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Eric Cantona look forward to his return

Eric Cantona look forward to his return


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


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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


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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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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Van der Vaart scored twice and Tom Huddlestone equalised with a scorcher as Spurs fought back from 1-3 to draw 3-3

A scorcher from Tom Huddlestone and Van der Vaart with his second saw Spurs fight back from 1-3 to draw 3-3


FOOTBALL FANS and the media are so fickle it is hard to take them seriously when they instantly call for the manager’s head whenever things don’t go according to plan. And this time it is Arsene Wenger who is the target for the baying mob.

When Arsenal allowed two points to slip away for the second time in four days and let North London rivals Tottenham fight back from two goals down to earn a 3-3 draw, it was inevitable that radio phone-ins would be swamped with disgruntled Gunners fans calling time on the greatest manager in their history.

A few days ago the media was telling us that Carlo Ancelotti is a dead man walking at Stamford Bridge following the Blues Champions League exit at the hands of title rivals Manchester United.

But with five matches remaining, the race for the Premier League is still very much alive – despite United holding a six point advantage over their two London rivals. Wenger and Ancelotti still have the chance to finish up with a piece of silverware if United slip up – and that makes it even more ridiculous that the media and the fans are already writing off the London bosses.

It remains odds on that the title will go to Old Trafford. And yet there is still everything to play for because there is mounting pressure on Sir Alex Ferguson’s men who have yet to face both Arsenal and Chelsea either side of their decisive Champions League semi-final second leg against Schalke.

Certainly there is no margin for error when United face Everton at home on Saturday lunchtime, ahead of Chelsea’s game against West Ham and Arsenal’s Monday night trip to Bolton.

Thirty years ago Ipswich Town were on for the Treble and had to settle for the UEFA Cup

Thirty years ago Ipswich Town were on for the Treble and had to settle for the UEFA Cup

Thirty years ago Ipswich Town were heading for a Treble when Sir Bobby Robson’s men were derailed in the FA Cup by Manchester City. On that occasion Aston Villa came strong on the rails to take the Championship – and Robson’s team had to settle for the UEFA Cup.

Fergie knows he still has a big job on his hands to go one better than his old friend. And it is no surprise Manchester United’s manager is still fuming over the referee’s failure to award a pivotal penalty at the end of Tuesday night’s goal-less draw at Newcastle.

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Why Jose Mourinho will wait for Sir Alex Ferguson to retire before he returns to the Premier League

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Mourinho wants to be Manchester United boss

Mourinho wants to be Manchester United boss


Jose Mourinho’s declaration that he will return to manage in the Premier League one day guarantees the self-appointed “special one” will be linked with every top job until he is “back home”.

The big question is ‘Where will Mourinho end up?’ The truth is you can make a compelling case for the current Real Madrid boss to take the helm at any of the EPL’s Big Six.  But my belief is that the Portuguese maestro will wait for the top job, and the chance to succeed his good friend Sir Alex Ferguson – for the next couple of years at least.

There is no guarantee Mourinho will even get the job. There is a question mark over whether or not he can deliver the swashbuckling football United fans and their history demand. There is no sign of Sir Alex being ready to step aside as he closes in on the possibility of his greatest ever season in his 70th year.

Yet there is an aura and intoxicating self-belief about Mourinho that makes him absolutely perfect for United. And the very doubt about whether or not he could deliver at the world’s biggest and most famous club is precisely why the man at Madrid has his eyes on Old Trafford.

I’m not convinced Mourinho will get the chance to prove himself  any time soon. Fergie has the hunger and desire to go on indefinitely. And how can anyone follow the most successful football manager in the history of the game? But I can’t think of anyone better equipped to take on the hardest job in football.

When Roman Abramovich forced Mourinho out of Chelsea, he made one of the biggest mistakes of his life. And despite his affection for his time at Stamford Bridge, the devil in Mourinho would give him immense satisfaction to come back to the Premier League and rub the Russian’s nose in the billionaire’s miserable failure to understand that some things money just can’t buy.

