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Friday, 29 May 2009

Where Now For Manchester United. Should Fergie Rip It Up And Start Again ?

alex ferguson looks on disconsolate as barcelona collect the champions league trophyEarly on Wednesday morning, as Fergie and his Manchester United looked forward to another Champions League Final he must have still thought he had a team that would place him among the top European managers from right across history.

By full-time he was back in one of those cold-sweat, pre-1993 moments, defeated by a football club, actually a football institution, who made his own look puny. Where does he go from here?

This has been far from being a bad season, don't get me wrong. First and foremost we should bear in mind that this season Manchester United have done everything asked of them except win the Champions League and the FA Cup. They made light of the demands of the Fifa Club World Cup, they saw off the best challenge in 19 years from a Liverpool team and all the emotion that entails. They came back in games against Stoke City, Aston Villa, Sunderland and Tottenham when it mattered.

They are hardly the dysfunctional, bickering side that could not make it out the Champions League group stages in the winter of 2005, Ferguson's lowest point in the recent past. They have won three consecutive Premier League titles and any analysis of how bitter their humiliation at the hands of Barcelona was on Wednesday night should be placed in the context of another astonishingly successful season.

But wednesday night, something was missing. The usual inertia on the United bench when Lionel Messi's goal went in on 70 minutes — Ferguson and his assistants sat slumped like moody teenagers at a bus stop — told you that on this night they had run out of ideas. No-one could argue that Ferguson should rip it up and start again but a new standard has been set by Barcelona and the old Scot would not be doing his job if he did not ask himself how he can reach and surpass it.

You can't have what Barca have got ? The preoccupation now will be Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta, very much the men of the moment. How do United get their hands on two pocket-sized demon midfield passers? How much will it cost? Can they get a Messi too? But trying to replicate exactly another team's model for success, even trying to replicate the model of past United team's success, is dangerous.

Once the theory was that United would never prosper without a new Roy Keane in the middle of midfield. You don't hear that much now. Instead, Ferguson put his faith in equally dominant players, like Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney, who are just as effective only in different ways, in different positions. Ferguson cannot conjure another Xavi or Iniesta, but United need more of those dominant midfield players.

Who can make this United team stronger?

As befits a team that looked so competitive until now, this summer Ferguson has been linked with precious few big-name players. The interest in Karim Benzema at Lyon is longstanding, so too that in Antonio Valencia at Wigan Athletic and Bayern Munich's Franck Ribery.

These are all dominant players, they are not comparable in style to Xavi and Iniesta but then who is? Those two are a real one-off, once-in-a-generation players and attempting to find clones of them would be foolish. Ferguson's policy has always been to buy the best players he can attract to United and trust they will flourish on the biggest stage.

Will Owen Hargreaves be the same player again?

It took a couple of takes to deduce the identity of the bloke on the touchline before the match with curly black hair in a United club suit. A third Da Silva brother perhaps? It was the long-lost, lesser-spotted, too-often injured Hargreaves. One of the stars of last year's final in Moscow, he has not kicked a ball for United since 21 December and last night, for the first time in a while, United were missing him.

The notion that Wednesday's result would have been radically different with Darren Fletcher in the United side is hopelessly optimistic at best. With Hargreaves rather than Luis Anderson you could see a case for United having more energy in central midfield. Hargreaves has been brilliant in patches for United but at £17m he owes Ferguson a big season in 2009-2010.

What do you do with Ronaldo?

On the occasion of one of his greatest disappointments, the behaviour of Ronaldo was encouragingly gracious. On more than one occasion he glanced up at the stadium's big screen for a glimpse of that face he loves more than any other. He swerved a handshake with Carles Puyol as the Barcelona team applauded United up the steps but that was understandable. He never gave up on a pretty wretched night.

A logical mind would say that joining Real Madrid now is an even greater folly, so lost in Barcelona's shadow are they. But if Ronaldo's reasons for staying at United were that they were Europe's premiere team, then Wednesday night has weakened that premise. Yet for all his histrionics, Ronaldo has never been less than professional. If he turns up at United next season there's no reason to doubt he will probably end up top scorer again.

How long can Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs last? With these two United giants now facing surely their last season at the club they handover to a new generation who have an unprecedented chance to establish themselves.

When do we get to see the £7m Zoran Tosic his fellow Serb Adem Ljajic who arrives next January, around £3m? For these young players as well as Darron Gibson, Danny Welbeck and Federico Macheda the door is open. Adam Johnson of Middlesbrough is another Ferguson is understood to be interested in.

