Tevez calls Neville a “boot-licker,” Manchester United secure bond issue & Arsenal’s crucial 15 days

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “My celebration was directed at Gary Neville. He acted like a complete sock-sucker [boot-licker] when he said I wasn’t worth £25 million just to suck up to the United manager [Sir Alex Ferguson]. I don’t know what the hell that idiot is talking about me for. I never said anything about him. I will never show a lack of respect towards anyone. Just as I was running off to celebrate the penalty I had scored, I came across Gary and I said to myself, ‘Shut your trap, keep quiet.’ I didn’t go overboard in my celebration and it was directed at Gary, not Ferguson, and not at the [United] fans.I think he [Neville] did the wrong thing because I was his team-mate and I never said anything bad about him. He was saying that Ferguson was right when he said that I wasn’t worth £25 million, when he was saying this and that . . . I always respected Neville. I was at lunch with the [City] players in the team hotel and all the papers were laid out. I read them — well, ‘read them’, because obviously I don’t read [English] — and my team-mates were telling me about it and asking what I thought. And I wondered to myself, ‘What’s the tarado [moron] talking about me for when I never said anything about him, when there was never any [issue] with us. It was a lack of respect for a compañero [fellow footballer], aside from the fact that we had won a lot of things together.” – Carlos Tevez.

Runner-up: “If I lose control of these multi-millionaires in the Manchester United dressing room then I’m dead. So I never lose control. If anyone steps out of my control, that’s them dead. Through my development, I’ve come across two issues – power and control. Control is important, very, very important. My control is the most important thing.” – Sir Alex Ferguson.

Today’s overview: Events over the past week dominate, with Gary Neville and Carlos Tevez taking centre stage and Arsenal’s title challenge analysed.

The lead story in The Times today is how the Glazer family have successfully raised their bond issue for Manchester United. James Ducker reports “The Glazer family were breathing a huge sigh of relief last night after a bond issue raised the £500 million investment they sought to get Manchester United’s spiralling debts under control. A formal announcement is due to be made when the New York Stock Exchange opens this morning. More than 50 low-risk investors, primarily insurers and pension-fund providers, have stumped up the cash at a fixed annual interest rate of 9 per cent, The Times understands. The interest must be paid quarterly.”

In a seperate article Helen Power analyses what it means for Manchester United. “All United have to do once the bond issue goes through is pay the interest on their debt every quarter and investors cannot touch them. The problem for United fans — who have long detested the Glazers for their perceived addiction to debt — is that it is a bad thing to give the family more freedom. The family will also almost certainly take advantage of that new freedom to spend as they wish to pay off some of the £202 million they owe to hedge-fund investors under the club’s payment-in-kind notes. If they do not, the interest rate on that debt will rise from 14.25 per cent to 16.25. What they do with the rest of their financial freedom will determine how good or bad the deal is for fans.”

Staying with United and the Quote of the day, Simon Barnes writes of Carlos Tevez’s brace against his old club on Tuesday night. “Revenge is one of the great motivations for success in sport, and perhaps in life. Some of the greatest things in sport have been achieved not out of pure love of success, but out of a base desire to put one over a cherished and hated adversary. Thus Carlos Tévez gave a prolonged and elaborate demonstration of la legge immutabile dell’ex, which states that a player invariably scores against his former club. The striker played for Manchester United, but they dispensed with him at the end of last season, not thinking he was worth the money. So he joined Manchester City, their newly rich rivals, and when the two met in the first leg of their Carling Cup semi-final on Tuesday, he was off his head with the desire for vengeance. He scored twice, and both times capered and gestured to all who rejected him.”

James Lawton in The Independent questions the motives of Gary Neville and wonders whether this kind of spat is good for the game. “In both cases, Mancini and Ferguson appear to have a clear obligation. It is to tell Tevez and Neville that it is time they grew up. Both are playing a silly game. But it is also a dangerous one.”

Kevin Garside also tries to put the dampners on the City-United spat. “What this pantomime tells us is that Tévez was deeply wounded by his treatment at Old Trafford, where he had hoped to stay. It also tells us that United care an awful lot more about City than they would have us believe.”

With Arsenal now top of the league, Matt Hughes pinpoints a crucial 15 days for the Gunners. “With nine of their first-team squad absent through injury, something has to give and in Arsenal’s case it will be the FA Cup, albeit with considerable regrets. Wenger will call on fringe players such as Lukasz Fabianski, Campbell, Silvestre and Carlos Vela for Sunday’s fourth-round tie away to Stoke City and is right to do so because his big names need rest before the demanding schedule of four huge league matches in the space of 15 days that awaits them. The FA Cup may be the last competition that Arsenal won, five years ago, but it is a sign of progress made that they have other priorities now.”

Sam Wallace also highlights the next four games for Arsene Wenger’s side. “The landscape looks very different from 2008 when United were far more dominant and Liverpool were strong enough to eliminate Arsenal from the Champions League. There is no doubt that the key factor in Arsenal’s resurgence has not been what they have done themselves but the extraordinary slippage of those above them.”

