Thursday, 31 March 2011

A Passionate Rivalry Fuelled by Desire to Win

Rafael of Manchester United is restrained following his challenge on Lucas of Liverpool during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Manchester United at Anfield on March 6, 2011 in Liverpool, England.
Ryan Giggs once said that the fixture between Liverpool and Manchester United is "probably the most famous fixture in English football". The veteran United player was speaking from experience - vast experience, and if anyone between the two sides still playing knows how deeply intense and important a game between the two sides is, it is Giggs. He has won 11 Premier League medals during his 21 years at Old Trafford, and under Sir Alex Ferguson, has equalled Liverpool's record for League titles.

18 titles each, and the end of the season is on the horizon. Neither side have relived their glory days this season, and, in Liverpool's case, have seen their quality dive to an unexpected and very unwelcome low under Roy Hodgson. Replaced by Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish, and their form picked up, but such was their deficit of the leaders, that they now have no chance of catching either United or Arsenal at the top of the table and preventing their North West rivals from taking that 19th title.

The record means "so much" according to Rooney. The young United striker may not have as deeply rooted loyalty to United than Ryan Giggs has possessed over the passed two decades, but his past with Everton has fuelled his contempt for the Reds. He said yesterday that winning the 19th title for United would mean not only so much to United fans, but Everton fans too, who love to see their rivals suffer. 
"I grew up an Everton fan so to be part of the team to overtake Liverpool's record would be brilliant. It would mean so much to us players as well as the fans.
"It is something I have been thinking about a lot. I know all the Everton fans want us to do it and hopefully we can. You look forward to every game at this stage and you've got to enjoy it, especially when you are in the running for a few trophies. It is exciting for the fans and it's exciting for the players knowing that you are just a few weeks away from possibly winning a major trophy or two."
Liverpool's modern team have, as it is well known, failed to win a Premier League title, and in the meantime, United have succeeded at the pinnacle of the League table time after time, even winning the title three times in a row from 06/07 to 08/09. Liverpool have only been able to watch United succeed with gritted teeth - only coming close in the 08/09 season when they achieved their highest points total of 86 which was still not enough to overcome United. 

Players feel this rivalry, as Rooney showed in the quote above. Gary Neville, recently retired from United had a stunning passion for beating Liverpool, and as a result became a massive hate figure for Liverpool fans. This kind of fiery, hot-blooded conflict between players and opposing fans create that fantastic atmosphere in games. Much like Roy Keane's hatred for both Arsenal, and losing moulded the way in which the United - Arsenal games were played.

Steven Gerrard too, a talismanic figure for Liverpool who has often carried the team when many of the team dragged their heels with laziness is involved in this fight of the North West. The captain of Liverpool inspires his side at times admirably, but his main ambition to win a Premier League title has so far failed, and as he gets older, this achievement looks more and more unlikely. Gerrards banning of any Manchester United shirts in his house really sums up this burning rivalry.

Just as it means "so much" to Wayne Rooney and indeed I am sure, Ryan Giggs, it means a great deal to fans of both sides who live to see their respective teams succeed, and defeating their rivalry along the way. Whether there ferocious tackles, dubious decisions, last gasp goals or referee criticism, this is a rivalry that will continue with the same burning passion and interest for a long time. 

Arsenal after £15 million Colombian - Video

Arsenal are reportedly chasing FC Porto's 25 year-old striker, Ramadel Falcao. Wenger is frustrated with both van Persie's injuries and Marouane Chamakh's inconsistent performances, and while Arsenal's Danish attacker Nicklas Bendtner showers in his own praise, Wenger has found a new striker to get him the important goals and goal threat next season.

Falcao is just what Arsenal need up front - a goalscoring striker - and has netted 23 goals in 28 games in the Portuguese League this season, while last year he managed an amazing 34 goals in 43 games. This goal flare has turned the head of some top European clubs incuding Valencia, AC Milan, and Arsenal's local rivals, Tottenham Hotspur, but Wenger will be hopin a £15 million will be enough to bring him to the Emirates.

FC Porto currently lead the Portuguese Liga, above fierce rivals Benfica, and it is ther Colombian strikers' valuable goals that have helped them to such a fortunate position. They will be reluctant to let thier superstar go, but with a big bid and the players mind on a possible transfer, it would be best for Jose Mournho's former club to let their player go.
Below you can see what he is capable of.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Watch: England 1 - 1 Ghana

Asamoah Gyan James Milner of England (L) attempts to tackle Asamoah Gyan of Ghana during the international friendly match between England and Ghana at Wembley Stadium on March 29, 2011 in London, England.
England put in an impressive performance against a determined, resilient and very well supported Ghana side and both teams left a vibrant Wembley stadium with a goal each. It was perhaps the deserved result in a well fought, passionate game fuelled with the huge vocal support from the fans, particularly the Ghanaians. 

Andy Carroll grabbed his first goal in an England shirt just before the end of the first half but it was cancelled out much to the delight of the African side who celebrated a last gasp winner thanks to the intricate silky skills of Assamoah Gyan who weaved the ball through the England defence to curl the ball round Joe Hart.

England put in a good performance, and should not be ashamed of a draw. It was a well played game of football in which Capello was able to learn a lot about the strength of his second - or "B" team. Downing was awarded man of the match and Ashley Young was also dangerous throughout - hitting the crossbar and having a long range shot well saved by Kingson. 

The night also saw the introduction of Manchester United striker Danny Welbeck who was eligible for both England and Ghana due to his Ghanaian parents and Manchester birth. His introduction was met by boos from Ghana fans, but with ten minutes to play he didn't have much chance to make an impact.

