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Sep 102013

Brian Sanders, Adam Uthe, and Sean Maslin review the Champions League Group stage draw picking out the winners and losers

Click here to listen

Sep 032013

On the Transfer Debacle
fellaini marouane david moyes manchester united signing transfer carrington 2997534 United Endure Humiliating Weekend.I won’t belabor this and jump on the bandwagon that’s already piling on David Moyes. After signing only Marouane Fellaini for way more than original estimates said he was worth, United seem to have perfidiously gone about sticking it to their fans. Clearly there’s something more at stake than money and legal paperwork when a multitude of things have gone wrong in the so-called pursuit of Tiago Alcantara, Cesc Fabregas, Ander Herrera, Wesley Sneider, Daniele De Rossi, Sami Khedira, Leighton Baines, Luke Shaw and Mehsut Ozil. Players may indeed be pieces of meat in the eyes of so many agents, owners and managers, but there is already a kind of in-crowd protocol that Messrs. Moyes and Woodward are clearly clueless about. The Glazers were wise enough to leave well alone when Sir Alex Ferguson was running the club. As he was personally responsible for so many of the machinations that allowed the Glazers to step in and make a leveraged purchase, the Gaffer was a good soldier, espousing Knoxian rhetoric about “value in the marketplace” as long as they let him have a little money now and again for players like Berbatov, Van Persie and Kagawa.

An extraordinary man-manager and the last of a breed–along with Arséne Wenger at Arsenal–who was trusted by ownership, Ferguson was a beloved buffer between a bewildered fan base who really wanted to believe the cockamamie fodder he fed them about having the last word in transfers and our being the kind of mortal zombie fans who support Arsenal and other clubs who simply don’t give a shit what they think. None of it matters now, anyway. Clearly the money is there to spend on for someone like Cristiano Ronaldo, who will pay back whatever the club forks out for him back in merchandizing spades. Even the likes of Gareth Bale or Radomel Falcao would work for the gluttonous Glazers. Unfortunately, shopping for perceived ‘water carriers’ and prospects seems beyond the scope of Moyes and Woodward.

To be fair to Woodward–a man who has the kind of Mad Men flair that the Glazers can understand and has shown the ability to raise hundreds of millions in sponsorship money–he seems to have been thrown into the deep-end in rooms full of the kind of capricious oligarchs who inherit oil kingdoms, trust funds and laundered money and their lawyers. Woodward’s bargaining mentality, honed and sharpened in boardrooms, but still schooled in a world of old-fashioned bargaining that’s been going on in the Armenian carpet bazaar since the time of Genghis Khan, is out of his league when dealing with the modern football club. In Spain, for example, where clubs were confiscated after the civil war and their ownership given as prizes to amigos who were fellow soldiers or supporters by the dictator Generalisimo Francisco Franco, American-style buy low/sell high rules do not necessarily rule the football marketplace. Team lawyers expect suitcases full of laundered oil cash and drug money. Players are more often owned in percentages, not just by clubs who only nominally have their contracts, but also Russian and Colombian gangsters. It’s complicated. Whatever secrets the Gaffer is privy to, he has yet to pass them on to Moyes and company.

Depending on who you believe, United’s credibility has now been smashed into a million pieces. This may be so, but Juventus, for example, and now Monaco have survived far worse. Woodward would probably be fired by most clubs, but as he makes money for his friends (The American golden rule–see The Godfather), I’m sure he won’t. Next time Mr. Woodwood, you need to do your homework properly. Personally, I like Ander Herrera as a player and admire him for keeping his trap shut. Perhaps he’ll still go for it if we try again in January.

As for Marouane ‘Bogbrush’ Fellaini. It warms the cockles of my heart when a player really really wants to play for us, as was also the case with Robin Van Persie. He may be a bit slow, but he’s a gamer with a pair of elephant cojönes who likes contact, can score goals and will protect our sometimes awesome, but positively gutless, Michael Carrick. He’s brave and hard, and, although we let ourselves be suckered into paying 28m quid for him, will prove well worth the investment.

Liverpool 1-0 Manchester United
Liverpool v Manchester Un 006 United Endure Humiliating Weekend.It was right out of the Ferguson textbook. “I could see why we were champions today,” Manchester United’s new manager David Moyes said while his head panned the room like a Gorbals thug looking for a wee bit of aggro. “I thought we played really well.”

Right you are, Davey! Better in spades than putting four past Swansea on the opening weekend. Of course, he insisted upon being “more than happy” with the state of the squad. Indeed, should any dealings fail to happen at the close of the transfer window on Monday night he reassured the gathered Fleet Street Sports mavens. “After that performance, I wouldn’t be worried,” he said. “I thought we were really good today.”

“Pull t’other one,” my Gran used to say. “It’s got bells on it!”

Sure, the Gaffer always got dead prickly after a mediocre team performance, but Davey doesn’t own the moxy or luck to be able to run his mouth so contemptuously. Well, not yet. Even though they were clearly the far superior team in the second half, United lost because their central midfield is non-existent. This has been more or less the case since Roy Keane retired and the Champions Cup win of 2007-08 looks, in retrospective, like the Gaffer’s masterpiece, the finest job of papering over the cracks since Chamberlain announced ‘Peace in our time!”

Beyond the frustration United fans feel over the club’s dithering in the transfer market was the gobsmackingly nonchalant, vanilla display of pride in their own mediocrity shown by a gutless Michael Carrick and a painfully overmatched Tom Cleverley in central midfield. Indeed, although a different perspective might say that Carrick’s lack of physical courage may well be solved as a team problem if an enforcer-type player like Marouane Fellaini is signed from Everton to serve and protect him, there is no such hope for Cleverley. Inept in every way, devoid of courage and energy, he is just what the likes of Glasgow Rangers need in their bid to return to the SPL, but is not a Manchester United player.

Soccer Barclays Premier 002 United Endure Humiliating Weekend.All is not lost, however. Liverpool were driven on the day. Led by a ruthless, hatchet-faced Steven Gerrard in a way he never has for England, the red scouters were were completely amped up, especially in the first half, quicker to the ball and crunchingly harder in the tackle. Simply put, this fixture meant much more to them because they genuinely hate Us and Our relentless success over them for years.. Over the first 45 minutes, they attacked United relentlessly to which our only recourse was to simulate injury and repeatedly appeal to a disinterested Neville Marriner, who seemed to mistake them for Arsenal or Spurs or Chelsea. Yes, we were better in the second half, but when your two best performers are a knackered old Ryan Giggs and a pumped up Nan, you have no ammunition. Indeed, Nani, who seemed totally delirious just to actually be on the pitch, was so completely pumped up that he blasted a beautiful free kick opportunity high into the crowd. Due to sign a new contract and clearly feeling renewed by having Mr. Moyes woo him, he may yet be kinda/sorta like a new signing.

