Friday April 20 — the Drogba-less London repechage, part IXBy Alberta Gooner | April 9th, 2012 | Category: Daily Links, English Premier League, Featured Posts, Lead Article, Rumors, Soccer | 35 comments
The release of Forbes‘ annual list the most valuable football clubs could not have provided a more suitable backdrop to Saturday’s Battle of the Brands. Because the tilt between Roman’s Rent Boys and Holloway Road Properties PLC is nothing if about the money. There’s no silverware on the line in the London repechage as the league title will be a strictly Mancunian affair. At stake is a 30m pound swag of Heineken/Sony Playstation/McDonald’s branded loot for playing in the Champions League. And yes, neutrals would point out — probably laughing hysterically — that Arsene Wenger would be appalled about spending that loot on actual players while Roman Abramovitch would use to pay the annual fuel bill for his fleet of yachts (or mistresses). Well, I suppose there’s always local pride to consider.
Anyway, both teams will enter the Grove without key players. Mikel Arteta did his ankle against Wigan and proceeded to watch his teammates bottle it and refuse to shake hands with Wigan as their manager melted down on the sidelines shrieking about timewasting. The Rent Boys will be without injured talisman Didier Drogba, who apparently strained his vagina knee after hurling himself to the Stamford Bridge potato patch one too many times against those ferocious tacklers from Catalonia on Wednesday. As Drogba has personally filleted the Gunners back four by himself over the years, there’s some relief in north London. Although given the club’s appalling record without Arteta in the lineup, there really shouldn’t be. I’m still deciding whether or not my constitution will be able to handle it, especially as the game gets going at 5:30 a.m. in my time zone so I’ll be cranky enough without having to suffer another piss-poor bottle job. My television may not make it through the match.
Enough of that rot. There’s actually precious little reading material worth relaying but Tom Parfitt’s piece about the anglicism of Athletic Bilbao is a little bit special and well worth your time.
Boy, the kids have been bringing some colour to Beetface’s ruddy complexion — and probably in some of the dialogue in the Carrington training complex. First, it was Ravel Morrison and his fascination with firearms (and apparent disinterest in training). Then it was Paul Pogba’s disinterest in extending his deal. Now, Duncan Castles reports Italian starlet Davide Petrucci is considering his options. Kids these days, eh, Fergie?
Speaking of which, my first training session for the outdoor season starts this weekend. Cannot wait. Enjoy your football and have a great weekend! AG
Thursday April 19 — deja vu all over again at the Bridge
I did manage to laugh when I read Cesc Fabregas’ pre-match comments about how di Matteo had remoulded the side. “In recent games against Chelsea when I was at Arsenal and now with Barca, even though we kept possession it’s hard to play against them. They counter very easily and Didier Drogba can score against you. So you have to be careful and aware of the threat they pose on the counter-attack.”
Nostra – frigging – damus couldn’t have called it better because when I watched the match, I immediately realized I had seen that same movie replayed a number of times in the past few years, both at the Bridge and the Grove.
The Catalan pass masters tika-takked their way around the blue-shirted training cones at the Bridge only to be foiled by Petr Cech and Cesc Fabregas’ inability to kick a soccer ball inside the penalty area. Part of his brain must switch off when he enters the box — it really must irritate his managers. Anyway, Bobby di Matteo borrowed the tactics book of Air Marshall Pulis and proceeded to hoof the ball at Didier Drogba, who was in one of his moods. You know the one I’m talking about — it’s the moany, bi-polar hypersensitivity that causes the occasional collapse to the pitch and the snarling willingness to throw an elbow. If he isn’t the most infuriating player to mark in the game, he’s in the top three. Anyway, the Rent Boys put together one move to bother Victor Valdes. Frank Lampard robbed Lionel Messi and released Ramires with a peach of a pass. The Brazilian — who has quietly become a stellar ever-present for Roman’s Rent Boys — teed up the Drog to knock it past Valdes with his left foot. And then proceeded to park the bus for the second half.
