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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

Book Wars: David Beckham response to best-seller from Sir Alex Ferguson is stylish interactive Facebook game-changer

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Screen shot 2013-10-30 at 15.14.39

When is comes to style management and glitzy marketing there is no sportsman on the planet who can Bend it Like Beckham. And this afternoon in London Becksmania went interactive with a ground-breaking book launch.

The latest promotional masterplan by Team Beckham was the promise to bend time so the former England, Manchester United, Real Madrid, LA Galaxy and AC Milan superstar could simultaneously sign copies for ticketed fans in London, New York, São Paulo, and Hyderabad, India.

by John GubbaAs his former mentor Sir Alex Ferguson, a 71 year-old dinosaur in the new world of social media, acknowledged when he paid tribute to Becks in his own autobiography last week, the kid from East London is a “global icon.”

Fitting then that David Beckham could respond this afternoon to a worldwide audience with his own spectacular book launch streamed live on Facebook. An event that in his own words was designed to engage fans around the world “reinventing the traditional format of the book signing” through the use of “groundbreaking technology”.

Hosted by Facebook at a Digital Studio in London the star of the show talked openly about his career to TV personality Jake Humphrey, who guided him through the event and managed a global Q and A session with fans all promised digital signed copies of his book.

Resisting the opportunity to respond negatively to some of the comments made by Ferguson in his book, Beckham talked affectionately about Sir Alex and recalled the way he helped him become one of the world’s most famous sporting heroes.

Remembering the early days when his Class of 92 – including Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and the Neville brothers Gary and Phil – won the Youth Cup for Manchester United, Beckham spoke warmly about Ferguson with a series of tributes.

Becks brand new book

Beckham’s brand new book

:- “We all looked at him like he was a father figure – and I needed that at the time.”

:- “He’s a man who gave me the chance to play for a club that I always wanted to play for.

“- “I’m not going to sit here and be negative about a man who gave me the chance to play for my boyhood heroes”

:- “He believed in me.”

Pressed by Humphrey to say something controversial. the closest Becks came to criticising Fergie came when he jokingly said:

“Funny thing was I’m involved in the MLS and bringing my own franchise into the league and he was one of the first numbers I was going to ring to ask to be manager. But I’m not sure now he will accept.”

The reality is that Beckham has too much class, respect and dignity to put down the manager who set him on the road to stardom and helped him through the most difficult moment of his career when he was vilified for getting sent off  in the 1998 World Cup during England’s infamous quarter-final defeat by Argentina.

Ferguson was one of the first people to speak to Beckham after his red card for his ill-fated flick at Diego Simeone. “He told me to come back to Manchester and promised ‘You’ll be fine son’.” It was the fatherly support Beckham needed at the time. Fifteen years later it would be an understatement to say this footballing icon has done better than fine.

Beckham is the ultimate sporting role model and it was no less than I expected of him when he later repeated that he will not enter a war of words with Ferguson. Making it crystal clear to the negative forces in the media who thrive on confrontation, Becks assured  the BBC’s Dan Walker: “I’ve got so much respect for Sir Alex Ferguson. I wish him good luck with his book. My book is totally different. Anything he has written in his book will never affect how I feel about him as a manager.”

There’s only one David Beckham. How can you not love the guy!

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on target for Man Utd

on target for boyhood heroes Manchester United

 

Becks retirement: Iconic football legend David Beckham deserves his special place in history of the beautiful game
- 16 May 2013

 

 

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

Arsene Wenger last man standing in the insane managerial merry-go-round of the English Premier League

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BY JOHN GUBBA

When Manchester United’s legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson shocked planet football with the sudden announcement of his retirement it was the end of the world as we know it for a generation of fans. But the subsequent departures of Roberto Mancini at rivals City and yesterday’s  dismissal of Stoke City’s Tony Pulis has completed an unbelievable change in the Premier League landscape over the past season.

A total of 10 managers have left their job since the start of the 2012/2013 season . . . and long-serving Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger is the only manager left who has been in the hot seat at a Premier League club more than three years.

