford against Schalke – a match that will be influenced by Sunday’s all important Premier League showdown with Chelsea because key players will be rested against the Germans in advance of the weekend crunch contest United can not afford to lose.

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MOURINHO WINNING MIND-GAMES: BUT WILL LIONEL MESSI OR CRISTIANO RONALDO BE TOP DOG AT THE BERNABEU?

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BY JOHN GUBBA

Guardiola v Mourinho

Tonight’s first installment of the Champions League semi-final between Real Madrid and Barcelona is going to be fascinating. And if it’s half as fierce as the pre-match mind-games it’s going to be another El Classico.

In one corner we have Madrid boss Jose Mourinho insisting: “I am not asking the referee to help my team. If the referee is good everyone will be happy – except Guardiola. He wants them to get it wrong.This is something I have never seen in the world of football.”

While the Barca boss hit back with an uncharacteristic foul-mouthed tirade declaring: “In the press room he is the [expletive] chief. He is the [expletive] man. I try not to play the game off the pitch.” Added Pep Guardiola: “He’s much better than me at it. I represent an institution that believes this is not the best way to do things.”

On the pitch it’s Lionel Messi v Cristiano Ronaldo. Can’t wait for the kick-off at the Bernabeu.

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