Watch the goals below:

Carroll Goal

Gyan Goal

Monday, 28 March 2011

Video: Manchester United Target David de Gea

David de Gea Goalkeeper David de Gea of Atletico Madrid applauds the crowd during the Europea League match between Atletico Madrid and Aris Thessaloniki at the Vicente Calderon Stadium on December 1, 2010 in Madrid, Spain.Manchester United will buy a goalkeeper in the summer, that much is clear. Who it will be is the question, but if we are to believe reports from Spain and other sources, United have had a bid accepted for the 20 year old Spaniard, David de Gea.

He has been nicknamed by his Athletico Madrid team mates as "van der gea" due to his resemblance to the current, and soon to retire Manchester United goalkeeper Edwin van der sar. He is tall, agile, commanding and holds the invaluable quality of being able to keep calm under pressure. It is these sorts of qualities that Sir Alex Ferguson desires to replace his current number 1 and avoid the repetition of the last goalkeeping 'crisis' when Peter Schmeichel left United.

The United manager would also be hopeful to avoid the situation that Arsenal have suffered over the past five years - lacking a commanding, regular, consistent goalkeeper. Arsenal have recently received good news on this front, with another United target Maarten Stekelenburg being quoted as saying: "If an offer from Arsenal arrives, I will leave."

So with David de Gea being reported as United's top target, it is time to have a look at what United fans should expect from him. 29 games this season has seen him keep 9 clean sheets while saving a total of 121 shots. Compared to van der sar, his statistics are not all to bad. The United goalkeeper has played 28, kept 12 clean sheets and made a total of 67 saves. I suggest the statistics are heavily effected by the quality of the defences, but they are interesting nevertheless. Watch highlights of De Gea below:

Michael Owen: I'm Fit & Ready for United & England Return

Michael Owen Michael Owen of Manchester United in action during the FA Cup sponsored by E.ON 3rd round match between Manchester United and Liverpool at Old Trafford on January 9, 2011 in Manchester, England.

Manchester United will have no shortage of strikers next season. Wayne Rooney, Javier Hernandez and Dimitar Berbatov will be ready and raring to go as well as those young strikers returning from loan deals; Danny Welbeck, Kiko Macheda and Mame Biram Diouf. One striker whose future is still yet to be decided is a man who Sir Alex Ferguson has described him as "world class", with "absolutely superb" positional play, first touch and finishing.

Surely then, with those qualities, Michael Owen would have no problem in getting into the United side. On the contrary, because of a mixture of both injuries and bad luck, his appearances for United have been limited.

11 appearances this season due to the hamstring injury he suffered during last years Carling Cup final and other unfortunate injuries has seen him score four goals. Despite criticism of being "injury plagued", last season saw a fantastic return from the then 30 year old - 31 appearances and 9 crucial goals.
His last game for England was in 2008 which was incidentally his only appearance under the management of Fabio Capello. 89 appearances and 40 goals for his country however tell a different story.

The new man to Twitter spent today clearing a few things up on the micro-blogging site:
"By the way, to answer a common question: I'm fit. I was on the side of the pitch about to come on last week [against Bolton] until Jonny Evans got sent off."
He also congratulated Gareth Barry on the news that the Manchester City midfielder would captain England on Tuesday against Ghana. He also joked about his England situation:
"Congrats to Gareth Barry, great honour for him. Quite a few dropped out of squad, Mr Capello must be making room for me to return!!!!!!!!!!!" 
In response to some obviously derogatory responses to that Tweet, Owen followed up with this:
"I knew that joke would get a few of you taking the p*** out of me! You certainly need thick skin to play this Tweeting game."
Follow Michael on Twitter @themichaelowen 

Sunday, 27 March 2011

"The interest from Manchester United in Sneijder is real." - But...

Wesley Sneijder Wesley Sneijder of FC Inter Milan during the Serie A match between Juventus FC and FC Internazionale Milano at Olimpico Stadium on February 13, 2011 in Turin, Italy.It is no secret that Manchester United need reinforcements in midfield. The frailty's have been for all to see this season, and it is credit to the winning mentality at the club that they are at the top of the Premier League table by five points without playing their best football.

 Paul Scholes is still yet to sign an extension on his contract with the club, and if he does decide to retire or move on at the end of the season, Sir Alex will urgently need to find a replacement. Likewise, Owen Hargreaves' injuries continue to pester him, and whether or not Ferguson decides to stick with him and attempt to get his moneys worth for the Canadian is yet to be seen.

Nevertheless, it is no surprise that Inter Milan have confirmed United's interest in Wesley Sneijder. Last summer, Sir Alex dismissed the fact that he had made a bid for the 26 year-old Dutchman. He said:
“I don’t know where those reports about Sneijder came from. How can anybody turn me down when I haven’t even made a bid?”
The interest however has now been confirmed by the Inter Milan President, Massimo Moratti who said this:
“The interest from Manchester United in Sneijder is real. But I didn’t look into it. My only interest is seeing Sneijder play here for many more years to come.”
Sneijder is the creative spark that the United midfield would love to have. In 21 games this season, the Dutchman has scored 3, created 5 and unleashed an ambitious 93 shots on goal. He is quick, strong and powerful with accurate shooting ability but apparently out of United's reach.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Watch: Chicharito Goals v Paraguay

Manchester United striker Javier Hernandez has once again showcased his fantastic goalscoring quality - this time for his country, Mexico against Paraguay in an international friendly. Mexico went on to win the game 3 - 1.

The little Mexican has now netted a fantastic 14 goals in just 22 appearances. This season, Chicharito has scored 16 goals in 34 appearances for Manchester United.

At only 22 years old, he is becoming a vital player for both club and country. After signing for United before the World Cup, Hernandez said:
 "I shall always be the same chap, with my feet always on the ground, and I see this as another challenge in my career. I am, first and foremost, a human being," 

Hargreaves Injury Update - Not Good

Owen Hargreaves Owen Hargreaves  of Manchester United heads for the bench prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford on April 24, 2010 in Manchester, England.

I am still awaiting the day when an injury update on Owen Hargreaves can be classified as 'good news'. As it is, the Canadian born midfielder is once again on the all to familiar treatment table at United. This time it is his shoulder.

