Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “It means everything, it’s amazing. The support I’ve had from team-mates, you saw that at the end and I’m thankful to every one of them because they’re the ones that put it on a plate for me sometimes. And the fans, they’ve been with me for a long time and were probably frustrated alongside me not getting there so I’m just delighted. Bobby Tambling is a great man, he’s not been well lately but he’s a great man. I was pleased to level it but I didn’t want to overcook that celebration out of respect for him. But to then go and break it, I was delighted. I’ve been here a long time, I lost my mum a few years ago and she was my biggest supporter so it’s for her. Kind of. I don’t want to talk too much individually about my situation with two games to go as I think that would be wrong. The easiest part about this season has been playing games rather than sitting speculating at home, because when you think about it too much it becomes detrimental. When you’re playing and training and wanting to do well for the team, it’s easier. I’ll enjoy the last two games and then, at the end of the season, I’ll look at the situation and see where it leaves me personally.” – Frank Lampard.
Runner-up: “There has been too much talk about my future over the last six months, and especially the last two weeks. I don’t know why the club didn’t stop this because I don’t think it is correct. I don’t think it is true. It’s rubbish. I haven’t asked the club about my future. There is no need for me to ask because I still have four years left on my contract. I am disappointed because I always play to win. I know football enough to know that when you arrive in a final anything can happen. But I am the manager and I take responsibility. Last year when Manchester United lost the Premier League and didn’t win the FA Cup they didn’t have all this chaos. You always like to win, but if you get second position it is still a good season. We have only won the Community Shield – but it is better to win the Community Shield than nothing.” – Roberto Mancini.
Roberto Martínez will always have this memory even if Wigan go down (Paul Wilson, Observer) According to Roberto Martínez, when you are in an FA Cup final you can play without fear, because it doesn’t really matter who wins or loses, you are already in a great occasion and there is nothing in particular at stake. It is fixtures such as Swansea in your penultimate home game of the season, when your whole Premier League future might depend on picking up three points, that pile on the pressure and force your defenders into silly mistakes. As weird as that sounds, Martínez is possibly right, as his Wigan players backed up the manager’s confidence here and played like a side accustomed to such grand surroundings. They were unrecognisable from the disorganised and absurdly generous outfit that gifted Swansea three goals on Tuesday, and they managed to make a mockery of Manchester City’s status as favourites, wealthiest team on the planet and last season’s league champions. Wigan made few mistakes, defended capably and gave the City defence something to think about from start to finish.
Roberto Mancini to be sacked within days
Mancini to be sacked within days after City’s embarrassing FA Cup final defeat by Wigan (Rob Draper, Mail on Sunday) Defeated FA Cup final manager Roberto Mancini is to be sacked in the next two weeks — with Manuel Pellegrini of Malaga being lined up as his replacement. The Manchester City manager’s fate was already decided prior to Saturday’s embarrassing Wembley defeat, when his expensively assembled squad lost to relegation-threatened Wigan 1-0, leaving them without a major trophy this season. Mancini’s three-and-a-half year tenure is coming to an end because he is deemed to have failed on the targets laid out for him this season; to reach the Champions League quarter-finals and win the Premier League again. Even if he had won the Cup, it was not enough.
Mancini’s a £1bn loser (Rob Beasley, Sun) Was Sheikh Mansour listening? Was he even watching? Maybe the message will get back through one of his minions. But the loudest message making its way East will be the Wembley scoreline. Not what you have spent £1billion to achieve is it really? Especially as Wigan’s previous best in the Cup was reaching the sixth round way back in 1987. Suddenly, last year’s epic Premier League title success and two Cup finals in three years — one won, one lost — are looking slim pickings.
Manchester City’s deserved loss to Wigan signals the end of Roberto Mancini’s reign (Henry Winter, Sunday Telegraph) The Manchester City fans sang Roberto Mancini’s name relentlessly at Wembley on Saturday. They also made their views clear about the board’s wooing of Manuel Pellegrini. “You can stick your Pellegrini up your —-” was their considered verdict. But their board is not listening. This deserved defeat in the FA Cup final surely signals the end for Mancini. Wigan Athletic were assembled for half the price of the £22m Samir Nasri, who was at his bantamweight worst. Roberto Martínez’s side were hungrier than Mancini’s side. They were more organised, more in tune with their manager’s commands. As the rain tumbled on Mancini as he stood in the technical area, all around could hear the clock running down on his tenure less than a year after guiding City to the title. Outraged City fans sensed Pellegrini was lurking.
Are Manchester United trying to force Wayne Rooney out?
Red and buried: Wayne Rooney fears Manchester United are trying to force him out (Steve Bates, People) When he walked into Sir Alex Ferguson’s office almost three weeks ago, Wayne Rooney wanted answers about why he no longer appeared to be part of Manchester United’s plans, writes the Sunday People. Sources close to the Rooney camp claim the England striker, one of United’s outstanding performers since his arrival in 2004, was determined to find out why boss Fergie had seemingly lost faith in him. Rooney was seeking clarity over the role Ferguson saw him playing in the future, with the striker telling his manager he didn’t want to experience another season of frustration, being shunted around the team. But when he left that explosive summit around 25 minutes later, Rooney was left fearing for his Old Trafford career after getting no assurances from Ferguson about his role in the side. Details of the meeting were subsequently leaked and Rooney now feels he is being backed into a corner and forced out, with the Red Devils making the first move in what he sees as the end game.