Henry Winter looks back at the seven words from Arsene Wenger that changed the Gunners season. “Trailing to Liverpool at Anfield on Dec 13, Arsenal’s players sloped into the dressing room at half-time to be met by a seething Arsène Wenger. ‘You don’t deserve to wear the shirt,’ he screamed. As this most cultured of managers rarely raises his voice, seven words dripping with acid burned into the consciences of his players, who tore into Liverpool after the break. Gone was their earlier diffidence, Arsenal passing the ball rather than the buck.”

Steven Howard also analyses the Gunners title charge. “Arsenal fans will be quietly hoping some minor misfortune befalls a certain Chelsea striker in his endeavours for the Ivory Coast over the next week or so. A pulled muscle, maybe. A little groin strain, perhaps. They certainly don’t want to see Drogba ‘not doing a lot’ again when the teams meet at Stamford Bridge on February 7. So let their good luck continue. An Arsenal title win will not only be a welcome and refreshing change but a timely reward for sensible housekeeping and a belief in youth in an era where success is mainly obtained via the bulging wallets of one billionaire or another.”

William Gallas’ tackle on Mark Davies is chewed over. Graham Poll writes: “I am surprised the FA appear to have deemed no action necessary in this case because a look at footage of the incident makes it abundantly clear to most that this was a bad foul.” But, Andy Townsend voices his opinion that: “I am not going to condemn William Gallas for the tackle because I have made tons like that myself. Sometimes as a victim you come out of it OK and sometimes you come out of it feeling six studs from your opponent on the top of your foot. I am glad to hear Mark Davies has not broken anything but Gallas was just late, his feet were not in or around the knee area and he was not trying to fold him in half.”

After playing his part in the win over Spurs on Wednesday, Alberto Aquilani speaks in positive tones to the English press. Aquaman: “As a foreign player, moving to a new country in a new league with different team-mates, it would have been easier for me if I was starting my Liverpool career in a winning team. It hasn’t been that way, so the pressure has been on me to produce performances straight away. When I have played, though, I know I can do a lot, lot better.”

Mike Dickson in the Daily Mail catches up with former Liverpool legend Robbie Fowler in Oz. Fowler: “I first came down here for a week to see what it was like and if I’m honest I didn’t really like it at first,’ he admits. ‘I thought it was too quiet and remote and everywhere seemed a bit dead.But the more I’ve been here, the more I’ve liked it. The kids are very adaptable to where they are, but I think my wife still needs a bit of convincing. It’s not like back at home where there’s more stuff to do and more families that we know, so she’s still adjusting.” 

Harry Redknapp welcomes David Gold and David Sullivan back to Upton Park in his weekly column in The Sun. “It may sound like a cliched script from EastEnders but to have West Ham back in the hands of people from the area will be a major boost to them and also makes a stand in the game as a whole. Foreign players have taken over on the pitch, more and more foreign managers are running the biggest clubs but at least a stand is being made in the boardroom.”

The main transfer story of the day is West Ham’s pursuit of Ruud van Nistelrooy, which was originally reported in Spanish newspaper AS yesterday. New Hammers owner David Sullivan is quoted: “We’ve offered £100,000-a-week to a player and we are still not sure we are going to get him. It’s a very special player. He’s got the choice of almost every club in Europe. He has played at the highest level. He’s down to three clubs and West Ham are the only English club still in the hunt for him.” Simon Cass in the Mail writes that Spurs are still the favourites for the former Manchester United striker.

The Daily Mail report that Hatem Ben Arfa is close to a loan switch to Everton and Stoke are closing in on David James.

In The Times Window Watch, we learn that Wolfsbrug are after Philippe Senderos and Sunderland want Habib Beye. The Sun report that Manchester City have targeted Middlesbrough winger Adam Johnson and Sunderland have signed Sheffield United defender Matt Kilgallon.

Looking ahead to the FA Cup, David Hopps previews Fulham’s visit to Accrington Stanley. “It is difficult to decide what will petrify Fulham about their FA Cup tie against Accrington Stanley tomorrow. Perhaps it will be the scars down the centre of the pitch, a reminder of the emergency repairs that were necessary earlier this season when the drains collapsed. Perhaps it is the snow that still lies in small piles around the touchline and which, given the good fortune of cold Lancashire nights, the groundstaff might just manage to stop melting before the weekend. But the odds are that the dread will ­begin long before Fulham’s coach comes to a halt under the advertising hoarding: ‘Balti Stan: The Big Sunday Buffet.'” Also in the Guardian, Harry Pearson mulls over fat footballers.

Finally, after 50 years in the game, David Pleat chooses his dream team. “These days, football is more knee-jerk, whether it is chairmen firing managers or managers being over-ambitious too quickly. Back then we all built our reputations at a club before moving on to “bigger things”. QPR, Sunderland, Southampton and Brighton all tried to convince me to leave Luton but, when I eventually did move on, it was to a really big club in Tottenham. These days, managers forge reputations quickly and lose them even quicker. I’ve enjoyed my time in the game, whether it be managing Luton in the top flight, taking Spurs to Wembley or, as director of football, pinpointing players such as Jermain Defoe, Paul Robinson and Robbie Keane with real sell-on value. I’ve worked with some fantastic players over the years, the likes of – Chris Waddle, Ossie Ardiles, Ricky Hill and Des Walker to name a few.”