Apparently, he damaged his shoulder in training with United and will now be out for another month. He felt his shoulder pop out of its socket as he challenged for a header. The initial fears are that he has damaged ligaments and could be out for at least four weeks.

He has already missed the majority of the season with his persistent knee injuries and hamstring injury and received several operations to cure  the continuous trouble but now more misery is heaped onto the poor guy. I suppose the good news from this is that it isn't a recurrence of the knee injury or the hamstring injury he picked up earlier this season.

Hargreaves started against Wolves to the surprise of many back in November. It was all looking great until the sixth minute when he pulled up with a hamstring injury and was once again forced down the tunnel to receive treatment and the inevitable bad news.

At 30 years of age and with his contract expiring at the end of the season, it would be a leap of faith for Sir Alex to keep him at United for another year considering his injuries. He would certainly be worth the risk if he were to overcome his injuries, but much like Michael Owen, whose contract also expires come the end of the season, it would be a big risk.

Watch: Wales 0 - 2 England

England played impressively on away soil at the Millenium Stadium today, with two early goals separating the two sides. The three lions proved too much for the one dragon as England breezed to victory without any real problems at the back whilst performing very well in the midfield and out wide. 
Watch the Goals below:

Friday, 25 March 2011

Nani Can't Have it All

Luis Nani has been vital for Manchester United, creating 16 and scoring 9 goals this season. He has all of the qualities of a winger; explosive pace, good passing and crossing, can dribble around his man and can shoot capably with both feet. He has demonstrated that time and again this year with United, and despite what the Portuguese said only yesterday, we will be seeing his excellent qualities for a while in the future. Nani said:
"I try to enjoy playing now, but it is not always possible because I have a responsibility to the team."
"But something of the street remains in me. It is not easy to show at United because Sir Alex does not allow very much freedom and I cannot do the tricks and things I did with my friends."
"But when the game is under control I take a risk and it makes me very happy if things work out."
Nani may be a little unhappy at the restriction he feels Sir Alex has put on him in terms of tricks and show boating, but whether he realises it or not, he is benefiting from it. Ferguson commented on his players progress earlier in the season too, saying that Nani is better at this stage of his career than Cristiano Ronaldo was. Like his Portuguese compatriot, Nani did start off his United career over elaborating in attacking moves and attempting the impossible when the simple pass was on. 

Ronaldo certainly improved in this area, and turned the 30 step overs in one run down the right wing into winning goals and valuable assists for his team mates. Nani started last season doing just that, and has come into his own this season, and moved away from the label of 'Ronaldo wannabe'.

Of course, there is still room for improvement. Perhaps the 24 year-old's biggest criticism is his tenancy to go down too easily from a challenge, and his theatrics have not made him many fans from opposition teams. But that is just what he does - frustrate the opposition - he wouldn't be doing his job if he was pleasing the opposition fans.

His top form also has him considered for the prestigious Ballon D'or. Asked about winning the Ballon d'Or, Nani told Don Balon
“I don’t know about that. I recognise that things have gone well but that’s for other people to decide.
"If my name ends up on the list, I will be happy. I want to be the best player in the world, but I am not living obsessed by it. My only real concern is to help my club and my national team and keep playing well.”  

Chicharito on The "Monster" Rooney & Tevez Comparison

Javier Hernandez Javier Hernandez (R) of Manchester United battles with Stuart Holden of Bolton Wanderers during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Bolton Wanderers at Old Trafford on March 19, 2011 in Manchester, England.Javier Hernandez is living the dream. Playing regularly for Manchester United, scoring vital goals, getting on with your business and playing with some great players. Yet from all of his quotes and interviews, he seems so down to earth and grounded. The 22 year-old Mexican has been in sensational form in his first season in England, scoring a brilliant total of 16 goals so far and starting a very promising partnership with Wayne Rooney - pushing the Leagues top scorer, Dimitar Berbatov on the bench in the process.

'Chicharito', as he is known, spoke of Wayne Rooney, comparisons to the former United striker and current City player Carlos Tevez, and what his secret to success on the field is:
"Playing with Wayne is a dream. He's a monster to be alongside and I never believed I would get so many games and goals during my first season at United."
“'The Little Tevez'? I'm really proud that people are comparing me to him but I am Chicharito and am living my dreams at the moment.” 
 “I am very happy because I know there is much more to come. My secret is to study opposition defenders and work out their weak points."
 "I try to outwit them with my speed and anticipation in the area. So my goals are not down to luck."
Hernandez was bought by Sir Alex Ferguson for £6 million this summer and is probably the buy of the season. When you consider Chelsea's splurge of money on Torres and Manchester City's £30 buy of Edin Dzeko, Chicharito looks such a great buy for the club.

His impressive performances in last years World Cup saw him score a few vital goals including one against France and one against Argentina, and the former Guadalajara player believes that the physical aspect of the game in better in England:
“Perhaps the better physical preparation here in England is the key to my performances. This aspect of the game is better than in South America and I have profited.” 
Now Hernandez will be hoping United can push on after the international break and go on to cement their place at the top of the Premier League, and progress against City and Chelsea in the FA Cup and Champions League respectively.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

£1 Billion for Modric

Luka Modric Luka Modric of Tottenham in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United at White Hart Lane on March 19, 2011 in London, England.Well it doesn't look like Luka Modric will be packing his bags, moving away from Tottenham and heading up North to Manchester or staying in the area and joining Chelsea. Not unless United or Chelsea, the two clubs linked with the Croatian midfielder are prepared to pay £1 billion for him.

