Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “It was unbelievable. For what reason would a player six yards out even think about that? You can’t appeal a yellow card, that’s the problem. In domestic football it could get lost in the system but in European football it is crucial because, later in the tournament, to miss a really important game because of that is unfair. Uefa should look at that, really, but they won’t. It is a really bad mistake. OK, it’s human error but it is still a bad mistake. I can’t believe it. I watched the camera by the side of the dugout and it is the worst I have ever seen in my lifetime â€“ unbelievable.” – Sir Alex Ferguson.
Runner-up: “[Didier Drogba is] the best in the world, for sure, and I want to keep him. I wouldnâ€™t want to change him for any other striker.” – Carlo Ancelotti.
Today’s overview: After Manchester United salvaged a last-gasp draw with CSKA Moscow, is the glass half full or half empty?
On the positive side, Daniel Taylor argued “no team has greater powers of recovery than the Premier League champions. Ferguson’s men dug deep, reasserted themselves and the late onslaught was so relentless, so determined, that they probably deserved the good fortune that accompanied Antonio Valencia’s shot being helped by a sizeable deflection.”
Leading the way for the doom-mongers is surly Scot Patrick Barclay who, in an article looking ahead to United’ meeting with Chelsea on Sunday, found time to comment on the CSKA draw. “For all the excitement of the late onslaught that brought them last nightâ€™s draw, led by Gary Neville with wondrous vigour and precision, they were poor for most of the match: flat in midfield and dismal in defence.” Slightly less damning was Tim Rich’s observation that “there were questions hanging in the November night air, not least how a side like CSKA, who in European terms are moderate opposition, should have opened up United’s defence so easily.”
Taking the middle ground was the Telegraph’s Henry Winter. “As well as demonstrating their enduring hunger to compete until the death, this remarkable tie showed that Sir Alex Fergusonâ€™s side desperately need the Rio Ferdinand-Nemanja Vidic central-defensive axis re-formed and in form. Wes Brown and Jonny Evans were caught out by the quick, clever counter-attacks attacks often launched by the crafty right-winger, Milos Krasic.”
Changing focus on United, Mark Ogden celebrations Antonio Valencia’s progess at Manchester United. “Donâ€™t compare him to Ronaldo. Donâ€™t compare him to Beckham or Kanchelskis either. He is developing quickly in a United shirt and there is a sense that he is well on the way to making his own name at Old Trafford.”
It’s all smiles for Chelsea, as Matt Hughes pulls the plug on any thoughts of the Blues prising Sergio Aguero in the January transfer window. “Chelsea are preparing to splash the cash in the January transfer window… although a move for AgÃ¼ero – despite Ancelottiâ€™s mischief-making – is surely out of the question because of his ineligibility for this competition.” Jason Burt however thinks otherwise. “Chelsea were put off bidding for Aguero in the summer by the astronomical transfer fee quoted by Atletico and by his wage demands and age â€“ he is still just 21 and needs to mature â€“ but Ancelotti certainly appeared enthusiastic here… Aguero would be cup-tied from Europe, but could provide an extra dimension for Chelsea, who would have to pay in excess of Â£40 million to acquire him.”
Finding reasons for optimism ahead of Liverpool’s match at Lyon proves taxing for the Britain’s scribes.
Ian Herbert clutches at straws writing “the master conjuror needs tricks of his own and progression in such circumstances, after six defeats in the last seven games and a painful exposÃ© of what happens when you fail to buy and keep back-up strikers, would eclipse all his previous achievements in the tournament.”
Kevin McCarra claims to have found a silver lining writing “the encouragement of the Anfield stands may be absent this time, but the strategist BenÃtez will be gladdened by the knowledge that Lyon are scarcely so formidable as United.” While far more bullish, if Liverpool are serious about challenging for the trophy, they must take three points tonight regardless of injuries and form. BenÃtez must pick the most experienced XI he can and go for a bold, attacking style.”
Martin Samuel though, is preparing himself for another Liverpool defeat. “After inconsistent Premier League form, defeat in Lyon would be perceived as failure to contend in the major competitions this season and the scrutiny would be harsh and retrospective. It would be asked not just where is Benitez going now, but where has he been going for several years?”
Stan Kroenke has increased his shareholding in Arsenal to 29.6%, leaving the American ono the cusp on being forced to make a complusary share offer. But is this a good or bad move for the north Londoners?
Gabriele Marcotti explains the fears for the Gunners. “Speculation is that he will probably choose to acquire the club via debt, as was the case with his fellow Americans who bought Liverpool and Manchester United. And, as Arsenal Supporters’ Trust points out, that’s not a good thing.”
But is that fear of borrowing justified? Jeremy Wilson counters, saying “there is a charge on some of Kroenke’s major share purchases that spreads payment over a specified time, but there is no suggestion from past transactions that he intends to borrow money to fund any further investment in Arsenal.”
Nick Harris and Conrad Leach try to alleviate the discussion altogether, convinced that Kroenke has no immediate intention to own Arsenal at the moment. “There are several reasons why Kroenke is in no rush to make a full bid. In a takeover now he would be obliged under stock market rules to offer all the other shareholders the highest price that he himself has paid in the last 12 months for shares. That is the Â£10,500 per share he paid to the Carr family for 4,839 shares (7.7 per cent of Arsenal) in May. If he waits until the 12 months expire, any bid would cost Â£2,000 per share less, a saving of Â£88m, at least.”
The World Cup may still be half a year away, but Owen Gibson and Jamie Jackson are already in South Africa and have today delivered their “South African diary: day one.” “South Africans are debating whether public money invested in building stadia can be justified in the midst of a global economic recession on the basis that it is helping to provide work and stimulate the economy. And that goes double in a country where more pressing investment priorities are so readily visible.”
Also in South Africa is Steve Tongue, who believes locals primary concern is far more football based. “For South Africans involved in the actual football, however, the principal worry is the prospect of the national team â€“ with the eyes of the world on them in that day’s opening match â€“ setting an unwanted record as the first host country ever to be eliminated at the group stage.”
In transfer news, The Times report “Benni McCarthy wants to leave Blackburn Rovers and will seek a transfer in January to revive his career.” The Daily Mail though throw a spanner in the works claiming “Benni McCarthy’s wish to quit Blackburn in January could be wrecked by Rovers demanding Â£3.5million for the 31-year-old.”
Another player looking to restart his career is Andrea Dossena, the Telegraph linking the Liverpool full-back with a loan move to Napoli in January, while the Mirror suggest that “Alex McLeish will launch a double raid on Rangers for Steven Davis and Kris Boyd.”
Giles Moles shows that the Citizens spending power has limitations claiming “Manchester City’s hopes of signing Inter Milan right-back Maicon has taken a major blow after the Brazilian’s agent said it would be “unthinkable” for his client to move to Eastlands.” City still remain on the lookout for new recruits though, Ian Ladyman writing “Manchester City have joined the queue of top clubs showing interest in Everton prodigy Jack Rodwell.”
Finally, in the manager-merry-go-round, Ashley Gray toots “Ole Gunnar Solskjaer tipped for a return to Norway as new boss of Rosenborg,” The Sun claim “John barnes is close to being appointed national boss of Rwanda,” while Alan Nixon gabbles that Hull are targetting ex-West Ham boss Alan Curbishley as replacement for under-fire Phil Brown.