Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Wayne Rooney

Wayne Rooney, ManYoo's follically challenged talisman is it appears agitating for a move for the second time in three seasons. Bearing in mind he's playing for one of the biggest clubs in the world, one has to ask why?

It's clear there have been cracks in Rooney's relationship with Ferguson in much the same way they began to appear with Beckham. Beckham's issues were centered around the 'celebrity' side to his life whereas with Rooney - despite Coleen's many attempts to crack the media - the issues appear to centre around his 'off pitch refueling' on various nights out, unsanctioned or otherwise.

It is hard in this instance to have either much sympathy or understanding for Rooney's position. Given the size of the improved contract that ManYoo gave him after his previous tantrum, it is to be expected that he has a sizeable ego. However, it is also reasonable to expect that given the inordinate sum of money that ManYoo agreed to pay him that he keep up his end of the bargain and keep himself in basic shape.

Rooney in his pomp is (should we substitute 'was'?) a phenomenal player with ability, strength, speed, vision, everything. The reality is however that the Old Trafford faithful have all too often seen a sluggish boorish version on the pitch performing far below where he can.

It is reported that Rooney feels slighted at being substituted several times this season and being left out against Real Madrid - the parallels with Beckham's final season are uncanny - but the reality is that Ferguson would have found it impossible to leave out a fit and firing Rooney.

The main difference however between Rooney's and Beckham's situation is the list of potential suitors. Even at this late stage in his career, there is a clamour for Beckham's services due to his incredibly ability to shift merchandise but also his dedicated professionalism. There is no doubt that Rooney is marketable - just ask Nike - but the latter quality appears to be lacking and at the age of 27, his playing prowess must be the main attraction.

The other issue regarding Rooney, especially in these impending times of financial fair play is that the package required to obtain his services borders on the obscene. The talk is that even if United were to offer him a new contract it would be on reduced terms, something that Rooney is unlikely to countenance.

There are only a handful of clubs that can afford Rooney. It is arbitrary at best to see where Rooney would fit in to Real Madrid or Bayern Munich. Barcelona may indeed have a re-jig this Summer but he does not appear to fit the profile of the type of player they would sign although British forwards such as Gary Linker, Mark Hughes and Steve Archibald have beaten the path before him to the Nou Camp.

Domestically, only Chelsea and Manchester City would appear possible homes. Moving to City (who may have room with the likes of Dzeko and Tevez possibly on their way) would in a geographical sense offer no upheaval but it would be the mother of all defections since Luis Figo and it would take a brave man, or possibly one just detached from reality.

Chelsea would one hopes have learned the lesson of buying forwards in apparent decline (step forward Shevchenko and Torres) but one can never be sure of the logic being employed at Stamford Bridge.

The only other candidate appears to be the newest of nouveau riche in the form of PSG whos' owners crave Champions League success. There is no doubting the calibre of players in Paris but one would doubt whether Ligue Un would tickle Wayne's fancy after the melting pot of the Premiership.

Rooney's behaviour is a little strange and smacks of someone who is either receiving bad advice, has been tapped up or has wildly miscalculated his position. He has until now been a hugely popular figure at Old Trafford but should he not find a suitable club he could be left in a sticky position with the prospect of either accepting a reduced new contract and role or simply running down his existing contract to the huge further detriment of his relationship with the fans and fellow players.

Ferguson's outgoing comments have been thinly veiled barbs, aimed at weakening Rooney's bargaining position and Rooney's camp have indeed gone somewhat quiet whilst beating a discrete climbdown. It seems unlikely that Ferguson would outright lie about Rooney's transfer request. It is also clear his patience had worn out with the player.

For Davie Moyes, it is a less than ideal state of affairs as he approaches the start of his tenure. He has already had to sell Rooney once and is now faced with the prospect of it happening again. It may however be best for all concerned if Rooney was to go, the problem however is the lack of places for him to go.

Whilst not wishing to draw too many assumptions, it would seem reasonably fair to suggest that the Rooneys might not be wonderfully suited to life in 'exotic' foreign parts. Paris is just across the English Channel but it may be a million miles away as far as the Rooney household is concerned (it's in France by the way Wayne).

One would expect ManYoo to act decisively and not let the matter drag on and in many ways they are in a position of strength. Only the spectre of Rooney running down his contract being of concern.

