Monday, 14 May 2012

Stuck in a moment, and i can't get out of it!

There i was, on my knees, Martin Tyler shouting down the screen at me, Sergio Aguero swinging his jersey in the air, Phil Jones pulling funny faces next to a Sir Alex Ferguson in disbelief. Before i know it, there's a pitch invasion at the Etihad, City are champions, but the events of the day had finally caught up with me. My heart? Broken.

Going into yesterday's penultimate game at the Etihad, nobody expected QPR to pull off any miracle. As the game came close to kick off, your heart begins to flutter slightly, your hope begins to build just a tad bit more, you look for any sign of hope. City started brightly, always looking dangerous. As Zabaleta took his shot, it would seem Paddy Kenny's ability to catch a football had deserted him, 1-0.....oh well.

Once half time arrived, we could begin our 45 minute journey to accepting City were about to win the league, if City had came out and scored again early on, we could fast forward our acceptance and begin to concentrate on other things in life. No, not on Djibril Cisse's watch, as Jolean Lescott misplaced a header, the Frenchman raced on and gave us all hope, we began to believe again, could we? Nah, never, but wait we're 1-0 up at Sunderland, we are actually top of the league. Joey Barton's attempts at beating the whole Man City team up didn't help things, only for Micah Richards, we would have been treated to the collision of our generations between Barton and Balotelli, that would have been some spectacle. As far as Barton is concerned, admitting to wanting to take one of the oppositions players out of the game is ridiculous, a ban of 9 games is not enough, he will have to do an awful lot of guest appearances on Newsnight to make up for this one. The man shouldn't be in football, simple as. 

City came close again a couple of times before the absolute unthinkable happened.

Armand Traore, a man who was involved in the 8-2 drubbing that Arsenal received at Old Trafford earlier in the season,  broke down the left hand side, and pin pointed a cross onto a magnificent Jamie Mackie's head, it's 2 bloody 1. A special mention must go out to Jamie Mackie here, a man who has gone through all divisions, a proper footballer who wears his heart on his sleeve, could very well play for a club higher up the table. So here i sit (edge of my seat), it's 2-1, 5 minutes of stoppage time in front of me, i begin to believe.

Balotelli was causing all sorts of trouble, and this time it was for the team he was actually playing against. A corner, the big forgotten man from Bosnia decided to come out to play, Dzeko equlises, it's 2-2. But we're still top, the game has just ended at the Stadium of Light, we are merely seconds away from snatching the title from our bitter rivals

Deep into stoppage time, Sergio Aguero picks the ball up, clipped, could have gone down, but no he continues on. As he bares down on goal, i drop to my knees, Martin Tyler winds his voice up, Aguero winds his right foot up, and BANG.......UNBELIEVABLE. Aguero scores and all hell breaks loose at the Etihad, at the Stadium of Light? United fans and players are distraught, it's over, City have finally won the league again. There's nothing i can do, i just stay in the same position, wanting it all to just go away, the fear is, it's only just beginning. I bring you back to a piece i wrote 24 hours before the Community Shield and an extract from that piece about the verdict on how City would do this year, i hate being right on this one.

This really could be City's year, they have the talent, the potential, all the infrastructure is there for them. Champions League football will dictate how close they come for the league this year in my opinion, the further they go in Europe, the less likely they are to mount a real challenge. For me anyway, they are United's main challengers, and the title is going to Manchester in 2012, but which part?

I truly believe that City are a worldwide force, a team that can only get better. We will never see the likes of what happened yesterday again. As a staunch United fan, i wouldn't wish that on any other fan from any other club, it was unbearable. They say football is just a game, and their right, but it's a game that grips you, chews you up and spits you out.

I'm not bitter, as far as i am concerned, if you get to a point, where on the very last day of the season, in the very last minute, if you have the ball at your feet, one kick away from winning the league, and you have the bottle to smash that ball into the back of the net? Then, you deserve to win that league. Money is what brought certain players to Manchester City, but you can not deny the joy in their faces, this was about more than money to them, it was massive.

