Tag Archives: manchester united

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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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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Five Transfer Headlines That Seem Important

Clint Dempsey to the Seattle Sounders: This transfer is pretty baffling. Clint Dempsey is in his prime. He plays dempsey seattlefor Tottenham Hotspur, which will qualify for next season’s Champions League. (You heard it here first.) He is a cult hero. So why did he decide to leave the Premier League?

I watch Major League Soccer regularly, manage an MLS fantasy team, and tolerate the incoherent bloviating of pundits like Alexi Lalas and Simon Borg. I am both an American soccer fan and a fan of American soccer. But I would love it (love it) if Dempsey stayed in England for a few more seasons.

Cesc Fabregas to Manchester United: Last month, Manchester United chief executive Ed Woodward left the team’s Asia Tour to attend to “urgent business.” According to the English media, Woodward was finalizing a deal for Cesc Fabregas, who lost interest in Barcelona when it became clear that Xavi Hernandez has resilient knees. Needless to say, Fabregas hasn’t joined United – nor, for that matter, has anyone else. I’m increasingly certain that David Moyes and Woodward, who replaced the unpopular but devastatingly effective David Gill, have no idea what they’re doing.

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Cliches about Cliches: The Wrong Way to Cover the Summer Transfer Window

Last month, Rory Smith, a writer for ESPNFC, published an article titled “Cracking the Transfer Window Code.” higuainSmith bills the piece as “a public service announcement” that will “help us pick our way through the endless night of summer,” then makes a few tired jokes about British tabloids (don’t believe everything you read, kids) and the transfer-window vernacular (United remains hopeful, despite rumors that want-away striker Wayne Rooney has set his heart on a move to Chelsea).

The football media comprises two main groups: the mischievous news outlets that report transfer gossip as if it were fact, and the “serious” sites that run Jonathan Wilson articles and care about things like, you know, ethics. Most of the year, the serious sites are the only ones worth visiting: they feature stories about tactical trends and neurotic South American coaches, while the tabloids explore the minutiae of Cristiano Ronaldo’s love life.

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First Day of School

What do Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Everton and Stoke have in common? New coaches.moyes

David Moyes (Manchester United): Over the past 20 years, Manchester United has consistently won domestic trophies, consistently filled stadiums, consistently scored stoppage-time goals, consistently mounted amazing comebacks, and consistently reached the Champions League elimination rounds. In short, United is awesomely predictable: both the best and the least interesting team in the Premier League.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement threatened that status quo. Jose Mourinho, the antithesis of everything that United supposedly stands for, was briefly rumored to be in line for Ferguson’s job, as was Jurgen Klopp, the up-and-coming German coach/rebel. But once it became clear that David Moyes – whose Everton team consistently finished in the top eight, consistently made the best of a meager transfer budget, and consistently caused United problems at Goodison Park – would succeed Sir Alex, Phil-Neville-to-United rumors began to outnumber Mourinho-to-United rumors and the dream of a genuinely chaotic season died.

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Why So Dull? The European Run-In

I once wasted a few minutes trying to convince some minor acquaintance that the 2010 World Cup final attracted RvPmore television viewers than the Super Bowl, and that therefore the World Cup is quantifiably better than the NFL play-offs. The argument approached yes-it-is-no-it-isn’t territory, and the fact that we both walked away more entrenched than ever in our respective positions says a lot about the stubbornness of sports geeks (and about arguments in general). Most serious[1] football fans are totally convinced that the sport they watch and love is superior to every other sport by every conceivable metric, and if you tell them they’re wrong, they get angry and defensive.

This is one reason so few football fans are discussing the Great Big Secret of 2012-13: for the first time in a long time, none of the five major European leagues has produced a genuinely exciting title run-in[2].

Earlier this month, Bayern Munich clinched the 2013 Bundesliga. In Spain, Barcelona is only a few games away from yet another trophy. Manchester United is strolling to title #20, and Juventus has surged clear at the summit of Serie A. In Ligue 1, nouveau riche Paris St. Germain is seven points ahead of its closest challenger.