For a good proportion of the match, United were vapid. Strangely inhibited, unable to get any real momentum going: This kind of listlessness has become something of a recurring theme in their visits to Anfield over recent seasons. Truth be told, United have now lost six of their last seven visits to Anfield, and, as with Moyes’ Everton, they have flinched in just about every one of those matches. Derby rivalry? United just don’t get it! Giggs showed up, but he can’t hold the ball like he used to when faced with a hacking hyena like Lucas Leiva. Poor Paddy Evra tried so hard, but, was repeatedly, unavoidably legless on a day when the usually reliable tandem of Ferdinand and Vidic looked equally elderly and repeatedly made errors. United’s giving up of only a single goal was miraculous. Well, slightly miraculous, but mostly due to the cold-blooded bravery of goalkeeper David De Gea who took a hammering from Sturridge, Aspas and a host of others who were casually allowed a state of nonchalant carte-blanche in United’s box.

How did the pea-brained Ashley Young come to make the the fourth minute mistake that led to the corner for Liverpool’s goal, allowing Daniel Sturridge to celebrate his 24th birthday with his third successive winner of the season after steering in a close-range header off a Gerrard corner? Young has worn the United shirt for nigh upon three years now. He has not improved one bit since leaving Aston Villa. Like Cleverley, he does not deserve to wear that shirt. Indeed, when Nemanja Vidic tapped a soft back pass toward goal, it was a minor miracle that De Gea beat a thundering Glen Johnson to the ball. Only twice, you say. That’s not so bad. Better yet, minutes away from the whistle, Carrick passed the ball straight to Daniel Sturridge. The whole stadium gasped. Sturridge seemed so shocked that he hesitated and flubbed it.

Doubtless, United would have been better if Wayne Rooney’s forehead had not been split open by Phil Jones in training the previous day. Yet Rooney’s history at Anfield is not good. Where was Shinji Kagawa when we needed passion and ball control? Robin van Persie was well muffled by Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel throughout, squandering United’s best chance late on.

Reticent congratulations to Liverpool are due after they celebrated the 100th anniversary of the birth of their legendary Scottish manager Bill Shankly. Their current boss Brendan Rodgers is, I read, looking for a top four place fourth place this season and when suspended striker Luis Suarez returns they will be even tougher to beat.
As for United, let us all collectively pray for a few good breaks as the transfer window shuts.Liverpool vs Manchester U 007 United Endure Humiliating Weekend.

Rooney Takes the High Road in Old Trafford Opener!

 Posted by on August 28, 2013 at 4:21 pm  Blogs/Media
Aug 282013

Manchester United 0-0 Chelsea
article 2403209 1B79B3E0000005DC 417 634x455 Rooney Takes the High Road in Old Trafford Opener! Although a lot of folks are complaining, this game was a pretty logical first game of cat and mouse between two cautious teams. It is way too early in the season for such a match to be any kind of masterpiece, anyway. The much heralded return of José Mourinho to Old Trafford was never ever even in the vicinity of the anticipated drama the gathered press had mooted. Both debutante United manager David Moyes and the Portuguese tacticians were remarkably quiet, whether seated or trolling the sidelines, neither one putting much of a crease in their expensive Saville Row suits.

It would be wrong to call this game boring. There were episodes of high-speed daring-do from both sides, but next to no clear-cut chances at all. Surprisingly, it was the very first 0-0 stalemate in 77 Premier League matches at Old Trafford, stretching back to April, 2007.

In a game played at a hiccup speed with sudden slow-downs and breathing breaks, it was more like a Welterweight championship bout without blood than full-tilt football. Preferring to go without a traditional striker like Torres, Ba or Lukaku, Chelsea concentrated on dominating a gummed-up central midfield, which forced yeoman, concentrated performances out of a United midfield featuring Cleverley, Carrick and a busy link-up-man-cum-striker in Wayne Rooney. Forced to work twice as hard against the relentless shifting gears engineered by the slaloming Oscar, Hazard, De Bruyne and Lampard, they were well up to the task. Had the three worked even half as diligently for Ferguson last year as they did for Moyes on the night, United would have clinched the Premier League championship much earlier. Of course, Juan Mata, who was omnipresent last season was on the bench for reasons only Mourinho knows; nevertheless., United played with the greater sense of swashbuckle between the two teams. Definitely more entertaining and attack-minded than Chelsea, United still lacked the kind of beautiful arrogance and composure on the bell that we expect to really make a difference in big games.

Neither Petr Cech nor David de Gea had to make a truly tough save. Out of the few chances created, United’s pressure was the more sustained. Yet Antonio Valencia could not dominate Ashley Cole as he has on other occasions. At the same time, a lackadaisical Eden Hazard had no heart for repeatedly dribbling his way around a spunky Phil Jones. With young Danny Welbeck playing on the left flank, his obvious discomfort level at having repeated bruising encounters with the Chelsea right back Bronislav Ivanovic was painfully obvious for the whole crowd. Forced to abandon the superb composure he showed against Swansea last week, Welbeck, having muffed a couple of clear-cut chances over the first fifteen minutes after superb set-ups from Rooney, never seemed able to get his mind into the game enough early, when it mattered most urgently. The stubborn enterprise he showed last week abandoned him against the West London team and he was more or less a passenger from then on.
United had a righteous call for a second-half penalty when Tom Cleverley fired a shot from the edge of the penalty box which struck Frank Lampard’s hand. Yet the referee, Martin Atkinson, waved away United’s appeals although the same offenses has already been punished multiple times this season and David Moyes referred specifically to the handball penalty Tottenham Hotspur won at Crystal Palace on the opening weekend at the post-game press conference.PA SOCCER Man Utd 2203139 6700393 5788490 Rooney Takes the High Road in Old Trafford Opener!

Both ‘new’ managers were offered massive applause by the crowd at Old Trafford and they spent a little time on the sidelines engaging in good-natured boyish banter. For Chelsea’s captain John Terry, having Mourinho along for the ride already seems to be paying dividends as the iron-hard old veteran was quietly competent alongside Gary Cahill at the heart of their defense. Their job, handling Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney, meant they had a job of work cut out for them. Rooney was a busy bee all night, covering every blade of grass–in spite of both sets of fans’ awareness that he has agitated for a move to the London club–filling in the spaces between United’s undermanned midfield and his Dutch partner. Indeed, despite looking grim all night, nobody could have doubted Rooney’s commitment on the night. Atypical of the Scouser’s will and desire was the play of the game when chased down a jinking Ramires in the 87th minute as, acting as a temporary left-back for a leggy Patrice Evra, he executed an exquisite slide-tackle, fully aware that the Brazilian was trying hard to manufacture a penalty out of losing possession. Unfortunately, his link-up play with Robin van Persie was null and void and it will be interesting to see whether Moyes will try them together again next week at Anfield or bring in a well-rested Shinji Kagawa. When football fans do the usual this Saturday and check football scores live they will certainly be hoping for a more exciting scoresheet than some of this weekends 0-0 results.

