Tag Archives: Giggs

When Do Teams Get Old?

I’ve been predicting the demise of Chelsea for years. On the basis of: Age:  That their key players play lots of hard games: Their coaches do not prioritise. Yet they are probably declined but arguably with some comfort the best team in the land.

I was also shocked at how United with less and less organ grinders and more and more steady players  were able to mount a challenge last year. Indeed United seemed able to summon results from nowhere. This year they are doing it in reverse so far turning wins into draws. I guess a point as with Liverpool’s blip in 07/08 you cannot keep defying gravity.

A lot of my views on decline were based on the Galactico team in Madrid where everyone went into steep decline at circa 28 or 29. Of course we now know not training helps but Ronaldinho has at least showed it can still happen.

However in much the same way that boxers at 30 were considered old in the 70s and now 30 would be considered peak footballers continue to play at a high level into their 30s now in England. It is after all a game for primarily skilled exponents with a dash of pace and height and guts to make a team. Certainly I’ve never been a bigger admirer of the Ginger Prince than I am right now.

Which leads me to Ferguson’s team selection last night. Now most of the calls were in the back 4 and this was correct it was  a game Wes Brown, Fabio and Smalling could get some action but not cost the team as Rangers played 811 according to one viewer who I think was being generous about their 901. It’s not that they had everyone back but they had everyone in the middle to boot.

Looking at the front 6 I counted 3 normal starters The Fletch, Rooney and Valencia. It would not be the first game Nani has not started albeit not having him on the bench was clearly a mistake if he was fully fit. Park has been picked ahead of Nani quite a lot to boot. Berbatov was missing but they have 8 strikers apparently and Owen and Hernandez  is strong enough.

Giggs may be a more intelligent player than he was at 19 but he moves like he is as old as he is. Neville’s limitations in a game where the one risk is you get broken on was clear. The Ginger Prince cannot play every game and this is the crux for me.

I think the point is that this was a team United will have to win games with.

United might fool me again. Rooney might repeat his great season of last year once he gets mind on the job and fully fit. However United fans will not want many more injuries and will want some of the lottery tickets to deliver – Gibson, Hernandez, Bebe, Macheda, Owen et al.

Most crucially they will need 25-30 league games from the Prince and if that means leaving him out of games like that then so be it.

Last night may be a good sign that Ferguson unlike Mourinho, Grant, Hiddink, Scolari and Ancelotti can prioritise. Then again Chelsea with Essien fit and Lampard missing had Malouda, a candidate for player of the calendar year 2010, on the bench. Not to mention Zhirkov who may be the 2nd best left back in the division.

The loss of Valencia might seem doubly galling given United’sm squad strength now as well.

Chelsea Worthy Champs : Next Year?

John Terry had his Clegg moment and said Chelsea would dominate for years. Well let’s look at next year.

To be positive it’s hard to see how the rest of the division can improve much as they are cash strapped or there really are not the players readily available to improve teams – the world cup will just lead to money wasted on people who look good against lesser competition. Arsenal would appear to have the most organic growth and the scouting network to actually find some players.

United got within a point but that was off Rooney having an outlier. Now you may think he can repeat but he broke down physically whereas in the past metatarsals aside he has often come on strong late. At 25 in Oct has he had a dramatic step forward or is this unrepeatable? The rest of their squad has been helped by Scholes producing 10 good games and some contribution from van der Sar (40 this year), Giggs and Neville quite how long that can last is the question. The last 6 big signings are Valencia, Berbatov, Hargreaves, Anderson, Nani and Carrick which is over a hundred million just in fees for what? The two wingers are Ok but more of the same will hardly set the team alight without a strong Rooney season. The pattern of buying players who are limited but look good when the game comes their way seems fixed. It’s a buying policy that won’t unearth another Ronaldo. Nani is a wild card but shockingly inconsistent.