Harry Redknapp, the Tottenham manager has led this Spurs side to a Champions League quarter final, beating one of the most successful European teams in AC Milan on the way. Luka Modric played a vital part in both helping Tottenham into the top four last season and their brilliant, over achieving success of reaching the latter stages of the prestigious European competition this year. The Tottenham manager emphasised the invaluable qualities that the 25 year-old holds in the side with a rather exaggerated expected transfer fee:

"I wouldn't want to sell him for £100 million, not even for a billion.
"He's the hub of the team."
He made his point. Of course, Redknapp would sell Modric for £1 billion - not that anyone - not even Manchester City would pay that ludicrous amount. But it is a clear statement that Modric is not for sale, and if an offer were to come in, it would have to be quite a substantial amount.

Modric only signed a long term contract at Spurs last year, and the players' representative, Mario Mamic reiterated Redknapps sentiments:
"These are just rumours. Luka has a contract until 2016 and Tottenham have no plans to sell him. He has an excellent relationship with coach [Harry] Redknapp and only signed a contract extension with Spurs last summer."
The rumours that Mamic spoke of refer to apparent interest from several English clubs including Manchester United and Chelsea as well as Italian side Juventus and Inter Milan. Certainly, Modric has his fans; he is a fantastic player and has been described by the former Chelsea assistant Ray Wilkins as one of the best midfielder's in the Premier League. Gerard Houllier, the current Aston Villa manager also heaped praise on Modric:
"Not only is he a very hard worker, he has a good brain and he provided some calmness and composure to the midfield. His passing was neat and his contribution was outstanding. He was not only winning the ball, he was passing well. We thought that he was very influential. He did not just work hard, he made the other people play well around him."
 He may not be worth £100 million or £1 billion, but Luka Modric is certainly a fantastic asset to Tottenham, and understandably has the best teams in the world watching him.

Does Being Captain Mean Anything?

John Terry John Terry of England celebrates as he scores their second goal during the FIFA 2010 World Cup Group 6 Qualifying match between England and Ukraine at Wembley Stadium on April 1, 2009 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** John Terry
Much has been made of John Terry being reinstated as England captain. Perhaps too much. The main issue is that Fabio Capello has gone back on his decision to take the armband off of Terry for his inexplicable off field behaviour with a team mates girlfriend. It was a big call back when all was revealed about Terry's private life, and to go back on such a big ruling shows signs of weakness. It undermines Capello's tough, no nonsense approach to coaching. That argument is understandable, but in today's modern age of football, the question is; does being captain mean anything, or is it simply a symbol?

Lets get this straight. The ideal captain should have outstanding qualities that other players in the team do not possess; they should be a natural winner, they should be a beacon of inspiration, a passionate, brave, respectable person - someone who will take responsibility for their mistakes, wear their heart on their sleeve and be able to make massive sacrifices for the good of the team. They also need the have great footballing ability in their position. It looks a big ask. It also looks as if the England team have a good few players who have those qualities - or does it?

When David Beckham gave up the England captaincy, which he held for many years, with great integrity and heart, told of the honour it was to wear the armband for his country. He said that he had "lived the dream", and was the "greatest honour of his career" to captain his country. This is a man who absolutely lives for football, and loves his country. He led by example, on and off the field. In the main, he conducted himself in admirable principle and honesty. It obviously meant a lot to him.

When Ferdinand was made captain after Terry's removal from the 'position', he too gave the impression of being ready to live the dream that all youngsters have; to lead their country onto a football pitch to fight to win.  He said:
“I like the responsibility. Every youngster grows up wanting to be captain of their club or the team they lead out. This is England and there is no higher accolade than leading out your country.
That may be, but he added to the end of this passionate show of ambition:

"But it won’t mean as much if we don’t win anything."
What have England won in the last 45 years or so? Nothing. So does that mean every captain before him and ahead of him have failed in their main aim? Yes it does. Interestingly, the Manchester United defender continued:
I have always said if there is something that needs to be said in the changing-room then I will speak my mind whether I am captain or not.
Why shouldn't it be like this for every player? Every player wants to win, every player wants to be the match winner for their country, and every player wants to do their country proud. They should all stand up and act as captains, rather than quietly listen to their manager off he pitch and then watch their captain motivate them on it. When you are playing for your country, that very fact is surely the only motivation you need?

Every player should give 100% to the team whether they are captain or not. That is why I believe the captaincy is just a symbol - a symbol that has recently caused much needless controversy in the England camp. It isn't as if we are short of controversy and trouble in this country as it is.

It seems to me that the only official roles of a captain are: to participate in the coin toss prior to kick off and penalty shoot out (the latter of which England are not very good at) and being the first player to hold aloft a trophy at the award-giving ceremony. That hasn't happened for a while either.

So whether John Terry is captain or not is not the issue. The issue is the chemistry of the team and the willingness of them to play together to work together and to win together. The armband is only a symbol to show the rest of the players who to turn to when they are in trouble. I say fine, keep that, but do not rely on that, and work yourself with all of the passion, inspiration, bravery, responsibility and ability that a captain should show. A team of leaders is better than just one.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Daniele De Rossi Transfer News

Daniele De Rossi Daniele De Rossi of AS Roma reacts during the Serie A match between AS Roma and Brescia Calcio at Stadio Olimpico on February 2, 2011 in Rome, Italy.The past few days have seen Daniele De Rossi's name mentioned quite a few times in the transfer gossip columns in stories linking the Italian midfielder to Manchester United. This happened only a couple of weeks ago with Javier Pastore, the Argentinian attacking midfielder who was supposedly close to a Manchester United move. I haven't heard much since. 
So this is all about the De Rossi Move:

The 27 year-old is apparently prepared to leave Roma, the club he has played for over a decade. De Rossi has suffered a turbulent time in recent years, including the shooting of his father-in-law in a gang attack and the separation from his wife. The player recently told of his recent struggle with the club he began his career with, and explained that he feels that things are changing for the worse. He said after elbowing the opposition and getting sent off in Roma's recent Champions League clash with Shackhtar Donetsk:
"They used to treat me as one of their own, they would tell me to throw in another elbow, but now the wind has changed. Something here at Roma is changing. For a year and a half, the things I've heard that have given me the most pride have come from outside Rome. I have had moments at a low ebb, in which I wasn't at my best. Do I feel wounded?
"Yes, but I don't want to play the victim, I don't want people to come and tell me how great I am. The wound will heal itself. Then, everyone makes his own assessments."
His father, Alberto, admits that the player “would never want to face a future away from Roma” but acknowledges that “if he expressed himself [in that way], then there is a cause behind it.”

