Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “Cristiano is a natural athlete and he has trained very well, so I would have no qualms about him playing against Chelsea, it is just a question as to whether this is the right time, but I have no fears about him and he is bursting to play. He has been nibbling at my ear all week.” â€“ Sir Alex Ferguson.
Runner-up: â€œMaybe next season Cristiano will be with me. That would be very good. If he wants to change, Iâ€™ll open the door to that. Cristiano is now one of the best players in the world. I said that two years ago and I repeat it now. I never said he was the best â€“ and I wonâ€™t now. Cristiano is one of the three best. When I was with Portugal, I had to choose three players every year for the FIFA World Player of the Year award. One year I chose Didier Drogba, another year John Terry, another Frank Lampard. Now all these three players are with me and thatâ€™s very good for me.â€ â€“ Luiz Felipe Scolari.
Today’s overview: The Sunday afternoon Chelsea-Manchester United clash takes centre stage this Saturday morning.
Ian Herbert in the Independent looks at Manchester United’s stuttering start to the season in a piece titled, “A blip or something more serious?” And Terry Venables in The Sun calls for Ferguson to drop Dimitar Berbatov.
Following a joint Q&A session with Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson at a gala dinner to raise funds for the League Managersâ€™ Association at Wembley on Thursday evening. Ian Ladyman (Daily Mail) writes of the supposed peace to have broken out between Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson. And Glenn Moore in the Independent also looks at the thawing of relations between the two great bosses in English football.
It being Saturday morning, there are a whole heap of different Premier League threads. Peter Ferguson in the Daily Mail features Wigan’s Egyptian striker Amr Zaki: “Shops in Wigan, and even the Trafford Centre, had no letter Z left for the back of the shirts, I bought 10 shirts to take back and had to spell out AMR instead of ZAKI. When I gave them out, somebody said: ‘Oh, youâ€™ve brought us back fake shirts’.â€ And the “Big Interview” in the Guardian today is with Fulham striker Andy Johnson (“I just can’t believe how well we pass the ball.”)
In the best of the rest, Ronny Rosenthal in the Guardian describes what it was like to miss an open goal, sixteen years ago yesterday. The Daily Telegraph have a second extract from Sir Bobby Charlton’s autobiography on how Sir Alf Ramsey would have struggled with today’s celebrity culture. And also in the Telegraph, Simon Jordan bemoans “what the modern game stands for.”
Ian Herbert in the Independent looks at Manchester United’s stuttering start to the season in a piece titled, “A blip or something more serious?” “While Chelsea have batted away the memory of Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium and all that befell them there in May, United are struggling to contend with the legacy. You must go back to 1988-89 to find a season when they have found the net fewer times by this late in September â€“ and that was from two games less. It is why Ferguson’s suggestion yesterday that Chelsea â€“ with two League points dropped â€“ are not what they were now that Claude Makelele has gone and Michael Essien is injured was extraordinary.”
Terry Venables in The Sun calls for Ferguson to drop Dimitar Berbatov. “I have no doubts that Berbatov will prove to be a sensational signing in time. United were a striker short last season and couldnâ€™t rely on Louis Saha. There was something missing in certain games and they canâ€™t bank on Ronaldo scoring another 40 goals this time. But when United played with Berbatov and Tevez up front at Liverpool last week and Rooney wide on the right, it simply didnâ€™t work. Rooney was isolated and ineffective and United were overrun in midfield. They were anaemic and lacklustre against a very well organised Liverpool team who were set up to smother them and achieved their aim. Tomorrowâ€™s game will be won and lost in midfield. United simply cannot afford to be outnumbered by Chelsea in this department.”
In the Daily Telegraph, Jose Mourinho gives his thoughts on the Sunday showdown. “I know Chelsea’s players will want to prove they can recover and become the top team again. They have started the season very strongly but United will have Cristiano Ronaldo back in the team. It is a big game: if Chelsea win they are nine points ahead before October. If United win they will have great confidence for the coming weeks.”
Kevin McCarra in the Guardian is full of praise for “Big Phil” Scolari. “It is unlikely that any manager in England will ever again reshape a club as radically as ArsÃ¨ne Wenger did Arsenal since there is not the same scope to break new ground in all areas. In his own way, though, Scolari has turned Chelsea upside down. Losing the opener, as the team did so sloppily at Manchester City a week ago, would have been a terrible blow to Mourinho in his latter phase, but Chelsea went on to run up a confident 3-1 victory.”
Barney Ronay (Guardian), in an off-beat article, analyses the appointment of Ray Wilkins as Scolari’s number two. “Ray Wilkins likes Chelsea. Ray Wilkins also thinks Manchester United is a terrific club. And everybody likes the sound of a newly appointed managerial duo called Big Phil and Butch, who together have the ring of a pair of middle-aged gentleman-companions running a small B & B near Poole. Help us, Ray. Deliver us into a world where everything is terrific and nobody has to go home feeling anything less than tremendous. Spread the word, Ray. We need you, Ray.”
Andy Gray looks forward to Chelsea-Manchester United on Sky Sports. “As for Sunday, I expect United to be tough, organised and disciplined. I don’t think they’ll go gung-ho at Chelsea but they do have a fabulous record at Stamford Bridge – probably the best in the Premier League. They do like going there and winning and although they didn’t last year, they have a pretty good record in west London. They will take that into account. But I tipped Chelsea to win the title this year. I think they’ve got a fabulous squad, an experienced squad and there is also enough youth in there to keep going as well. They have made a great start, which is a plus for them, but it doesn’t automatically mean they are going to win it. But if you get off to such a good start it becomes very difficult to shift you out of the top two or three and I think that’s what people are going to find this season – that Chelsea are there to stay.”
