Points off Palace ahead of a Grecian Adventure
There was a pleasant return to winning ways for David Moyes and Manchester United this evening as the team won away from home for the first time this year. Goals courtesy of Van Persie from the spot and Rooney on the half volley ensured that the team jet off to Athens on a high.
Manchester United, a Helicopter and the Best Player in the World.
As part of this week’s Transfer Special podcast, some friends of the site were asked to share their memories of great transfer rumours from the past. The brilliant Tricia replied with her memories of when United were a helicopter away from signing the best player in the world.
Your question about memorable transfers sagas and rumours over the years got me thinking about July 2003 when we waited on tenterhooks for news that we had landed Ronaldinho from PSG. We were flush with cash from the Beckham transfer and our offer placed side by side with the lower offer from a cash poor and faltering Barcelona, gave Reds a fantastic buzz of optimism that the deal would be made. I recall being absolutely elated about bringing a player the class of the Brazilian to Manchester United. I was sure with Ronaldinho in the side to partner Ruud, another European Cup was only a season away, two at the most (far too long to wait, anyway, in my opinion, since the last CL triumph of 99, for a club the stature of United. I was still smarting pretty bad from the 2001-02 and 2002-03 CL campaigns, and the puzzling disappointment that was Veron.)
Even Ferguson in his press conferences before the 2003 summer tour was bubbling with excitement at the prospect of the signing, and it seemed a sure thing. Almost as an afterthought, he threw in the name of Kleberson, whom, if I recall at the time, was a Leeds target. United took off for a summer tour in America, positive that they had their man only to land on this side of the pond to the news that he had accepted Barcelona’s offer. Devastation. Anger! Confusion!
I remember one of the tabloids saying that the deal breaker had been that Ronaldinho wanted his own helicopter to travel from Manchester to London for his entertainment! LOL, well, we were reaching for excuses for why it had gone wrong, I guess. So bloody disappointed. So, it was not to be. Today, I looked at Red Cafe threads from that week, and read comments like, we should have gone for Defoe or Joe Cole or Damien Duff with the Beckham money.
Well hindsight is a fine thing, obviously, but what I remember from that summer is that we dared to dream that one of the very very best players on the planet wanted to play for US. I think back to that August when Ferguson unveiled Kleberson alongside a pimply 18 year old Cristiano Ronaldo, to join new signees Eric Djemba-Djemba, David Bellion and Tim Howard. There was our Beckham windfall. My God, the old man did make some blunders but of course, when he got it right, as in Cristiano, he really got it right. But I still wonder about what would have been if Ronaldinho had deigned to wear the red shirt. We would have had him at his peak, ah jaysus, what a wonder it would have been.
Follow Tricia on twitter here.
#75 Juan Rooman Riquelme
Welcome and thank you for joining us for the 75th episode of the Can They Score podcast. During this week’s show we will be looking back at United’s hugely enjoyable victory against Bayer Leverkusen on Wednesday night before discussing the match against Cardiff and fixture against Spurs . Providing a detailed and holistic review of Manchester United’s ramblings over the last couple of weeks, be sure to listen in to the podcast now!
Time for Fellaini to find his feet at United.
It’s hard to think of a more underwhelming major signing in recent times. The previous big splash of Glazer cash to have failed to hit the heights expected was Dimitar Berbatov; yet even he could always rely on a vocal band of admirers to fight his corner. Fellaini has had no such luck. Whereas the capture of the Bulgarian mercurial enigma (cliché klaxon ago go) represented a thrilling, logic defying pursuit of yet more attacking adventure, our Belgian acquisition is by contrast a depressingly sensible acceptance of functionality over flair.
UCL Round of 16, Second Leg: Man Utd’s Keys to Getting Past Real Madrid
After securing a valuable 1-1 draw away from home in the first leg, thanks to goalkeeper David De Gea, including that all-important away goal, Manchester United will feel a lot better about the second leg, played in front of their own home crowd at Old Trafford, effectively adding an extra players to their ranks.
