Reflections on England, Ireland & Scotland defeats as Mourinho & Blanc are both tipped to replace Fergie & the Sundays spew an insane amount of transfer lies

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “I feel we are only halfway through. The objective is to qualify. There are 180 minutes. Ninety to go. The Irish played very well and are very much able to react so we must be vigilant. Of course, I would prefer to be more than 1-0 up.” – Raymond Domenech.

Runner-up: “I thought I might have a chance this week. I was quite disheartened when I didn’t get the call. Obviously, Glen Johnson has been flying, Wes Brown plays Champions League football for Manchester United. I thought maybe I was next in line, or Gary Neville, but Mr Capello decided to call in Luke Young and he turned it down. It’s been a hard couple of years because even when I was at the top of my game I didn’t get a run out. Right-back is where I play for England and I thought I had done well. When I was with the England team I was voted second-best player of the year. People know what I can do. In one of Capello’s speeches he said I had missed a couple of games but last season I played about 50 times for City. If he doesn’t think I am ready, when my chance comes I will take it like I did two years ago.” – Micah Richards.


Today’s overview: Advantage France, and the Republic have a massive hill to now climb to reach the World Cup.

With the benefit of hindsight, Amy Lawrence was quick to chirp “for all the skin-tingling atmosphere of Croke Park, all the early bravado, there was a nagging sense of inevitability as France began to piece together some slick passing.” A similar writing on the wall analysis was divvied up by hough Ireland competed ferociously, they were undone by their more technically gifted opponents and Anelka deserved the bit of luck that came his way when he scored on 72 minutes.”

The Irish Independent appear to have little hope of an Irish comeback in France. “Ireland have an unlikely shot at salvation in Paris on Wednesday night but they will need to hope that this French side is even more casual than they were last night. They will also need a creative spark.”

By contrast, the Telegraph’s Rory Smith is found sucking hard on some seriously sour French grapes in the wake of Ireland’s defeat. “What [Trapattoni] could do with the resources available to Domenech, both in terms of facilities and personnel, is anyone’s guess. What Domenech has done, on the other hand, is painfully obvious. He has created a side which is a shadow of the country’s golden generation, one of bountiful technical ability but bereft of impetus, of direction, of identity… Ireland, on the other hand, under the guidance of Trapattoni, know exactly who, and what, they are. They are greater than the sum of their parts, doughty and resilient, and possessed of a ferocious work ethic.”

England’s second string lost 1-nil to Brazil in a friendly, yet the papers are forced to try and draw conclusions from the match.

Deadpan, Jonathan Northcroft attempts to dismiss the exercise of conclusion-drawing. “What did this game show? That the world’s most historically successful and currently top-ranked side can outclass England’s reserves, that Capello’s attack struggles when Wayne Rooney is crowded out and that Wes Brown, like a cheap electrical item, is prone to sudden malfunction. Having knowledge confirmed is always useful, though it could be argued there was no need to traipse to a desert three time zonesdistant to get it.”

Singing from the same hymn-sheet is Duncan White. “Little should be read into the result – if these two sides meet again in the summer in South Africa it will be an entirely different proposition. The Qataris had intended this as a showpiece contest… What they got was a low-tempo, occasionally casual, Brazil failing to kill off a dull, hard-working England.”

Next, Paul Wilson observed that “Darren Bent did not make an irresistible case for further consideration, though neither did anyone else, and one or two defenders exposed by Nilmar’s electric pace may have harmed their confidence if not their international future. Actually that is one thing England did learn that could stand them in good stead in South Africa: Nilmar is both quick and intelligent.”

Preaching the other side of the same coin, Gary Lineker added “the real winners for England were the players who didn’t face Brazil last night. Men like David Beckham and Joe Cole must surely have increased their chances of being on the plane to South Africa. Those who question Rio Ferdinand’s place in the team must stop. If Ferdinand is fit, he is an absolute shoo-in for to be a World Cup starter.”

Looking further into the distance, Paul Hayward fears for the Three Lions should they face Brazil in South Africa. “The regulars were saved this culture shock. The back-up men, plus Rooney and Barry, absorbed it for them. The skill and possession deficits would narrow in a World Cup game between first XIs, but the ghosts of old indignities still linger.”

Swimming against the tide, David Walsh manages to buck the negative trend by claiming England can be enthused after their Brazilian defeat. “This was, more or less, Dunga’s best side against England’s reserves and you sense that Rio Ferdinand, John Terry, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard would not have been overwhelmed by what they saw from the World Cup favourites.”

Wayne Rooney, one of the few England regulars to play against the Samba Boys, was absolved of any wrongdoing by Kevin McCarra. “Rooney is best equipped to galvanise a team through skill rather than by undertaking quasi-managerial duties… Rooney was handicapped and got no response from Darren Bent, the first man to be substituted. Of course, he was in a line-up composed largely of fringe players.” Following suit, Henry Winter quipped “forget about ’12 men.’ Wayne Rooney could have been forgiven for mouthing ‘one man’ into a television camera here last night.”

