Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “I don’t know if people are scared of him [Sir Alex Ferguson]. I was not scared. I don’t know whether players or young managers are scared of him, but I’m not fully aware of everything. Why should up-and-coming managers be scared of him? I hope that we can stop him [winning the quadruple]. I’d love to stop him on this aim. We have the ambition to be [involved] at the end of May in the important days, so we have to stop them. They could be classical clashes, but let’s make a few steps first.” – Guus Hiddink.
Runner-up: “Negotiations are getting more intense. I hope to manage to arrange for him [Beckham] to stay here at least until 30 June on loan. Then he could return to Los Angeles and come back in January. It’s a complicated path, as we have always known, but I’m trying.” – AC Milan’s chief executive, Adriano Galliani.
Today’s overview: The Premier League is today facing its latest challenge in the credit crunch as rumours begin to do the rounds that Setanta and ITV cannot pay the fees they have previously agreed upon.
Are the recently agreed TV deals for the Premier League about to go up in smoke? Paul Kelso delivers the worrying news that “satellite broadcaster Setanta delayed making a scheduled payment on their Â£150 million contract and it emerged that ITV are seeking to reschedule payments on their Â£275 million deal… News that both broadcasters are actively seeking to renegotiate their contracts will raise fears about the financial position.”
The Benitez bashing is again in full force, Ian Herbert delivering today’s knockout blow. “Liverpool have quite simply lacked a strike force, as Saturday’s defeat on Teesside painfully showed, and given that Ryan Babel, David Ngog and Nabil El Zhar are so far off the pace, it is currently hard to resist the conviction that Benitez should have persisted with Keane and risked the financial hit of selling him next summer. Whose fault was it that none of those players he wanted have performed? Not the chief executive’s.”
Arsenal are also the subject of criticism, with Nick Coleman wondering where the Gunners’ loveliness has gone. “I fear that come the closing weeks of the season, with Arsenal struggling with the rather more manly Everton to retain an interest in the Uefa Cup, a new version of, “What Would Paddy/Den/Bobby/Tel Have Done?” will have taken the place of the original. It’ll be the fabulous but depressing game of “Where Will Cesc/Theo/Johann/Ed/GaÃ«l Be Going?””
On the relegation dogfight in the Premier League, Mikey Stafford paints a gloomy pictures for Newcastle’s hopes of survival. “Of their 10 remaining games following tomorrow night’s home fixture with Sir Alex Ferguson’s side, which the visitors won 5â€“1 last season, the Magpies host ÂArsenal and Chelsea at St James’ Park Âbefore travelling to Villa Park on what may be a decisive final day. With only one home win in four months, their manager Joe Kinnear not due to return from his triple heart bypass until early April and currently Âwithout four key midfielders, it is not only on paper that Newcastle’s run-in looks daunting.” Chris Wheeler adds to the Toon drop fears writing “relegation is now a very real prospect for a club that seems to have stumbled from one calamity to another since Mike Ashley took control almost two years ago”
The team finishing sixth in the Barclays Premier League will join the side in fifth in the revamped Uefa Cup. The seventh-place team would also qualify if the FA Cup is won by a team who have already qualified for European competition.”
Rory Smith assesses Manchester United chance to win the quintuple, with Ian Wright farting “I think Ferguson has an even greater goal.And thatâ€™s to become the first man to take a club to the title in his seventies. The way things are going, it wouldnâ€™t surprise me if Fergie was still in charge at the age of 99.”
While, turning the clock back onÂ Bobby Charlton’s time at Old Trafford, James Lawton yearns “for the days of loyalty to a community, and when fans did not bark like Pavlovian dogs when one of their former players touched the ball, but not the iniquitous treatment of great entertainers like Charlton and, you name them, players like Matthews and Mannion and Finney, who despite filling stadiums across the land could hardly dream of the wages of a junior bank manager, and still less a profitable change of employment if it was not deemed to be in the interests of their clubs.”
Keeping with United, the big transfer story today in the Independent is that “Franck Ribery will join Manchester United should they decide to cash in on Cristiano Ronaldo, according to the Bayern Munich winger’s agent.”
Other transfer rumours circulating in the red-tops is Martin Lipton’s report that “Florent Malouda, Michael Ballack, Deco, Alex and Didier Drogba are among the [Chelsea] players in the firing line as [Bruce] Buck outlined plans for a summer overhaul.” James Nursey adds that John Carew could also be looking for a new club this summer reporting “club officials are dismayed about Carew pulling out of their UEFA Cup last 32 second leg at CSKA Moscow with a back niggle.”
Sol Campbell gives a revealing interview to the Guardian’s David Hytner in which the Pompey centre-half talks about abuse from the stands. Campbell: “It’s quite shocking, really. If you carry on like that in the streets, you’re either going to get arrested or you’re going to start a fight and you might come off worse.” And in a second interview in today’s papers, John Barnes talks of the harsh financial realities his has been forced to face in recent years. Barnes: “When I first started playing football, I bought an Aston Martin DV7 and stupid flashy clothes, which were very expensive, but I can’t wear them now. I should have bought nice, conservative suits I could still wear now. So all the clothes I buy now are from high street shops like Primark, but I’m happy.”
Tottenham face a shake-up this summer.it is clear that Bentley, all Â£15m of English international, and David Beckham’s would-be replacement, is suffering from a crisis of confidence” which could see the winger out on his ear at the end of the season.
In other Premier League news,injured in Iraq and Afghanistan [will get] to meet their sporting icons, and for the players to encounter some genuine heroes. All parties will benefit.”
An irate Giles Smith vents against the pre-match build-up before the Carling Cup final. “Half an hour? That’s not a big-match build-up. That’s just a throat-clearing operation. Back in the days when a cup final really was a cup final, and treated as such by television, the first shot of Wembley Way would come so early that there would be no one in view with the possible exception of a street cleaner and a milkman.”
Dipping into the lower leagues, John Ashdown casts an eye over “of all the topsy-turvy weekends in this topsy-turvy Championship season, this weekend was the topsiest-turviest. The top three all lost â€“ again â€“ while seven of the bottom nine registered victories.”
The usual Tuesday European round-up appears inthe Guardian. Sid Lowe reacts to the revival of the Spanish title race picking up on the fact that “Barcelona have conceded eight goals in three games, they are making mistakes and ValdÃ©s is, as the Spanish put it, a colander.” Serie A observer Paolo Baldini gives Hernan Crespo his just deserves for coming off the Inter bench and scoring their equaliser inside 60 seconds. And Leander Schaerlaeckens has some stern advise for Steve McClaren – “Sticking around for another season would be unwise. McClaren ought to take his winnings and walk away. Next year’s squad couldn’t possibly be as strong as this year’s and whatever rehabilitation of his reputation he has achieved could only be tarnished by next year’s bunch, when they inevitably fail to duplicate the success of this campaign.”