Man City spent a fortune and if I was building a title winning side I am not sure how many I would pick. Coalesce the Chelsea team. Given or Cech is a wash. Ashley Cole and Ivanovic/Bosingwa easy choices. Terry and Alex/Toure/Lescott/Ricardo Carvalho. Lampard, Essien, Ballack pretty much takes out their midfield. Up front Malouda with Drogba/Anelka  leaves a wing open where I would choose Bellamy most would choose Tevez (more wasteful with the ball and nowhere near as good when asked to play for team as a starter at United).  So that is basically maybe the 2nd centre half, definitely 1 winger and maybe the cat (albeit Given’s size will make him look better than Cech but the bigger man is probably as good). All the star players would be Chelsea (Terry, Lampard, maybe Essien if he comes back, Drogba and Malouda). Who is there for them to buy when behind the strikers players is all they have at the highest domestic class? They need a top class striker, full backs, another centre half in the mix, 1 or 2 better midfielders and those players are not available or half season players like Torres. There was talk of Joe Cole but he would only be their 3rd best behindthestrikeramejig player and United would benefit more from him – there is also a strong chance he is shot and the wrong age to give 3 or 4 years to off his injuries.

Chelsea could have been 5 points better albeit winning every big game. They looked poverty stricken against an Inter side who overall are no better than Inter have been for a few years (they lost 2, won 1 and drew 1 against Barcelona and barely got out of the group stages. Struggling to beat a lousy Roma team in the league – even if they win their last game will only have won 24 games and 82 points in that league!!) .

So with the following caveats Chelsea could improve and retain the title until Arsenal are ready and maybe improve in Europe:-

  1. Start using the cups to blood players and rest their best players in competitions that are not worth winning – Mourinho won both cups and left. This year could they have been helped by early exit from Carling and Champions League this year? 3 games a week wears them down for me with this year’s tactics and squad. Even one or two signings will not improve them greatly if they do not start to blood youth and pick formations stronger in midfield.
  2. They may have finished the season with 4 forwards, Lampard and Ballack but that could barely retain the ball against Wigan before they gave up. If they want to win in Europe back to the 4321 or 4231 – it’s better defensively and less wearing on 32 year old midfielders.
  3. Don’t play Anelka and Drogba together even in a 442 Anelka just disappears mostly. Without a reserve it’s easy and results suggest starting either is a wash for the team even if intuitively I favour The Drog.
  4. A poor placeholder like Mikel is surely replaceable and upgradeable from – will Essien ever be back? 28 in December. Regardless they do not need to play 2 such limited and defensive players. Mikel is a sell frankly albeit he is younger.

A bit hubristic from Terry but if Chelsea drop the hubris and concentrate their resources they could dominate domestically for at least another year. They would also do better in Europe but unless they can infuse a lot of new blood those three game weeks will kill them.

If I was cheeky I would say as Roman gets better at picking the team they should improve.

TWSI Picking On United?

After what was more an unfortunate than unlucky vibrant performance in the week Sir Ferguson opted for a bizarre team selection against Blackburn in a tough away game – against a team who had taken points off Chelsea a few weeks ago at home. He picked Giggs, Scholes, Neville and most bizarrely considering that age and movement profile a 442. His only bench poacher started as well – Macheda. After mid week where at times United gave a performance with the kind of pace and power one sees from Barcelona we saw a flaccid performance from a Sunday League team.

The full folly of the manager became clear when he had to bring on subs and take his one impact player Macheda off. He brings on Ji Sung Park who must be in the school of Makelele as a non impact player. He has no pace or height but works his ass off and if used at all should be a starter. Machada thinks like a Lineker era striker. Standing up front waving your hands is not making yourself available for the ball in the last year of the 1st decade of this century.

One can excuse managers who make decisions that are only poor in hindsight but this showed that for all Ferguson’s mastery of motivation and hunger transmission tactics remain elusive. At one point in the first half Berbatov takes the ball off Vidic deep and no one moved for the ball for 3 seconds. They just stood by their markers like Lemons. Nani needs to be made to watch this performance with the manager. To call his continual shooting self indulgent would be being really nice of me.

Blackburn’s total absence of ambition also shone through despite a United team sheet that cried out to be out flanked and out paced. Yet United managed probably 2 decent chances in the game.

Guardian Picking On United?

The Guardian makes big play out of the story that United decided not to buy David Villa on financial grounds. Now for me this is double edged if they seriously considered it then it was a mistake and if they did not the Guardian is muck raking. Villa to United at any kind of large fee makes no sense unless they plan to off load Rooney….