Barca should be able to step it up a couple of gears back in Catalonia but it’s the kind of result that sets up nicely for di Matteo’s boys, who can lay back and try to hit Barca on the counter. And as Holloway Road Property customers have seen over the past five years, that can be a very effective strategy.
In the other semifinal, the holy trinity of tactical punditry – Jonathan Wilson, Bobby McMahon and Michael Cox – break down how FC Hollywood defeated Franco FC, although the Bavarians really should be heading to Spain with a two or three-goal lead in the tie.
One observation I’d like to make is the Catalan Aesthes get all kinds of plaudits for La Masia but have a look at the Bavarians lineup and you’ll see the same willingness to grow their own. Phillip Lahm, Holger Badstuber, Thomas Mueller and Bastian Schweinsteiger all spent time in their youth system. The latest two to roll off the factory line, Toni Kroos and David Alaba, look like fantastic players who are ready for prime time. Obviously, they have spent big (Ribery, Robben, Neuer) and generally act like arrogant twats but Barca can be pretty insufferable and have paid over the odds to bring in the likes of Villa, Sanchez and Cesc.
That’s today’s homily. Enjoy and I’ll be back tomorrow with thoughts of Saturday’s tong war between Roman’s Rent Boys and the toddlers from the Holloway Road nursery.
Tuesday April 17 – enjoying the egg on the omelet maker’s face
Supporting Arsenal is a little like smoking — it takes years off your life. Just when you think they’ve turned the corner, you see them step in a big, steaming pile of what was served up on Monday night. It was pretty amateur stuff but it ought to highlight a few points:
1. Wigan’s win against United wasn’t a fluke. They are a pretty well organized side and it’s amazing they sit below Villa given how they’ve played in the past few weeks. They look solidly midtable. Victor Moses — the Cronaldo of the January 2009 transfer rumour mill — gave Bacary Sagna more trouble than any left winger in recent memory. They fully deserved to win and it was embarrassing to see Wenger bitch about their timewasting and RvP slap away Gary Caldwell’s hand after the match. Unacceptable and unseemly behaviour.
2. The planks who’ve moaned about us signing Mikel Arteta should be forced — after being slapped upside the head a few times — to watch this match over and over. They should be joined by the wannabe Kenny Dalglish muppets who complain we should have signed a proven EPL defender rather than Laurent Koscielny. Both of their absences were keenly felt.
3. Aaron Ramsey is struggling and some impatient Chicken Littles are already chirping about him being a poor player blah, blah, blah. The kid has been overplayed this year as much as Jack Wilshere was last year. The halfwitted twats who think Wenger should play a best XI each and every single game have no clue about the physical demands of soccer, possibly because they’ve not dragged their fat asses from in front of the television to actually play the game. Or they are too counting up points playing “fantasy football.” Or Football Manager. Or some other dumbassed role-playing timewaster that has nothing to do with the sport of football. Wenger’s biggest mistake last year was overplaying Wilshere. He’s made the same mistake with Ramsey and, what’s worse, has asked the kid to play out of position. It’s not firing for him right now but about the dumbest thing we could do is boo the kid or run him off the club. Believe me, Beetface would snaffle him up in a second. I rarely run overtly partisan blogs but Gilberto Silver’s words on gunnerblog about Ramsey and the Ox are about as sensible as you’ll find.
The Ox, by the way, is a nominee for the PFA Young Player of the Year, which is simply ridiculous. He’s started in five frigging Premier League games. Now I happen to think he’s going to be a fantastic player but there’s a difference between talent and accomplishment. Iain Macintosh sees it as footballers exhibiting their usual sound judgment.
And when you think of sound judgment, Andy Carroll is never far from that conversation. Gabriele Marcotti explains the rationale behind Dalglish FC’s investment in the felonious Geordie to the hedge fund crowd.