Meanwhile, Mourinho, well aware of the lack of mobility in Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand, played no strikers, hoping United would be vulnerable to the speed and trickery of Andre Schürrle, Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Oscar. Clearly, the Poruguese master coach feels no faith in Demba Ba or United’s long-time tormentor, Fernando Torres, making it very clear why he wants Wayne Rooney so much. For Davie Moyes it was somewhat of a tactical triumph in a game where possession was of the essence. And when ‘The Special One’ finally altered course an hour in, it was to bring on Fernando Torres instead of the callower powerhouse that is Romelo Lukaku. Having failed to even bring Ba along in the squad, Mourinho seemed like a bit of a ditherer. I look forward to the Stamford Bridge rematch when both sides’ kinks will have been ironed out.

Reds Soar at Swansea

 Posted by on August 20, 2013 at 1:40 pm  Blogs/Media, England, EPL, Manchester United, Swansea City
Aug 202013

Swansea City 1-4 Manchester United
69342044 69342043 Reds Soar at SwanseaIt was a lovely day for the new Gaffer! In spite of driving wind and rain so thick it felt like sleet, David Moyes enjoyed a perfect start, his much criticized team making light work of a quality Swansea City side at the Liberty Stadium. Even Wayne Rooney, despite his sad-sack body language and the facial expression of a child forced to drink a pint of castor oil, made a fine 30-minute substitute appearance and was very clearly given a warm round of applause by United’s traveling entourage. Any idea that Our fans were going to encourage Rooney’s desire to leave the club did not show itself on the night.

It was a scrappy game and United were forced to play off the back foot for the first half hour of the match as the Swans attacked relentlessly. The Welsh club’s new signing Jose Cañas was particularly combative from the beginning, attempting a long shot and then careening into United’s winger Antonio Valencia for which he drew a booking. Soon after,Valencia , his hackles well and truly up. drew his own yellow for a reciprocal foul on his Spanish marker. What followed was a very sloppy, but very exciting introductory comedy of errors.

Minutes later, a sloppy clearance by United’s keeper David De Gea allowed Swansea’s burning-hot striker Michu an easy chance, which he botched. Seconds on, an equally careless back-pass by right back Phil Jones fell to Nathan Dyer, whose weak shot was smothered by De Gea. At the other side of the pitch, Jones, who was very aggressive in running the overlap with Valencia, had a fine shot finger tipped over the bar by Vorm.
It was all very tit for tat and somewhat slipshod until Swansea’s early industry came a cropper as Robin Van Persie and Danny Welbeck struck twice inside two minutes just after the half-hour.

The industrious Robin Van Persie, who seemed to be everywhere around the Swans’ box, picked up the ball after the cagy veteran Ryan Giggs found him with a superb lob. Out of nothing, with two Swansea defenders blocking his sightline, the Dutch genius fired off a fantastic rising strike in the 27th minute that had all the devastating beauty of a Roberto Duran uppercut. Two minutes later, Van Persie looked even more impressive as a creator when, fed by Giggs again, he supplied a long, loping curved pass which Danny Welbeck only had to slot home past a marooned diving Vorm.

69342048 69342047 Reds Soar at SwanseaUnited were never again under serious threat. With Welbeck and Van Persie playing with such passion, everybody else’s performance seemed a mere afterthought. Vidic and Ferdinand, who both seemed happy to turn back the hands of time looked genuinely chuffed to be playing in tandem again. And Ryan Giggs, in spite of being beaten to the ball a number of times in 50/50 tackles that he would once have sped away from, still showed some sublime moments of skill, not to mention jinking runs that almost got goals on two separate occasions. First, he broke clear of a lead-footed Ashley Williams, but his speed has deserted him and he was caught by the Welsh pivot just as he was about to shoot and, even better, he was able to slalom around three Swansea defenders before firing across the face of goal after Vorm did a fantastic job saving a vicious Welbeck shot.

A third goal was inevitable as United completely dominated the second half and Robin Van Persie fired another rising, awe-inspiring beauty past Vorm in the 72nd minute after he was cleverly played in by substitute Wayne Rooney.

Minutes later, United, having become a little sloppy, allowed Swansea’s new striker, their record £12m signing from the Ivory Coast, Wifried Bony, on as a substitute, to gather a small degree of recompense when he picked up one of Danny Welbeck’s more idiotic attempts at a clever back-pass before bulldozing his way into creating a little room before firing a fifteen-yarder home past De Gea in the 82nd minute.

Yet United did not allow themselves to fall into the same lax patterns they showed last season. The defense tightened up again and the red devils added a fourth goal in injury time as the conundrum that is Danny Welbeck–brilliant at times and then error-prone in others–had an exquisite moment of creativity, showing off some incredibly subtle technique as he beat two defenders before firing a difficult chip at an extremely obtuse angle over an advancing Michel Vorm.

Though United still have the same passing and possession problems in midfield that will clearly be tested next Monday against Chelsea, there was much to cheer about in the team’s level of commitment and effort. Atypically, Patrice Evra, whose legs are now more or less gone, still showed his usual penchant for tackling and getting into the opponent’s box that will surely make Davie Moyes ponder deeply before selling him. With some wicked fixtures upcoming against Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City, United’s squad will definitely show what it is made of over the next month, one way or another. This was an excellent start!69342321 utd pa Reds Soar at Swansea

Aug 122013

Manchester United 2-0 Wigan Athletic
Manchester Uniteds Nemanj 008 Manchester United Win the Community ShieldEverybody can say anything they want about United’s brand-new manager David Moyes. A mixture of fair, bad and indifferent may be all that the Glaswegian former Celtic center back has to recommend himself after the usual moneymaking tour, the relentless eggs-to-omelette journo drudge about the future of Wayne Rooney and the circus of rumor mill hijinx involving Thiago Alcantara, Cesc Fabregas and Cristiano Ronaldo. Instead, although the Lads did not play at all well, Manchester United got done what needed to be done and claimed their very first trophy of the 2013-14 season with a 2-0 win over a direly stodgy and physical Wigan Athletic side. It wasn’t pretty and most of it wasn’t United’s fault really. Wigan played like the guerilla warrior championship side they are now, fouling, packing the box, smothering the red devils every way they could. Thank Jah for United’s talismanic striker, Robin Van Persie, who actually had a pretty invisible game when he wasn’t there to do his brilliant predator’s job. Indeed, although these two goals don’t count toward the Golden Boot, the sleek Netherlander looks to be already on the correct mental track to retain his goalscoring award for a third consecutive season.

Van Persie only needed just six minutes to cheer the crowd with a beautifully taken header off a beautifully directed pass from Patrice Evra that left Wigan’s goalie Scott Carson, only just back in the Premier League from two seasons away in Turkey, clawing at empty air.