His contract at Roma expires in June 2012 and his current wages reach £60,000 a week. That is well within United's budget, and with Sir Alex reportedly being given £100 million to spend, the £20 million fee supposedly being asked for the defensive midfielder would not be a problem. However, 27 is not the ideal age for Sir Alex who has been and will be looking more to youth to replace the older generation of Giggs, Scholes and van der sar.

The former Roma striker Ruggiero Rizzitelli does not believe that De Rossi will leave Italy:
"The truth is De Rossi won't leave Roma. He is their Bandieraplayer, the future captain. He is already named as the new captain after Francesco Totti."
"De Rossi has already rejected Real Madrid in the past. Two years ago the club had asked for him, but he and [former Roma owners] the Sensi family said no because he is a Roman, a Romanista and he wants to end his career at Roma like Totti.
"His dream is to remain at Roma with the backing of the new owners and the promise of a strong team to challenge."
The 2006 World Cup winners' future is looking uncertain, that is for sure. Whether it simply be transfer speculation or actual truth lies at the bottom of this story is yet to be discovered, but he would be a fantastic addition to the Manchester United side, as a perfect replacement for Owen Hargreaves.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Video: Dzeko Mocks Balotelli Bib Incident

Edin Dzeko did his best impression of fellow Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli in a warm up.

Balotelli had earlier made himself look a complete fool when he tried, and failed to put a training bib on, not once but twice. Both times, the Italian striker who had been followed by Manchester United before his move to City, needed help from one of the City staff.

Roberto Mancini has admitted that the striker was "stupid" after getting himself sent off for an astonishingly mindless chest high challenge in City's Europa League tie with Dynamo Kiev, leaving City with ten men and in an unfortunate position.

Jose Mourinho, who was manager of Inter Milan when Balotelli played there also isn't a big fan of Balotelli's temper. He said:
“The guy has incredible qualities, but sometimes does not know how to use his brain."
At the moment, Balotelli is a joke. He is an easy target for rival fans because of the cockiness he showed earlier in his City career, his apparent disloyalty to City, his often static performances and petulant behaviour on the pitch. It's fair to say, he is no role model.

But then, what he needs is a role model - someone to look up to and look after him - because there is no doubt that the guy has talent. It seems that the 20 year old is finally coming to recognise that too, because after his omission from the Italian squad picked by Cesare Prandelli for the upcoming internationals, he spoke to the Italy coach. Prandelli said:
"I have heard from Balotelli. He understands that he made a fool of himself.
"He said to me: 'I need help. I always ruin everything but I care a lot about the national team.'
The sooner Balotelli grows up and takes some responsibility, the better. He could become a great striker - a great player, but when you are as confident and cocky as he is, you need to have the goals and the quality to back it up. Much like Cristiano Ronaldo did in his time at Manchester United. He matured into one of the best players in the world, and it is this kind of player that Balotelli wants to be like.

Time to pull his socks up. Time to grow up.

Rooney & Carroll Will Thrive on Jarvis' Delivery

Matt Jarvis Matt Jarvis of Wolves in action during the FA Cup Sponsored by E.ON 4th Round match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Stoke City at Molineux on January 30, 2011 in Wolverhampton, England.You don't have to be an expert on Wolves players to know that Matt Jarvis has been their brightest star this season. He admitted that his first day of England training felt a bit like a first day at a new school, but revealed that the England players have made him feel welcome in what he described as a "fantastic feeling" being called up to play for his country.

It is a far cry from being released by Millwall when he was 16. His father explained that it was a "difficult time" for Jarvis who could have easily given up football because of the rejection, but he went on to say that Jarvis is "very, very determined". It is that determination then, that has seen him rise to such a level when he is playing in the top tier of the Premier League and on the verge of an England appearance - an achievement many a young boy dreams of.

Last September Jarvis signed a new contract with Wolves, keeping him at the club until 2015, but his outstanding shows of brilliance at times have not only alerted Fabio Capello, but many of the top managers around England.

Jarvis' crossing ability is just one of many qualities that many sides look to for a major source of goals, and having crossed the ball for Wolves 203 times this season alone, it is perhaps surprising that his side Wolves have not converted very many of them. The lack of real goal scoring prowess may be a reason, but there is no lack of that in the England team, with Carroll and Rooney leading the line.

Carroll had a blistering start to the Premier League season with Newcastle, scoring 11 in 19 appearances, and the 19 goals he scored the previous season to help Newcastle into the top tier had no shortage of blasted headers from pin-point crosses.

As for Rooney, his Manchester United form has been poor on the whole, but the rather large blip in the season has begun to pick up, with his touch and goal presence returning at last - to the relief of United fans. Last season he was United's top scorer - that is easy to forget after such a torrid time, and 34 goals in 44 appearances is an enviable achievement. Where did those goals come from? What source did he miss miserably at the start of the season? Antonio Valencia's crosses were sorely missed by Rooney, and as a result, is goalscoring form nose dived.

Matt Jarvis can help pick it up for England. His pace to get beyond a player and ability to cross into dangrous areas will see Carroll and Rooney thrive. Whether it be through a knock down by Carroll to the awaiting Rooney to finish, a direct header or a goal line scramble, those crosses will inevitably lead to chances and goals that could change a game.

I will look forward to see Jarvis in an England shirt, as I'm sure he will be too.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Video: A Look at Arsenal Target Kévin Gameiro

Kevin Gameiro, a 23 year old French striker currently playing for Ligue 1 side Lorient is a reported transfer target for Arsenal.