Rooney has been the man this year but at 24 and a half has had knee and ankle problems. He has had 2 broken feet. In short he has avoid signs growing out of his back. There would be an argument with his body type for a sale. The fact this year is an outlier to what until this season had been a career with more promise than delivery would also make going forward with him arguable.

Seeing how he disappeared with Ronaldo and van Nistelrooij there it’s not a safe bet plunking a 40 million striker ahead of him would work. Also Villa has been used to being the man himself at Valencia and was Spain clear no 09 over Torres at the Euros – sidebar Aragones used Torres a lot like Rafa in bursts.

Even if the two played like lovers their ideal position is the same. They also would enforce a 442 on United who looked painfully short in midfield even with 3 men in there. They would be  better getting a right back and a central midfielder to replace older players and to upgrade their defensive alignment.

Most of all Villa is a rotten signing as you would have to pay him full whack on top of a 40 million fee. He’s 28. Sure it’s a better signing than Berbatov at 30 million but that’s a sunk cost. Signing where you are strong is surely a smaller upgrade for a team relying on Giggs, Scholes and Neville to cover for the failure of the youth system and other signings. Plus in Europe you need players better on the ball than Carrick, Vidic and Park when you are being pressed back or a man short.

Villa’s signing would be a huge risk playing 2 strikers who might not gel. It would leave their 2 biggest buys and biggest player all after what has been this year one spot whilst papering over the cracks elsewhere.

Manchester United Tactics Can’t Trump Attitude

I won’t dwell on United in Munich but it was a shockingly torpid performance much like Chelsea’s with Inter and yielded the same dangerous result.

Ferguson played a middle 3 but they could not pass water tonight. Indeed United were staying overnight and the way Scholes, Carrick and The Fletch passed the ball they will not be able to pass water for the drug testers till tomorrow. You can play any formation you want but if the players are not up for it or you pass the ball badly what does it matter?

Like City yesterday it made no sense to me to line up all 10 back at a corner. It may require some zonal marking but corners should be a springboard for counter attack as even the most goal shy team feels the need to go forward. Whereas United had no one further forward than the edge of the area. It smacks of a fear of the opposition not being careful.

United can be glad it was only 2-1. Once again in Europe you think if the label on the opposition said Spurs a likely better team than Munich, certainly a Munich with injuries and unfit starters, that United have this much trouble? I guess we’ll see in their league fixtures with Chelsea and Spurs.

Adding to the negativity of the players how can anyone countenance removing Park or Nani for Berbatov? Then bringing on Giggs who for all the praise moves very slowly now. Indeed with Neville, Scholes and Giggs at the end Valencia became the only out and he’s a nice player but hardly a burner.

I like tactics but players and how they play trumps everything.

Even The Fletch sucked.

Beckham Career Over As Rooney’s Belatedly Starts

With a ruptured tendon it seems that the final chapter of David Beckham’s serious football career is over. It’s a career that promised more than it ultimately delivered after his 25 birthday in May 2000. Whereas Rooney has been all promise and not frequent delivery until his 24th year it’s worth speculating if Rooney will have a better 25 to 35 span than Beckham.

In the late 90s United did win a Champions League but their performances in Europe were not that impressive. In their winning year they drew 4 group games and won only against the Danish patsies. On the way to the final they narrowly defeated Inter and Juve who finished 9th and 6th in Italy that year.  They were then outclassed but won the final against Bavarian Munich. One of their major problems was that during those years Beckham their chief assister and midfield goal scorer would wear down over a season partly because of the effort he put in and the fact he did not miss a game – no rotation then. Also Roy Keane’s reputation may have been unimpeachable but United’s defensive midfield was not with many teams exploiting the gap between the defence and the midfield as he was caught up field.

Initially Beckham held out the hope of a player who could deliver 15 goals and 15 assists every year merely from the accuracy of his ball striking. In many ways he seemed held back by the 442 obsession that gripped Ferguson then and still grips English journalists. Ferguson would not consider a central role even as the United’s midfield was overwhelmed in Europe a player short. Bare in mind that United were able to win 2 years in 3 in England often with less than 80 points – enough now for 4th in the far better league we have now. English football was not as strong then as now – that United team were to peak with 90 points in 2000 with a far  superior team than the treble winners as their players matured and others settled in.