All i can really say now is, congratulations to Manchester City, it's been a hell of a ride.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Oh go on then, Evra vs Suarez: My View

Before this weekends game, i swore to myself i wouldn't get involved. I wont be one of those supporters that gets caught up in what, basically, is a game of football.

The sub plots going into yesterdays game were massive. Would they, wouldn't they? Everybody was tuned in to see what would happen when the customary handshakes took place. For those hoping for fireworks, although Mario Balotelli was not involved, they sure as hell got them. I'm going to try and break this report down into three sections. My view on Suarez's actions, Evra's celebrations and then the managers reactions to the day's proceedings.

As a Manchester United supporter, and a human being in general, i'm trying to be as unbiased as i can with this man. This isn't Luis Suarez's first controversial day at the office. Whilst at Ajax, Suarez during a heated argument, bit Otman Bakkal on his shoulder/neck region. This bout of madness got the Uruguayan a 7 match ban. His hand ball in the World Cup against Ghana was indeed controversial, but i'm not going to be one of the people who hold that against him, it was his country, i would have done the same thing.

The whole saga with Patrice Evra is going to haunt Suarez for the rest of his career, and for that, i have a small bit of sympathy. The reason for this is, i for one, do not know or believe that Luis Suarez is a racist in any way shape or form. Suarez racially abused Evra, but all of this could have been thwarted with a quick admission of guilt and an apology for the ignorance he had shown. This apology never came, and still has not come to this day. Just 30 minutes ago, a statement of apology has been release by Liverpool football club for the handshake incident. No apology has come for Octobers actions. It's this ignorance by all sides at Liverpool that is damaging the reputation of a great football club.

Ah, Patrice. After being racially abused last October, his credibility being questioned, the abuse he received at Anfield 2 weeks ago and the handshake incident. How could Patrice Evra not overreact a bit when it comes to celebrating a massive win in front of his home fans who have been supporting him throughout this ordeal. Let's get this straight now. I believe Evra was indeed trying to provoke reaction from Suarez at the end, something you would not encourage. A silly mistake, something that should have been left alone, but not anywhere near the actions of his arch nemesis Suarez.

Dalglish and Ferguson
These two are not best of friends at the best of times are they? So it was no surprise they both had different reactions to yesterdays affair.

Ferguson's claims that Suarez should never play for the club again were a tad bit over the top. Although his disgust at the way Suarez handled the situation is correct, he is a disgrace to the football club.

Dalglish went off on a bit of a rant didn't he? One that was overdue, as in, getting in Geoff Shreeves face about the constant coverage and hype of every little thing in football right now. Sky are not helping the situation in any way, the constant bombardment of players and clubs is driving them to do things they wish they didn't. The one gripe i have with Dalglish's rant was that, he answered a question in an aggressive manner and the rant was correct, but he answered the wrong question.

With the apology this morning from Liverpool FC and Luis Suarez, i sincerely hope this can all be put to bed. Even if the apology doesn't come for last October's actions, lets take this and let it die now. At no point yesterday evening, did i speak to anybody about the actual football match, you know that thing that we go to watch with such anticipation. United went top, Liverpool's Champions League ambitions seem to have vanished. They should be the talking points, not an over rated full back and a lunatic who plays for Liverpool.

I fully expect that the next time the two teams meet, Suarez and Evra will shake hands, it won't be warm, there will be tension. But, this is hopefully the end of what is one of the most tedious battles in Premier League history.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Could Mourinho Spur on Tottenham this Summer?

Look who could be coming back. Yes, this week it has been reported that Jose Mourinho could indeed be about to leave Real Madrid in the Summer, and sighting a return to the Premier League as the likeliest destination.

7 points clear of Barca heading into the final stretch of La Liga and into the last 16 of the Champions League, you would think things are all rosy at the Bernabeu, you'd be wrong. Mourinho has grown "sick and tired" with the politics and public falling outs within the camp. Another factor it would seem, is that the Spanish press just don't give him the spotlight as much as the famous English media. During his time in England, Mourinho enjoyed great success not only on the pitch with Chelsea, but forged a great relationship with the media.

