Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “I think itâ€™s the best goal I’ve ever scored. I didn’t know it was 65mph – wow! When Anderson gave me the ball, I thought I’d just turn and shoot. We haven’t played great the last five games but I hope this will change all that. To play Arsenal is a fantastic tie.” – Cristiano Ronaldo.
Runner-up: “Anyone who becomes the next president will have at his disposal one of the best players in the world, who is already formally committed to Real Madrid. I cannot give any names, but all I can say is that thanks to the difficult and laborious work that I did last year, he is already formally a Madrid player, subject obviously to him being able to sign the relevant contract.” – Roman Calderon.
Today’s overview: It is a great day to be British as the English press rejoice over Manchester United and Arsenal’s victories last night in the Champions League.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s howitzer in Porto has left the hacks struggling to outdo each other in their reporting this Thursday. The Independent’s lead article by Ian Herbert is given the high-brow headline “Ronaldo exocet enough to quell battling Porto.” While for the more plain-spoken Paul Wilson, “Ronaldo paid his dues for the season with one strike in his home country… with a goal sensational enough to win the tie on its own. Which is exactly what it did.”
Martin Samuel filled the middle-ground writing “everyone will want to claim a little piece of Ronaldo’s winner, yet it is hard to imagine many present even saw it hit the net, such was the ferocity and velocity of the strike. It pierced the night air like a bolt of fork lightning, stunning the opposition and illuminating the way for Ferguson’s men.”
Showing the fifth estate to be far from uniform, completely opposite opinions are tabled over Dimitar Berbatov’s shift last night. Paul Wilson barked “Berbatov was blunt at the point of the United attack. Nothing he tried seemed to work, moves broke down on reaching him and the ball was often lost. It was no great surprise when he was withdrawn 20 minutes from the end.” Yet fellow Guardian hack Rob Smyth must have been watching a completely different game. “The key figure was Berbatov, who had perhaps the best game of his fledgling Old Trafford career. As well as adding an obvious class to the build-up, he added a certainty and, crucially, a calmness that United have missed in recent weeks. Berbatov’s heart would not skip a beat if you dropped a marmot in the bath, so a European Cup quarter-final was never going to faze him.”
Muddying the waters further is James Ducker, who commented that “Dimitar Berbatov again [flattered] to deceive and Wayne Rooney looking unhappy marooned on the right-hand side.” Yet Rooney’s performance is praised by David Pleat writing, “Rooney never stood still; his appetite to help his colleagues when possession changed hands was admirable for all to see.” And Henry Winter also salutes the United number 10 reporting “Rooney, all deft feet and the heart of a lion, continues to mature marvellously on the grand stages.”
It is a day of vindication and celebration for the Gunners, Paul Hayward toasting how “the great Wenger youth project has advanced breathlessly.” Patrick Barclay follows a similar line, however not before criticising those Arsenal naysayers. “To think they were losing patience with Arsene Wenger a few weeks ago; how fortunate it is for the rest of the Emirates Stadium audience that he treats the dissidentsâ€™ views with the scorn of a dictator.”
Tom Dart continues the Arsenal love-in penning “while inexperience always carries the risk of volatility, Wengerâ€™s young players are developing consistency and momentum.”
Dredging up history, Amy Lawrence begins to salivate over the Manchester United-Arsenal Champions League semi-final. “The history between Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United and Wenger’s Arsenal is loaded. It stretches back over a dozen years. Highlights include Marc Overmars tilting the title at Old Trafford, Ryan Giggs tearing off his shirt at Villa Park, Sylvain Wiltord winning the league in Manchester, Ferguson marching provocatively on to the pitch at Highbury, Martin Keown making his point to Ruud van Nistelrooy, and an urchin from the away dressing room lobbing pizza at Fergie. This one has bells on.”
Oliver Kay fears for the Blues ahead of their tie in Barcelona. “Chelsea have conceded seven goals in 110 minutes of football and, if players such as Andrew Oâ€™Brien, Chris Basham, Fabio Aurelio and Lucas Leiva can penetrate an increasingly shaky defence, one hesitates to wonder what kind of damage Barcelonaâ€™s forward line – Thierry Henry, Samuel Etoâ€™o and the magnificent Lionel Messi – might inflict.”
The form of Petr Cech is dissected by Sam Wallace. “The ease with which Cech was beaten in the first half by Aurelio, the cross he missed at the end of the second half and the ill-judged chasing of Lucas Leiva to the edge of the area after the interval pointed to a goalkeeper struggling under the pressure.”
In domestic news, Tony Evans reports on yesterday’s Anfield memorial for Hillsborough. “The silence was not absolute. It was punctuated by the cries of infants â€” a reassuring testament to renewal â€” and the sobs of parents and grandparents. Across the stands, people hugged and tried to contain the noise, the sadness. The choir sang Youâ€™ll Never Walk Alone. It would have been hard to find the dry-eyed. So many people were traumatised 20 years ago in Sheffield and most of them were gathered at Anfield yesterday.”
Today’s latest transfer rumours include Dominic Fifield linking Spurs with double Black Cats swoop for Kenwyne Jones and Kieran Richardson. There is a slight difference of opinion in the Daily Mail, who say Spurs are targetting Jones and stewart Downing.
The Daily Mail go on to write that “David Villa is set to snub Chelsea in the summer and sign for Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan.” The Telegraph report that Matthew Upson “has yet to commit his future at Upton Park beyond this summer with Arsenal and Manchester City still front-runners to secure his services.” According to the Mirror, “Mike McCarthy will be given the funds to launch a Â£7million summer bid for Cardiff’s Joe Ledley.”
In other football news, Paul Wilson makes the case for Roy Hodgson to be named manager of the year. And heading Stateside and to the most hated football commentator in history, Steven Wells rejoices that “US sport fans will be hearing a lot less of Tommy Smyth, and his many irritating catchphrases, now that ESPN have lost Champions League rights.”