The forward has apparently been watched by Arsenal scouts sent by Arsene Wenger to track his progress - and they have been impressed. The young striker has played a total of 26 games this season, scoring 17 and creating 3. His consistency has also impressed Arsenal scouts, with talk of a move not distracting his on field impact at Lorient, with goals continuing to flow.

Gameiro is a fast, energetic player with good dribbling abilities, demonstrated in the video below. He is contracted to Lorient until the end of the 2011/2012 season, but the club president, Loic Fery admitted that it is likely they will have to let the player go:
"It is true that we are mulling over three options."
"We can let him go when his contract expires, sell him in the summer or renew his contract. But the latter is complicated because we have made several incredible efforts and he has not accepted."
Fey said in August:
"There is no such thing as an untransferable player. Gameiro, and players like him, can and will leave the club, even if we would prefer that they stay. 
Tottenham were said to be interested late 2010, but did not move for Gameiro and Arsenal have since been linked strongly with the player who would cost around £10 - 15 million. The fact that he has rejected several contract extensions at Lorient suggests that he may have his eye somewhere else, and Lorient would surely rather cash in on him than wait until his contract runs its course.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Watch: Sunderland 0 - 2 Liverpool

Dirk Kuyt Penalty:

Luis Suarez Goal:

Liverpool added another three valuable points to their tally under Kenny Dalglish with a good win against a Sunderland side who were rather unlucky throughout the match. Despite being the home side, many decisions went against the team in red and white stripes much to the vocal displeasure of the Sunderland fans. Injuries were also a factor with both Sulley Muntari and Kieran Richardson being substituted with knocks within the first 20 minutes.

The opening goal came as a result of a penalty. Originally awarded as a free-kick outside the box by the referee, he changed is mind after being prompted by his linesman. The outrage from the Sunderland manager Steve Bruce was evident, and his mood wasn't improved when Kuyt expertly slotted the ball into the corner of Mignolet's net.

There were however no questions asked about the second. Luis Suarez gave aother glimpse of what is to come inhs Liverpool career with a super strike from an impossible angle toseal the game and take the three points back to Anfield. Later he was subjct of a last man challenge from John Mensah which saw the defendr given a straight red to compounds Sunderland's misery.

Liverpool bounced back from the mid week loss and ejection from the Europa League, and continue some good form in the Premier League.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

[Pic] Douglas Costa at Old Trafford

Douglas Costa has been monitored by Sir Alex Ferguson for the past four years and it seems the 20 year-old Brazilian is a little closer to joining up with fellow Brazilians Rafael and Fabio at United after being spotted at the Manchester United - Bolton game on Saturday.

Costa is part of the Shakhtar Donetsk side that have reached the quarter finals of the Champions League and is seen as the perfect replacement to Paul Scholes in the United midfield. Costa is an attacking midfielder with pace and dribbling ability who can be utilised on either wing or up front as a second striker.

Manchester United would not comment on his appearance at Old Trafford, seen above, but Sir Alex had tried to sign him when he played at Brazilian side Gremio. A deal fell through and he signed for Shakhtar who will apparently ask for close to £20 million if United come calling. That is £15 million more than what Shakhtar bought him for in January 2010 and £13 million more than what United originally offered Gremio in 2009.

The player has scored 15 goals in 61 appearances for Shakhtar and a move to United could prove difficult with a work permit a possible stumbling block as well as the Ukranian clubs good financial position. As the richest club in Ukraine and this seasons good Champions League showing, they will be in no rush to sell their best players.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Beckham Big Fan of Chicharito

Former United star David Beckham has heaped praised on Manchester United's new star, and brilliant little goal scorer, Javier Hernandez and told the Mexican to enjoy playing for the "best club in the world".

Beckham played close to four hundred games for United, and scored 87 very important goals making himself the biggest name in football since his debut in 1992 in the League Cup against Brighton Hove Albion. Hernandez's competitive debut was a different situation altogether. He came on against Chelsea in the Community Shield, scoring his first goal for United in a 3 - 1 win.

This has been one of many goals this season for Chicharito and Beckham has been impressed with the 22 year-old:
"Chicharito has been exceptional when he’s played. He scores goals, he takes chances, he works hard for the team.
"It’s great to see that. It’s great to see a young player doing really well who is from a different part of the world. To go to Manchester United and do well is exceptional."
Hernandez has taken the place of Berbatov in the last few games, and has not disappointed, scoring two against Marseille to pull United through to the Champions League quarter finals. Beckham emphasized the quality of Hernandez, as Sir Alex wouldn't have him in the team if he wasn't good enough.
"He wouldn’t be in the team and he wouldn’t be scoring goals if Sir Alex Ferguson didn’t think he was a good player.
"It says a lot that he’s playing, it says a lot that he’s getting minutes on the field, obviously, the manager thinks a lot of him. Good luck to him."
The current LA Galaxy star finished by wishing Chicharito good luck in his career at United.
"Enjoy playing for Manchester United. It’s the best club in the world."
 Beckham's television career included his various Pepsi adverts and it seems the Mexican is following in Beckham's commercial footsteps with this new Coke Zero advert:

Arsenal In £50 Million Summer Spending Spree

Karim Benzema - Real Madrid v Malaga - La LigaPlagued with injuries throughout the season to the extent that a new/old goalkeeper had to be brought in for back up, as well as being tormented with off form players slipping up a crucial times in massive matches, and Arsene Wenger is understandably frustrated. He must be wondering what he has done wrong to deserve the punishment of seeing his loyal but exhausted players suffer in this way. It isn't all bad when you consider Arsenal's position in the table - three points behind the leaders with a game in hand - but this season could have been about so much more than just the Premier League crown.