Gary Neville on Sir Alex Ferguson
It is impossible to identify what made Fergie such a gigantic force, but my memories of him provide a few clues (Gary Neville, Mail on Sunday) Back then we trained in a gym – the coldest gym I have known, more like a freezer – and sometimes Archie would take the session. You wouldn’t ever hear of it now, the manager coming to watch kids training and his assistant coaching them. Archie would stand in the hall and you would pass the ball at him with a sidefoot. And he would say: ‘Take that ball back, son! Drive that pass.’ It also demonstrates Sir Alex’s passion for developing the talent of young people, the fact that he has always seen it as a duty to bring through home-grown players. And then there is his attitude, his absolute determination to reach the highest standards. Even though we were 3-0 up, he had seen something in that game that he wanted to correct and it mattered deeply to him. He wanted to mould us into what he wanted in terms of attitude, spirit, flair, skill, mentality and being a winner. And, yes, there was an element of fear about his presence, though people who think that he ruled by fear or was constantly intimidating people do not know him. But in those days, when we were kids, there was fear. Or you could call it respect for someone who was in charge of our football destinies, appropriate deference to an elder. Because fear hampers you but he never inhibited us, never bullied us. He was teaching us to be better. And we believed in him and would have hung on every word he said.
Silence speaks volumes on how Sir Alex Ferguson ran Manchester United (David James, Observer) I call it the Manchester United mafia, led by Sir Alex Fergu-don. In 25 years of professional football, a period in which I have played Ferguson’s teams on many occasions, I have never exchanged more than a hello and a nod with the man. Whereas a manager like José Mourinho will give you the time of day, Ferguson is unapproachable. If there is a code of silence, Ferguson’s players are bound to it. Despite being friends with Rio Ferdinand and Wayne Rooney, among others, I have never – ever – heard them say anything about Ferguson. All those hours of sitting around at England camps or on bus rides, and not once did any United players ever reveal anything to me about their team-mates, their dressing room or their manager. In an industry renowned for its gossip I find that extraordinary.
Pace of change at Manchester United may have shocked even Sir Alex Ferguson (Jason Burt, Sunday Telegraph) In hindsight, the signs that he was going this season were there for all to see. His devastated reaction to being knocked out of the Champions League by Real Madrid in early March may have been one — though it was also read as an indication that it might double his determination to stay and win another European Cup. The abrupt announcement last week that he was to undergo a hip operation that would, in a curious piece of timing, be delayed until after United’s vast pre-season tour, therefore making him miss the start of the Premier League season, was another signal. The club had insisted they would not impede his ability to remain as manager, something he had himself also claimed. Ferguson, who had a pacemaker fitted in 2004 to regulate his heart-beat, will now go on the three-week pre-season tour to Thailand, Australia, Japan and Hong Kong as a director and ambassador.
New Manchester United manager David Moyes
For David Moyes to run the show Sir Alex Ferguson must resist meddling (Daniel Taylor, Observer) If David Moyes is to stand any chance of asserting full authority the lines cannot blur between Ferguson’s new boardroom role and the position that has been his way of life for more than a quarter of a century. Moyes must be allowed to manage the club his way. If he thinks they should give up on the disaffected Wayne Rooney, it must be his decision. If there are players he wants to sign, the club must trust him. If he wants to bring in his own backroom staff it should be ticked off, just as it would at any other major club. If he wants to change some of the working practices at Old Trafford, there should be no need for a second opinion. It might mean letting someone go, or treading on the toes of someone Ferguson regards as a loyal member of staff. There might be a player Moyes does not rate in the same way that his predecessor did. He might want to remove the barriers that Ferguson has erected between the club and the journalists he keeps offering to send up to Loch Lomond (but only when the midges are out). Or any number of other changes. The bottom line is that, from 1 July, this will be Moyes’s club and Ferguson has to let him get on with it. The job is immense enough without any measure of interference.
Moyes will have a much tougher start than Fergie (Harry Redknapp, Sunday Sun) No disrespect to United this season — because they have been very consistent and played some good football at times. But let’s face it they walked the league. Next season will be totally different. There will be even more teams capable of mounting a serious challenge. If Jose Mourinho takes over at Chelsea he will want to spend big. Arsenal will spend big or else it will be another season without a trophy. Manchester City will spend big. Tottenham already have a squad capable of winning the league but they too will push on and invest. Liverpool are resurgent under Brendan Rodgers. There will be more teams than ever before putting together a bid to knock Manchester United off their champion’s perch.
Will Frank Lampard get a new Chelsea deal?
Lamps: I want to stay (Mark Irwin, Sun) Frank Lampard wrote his name into Chelsea history then urged the club to sort out his Stamford Bridge future once and for all. Lampard, 34, scored two second-half goals to overtake Bobby Tambling’s 44-year club record. The England midfielder, who is out of contract at the end of the season, took his overall tally to 203 with a dramatic 88th-minute winner to secure Chelsea’s place in next season’s Champions League. His goal sparked wild scenes of celebration as travelling Chelsea fans tried to get on to the Villa Park pitch to congratulate their idol.
Has Christian Benteke played his last game for Aston Villa?
Christian aid: Tottenham and Arsenal line up summer move for Aston Villa goal scoring sensation Benteke (Steve Stammers, Sunday Mirror) Tottenham have made Christian Benteke their No.1 transfer target this summer. But they will face fierce competition from Arsenal for he 22-year-old Aston Villa front man has made a huge impact this season following his £7million move last August from Belgian club Genk. Ahead of yesterdays clash with Chelsea at Villa Park he had scored 19 times – a remarkable achievement for a player in his first season in the Premier League and for a team that has been battling against relegation. It is a stark contrast to the likes of Lukas Podolski at Arsenal who has struggled despite playing for a more successful outfit. If Villa lose that fight, the Congo-born Belgium international will definitely leave. But even if Paul Lambert’s men survive, there will be a cluster of clubs who will want him.