Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “Itâ€™s given ourselves the confidence that we can still win the title. And, after taking stick from United fans for 10 years, it was great to score and then rub it in a bit.” – Steven Gerrard.
Runner-up: “I certainly donâ€™t admire the way Drogba goes about things. It is part and parcel of the game, though. Every team has players who win free-kicks. There is nothing you can do about it. You just have to make sure you are careful when you are making tackles and just try and do your job. It is frustrating for everyone when you feel your opponent is conning referees. It is the same now when you play in Europe.” – Richard Dunne.
Today’s overview: It’s a great day to be a Liverpool fan as the Sunday’s shower praise on the Reds’ big win at Old Trafford with Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres taking the lions share of the plaudits. The other main topics this weekend include analysis of the Champions League, a character assassination of David Beckham and the standard transfer rumours in the tabloids.
Joe Lovejoy kicks off the Liverpool celebrations in the Sundays. “For the typically voluble scouse contingent it was a red-letter day to evoke misty-eyed memories of their clubâ€™s halcyon years. For Graeme Souness read the leonine Gerrard, for Ian Rush the predatory Fernando Torres.” El Nino and El Capitan plunged stilettos into a soft underbelly of Manchester United none knew existed, puncturing the reputation of one of the worldâ€™s top defenders in the process.” While for Jim White, “United weren’t just beaten here. They were outsmarted, outmuscled, outpaced, subjected to the kind of rout they routinely inflict on the rest of the Premier League.”
The brittle nature of Fernando Torres’ hamstrings focuses Andy Hunter’s mind this Sunday, who argues that “Anfield would harbour more than an outside chance of becoming home to the Premier League title had they remained intact this season.” And Ian Herbert goes a step further, penning “Fact: Fernando Torres is the finest striker in world football on current form… It is not just the Spaniard’s pace, composure and vision which raise Liverpool’s level but the way he drives the entire side on, remarkable in a 24-year-old in only his second English season.”
On the Red Devils, Stewart Robson pointed an accusing finger at the United centre-halves. “Rarely have I seen Vidic look so cumbersome. Ferdinand was no better. Right from the outset he looked lethargic, both mentally and physically.”
Looking to insert some common sense into the post-match analysis, Steve Tongue concluded “the juggernaut had been dented. Now to see if the wheels come off.” Sir Bobby Robson sticks his neck on the line stating “when May comes around, I think this 4-1 scoreline will be a blip in the history books… I do not think it will alter the destination of where the league title is going. United simply have too much class and experience to allow one bad day at the office to run into several weeks of poor form.”
Paul Wilson asks “why shouldn’t Rooney admit to hating Liverpool, when he knows perfectly well Liverpool supporters hate him with a passion?… The alternative, and it is arriving fairly quickly, is to only ever hear from footballers who have been media-trained into the overrated art of speaking on television without actually saying anything.” And the same sentiment is echoed by Ian Bell – “If you can be dispassionate about sport you probably shouldn’t bother. The person who has no opinions is short on brains, too. Those with strong opinions meanwhile invest something of themselves – hard cash, for starters – in the matter. Only a fool loves everything.”
Slowly the excuses are leaking out of the San Siro for Mourinho’s Champions League exit, Duncan Castles and Jamie Jackson reporting that the Special One “feels Internazionale let him down over the January transfer of Ricardo Quaresma” as he was “trying to set up an alternative move that would have brought David Bentley to Milan in exchange for Quaresma.” By contrast, Rod Liddle takes Mourinho down a peg arguing “there is the growing suspicion that in a credit crunch he is the wrong man for the job. Given unlimited funding, Mourinho is as good as any manager… But that seems to be the limit of Mourinhoâ€™s ability… he has a reputation for failing to get to grips with player development, particularly at youth team level.”
Keeping with the Champions League, Ian Hawkey lays out the case for Barcelona walking away with the title, flagging up the resurgance of Theirry Henry. “More people than ever in Catalonia now recognise Henry as the superstar they were promised.” While it is left for Gabriele Marcotti to agree that while English sides consistently outperform others in the Champions League, “to think it’s some kind of perpetual hegemony [is dumb] especially since there are plenty of signs that things aren’t quite as clear-cut as they seem.”
Against the backdrop of the Champions League, Michael Walker reports on those clubs facing financial meltdown in Britain with dire forecasts from Darlington to high-profile outfits like Southampton suggest that up to five clubs may soon have a 10-point penalty as they move into administration.
It seems that every day at the moment brings good tiding to West Ham fans, Duncan Castles announcing “the Observer has learnt of definite interest from an English-led group planning to spend Â£100m on the club. The group intends to provide manager Gianfranco Zola with a “serious” Âtransfer fund of Â£30m, while rolling over club debts now approaching Â£50m.”
Piers Morgan stays true to his firebrand approach to journalism, taking lumps out of David Beckham for his decision to stay in Milan claiming it has nothing to do with football but all to do with his brand. “David Beckham is a shameless, unprincipled little tart who’ll do anything for money and fame. I’ve no great moral aversion to that attitude, by the way. It’s not, if I’m to be frank here, massively dissimilar to my own career path. I just wish he’d stop the patriotic, flagwaving ‘I’m doing this for my country’ rubbish of an excuse, and admit it.”
Onto the Sunday tabloid stories, where the Sunday Express’ John Richardson reports that “Cristiano Ronaldo is in talks over a new Â£180,000-a-week deal after dropping his biggest hint yet that he has put any move to Real Madrid on the back burner.” The same story is peddled in the Sunday Mirror, Steve Millar writing “Ronaldo’s advisers have opened talks with Man United over a huge Â£200K-a-week new deal â€“ thatâ€™s Â£10.4m a year.”
Rob Beasley claims in the News of the World that Chelsea are set for a clear-out of the clubâ€™s ageing stars this summer, with Michael Ballack, Didier Drogba and Deco all lined up for an exit from the Bridge. Keeping in the red-top, David Harrison farts “Steven Gerrard and Xabi Alonso have been targeted by Real Madrid in a Â£100million swoop.”
Straight-talking David James offers his perspective on the new drug testing procedures in football. “The new rules on drug testing in football are to be welcomed, not moaned about. As far as I’m concerned, as long as coffee is off the list of prohibited substances I’m happy.”
Lastly, in an excellent feature in the Observer, Kevin O’Flynn investigates how political connections and energy resources have put Uzbeki side Bunyodkor on the fast track to super club status.