The Times include a pdf guide to the Chelsea-Manchester United clash.
Ian Ladyman (Daily Mail) writes of the supposed peace to have broken out between Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson. “The two great managers of the modern English game sat together to take questions at a gala dinner to raise funds for the League Managersâ€™ Association at Wembley on Thursday evening. It was something of a feat to get them together. Their mutual antipathy has been well documented. Nevertheless, if the evening proved anything it was merely how different these two men really are. Prompted by host Keys, each spoke generously about the other but, tellingly, both sets of eyes looked elsewhere during a â€˜dug-outâ€™ handshake at the end. â€˜We share wine and dinner at coaching seminars in Geneva,â€™ said Ferguson.Â â€˜With many battles has come respect,â€™ added Wenger.”
Glenn Moore in the Independent also looks at the thawing of relations between Ferguson and Wenger. “The body language, especially from Ferguson, was friendly. It is not so startling. The pair share a love of football and have met regularly at Uefa coaching symposiums and similar events. ‘There is a much better understanding and mutual respect now,’ said Wenger. Ferguson added: ‘We’ve shared a glass of wine and a meal on many occasions.’ But when they were asked if they were now friends both hedged around the answer. ‘Until the next match,’ said Ferguson with a laugh.”
Mihir Bose (BBC) writes of Arsenal’s jump in profits. “What is surprising is given how good a story Arsenal have to tell, both on and off the field, they behave as if they have much to hide. Compared to last year when Edelman trumpeted the results Arsenal seem to have gone inwards as if content to rely on Wenger’s undoubted brilliance.”
Matt Gatward (Independent) also analyses Arsenal’s prudence. “Should football management ever grow wearisome for ArsÃ¨ne Wenger he could always find work in the financial sector in these troubled times. While doom and gloom pervades the City, his institution yesterday announced a rosy pre-tax profit of Â£36.7m for the year ending May 2008. Wenger believes that Arsenal, who yesterday revealed that the American businessman Stan Kroenke had accepted an invitation to join the board, deserve credit for maintaining a sensible business policy as they look to compete with other clubs bankrolled by billionaires. The profit is a product of the club’s move to the 60,000-seater Emirates Stadium in July 2006. Gate and match-day income totalled some Â£94.6m, which is 45 per cent of overall football revenues.”
Gianfranco Zola looks ahead to his first game in charge of West Ham and tells Jason Burt of the Independent about playing with Maradona. “When I went to Naples we had a team with Maradona, Careca, Alemao â€“ quality players â€“ and we used to play good-looking football. That is where my ideas on playing come from.”
Russel Brand in the Guardian is the latest to lay into Mike Ashley. “In retrospect it seems unwise to have plonked himself in the terraces, illegally downing pints and wearing his King Kev pyjamas because he has abruptly found himself in a situation where he needs to be taken seriously as a businessman. I think it unlikely that a trillionaire sheikh will unthinkingly hand over three hundred million pounds to a bloke who looks like he’d struggle to cut his own toe nails.”
Peter Ferguson in the Daily Mail features Wigan’s Egyptian striker Amr Zaki: “Shops in Wigan, and even the Trafford Centre, had no letter Z left for the back of the shirts, I bought 10 shirts to take back and had to spell out AMR instead of ZAKI. When I gave them out, somebody said: ‘Oh, youâ€™ve brought us back fake shirts’.â€
The “Big Interview” in the Guardian today is with Fulham striker Andy Johnson. Money quote: “I just can’t believe how well we pass the ball, I knew we had some top players but I’ve been surprised just how good they actually are. We don’t ever play long balls, we always try to do it the right way, and it’s fabulous for me because we played a lot of long-ball stuff at Everton. I’m looking at the way we play and I’m thinking, ‘This team has got a great chance’. Everything I’ve seen has made me believe that I made the right decision in coming here.”
Ronny Rosenthal in the Guardian describes what it was like to miss an open goal, sixteen years ago yesterday. “You see this all the time in football. For a player, it is not hard to understand how it happens. But for the crowd, sitting in the stands, it’s very difficult to understand. Having said that, of course, my team-mates were laughing at me about it at half-time. They could not believe it. But at the end of the day it can happen to everyone.”
The Daily Telegraph also have a second extract from Sir Bobby Charlton’s autobiography on how Sir Alf Ramsey would have struggled with today’s celebrity culture. “It was hard not to chuckle, somewhat ruefully of course, when trying to imagine how Ramsey would have dealt with some of the expectations of David Beckham and his generation of England players. He would not have been enthusiastic about the idea of having wives and family installed close to the team hotel for the European Championship in Portugal in 2004, for example. When the England camp disbanded, he would no doubt have blanched at the sight of the bouncy castles being removed. In Germany in 2006, he would have been appalled to know that wives and girlfriends had their own FA official deputed to deal with their needs, which included the demands of the paparazzi.Â By way of historic comparison, I recall Nobby Stiles confessing that he didnâ€™t have the nerve to put to Ramsey his wife Kayâ€™s request that he break training for a few days to be with her for the birth of their son, Peter. He contented himself with the fleeting visit home allowed all the squad before the last days of World Cup preparation.”
Simon Jordan tells all in the Daily Telegraph and bemoans “what the modern game stands for.” Money quote: â€œThe truth is that there is not a footballer in the world whoâ€™s worth Â£100k a week. I love football, but I donâ€™t know when it was that footballers became so important to society. With respect, they donâ€™t give a lot back, do they? You have to drag them out kicking and screaming to hospices and to public appearances because ultimately their golf days or their visits to the betting shops are more important. I think our revering of celebrities in this country is all wrong.â€