It is just one of  a staggering set of statistics that highlight how insane the world of football management has become in England.

Guessing who will be in charge at Premiership clubs at the start of next season has become one of the biggest talking points in the game – a dream scenario for the bookmakers. www.freebets.org.uk

Since Wenger last won a trophy in May 2005, every one of the other 91 Premier League and Football League clubs has changed their manager at least once. In fact, since Wenger took charge at Highbury back in the pre-Emrirates days of October 1996, those same 91 clubs have had a total of 838 different managers, according to figures in today’s Daily Mail.

The professor earned the respect of United fans and players when he saw red at Old Trafford

Arsene Wenger – the Premier League’s last man standing has been in the Arsenal hotseat since October 1996 

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.

Cristiano Ronaldo guaranteed hero’s welcome on return to Old Trafford but Manchester United fans know he must be stopped

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

 

BY JOHN GUBBA

Lionel Messi has been voted FIFA’s world player of the year for the past four season. But there is no doubt in my mind that Cristiano Ronaldo is even more valuable to Real Madrid than the little Argentinian is to Barcelona. How Manchester United deal with their former idol will determine the outcome of Tuesday night’s Champions League decider at Old Trafford.

On the evidence of the first match in the Bernabeu, there is one man who stands head and shoulders above the rest of his team. And that tells you how good he is, because Real Madrid are one of the strongest sides on the planet.

The truth is that Ronaldo is an even better player now than he was when he left Manchester shortly after being recognised as the best player in the world when he received his one and only Ballon d’Or to date.

It is baffling that the Madrid fans have not always shown Portugal’s finest the love and respect he deserves, despite averaging more than a goal-a-game since he signed in 2009 for £80m. United fans would take him back in an instant and he is still adored in Manchester which makes his return to Old Trafford the most eagerly awaited football match at the Theatre of Dreams for many years.

Robin van Persie is the new talisman in Sir Alex Ferguson’s current squad and at times this season the inspirational summer signing from Arsenal has been out of this world. Many have billed this tie as a head-to-head between CR7 and RvP. There is every chance the Dutchman will deliver the magic that ends Jose Mourinho’s dream of making Madrid champions of Europe at Wembley in May. But there is a big difference in my mind between the pivotal roles of these opposing superstars.

Ronaldo is the one player in Madrid’s star studded team who could genuinely rip United to pieces almost single-handedly. He is that good and that important to the Spanish hopes of success in the biggest club competition in world football. Stop Ronaldo and United will fancy their chances of reaching the quarter-finals. That is why Mourinho left him out of the first half of  today’s La Liga clash with Barcelona.But Real still conquered Barca and Messi for the second time in five days. That tells you all you need to know about the challenge facing United.

Van Persie on the other hand is brilliant and has stepped up another level since he arrived in Manchester in the summer. But the strength of this United side is far greater than one man and it is the unity and dynamics of the team that makes Fergie’s side special. Wayne Rooney still has the ability to terrorise opposition. Michael Carrick is playing the best football of his career. Rafael is getting better with every game. While anyone who writes off Ryan Giggs had better beware. Giggsy is destined to make his 1,000 career appearance against Madrid.And wouldn’t it be just priceless if the Welsh wizard stole the limelight.

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‘World would be a boring place without Paddy Crerand’ – don’t miss this remarkable feature-length tribute to unique football legend

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BY JOHN GUBBA

There is no one in football quite like Paddy Crerand – and this weekend Manchester United fans around the world will enjoy a fascinating and revealing insight into the life of one of the club’s most colourful personalities when my long-awaited documentary ‘Paddy 50 Years’ premieres on MUTV.

Signed by Matt Busby for £56,000 on 6 February 1963, the kid from the Gorbals was the Paul Scholes of his generation and enjoyed a pivotal role in a hugely successful side that became the first English winners of the European Cup.

Now one of the club’s most fanatical supporters, Paddy has re-invented himself as an outspoken football pundit and has his own show on the club’s TV Channel. His recent radio rant that followed the Manchester derby – when contributors to BBC 5Live Breakfast blamed Rio Ferdinand for inciting the crowd and being hit by a coin – trended worldwide on twitter.

