Ferguson Gamble Pays Off

I thought Alex Ferguson’s team was a bit of a risk tonight. I fully understood him changing the attack and the midfield, but I was really surprised to see him change his back four in the way he did and I thought at the very least, that Vidic would play.

Anyway it worked, Smalling and Evans were never really troubled enough by Schalke. Smalling may have made the error that led to the goal, but I doubt that Fergie will be that bothered as he wasn’t bought for the here and now (take note Arsene Wenger).

There was a spell in the 2nd half when Raul dropped deep and saw a lot of the ball, but apart from that United were comfortable throughout. It was a sad way for Raul to depart the champions league if that was his last performance in it, but at least he wasn’t part of the Madrid team humiliated by their own manager and Barcelona over the past 10 days.

Although he is unlikely to start in the final, I really feared for Paul Scholes after he picked up yet another stupid booking just before half time. I don’t suppose I was the only one who wondered where it might end up.

Despite almost lunging in for a tackle on around the hour mark, a point made by Jim Beglin in the commentary, he got away without the 2nd booking and is thankfully available for the final.

After the 1st leg I thought all the hype about Schalke keeper, Manuel Neuer was a bit over the top on the back of one performance, so what happened too him tonight?

Obviously one dodgy performance doesn’t make him a bad keeper, in the same way that his first leg showing didn’t make him the world class keeper he has been talked about as being for the last 8 days.

The comprehensive way in which Manchester United have beaten Schalke over the two legs does make me wonder what the hell Inter Milan were playing at that night in the San Siro, their first choice defence must have all been out injured, or all drunk.

I also don’t think Pep Guardiola will be underestimating United either, if all his squad are fit then Ferguson will have a settled team that won’t be out worked by Barcelona with the likes of Giggs, Park and Rooney’s workrate.

Tonight’s team was also testament to just how much Park Ji Sung’s stock has risen at Manchester United, 12 months ago this is the sort of match he would be brought in to play in. He is now well and truely established in the first eleven.

My 11 for the final (if fit) would be Van Der Sar, Rafael, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Nani, Carrick, Giggs, Park, Rooney, Hernandez, with Rooney obviously making up a midfield three/five. I generally prefer Valencia on the right, but I think Nani’s pace could be vital against a dodgy Barca defence.

United are a best price of 7/4 with VC Bet to win the Champions League outright. Barcelona are 1/2 with Bet365.

Ryan Giggs gets United through

Having watched both legs of Manchester United’s Champions League quarter-final with Chelsea, it hasn’t been too difficult in recognising that Ryan Giggs was the main reason United won.

He seems to now be turning into the creative midfielder that United have lacked at times this season. I keep on hearing that this isn’t the best United side ever produced by Alex Ferguson, and that the reason for that is mainly down to a lack of creativity in the middle of the park.

Well having watched Giggs in both games against Chelsea, it’s hard to say that there is a lack of creativity in the United midfield at the moment – although due to Giggs’ age, it’s obviously not a long term solution.

Plenty of credit has to also go to Ferguson for his rotation and handling of the squad, I’m quick enough to (rightly in my opinion) criticise him for the way he conducts himself with referees, so when he gets things right, it’s only fair I praise him too.

He got the team selection right against Fulham on Saturday, and he got it right against Chelsea as well.

A special mention also has to go to Park Ji-sung, how much work does this guy get through?

He also isn’t a first choice selection, but you never hear him moaning or dissenting, he must be a managers dream.

People might say that Alex Ferguson is lucky to have him, but I’d disagree with that. I don’t think it’s down to luck, I’d say Ferguson did his homework on Park and knew exactly what he was getting when he signed him. It can’t just be a coincidence that Ferguson keeps signing players who don’t cause a problem.

I thought that United deserved to go through over the two legs, Chelsea were better tonight than they were in the first leg, but they didn’t seem to have enough quality where it mattered.

Chelsea contributed to their own downfall. Ramires deserved his red, he can’t complain. To make the tackle he did on a yellow was stupid.

They also managed to concede in less than a minute after they had scored to get themselves back in the contest, you can’t do that at this level. And Torres also flopped again.

To add insult to injury, Chelsea have been pulicly taunted by Ferguson. He had already accused them of being obsessed with the Champions League, and now he has got his usual sly kick in, this time with Fernando Torres.

On the face of things Ferguson just seems to be making an honest general comment about Torres and how he is a good player who will find his form soon, but in reality he is having a go and trying to add to the pressure by claiming they had to play him because of his hefty price tag.

It was typical Fergie.