It is perhaps no wonder then, that Arsenal are being linked to two big money players to boost the squad this summer - give it some well needed depth, diversity and energy. These two players are Bolton's Gary Cahill and Real Madrid's Karim Benzema. I honestly cannot see it myself. It isn't that the two players wouldn't fit into the squad; Cahill, a strong, reliable, often goal scoring centre back would be welcomed in the beleaguered defence, while Benzema will have no shortage of fellow countrymen to communicate with (not to mention being a top class front man).  The rumours really get unbelievable when the price is quoted.

Cahill and Benzema are being valued at £25 million by the news sources. That's £25 million each. Probably around £40 million more than Wenger would dream of spending. His cautious, low profile approach to the transfer market has caused plenty of frustration among even patient supporters, as they await their first trophy for six years. It may yet come this year, but it will undoubtedly be very close, and with all of the teams around them certain to improve their squads in the summer, Arsenal do not want to be left behind at the start of next season in a year which looks to be even more competitive and tight than even this year has been so far.

Manchester United are apparently Arsenal's competition for the 25 year-old Cahill. United have seen a Vidic - Smalling partnership blossom in the absence of the seemingly always injured Rio Ferdinand, and if Ferdinand ever does receive further injures which is highly likely, United will need a top quality replacement. There have also been unsettling murmurings of Vidic's future as a United player as his wife apparently doesn't like it in Manchester. The Wes Brown - Chris Smalling defensive partnership has been poor so far, and Sir Alex will look for a new defender to banish any defensive worries in the future.

A bidding war is something neither side would want however, with Arsenal's reluctance to spend, and United's crushing debts reducing the possibility of big money signings.
The website states;
"The Trotters [Bolton] are bracing themselves for bids in the summer, and both Arsenal and Manchester United are expected to come to the table at some point with an offer for the England international.
Chelsea are also thought to be keen on landing the player, with the west London outfit also interested in the 25-year-old former Aston Villa defender.
Arsenal are still thought to be favourites though, although the Gunners will have to fight hard to see off Manchester United if these claims are to be believed."
Meanwhile, Wenger is supposedly a "big fan" of Benzema who was bought by Madrid from Lyon for £35 million two seasons ago. It is easy to see why, as Benzema has masses of exactly what Wenger is always looking for, craving for, searching for: "potential".
17 goals in 52 appearances this season isn't to impressive, but his previous form is far more impressive, with one season amassing 20 goals in just 36 appearances. A partnership of van Persie and Benzema would also be a vast improvement to what they have at the moment, and would add he depth up front which has been lacking.
Sir Alex Ferguson had tried to bring Benzema to United before he joined Madrid, but I doubt he would be after him again after being turned down already.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

It's Best It Ended When It Did for Liverpool

Andy Carroll Andy Carroll of Liverpool speaks to team mate Martin Skrtel during the UEFA Europa League Round of 16 second leg match between Liverpool and SC Braga at Anfield on March 17, 2011 in Liverpool, England.Liverpool crashed out of the Europa League at the hands of Braga on Thursday as the Reds failed to overturn a one goal deficit which they suffered in Portugal last week. I say "crashed out" - it would be far more suitable to compare the failing to a slow, tiresome burning out and eventual gentle stop rather than eventful, action packed full car chase ending in an exploding and manic "crash". I watched the match, and in hindsight I wished I hadn't.

If Kenny Dalglish's long term future relies on the upcoming performances and results in matches, then this was indeed worrying for him and his future. Of course he is probably the best choice for Liverpool as long term manager - having the full and undying support from the fans is and will be vital - but this performance, much like all of Liverpool's European performances this season, have been uninspiring and just plain boring. Fair enough if you get the end result, but when your not even getting a goal against the 6th place Portuguese League side, you know there are problems.

The fact that Andy Carroll started for Liverpool had pundits and commentators alike, excited beyond belief with the idea that long balls would be expertly nodded down by the big man for either Cole or Meireles to smash home. It actually conspired that Joe Cole was woeful as he has been during his short Liverpool career so far. I hesitate in blasting Cole who is obviously a quality player, but he did pretty much nothing against Braga to warrant £90,000 a week. This is, after all, a player whom Steven Gerrard compared to Lionel Messi when he first signed for Liverpool.

Carroll started his first game for Liverpool and couldn't get into the game. The team lacks the ability to cross from the wings, with Johnson often being the main provider. Johnson was coincidental swiftly closed down whenever he received the ball in a dangerous position as if to emphasise the danger of his and Carroll's combination. Carroll did what he does though - getting his head on anything he can and occasional holding the ball up well when he found it at his feet. He ran and ran, copying the template of the tireless Dirk Kuyt, but in this case, it was to no avail.

It was best it ended here though. Lets face it, Liverpool with this team had no chance of winning the competition when other teams in the competition have far more creativity and spark than the Reds do without the very important but cup-tied Luiz Suarez. It was a toothless display from Liverpool who can now concentrate on their domestic and far more important competition of the Premier League. They will be fighting for a place in the Europa League next year so they can bore us all over again. Joy!

Season Over for Vermaelen But Djourou Has a Chance

Thomas Vermaelen Thomas Vermaelen of Arsenal celebrates scoring his team's third goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Stoke City and Arsenal at The Britannia Stadium on February 27, 2010 in Stoke on Trent, England.Arsenal's increasingly disheartened manager Arsene Wenger confirmed some more bad news today in relation to  Thomas Vermaelen. Wenger said at his pre match press conference:
“For Thomas Vermaelen the season is over."
“In fairness he has not played since September, I never expected him to be fit before the end of the season. He is not out on the field yet and it is impossible [for him to play] after six months without competition. I am confident he will have a full recovery but for this season we cannot rely on him.”
Considering how long Arsenal have had to cope without the Belgian centre back this season after he suffered an Achilles injury on international duty, the news won't be as big a blow.