On the subject of high finance, there are fewer better authorities than the Swiss Ramble, who assesses QPR’s books and finds some interesting but troubling numbers. I wonder whether Sparky will stick with them if they wind up getting relegated?
To the land of clogs and tulips, where Mohamed Moallim sees Ajax break free of a tight pack at the top of the Eredivisie.
Monday April 16 – hungry like Klopp’ wolves
To Wembley, where a pair of fiercely contested rivalries were decided by a couple of beleaguered individuals who had endured much abuse for poor performances. Well done to Andy Carroll and Martin Atkinson for ignoring the critics and making the decisive moves in the penalty. Carroll may never live up to his 35m price tag but he headed Dalglish FC into the final over their bitter rivals.
Fresh from ignoring Mario Balotelli planting his studs into Alex Song’s knee, Atkinson continued his pigheaded idiocy in awarding a non-goal to Rent Boys that allowed the tactical witlessness of the wheeler dealer to be absolved by his buddies on Fleet Street. Michael Cox breaks down the contributions of Ramires and outlines how Robbie di Matteo has changed the Rent Boys defensive system. David Pleat, meanwhile, highlighted the contribution of Juan Mata beyond that ghost goal.
Fresh from Sunday’s disaster, Scott Parker was announced as a finalist for the PFA Player of the Year, which underscores that a few footballers should not be entrusted with a ballot because they either see it as a popularity contest or — in the words of Bobby Charlton — they are thicker than seven planks.
One player who deserves to be on that list ahead of Parker is Michael Jackson FC’s attacking midfielder/rapper Clint Dempsey, who is profiled by Bobby McMahon.
And finally to the Continent, where Raphael Honigstein watches the hungry wolves (no, me either — something must either be lost in translation or somebody is a Duran Duran fan) Borussia Dortmund best their rivals and all but clinch the Bundesliga for the second straight season.
Friday April 13 – sending in the clowns. Or Johan Cruyff
When it comes to villians of convenience, few ownership groups in sports can rival the Glazers, whose stewardship of the more genteel, prawn-munching side of Salford has engendered its own green-and-gold fashion line. Being shrewdly astute, they’ve likely got a piece of the company producing the Newton Heath protest kit for angrier elements. Hell, I’ll bet David Gill is looking into an official kit supplier and sponsorship deal right now.
Anyway, they have been routinely ridiculed for the very legal if unethical hijacking of United and loading debt on to the club in a sort of all-you-can-eat buffet of arcane debt instruments. Yet the sides fielded by Beetface – who channels his inner rottweiler while defending them — continue to churn out both results and favourable cash flow. Even if they have to pressgang the odd ginger passing geniuses back on to the field after Ravel Morrison flounced off to the east end porn merchants when Fergie refused his request for a club-issued firearm to hunt United interns for sport. Kids these days, eh Fergie?
Anyhooo the point is while the Glazers get more bad press than an oil company on Earth Day, Fenway Sports Group were hailed as model foreign owners. Let’s review
1. They bought one of football’s biggest brands for pennies on the pound in a bankruptcy hearing after two of the biggest and most unpopular idiots in organized sport failed to stump up and repay RBS.
2. They appointed Damien Comolli as DoF based on the advice of long-time baseball general manager Billy Beane. That’s a baseball insider advising them on football.
3. They fire Woy Hodgson, who had a limited transfer budget and whose purchases reflected it, and reappointed a club legend to replace him.
4. They splashed the cash on promising young British talent supplemented by the odd experienced Premier Leaguer.
All of this — plus occasional tweets interacting with supporters – elevated John W Henry to god-king status on Merseyside but how wise was this?
As David Hynter pointed out, all they needed to do was ask Arsene Wenger about Comolli’s credentials rather than Billy bloody Beane.