A fit and refocused Rooney would be great for them or a huge transfer fee and wages to match off the books would allow for reinvestment in younger players again. It is very possible that Wayne Rooney has overplayed his hand - No Nonsense.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Roberto Mancini

It's quite tough to come to any conclusion on the rights and wrongs of Roberto Mancini's sacking as all the parties involved seem to be at fault. It is however ironic that in a week when their illustrious neighbours are dealing with the retirement of their greatest ever manager, that City are doing their best imitation of Chelsea by firing theirs.

If ManYoo have taught everyone one thing (other than the commercial value of changing your playing strip each season), it's that continuity counts for a huge deal. Arsenal have not won much lately granted but they appear a hugely stable institute of which there will be no doubt that their time will come again, such is the platform they have built.

City have indicated that one of the reasons that Mancini was fired was that he missed 'this season's targets', which granted that the Champions League was a failure, means that he was fired for not winning the league.

Between 2004 and 2006, Ferguson and ManYoo failed to win the Premiership for three years running and only made minor dents in the Champions League. They stuck with Ferguson and have won three of the following five Premierships and threw in a Champions League to boot.

So why is it so hard for clubs to see what is apparent to everyone else? The answer may reside in the simple fact that the people in charge are not 'football people' and that they've pumped in an ordinate amount of money and so basically they will do what they want, and it's hard to argue with.

City fans will have the same conundrum that Chelsea fans have. Five seasons ago they were just happy to be in the Premier League full stop, now they're disappointed when they don't win it. How do you complain about that?

The other issue with the Mancini sacking is that despite the criticism of the short term sacking, there will be a huge amount of people who in this instance - as opposed to as an example when Chelsea fired Ancelotti - agree with Mancini being fired.

Mancini has never cut anything else other than a bitter figure, quick to criticise and blame his players at the drop of a hat, something you would never see Ferguson or Wenger do. It is hard to imagine those two or a Mourinho wrestling with a player on the training pitch, no matter what the player had done or whether he was Mario Balotelli.

There is little doubt that there were and are problems at Manchester City outside of Mancini's control. He didn't buy Carlos Tevez and he wasn't the one who failed to negotiate deals for Robin Van Persie or Eden Hazard last Summer. City bought atrociously before the season started and have paid the price. The likes of Jack Rodwell, Javier Garcia and Scott Sinclair have added nothing.

Mancini however is at fault on several levels. Bringing Balotelli into what was already a hugely combustible dressing room was nothing more than madness. Mancini also clearly has a tactical deficiency in the Champions League as he has failed miserably with both City and Internazionale. Yes the groups were tough but City were not even competitive.

The other issue is not that City finished second this season but HOW they finished second, distantly. In the past two seasons, City's only real competition has been ManYoo, they have been handed a top two spot on a platter by the dysfunction - that they seem so keen to replicate - at Chelsea.

Had Chelsea's fans possibly not been so tough on Benitez between November and February, City could easily be in third place. They gave up their crown without so much of a whimper.

There is little question that hiring and firing managers is not the answer and the idiocy of the owners is again there for all to see, handing him a five year contract last Summer despite all the various rumours and then firing him twelve months later with a huge compensation package. City are not immune from the FFP regulations.

Ferguson's retirement may have opened the door ajar for the competition to put an end to ManYoo's dominance but both City and Chelsea need to function far better to be able to squeeze through it - No Nonsense.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Next Manchester United Manager

It as yet unconfirmed but expected that one dour, sour faced Glaswegian will be replaced with another at ManYoo - step forward Davie Moyes.

United, more than any other club since Liverpool in their heyday have come to understand the value of continuity (Chelsea take note). There are far bigger and more glamorous names for sure such as the darling of the press Jose Mourinho, but none is as logical or as good a fit as Moyes is.

The story of how close Ferguson was to being sacked during 89/90 has been trotted out countless times but the lesson is there for all to see. Since then, Ferguson, Gill and co have turned the Old Trafford side into a machine both in terms of returning trophies and revenues. There is little need for ManYoo to risk rocking the boat.

That it would seem would be the reason that Mourinho was discounted. There is no doubting his coaching and tactical ability which is probably greater than Ferguson's even but it is the whole package that remains the issue.