After so much riveting action in the first few moments, the game went awry. It was a stodgy performance at times from United and, after such an encouraging start, probably a surprise to Moyes, too. Michael Carrick was his usual elegant self, but the pass-and-move coupling of Welbeck and Giggs did not work. United have definitely missed the tempo supplied by Kagawa(or Rooney) behind whoever has been picked as the main striker thus far this season. Giggs, now into his 24th season, often looked like a Lost Boy, his aging legs not so much unequal to the task, but, rather, unable to work up any kind of understanding with an immature Welbeck, who can’t seem to get past his own on-field issues. With an aimless, sloppy Tom Cleverley giving the ball away repeatedly, all of United’s exploration and finesse fell to Evra, the fleet-footed Zaha, and, later, Januzaj.

Tenacious at least, Wigan had a new Scottish manager of their own and a mostly different line-up from a year ago. Wigan were even gifted a couple of clear chances thanks to the shockingly lax largesse of Chris Smalling and Phil Jones. Unfortunately, neither James McClean nor Emmerson Boyce, each left holding the ball, alone and unmarked, could get it together enough to attempt a proper shot on David De Gea’s goal.
The most rambunctious moments of the day involved a running handbag war between the large, testy Grant Holt and Nemanja Vidic. With the referee Mark Clattenburg clearly feeling benevolent and philanthropical after a few months off the job, Vidic got some payback for the series of cheap-shot elbows Holt thrust into the faces of Smalling, Jones and Evra. Holt may just be exactly what the Latics need to stay hungry in the Championship, but one can’t help be amazed that he didn’t land himself in more trouble during his sojourn in the Premier League with Norwich City.

The second half was more of the same as the first. What we call the Salford Grind. Finally, after much frustration for United, Evra, clearly trying to prove himself and prevent Moyes’ flirtation with Leighton Baines at Everton from being consummated, was involved in the second goal also. The Frenchman picked up the ball after Cleverley and Welbeck worked the ball down field and Evra, stranded far away from his allotted left back position, screened the ball for Van Persie. The ever ruthless striker hovered up the ball, pirouetted like thetre was radar in his head and let loose an awkward shot. The ball whizzed up at an awkward angle and it was unfortunate for Wigan that the ball bounced off James Perch, fooled a wrong-footed Carson and flew into the net. Manchester United v Wigan 005 Manchester United Win the Community Shield

That was all she wrote save for a number of failed stutters from both sides.The bad news of the day was a hamstring injury for Rafael Da Silva, who was only on the pitch for fifteen minutes before Chris Smalling was brought on and Phil Jones switched from centre-half to right-back. Unfortunately, he could be out for five weeks. Wilfried Zaha was also limping as he left the pitch in the second half after yet another short-lived Jeyll and Hyde performance. Zaha is shaping into something equal-parts awkward and brilliant. Always chasing the ball, he was aggressive, flash and repeatedly willing to take on men and use flicks and tricks to fool hos often much wiser opponents. Brilliant and frustrating in equal parts, be forewarned that he is bound to make dire mistakes in tandem with moments of utter sublimeness.

With the Community Shield now won, done and dusted, Moyes has now won the second trophy of his career after winning Division 1 with Preston North End in 1998-99. Nothing for it this week but training and tactics before next Sunday’s crucial starting match with Swansea City and–fingers crossed!–a wit bit of shopping.
Manchester United v Wigan 009 Manchester United Win the Community Shield

Rio’s Testimonial Runs Awry!

 Posted by on August 10, 2013 at 1:51 pm  England, EPL, Manchester United
Aug 102013

Manchester United 1-3 Sevilla
Rio Ferdinand Rios Testimonial Runs Awry!It was not the joyful night of abandon that Rio Ferdinand deserved, to be sure. Nobody cried because Wayne Rooney failed to show, that’s for certain also. For a sad quiet crowd of 43,000, including 200 close friends and family, it was terribly embarrassing that the team took up physical space but more or less failed to turn up for the legendary United center back’s testimonial and celebration of eleven years of faithful service to the club. Leaving all the crass post-match quotes from David Moyes aside, the loss was awful and unnecessary. Fielding ‘the kids’ may be an apt excuse, but now there’s only Sunday’s Community Shield match with Wigan Athletic at Wembley before the club starts to defend its title against a splendid Swansea which has already shown itself to be razor-sharp and hungry in a Champions Cup qualifier against F.C. Malmo.

United actually began their home debut under David Moyes well. Adnan Januzaj, who performed sensationally throughout, slipped the ball to the Chilean striker Angelo Henriquez but his soft attempt at a shot was well saved by Beto. United were relentlessly depressing and clueless in midfield. Cleverley seemed to be a 12th Sevilla player, repeatedly losing possession and firing off dreadful gift passes to the opposition. Like the Pierrot-faced Valencia, his confidence seems to have evaporated since the club’s sad exit to Real Madrid in the ECC quarter-finals last season. With a tired Anderson huffing and puffing,it was easy for Diego Perotti to dispossess him and push a neat pass to Tony Vitolo, who sucked up the ball, swaying sideways and back and forth beautifully before shifting around David De Gea and firing it into the net with ease in the 21st minute.

Only four minutes minutes later, Sevilla doubled their lead the lead as Mirko Marin, on loan from Chelsea, humiliated both Cleverley and Büttner before executing a sweet pass to Carlos Bacca, who moved it on to Vitolo. The cheeky Vitolo did it to the hapless Büttner and Cleverley again before finding Marin, who made a neat, snaking run and then executed a sweet stutter step before firing past a diving De Gea. Marin almost added his second soon after when he made David De Gea stretch long and hard to his right from point-blank range to make a simply fantastic save.

Antonio Valencia Rios Testimonial Runs Awry!At this point, Moyes began tramping along the sidelines in earnest, his blue eyes as deep-set as an Ezra Pound poem, and looking as if he’d been stabbed when Shinji Kagawa, alone and unmarked, had all the time in the world to head a Januzaj cross directly at Sevilla’s fine goalie, Beto. It was hard not to feel sorry for the beleaguered Mr. Moyes. It must surely seem in such moments that the weight of the world is on your shoulders. But such is the burden of taking over from a man with his statue in your new back yard.

At half-time, although fans had been geared up by the announcement of ‘a celebrity’ making an on-pitch appearance, they got a former tennis star Boris Becker, and a magician called Dynamo. David Beckham and Wayne Rooney were disappointing no-shows. Had Rooney shown up, in spite of the anticipated booing, I would bet money that the crowd felt so let down by a constipated, lackluster United that at least half of them would have cheered.With the über disappointing Angelo Henríquez, and Tom Cleverley playing football like a couple of accountants playing for a pub team, it was a relief when Jesse Lingard and Antonio Valencia came on to replace them. Lingard had a couple of shots blocked before Valencia got the crowd rocking for a single delirious moment as he slipped into the box to connect with an exquisite Januzaj cross to make the score 1-2 in the 65th minute.