As the Telgraph’s Hugh Grant points out, appointing a strong-willed club legend has created issues of its own, especially when King Kenny decided to dust off his early 1990s template used at Ewood Park.
So then where to now for FSG? They need to look at that other “model” American owner, Randy Lerner, as a cautionary tale.
In the vaccuum created by Comolli’s departure, various agents, old boys and others are floating their own rumours. Fresh from causing a schism at Ajax – one that featured racial undertones, Johan Cruyff is mooted as being looked at by FSG. The Times, meanwhile, has them sounding out Cruyff’s rival Louis van Gaal. Can I be the first to throw Shanghai Shenhua player-manager Nicolas Anelka’s name into that ring? He even comes with his own agent, a really charming fellow. Honestly, check with Arsene Wenger.
Anyway, FSG must carefully plot its next move, including a succession plan for King Kenny, or else it will totter down the same path trudged earlier by Randy Lerner. Sound management starts at the top rather than the technical area. FSG haven’t demonstrated that beyond more than an eye for an undervalued asset and the ability to extract top dollar for endorsements.
If Liverpool are looking for a new manager, Brian Simpson proposes Paul Lambert.
Thursday April 12 – the long knives are drawn at Anfield
So fare thee well Damien Comolli, whose tenure as Director of Football at Anfield did not even last two years. Brought to Merseyside to install a Moneyball philosophy, one could argue it never really arrived after the club splurged 35m on Andy Carroll and another 22.8m on Luis Suarez shortly after his arrival. Even allowing for the fact that those signings could be cast as a goodwill gesture to Dalglish FC supporters in wake of Statler and Waldorf’s disastrous reign at the club, the summer signings at Anfield were simply not good enough. Full stop. Brought in for more than 40m, Jordan Henderson, Charlie Adam and Stewart Downing did not deliver value for money and Comolli signed off on those deals. And if I’m John W Henry, Tom Werner and the rest of the FSG braintrust, I’m casting those deals against what my rivals spent and their impact. Liverpool was supposed to supplant Arsenal in the Champions League spots — that was conventional wisdom in August on Fleet Street based on the summer spending but you’d have to look at Wenger’s 23m spent on Mikel Arteta and the Ox and suggest they delivered more for less, which is a big reason why Arsenal is in third and Liverpool is in the middle of the table. Newcastle is bothering the top four and both their dynamic midfield duo — Chiek Tiote and Yohann Cabaye — cost less than Charlie Adam.
Many observers suggest Comolli makes a convenient scapegoat for an underperforming while club legend King Kenny has escaped the axe somewhat unfairly. After all, Dalglish admitted he wanted those players and praised Comolli for bringing them into the club, which Phillip Cornwall sees as an unwise act of loyalty.
Life is not fair and Dalglish is not going to be getting it in the neck. He’s a club legend but I cannot help but think these signings — which he has nobly taken responsibility for — are strikingly similar to how he re-made Blackburn Rovers in the early 1990s with Sir Jack Walker’s money by buying the best British footballers (Alan Shearer, Tim Flowers, David Batty and Chris Sutton, among others) in the Premier League and bringing them to Ewood Park. He took them from the second division to Premier League champions in three years and it appears he tried to repeat that formula 20 years later and found the same level of success enjoyed by Martin O’Neill at Aston Villa — a very expensive spot in the upper mid-table. The problem for Dalglish — and one of the reasons that he looks very much like yesterday’s man — is looking at how his great rival Sir Alex Ferguson has evolved in terms of his transfer policy. Fergie signing Antonio Valencia for 18m — about two million less than Liverpool paid for Stewart Downing. Fergie has moved beyond the British Isles, both in recruiting ready-made players and youngsters. That was underscored by his willingness to sell Ravel Morrison — touted as the next great English footballer — for persistent indiscipline and persists with French youngster Paul Pogba even though the kid still has not agreed on a new deal. The rabid hobbits, David de Gea, Patrice Evra, Nemjana Vidic, Anderson, Dimitar Berbatov all suggest Fergie isn’t hung up on Britishness in terms of signings.