Chelsea are still dealing with the fall out from his reign - and in typical Chelsea fashion appear to be ready to re-engage his services - and Internazionale have fallen into disarray since his departure. Now Real Madrid are dealing with a hugely public and inelegant falling out and his certain departure from the club.

The writer of this blog would add that he unashamedly idolises Mourinho but part of that is entirely irrational in the same way his hope that Mourinho goes back to Chelsea is mainly irrational. Clubs gain from him in the short term for sure but in the long term there can be huge damage as Jose is after all, all about Jose and not the club.

It is interesting that his personality was big enough to engulf Chelsea and Inter but after initially doing so at Real, he has since found that an institute like Madrid is too big, even for him. ManYoo have surely taken note of the constant disruptions and decided that is not for them.

Moyes' character is much the same as Ferguson's. Hard working, straight forward and no nonsense. There is however a huge intelligence lurking behind the 'Glaswegian kiss' stare and both possess the capacity for astounding man management both upwards and downwards.

Everton are a wonderful club with a history to match but the realities of the current Premiership is that they are in no position to challenge for anything than the occasional top four.

Everton posses many players that other clubs covet such as Leighton Baines and Phil Jagielka and yet it is rare if ever to hear an Everton player agitating for a move. Everton fans will no doubt be feeling a little nervous this coming Summer.

There can be little question that Moyes has done anything other than a fantastic job at Everton and has done so in an uncompromising manner whilst maintaining great relationships with his chairman, players, the fans and even opposing managers, that is no mean feat.

In fact one of the few fractious relationships he appears to have had is with Wayne Rooney which may provide an interesting sub plot if the stories of Rooney's unhappiness at ManYoo prove to be founded.

The key for United will be to make sure Moyes is given time if he has a rocky start or even first season - that is not to say he will of course - as with Gill not around and the Glazers hardly students of football it is not quite the same Manchester United that Ferguson joined or enjoyed. Ferguson's place on the board should ensure however that he is given that time.

Moyes is as sound a manager at Premiership level as can be found and whilst he may take a little time to find his feet against the Barcelonas and Bayerns of the world, one should remember that Ferguson's own Champions League record was far from impervious, especially in the early years.

Davie Moyes has been a fantastic servant to Everton and whilst managing such a prestigious club such as the Goodison one cannot be seen as an apprenticeship to anything, there is no doubt that he now deserves a crack at one of the biggest jobs of all - No Nonsense.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Sir Alex Ferguson

Whether you love him or hate him or simply admire him, watching Premiership football will never be quite the same again with Sir Alex today announcing his retirement at the end of this season. It's quite typical of him that it's been done with the minimum of fuss and with good timing. He will not wish his departure to get in the way of running ManYoo.

Thoughts will obviously turn to who will fill those impossibly large shoes with Mourinho and Davie Moyes the bookies' front runners. That will play out in due course but in the meantime we can reflect on his achievements and where he stands in the game.

There can be no denying Ferguson's place at the pinnacle of the game with his capacity to endure possibly the most overriding quality. He is unquestionably the most successful domestic manager in British history. In his time he has seen off many managers and challenges.

Iinitially he had to deal with a hugely successful Liverpool, George Graham's Arsenal and a brief rally from Leeds. After that came Dalglish and Blackburn before the duel with Arsenal and Arsene Wenger that would define much of the next decade.

Mourinho's and Ancelotti's Chelsea came and went before the noisy neighbours emerged with Mancini at the helm. He has also seen off numerous Liverpool managers in that time most notably Benitez and rendered them now impotent for the time being. Ferguson has had the last laugh on them all.

Thirteen Premiership titles in twenty years since he first won it in 1993 and two Champions League titles are the important statistics. Unquestionable success but those two numbers in themselves display a disparity that could be the only criticism leveled at the great man, that of a comparative lack of success in Europe.

What Ferguson has done however has given an entire generation a lesson in both man and media management. It began in earnest at Aberdeen where he tore up the rule book regarding the dominance of Rangers and Celtic bringing unprecedented success to the North East club. He showed the way also to Jim McLean at Dundee United in a period of amazing competitiveness within the Scottish game that brought European success also.

The job he inherited at United was possibly far bigger than he realised and it took many years and an FA Cup final replay victory to help keep Ferguson on track to steer them to their first title in an eternity.