It was an insanely funny piece of radio that re-inforced his cult status with United’s current stars and skipper Patrice Evra says: “The players all love Paddy.” Not that this was the first time that he has vented his fury on radio in his uniquely passionate style to defend a Red Devil. Guess who was dominating the airwaves in support of Eric Cantona after his infamous kung-fu attack on abusive Crystal Palace fan Matthews Simmons back in 1995?

This Glasgow-born Celt of Irish descent is a fascinating character adored by his fans, friends and family alike because he is a man of the people who speaks his mind and is fervently loyal. Sent off six times, he insists he never started a fight but always finished it. And yet, behind that tough-tackling, tough-talking exterior, is a man with a heart of gold.

There are many fascinating chapters in the life of the 73-year-old who briefly dabbled in coaching and management after hanging up his boots. While his passion for politics famously saw him act as a peacemaker between the IRA and his old friend John Hume back in the seventies. Then there was his spell as a pub landlord when the likes of Bryan Robson, Paul McGrath, Alan Brazil, Norman Whiteside and Kevin Moran were his regulars.

“The world would be a boring place without Paddy Crerand,” declares Brian Kidd, who used to clean the Scottish international’s boots when he started out as an apprentice at Old Trafford. Kiddo, of course, is now Roberto Mancini’s assistant at rivals Manchester City. But he remains a close friend and is one of the stars of our feature-length documentary tribute to the United legend.

Paddy Crerand looks back on the past 50 years
Paddy Crerand looks back on the past 50 years in an emotional documentary tribute

It is a film laced with tragedy as well as triumph and I expect a few tears will be shed when viewers share Paddy’s emotional trip down memory lane that begins with the Second World War when his father was killed by a German bomb.

When Paddy finally signed for United from his boyhood heroes Celtic, it was the start of a golden era that saw Matt Busby’s men win the FA Cup, two league Championships and the 1968 European Cup in a remarkable five year spell. “I’d only been at United three months when we beat Leicester City 3-1 in the Cup Final at Wembley,” says our hero, who lined up against Frank McLintock, a player he’d previously faced in schools football back in their Gorbals days.

It was a decade when George Best, Denis Law and Bobby Charlton became the iconic names at Manchester United. All three were European footballers of the Year. But Paddy was the outstanding half-back who made Busby’s team tick.

Nobby Stiles, who reverted to a more defensive role when Crerand arrived, says: “For me Paddy signing was the best thing that ever happened because it meant I moved back alongside Bill Foulkes, which was my best position.”

In the documentary, Sir Alex Ferguson and his brother Martin both talk about their memories of Paddy in the early days. Martin worked with Paddy in the shipyard before he signed for Celtic, and talks about how they used to play football at lunchtime in steel toe-capped boots. Sir Alex recalls Paddy playing junior football for Duntocher Hibs and likes to remind everyone that Celtic were beaten 4-nil by Rangers in Paddy’s final game north of the border.

The biggest accolade comes from Denis Law who told me: “Paddy  was one of the best midfield players Scotland ever had.” Now that is some tribute from my good friend the Lawman who many of us regard as the greatest Scottish player of them all.

To fully appreciate what I am talking about you will have to watch the documentary and I am proud to say that my script has been brought to life by the narration of Bernard Hill, the Hollywood actor who starred in Lord of the Rings and Titanic.

Paddy 50 Years’ premieres exclusively this weekend on MUTV.

Watch primetime at 9pm on Sunday, February 3, or catch one of the repeat showings. You can sign up for MUTV at manutd.com/joinmutv or call 08708 486888. ‘Paddy 50 Years’ is produced, directed & scripted by John Gubba.

Whether or not it was cynical ploy to discredit Mark Clattenburg, why Chelsea will almost certainly find themselves in the dock

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BY JOHN GUBBA

When it comes to tackling racism, Chelsea Football Club have a lot to learn – but that is not the reason there is a feeling within the game that the Premier League leaders have overstepped the mark in the Mark Clattenburg saga.