When a sad Rio exited to a standing ovation in the 80th minute, there was nobody left to direct the rickety defensive line. Bryan Rabello then thrust a thumb in the eye of the Reds’ former skipper with a late finish which saw him wriggle past Evans and Smalling before thrusting the ball past De Gea in the 85th miserable minute. Only on the field for a matter of minutes, as is his repeated won’t, Evans was whining to the referee as Rabello was pushing the ball past De Gea into the net instead of doing his job. This last goal may indeed have been offside, but just how lacking in common sense is Jonny Evans, anyway? The positionally-challenged Evans is surely running short of good will from the fans. If he and Cleverley keep it up, no good will in the world can maintain their places in a squad that looks more and more psychologically brittle and intellectually challenged. This defeat, their third in seven matches under the new regime is worrisome indeed. I have too much respect for David Moyes and Steve Round to believe they need to start using the flame-thrower, but there clearly are problematic issues at hand.article 0 1B38E695000005DC 927 306x423 Rios Testimonial Runs Awry!

Soccer Bar Etiquette

 Posted by on August 10, 2013 at 12:02 pm  Blogs/Media, England, EPL, Global Headlines, MLS, United States
Aug 102013

It has become a weekly tradition for those who follow the beautiful game to wake up at ungodly hours on weekends, trudge themselves to their local watering hole, and watch two (sometimes four, sometimes six) hours of soccer.  It does not matter if you live in a big city like Washington D.C. or a town like Frederick, Md the soccer bar culture has taken over America. It does not matter if it is the English Premier League, La Liga (the Spanish first division,) the Bundesliga (German First Division,) U.S. Men’s National Team matches, or America’s own Major League Soccer. Due to the fierce loyalty of the fans of the game, soccer now has a place at every taphouse, brewpub, microbrewery, and Green Turtle in the United States.

Given the dedication of soccer fans in this country, and the negative treatment that the game has received from mainstream sports fans and the media, it can sometimes be an intimidating place for new fans. However, once you get to know some of the tricks of the match and the bar environment, a soccer game at your local tavern at 7am can a very informative and entertaining experience. With the English Premier League season about to get underway this weekend with the Community Shield match between Manchester United and Wigan, here are a few tips on how to make your soccer bar experience a great experience!

#1: Come in With an Open Mind.

First off, it is a weekend and you are at a bar watching sports. That is a pretty damn good way to start your day.

If this is your first soccer match that you are watching, or maybe you have seen a match or two before but are still learning about the game then great! Most of the people you are watching the game with are still learning about international soccer as well. This is not Major League Baseball. Leagues like the English Premier League have really only been showed to major audiences for about 10 years now so there are very few wise sages who understand every in and out of the game. “The greatest thing about soccer fans in the United States is that for the most part everyone is willing to help each other out,” says founder of the Free Beer Movement Dan Wiersema. The Free Beer Movement is a grassroots organization that aims to connect people who are interested in learning more about soccer through America’s love for beer.  “The thing I love about the Free Beer Movement is that you get to meet two great communities who are open and willing to share their respective loves: soccer and beer.”

Everyone from the bartender to the young kid with a fresh Van Persie, to the old Englishman in the corner with the faded Sir Bobby Charlton jersey are still learning about this game. The best thing about a soccer bar is that it is a community to share your experiences, or lack thereof, about soccer and get to know other people. That being said, most of the people there will probably have a good understanding of the game so feel free to ask questions about different players or teams. Unless you can tell that one of your patrons had a long night before or their team is getting beaten by 6 goals (we call them Newcastle fans) most people are friendly and will answer your questions. You may even get the occasional person who will use ketchup bottles and salt and pepper shakers to explain the offsides rule. Take lots of notes about this as you crack open the striker to put him on your eggs.

#2: Wear Some Colors!

So much of waking up to watch soccer is representing the beautiful game in all of its glory. It is part pageantry, part coffee and beer, and part greasy breakfeast. So if you have a soccer jersey, or anything that is soccer-related, wear it! I normally sport my classic Newcastle jersey with the Northern Rock logo. I will also occasionally wear a Serbia jersey that my good friend Djerdj gave me to get girls. Even if all you have is a Galatasaray scarf that your aunt bought you when she was abroad five years ago that is fine. It shows that you are willing to immerse yourself in the culture.

True story: during the 2010 World Cup Washington D.C. was pretty much in soccer euphoria. Embassies were closed for games, workers all throughout the city were taking “business meetings” for two hour periods between 12 and 2, and bars were open at 7 and 9am for pre-gaming. Being young and working dead-end jobs, my friend Andy and I decided to take a long lunch break and catch some of the matches at Ghana Cafe. Knowing of rule #2, I told my friend Andy he needed to bring a soccer jersey. So what did the man bring to a Ghana- Serbia match? A Togo jersey! Togo a team that has a very bitter rivalry with Ghana for years. Had I known my friend would be wearing a Togo jersey, I would have lent him one of mine.

While waiting in line for a beer, there was another gentleman who was kind of pushing his way through to get a beer. This guy was dressed to the nines wearing a Brooks Brothers jacket, snake skin shoes, and aviator glasses. D.C. is full of these high-class citizens. As the bartender came to us he decided to take my friends and I order before the other fellow. Incredulous, the gentleman barked at the bartender, “How could you let this piece of shit order a beer before me. I am from Ghana!” The bartender, looking like he needed a smoke and a drink himself, very calmly said to the man “While he [Andy] may be wearing the jersey of the enemy, at least he is dressed for the occasion.” Andy felt like he deserved the Nobel Peace Prize afterwards.

Most of the time if someone notices you are wearing one of their team’s rivals shirts, they will only throw a few verbal shots at you. Since soccer in this country grew up as an us (being soccer fans) versus them (people that hate the game) there is not the animosity between teams as you see abroad. Even among arguably the fiercest soccer rivalry in this country, Mexico versus the United States, there is mutual respect for one another at the bar. “I live in Texas and of course we are right on the border with Mexico. But I am always the first person to go over to the Mexican fans and say hello and welcome them. I am hoping that maybe fans in this country can avoid all of the negative problems that fans in Europe and other parts of the world face and through our mutual admiration of the game,” said Wiersema.

If you do run across the odd salty turd, explain to them that you just started watching soccer and that you wearing the jersey for *insert reason*. Do not take whatever they say to heart and just keep enjoying the match.

#3 Have a Beer (Or at Least a Coffee)

If you are at a bar at 9 or 10am in the morning, crack open a cold one and join in on the conversation. So much of soccer is tied to beer or at least an appreciation of it. While no one is expecting you to drink a case of beer or to take shots, there is nothing better than having a nice cold Guinness and watching some soccer on the big screen. Most places also have Bloody Marys and Mimosas too, but if you go to a place called O’Finnigans do not expect high-end vodka or champagne.

However, if beer or alcohol is not your thing a cup of coffee is always a good substitute. Most of the bars that cater to the soccer crowd always have at least two pots of coffee boiling so they will be ready for a crowd that is getting up early on a weekend.  It is generally nothing fancy (i.e. not Lattes or Frappacinos) but it does the trick.