On reflection as a big fan in the late 90s I have to say the 10 years of Beckham’s adult career have been a disappointment. The decline for me could be seen between the 2 Greece games in the 2002 World Cup qualifying. Surprisingly it was the lauded 2nd performance which was vastly inferior quality wise. It does seem his commitment to training and football did go probably a year or two before then. He left United for a ticket to Madrid and fell in with a losing team of players who barely trained and became ironically for a player who once wanted to play centrally an immobile player who increasingly stood wide waiting for the ball as he got older.

Beckham did stand out in that team funnily enough he actually would hold in midfield whilst Zidane the most self indulgent player I ever saw and José María Gutiérrez [Guti] the 2nd most self indulgent player I have ever seen ponced the ball to the opposition for a couple of pesetas. That he fell in with their training methods and nailing assistants and models is a clear sign of his focus being elsewhere. The surprise is once Madrid had all but kicked him out he came back to be a big factor in delivering a title. The appearance of Capello the great man and a figure with the authority of Ferguson coinciding with that, not to mention half a season off to rest as Madrid tried hint he should go, may not be accidental. The sad part Beckham tried to relaunch himself but his body was no longer able to support that and he has had frequent injuries.

In short United’s best teams have come since Beckham left. The vaunted Giggs, Keane, Scholes/Butt and Beckham axis was not top class – indeed in Europe it was a weakness. They won an extraordinarily weak year in the Champions League. All may have been over rated. The United teams of the last few years have dominated the top league in Europe with more points generally speaking bar the one great year of 2000 when they were outclassed by a Madrid team who were nowhere near a Spanish title.

I guess this is my point that the easy chair of the late 90s made Beckham complacent – the titles, awards, praise etc. Whereas Rooney was anointed a star because he did OK and scored goals against the Swiss and Croatia neither of whom would be a Premiership club in ’04. Then he opened up with a hat trick against a laughable Fenebache to open his Champions League account. Now Rooney got the same easy headlines as Beckham but floundered for years. This was not an easy time as he went over 30 Champions League and competitive Internationals without a goal. Then he had the 2007/08 season where he was in Ronaldo’s shadow so badly his 11 league goals as mostly a lone striker result in the loss of 1 point to United if subtracted. He was cast in Europe last year to the flanks as Ferguson has wisely forsaken 442 in Europe. Then Ronaldo left and hopefully for England the rest is history.

Now we see the advantages of the harder atmosphere and competition for places today. If you want to know what fighting foreign players for a place in a top team in the top league does for people think about Rooney or Lampard and Beckham.

At the age Beckham became self satisfied and viewed football as a career where you tick clubs and people you’ve played with and lost his stamina and to be honest his touch on the ball Rooney has come through going from Prodigy to maybe one season from scrapped by United and back to possibly the best weapon in the context of the Premiership and hopes he will carry that to the World Cup.

Beckham’s decline after 2002 was also a watershed for another player Frank Lampard. Chelsea were seemingly to buy central midfielders every 2 years and after initially struggling to displace Sam Dalla Bona, yes really, and Petit. Since he has fought off Veron, Deco and Ballack for his place.

The point being that Beckham may have had the best career to 24 of anyone since Ray Wilkins, yes really 50 caps at 23. However the easy praise and being on the team sheet every week did not see him develop. Whereas Lampard and Rooney (we hope) will have had the better careers by being forced to fight for their place. After all both Rooney and Lampard have been chiefly noted for their girth as younger players now both are energiser bunnies even if Lamps may be just past his absolute best. Even Joe Cole was driven by Moruinho’s jibes and selection options to be England’s best player for 2 years.

My favourite memory of Beckham will be the first Greece game in 2002 qualifying. In Greece once again we were outnumbered in midfield and Beckham came in off his flank and popped up everywhere and just took the game away. I believe he scored a free kick as well. We won 2-0 but he was magnificent. He offered quality and stamina. Whereas the Old Trafford game was a function of effort over quality as he needed 8 free kicks to get one in finally. I think the hubris of that off less training  combined with the Galacticos nailed his lack of anymore forward progress frankly.