Not that everything is entirely sunshine and roses for football’s gentlest knight. Nick Miller says the 1-0 loss to Whelan FC underscores United’s embarrassing reliance on 37-year-old Paul Scholes. It’s amazing they have not lost with him in the lineup and all those snide commentators who dismissed Fabio Capello’s SOS to Scholes to attend the 2010 World Cup should be forced to wear a dunce cap.
To Spain, where Cronaldo hit the 40-goal mark in dismissing Atletico Madrid and ending FC Franco’s wobbles. Sid Lowe has the story. The free kick to open the game was simply sensational. He’s been incredible this year and I wonder how much more acclaim he’d receive without Lionel Messi performing similar feats in Catalonia.
To Germany, where Raphael Honigstein saw Borussia Dortmund end FC Hollywood title hopes. Michael Cox provides the tactical breakdown. Dortmund lost Nuri Sahin but they will retain their crown and that’s no small feat given how much the Bavarians laid out in the summer.
Wednesday April 11 – the new Curbishley
The wails of injustice and gnashing of teeth pierced the smoggy summer air around north London when Samir Nasri decided to follow his heart — and well-worn track from the Grove to the Middleastlands broken by Kolo Toure and subsequently followed by Emmanuel Adebayor and Gael Clichy. The chirps of doom from Chicken Littles increased when Arsene Wenger brought in Mikel Arteta, deemed over the hill and injury prone by the sage never-weres and has-beens in the stands and on Fleet Street. In light of Sunday’s win, which ended any chance of Na$ri collecting a winner’s medal that he left north London to collect, Michael Cox and James Maw look at his contribution to City, which is surprisingly similar to the same anonymous shift that he put in last spring during Arsenal’s collapse. 25m pounds — talk about taking the piss.
Journeying north to the Geordie Shore, where Fleet Street’s fashionable pre-season relegation candidates are pushing for a Champions League spot. Alan Hansen, who had been tipping Dalglish FC to pip Arsenal for fourth a couple weeks ago, puts the kiss of death on the poor barcodes. I included this piece for the irony value as Hansen has extolled the virtues of a “British” spine that Newcastle replaced with cheaper, better exports from the Continent. In doing so, they relied on Graham Carr, whom Daniel Story salutes as the unsung hero behind the Magpies’ success.
Talking of sudden success stories, David Conn traces the rise of Swansea City on and off the pitch.
If the Swans could turn themselves into a Welsh version of Stoke City — in terms of success rather than the inelegant mixture of hoofball and rugby union favoured by Air Marshall Pulis — I’m sure they’d be happy. However, Matt Stanger sees Pulis as holding back the Potters. While Pulis ranks high as one of my least favourite twats in English football, the criticism of him ”holding back” a midtable club in the Premier League is astonishing. Ask Charlton Athletic fans how they feel about the boring mediocrity of midtable security under Alan Curbishley. I suspect their view has changed a little in the past couple of years.
Wednesday April 10 – imposing a Balotelli moratorium
Once charming and amusing but now unescapable, perhaps it’s time to consign Mario Balotelli stories to the same dark place where we’ve put Paul Wilson’s punditry, Metro transfer rumours and other football-related felonies. That’s right — it’s time to open up Sofaball’s moratorium closet to wedge in Mario analysis for the rest of the year. It’s been an exhausting 24 hours of reading amateur psychoanalysis and second-guessing of Roberto Mancini by has-beens and never-weres who wouldn’t know a UEFA Pro License from a parking ticket. Anyway, Roberto Gotta assesses possible Italian destina . . . ARRGH. What have I done – I accidentally violated the moratorium on Balotelli links, which officially starts NOW.