Wenger also set the record straight about Johan Djourou's injury. The Swiss defender dislocated his shoulder in Arsenals FA Cup loss to Manchester United and was immediately ruled out for the rest of the season. However, under closer inspection by he Swiss FA, it has emerged that Djourou has a chance of playing his part in the final run of games but will be out for six weeks. Wenger said:
“Johan Djourou is out for at least six weeks. There’s a little chance [he will play again this season], he has an arthroscopy on Monday and we will know more about the damage in his shoulder. We hope we will have good news but no matter what happens he will be out for six weeks.”
The International break next week will be a good time for players to recover from injuries they have picked up during the recent tough run of closely arranged fixtures, with Cesc Fabregas hoping to benefit. The Spaniard will be missing for the week end game, but Wenger hopes he will have recovered by the time the International games are over. Walcott holds little chance of recovery any time soon and will certainly miss England's games in the week:
“Cesc Fabregas is out for the game on Saturday. He should be back after the international break, maybe, he has a chance, but he is not available for the weekend. Walcott is not available for the weekend and he has no chance [for the international break]. He is not available for England.”

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Rooney: I'm Staying At United Into My Thirties

Wayne Rooney Javier Hernandez (L) of Manchester United celebrates scoring the opening goal with teammate Wayne Rooney during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg match between Manchester United and Marseille at Old Trafford on March 15, 2011 in Manchester, England.
Wayne Rooney has dismissed any talk of a big money transfer this summer. Rumours have been circulating - as they so often do - that the contract troubles last summer are still very much present in the United camp and that the signing of a new 5 year contract was simply a way of making more money out of a sale in the summer. These rumours suggest that the bridges that Rooney burned with Sir Alex Ferguson over his contract saga are beyond repair and that the manager will look to sell in the summer. But Rooney says these rumours are simply not true. Firstly, he banished any idea that him and Sir Alex have fallen out:
“My relationship with Sir Alex [Ferguson] has no problems whatsoever."
Perhaps all of those doubters were looking too far into the situation, and not taking the contract he signed for face value. You can't really be blamed for that considering Rooney's poor form at the start of the season with his personal problems causing havoc on his on field performances. The England striker said:
I’m enjoying my football here and, if I was going to leave in the summer, I wouldn’t have signed a new contract when I did. I’ve signed it and I intend to see it through to the end.”
Those questioning his commitment anger him too:
"Yes, you get angry. On Sunday I didn’t even know it was in a newspaper until I was on the way home from training. I stopped off at the garage to get petrol and a few people asked me if I was leaving in the summer. I’ll be here until I’m in my thirties though, that’s for sure.”
Rooney's form has certainly picked up in the last few games. He played very well against Marseille on Tuesday with his touch much improved and his cross field passing ability delightfully brilliant as well as clever, quick thinking passes to set up goal scoring opportunities.
"The last two or three weeks is the best I’ve felt all season. I feel sharp and, if the manager needs me to get up and down the pitch, then fine.
"I haven’t played as many games so I feel good, but the more you play, the more consistent you are and better you feel.
“Since I had my injuries, people have taken their chance when they’ve come into the side and done brilliantly, so I’m delighted that we are still in three major competitions and it’s going well.”
He isn't getting carried away however with the possibility of a Manchester United treble. United remain in contention for the Premier League, FA Cup and the Champions League, but Rooney insists United must take one game at a time:
“We have to just take each game as it comes. We can’t look at that [The Treble].
“If you talk about that then it just puts pressure on ourselves, so we need to just concentrate on each game and see what happens.
"We didn’t win the league last year or the Champions League or the FA Cup, so we need to prove to ourselves that we are capable of doing it.”

Nani Speaks About Carragher Tackle & Why he Cried

Nani has spoken. The Manchester United winger was the victim of a horrendous challenge from Jamie Carragher at Anfield when United met Liverpool. The incident was well publicised and overshadowed the Liverpool win in which United were outplayed. Rivals fans to United questioned the seriousness of the injury and suggested that United fans were using the tackle to cover up a poor performance.

Whatever the case, there is no denying that the tackle warranted a red card, and as Nani says here, his tears immediately after the tackle came as a result of him believing his season was over. The deep gash on his shin was clear for all to see, but Nani was still criticized for shedding tears. The recently returned Portuguese said:
“When I saw my leg for the first time, I thought my season was finished. That is why I was crying.
"Afterwards, the doctor saw my leg and said I had been lucky because it just needed stitches and I would be out for two or three weeks. He is surprised that I could recover even quicker.”
Nani was slightly hesitant in taking on the left back on his return to action after the injury against Marseille, but he recognises that the physical side is to be expected in the English Premier League:
"English football is like that. It is about making tackles.
“The fans enjoy it. I always finish the game sore because I have had three or four tackles on the same part of my ankle.”
However, despite accepting the physical side of the game, he agrees with most logical football fans when he says the Carragher tackle should not be accepted. Nani said:
"I don’t know what Carragher was thinking but I do know what he did was not football.”
 “He came to apologise after the game. But I was not happy. It is the second time he injured me. Before, he put me out of the game for two months. He always tackles like that. I don’t want protection. I just want the referees to be fair. If it is a red card, they have to give it. If they give the card, the next time the player doesn’t make the tackle.”
Rumours have arisen recently stating that Nani has asked his agent to look for clubs in Italy for a possible transfer. This was however dismissed by the 24 year-old who said on his official Twitter account that he had "seen some false reports on the press. I want you to know that you will hear the truth from me. Love MU".

So we will be seeing a lot more of Nani in the future then. Perhaps no the immediate future though, with him admitting to being a doubt for the Old Trafford clash with Bolton this Saturday:
"I played against Marseille but maybe I couldn't play tomorrow because I have so many injuries. My leg is OK [but] it is not 100% and the confidence is not the same.
"I know players always like to tackle me, so I have to be careful. That is why my football was not the best. But it is great to be back. Now I am just thinking about the next game when I think I will be much better."

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