Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “I won everything there. It was a fantastic part of my life. And maybe it was the time I enjoyed my football the most because I was so young. To be at Manchester United, one of the biggest clubs in the world, at just 18, it was a dream. And to play alongside those players you had only seen before on television; maybe that’s why I feel I enjoyed it there the most.” – Cristiano Ronaldo.
Runner-up: “We just didn’t play. We played maybe with two players. When it is 11 against two, it is difficult to win. We conceded two goals that were incredible for a top team like us.” He then reminded the England goalkeeper that it was not the first time he has erred this season. The manager suggested that Hart and his team-mates may have become complacent. It’s not strange because he did two or three mistakes this year and this is not good for us,” he said. “Joe is a good keeper but a goalkeeper can’t do a mistake like this. Probably we think because we won last year we are top players, but to stay at the top you need to work like we did last year. I know I only won the Premier League and the FA Cup in two years but there are some managers who haven’t won anything for 10 or 15 years. Don’t worry about me, I am strong and I will resolve this. We have a 10 per cent chance, maybe… We have 12 games, we need to respect our team and ourselves and see what we can do.” – Roberto Mancini.
Ferguson rules out re-signing Ronaldo for United
Fergie: I can’t afford to sign Ronaldo (Martin Blackburn, Sunday Sun) Alex Ferguson has admitted Manchester United cannot afford to buy back Cristiano Ronaldo. United face the Real Madrid superstar on Wednesday, four years after flogging him for £80million. Boss Fergie said: “If you were to buy him back, you are talking hundreds of millions. “That rules everyone out, including Barcelona. I just can’t see it happening.” Ronaldo, 28, who moved to the Bernabeu in 2009, has been heavily linked with a switch back to Old Trafford. But boss Ferguson declared: “Everyone talks about that but I don’t see it. Cristiano has 2½ years on his contract and I think Madrid are trying hard to get him a new contract.”
Real Madrid v Manchester United: Sir Alex Ferguson cannot wait to be reunited with Cristiano Ronaldo (Henry Winter, Sunday Telegraph) Re-acquaintance with Ronaldo brings many joyous reminiscences for Ferguson and the Stretford End. There are the memories of his skewering of Arsenal right-backs down the years: Lauren, Bacary Sagna, and particularly Justin Hoyte in 2008. Poor Hoyte was transfixed by Ronaldo’s parade of step-overs, touches, nudges of the ball and sway of the hips down by the corner-flag. Hoyte’s self-restraint system blew and he dived in on Ronaldo, kicking his tormentor on the right shin. On one occasion in Europe, Ronaldo kept twisting Sulley Muntari so much that the Inter Milan player could respond only illegally, leaving him on the floor. Amusingly, Mario Balotelli raced over to admonish Ronaldo for allegedly showing a lack of respect for his opponents. Ronaldo developed wonderfully under Ferguson. The player himself had a drive to improve and a hunger to take on the world but the manager provided the road-map. Ferguson gave him the advice to cut out the simulation, explaining the need to apply his remarkable gifts for the good of the team. “When he first came he wanted to display his tricks and his technical abilities but he overcame all the little flaws in his game and became a fully-rounded player,” said Ferguson.
Chelsea & Man City to battle over David Moyes
Most wanted: Manchester City join Chelsea in chase for Everton boss David Moyes (Matt Law, Sunday Mirror) David Moyes is emerging as a shock target for Manchester City – if Roberto Mancini is sacked. The Toffees boss Moyes has yet to commit himself to Goodison Park past the end of the season and is now on Chelsea’s shortlist of new managers. But the Scot may be tempted to see if the City job becomes available before making any decisions about his future. Manchester United have ruled out a move for him as he has virtually no Champions League experience. Yesterday’s 3-1 defeat at Southampton could prove a terminal blow to City’s title defence and their manager’s long-term job security. Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has taken soundings from players on his next appointment and Moyes features highly on the list of candidates, with Malaga’s Manuel Pellegrini and Borussia Dortmund’s Jurgen Klopp. Jose Mourinho is also pushing his case for a return. Moyes has long been considered a leading contender to replace Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, who Everton face today at Old Trafford.
Chelsea lead the race to take David Moyes from Everton (Jason Burt, Sunday Telegraph) After winning the Premier League title and the FA Cup in his first season at Chelsea, Carlo Ancelotti was asked, at a private dinner, which manager in England had posed him the most problems tactically during the unprecedented campaign at Stamford Bridge. He did not choose Sir Alex Ferguson or Arsène Wenger. Ancelotti chose Everton’s David Moyes. That season Everton took four points from Chelsea – drawing 3-3 at the Bridge and then beating them 2-1 at Goodison Park and Moyes kept Ancelotti on his toes throughout both games. The two teams played each other four times the following season – with Everton again coming out on top with two victories and two draws. It was after they defeated Chelsea in the FA Cup in February 2011, on penalties, that Andre Villas-Boas was first asked whether he wanted to succeed Ancelotti. The Italian was fired, of course, in May that year. After losing at Goodison Park.
