Tag Archives: ferguson

In The Shadow of Cristiano

Manchester United supporters never came up with a catchy chant to celebrate the nani ronaldopowerful long-distance shooting and intermittently successful step-overs of Portuguese international Luis Nani. But that didn’t stop fans from yelling Nani’s name. A few seasons ago, one exasperated season-ticket holder, seated close enough to the television microphones that his cheering occasionally interrupted live broadcasts, would shout “Come on, Nani, lad!” when the winger conceded possession.

United fans spent most of Nani’s Old Trafford career exhorting him to improve – to score important goals, to commit fewer fouls, to be more like Cristiano Ronaldo. After signing in 2007, Nani produced enough highlights to fill an average-length YouTube montage – the showboating against Arsenal, the back-flip celebrations, the Champions League penalty conversion – without ever establishing himself as the dominant attacking force Sir Alex Ferguson had thought he would become. Yesterday Nani, who spent last season on loan at Sporting Lisbon, left United for Turkish club Fenerbahce. No one seems to care that much.

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The Obsolescence of Javier Hernandez

The immediate consequence of the broken collarbone that Mexican striker Javier hernandez collarbone“Chicharito” Hernandez sustained on Wednesday is bad enough: at this month’s Concacaf Gold Cup, a regional tournament that almost always culminates in a hotly contested USA-Mexico final, Mexico will compete without its most prolific goal scorer. ESPN columnist Andrea Canales called the injury a “cruel setback” for the Mexican team, which hasn’t won any of its last seven games.

But Chicharito’s long-term prospects – his chances of securing regular first-team soccer at a top European club – look even worse. Manchester United coach Louis van Gaal has never seemed particularly interested in him, and Chicharito struggled for playing time last season during a loan spell at Real Madrid. In June, ESPN tweeted that Major League Soccer owners “are looking for a mechanism” to bring Chicharito to the United States. (One commenter suggested an airplane.)

Sebastian Giovinco’s transfer to Toronto last January showed that MLS is fast becoming a realistic option for big-name players in their mid-20s. Still, the rumors linking Chicharito to Orlando City FC, among other MLS clubs, constitute a harsh verdict on his recent form – and on his distinctive brand of old-fashioned forward play.

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Go Easy on Neymar

One year ago today, Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez transformed an otherwise uneventful neymar headbuttround of World Cup play – two relatively boring games, one of which featured the already-eliminated English national team – into a global referendum on biting.

In the second half of Uruguay’s group-stage match against Italy, television cameras caught Suarez nibbling the shoulder of Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini, who later tweeted a picture of the bite marks. “These are just things that happen out on the pitch,” Suarez said after the game. “It was just the two of us inside the area, and he bumped into me with his shoulder.” (He has since grudgingly admitted that his collision with Chiellini led to the “physical result of a bite.”) The international sports media rushed to denounce Suarez. In the Daily Mail, a reliable source of sanctimonious soccer analysis, Ian Ladyman argued that Suarez “has a dangerous mind that can never be rewired.” Deadspin’s Billy Haisley dedicated nearly 2000 words to Suarez’s long history of “acting like a shithead.” FIFA banned Suarez for nine games, ruling him out of the 2015 Copa America, which kicked off earlier this month in Chile.

Memories of #bitegate came flooding back last week, after another high-profile indiscretion triggered yet more media outrage. On Thursday, Brazilian superstar Neymar was sent off for head-butting Colombia’s Jeison Murillo in the aftermath of his country’s 1-0 Copa America loss to Colombia. According to tournament officials, in the tunnel after the game, Neymar confronted the referee who had sent him off, fuming, “You want to make yourself famous at my expense, you son of a bitch?” The Mail mocked Neymar’s “red card shame.” Columnists lined up to denounce his “petulance” and “immaturity.” CONMEBOL, the South American soccer confederation, suspended Neymar for four games, which means he will miss the rest of the Copa America.

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Saying Goodbye To English Soccer’s Long-Serving Scotsmen

On Wednesday evening, when Aston Villa finally sacked manager Paul Lambert, the Paul Lambert Aston VillaPremier League lost its one remaining Scottish coach. Since the 1950s, gruff Scottish geniuses have been a fixture in English soccer, engineering memorable league campaigns and delivering pithy sound bites. Lambert, a mediocre coach with all the charisma of a wrinkled warm-up bib, has little in common with Matt Busby, Bill Shankly and Sir Alex Ferguson. But his sacking, the inevitable result of one of the longest goalless streaks in Villa’s history, carries symbolic weight. Over the last few years, as long-serving coaches like Shankly and Ferguson have become increasingly rare, what might be termed the “Scottish model” of sustained team-building, in which a visionary manager molds a squad over the course of several seasons, has given way to a new reality: a cutthroat league in which players and coaches never stay at one club for very long.

The Premier League’s growing volatility is especially pronounced at Manchester United, once a bastion of stability in the rapidly changing landscape of English soccer. In 2013, after 25 years in the Old Trafford dugout, Ferguson retired from coaching, and his final act as United manager was to anoint fellow Scotsman David Moyes as his successor. Ferguson, who saw traces of his own Glaswegian toughness in Moyes’ no-nonsense coaching philosophy, naively assumed that fans and journalists would wait patiently for the ex-Everton manager to blossom into Sir Alex 2.0. They didn’t, and less than a year later, Moyes was fired.

