Rio takes the flak for England loss as Spurs target James, Huntelaar & Van Nistelrooy while Pavlyuchenko looks for the exit

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “The referee has to explain what he saw. It’s a big difference between Rio and the goalkeeper – one is running, one is diving. That’s what I was speaking to the fourth official about. He told me he spoke with the referee and they said it was not Rio who made the foul. But it really was a big mistake.” – Fabio Capello.

Runner-up: “I apologise to Mr Wiley for any personal embarrassment that my remarks may have caused and to the FA for going public with my views. In retrospect, I accept that this could be deemed as expressing those views in an inappropriate forum. It was never my intention to bring the focus of intense media attention on Mr Wiley. I intend to contact him personally after I return from a trip overseas during this international break… My only intention in speaking publicly, was to highlight what I believe to be a serious and important issue in the game, namely that the fitness levels of referees must match the ever increasing demands of the modern game, which I hope will now be properly addressed through the appropriate formal channels.” – Sir Alex Ferguson.

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Today’s overview: The knives are out for Rio Ferdinand after the Manchester United centre-half, on a rare England appearance these days, found himself at the heart of Ukraine’s solitary goal of the game.

Dredging up history to add weight to his argument, Kevin McCarra is the first to point fingers noting “the Manchester United centre-back had passed the ball straight to Dirk Kuyt when presenting Holland with a goal in the draw two months ago. Ferdinand varied the repertoire here by avoiding a through-ball.” Also recalling other Rio screw-ups (“your mind immediately returned to Ferdinand’s absurd lofted pass in the final minute of the Manchester derby”), a man so poised in possession but now shaken by disbelief at his own poor decision-making.”

Following in kind, a moment of incompetence from Rio Ferdinand” in making his wider comment that “England can be a danger to themselves. Yet again wretched defending undermined an otherwise stirring performance.” Continuing the Rio-bashing, Jason Burt shouted “this was the Ferdinand of old, too casual by half, who had shown a flashback the last time he pulled on an England shirt, gifting a goal to Holland in August’s friendly.”

Playing up to the crowd, Andy Dunn suggests that Rio could be axed from the England team. “The worrying thing is not that he made the mistake that led to Green’s dismissal but that no one was REALLY surprised. Ferdinand is fortunate in that the rivals for his position are not putting severe pressure on him.”

Looking to head-off the boo-boys, Gary Lineker defends Ferdinand. “All the talk will be about Rio Ferdinand over the next few days and whether he is losing it as a top centre-half. That’s the reaction I expect because I know how it works, but it’s absurd… I don’t share the concern. Ferdinand is a big-tournament player clearly feeling his way back from different injuries and that takes time.”

From the negative to the positive, Henry Winter toasted another stellar Wayne Rooney performance. “With England’s backs, midfielders and forwards to the wall, Rooney’s contribution was immense, testament to his exceptional physical conditioning. He chased down everything, just as he has been charging around pitches for United as strongly in the 90th minute as in the first.”

Flipping focus onto the Ukraine, and taking account of the flares and racist chanting dished out by the home crowd, Ian Herbert argues that “there is much evidence that Ukraine, hosts with Poland of Euro 2012, deserve to become the first country since Colombia in 1986 to be stripped of the right to host a championship.”

Looking ahead to Fabio Capello’s World Cup squad, Paul Wilson observes how “there are probably fewer than half a dozen World Cup places up for grabs.” Picking up that discussion, Duncan White contended that “only three players absent from the Ukraine squad who can [make it to the World Cup]: Joe Cole of Chelsea, Owen Hargreaves of Manchester United and Theo Walcott of Arsenal.”

So how did the Ukraine-England internet experiment pan out? According to , “the number of subscriptions, at between £4.99 and £11.99 apiece, was estimated at between 250,000 and 300,000, with more than one viewer per ‘buy.’ Given that the game meant little in competitive terms, the take-up was remarkable.”

But what of the user experience?

There we find John Aizlewood pulling up trees. “[We] were promised they could see the game on whatever a ‘high quality, flash video stream’ is. If this meant a slightly fuzzy picture and what sounded like an elevator muzak soundtrack to a public information film burbling in the background, then a ‘high quality, flash video stream’ is exactly what we got.” Nina Lakhani discussed her experience by explaining that “watching a match on the computer felt a bit like being at work; it was a solitary rather than a social experience, and I was tempted to check my emails during the less gripping periods.”

Equally disappointed was cinema-goer Mark Reason. “The Leicester Square Odeon billed Ukraine v England as a feature-length celebration of English football. It turned out to be a second-rate disaster movie with the sort of depressed turn-out that would have failed to fill the local Gaumont on a wet Wednesday night.”