In the end Beckham’s career leaves me with regrets that he: did not leave United sooner: that he and Owen dictated an England team condemned to repeat the years of failure and 442: that his profile so dominated his Madrid managers and Eriksson that no one was able to force him to make the kind of strides and continuous development he needed: that maybe his time at United coincided with Kidd and McClaren not a Quieroz.

However the boy is a terrific ambassador for the country and the most substantial English figure of my time in football. Sadly the events on the pitch do not match his status off but he should be proud anyway.

The kid done good.

Man United : Downside of Old Players?

Everton are clearly a team on the rise for the moment in the league. Moyes like O’Neill can stretch hard work and organisation further than most. 3-1 wins over Chelsea and Man United at home is something Arsenal fans must view with dropped jaws. Neither win was one of those things both a comprehensive dismantling.

Yesterday was also the first time I felt Chelsea COULD win the title. Sure they’ve been odds on favourites but as they showed at Xmas and recently against Hull and Everton their squad, tactics and age is not suited to back to back to back fixtures. However neither are Man United. I think it finally hit me what someone has been in my ear for a while that eventually filling out team-sheets with not just older players but old players like Giggs and Scholes cannot go on forever.

I assume United’s 442 came about partly because Berbatov did cost £30 million but Ferguson is not primarily gutless about admitting error.  The main reason was Paul Scholes is not someone at a part of his career where he wants 3 games a week. Giggs is out. Anderson, Hargreaves and Nani 55 million of where are they now?

Chelsea could have saved themselves a lot of bother and have much fresher players without their wasting a selection on Anelka most of the season. Going light in midfield to play a goal poacher out of position is putting too much  pressure on the other 4 midfield players to cover wide and back. If they do not win it will be easy to see why.

The big 2 do not have the squads they had 2 or 3 years ago and it’s showing so far and could get worse as the fixture pile up. There will be a changing of the guard if only because with money committed to ageing squads and Rooney to pay off United and Chelsea are not getting better other than through evolution something Chelsea appear to eschew.

Still in 1998 Sir Alex blew the title playing 3 strikers so cutting to 2 is an improvement 1 is better especially when he is a one man army who seems more comfortable that way.

Nani Proves It’s Easier At The Top?

When Sir Alex Ferguson goes you can bet his replacement will likely be the next top foreigner off the rank. The reason is that in other countries they change Coaches more frequently and the key word is of course Coach not Manager and a far greater range of managers get a chance to tick boxes. For every genuine up and coming talent like a Mancini there is a plethora of solid coaches like Ancelotti (10 years at Milan 1 title is ummh aggghhh) who gets in ahead of the likes of Moyes, O’Neill and let’s add Redknapp for fun.

The exception is Chelsea in taking Grant and Scolari they’ve not exactly looked at the next cab on the rank but rung a mini cab office and rolled the dice. Still no Brits is the point. Chelsea have tried to hire people on the cheap in that they have taken people out of contract or easily available but they lasted 18 months between them – it cost them a fortune.

We’ve recently got to see the great man Capello who is no doubt currently wrestling with finding out which farm yard animal Terry interfered with to justify the headlines. Cap’ seems to keep it simple. His 442 with tweaks is not hard to understand and without Rooney recently looked nearly as devoid of merit as Eriksson and McClaren’s paceless and heightless version. Indeed Cap’s big innovation from an England point of view is a large centre forward and some pace out wide, radical – will be interesting if he considers for 1 second putting the pace-less Joe Cole on either flank except as under study to Gerrard. The point is that replicating Capello does not require a genius just great personal qualities and common sense stuff.

So how does this all comes back to Nani? We all hope a really talented player is at 23 really doing his job and it is more than a 2 game mirage. How many other domestic managers could afford to wait 2 years for a £17 million player to show some form? He was bought alongside Hargreaves and Anderson. £50 million for a squad player, a prospect and a slacker even before his ‘injury’. Anderson cost more than Gareth Barry. More than Carrick. Ferguson and managers at the top can roll the dice and then roll them again.