With Carlo Ancelotti joining the long list of Chelsea managers failing to win the Champions League, the Italian is vulnerable despite winning the Double last year, because this season will end trophy-less.  As I predicted on transfer deadline day – if Chelsea fail to finish in the top four – Ancelotti will pay the price for the crazy 50 million pound signing of Fernando Torres. He may already be a dead man walking.

Either way do not expect Mourinho to rush back to Chelsea. He has already strongly rejected suggestions he will replace Roberto Mancini at Eastlands, whether or not Manchester City fail to end their 35 year wait for a trophy and miss out on a Champions League place.

Tottenham will undoubtedly make another move for Mourinho – who has previously turned them down on at least one occasion – when Harry Redknapp becomes the next England manager.

He will also be top of the list at Liverpooland Arsenal, should Kenny Dalglish step down or Arsene Wenger finally run out of time.  Arsenal’s last trophy was the 2005 FA Cup and Liverpool have never won the Premier League.

Unless Fergie delivers another Treble next month and decides to bow out in style – and even then I think he will want to carry on – I expect Mourinho to bide his time and remain in Madrid for another season at least.

In the meantime, what are the odds now on my prophecy coming true and Fergie having to conquer Mourinho’s Madrid at Wembley to win the Champions League?

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FABIO CAPELLO may have been a successful club manager in Italy – but the England job is just too big for him. And the latest embarrassing saga of whether or not John Terry will replace the injured Rio Ferdinand as skipper is the last straw.

Capello's latest error of judgment has embrassed Rio Ferdinand

Capello’s latest error of judgment has embrassed Rio Ferdinand

The way Capello – who got it so hopelessly wrong at last summer’s World Cup in South Africa – has been manipulated by the media proves it is time for him to make way for Harry Redknapp, the outstanding English manager of his generation.

Even thinking about handing the captain’s armband back to John Terry on a permanent basis is a disgrace. But to chew the matter over with the press and appear to write off Ferdinand before he has discussed it with the player is shameful.

The England captaincy has become a big issue for Capello following February’s friendly against Denmark when Frank Lampard, Gareth Barry and Ashley Cole all wore the armband at different stages of the match because Ferdinand and Steven Gerrard were both out injured.

“I was really upset about what happened in Denmark, when I saw the players saying ‘who is the captain?’,” said Capello. “After one year of punishment, it was not the best moment for John Terry to see this. For that reason, I need to make a decision – and it will be a permanent decision, not just one game.”

Terry was stripped of the captaincy in February 2010 after reports surfaced that he had an affair with the former partner of England team-mate Wayne Bridge. Ferdinand, 32, was made captain. But has since made only four appearances for England and will miss the upcoming game against Wales because of problems with his back and calf.

Capello wants Terry back - how Daily Mail broke the story

Capello wants Terry back – how Daily Mail broke the story

Now it seems Capello has been persuaded to re-think his stance by “certain London-based media” close to the Chelsea skipper. England’s bungling boss revealed his thinking over an espresso in an Italian restaurant in Knightsbridge on Monday. His camp now insist no decision has been made but admit Terry is being considered.

He may be an experienced player. But Terry is past his best and has lost respect within the England team for a series of errors of judgement. World Cup skipper Steven Gerrard was undermined by Terry’s arrogant and ill-advised attempt to hold a players’ meeting to discuss their failings in South Africa.

Now Ferdinand has every right to be upset over the way Capello has managed the situation by floating his idea of re-instating Terry in public. It is not the first time the Italian has embarrassed one of his stars in this way. Last August he told the media David Beckham was finished as an England international and admitted in the same interview he had not even discussed it with the player.

Now it is time for the Football Association to tell Capello that he is finished. And the sooner the better.

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WHISPER it quietly around the Southern-biased media, but Manchester United are edging closer to a repeat of their famous Treble of 1999.