Once he left England, he got a slightly different treatment in Italy when he took over at Inter Milan. Despite less than healthy relations with the media and fans, Mourinho sensationally guided the club to the Champions League trophy seeing off Bayern in the final before leaving for the match made in heaven slot in Madrid. Since arriving in Madrid, Mourinho has guided them to just the Copa Del Ray, beating Barca in the final last season. Apart from that, he has struggled to overcome Pep Guardiola and the clashes between the teams have become petty and fill of controversy. Mourinho now seems keen to return to England, even if he fails to land the league or champions league this season. My question now is, where?

Manchester United has long been his favored destination and the challenge of replacing Sir Alex Ferguson is something Mourinho would interest the Portuguese man. Problem being, Fergie seems to have no intention of stepping down, not even for the Special One. Ferguson would realistically have to win something this season for him to even consider it being his last in charge, and even then, he would surely have to give the club their blessing to approach Jose.

If United are not the destination, then who is? AVB has been under a lot of pressure at Chelsea, but surely won't be sacked so quickly after being appointed and given money to spend. Plus, everybody know AVB is a fantastic manager and sacking him would not only be costly, but also a slightly stupid move. A swap with Arsene Wenger at Arsenal? Now, that would be interesting, but it is also a bit dramatic and something i highly doubt could happen. Liverpool? I can't see them getting shot of Kenny Dalglish, even if they should. Dalglish will more than likely lead Liverpool to the Carling Cup, and despite possibly not bringing them Champions League football next season, the bond with the club seems too deep.

That leaves, wait for it, Tottenham. A surprise package some would say in this seasons race for the league, a team on the up. Fabio Capello will leave the England post at the end of the European Championships this Summer, paving the way for 'Arry to fulfill a long time goal of leading his country. Without financial problems, Spurs may indeed seem an attractive option for Mourinho. Players are in place who have superb quality, funds can be made available for some transfers and expectations remain at maintaining Champions League football.  The only thing that may hold him back is the wages he would be offered at Spurs, they are not known for heavy wage bills and despite Jose's apparent claim that money is not a problem, it might be.

Joining Tottenham would also not hinder a possible move up North in the future, whether that be to City or United. United certainly have no problem in taking players from Tottenham, and presumably would not have a problem taking their manager. As for City, this season Mancini has done a very good job, he will surely not get the boot even if they fail to lift the Premier League this season. Mourinho would add something to Tottenham, probably lift expectations also. Beating Barcelona gets to Jose, he needs to get that out of his system. Either way, it seems the English media are getting their darling back this Summer.

Although, i could be completely wrong, he may just take the England job.... 

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Barcelona victorious in Copa first leg - Match Report

Real Madrid 1-2 Barcelona

If you had predicted that a French International would get the winner in tonight's El Clasico, most people would automatically look to Karim Benzema. Not Barcelona fans, oh no, Eric Abidal had plans of his own. When he snook in behind Altintop midway through the second half and latched onto a sublime ball over the top from Lionel Messi, he look as assured as any striker in Europe, slotting home what turned out to be the match winner.

Iker Casillas's face after picking the ball out of the net told the story of this night. A look of dejection, a look of resignation that another chance to get one over on Barca had gone whistling by. It genuinely looked as though the Spanish number 1 could indeed break out in tears. It had all started so well.

Before the game Mourinho had gone with a team that he believed was fit for the occasion. Not necassarily putting out all his talented footballers, he was to put out a team that was capable in his view of beating Barca and sticking to his tactics. Ricardo Carvalho returned for his first start since September, Hamit Altintop chosen at right back which moved Ramos inside, allowing Pepe to hold in midfield with Lassana Diarra and Xavi Alonso. Barcelona on the other hand, were not changing their team for anyone, they put out the team that would beat anyone on the planet, never mind just Real.