If they have to face Barcelona again next season then United will have to learn from Wednesday as they did with their semi-final defeat in 2007 to Milan, whom they subsequently eliminated the following season. The trouble with Barcelona is that they are better and younger than that Milan team and they could be around for a while yet.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Manchester United Fan Kills Four With A Bus

Well, United lost the cL Final and every bloody sports page and sports blog has reported on what happened and I would imagine every United fan worth his/her salt watched it anyway. So I'm saying nothing about it. It's a bitter pill to have to swallow, being beten like that. does show there is always room for improvement, no matter how good people think you are.

From Nigeria comes a report of one United fan who seems to have lost the plot over this match.

After United's defeat a fan in Nigeria killed four people when he drove his minibus into a crowd of Barcelona supporters after his team lost the Champions League final, police said on Friday.

The crowd in the town of Ogbo were celebrating Barcelona's victory after Thursday's match when the bus drove into them.

A police spokeswoman said 10 people were injured and the driver was arrested.

"The driver had passed the crowd then made a U-turn and ran into them," she said.

Barcelona beat Manchester United 2-0 in what was hailed as a "dream final" between two of Europe's best clubs.

Both teams have large fan bases in Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Manchester United To Wear All White Kit For Champions League Final Against Barcelona In Rome

Manchester United lost the call for who would be designated the 'home team' for the Championbs League Final against Barcelona and as such will have to play in their all-white kit. This is not a bad thing either. They wore all white on the only other occassion they faced Barcelona in a European final, the 1991 European Cup Winners Cup Final.

As United's first strip is red and their second is blue, they decided to play in all-white, the colours of Barcelona's arch-rivals Real Madrid.

Sir Alex was reminded that all-white is the colour that Barca's arch rivals, Real Madrid, wear. Ferguson laughed when he was also reminded that the last time Barcelona faced a team wearing all-white they beat them 6-2, the margin of Barcelona's victory over Real on May 2.

"That was not a defeat, that was an annihilation, we had to change our strip and our first two strips clashed, but we are very happy to be wearing white, very happy, and we are better than Madrid," Sir Alex joked.

United wore all-blue when they won the European Cup in 1968 and their traditional red-and-white kit when they won in 1999 and last year. Barcelona wore an all-orange kit when they won in 1992 and their traditional kit when they beat Arsenal in 2006.

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Monday, 25 May 2009

The Green Green Grass

the green green grass of old traffordI'm back again. Sorry for my absence, I just needed a break from blogging on here and I had a few family problems too.

What did I miss? Not much, we won the Premier League and reached the final of the Champions League after giving Arsenal a right good spanking, which always cheers me up.

I did get engrossed in all the action and enjoyed every moment of it. Now we await our fate against Barcelona Wednesday night and I can't wait.

One thing has been bothering me though. Who provides the grass seeds at Old Trafford ?

Yes, Carly has gone mad. It is something I did wonder about thopugh, for some odd reason.

Well, I went off and did some research and found out.

The use of grass seed at sports stadiums has, in the last 20 years, become an exact science. Much research has been done into the growing of a suitable product that will give durability, easy maintenance and a 'fresh' look, even after a lot of use.

One of the most famous sports teams in the world, Manchester United, are supplied by a company who specialise in seeding sports stadiums. DLF-Trifolium have developed a seed called Microclover which provides big advantages to the everyday wear of heavily used sports fields.

Inspections show that Microclover closes gaps in the turf quickly and survives heavy use. Heavy training sessions during the wintertime have taken place on these pitches and according to players such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney, the turf is better than ever.

These seeds provide a layer of tiny clover plants just under the grass which has a number of benefits. It keeps the grass green all year round, the clover fixes nitrogen feed to the soil and it's deep roots reduce the need for watering as well as suppressing weed growth at the same time.

Such is the quality and denseness of the grass that from a few feet away it looks like a normal 'grass only' lawn. New microclovers have achieved the smallest leaf size ever seen in commercial White Clovers.

These small leaves give the desired impression of a “grass lawn” rather than a Clover lawn. Ordinary large leaved White Clover often appears in older lawns. They tend to be patchy and give a very uneven look to the lawn. This is the reason why white clover has been seen as a weed until recently.

New microclovers grow short and spread evenly in the lawn with turf grasses, thus giving a perfect “grassy” look to the lawn.

As well as providing seed for Manchester United at Old Trafford, DLF-Trifolium also provides products for Aston Villa at Villa Park, Crvena Zvezda Stadion (FC Red Star Belgrade), Serbia and Ascot Race Course.

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