Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “Manchester United is my home. My heart is here. This is where I want to play. The boss believes in this team and so do I. Ever since I joined United he has been like a second father to me. People are still going to speak and make things up. But this is where I want to play. Manchester United is now my house.” – Cristiano Ronaldo.
Runner-up: “I am a little tired talking about these things. I am Milan coach until 30 June 2010. I know how things are, I don’t see things cloudy, I see everything very clearly. If you had to ask me to express in a percentage I would say that it’s 100% certain that I will still be at Milan next year… A proper response on my future could be postponed by a matter of days or several years. At the moment I don’t have anything open with Chelsea. I have not talked to them. I did last year, but not this year. [But] we still have the end of the season, and if we have to find a solution we will. I am open to anything. It’s obvious that I would say yes if you ask me if I would love to coach Chelsea.” – Carlo Ancelotti.
Today’s overview: It’s D-Day in the Premier League, with two of Newcastle, Sunderland, Middlesbrough and Hull City heading for the Championship by the end of the day.
With a black-cloud hovering overhead, Michael Walker continues to deliver the unwanted home-truths to the north-east fans, barking “an unpalatable fact for all three North-east clubs as they sweat on each other’s attacks is that in their forward line alone, they each possess at least one recent signing who personifies the problem. Disenchanted fans would say more than one. This is dull and specific rather than mysterious and environmental, but in Xisco, Djibril Cisse and Mido respectively, Newcastle’s, Sunderland’s and Boro’s current recruitment has to be questioned.”All the northeast clubs have been guilty of underinvestment in decent players, overinvestment in indifferent quality and, perhaps worst of all, the appointment of ill-prepared and inexperienced managers.”
Whipping up Toon anger ahead of the final match of the season are the mischievous Telegraph duo of Jim Bruce-Ball and Rob Stewart, who quote Richard Scudamore, the Premier League’s chief executive, saying that the league will not “miss a heartbeat” if a club the size of Newcastle is relegated.
Looking to draw some conclusions from the season, Jonathan
Andy Dunn reacts to the “Quote of the Day” from Cristiano Ronaldo, observing that “if he leaves Old Trafford after this proclamation of loyalty, Ronaldo will go down as one of the most insincere, double-dealing football superstars. A man whose word means nothing.”
In a collection of other articles building up to the United-Barcelona meeting, Paul Wilson sits down with Paul Scholes, while the ginger midfielder’s successor Michael Carrick is featured by JSince he arrived from Tottenham, Fergusonâ€™s only signing in summer 2006, United have won three Premier League titles and have a shot at retaining the Champions League. Carrick is pivotal to whether they can take the latter opportunity this week.” While, cutting to the chase, Steve Tongue pens “can [United] do it? They can, but the best chance is by marrying immaculate defensive discipline to the pace on the counter-attack that Arsenal couldn’t cope with and Barcelona fear.”
Guest writing for the Observer ahead of the Champions League final, Ruud Gullit asks whether “Manchester United [can] become the first team to win the European Cup in consecutive seasons since the Milan side I played in 19 years ago? ” Paul Hayward speculates over United’s likely line-up in the showpiece final, claiming “Dimitar Berbatov (Â£30m) and Carlos Tevez (Â£25m, the fee due to his owners) would be mere impact players in a side that deployed Ronaldo through the centre and packed the midfield to prevent Xavi and Iniesta constructing an attacking platform for Barca’s Three Amigos.”
Focusing on the Catalans, Sid Lowe sings the praises of Andres Iniesta. “Iniesta is the apple of everyone’s eye, even in Madrid where uniquely he is a Barcelona player you are allowed to love.” is vying for the Golden Shoe, the trinket for the most potent striker in domestic football across Europe. It is quite a comeback, even for a man who measures his career by its acts of defiance.” While looking at the likely tactics to be deployed by Barca, Duncan White suggests that both Yaya Toure and Seydou Keita will be forced out of position, to line up in defence on Wednesday night in Rome.
