Good Weekend, Bad Weekend

Good Weekend

The FA Cup, Rule 11a

Like a bolt out the blue, suddenly last weekend the world was made aware of Rule 11a by Sir Alex Ferguson, the rule which allows teams participating in the FA Cup to pre-agree between themselves that a tie should be a do-or-die event, rather than allowing for a replay.

Much of the mainstream media responded negatively, calling this yet another blow to the flailing “greatest cup competition in the world.” But within that widespread opinion was the definite scent of sour grapes that this was somehow a concoction of Manchester United and their fellow Big Four cohorts. Reaction may well have been much different had, let’s say, non-league Kettering been leading the call for Rule 11a to affect their match against Premier League Fulham.

The fact is that the FA Cup is suffering under a constant and consistent erosion of its glamour. It can no longer compete with the Premier League or the Champions League and top flight clubs seem entrenched in using the competition as a place to blood youngsters.

But then Rule 11a appears. A fresh, new twist on an old concept of knock-out football. The idea that clubs can collude pre-match and determine whether the tie will be decided on the day, or not, is exciting.

While it may not salvage the FA Cup from its fated demise, the tournament has received shot in the arm.

Gianfranco Zola

Newbees are like cattle to the slaughter in the Premier League. Arrive at a so-called big job with a limited or a non-existent CV and the waiting mob seem to smell fear instantly. Roy Keane and Paul Ince have already been and gone, Tony Adams’ departure is being readied, but then standing alone and fighting hard in his corner is the small man with the big heart, Gianfranco Zola.

Zola has had it harder than most, facing daily headlines of “club for sale” in relation to the latest financial meltdown, whilst simultaneously fending off talk of a fire-sale at Upton Park. Yet the impish Italian has not only seemed to defy the critics, but he is raising expectations too.

With five wins and a draw in their last six outings in all competitions, the Hammers are sitting pretty comfortably in eighth place in the league, having progressed to the fifth round of the FA Cup, and looking likely to hold onto their key players such as Carlton Cole, Matthew Upton and Robert Green in the transfer window.

With Arsenal and Manchester United coming up in successive games, let’s hope Zola can continue to work his magic.

Manchester United reserves

Since returning from the World Club Championships the Red Devils have won eight out of nine matches, and they have done this whilst plagued with injuries – Hargreaves, Brown, Ferdinand, Evra, Rooney, Anderson, Park Ji-Sung, Evans and Rooney (and more) all currently absent for selection.

Having been eclipsed by brother Raphael since joining Old Trafford, this weekend it was the turn of Fabio da Silva to shine in the first team, putting in a brilliant performance down the United left hand side. Leggy Danny Wellbeck, usually played through the middle, also put in an encouraging shift on the right side of midfield.

While most clubs find themselves crying about a lack of depth in their squads, Manchester United seem to be getting better with all the injuries they absorb.

Nevio Orlandi

Orlandi was sacked by Reggina back in December. At the time it was a tough pill to swallow as Orlandi had managed to save the club from relegation after being brought in at the back end of last season.

The club replaced him with Giuseppe Pillon, but experiencing a run of four games that included three defeats and a draw, the Amaranto came grovelling back to Orlandi last weekend to ask him to save them once more. Pillon lasted just one month at the helm.

Ego is a wonderful thing.

Bad Weekend

Ronaldinho

It was a brilliant weekend for AC Milan. Kaka looked back to his best scoring a brace, and David Beckham kept up his facade of not being good enough to play for the Rossoneri by scoring his first goal for the club. Happy days! Well, not if you’re Ronaldinho.

After an initial splash in Serie A, times are now seeming increasingly tough for the bucked-tooth wonder as the number 80 looks to be currently off coach Ancelotti’s radar. Ronaldinho was dropped for the second successive match this weekend at Bologna, with reports surfacing that Ancelotti was less than impressed with ‘Dinho’s performance in the midweek friendly with Hamburg or with his training in the week.

Criticisms of laziness levelled at Ronaldinho. Sounds familiar anyone?

Robbie Keane

The Irishman has gone from being a starter who was usually subbed, to being a sub who is sometimes brought on, to now being left out the squad altogether.

When a £20 million signing is forced out the team by David Ngog the writing seems to be very much on the wall.

Millwall

Think thugs, think Millwall.


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