While certain sections of the media continue with their mindless obsession of looking for ways to criticise Sir Alex Ferguson, United’s relentless boss just keeps on driving his club forward in the quest for honours.

1999 re-visited: anti-Manchester United media will not stop Fergie's insatiable quest for silverware

1999 re-visited: anti-Manchester United media will not stop Fergie’s insatiable quest for silverware

The Reds will take some stopping now in the FA Cup after condemning Arsenal to their third Cup exit in 13 days. Even the prospect of a pivotal trip to the Emirates in the race for the Premier League is no major concern for the men from Old Trafford.

A bigger test for Fergie is how to avoid a lengthy touchline ban following his remarks about referee Martin Atkinson after last week’s controversial defeat by defending champions Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

There is no doubt the FA are under pressure from an anti-Manchester United media to dish out a severe punishment for the alleged improper conduct. But United’s boss will rightly fight his corner because he has “not said anything out of place.”

Arsene Wenger – also in the dock after his attack on the referee who disgracefully sent off Robin Van Persie in Barcelona – will never be subjected to the kind of venom directed at Sir Alex.

But Wenger’s underachievers are consistently put on a pedestal by the infatuated Southern media who seem to think the Gunners are the Premier League’s Barcelona.

Unlike Barca, Ars-elona have not won a trophy for six years. And United know they have the beating of their only realistic challenge for the title.

The most difficult leg of the Treble will of course be the Champions League where United are in good shape to overpower Marseille on Tuesday night after a goal-less first leg in France.

Barcelona – currently on a different level from every other team on the planet – are staking their claim to be hailed as the greatest football team in the history of the game.

Real Madrid also look formidable Spanish opposition in a twin threat from La Liga that the bookies are expecting to trump the best of British.

But as we all know, any team is beatable in football. And there is still time for United to find the form to match their latest merciless march towards silverware.

The odds are United are destined to fall short of repeating their remarkable feat of 1999. Manchester rivals City fancy their chances of halting the red machine in the FA Cup.

And yet there is something about Fergie and his insatiable desire to win everything that keeps United fans believing nothing is impossible.

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ROBBIE SAVAGE is the star of BBC Radio Five Live’s Football Phone-In – and tonight’s banter with special guest Ryan Giggs was priceless.

Robbie Savage: “Ryan Giggs is the best ever Premier League player. And in the Top 10 the world has ever seen.”

The repisote from Giggs when Savage described Man Utd’s 1992 youth team as the best ever:

“Yeah we played in the best ever Youth team – and then there was you!.

Giggs is a genious and a comedian.

Twenty-four hours earlier it was entertainment of the highest order when another Manchester United legend Paddy Crerand made a passionate defence of Sir Alex Ferguson over the FA charge of improper conduct for criticising referee Martin Atkinson.

The Old Trafford boss is in the dock after saying he “feared the worst” when Atkinson was appointed for the Chelsea match which United controversially lost 2-1.

“You want a fair referee, or a strong referee anyway – and we didn’t get that,” said Fergie.

As MUTV’s brilliant presenter and pundit succinctly told the listeners. “What happened to free speech. Everyone who watched that match knows the referee had a shocker. It’s not good enough in a big match like that with so much at stake.”

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WHEN IT COMES to picking a role model there has never been any footballer greater than Ryan Giggs – and it is hard to imagine any athlete in the history of sport with more longevity at the top level than the Manchester United legend.

As Sir Alex Ferguson says: “You run out of words to describe Ryan Giggs. He is a marvellous player and a wonderful man. To have the desire and the ability to play at the top level in such a physically demanding position at his age requires a special person. He is still turning in man of the match performances and his experience is so vital for the younger players in the squad.”

Giggs, on course for yet another remarkable milestone, has signed a one year extension to his contract, in a deal that will see him complete his 21st season as a first team player.