Real started brightly as they did in the previous meeting between the two. Harrasing the passing style of Barca and breaking well, they looked up for it. In particular, Cristiano Ronaldo looked to have a bee in his bonnet, defending in not usually his glowing attribute, but regularly tracked back to win possession and help out his defense. Not long into the game, Benzema played a lovely ball around the back of Barca's defense in which caught Dani Alves out, Ronaldo picked it up 30 yards out, running to the box, one step over and bang, the ball driven straight through a wanting Pinto in goal. Real were one up, Ronaldo looked on it, what could go wrong? I honestly can not understand how so many teams have not got it right with Lassana Diarra. He is the type of footballer who would just ruin your day as a midfielder, he is truly excellent on his day and kept Xavi relatively quiet throughout the half. Alexis Sanchez's delicious header almost made it level pegging, latching onto a great pass from Cesc Fabragas (14 goals from 18 starts), the header just hit the crossbar and fell to Ramos. Barca grew into the half, their passing range became better and only for Andres Iniesta's poor attempt at wrapping his foot around the ball, it could have been 1-1. Real went in 1 up, but you could see Barecelona were finding their feel, and a goal was inevitable.

They didn't have to wait long after the break to get the equalizer, a momentary lapse of concentration from Pepe allowed a determined Puyol get onto a Xavi corner and see his diving header rocket into the bottom corner. Barca continued to dominate more and more, an inch perfect pass from Fabregas to Iniesta almost resulted in the second, only for his effort to cannon of Ramos and off the top of the post. Ronldo had changed wings midway through the half and was not getting as much of the ball, when he did, he looked dangerous but he possibly should have stayed down Dani Alves's side. It all got rather typical El Clasico at some points, imaginary cards, player pretending to be hurt, Pepe breaking every rule under the sun etc etc. Pepe possibly could have seen red when he appeared to stand on Lionel Messi's hand late in the half, it was deemed as an accident, it probably wasn't in fairness. Altintop is not particularly used to playing at right back, this showed when Messi found time to place the ball over the Real defense and into Eric Abdial's path, in which he took it down and nicely place his shot into the bottom corner with the outside of his left boot.

From there on it looked a done deal. Barcelona will go into the second leg not only with 2 away goals and the lead, but also with the confidence that Real look a beaten team. Lionel Messi was extremely quiet, but yet set the winner up. You would feel it not possible to keep him as quiet come the second leg, which is something Real will fear. One thing Madrid can take from this is the effect Ronaldo had on the game, he showed a real desire in the first half, something he is criticized for against the bigger teams, hopefully he can build on this. All in all, Barcelona look set to knock Madrid out of another competition, and will be hoping this can affect the race for La Liga also.

Joe Snee

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Danny Wellbeck - The rise of a star in the making

Daniel Nii Tackie Mensah, also known as Danny Wellbeck, has rose to prominence in a season where Thierry Henry and Paul Scholes have made nostalgic returns to the Premier League.

As of now, he seems to have tied down a position where there is no lack of competition. Being Wayne Rooney's partner is not the easiest of positions on a football field. For a start, Wayne tends to drop very deep when the ball is not fired into his feet early on, often leaving his strike partner alone up top.  Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Owen struggle at times to deal with this, pace is not the Bulgarians strongest attribute and Owens pace and ability to stay fit has long gone. Javier Hernandez's first season in England was a major success, scoring 20 goals in your first season is absolutely nothing to be sniffed at, though this season the Mexican finishing machine has struggled to nail down a starting position. Whether that is down to the concussion sustained or a niggling ankle injury picked up against Aston Villa, it's certainly something he will not be happy with. One conclusion i have came to is that Hernandez does not link up play as well as the likes of Wellbeck, Hernandez makes some amazing runs, brings defenders away from his strike partner and has the ability to find the back of the net like not many others around.

When Wellbeck starts up top with Rooney, he links up play so well it is genuinely a joy to watch at times. He has a partnership with Rooney that  is very much diverting peoples attention away from the midfield situation and keeping Manchester United in the title race. He is now adding the scoring ability to his all around power and speed which has the potential to bring him right to the top. Ruud Van Nistelrooy often gave a young 13 year old Wellbeck advice on his finishing and all around play, this has stood to the United striker.