I’ve pointed out how the seemingly unexceptional buying of 2 players for £13 million wiped out any good transfer business Portsmouth did by costing £40 million. For what Nani has produced in 2 games with wages that is what £75 million on Anderson, Nani and Hargreaves, some return eh? At least this year Ferguson got to lose his best player but it had been planned for at least a year. Most 2nd tier managers are always having to recruit. They cannot afford, although some try, to be buying expensive risks every year.

I cribbed O’Neill getting apparently upside free British based players but with Young, Downing, Heskey, Milner, Dunne and others but he has to stick to known quantities in a market bubble blown up on the never never by other clubs.

One thing to bear in mind the best team of the last few years Barcelona has gone with 2 rookie managers in Rijkaard and Guardiola. Now I think that shows that it’s the players stupid. Also neither has to pick their players. They also have a productive youth system. Both would be considered before a Martin O’Neill yet I’d argue O’Neill is clearly the better manager top to bottom of a club.

Where domestic managers could help themselves is by being more adult about defeats and decisions they perceive go against them. Their child like complaints do not encourage the likes of the Glazers, Abramovich, Hicks, Gilettes and Abu Dhabi boys you are a good choice never mind sane. Compare Hughes with Mancini I might actually want to listen to one of them after a game and he’s not Welsh!

Chelsea excepted people will say that is because these managers have high level experience of Champions League etc. That something special is required to do the top jobs. I am normally pretty elitist in that my threshold for greatness as a player say would not include an often very good player who aged well like Ryan Giggs who has never threatened to be a World or European Footballer of the Year. With managers I think the spread is not as vast as with players. After all when was the last innovator? True genuine innovator? Complete genius? Sacchi and before him Cruyff? Arguably Mourinho was close for 3 years only?

An interesting sub point here about great players not making managers. Consider the relatively small number of top jobs and top players and yet ‘Baby’ Hughes, Mancini, Guardiola and Rijkaard have had or have top jobs? Maybe on my scale none of them are great players but plenty would disagree with me on that. Ancelotti has 26 Italian Caps to boot.

Giggs Wins X Factor

It’s a shame for fans of euphoria inducing beauty contests that the Sport Personality of the Year went up against X Factor. What to watch? I watched X Factor to see what it was all about and it’s beyond satire and irony.

No one involved surely pretends to be trying to find great art or even records that people will not be ashamed they downloaded 20 days later never mind 20 years. It’s about what Cowell can sell.

Cowell’s panel is an odd mix with only one serious voice, his own. Dannii Minogue who is genuinely fake in everything she does and Louis Walsh who produces his own MDMA at the mass hysteria of it all.

Of course it has Cheryl Cole who plays a simpering puppy crying to order. She looks a bit girl next door perfume sales woman from Boots – not as attractive  and  without the ballsy self esteem that forces weak boyfriends to buy what she wants to sell. Cole is compelling viewing in her total lack of confidence in herself hiding behind costumes, hair or ear rings – even hardened cynics root for her to get through a show without a breakdown.

The BBC sports show was not better or different.  I thought the short listing of Ryan Giggs was a Britain’s Got Talent woeful ugly woman who can just about sing thing. Or the large lady with a nice voice who would be out of the business by Christmas choice.  However unlike SuBo this year’s pity case won.

Giggs is not a personality and the award is really sportsman of the year something he cannot claim to have been. It’s a patronising you’ve been around years and never been the best player on your own team but we like you award. Sporting wise the football players may have in a decision brought on by a lack of outstanding candidates honoured Giggs but the nation had a host of good candidates and Button, Murray and Giggs to choose from.

Giggs credentials do not put him in the top 5 at Old Trafford – Rooney, Ronaldo, Vidic, Rio and van der Saar. I would also add that he played less than many and find it hard to put him in front of Tevez, Carrick, The Fletch and maybe even Evra. Ok football is the national sport but he’s not a good choice for Man United Player of the Year.

Consider Button the runner up another shocker of a choice. I doubt he’s in the top 5 of drivers as viewed by the decision makers in F1. That puts him outside the top 10 or 20 drivers in the world I would argue.  F1 is the top formula but it’s not the the only driving championship. The award for being better than Barrichello is the hard truth of his championship.  Of course some would argue everyone drives but to get to F1 you need parents in the business or the amazing Hamilton family to start you early – Button fell into the business so there is not even a damp eyed back story there.