Since then, Ferguson has built and re-built several ManYoo teams and forged incredible relationships with his key players along the way. He has also shown the uncompromising side of his nature by jettisoning those same players when they have challenged him in any way. Just ask Jaap Stam, Roy Keane, Ruud Van Nistelrooy or David Beckham. Wayne Rooney may have just been saved by the bell.

Ferguson did of course benefit from inheriting a hugely fortuitous group of youth players who emerged on mass in the early nineties, the Neville brothers, Scholes, Giggs, Beckham and Butt would along with other recruits form the back bone of his team for years to come.

It is debatable whether ManYoo ever formed a team as formidable as when Giggs, Keane, Scholes and Beckham formed their midfield quartet, at that point it was quite simply a machine. Ronaldo came along later but Keane was well past his best by then.

Since then you could argue that they have been in a decline in terms of those heady heights. Schmeichel has never been completely replaced and trying to find replacements for the likes of the quartet above and the likes of Eric Cantona and Jaap Stam have proven difficult. Along the way of course have been phenomenal players such as Van Persie, Rio Ferdinand, Vidic, Rooney and of course Cristiano Ronaldo.

Ferguson's position as the master of the Premiership is beyond any question and it is unlikely one manager will ever surpass him. It is in Europe however that questions can be raised. Having watched the level of quality on show in the CL semi finals, he may have finally decided that bowing out with a Premiership win is the best he could hope for.

Ferguson initially struggled in the Champions League despite previous earlier Cup Winners Cup successes with both Aberdeen and United. ManYoo were perennial underachievers until 1999 and the Nou Camp and this is where the problem may lie.

Barring a freak couple of minutes in Barcelona that night and a John Terry slip in Moscow many years later, ManYoo could quite possibly be sitting with no Champions League trophies under Ferguson. Both finals they won you could argue they had monumental slices of luck and in the other two they were soundly beaten by Barca.

You do of course make your own luck but again, ManYoo rode a crest of a wave to get to the final in 1999 with maverick away performances against Inter and most notably Juventus in the semi final in Turin. The point being that United never game the impression of being a dominant force in Europe the way they did domestically, instead they rode their luck.

The problem may lie with Ferguson's ability as a master motivator but a modest tactician. When ManYoo were in their pomp, it was always a swashbuckling 4-4-2 with flying wingers and a very high tempo. His only concession was the use of a withdrawn forward within the formation such as Cantona or Sheringham. Indeed his inability to get the best out of the likes of Cantona in Europe again shows tactical issues.

There is however no doubt that Ferguson remained a student of the game and tried to address these issues. Trying to fit Juan Sebastien Veron into that midfield bank of four proved a bridge too far for him and was symptomatic of the problem yet again.

In later years, Ferguson has increasingly tinkered with his formations presumably with Europe in mind but most would argue that ManYoo do not look the same team anymore. In the Premiership they remain bullet proof but results in Europe have been mixed in comparison. Final appearances have been mixed with group stage exits.

All of that being said, Ferguson HAS delivered two CL trophies whilst delivering constant domestic success (his longest stretch since that first win without winning the title being three years) whilst taking his team through several transitional stages. His ability (afforded him by the continuity offered by the club granted) to effect gradual transitions and plan forwards is incredible, as is his instinctive ability to rotate the correct players at the right time.

Another part of Ferguson's abilities is that of dealing with the club's hierarchy and owners. One should not underestimate the skill that he has at boardroom level where he has retained a level of power that is almost beyond comparison other than with Arsene Wenger.

For ManYoo fans it will be a very strange feeling, not unlike that for hoardes of teenage girls when Take That split up and there will be a definite sense of trepidation. Big and successful clubs typically remain just that but all things have a natural cycle and it would be incredible if one or many managers could deliver in the same time frame remotely what Ferguson has.

Ferguson's greatest players were typically in his own image, huge forces of nature, his however remained the greatest of them all - No Nonsense.

Mourinho, Barca and much pain in Spain

Last week, Real Madrid and Barcelona woke to severe but expected Champions League hangovers as neither side could overcome their first leg handicaps and in Barcelona's case the situation merely got worse and ended in utter humiliation. The ramifications for both clubs will be sizeable.

It would be premature to call this the end of an era for Barcelona, they do after all retain a wonderful group of players crowned by the best of them all, Lionel Messi. They are also about to be crowned champions of Spain yet again, a league that they have won at a canter. What has altered however is the perception of Barcelona, the awe and fear has gone, and woven in to their downfall are both Chelsea and Jose Mourinho.