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Keep Your Day Job: Wayne Rooney Writes Another Terrible Book

At 27, Wayne Rooney is already a bona fide Manchester United legend. His goals are watched and analyzed around rooney bookthe world, his jerseys sell in ridiculous numbers, and his statistics speak for themselves. United recently unveiled a statue of Sir Alex Ferguson, and, if Rooney plays his cards right, he could be next in line for the bronze treatment.

Between games, or perhaps during summer vacations, Rooney has also managed to publish two autobiographies. Neither is very good.

Rooney’s new memoir, My Decade in the Premier League, picks up where Rooney: My Story left off. My Story was released about ten minutes after England’s penalty-shootout loss to Portugal in the quarterfinals of the 2006 World Cup. Red-carded midway through that game’s second half, Rooney had just become a national pariah, and, once he’d reached pariah-status – well, a book was inevitable.

The debate over whether the offense that earned Rooney that red card – “stamping” on Portuguese defender Ricardo Carvahlio – was indeed an intentional act of violence, as the ref believed, or merely a misunderstanding traceable to Rooney’s reputation for impulsive thuggery isn’t nearly as central to this latest autobiography. As Sir Alex Ferguson reminds us in the forward, My Decade is about a mature, level-headed Rooney, a Rooney for whom impulsive thuggery is a thing of the past.

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AVB and Avoiding Disaster

For some reason, Spurs are interesting [1] this year. That’s not to say that they weren’t interesting last year – or the year before, or during their glory days in the mid-60s – but just that there’s something weirdly attractive about the way their season is shaping up. Perhaps it’s the wonderfully Icelandic-sounding Icelandic international Gylfi Sigurdsson. Or perhaps it’s the unquestionable appeal of Andre Villas-Boas, the fist-pumping Mourinho protégé who steered Porto to a treble two years ago, then landed the Chelsea job, then fell back to earth five months later, haunted by John Terry’s menacing laughter. Of course, the real reason is probably a lot more mundane – probably something to do with Jermain Defoe’s goal-scoring streak.

Spurs aren’t the best team in the league, and they almost certainly won’t finish in the top four this season. Last summer, their best player, Luka Modric, sacrificed his status as one of the biggest stars in the Premier League for the chance to become one of the smallest stars in Real Madrid’s midfield. Harry Redknapp – part-time football manager, part-time Nintendo Wii poster boy, full-time hilarious-courtroom-quip producer – was sacked in May after putting Tottenham within a German-team’s-winning-a-penalty-shootout of Champions League qualification. But that’s just kind of how Spurs roll. They’re only stable when their backs are against the wall, only happy when they’re on the wrong end of a transfer tug of war, or when Daniel Levy gets to spend deadline day toying with Dimitar Berbatov’s footballing future. Spurs didn’t bother to wait for the advent of the Premier League before executing their slow drift from title contender to top four pretender. Their slide started the moment Bill Nicholson quit.[2]

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700 Games Later

Last Saturday, Manchester United beat Wigan 4-0 in a run-of-the-mill Premier League game. Wigan are a small, slightly bizarre club from the north of England. Manchester United also play in the north, but they have more Azerbaijani fans than Wigan do season-ticket holders. This is football, the most monetized sport around, and Manchester United were playing at home. Wigan never had a prayer.

What made this game worth watching, what made it Saturday’s most endearing match – especially in contrast to John Terry’s return to Loftus Road, Anton Ferdinand’s childish non-handshake, and the dismal 0-0 draw that followed – was the shy-looking redhead who opened the scoring (a tap-in) and the almost-40-year-old whose darting runs and incisive dribbling troubled the Wigan defense all afternoon. If you don’t know where I’m going with this – if the names Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes, or, as they’re commonly referred to, “giggsandscholes” (one syllable), don’t ring a bell – then either you’ve been living in a cave for the last 20 years or you don’t have cable. (Which is worse? I’ll leave that for you to decide.)

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