Anyway I think I picked the best sportsperson in Ennis who was 3rd to the other 2. The other 2 won the X factor type voters. Giggs is now a national treasure and that is a mixed blessing especially as it’s not his fault that Tiger Woods like he is in a position to let fantasists who  live their lives vicariously through others down.

I rated Button 8th of 8 and un-rated Giggs and Murray if I rated the last 2 Giggs would have been 10th and rationally so. Not sure one can debate that frankly.

A night of Nausea.

TWSI UK Sports’ Person of the Year

The Personality of the Year is of course Bradley Wiggins a man who can be 4th in le Tour and publish his blood work making him maybe the best clean cyclist in the major tours. He also tweets and drinks more than Flintoff (apparently that impresses some people). However he is not a world champion and I cannot prove what his competitors were on. However in the world of the bland that is national sportsmen it’s Brad top KP 2nd then Swanny and Malfoy and the rest nowhere. Also arguably Brad’s really just matched Murray in being 4th in the world winning nothing bar the Sun Tour.

Anyway Brad did not make the BBC list and as these are mostly bland I’ll just go with a straight achievement award.

  • Jenson Button Or it’s the car stupid. Beat a weak team mate and the way he backed over the line did not impress me. Be very interesting next year against Hamilton who is best Brit. My money’s on Hamilton so I cannot give the best driver on the Brawn team the award.
  • Mark Cavendish ‘Cav’ won 6 stages on the Tour de France and was 2nd in the Green Jersey competition. This makes him the best sprinter in the world. This is well in advance IMHO than anything anyone does in a velodrome as the competition is greater. A contender.
  • Tom Daley won a world diving championship. Ok got the most marks from judges and at his age will have plenty of chances. Diving is not my bag and whilst my step brother was once 9th in Canada I am happy to pass Daley over with world champions in real sports.
  • Jessica Ennis won a 7 event championship against women twice her size. She’ll make the short list even if women’s sport  is slight less competitive. A genuine world champion.
  • Ryan Giggs Great guy Great player nowhere near the standard here. Not even the best British player a silly sentimental short listing by the BBC.
  • David Haye Great win not the best in the world in a minority sport.
  • Phillips Idowu Finally a winner in a major games. Minority event and not with the difficulty of Ennis’. Close but no Cigar.
  • Andy Murray Call me when he wins something.
  • Andrew Strauss Team ranked 5th. Not top rated batter in the world but was immense all summer. Also cricket is a bigger sport nationally than all bar football here. It was the Ashes as well. Captain and player (even if my blog spent most of the year slating his captaincy).
  • Beth Tweddle won a gold in her 2nd event but she would need to win 2 pieces of apparatus or the overall in a minority sport to justify my support.

Tempted to give it to Cav or Straussy but Ennis for the technical difficulty and because women’s sport is as important and I need a decider. In order of those who I feel made a notable achievement this year.

  1. Jessica Ennis
  2. Mark Cavendish
  3. Andrew Strauss
  4. Tweddle
  5. Idowu
  6. Haye
  7. Daley
  8. Button

My world sportsman of the year Usain Bolt. Topping last year was amazing. Others who I recall top of the head Bekele, Cancellara absolutely amazing in the world time trial championship, The Barcelona midfield pair Xavi and Iniesta,

COTY oh too many candidates.

High Class Football At The Bridge

Wayne Rooney had the only clear shot at goal in a titanic clash at the Bridge. So it was a poor game decided by one set piece? Ummmh no. Quite the opposite.

This is what happens when high quality teams keep their shape and the ball. Indeed Chelsea were the more open of the two. United blunted Chelsea diamond tip as Deco and Joe Cole disappeared in the hole. This was international football but played at premiership pace. An excellent game.

United will feel they created the clearer 2 on 2s and had Giggs found Anderson right through in the first half they may have grabbed the game.

Ferguson can take pride that man for man most would see Chelsea as superior but the strength of his management team motivation once again shone through.

Anelka showed once again he is motivated and more valuable than when he was piling cream and cherries on top goals early last season. Indeed he even ran into areas when he could be tackled or hurt which is de rigueur for everyone else but for him….