Oh, and make sure to tip your bartender or waitress well. They are up early in the morning serving you drinks and food and deserve to be tipped well.

#4 Yell, Hoot, and Holler at the TV to Your Heart’s Content

One of the thing that bothers me about so many bars is the piped in music that they play during American football games. I love Lady Gaga as much as the next person, but when there is a game on I want to hear the array emotions from my fellow bar denizens not about her poker face. Luckily most soccer bars have kicked the Jam Jams garbage to the curb in favor of fans yelling, “Ooh!” “Shoot!” “What the f—k is he doing?” or my personal favorite “Come on Ref!” There is nothing like a half-sober fan trying to break the fourth wall to communicate with a referee who is hundreds of thousands of miles away.

Even though you may hear some fans dropping the occasional f bomb, I would say as a newcomer be careful about your language. While it is true that you are at a bar, many soccer fans bring their kids to the bar because it less about the drinking and more about the game. If it is just you and a bunch of twentysomethings, curse all you like. However, if there are kids around mind your manners.

If you are lucky you may even be at a bar where some of the fans will sing the team’s chants. When I went to my first Newcastle Supporters Bar, Slainte’s Irish Pub in Baltimore, the Mobtown Magpies (the local Supporters Group) made me sing the Blaydon Races which is one of Newcastle’s great songs.  Most times though the other fans will sing with you.  For example, Liverpool fans during halftime may pull out “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” the Elvis classic. No one is looking for a pitch perfect voice just someone to sing a tune with.

#5 Bring a Friend!

If you are not exactly a social gadfly or have difficulty making on a friends, it is always good to bring a friend especially if they do have some knowledge about the game. While talking to Mr. Wiersema, he used a term that I thought was very appropriate for these types of people. Lifeguards. “They are people that can help you understand the game when you might be over your head and can act as good ambassadors for the game,” he said to me.  Having watched many matches by myself and many matches with friends or family, I can definitely say that games are much more fun when you are with someone else. And if you have a friend who is already immersed in the soccer bar culture then even better!

My two personal favorite soccer bar patrons are my brother T.C. and his two year old son Jack. Every Saturday or Sunday we would have what is called “Man Day” where the three of us would go to the German Biergarten Hause on H Street Northeast in Washington D.C. While my nephew would be demolishing French Toast, singing “Ole!” and dancing to German Electronic Polka music with his dinosaurs, my brother and I would have a beer and a coffee and enjoy the English Premier League and the Bundesliga. While the game is going on we would frequently talk to people in their Washington Redskins jersey, who are there to pre-game for their noon match. What was really cool would be to see these same people come a little bit earlier every week so they could catch more of the match and talk to the other bar patrons. Oh and to boo the bejeezus out of John Terry. It is part enjoying the game, and part enjoying each other’s company but it is a great time all around.

Having been to many bars for many different types of sports, I can say there are very few games that can be as exciting in a packed or even semi-packed house as a soccer match. For ninety minutes, everyone’s attention is fixed on one thing. There are very few stoppages and emotions are always running high. People are singing, swearing both to their respective god and to inanimate objects, and at the end everyone has a laugh and says their goodbyes for the day. The community that has been built through watching games at crazy hours is a great  group that hopefully will continue to grow through following these tips when a newcomer comes at the pub.

If you have any other rules, or experiences that you would like to add feel free to write them below! Enjoy the matches and Go Toon Army!

Bushido Football!

 Posted by on July 26, 2013 at 5:51 pm  Blogs/Media, England, Manchester United
Jul 262013

Cerezo Osaka 2-2 Manchester United
Wilfried Zaha 008 Bushido Football!The never ending soap opera that is Manchester United continued in Osaka. While the gossip factory back home in blighty belched out continuous yes/no rumor-mongering vis-a-vis Cesc Fabregas leaving F.C. Barcelona to become part of our brilliant crew, the Japanese celebrated the return of a native son as Shinji Kagawa was feted and celebrated to the uncomfortable point of idolatry. For anybody watching this match who doesn’t own a schoolgirl crush on Kagawa, the game took on all the bizarre glamor of a pay-per-view WWF grudge match. With 85,000 locals relentlessly making banshee-like shrieking noises, Our Shinji did it all: Scored a goal, missed a sitter, missed a penalty. I hope the crowd got what they wanted. The game was entertaining indeed, but it was hardly professional football.

At any rate, Our new young rising star, Wilfried Zaha, spared his more famous teammate Shinji Kagawa from much embarrassment when he scored an injury-time equalizer for Manchester United over J League heavyweights Cerezo Osaka just as it seemed like the Red Devils were about to suffer a third tour defeat against Prince Shinji’s old club. The grateful massed squeal of the crowd as Kagawa’s substitute tapped home n a low, beautiful cross from Anderson’s meant a final sense of yin equaling yang after Kenyu Sugimoto and Yusuke Maruhashi had scored either side of Kagawa’s equalizer.

United began with a lot of hustle and Cerezo’s South Korean goalie Kim Jin-hyeon was busy from the get-go after he made a flying save off a stinging left-footed Robin Van Persie shot inside the first minute. The Dutchman had been the victim all week of many panic ridden rumors about having an injured hamstring after being taken off early in the team’s loss to Yokohama. on Tuesday. Clearly, in spite of the Daily Mirror, he was okay! Indeed, Van Persie was in the mood for long-distance target practice as Kim was forced to make three diving saves off him in the first half. Quite a useful custodian, Kim made a string of fine saves, although he was extremely lucky that a spectacular diving Phil Jones header went over the bar.

It’s doubtful that they ever do this normally, but it was so humid and just plain hot that officials and coaches decided to take a drinks break midway through both halves. Meanwhile, as United began to wilt, Osaka improved. Anders Lindegaard was forced to make a series of quality saves before their forward Edno sent his header straight at the Dane from pointblank range. Any kind of nod in either direction would have put the hosts ahead, to be sure. But minutes later, clearly intent upon giving his blundering rival Jonny Evans a run for his money, Chris Smalling hesitated with the ball at his feet in the six yard box and a thieving magpie, Masahiro Sugimoto, was there to steal away the ball and fire home past Lindegaard to make it 1-0.

Late in the half, Van Persie picked up a loose ball after Danny Welbeck had failed with a beautifully powered rocket which hit the post. Normally, the lethal Rotterdam assassin would surely have surely scored himself. Instead, in some weird kind of reverse loyalty and Bushido to his teammate, RVP squared chivalrously toward Osaka’s venerated Home Boy Kagawa. Absurdly, ridiculously and almost unbelievably, Kagawa caught the ball on his instep and hit it with his laces high over the bar accompanied by Takashi Mike samurai-movie moans from the capacity crowd.