Ian Hawkey compares and contrasts Cristiano Ronaldo and Leo Messi. “The pin-up footballers of the 2009 Champions League final have in common their brilliance in the dribble, but their techniques are utterly distinct.” While, stepping back even further, Hugh concludes that “at their best, Manchester United can perform with as much panache as Barcelona and they are capable of more athletic surge, more besieging urgency than the pride of Catalonia.”
Already the FA Cup final is starting to gather attention, Paul Wilson kicking off the analysis hoping that Everton are rewarded for their endevour. “Kenwright and Moyes deserve something tangible for their sterling work, and few sides do gutsy underdog better than the spikier of the final’s two sets of blues.” Keeping with the Toffees, Marouane Fellaini has a chin-wag with
After praising David Moyes’ achievement at Goodison, Ian Bell speculates over the Scots’ future. “Moyes could remain at a grateful Goodison for a long time to come. He might pick up a minor trophy here and there. But he knows the score: Everton’s limits are strictly defined… Why not Moyes for Celtic? A return to roots, a guarantee of European football, and a support desperate to restore its self-image? It was good enough for Martin O’Neill.” But, according to Rob Beasley, good news for Evertonians may be around the corner with news that “Peter Reid is trying to buy his beloved Everton… Company sources say the response from potential investors has been ‘very good’ and that the firm will make its move once funds are in place.”
In other news, self-confessed Millwall fan Rod Liddle delivers some straight-talking ahaead of the Lions League One play-off final with Scunny. “God preserve us from lunchtime kick-offs. You have to set your alarm for about four in the morning to fit in the same quantity of alcohol that you would normally consume before a game. And you really need that quantity of alcohol because this is the playoff final and the only way to endure it is through a deadened, numb, haze.” And, changing tracks once more, Alan Hubbard pokes holes at England’s 2018 World Cup bid. “What England’s bid lacks is a true figurehead, a Sebastian Coe of football. There is no one â€“ unless you hark back to 1966 and call up Sir Bobby Charlton â€“ still sufficiently revered around the world to carry it off.”
Finally, with the transfer window creeping open once more, the Sunday’s are jam-packed with unlikely transfer stories that help sell papers.
The it-will-never-happen story of the day is delivered by Paul Smith in the Sunday Mirror farting “DavidÂ Beckham is set to join Chelsea as part of Carlo Ancelottiâ€™s blueprint for the club. The Italian coach will make an audacious attempt to hijack Beckhamâ€™s return loan deal to AC Milan and bring him back to the Premier League in the January transfer window.”
Following closely behind is the NOTW’s claim that “Jermaine Pennant is set for a shock switch to Spanish football – with both Madrid clubs keen to sign him this summer,” while Chris Bascombe’s reports that “Xabi Alonso has stunned Liverpool by admitting he wants to quit Anfield. The Spanish midfielder is ready to hand in a written transfer request.”
The Manchester City chequebook is apparently being readied for a Â£21million bid for Emmanuel Adebayor according to Aidan McGee, while over in The People Steve Bates splashes with news that “Manchester City are ready to offer Gareth Barry Â£19million in wages to nick the Aston Villa star from under Liverpool’s noses.” David Harrison urges the Citizens to take stock in-house with rumours that “Sir Alex Ferguson has been monitoring [Steven] Ireland’s situation – and is lining up a shock summer swoop.”
In other news, Aidan McGee continues to happily spend other people’s money suggesting that Chelsea are prepared to spend Â£50million on Atletico Madrid’s Sergio Aguero and Â£25million on Wolfsburg’s Edin Dzeko. Rob Draper claims that Arsenal are “poised to make a move for Ajax centre-half Thomas Vermaelen as [Wenger] tests the board’s willingness to back him in the transfer market this summer.” And a bidding war is set to play out for the David Suazo services, David Harrison printing “David Moyes is facing strong competition in his bid to sign David Suazo. The Inter Milan striker is also wanted by Manchester City as well as Spanish clubs Sevilla, Villarreal and Atletico Madrid.”