Again I know he has to say something but really does Ferguson think anyone will take him seriously complaining about the free kick before the goal as though an easily defensible position would automatically lead to a goal. I would have praised my team for matching Chelsea and stifling their edge in possession and territory.

Chelsea have the edge at present with home wins over Liverpool and United but they are still an ageing team with more players plateaued or likely to decline and few open to improvement. They also have little team pace.

If you’re not going forward you are going backwards in my book.

United Another Big Game Poor’un

Liverpool fans will want to praise their side and rightly so. I do wonder if they are putting too much effort in to win games this early in the season. Torres took an injection to play, does he do that against West Ham? Like Chelsea in the late days of  Mourinho are they wearing down their key players?

Torres is the key. Whilst Gerrard is the most unbelieveable turner around of losing causes he can be replaced to a degree – indeed his replacement grabbed the meaningful assist. Torres is the lone front man in the Liverpool squad.

There is a reason that Nemanja Vidic has been sent off 3 times in 3 games v Liverpool – two actually the other is called Torres. There is a reason that United have lost their last few big games without looking like winning against Liverpool and Barcelona. It’s called being out-numbered in midfield. I think it  stems from Carlos Queiroz leaving having corrected Ferguson’s follies of the 90s and early noughties in this regard.

Released from having anyone with a tactical brain cell Ferguson thinks he can get away with Carrick and one other in central midfield. This was not working with Ronaldo wide  never mind with Valencia and Giggs.

442 was cemented with the purchase of Berbatov. Rooney  makes a version of 442 work for England by playing behind a striker with Gerrard wide. Berbatov with his minimal work rate and running is not really a top player but at 30 million and with only Owen and kids as alternates has to play. Therefore Rooney has to front the team and that means a rigid 442 is enforced.

Centrally it was Carrick and Scholes which led to Benayoun opening the champagne before the game and he delivered:  granted a minute of time and space he  picked the pass: Rio defended like a choux pastry: Torres finished like the champion he is: The game was won.

I am not sure this result affects the fight for the title other than negatively on United’s  points.

Sorry Liverpool.

Owen, Bellamy and Giggs What Might Have Been For Wales

United’s game with City was fascinating for many reasons not least the alarming view that one has to wonder if encouraged by domestic ease that our top teams view 442 as a formation to take on the best in Europe.  However we’ll leave that for another time needless to say United, Arsenal and Liverpool have all looked incredibly brittle at times this year.

What struck me most was the what ifs about my countrymen on my mother’s side Bellamy, Giggs and Owen (who is far more Welsh than Giggs was English BTW contrary to urban myth).

What if Owen had accepted he was a sub and late game player when he was pretty successful at Madrid seemingly half a decade ago -  it was BTW.  He could have spared himself, us and the fans 4 wasted seasons at Newcastle which did neither party any good. Today against a tired nervous badly organised side sat deep he found space and finished superbly. Hopefully he is aware after his exile from top flight football it is and never should have been about him. That making everything about proving people wrong was child like and self indulgent.

Giggs played some wonderful incisive football culminating in that slide rule pass to Owen which exploited Micah Richards laughable defending and ended the game. If only he could have played such heads up football when he had pace. I used to wonder how he got so much attention with so few goals and assists not to mention such a questionable fitness record – probably one of the genuine unlucky players like Owen with cheesestrings for hamstrings.

Bellamy has been infuriating on and off the field. His finishing has not always been incisive. Yet today he was on the money and a constant threat. It seems he plays for Mark Hughes. At  his 8th club one hopes he can offer more consistent performances and not wear out his welcome. Really a man who invested 650 Large in a foundation to help children in Sierra Leone cannot be all bad. Indeed direct anecdotal evidence suggests that he is not a bad lad to meet either. Maybe now he is 30 he can look at Giggs and become a better all round player in his 30s even as he loses his still potent turn of foot. Personally I wonder if Ferguson would rather have faced Robinho than Bellamy today before the game never mind after timing?

Unfortunately for my mother land Wales the window has closed and it is a case of what might have been. Owen never played for Wales and sometimes it felt like Giggs did not either.