Anyway Martin Atkinson claims he actually saw the studs-up challenge on Song’s knee, which prevents the FA from retrospective action on He Who Shall Not Be Named. Which proves he is either too pigheaded to admit his mistake or too incompetent to referee even a u-8 recreational game. Sorry shouldn’t be hard to say for a mistake that bad. Even Roberto Martinez received an apology for dodgy officiating that cost Whelan FC at least one point at the Bridge.
Let’s return to where we were in August with some Wenger bashing. It’s a little tougher to indulge in the reflexive action of kicking the Frenchman, what with his club now in third place and having played the year without Jack Wilshere or Cesc Fabregas or Samir Nasri. To be fair, we didn’t have Gael Clichy or Emmanuel Eboue (or any recognized fullback for about a month) so there’s something of a saw-off. But Duncan Castles doesn’t see it as a time for Wenger to rest on his laurels. Which I suppose I should be filed with a “no shit” hashtag. I suppose even the best pundits can serve up the occasional stinker.
There’s usually no such criticism of Stevie G, Liverpool club captain, midfield dynamo, occasional club deejay and fiull-time Phil Collins fan. Jonathan Wilson breaks with Fleet Street orthodoxy and risks the wrath of the red side of Mersyside by questioning whether Gerrard is good for Liverpool these days. Truthfully, I’ve seen him play about dozen times and I thought he’s been excellent. He’s not the player that he was three or four years ago, when I thought he was overrated because of his tactical indiscipline. But I think he’s done a far better job at adapting his game with age than Frank Lampard as one example. Liverpool’s season went straight to hell with Lucas Leiva’s injury with the nonsense around the Suarez-Evra incident being a contributing factor. Whatever the stats suggest, Steve Gerrard doesn’t inhibit Charlie Adam or Jay Spearing. That’s down to their modest abilities.
Another piece of orthodoxy under siege is possession statistics, with tactics guru Michael Cox laying siege to the argument that successful sides need to dominate the time with the ball to win in the Premier League. When you have a midfielder with the vision and technique possessed by Yohan Cabaye and finishers such as Papiss Cisse and Demba Ba, it’s true that quality versus quantity of possession is more important.
The good folks at Football365 love their lists and this one caught my eye as Matt Stanger rates the 10 ten French players to grace the Premier League with a very predictable top three.
Stanger was a busy boy on Monday as he explains why Newcastle could finish fourth after keeping up their improbable run. They certainly won’t lack for support as every single neutral will be rooting for them and rightly so. They’ve done it through shrewd management that is jarringly out of character on the Geordie Shore. It’s almost as though the club’s hierarchy went through a collective brain transplant. If they manage to oust the wheeler dealer from a Champions League qualifying spot and consign the Rent Boys to Europa League, it will almost as satisfying as adding a piece of silverware at the Grove. Almost.
To the Continent, where Raphael Honigstein sets the scene for the Bundesliga title decider between Dortmund and FC Hollywood on Wednesday.
In Italy, Richard Whittle explains how an unlikely hero helped the Old Lady overhaul Berlusconi FC.
Monday April 9 – Teetering on Tottenham High Road
Twenty hours after Sheik Mansour’s merry band of monied mercenaries were exposed again again as title pretenders in north London, the wheeler dealer’s lesser lights bottled it at home against Norwich even with the considerable assistance of referee Michael Oliver, who clearly mistook the lesser lights for Manchester United. The official denied the visitors two clear penalties and did not send off Ledley King, who decided to switch codes to rugby union and tackle Grant Holt in the area.
It’s going to be interesting to see how the wheeler dealer’s many friends on Fleet Street cast the latest turd served up by his side. The company line that has morphed into conventional wisdom is a group of experienced professionals — who took up ten spots in Henry Winter’s all north London XI — were distracted by the clarion calls for their manager to “rescue” the Three Lions. Given the past creativity exhibited by Fleet Street’s Big Thinkers in absolving ‘arry, at least we will not lack for material for our Taking the Piss award. I’m personally hoping to see someone — the Daily Mail’s Jeff Powell is probably the best bet — blame Spurs loss of form on Fabio Capello’s decision to “abandon” England. It’s far more likely the wheeler dealer’s carping about lacking the funds to compete with the big boys will receive widespread sympathy.