Man City chase Benteke
Christian aid: Man City line up £20m bid for Aston Villa striker Benteke (Alan Nixon, People) Manchester City are lining up a £20million bid for Aston Villa strike sensation Christian Benteke, writes the Sunday People. Roberto Mancini is planning a swoop for the Belgian star who he sees as the man to fill the gap left by Mario Balotelli. And with Edin Dzeko’s City future in doubt Mancini knows he needs a physical threat in attack next season – if he survives as manager. Benteke has shone for Paul Lambert’s strugglers since joining from Genk in a deal worth up to £9 million – and City would have to at least double that fee.
Gary & Phil Neville on Manchester United v Everton
Pain of losing ensures United won’t make the same mistakes as last season (Gary Neville, Mail on Sunday) In football, you remember the painful moments almost as much as the joyous ones, the games that take all summer and sometimes even longer to get over; those games that, whenever you think back to them, a bitter sense of disappointment remains, like a wound that has never healed… And to that list you could add Everton at home last season on April 22, 2012. United were 4-2 up with eight minutes to play at home, a result that would have seen them maintain a five-point lead that weekend over Manchester City in the title race with just three games to go. Of course, Everton scored two late goals and Manchester City then beat United the following week to go top on goal difference, a lead they maintained to win the title. If you needed a sobering warning after the intoxication of a good week, walking out at Old Trafford in a repeat of that fixture should provide it. And that’s why, despite the excitement of a tie against Real Madrid this week, it is the domestic business of a home game against Everton that will be uppermost in the players’ minds. Because Real Madrid is a dream. It is one of the outstanding ties in football, a game that every football fan around the world would want to watch between two of the biggest clubs in the world.
I was always ‘The Manc’ at Everton until the moment I took out Ronaldo (Rob Draper, Mail on Sunday) Phil Neville will never forget the moment when his Everton career changed. It was October 26, 2008, and Manchester United were 1-0 up at Goodison Park; almost an hour had been played and Everton were struggling when Cristiano Ronaldo set off on a counter-attack. Before the United star could get into his stride, Steven Pienaar clipped him and he stumbled. As referee Alan Wiley blew his whistle, Neville came sliding in at 90 degrees to Ronaldo and won the ball. It would be fair to say that he also took a piece of the man with him. Cue hysteria… ‘I think that was my defining moment,’ said Neville, who turned 36 last month. ‘It totally changed my Everton career. From that moment on, I felt as if they accepted me as captain, as an Evertonian. Up until then, win and, yeah, it was fine. Lose and I always got “Manc”. I was always the Manc. After that I was Phil Neville, the captain of Everton.’
Where did Wayne Rooney’s explosive spark go?
Wayne Rooney has a great record but where did that explosive spark go? (Daniel Taylor, Observer) So here’s the thing: why has he not turned out to be the player we wanted him to be? As good as he is – and let’s make it clear, he’s some player – is it such an outlandish statement to say we might have expected more bearing in mind how incredibly exciting it all was back then? This is not a straightforward subject because, plainly, Rooney has accumulated an outstanding portfolio of work before Everton’s latest visit to Old Trafford and the considerable matter of Wednesday’s game against Real Madrid. At the age of 27, his goal against Brazil takes him to 33 in 79 internationals, fifth in the all-time list of England scorers. If he stays fit, he should have aspirations about becoming the first player to reach 100 caps before he turns 30. Around the same time, there is a good chance he will be bearing down on Sir Bobby Charlton’s 49 goals.
Why Manchester United don’t want Jose Mourinho as their manager
Why Manchester United have gone cold on Jose Mourinho as next boss (Patrick Barclay, Independent on Sunday) Doesn’t time fly? It is nearly nine years since that free-kick came back off Tim Howard and Costinha pounced for the 90th-minute goal that sent Porto into the Champions’ League semi-finals, prompting the ecstatic dash along the Old Trafford touchline that introduced England to Jose Mourinho, superstar. His achievements with Chelsea would include the temporary eclipse of Sir Alex Ferguson, but Mourinho never lost a respect for the Manchester United manager enhanced only minutes after the final whistle had confirmed Porto’s triumph. There was pandemonium in the dressing room. “You would have thought we had won the World Cup,” Mourinho recalled. “And then there was a knock on the door. It was Alex, with Gary Neville. As they came in, everyone fell silent…” They had come to offer congratulations. While Neville shook the hand of every player, Ferguson warmly invited Mourinho to join him for a glass of wine that would be the first of many. United had lost but Old Trafford won a special place in Mourinho’s heart, and when he embarked on the Italian mission that was to culminate in a second Champions League with Internazionale in 2010, the succession to Ferguson at Old Trafford was already among his ambitions.
Gazza’s in intensive care
Football legend Gazza ‘close to death’ (Ryan Parry, Sunday Sun) Soccer legend Paul Gascoigne was last night fighting for his life after suffering a catastrophic reaction to alcohol withdrawal. The frail star is in intensive care after his organs began to shut down in the hours following his arrival at a rehab clinic in the US. A source close to the star revealed the tragic development last night. He said: “Gazza’s in a bad way. He’s much worse than he was and desperately needs help. “He’s had really bad withdrawal symptoms relating to not drinking since arriving at the clinic. “His internal organs are shutting down and he’s in intensive care — it’s a potentially life-threatening situation. “If he doesn’t receive the best treatment from doctors he could die.”