City are yet to become true modern rivals to United
For the majority of its existence, the Premier League title race has followed in the principles of the Thunderdome of Mad Max fame: “two clubs enter; one team leaves… victorious.”
Genuine three-way title fights appear to have become extinct in the Premier League era (hence our focus), with each season framed around a duopoly of contenders. Of all the gladiators who have entered the league’s gruelling grand arena – Leeds, Blackburn, Newcastle, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, City – it is Manchester United who have remained the most persistent and dominant force throughout the past 11 years.
Riding high and heading into March 12 points clear, United are in excellent shape to go on and clinch a 13th Premiership title. However, the club’s detractors have denounced their position as false, claiming that the current United team and the league itself is bereft of quality. This season is said to be a low-point in the domestic game that flatters a side lacking in skill and substance – a drought lacking in good players, teams or contests.
In truth something has been lacking in English football’s top-flight over the past five years: a full-blooded, competitive rivalry. While many great teams have come through, won and lost throughout the Premier League years, the division’s best showdowns have featured something else – another ingredient beyond the league table – to set them apart from the rest.
Roberto Mancini and Manchester City are yet to provide the sort of opposition required to make the grade. Last season’s title win wasn’t enough. Regardless of the pain inflicted, and the bitter, long-standing animosity between the two clubs, United remain as the establishment. City’s challenge must be deeper and more prolonged to qualify. English football is demanding a new cold war between two opposing ideologies whose very existence seems to threaten the survival of the other.
In the heady days of Arsene Wenger’s peak, Arsenal versus Manchester United felt more like a clash of dynasties fighting over the rights to history than two clubs sparring for a championship. With his revolutionary methods, Wenger’s new-look Arsenal reeked of progress and sophistication – a challenge that seemed to offend United’s historical sense of glamour into rabid action. Add in Keane, Viera, along with a scattering of iconic, high-stakes games, and United’s modern-day rivalry with Arsenal became loaded with the potency required for greatness.
Competition creates a different kind of rivalry, coming as it does from an animalistic sense of nervous self-preservation and fearful, pre-emptive aggression against a threat to your identity, confidence and ambition.
For many, Liverpool will always be United’s greatest adversaries – a conflict first created through contest and later super-charged by it in the 2008-09 season. Not only were Liverpool attempting to block a hat trick of league titles for United, but suddenly the club whom Sir Alex Ferguson had vowed to knock from their perch had turned up to reinforce their record directly. It is competition not history that continues to encourage revisionist rants about that season across a number of Liverpool fan forums.
Chelsea, the other most recent arrival on the title chase scene, are partly to blame for the slightly deflated nature of Manchester City’s bid for domestic domination. There’s a sense that we’ve seen it all before, and having witnessed the supposedly insurmountable empire of oil riches built by Roman Abramovich fall in its attempts at total supremacy, perhaps there’s a certain complacency and lack of respect for what City have offered so far. Rather than replacing Manchester United as the club to beat year-in year-out, Chelsea have become the largest fish in the pool of potential contenders – an under-realm Sheikh Mansour’s pet project may be destined for judging by their second season hiccups.
There is potential over at the Etihad however, with money being poured into a state-of-the-art campus designed to compete with the best youth academies in the world. Self-sufficiency and standard-raising, as displayed by Arsenal’s glory days, are the key elements of a real, substantial competitive rivalry – the sort of war where triumph offers the winner far more than the annual spoils and awards. Money alone feels oddly transient, as if the assets and success it buys are slightly superficial and cosmetic. Even with its historical context and geography, United-City will remain lukewarm compared to previous challenges until the prospect of a fully-fledged usurpation is a likely possibility.
Reds Cruise Past Royals – United 2 Reading 1
Manchester United scored two quick goals then held off a typical Reading comeback to book their place in the Quarter-Finals of the FA Cup.
The home squad was set out with important future fixtures in mind. Rooney, Rafael and Evra were given the night off with Ferdinand, Giggs, Carrick and Van Persie on the bench. Vidic returned to captain the side as Ferguson tries to gently rehabilitate his Serbian gladiator.