A lot of credit must be given to Steve Bruce and Sunderland, Wellbeck was sent on loan last season to Wearside, which it was hoped would give him some more experience. He made 28 appearances for the Black Cats and scored 6 goals in his time there, including a goal in a win at Stamford Bridge. He gained some muscle whilst on loan, playing week in week out either up top or on the left, he really came into his own. He now looks the full package, he now looks like a Manchester United footballer.

My question really is, should he be brought to the European Championships this Summer with England? In my view, and this may be slightly bias, i think he should most certainly be on the plane. The competition for places will be big, Carroll, Defoe, Bent, Sturridge and Rooney are all players who could make the trip. I think Wellbeck would offer a no-fear attitude that a 21 year old International should have. His link up with Rooney also offers England a ready made partnership. Many will say Daniel Sturridge should be ahead of Wellbeck, fair points will be made as well, so why not bring them both? Use Sturridge on the right (he won't be happy) . Wellbeck really could add something new and exciting to the set up, even with only 3 Senior International caps to his name.

As far as his club career in the future is concerned, there is a slight concern over his wage demands. So far, these are just rumors, and rumors usually stay at that. The lad looks as though he genuinely is a born and bred Manchester United footballer who would love to stay at the club and become a legend, let's hope that happens.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Are the noisy neighbours about to turn the volume up?

So, here i sit, less than 24hours before the 2011 Community Shield between Manchester United and Manchester City, bitter rivals, all the more bitter since City's billionaire owners decided to settle down in Manchester. Sir Alex Ferguson often refers to United's rivals as the "noisy neighbours", but with all this, you still got the feeling Sir Alex was not totally worried about City's ambition. If he was not this time last year, he would sure as hell want to be now.

Since the takeover, the noise City have created has gradually been building. Under Hughes, they were just seen as a student house that often had the odd house party, harmless enough and usually tired themselves out after a while, then the arrival of Roberto Mancini and the arrival of players such as Carlos Tevez, David Silva and Yaya Toure just turned the volume up some more, the volume was turned up so much that United would often have to go around and ask them to turn it down, City obliged, until the FA Cup Semi-Final where they would not give in, showed their class and won through and had their party. Ultimately, United won the league, so City's success in the Cup was dampened by this.

This Summer transfer window has been all about the two Manchester clubs so far, the next two weeks will surely see Arsenal have a face lift, along with Chelsea bringing in at least one player in highly rated Belgian Lukaku, Liverpool seem to be just interested in spending big on central midfielders and British born players while Arry has not done a lot at Spurs.....well nothing in fact. United burst into the market with the signings of Phil Jones and Ashley Young, two promising signings which add great depth to the squad and added competition. They were soon joined by highly rated Spanish U-21 goalkeeper David De Gea, this lad has the potential to be one of the best around, as long as he works on his set piece ability, he will live up to his potential. As far as replacing Paul Scholes, United have failed. Wesley Sneijder is continuously linked, but nothing as of yet, although we all know talks are taking place, but as of today, we also know talks are taking place with arch rivals Manchester City also. United have options in the center, more than widely thought. Rooney can and will drop deep, Anderson staying fit will be big for United, whilst Tom Cleverly looks as though he will be given a well deserved chance this year, a talent that need to be respected.

City were not to be out done in the market, after some shrude business with the signing of promising defender Savic, they also brought in Gael Clichy, this man splits opinion, personally i don't rate him as high as others have, but will do a job with City. In a week where it looked likely they would nab Samir Nasri, they came up with a quick and straight forward signing, and what a signing. Sergio "Kun" Aguero is a special footballer, he has got it all, even Maradona's daughter. I make no secret of the fact, i do not like Carlos Tevez, i can appreciate his talent, but in Aguero, they have a player who is not like for like replacement, he is better in most departments. Whether Tevez stays to partner Aguero is up in the air, but what a front 5/6 City will have.