Still, United kept up their pressing game and that other legend, Ryan Giggs, narrowly failed with a chip shot over the bar before Welbeck came close as his shot beat Kim but curled wide by a bare inch or so. Kagawa then really blew everybody’s mind. After a sprinting Ashley Young was brought down in the box, Van Persie shrugged, bowed to his colleague and allowed Shinji to take the spot kick. Unfortunately, Kagawa hit it too softly and the goalkeeper guessed right, making a fine low save. This caused the embarrassed crowd to make even more bizarre keening noises. Luckily, ten minutes later, Kagawa was the recipient of a sweet lobbed Giggs pass into the box which Kagawa had all the time in the world to fire home.

Cerezo were not to be easily shrugged off, however, and after some sterling midfield work, Anderson lost the ball to Minamino. Minemino then executed a fine bit of dribbling, executing a deft run to the edge of the box before firing a bazooka which exploded into the top corner of the net.

With both sides clearly tired and wilted, the exhibition match began to take on the look of the final round of an old Rocky Movie as the two teams staggered all over the grass, the Japanese team desperately trying to hold the lead as United periodically worked toward a draw. Yet, after some marvelous dribbling artistry from Zaha, Cerezo almost scored a third as Lindegaard made a fine, flying. fingertip save to deny Maruhashi.

It was only in injury time that the Premier League champions managed to salvage their dignity as Zaha, the new young winger who has impressed the most on this three-week trip, ruthlessly took his chance from close range.

Yokohama Marinos 3-2 Manchester United
Read the usual blogs and you’ll see the usual fans are going at it, as per usual. The panic brigade is already considering collective seppuku while the usual Orthodox loyalism-obsessed jihadis want to behead anybody who hasn’t fallen into a state of instantaneous thrall to Davie Moyes and his new crew. All of it is stuff and nonsense, of course. As with any preseason match, much that’s useful can be learned by the coaching staff and pundits alike, but nothing significant; nevertheless, a vanity -beguiled Manchester United side suffered a second defeat out of three preseason matches when the J League’s Yokohama Marinos scored late for a well deserved win.

The good news is the same. Jesse Lingard scored another goal and, alongside the equally hungry Adnan Januzaj and Wilfried Zaha, United clearly own some impressive and potentially fruitful young attacking talent. Bad-news wise, Phil Jones and Jonny Evans were just as mismatched at center back as they were when paired together for Sir Alex Ferguson’s 5-5 farewell at the Hawthorns in May. Once Fergie’s blue-eyed Ulster boy–leading to the exit of a far superior talent in Gerard Pique–Evans, along with teammate Tom Cleverley, is the ultimate proof of the cliché that you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. Repeatedly positionally retarded, Evans is living proof that, no matter which videos you watch, or how much good coaching you receive, all the natural athleticism in the world can not render you intelligent. The opposite holds true for Cleverley. Although he is energetic and intelligent, he is shockingly slow and technically predictable. When scouts on the other side of the world can so readily prepare their less talented players to trivialize two of your starters, there’s a problem.

The United team which won the World Club Cup in its last appearance in the same stadium in 2008 clearly bears no resemblance to this one. Of course, the introduction to massive applause of Shinji Kagawa, was very moving for the locals and lucrative for the Glazers. Lots of Kagawa, Van Persie and Rooney replica shirts were sold. Yet Moyes started a youthful lineup. and was clearly happy early on as they fought back after suffering an early sucker-punch. Yokohama attacked straight away and David de Gea had to make an acrobatic save to deny Brazilian striker Marquinhos. But the ball was too desperately hacked-away by a leggy Patrice Evra, who is clearly just a shadow of his old self. Hanato then played the ball back into United’s penalty area for the 37-year-old Marquinos to streak past the flat-footed Evans, Jones and Evra, before slamming home. And all before a minute had ticked by.

But United tied it up after eighteen minutes as the 20-year-old Jesse Lingard played a pretty pass out wide to Wilfried Zaha,. Sprinting into Yokohama’s box, Lingard took a difficult return pass from the speedy Zaha. A desperate Masakazu Tashiro stretched to intercept the cross but Lingard was there to seize the loose ball and fire home

With United fairly bubbling with energy, Yokohama were not coping well. Repeatedly teased and trivialized by Lingard and Zaha, Tashiro went up to block a wickedly hit Adnan Januzaj free-kick. The ball glanced off Tashiro’s shoulder into the net and United took the lead in the 32nd minute.

Slowly but surely, however, the high humidity began to slow United down. With Michael Carrick injured, United have offered ample opportunities to Tom Cleverley and his partner Anderson to prove themselves. Their passing quality from central midfield proved to be awful, however. Yokohama seemed to pick off every pass. Steadily growing more and more fatigued. United still made more than a few good chances. only for the plodding Jonny Evans to squander them. How he missed a beautiful Zaha cutback which was dished right onto his foot, but which he blasted way wide despite an open goal.
Minutes later, United let it all slip as the crowd’s national hero Kagawa made his first appearance. In the midst of a wall of noise, Yokohama’s Brazilian defender Fabio leapt high and headed Nakamura’s precise curving corner home.

In the latter part of the match Ashley Young and Danny Welbeck each squandered chances repeatedly. Yet, instead of keeping up the pressure, United looked ready to settle for a draw
The Marinos tireless veteran midfielder Jim Hanato had other ideas. Hanato took the ball from the weak-tackling Cleverley and zigzagged his determined way toward United’s box. With United’s whole defense backing up, Hanato chipped a long ball straight to Yoshihito Fujita, who tapped the ball home past a a stranded David de Gea for the victory.

Aside from minor injuries to Robin Van Persie and Danny Welbeck, what Moyes called “wee worries,” United got away with no more than a loss. Yet with so much at stake back home in the world’s most lucrative league, and so many parallel changes in the Premiership at Chelsea, Manchester City and Everton, the new manager and his number two, Steve Round, have much to chew upon. With Vidic repeatedly injured, Evra’s legs gone and repeated lackluster ineptitude from Young, Cleverley and Anderson, they are running out of time to decide whether to cut them loose and sell them on the cheap or persevere with their presence. At worse,we should repeat last year’s Jekyll and Hyde model: Inspirational attack accompanied by a porous defense. If Moyes can find two or three pieces at the back and to bolster the midfield, United can still win it all again.

Jul 222013

A-League All Stars 1-5 Manchester United
No matter what happens in his career from now on, 20-year-old Jesse Lingard will always be part of the vaunted history of Manchester United football club having scored the first goal of David Moyes‘ tenure as manager before a huge noisy crowd of 83,127 fans. With the game only eleven minutes old, the fleet-footed Warrington whirlwind hoovered up a crisp Tom Cleverley pass following a Danny Welbeck dummy, beating two defenders before firing home. Collectively were United were looking way sharper than they had during last weekend’s 1-0 loss in Bangkok to the Singha All Stars in Moyes’s debut. Lingard’s crisply taken goal relaxed the red devils, and they were the happy recipients of standout performances from Wilfried Zaha and Danny Welbeck.