*Shock*… *Gasp*… Sir Alex Ferguson actually said sorry in public.

Almost drunk with excitement is toff Piers Morgan. “Who would have thought it? Sir Alex Ferguson, the great, fearless, growling dictator of world football, reduced to making one of the most pitiful, grovelling, spectacularly fulsome apologies in the history of sport – to a REFEREE. I laughed out loud when I read his mea culpa to Alan Wiley yesterday afternoon, particularly his clarification of any unfortunate misunderstandings. By securing such an unequivocal, toadying apology from his profession’s No1 enemy, Alan Wiley has done himself, his colleagues and the game of football, a massive favour. As for Sir Alex, well he just turned out to be the true ****** in the black.”

Elsewhere, also revels in Fergie’s apology which was made “in excruciating detail. Not just the grumbling acceptance of another touchline ban or FA fine but a full-blown mea culpa for an attack that went too far.”

Going a step further, Rod Liddle now wants his pound of Fergie flesh. “First, ban Ferguson from the touchline for eight matches for his disrespect of Wiley. Second, make it clear that managers are not allowed to talk to referees before, during or after a game, and that there will be a large financial penalty every time they do so… The Respect campaign didn’t work; it was treated as a joke. It is time to get tough.”

Arsenal’s image as a paradigm financial Premier League club comes under fire this Sunday as still owes Arsenal board members £50m despite edging closer to taking full control of the clubInsiders are concerned that it could take him years to pay off the remainder.” And in another Gunner story whihc hints that the North Londoners are looking to swell teh coffers, Rob Draper announces that “Arsene Wenger looks like changing the habit of a lifetime by abandoning Arsenal’s tranquil pre-season training camps in Austria and joining the inter-continental globetrotters of Real Madrid, Manchester United and Chelsea on a lucrative tour in Asia or the USA.”

Swooping in, Neil Ashton then scarily claims that “eight of the Premier League’s 20 clubs are vulnerable to takeovers or are in the process of being sold off. Arsenal, Birmingham, Blackburn, Everton, Hull, Liverpool, Portsmouth and West Ham face uncertain futures. In exchange for the prestige of owning a team at the top of football’s pyramid, foreign owners take on a mountain of debt.”

An old chestnut returns to the backpages this Sunday as Graham Spiers cries that it is an “inevitability” that the Old Firm will leave the SPL. “Money is the great driving force of sport and it will prove impossible for the game to ignore the extraordinary wealth-generation which the Glasgow giants have to offer.”

The transfer gossip starts with more bad news for Portsmouth as Duncan White claims that David James wants to move to Spurs to boost World Cup hopes. Brian McNully blurts out that “Manchester United will head a posse of Premier League clubs trying to pinch much-coveted Middlesbrough winger Adam Johnson in a cut-price January deal,” while Aiden McGee reports that United and Chelsea “have sent spies to the Under-20 World Cup in Egypt to check on Brazilian teenager Alex Teixeira Santos.”

In the never-gonna-happen lie of the day, Andy Dunn pens “a clutch of Premier League clubs have been put on alert by a possible hitch in David Beckham’s AC Milan loan deal.” And staying with the far-fetched rumours, David Harrisson reports that “AC Milan are ready to use Dutch flop Klaas-Jan Huntelaar as bait to sign Tottenham misfit Roman Pavlyuchenko,” although Steve Bates believes that the Lillywhites are tracking “Ruud Van Nistelrooy [who] is keen on a Premier League return.”

Slightly more believable, Martin Hardy scribbles “Gary Megson is planning to sign Newcastle skipper Alan Smith,” while Steve Bates claims “Micah Richards is ready to quit Manchester City in January in a bid to put his once-promising career back on track. And if the defender does leave in the next window, City manager Mark Hughes will move for Bayern Munich’s Philipp Lahm as a replacement.”

Perhaps the biggest rumour of the day though is found in the People, where Pete Jenson claims that Manchester City are ready to sell Robinho to Barcelona while looking to bring in Franck Ribery as a replacement. Staying in Eastlands, Neil Ashton writes that “Mark Hughes is monitoring Yossi Benayoun’s situation at Liverpool as he prepares for the January transfer window.”

In the sack race, the Mail on Sunday’s Malcolm Brown farts the headline “Pressure on Toshack as Bellamy goal record counts for little” following Wales’ defeat to Finland although the hack noticeably fails to back up his statement in his match report. Neil Ashton barfs “Sven Goran Eriksson is on the brink of quitting crisis club Notts County. The former England boss fears County’s five-year plan is built on sand following the mystery surrounding the club’s owners.” And lastly Alan Nixon claims “Tranmere want to tempt Robbie Fowler to make a sensational comeback… as their player-manager.”