And what is so great about the Welsh wizard is that he still has much to contribute to the team. As the great man himself acknowledges: “It is great to know I’m contributing to the team’s success. I feel I’ve still got a lot to offer.

“All I’ve ever wanted to do is play for United and I’ve been lucky enough to do that for 20 years. This is an exciting time to be involved with so many good young players coming through.”

Giggs has made more than 850 appearances for the club and recently played his 600th Premier League game.

Ryan Giggs in action in the mid 90s - he made his debut in March 1991. Photo: Copyright visionsport.TV

Ryan Giggs in action in the mid 90s - he made his debut in March 1991. Photo: Copyright visionsport.TV

He signed professional forms with United in 1990, making his debut in March 1991. In that time he has made a club record 862 appearances, scoring 158 goals. He has won 11 Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, two Champions Leagues, one Super Cup, an Intercontinental Cup and a Club World Cup.  Published by visionsport.TV

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RAGING PITBULL Gennaro Gattuso lost the plot and brought shame on AC Milan when he twice attacked Spurs assistant Joe Jordan in a shocking Champions League confrontation – but questions must be asked about the performance of the match officials.

Full-time flashpoint: Gennaro Gattuso headbutts Joe Jordan on Champions League night of shame at the San Siro. It ended AC Milan 0-1 Spurs

Full-time flashpoint: Gennaro Gattuso headbutts Joe Jordan on Champions League night of shame at the San Siro. It ended AC Milan 0-1 Spurs

What on earth were referee Stéphane Lannoy and his assistants doing when Gattuso was roaming around the pitch in such a crazed manner throughout the  San Siro first leg tie deservedly won 1-0 by impressive Tottenham.

It was bad enough when Mathieu Flamini escaped a red card for an x-rated two-footed flying lunge that poleaxed Vedran Corluka. Seconds after the Croatian was stretchered off, Gattuso went over to the Spurs bench and grabbed Jordan by the throat in one of the craziest incidents ever seen in a Champions League match.

Moments later the Italian finally saw yellow for a foul on Steven Pienaar. And it was hard not to laugh when the snarling midfielder exploded in a demented rage, rolling around and punching the ground in a manner that only an Italian could do justice to when he realised his card rules him out of the second leg.

The joke was ‘how did Gattuso, who was also guilty of constantly niggling away at match-winner Peter Crouch, manage to stay on the pitch until the final whistle?’

The farcical proceedings were crowned by the most shocking confrontation of the evening when the match ended after Zlatan Ibrahimovic had an injury-time overhead kick disallowed for a push on Michael Dawson.

The full-time whistle was the signal for Gattuso to finally lose all control. The Milan skipper was clearly caught by the cameras head-butting Jordan. The 59-year-old former Manchester United and AC Milan striker did not even flinch. But that does not mean the punishment should be any less.

UEFA must step in and dish out at least a three-match ban for Gattuso while referee Lannoy should be carpeted for failing to protect the visitors and letting so much go unpunished.

Former Liverpool hardman Graeme Souness said what most of us were thinking when he dismissed Gattuso’s disgraceful antics by declaring: “He’s a little dog at best and he’s well past his best.

“I just wish he would have 10 minutes, it wouldn’t even take 10 minutes, 5 minutes with Joe Jordan in a room on his own.”

But let this not overshadow another brilliant European display by Tottenham who throughly deserved their beautifully executed winner, served up  by the free-running Aaron Lennon and slotted home by the perfectly placed Crouch.

“It’s a great night for the fans and a great night for Tottenham,” said triumphant manager Harry Redknapp. “They lost their heads at the end there, they were rattled for sure, and I guess that’s a good sign.”

15 February 2011: AC Milan 0-1 Spurs. Goalscorer – Crouch 80 mins.

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Close encounter in Milan: Gattuso's attack on Jordan

Close encounter in Milan: Gattuso's attack on Jordan


February 16th, 2011 at 12:48 am