Scotland are in turmoil.

After taking a battering at the hands of lowly Wales on Saturday, Moira Gordon from The Scotsman sums up the mood of the Tartan Army. “That’s six friendlies without victory and, as far as the Tartan Army are concerned, enough is finally enough. So much for the shoots of recovery George Burley insists were evident in the final World Cup qualifiers against Macedonia and Holland. This was a capitulation devoid of any positives and the Scotland fans made their feelings known as they booed the team, heckled the SFA hierarchy and unambiguously demanded that the manager vacate his role.”

Michael Grant was left to draw similar results. “Burley’s dire record in charge now stands at only three wins in 14 matches after his team was torn apart by a weakened Welsh side with an average age of only 22. Scotland supporters also turned against him for the first time, chanting abuse and calling for him to be sacked or resign.”

All of a sudden, discussion of Manchester United’s life after Sir Alex is beginning to gather some serious column inches.

The Sunday Times’ Duncan Castles splashes with a tabloid worthy piece shouting “Jose Mourinho has targeted Manchester United as the ideal venue for a return to English football, and is optimistic that Sir Alex Ferguson will recommend him as his successor when he retires.” Showing the broadsheets how it’s done though is the Mirror’s Simon Mullock, who trumpets the line that “Laurent Blanc has emerged to top the Manchester United short-list of managers to succeed Sir Alex Ferguson. Sunday Mirror Sport can reveal that the Frenchman’s incredible record at Bordeaux has put him firmly in the frame to follow Fergie – ahead of Jose Mourinho and Carlos Queiroz.”

In other domestic news, a slightly over-excited Paul Wilson assesses whether Chelsea could scoop the treble this season, before Duncan White delivers news which will surely irk Sir Alex Ferguson. “The Premier League passed a motion at its board meeting on Thursday to make post-match interviews with rights holders mandatory… [Managers] will be forced to speak to Match of the Day and Radio Five Live. Any manager who does not will be in breach of Premier League rules and subject to a sliding scale of punishments.”

Fulham boss Roy Hodgson has an in-depth chin-way with Paul Hayward on managing levels of expectation at Fulham and his position as a potential successor to Fabio Capello.

In a brilliant offbeat article, petrol-head Referees are a very strange bunch of people that no one ever sees outside the confines of a footballing ground. Seriously. I once met a man who sexes the queen’s ducks for a living. I really do know a pox doctor’s clerk. I also know a butcher and a lorry driver and a man who puts food in his mouth and then earns a living from telling people what it tastes like. But I don’t know a single football ref. I’ve never even met anyone who knows one.”

As usual, the Sundays are jam-packed with transfer lies.

Simon Mullock claims in the Sunday Mirror that “Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez is hoping to raise £15million from the sale of misfits Andrea Dossena and Ryan Babel – and wants to splash some of the cash on Dutchman Eljero Elia.” The Mirror then cough up the news that “Manchester City will make a £20million January bid for Borussia Dortmund defender Neven Subotic.”

And the Mirror cannot seem to put the brakes on this Sunday, Anthony Clavane farting the gossip “Manchester United are set to launch a £15million bid for Bayern Munich star Philipp Lahm this January,” while Steve Goodman reports that West Ham star Valon Behrami eyeing move to bigger club and the red-top also claims that “Philippe Senderos has declared he aims to quit Arsenal during the January transfer window.”

But the Sunday Mirror holds nothing on the News of the World, whose hacks go into overdrive with their transfer nonsense. Their lies seems to have no end.

Martin Handy claims “Liverpool are ready to poach Eduardo from rivals Arsenal in a £10million deal,” Aiden McGee reports “Manchester City have agreed a £36million deal to sign Benfica’s Angel Di Maria in January,” Neil Ashton details how “Manchester United and Chelsea are locked in a £20million battle for Everton teen Jack Rodwell,” Alex Shaw says “Darius Vassell hopes Bolton will end his Turkish nightmare in January, Neil Ashton bleats “Chelsea must match Sergio Aguero’s huge £6.5million a year wages to land the Atletico Madrid ace,” and the paper also states that “Tottenham are set to renew their interest in Sevilla winger Diego Capel.”

Yet there is more!

The NOTW continue with news that “Alex McLeish has stepped up his interest in Celtic’s £7million-rated winger Aiden McGeady,” we learn that “Paul Hart’s sights are on a double January swoop for French young guns Loic Remy and Hatem Ben Arfa,” while a nameless article boasts that “Arsenal plan to bid £5million for Brazilian ace Maicosuel.”

Breathe… and it continues!

Neil Ashton poops “Chelsea are also leading the chase for wonderkid Romelu Lukaku,” while Adam Marshall scribbles “Bayern Munich youngster David Alaba has confessed that his dream is to play for Arsenal.”