Paddy Crerand on Talksport

The performance of Paddy Crerand on Richard Keys and Andy Gray’s Talksport programme earlier today was totally mad.

It sounded like he had been drinking, it was remarkable. The interview was funny, entertaining, barmy and outright ridiculous at times.

His claims were outrageous, he claimed there is an agenda against Manchester United within the FA – and that it has been going on for years, he claimed that there is a lot of jealously out there towards United, that it’s only not acceptable to swear if you play for Manchester United and most remarkably of all, that he had it on good authority from within the club that Wayne Rooney was swearing at the cameraman for asking him to kiss the camera, and not swearing down the lens.

It was some of the most biased rubbish I’ve heard in years, and all this from a grown man. It was madness.

The point made to Crerand, that maybe Crouch should also get done for swearing after his goal on Saturday was a fair one, and the FA have made a rod for their own backs by charging Rooney.

Rather than claiming that the FA are run by a biased Manchester City fan, and that they have had, and still have a conspiracy against Manchester United, surely it would have been far more rational for him to simply just accuse them of double standards or inconsistency? The usual FA staple.

Going by Crerand’s logic of lunacy, the current FA chairman – David Bernstein, is the latest in a long line of FA hieracy to have it in for Manchester United. As he has only been there for about 3-4 months, if the conspiracy has been going on for years against United, then all previous chairmen for some time have been United haters.

Likely? I think not.

But the madest rant of the lot was his ‘Wayne Rooney was only having a go at the cameraman line.’ What!

Someone in the club apparently told him this. Does Crerand think we are all fools?

I never heard him say anything about Alex Ferguson’s disgraceful remarks about Lee Mason last week, what a surprise.

Crerand is clearly a deluded fan who can’t seperate club bias from reality. His rant today was childish and immature in my view, it was also bloody funny and entertaining, but for a grown man to say some of the stuff he come out with was embarrassing.

Stop Moaning Fergie

It was no major surprise to hear Alex Ferguson have a go at referee Martin Atkinson after his teams 2-1 defeat to Chelsea.

No surprise from the point of view that it is usually always the referees fault when his team lose, and no surprise from the point of view that Fergie probably had a point this time.

For me though, I have no sympathy for Ferguson when his team have been wronged as he always blames the referee no matter what. He can pick the wrong team, or his team gets beat fair and square and Fergie will always find a way to blame something or someone else, usually the referee.

Yes, it was a soft penalty and David Luiz should have been sent off, Fergie was right. But balance that argument out against the fact that Rooney shouldn’t have been on the pitch to score the opening goal.

We keep hearing that luck balances itself out, Ferguson got lucky on Saturday and unlucky on Tuesday. He also still has the services of Wayne Rooney for the next two games, so in a way he is still in credit as it could and should have been worse.

Tonight justice turned full circle, so stop moaning Ferguson.

Sunday Newspaper Football Gossip

Every Sunday sees a story that makes you think ‘absolutely no chance’ and this week is no different.

It’s the turn of Paul Hetherington in the Daily Star this week, with their exclusive that Arsenal could be prepared to pay £20 Million for Liverpool’s want away (according to Daily Star) keeper Pepe Reina.

Not only are they considering the £20M transfer fee, they are also considering paying him the £110,000 a week that his agent, Manuel Garcia Quilon is believed to be asking Liverpool for in his new contract.

Any believers out there?

I have to say that I’m not one. In the past Arsene Wenger has stood by keepers of the (lack of) quality of Manuel Almunia when Shay Given was available for a lot less. So why now would he dump the up and coming Wojciech Szczesny – who looks far better than Almunia – and break his recent transfer policy for a keeper, who I would go as far as to say isn’t the best out there? Absolutely no chance for me.

If proof Reina isn’t the best was ever needed, as I’m writing this I’ve just watched Carlton Cole back pass a shot past him at his near post. It must be the first time in months that Rob Green hasn’t felt the biggest goal keeping clown on the pitch.

The People have an interesting story claiming that Manchester United made a £19 Million bid for Ashley Young during the January transfer window, they claim that Alex Ferguson will be back with another bid in the summer.

It’s obvious that United need some creativity in midfield with Giggs and Scholes nearing the end of their careers, and due to the fact that Ashley Young has so far refused to so sign a new contract at Villa, it has become a fairly well regarded view that he wants out. All this gives the story some credence.

I don’t think that Young necessarily wants out because he’s had enough of Villa or sees it as a sinking ship, I think it is more down to the fact that he has had his head turned to bigger and better things with recent speculation linking him with Spurs and Liverpool, and who could blame him.