22 minutes later, Lingard pushed a sweet short effort to Ryan Giggs, whose own weighted pass was casually slammed home off the side of Welbeck’s boot beyond Ante Covic. The anemic A-Leaguers, who were constantly kept on the back foot by the speed of United’s transition game, were simply overwhelmed. the rowdy crowd, as in Bangkok, were mostly clad in United red replica kits and not at all disgruntled about losing.

Still, just as with last weekend’s Thai defeat, United looked ridiculously vulnerable to being turned. Somehow, with Cleverley and Carrick passively retreating before Tom Broich, the Australian journeyman was wise enough to lob a defense-splitting pass over the too casual center back pairing of Rio Ferdinand and Phil Jones. Free and unmarked, their Albanian striker Besart Berisha, once Burnley’s property, picked up the ball, executed a one-two with Bruich before rocketing a shot over Anders Lindegaard’s goal which missed by only a fraction of an inch.

Ferdinand, huffing and puffing, clearly still feeling the effects of his vacation, was pulled at half-time for Michael Keane. Keane was clearly either too awed or intimidated by the occasion, however, and had the ball slipped off his foot by the marauding Berisha, who tapped a slow rolling flick past a flat-footed Anders Lindegaard to make it 2-1.

Two minutes later, the diminutive dynamo restored United’s two-goal cushion with a 25-yard bazooka which flew past new goalie Michael Theo. Then, five minutes later, Robin van Persie arrived like a hurricane. With his first corner, the veteran left-footed striker placed a perfect dish on on a high-rising Welbeck’s head for him to nod home. Then, as a last treat, Van Persie added a single flash of utter casual brilliance. After executing an elbows-out pirouette to make room inside the Aussies’ box to play home a hard-sprinting Anderson; unfortunately, the muscular Brazilian midfielder was too anxious and got caught offside.Still, the tall, ever-determined handsome Nederlander goal machine picked up a pass from Cleverley and missed with a soft shot at Theo. But the loose ball bounced back to him and he fired the fifth goal in the 86th minute.

Both Zaha and Adnan Januzaj showed off some dynamic footwork over the final five minutes, although Januzaj missed a wide-open sitter late on. Master David Moyes mat not have learned anything particularly new in this victory, although Wilfried Zaha looks good and ready to join the wing rotation featuring Valencia and Young. With Moyes’ making a statement at the pre-match Sydney press conference in which he insisted a preference for keeping the erratic, but sometimes brilliant Nani at the club, Andruzaj’s presence in the squad is questionable.

Football is rarely filled with genuine sentimental moments, but the post-match chit-chat with ever-aggressive Australian press saw Ryan Giggs at his most charming. Deftly avoiding their desire for banter about his personal and family life, Giggs raved about the local facilities and improvements since his previous visit. “Would you ever consider playing over here before you retire?” one journo asked.

“The only league for me is the Premier League,” he said boldly, “and my only club ever is Manchester United!”

Jul 162013

Much ado about nothing thus far in the rumor mills. United seem to be interested in everybody but the new pope to solve the club’s squad problems. The biggest speculations concern United’s need for a midfield General. Moyes seems to have dithered over Thiago Alcantara too much, but the wily Scot clearly had doubts about the veracity of signing a 22-year-old and piling too much responsibility on his shoulders. At any rate, Alcantara has signed for his agent’s brother, Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich and may yet end up sitting on Bayern’s bench as he did at Barca.

Will Barcelona sell Fabregas after also flogging Thiago? It does seem far-fetched, but with Barca repeatedly lusting after Wayne Rooney and Wayne being told he’s more or less #3 in line if RVP or Shinji get injured, it looks like the club would like it if Wayne put in a written transfer request.

It does look like Moyes will pull the trigger and acquire Marouane Fellaini. Although the Belgian lacks pace, he is a true physical competitor, a fine tackler and will give us the kind of aggression we’ve missed in midfield since Roy Keane exited. Why we need a 29-year-old Leighton Baines at such a high price is beyond my comprehension. I would personally prefer a much younger Emilio Eyzaguirre of Glasgow Celtic.

Alternatives to Fabregas? I like Erik Lamella of A.S. Roma or Javíer Pastore, who seems to have sat on Paris St. German’s bench all last season. Then there’s Joe Kinnear’s favorite Yohann Cabaye of Newcastle United. The clock is ticking

Singha All Star XI 1-0 Manchester United
In spite of all the negative gobbledygook doing the rounds about “Moyes’ Disastrous Debut” (The News of the World), this one seems to have been pretty rewarding in the educational stakes for the club’s new boss. Teeratep Winothai: may make history for becoming the first scorer in the new Manchester United era but his 50th minutes goal, when he wrong-footed our third-string goalie Ben Amos, saw the Singha All Star XI captain being booed more than complimented by a local, but fiercely partisan pro-red devils crowd in the 65,000 sellout Rajamangala National Stadium, all of whom seemed to sporting United replica regalia.

A humid, broiling 97 Fahrenheit and a squad debilitated by both injuries and permission from the club allowing most international players to take their sweet time about returning to the fold did not help, either. Nine players short, missing David de Gea, Shinji Kagawa , Nemanja Vidic Nani , Chris Smalling , Wayne Rooney and Ashley Young, United, nevertheless, muddled through. Although there was one more injury when Alexander Büttner limped off in the first half with a tight hamstring “It wasn’t a brilliant result,” Moyes said after the match, “but I’m more pleased with the way they kept going. We gave one or two young players an opportunity. It was certainly a good fitness workout.”

United’ looked disjointed. Danny Welbeck, childishly desperate to impress after a poor previous season, tried in vain to execute step overs, dribbles and backless, most of which went comically wrong. Atypical was a shot that wobbled past the Thai team’s goalie Narit Taweekul’s right post as the striker fell over. like a pratfalling comedian. And with Tom Cleverley and Anderson unable to make more than a handful of accurate short passes, little seemed to go right beyond the sweating off of pounds.
A star was born in Bangkok, however. 18-year-old Adnan Januzaj, a sparkling blonde ethnic Albanian from Belgium showed wonderful skills. Quick-footed and a superb dribbler, Januzaj looked unfazed and bright-eyed despite taking fair amount of jostling and stick from the Singha defense. Comfortable in the slot behind striker Danny Welbeck in the spot usually taken by Rooney or Kagawa, Januzaj shone before getting leggy on the hour mark. “If he continues to play like that he’ll get more chances,” said Moyes.

63 minute in,United brought on Wilfried Zaha, Phil Jones and Jesse Lingard. A very sexy debutante, Zaha came closest to scoring for United as he speedily left defender upon defender in his wake, zigzagging hither and thither before dipping left and firing a beauty which easily beat the goalie Taweekul before hitting the right upright. Minutes later, a snake-hipped Jesse Lingard picked up a fine Giggs through-ball, beat two men easily before scuffing a shot at the keeper.

Thus, all in all, although it was no masterpiece, Mr. Moyes has surely learned a thing or two about what he has at hand and exactly what he needs to bring in,