It was Mourinho's Internazionale that first showed that Barcelona could be beaten by good organisation, deep depending and swift counter attack (and a little luck). Chelsea then produced one of the backs to the wall performances of all time over two legs last season to knock out Barca again.

Both Chelsea and Inter did so en route to winning the Champions League and in both instances leave Barca scratching their heads as to how they had been beaten. Since losing to Chelsea last year, Barca's CL form has been dreadful.

Clubs that played them at their own game (until Bayern in these past two legs) were invariably dispatched. For the first few El Classicos that Mourinho played against Barca he struggled to find a formula to beat them suffering a 5-0 humiliation in the process. Slowly however he gained a foothold and came to terms with them.

Teams have realised that through organisation, hard work and belief, Barcelona can be beaten. Both Celtic and AC Milan enjoyed triumphs over Barca this season and many argued that PSG were the better side over two legs against them. Barcelona's away record in the CL has been nothing short of awful.

The other problem that Barcelona have had is a recent lack of any cohesive tactics. Under Guardiola, they were a whirling dervish of a team, attacking from angles with runners coming from everywhere and all underpinned by slick breakneck speed one touch passing.

It did however start to go astray when they began to believe their own hype. Suddenly they didn't need proper defenders, nor did they need a proper centre forward. The 'false nine' became derigour, Javier Mascherano overnight became a central defender. Barca didn't need to conform to normal tactics as they simply had the ball and you didn't.

What however had previously been executed so impressively had become a shapeless mess. Against well organised teams and in Bayern's case, a well organised and highly talented one, Barca had no apparent strategy other than 'keep ball' and many have said over the years that they have no plan B.

Such a talented side could not possibly be called a one man team but without Messi, it is clear that Barca can struggle. The other problem has been Barca's transfer policy and the blame for that must sit with Guardiola.

Over the past couple of seasons, Barca's big signings have been Alexis Sanchez, Javier Mascherano, Cesc Fabregas and Alex Song. If everyone is fit, it is unlikely any of them would be starters. Barcelona only have one true centre forward, David Villa and have zero cover at centre back if Puyol and Pique are not fit.

They may have argued that they do not require traditional centre backs but the reality is that when their only two centre backs are both fit, they both play so they obviously do think they need centre backs. Barcelona have a wonderful squad but it is hopelessly unbalanced and they are guilty of many of the transfer mistakes that Arsene Wenger is so castigated for.

Barcelona are far from finished but the squad requires urgent attention and there must be question marks over whether the lieutenant is the right man to lead. Again, much or at least some of the reason for Guardiola's departure rests with Mourinho who systematically wore him down over the past two seasons.

Over in Madrid we are seeing a now familiar occurrence. That of Jose Mourinho engineering his own exit. His plan undoubtedly was to walk into the sunset having delivered 'number ten' to Real but that will not now be the case.

His post CL exit press conference was classic Mourinho, deflecting from what had been an abject failure by Real Madrid in the first leg in particular. Rather than talk about Real failing to dispatch what - given Real's level of investment and talent - should have been beatable opponents, the press conference centred on the Mourinho's need to feel loved and that 'lack of that love' for him in Spain.

It is that lack of love that Mourinho will spin as the reason for his departure and not that his now usual three year tenor has reached its' end. Given what has just happened to Barca, being the Real manager right now should not seem such a terrible job but Mourinho dances to his own tune and he now appears to be paving the way for his exit in the same way that he did at Chelsea and at Inter.

All signs seem to point to be to his returning to Chelsea where he has 'unfinished business'. The writer of this blog is an unashamed Chelsea and Mourinho fan and despite having huge misgivings about the whole thing would still love it to happen. It would however be a backward step for all concerned.

Mourinho is at home on the Kings Road but he is not a stayer and it has taken over five years to remove most of the ghosts from his previous reign. Davie Moyes would be the unromantic but better choice.

Since then, Mourinho has raised the stakes higher by taking a huge swipe at Iker Casillas in a press conference. That has had the effect of causing the hitherto unthinkable of having a Portuguese player - Pepe - turn around and stick up for Casillas in turn. The squad is most certainly against him, it's just now a case of sorting out his departure.

One thing is for sure, it promises to be a very busy Summer for Spain's big two - No Nonsense.