I think it is a far more likely story than Arsene Wenger spending £20M on Pepe Reina.

Allardyce does a Fergie

Sam Allardyce is the latest manager to try to put pressure on a referee prior to a match with his advice to ref Andre Marriner that he needs to keep a close eye on Everton’s Tim Cahill when the teams meet this weekend.

In suggesting that Cahill gains an unfair advantage when attacking set pieces, Allardyce is clearly challenging Marriner to penalise Cahill’s combatative style.

It is yet another blatent example of intimidation towards match officials that has been pioneered and perfected over the years by serial ref basher Alex Ferguson. It is also yet another perfect example of how the FA do nothing, or very little to assist the refs.

Ironically one of the best examples of this technique was pulled off by Everton’s, David Moyes when stoked up press suggestions that Mike Riley might be a Manchester United fan ahead of their 2009 FA Cup semi-final.

Riley then went on to deny United a clear penalty after a foul by Phil Jagielka on Danny Welbeck, leaving the pioneer fuming and claiming Riley had been influenced by the remarks from Moyes.

Talk about getting shot with your own gun.

Fergie Fuming, and I don’t blame him

I’m quick enough to condemn managers, and especially Alex Ferguson, for what I believe to be harsh criticism of referees and their assistants (or linesman, as I would call them), when they are looking for a scapegoat for a bad performance or for picking the wrong team, etc.

On this occasion I am totally with Fergie. I watched the game and I can’t see any reason whatsoever why the assistant referee missed the clear off-side for Drogba’s winning goal.

Sometimes a run is that well timed it catches the assistant out as well as the defence, or the decision is influenced by the colour of the first shirt the assistant sees, in short, sometimes you can understand why a mistake has been made.

Not this time, I can’t see any reason for this, it is just purely and simply an incompetent decision. And it could have decided the league title.

With regard to the incident of Martin Olsson’s dive last Sunday, and the subsequent comments in the week after, it was no surprise to see referee Mike Dean turn down a couple of strong penalty claims today, from both sides.

When I heard about Olsson’s comments and that Dean was doing the Man Utd V Chelsea game, I had a feeling it would have to be a stone wall penalty for Dean to give one today, and so it seemed.

With Alex Ferguson still on a two match suspended sentence over the Alan Wiley insults earlier in the season, I wonder if the FA will let Fergie’s remarks go this time.

Gary Neville a ‘boot licker’ and a ‘moron’

Just what is it with Gary Neville?

For a senior pro who should know better he dosen’t half get involved in some stupid incidents. I’m sure both the FA and Greater Manchester Police are delighted with his latest contribution in the art of trying to blow the lid off a potential tinder box.

Does Neville think sucking up to Ferguson in this manner will get him a new contract?

Not to say that Carlos Tevez isn’t playing his part in proceedings. He didn’t really need to go on Argentine radio and say what he did. Surely a dignified silence, letting his football do the talking (which it did) would have been the better option.

Instead the Police and the FA are bracing themselves for what was already a potentially explosive encounter on Wednesday night, with the intensity further cranked up due to the actions of these pair of idiots.

At least an element of common sense has emerged with Roberto Mancini telling Tevez to put an end to it, Alex Ferguson carried out his usual services to the ‘good of football on the whole’ by opting to not give a shit.

Gary Neville Idiot

Looking at the bigger picture from Neville’s point of view. Was it really that wise to wind up Tevez in this manner on the eve of a big match?

Will the fans thank him for this? I doubt it.

He was warned about his future conduct as recently as last September over the way he celebrated in the league game against City, and was also guilty of a similar incident in 2006 in front of Liverpool fans.

One thing he does have in common with his manager, is that both seem to be immune from FA punishment.

Ferguson gets away with it again!

The news that Alex Ferguson has escaped punishment (yet again) from the FA over his critical comments about referee Mark Clattenburg’s performance in the game against Birmingham dosen’t come as any surprise.

Apparently the FA thought his comments did not cross the boundary to allege bias or impute the official’s integrity!

Well what a surprise.

Just what does the FA think his comments are meant to mean then? Do they think he was complementing Clattenburg’s performance?

This is yet another spineless response from the very people who are supposed to be upholding the integrity of the game. The fact that the man has a two-match suspended touchline ban waiting to be imposed on him dosen’t seem to bother him or be a deterant.

It completely undermines their respect campaign.

They are sending out the message that Ferguson can just continue to blame officials everytime his team fails to win (which is quite often this season), allowing him to carry on with his systemic intimidation of officials totally unopposed.

Just what he has to do to get the suspended sentence imposed on him I don’t know, never mind a fresh charge.