No such luck – or excuses – exist for Roberto Mancini, whose motley band of millionaires were played off the immaculate billiard table pitch at the Grove. For neutrals, it’s hard not to feel a little sympathetic for the Italian, who increasingly wears the same bemused, haggard expression of Bob Newhart (have a look — it’s absolutely uncanny). Although it’s now obvious Mario Balotelli — the Zap Brannigan to Mancini’s Kif Kroker – has aged him. Balotelli seemed eager to get sent off and only the blindness/myopia/incompetence/pigheadedness of Martin Atkinson allowed him to stay on after he buried his studs into Alex Song’s knee. But Mancini persisted with him and was duly blamed by all and sundry in the media. Rather than list all the links, let’s make do with the reproaches of Phil McNulty and Duncan Castles. With all the finger pointing at Mancini, not much praise was directed at the visitors who should have really won by three or four goals but wound up spurning several chances. I’d like to make the following points:
1. I was totally and completely wrong to call for Arsene Wenger to buy Mario Balotelli. As misjudgments go, it ranks with urging Wenger to purchase an experienced keeper rather than bring in Wojciech Szczesny. Balotelli is an immense talent but he was stupidly self-destructive on Sunday. Mancini’s warning that he will be out of top-level football in three years should be heeded by a young man with the tools to be one of the very best players in the world.
2. Alex Song and Mikel Arteta (total transfer cost — 11m) completely bossed the midfield, something noted even by former Spurs boss David Pleat. As Michael Cox points out, Yaya Toure’s injury aided the host’s cause in the centre of the park. With that said, we’ve played without Jack Wilshere for the entire bloody year. United have made do without Vidic. Mancini could pick from Nigel de Jong, James Milner, Gareth Barry and David Pizzaro, who cost more than Arsenal’s entire starting XI. The excuses were as thin as Abu Dhabi’s creativity and it’s damning they failed to muster a single shot on target. Outside of Yaya Toure, Vincent Kompany, David Silva and Joe Hart, none of them deserve to be champions. As pucker jobs go, this one is Keeganesque.
Speaking of which, we must give a big Sofaball salute to referee Lee Mason for supplanting Howard Webb and Michael Oliver in the Manchester United XII for the season. Not only did he fail to give Ashley Young a yellow card for a dive, he actually awarded a penalty and sent off a bemused Shaun Derry. He also managed to ignore the fact that Young was offside at the time, something acknowledged in Beetface’s splendid postmortem of the match (Fergie suggested the sending off was a bad thing for his side because they “relaxed” too much. His cheek — like his man management — remains magnificent). Later, of course, Mason ignored Wayne Rooney’s challenge on Samba Diakite, which was worthy of a red card. Mind you, that tackle wasn’t endlessly replayed by broadcasters with shocked outrage from commentators as a voiceover so I doubt there will be any retrospective punishment for the United striker given the lack of any media coverage, let alone outcry. After all, why would the FA want to piss in the cereal of Beetface or their best player? But there’s a reason why his disciplinary record in Europe and internationally is much worse than in the Premier League and it’s not because he plays any differently. It was a disgraceful challenge and he should be sitting a few games for it.
Enough sermonizing and let’s go to some links. Bobby McMahon explains to the hedge fund crowd at Forbes why expanding the Champions League makes sense.
Ben Lyttleton talks to a couple of football insiders on how successful clubs try to find a new manager. As opposed to how Aston Villa make a pig’s ear out of it. This article should be sent to Randy Lerner.
Finally, Brazilian clubs are rarely known for their sound adminstration but Tim Vickery sees how Santos has managed to punch above its weight.