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Mourinho And The Media, Friends Forever

Jose Mourinho has always had a way with words. “It is unfair, really,” former Manchester mourinho presserUnited coach Sir Alex Ferguson, himself a skillful communicator, once said. “He’s good looking. He’s got that sort of George Clooney bit in his hair…. [And] he can speak five languages.” Mourinho – who started his career as an interpreter for English manager Bobby Robson and has coached teams in Portugal, Italy, Spain and England – actually knows six languages. “I think I am a special one,” he famously said at his first Premier League press conference.

The nickname has stuck, and so has Mourinho’s penchant for outrageous one-liners. But his press conferences are more than just an amusing weekly performance. Mourinho’s ability to manufacture headline-worthy sound bites, in whatever language he happens to be speaking at the time, has consistently allowed him to manipulate media coverage. In Mourinho, the English tabloids have found a perfect accomplice: A sly operator as adept at twisting words, and as unapologetic about his real intentions, as the grizzled cynics on Fleet Street.

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Maybe David Moyes Wasn’t United’s Only Problem

David Moyes chose a good day to complain about how Manchester United treated him. This morning’s Mail moyes unitedon Sunday quotes Moyes saying, “I don’t feel I was given time to succeed or fail” at Old Trafford. Yesterday, Louis van Gaal’s back-three-ified United lost 2-1 to Swansea in a game depressingly reminiscent of, erm, last season’s home defeat to Swansea. Meanwhile, Ed Woodward, United’s chief executive, has just two weeks to complete 150 million pounds’ worth of transfer deals. We have been here before. It didn’t end well.

Somewhere in Cheshire, Moyes is hooting with laughter.

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What’s Happened to Manchester United?

The manager: It seems almost inconceivable now, but nine months ago the media loved David Moyes. David Moyes believes Manchester United need to sign 'one or two' playersFourFourTwo published a fawning profile. Columnists praised him for guiding Everton to fifth place. And in a fit of enthusiasm, an Israeli newspaper erroneously claimed he was Jewish.

Since then, it has become increasingly clear that for all his accomplishments at Goodison Park – and I’m not convinced there were quite as many as some people think – Moyes is neither charismatic enough to inspire a dressing room full of bloated egos nor courageous enough to put his best attacking players in the same XI. Rooney, Januzaj, van Persie, and Mata would probably form a dangerous, flexible attacking unit, but Moyes, whose Everton team won plenty of games but never threatened to entertain anybody, isn’t interested.

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Ferguson’s Mistake

Flipping through FourFourTwo’s Top 100 Players list, I kept thinking about Manchester United’s pogbamidfield. The list is pretty much a catalogue of players United should have signed or shouldn’t have sold. It was hard not to notice that Tom Cleverley and Marouane Fellaini hadn’t made the cut. And that Michael Carrick languished in the mid-70s. And that in 64th place, making his first appearance on the annual list, was Paul Pogba.

Here’s the thing about Pogba: People knew he was going to be good. It’s not as if he flopped, Zoran Tosic-style; left Old Trafford; and then suddenly turned into the best midfielder in Serie A. United sold Pogba because he had started to believe his own hype, or at least his agent had, and Alex Ferguson wouldn’t meet his salary demands. Unlike Ravel Morrison, who has played brilliantly for West Ham this season, Pogba wasn’t lazy, or volatile, or even an alleged sex offender. He just happened to consider himself the next Patrick Vieira. Pogba signed for Juventus about a year and a half ago and has since proved that a) he may well be better than Vieira; and b) Ferguson shouldn’t have been so stingy.

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When Sackings Work

Last January, two days after Southampton’s impressive 2-2 draw away to Chelsea, club chairman Nicola pochettinoCortese sacked Nigel Adkins, the physio-turned-manager who had guided Southampton from League One all the way to the Premier League. Cortese immediately unveiled Adkins’ replacement: Mauricio Pochettino, a young, talented former Espanyol coach who didn’t speak a word of English. “Far-fetched was how the Premier League appeared then to Saints,” lamented Daily Mail columnist Michael Walker, referring to Southampton’s years in the lower divisions. “Far-fetched is how Adkins’ dismissal appears now.”

Walker wasn’t the only critic of Cortese’s decision – Southampton was on a six-game unbeaten streak at the time, and many pundits, including Southampton legend Matt Le Tissier, who said that Cortese had “a bit of an ego problem,” feared that Adkins’ departure would Unsettle The Dressing Room.

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Angry and Confused: Why Wayne Rooney Should Join Chelsea

Wayne Rooney didn’t play in last Sunday’s Community Shield; he had injured his shoulder just a couple of daysrooney chelsea before kickoff. That must have been pretty disappointing. In July, Rooney pulled out of Manchester United’s pre-season tour; he had injured his hamstring just a couple of days before United’s first match.

Before this summer’s 11th-hour injuries, Rooney had clashed with Sir Alex Ferguson over “playing time,” a highly charged, somewhat misleading phrase that can probably be taken to mean “prostitutes, cigarettes, cow metaphors, New Year’s dinners, and Robin van Persie.” In the past month, Chelsea has submitted two bids for Rooney, offering cash and (according to early reports) Juan Mata. Jose Mourinho recently described Chelsea’s summer transfer policy as “Rooney or bust.”

But David Moyes would likely argue that it’s irrelevant whether Rooney has systematically faked injuries in a rebellious effort to force a transfer to Chelsea, because no matter what Rooney does, United isn’t going to sell.

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