April 8, 2009


I’m sorry . . .: I should have tamed Rooney (Graham Poll, 04th April 2009, Daily Mail)

The problem is that those excesses have been allowed to become part of his game and so it would take a massive change for him to eradicate them which could well affect his form, so vital for both club and country. What a pity that they were not nipped in the bud as I am sure some red cards and strict management could have made Rooney see the light.

I had my chance, in his formative years at both Everton and at Manchester United, most notably when he appeared to tell me to 'f*** off' 27 times in 45 minutes! The fact that I didn't troubles me now but at the time there was an expectancy to manage a game with tolerance, understanding and empathy - that was wrong then and is wrong now. [...]

He needs only to look at his England captain John Terry, who is gradually improving his on and off-field image with far more controlled behaviour since not being under the dark influence of Jose Mourinho. Fabio Capello has done his bit and I am sure that Guus Hiddink will reinforce the need for restraint and, dare I say, respect on the field of play.

One problem for Rooney, though, would appear to be that his behaviour is not being discouraged at his club. There is no longer an onfield presence big enough to convince Rooney to stop when it is apparent to all watching that the red mist has descended. Manchester United do not possess a captain in the mould of former legends Steve Bruce, Bryan Robson or Roy Keane - men who could strike fear into colleagues and demand change. While Ryan Giggs continues to perform fantastically for his team I cannot imagine him convincing Rooney to walk away and count to 10 before getting involved.

Mr. Poll explained on World Soccer Daily that he cut Rooney slack because he was rewarded with big games to ref for doing so. Thus do the powers that be in soccer encourage reprehensible behavior.

Manchester United: What's wrong? (Rory Smith, 08 Apr 2009, Daily Telegraph)

Ferguson's loyalty to players who have served him well is commendable in an industry not renowned for sentimentality, but the suspicion among the Old Trafford faithful is that Gary Neville and Paul Scholes, in particular, have gone to seed.

Neville was brutally exposed by John Carew against Aston Villa but even as a right-back he is a painfully ponderous alternative to Rafael da Silva, the teenager whose hamstring injury seems to have robbed United of much of their elan, while Scholes is a shadow of his former self, impressive now only against weaker opposition. Only Ryan Giggs, of the old guard, is not in danger of spoiling his legacy.

Defensive changes
Injuries for Rio Ferdinand, Rafael, Gary Neville and Wes Brown and suspension for Nemanja Vidic have unsettled United, as they would any team. The return of Ferdinand, in particular, cannot come soon enough, though it is important to remember he, too, was part of the side beaten by Liverpool.

Nemanja Vidic
Until March 14, the imposing Serb defender was a shoo-in for player of the year. Then Fernando Torres happened. Vidic returned from suspension against Porto, whose gameplan consisted largely of isolating him under football's equivalent of a Garryowen, a test he failed. Vidic needs to exorcise his demons and rediscover his form if United are to plug their defensive gaps.

Cristiano Ronaldo
While his petulance is well-documented, what is of more significance is his increasing impatience with his team-mates. Should the ball not arrive where he demand it, or his run be ignored, he is ever more likely to berate the perceived offender, a trait best documented in one hissy fit at Fulham.

The Portuguese has been good this season, not great, and against Porto, the first green shoots of the fans' patience wearing thin appeared. It is time for him to take a leaf from Wayne Rooney's book and work his way back into form, rather than blaming others for his shortcomings.

Actually, Ronaldo's game is just too dependent on getting wghistles and Ferdinand and Vidic's on not getting them. They're an officiating dependent side.
Some good news for Manchester United fans, possibly: The next three league opponents should provide some respite for Sir Alex Ferguson's struggling defenders, unless, like Porto, they cast aside respect for the champions (Paul Wilson, 4/08/09, Guardian Sports Blog)
Just about the only good news for beleaguered Manchester United, in the Premier League at least, is that forthcoming fixtures against Sunderland, Portsmouth and Tottenham are unlikely to add to the sudden avalanche of goals at Edwin van der Sar's end of the pitch. The goalkeeper who set a new record for clean sheets at the turn of the year has now seen 10 goalbound efforts fly past him in four games, and unless Sir Alex Ferguson can sort out his ailing defence and tired midfield in double-quick time the damage in Europe might be irrepairable.

Porto did not just outplay United in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final, they showed them no respect. That is to say, they did not approach the game cautiously, trying to contain their opponents and waiting to see what the champions of Europe would do, they believed in themselves and went on the offensive from the outset. Van der Sar had to make his first important save within seconds of the kick-off, and United's chances of escaping without conceding an away goal had evaporated after just four minutes.

Absent deference from refs and opponents they're in big trouble.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at April 8, 2009 7:51 AM
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