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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.

Andre Villas-Boas must drop skipper John Terry if he wants to prove he is strong enough to manage Chelsea

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BY JOHN GUBBA

Ridiculous as it may sound Andre Villas-Boas’s Stamford Bridge honeymoon is already over – and the rookie Chelsea manager could be out of a job before the New Year.

While Roberto Mancini has spectacularly come of age as a Premiership manager by turning Manchester City into a genuine force to challenge Europe’s best, the problem facing AVB is that his boss Roman Abramovich has no patience. The Russian billionaire will be counting the disastrous cost of failure if Chelsea fail to qualify for the Champions League and that will now be a worry after two successive home defeats to rivals Arsenal and Liverpool.

With skipper John Terry – embarrassed by Arsenal when the Gunners trounced the Blues 5-3 last month – again the fall guy as Liverpool won 2-1 at the Bridge, Villas Boas must decide whether or not to stand by his captain.And that hot potato is a dilemma that could define his future in West London.

The Portuguese manager is only 34 years old and has only been sitting in the Stamford Bridge hot seat for 18 matches. But his appointment is only ever going to work if Abramovich makes it clear he is giving him the time he needs to re-build the Blues. And there is less chance of that happening than Carlos Tevez winning a Mr Manchester popularity contest. Especially with Abromich already making it know he would love to reappoint Guus Hiddink

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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CLASSIC GOALS from Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City, Liverpool, Tottenham

Fireworks from Mario Balotelli as City prove too hot to handle – but how will Reds respond to worst ever Premier League defeat?

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gi9aew3Xw3w

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Click to buy DVD

BY JOHN GUBBA

When Mario Balotelli accidentally set his house on fire by letting off a firework in the early hours of Saturday morning the damage was minimal. But 24 hours later the unpredictable Italian striker created the kind of havoc that will earn him cult status among Manchester City fans.

Two opening goals from Balotelli sent City on their way to a crushing 6-1 defeat of Manchester United at Old Trafford that will send shock waves not just around the Premier League, but the whole of Europe. His cheeky gesture after scoring his first was to reveal a t-shirt bearing the slogan “Why Always Me?” that will only add fuel to the adulation that Balotelli cherishes.

Whatever the impact of a red card for Jonny Evans when United trailed 1-nil early in the second half, there was no avoiding the fact that City were the worthy winners on the day. And Roberto Mancini’s men have made a powerful statement about their ability to challenge United’s supremacy and win their first Premier League title. But let’s not carried away by one bad day for United.

Great Goals on DVD

Great Goals on DVD

The team that crushed Arsenal 8-2 only a few weeks ago when they also demolished Spurs and Chelsea have not suddenly become a bad team overnight. Neither have City – outclassed by Bayern Munich in the Champions League a short while aho – suddenly become world beaters.

It is results like these that makes football the most exciting game in the world,  and the Premier League the most watched competition on the planet.

The big question now is ‘How will United respond to this challenge for their title as Champions of England?’ Only at the end of the season will we have our answer.

But Sir Alex Ferguson – who conceded his side played “suicidal football” as they chased to get back into the game has already promised “there will be a response to that”.

Meanwhile, City boss Roberto Mancini, who admitted “the sending off changed everything” insisted: “We have to continue to improve – we have only played nine games. There is a long way to go”

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CLASSIC GOALS from Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City, Liverpool, Tottenham

Champions League success for Manchester giants United and City is only the starter before the main course at Old Trafford

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BY JOHN GUBBA

The biggest compliment you can pay Manchester City is that they are picking up good habits from their more famous rivals over at United – and Sergio Aguero’s stoppage time winner in the Champions League against Villareal is one of the most precious goals he will score all season.

Instead of settling for the paltry return of two points from their opening three Group matches, City crucially ended the night on four points and with qualification to the knockout stages back in their grasp courtesy of their dramatic 2-1 win. Neither Manchester club was at their best, as United needed second half penalties from Wayne Rooney to see off Otelul Galati in Romania and claim an equally precious 2-0 triumph that puts the Reds in second place behind Benfica in Group C.

But this was only the starter in a week where the main course is reserved for Sunday lunchtime at Old Trafford.

For both clubs there is the feeling that tonight was the lull before the storm as the countdown begins to the most intriguing Manchester derby in years. With City holding a two point advantage, the battle between the Premier League’s top two is the most eagerly awaited match of the season so far at a time when the Mancunian rivalry grows more intense with every meeting.

Whatever the outcome, it will tell us a lot about how the season is destined to unfold – and whether or not City have made any progress since being brushed aside 3-2 by United in the pre-season Community Shield at Wembley.

http://youtu.be/XNbHiYRzG2Q

where will Carlos Tevez will be on Sunday lunchtime?

What a difference a season makes - where will Carlos Tevez will be on Sunday lunchtime?

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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.

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

KEANO BELIEVES REDS HAVE STRONGER SQUAD THAN BARCA

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BY JOHN GUBBA

Roy Keane
Roy Keane

Roy Keane, who famously missed Manchester United’s 1999 Champions League Final triumph, is backing his old club to upset Barcelona at Wembley.

United’s legendary former skipper says Sir Alex Ferguson’s men are definitely good enough to beat Barcelona in the final on May 28 to become Champions of Europe for the fourth time.

Says Keano: “At Wembley, the United fans will take over the stadium. In a one-off game, with fans behind them, of course they can do it.

“They will have to do really well to beat this Barcelona team and my concern would be not picking up injuries. The Barcelona starting XI is brilliant, outstanding, but their squad is probably not as strong as United’s.”

Suspension ruled Keano out of the historic 1999 triumph over Bayern Munich. But it was his remarkable performance in the 3-2 semi-final win at Juventus  that got United to the Final.

He scored from a header to start United’s comeback in Turin and drove the team forwards at every opportunity in what many believe was his finest hour as a footballer. Sadly, earlier in the match, Keane had received a yellow card for a trip on  Zinedine Zidane that ruled him out of the final.

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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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