By destroying the reputation of one of the most experienced officials in the game with accusations that appear to be backed up by little evidence – and more than a suggestion of sour grapes after losing at home to Manchester United – the West London club have not only once again trashed football’s image, but their actions will have consequences.

ArseneWenger: Chelsea wrong to make Mark Clattenburg allegations public

Arsene Wenger: Chelsea wrong to make Mark Clattenburg allegations public

Arsene Wenger was first to question the way Chelsea publicly accused the referee of racially abusing John Obi Mikel during Sunday’s 3-2 defeat by declaring the accusations should have been dealt with privately. And Sir Alex Ferguson has weighed in by stating he is “convinced” the official is innocent

United’s boss insisted: “I don’t believe Mark Clattenburg would make any comments like that. I refuse to believe it. I think it is unthinkable in the modern climate. I just don’t believe it – simple as that. There is no way a referee would stoop to that, I am convinced of that.”

It has also emerged that Mikel and the Blues’ manager Roberto di Matteo allegedly breached protocol by storming into the referee’s room immediately after the match in which Clattenburg sent off two Chelsea players. Under FA rules, there has to be a 30-minute “cooling down” period after a game. There can be little doubt their hasty reaction was fuelled by a sense of injustice.

A cynic would suggest the West London club have deliberately sidelined the referee, who has been stood down from officiating this weekend, because of their displeasure at the decisions he made in the dramatic contest that saw United inflict the home side’s first Premier League defeat of the season.

With all the other match officials who were able to hear the mic’d up ref  dismissing Chelsea’s claims, it is hard to see where any evidence will come from that will condemn Clattenburg. In the meantime, the 37-year-old’s reputation has arguably been damaged beyond repair and, as any lawyer will tell you, Chelsea’s failure to prove their allegations will surely dictate that the official must sue for libel.

Meanwhile, Chelsea are already in the dock after one of their own supporters was pictured appearing to make a monkey gesture at Manchester United striker Danny Welbeck during the midweek League Cup game. And the club is still defending themselves over their handling of the John Terry affair, refusing to strip their captain of the armband after he received a four match ban for racially abusing Anton Ferdinand.

As for Blues boss Di Matteo, his response to the criticism from Wenger and Ferguson has been to declare: ‘It’s a free country where everybody has the freedom of speech. We’ll take into consideration what other people say and use it as a motivational tool for ourselves.’ What he may fail to realise is that many of their opponents will be driven by a desire to punish them for their selfish actions.

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He deserved to be replaced by Robin van Persie – but don’t make the mistake of writing off Wayne Rooney

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Rooney's decade in Premier League began with stunning debut against Arsenal as 16-year-old

Rooney's decade in Premier League began with stunning debut against Arsenal at the age of 16

BY JOHN GUBBA

It is a cruel blow for his publishers that Wayne Rooney’s new book is coming out while he is sidelined by injury and Manchester United’s summer signing Robin van Persie. But do not make the mistake of writing off Wazza.

In all honesty being dropped to the bench against Fulham last weekend was probably the wake-up call Rooney needed after some mediocre appearances both for England and Manchester United of late.

Complacency has always been a recipe for disaster in football and Sir Alex Ferguson is the master at keeping his players hungry and motivated in his relentless quest for honours.

Few managers have the confidence to leave out a star like Rooney. But that is exactly what was required because United’s talisman for the past decade has not been hitting the heights we all know he can.

What no one could have predicted was the freak injury inflicted by the collision with Hugo Rodallega that left Rooney with a horrendous gash needing surgery to stitch his leg back together. Assuming no lasting damage is done, however, I expect the battle to regain fitness and re-claim his place in the side could be just the challenge Rooney needs to get back to his best.

Questions have been asked about whether or not Rooney can fit into the same team as RVP and new playmaker Shinji Kagawa. But I have no doubts on that front and predict this trio will be terrorising the Premier League long before the end of the season.

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

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BY JOHN GUBBA

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

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

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

MUTV documentary will pay tribute to Nani-mania

MUTV documentary will pay tribute to Nani-mania

BETTER THAN RONALDO

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

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