Mario Balotelli, another amazing footballing talent, clearly loopy, but clearly gifted. The LA Galaxy scene was blown out of all proportion, it happened, people need to get over it. The game was a pre season friendly in which he thought he was offside, and even if he didn't, would people prefer he did this in an important game? Other options include David Silva, maybe the most technically gifted player in the Premier League, adds great vision and ability to the attacking line. Players such as Yaya Toure, James Milner, Adam Johnson and Edin Dzeko will surely be enough to get the goals needed for a proper run at the title?

The only area of concern would be defense, Vincent Kompany has a decent shout for being the best defender in the league, Joe Hart also just as good an argument for best keeper. This though is where the problem lies, Clichy will do a job, but a lot of the time needs help through a lack of concentration. Another central defender may be needed to add depth.

Verdict: This really could be City's year, they have the talent, the potential, all the infrastructure is there for them. Champions League football will dictate how close they come for the league this year in my opinion, the further they go in Europe, the less likely they are to mount a real challenge. For me anyway, they are United's main challengers, and the title is going to Manchester in 2012, but which part?

Wednesday, 6 July 2011 are the man, but you already knew that didn't you?

Having a starting point on discussing this man is very difficult, if not impossible, but i will try. Various articles are very interested when reporters make cases for why he is either brilliant OR rubbish. The man divides opinion, one thing for sure though, is that Zlatan is cock sure of how damn good he is, and i have to agree.

When it comes to people here that i talk to, its hard to ever talk about him without finding yourself going on a rant, for a couple of reasons. So many fans base their opinion on a player on one thing and one thing only, and that is the Champions League. The reason for this is because that is where they get to see the big boys from around Europe come out to play through the coverage we get from Sky, ITV etc etc you get the point. They then get to see the likes of Bayern, Inter, Milan, Juventus, Ajax, Barca and Madrid play, sometimes though they only watch them if they are playing a big match or another English team is not on TV, other than that, they will watch them on highlights shown directly after the feature match. Nothing wrong with this, its good that people watch the highlights, better than not watching anything at all. The problem is, they base their opinion on a player from these highlights, or from the couple of games they see a player play in the competition from playing their team.

This leads me to Zlatan, people i know actually have called him a very bad player, come on you cant be serious? You watch maybe 2 full games of this man a season.......if even that, and if he has an off game or just does not score, then you make your mind up on him. One thing worth point out, is that the Swede does not have a great record in the Champions League, in fact, he left Inter and they won the competition, he then leaves Barca....guess what? they then go on and win it. If a fan was to indeed take time out to watch Zlatan in the Italian league, then they would just see why he is one of the best players in the world, his touch is just simply fantastic, up there with the best touch in World football. He can change a game in seconds, he can win a match all by himself also. So, many will say he is a big game bottler, this is also false, terribly false in fact. If you were to watch the Milan derby last season, he cause all sorts of problems against his former club, getting, and scoring the penalty that indeed won the game. Just 6 minutes into his first ever El Clasico, Zlatan popped up and volleyed home the winner, what a goal that was.

Maybe we should check this pass out? There was not much need for it, but hey, its wonderful to watch..

Ok enough with the videos, lets take a look at his, according to people i talk to in Ireland, flop season in Spain? This actually makes me laugh. He is actually still a Barcelona player, although Milan will want him and the fee set was not much more than £20million. Ibrahimovic did not ask for Barca to pay in and around £40million plus Samuel Eto'o for him. Talk at the time was, Eto'o had to leave die to falling out with players/staff etc and was thrown in as a sweetner to make the loss of Inter's best player a little less painful. Ibrahimovic scored 16 goals in 29 league games, and only 23 of them were from the start of a game. Not bad is it? Add in some goals in the Champions League against Arsenal and you have got a top quality striker. He did not fit in with Barca's style of play and that inevitably has led to him leaving. Barca wanted a plan B, he did not fit that bill, although playing some great stuff, he just didn't suit. 

Zlatan has won, and quote me on this, 8 league 8years, a title every year for 8 years. This is no coincidence, he can clearly be disruptive, but clearly one of footballs best players. 

La Gazzetta dello Sport summed it: "Serie A is a tournament in which various teams compete, and then at the end Zlatan Ibrahimovic wins."