“Tractor Roy”

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “I need a regular place in the team to offer my best level and if that cannot happen at Manchester [United] I believe it will be my last year [at the club]. Out of respect to the fans and the history of Manchester United I do not want to leave the club in a bad way. But in my situation an exit will be the best solution. I have many offers already and not only from Spain. I have to see which club I can go to. It’s not only Real Madrid and Inter who want me and I need to study the options now, not just from a money point of view, but also because I want to play for a team with a good project and in a country that is perfect for my family. In particular, I want somewhere where my daughter is comfortable.” – Carlos Tevez.

Runner-up: “We [Barcelona] are going for everything this season.” – Andres Iniesta.

Today’s overview: It may not have been pretty, but Manchester United’s win over Portsmouth has left some ready to argue that Liverpool’s title challenge is as good as over. But muscling the champions-elect for column inches this Thursday is old-boy Roy Keane, who last night agreed to take of the manager’s job at Ipswich Town.

Although Manchester United emerged victorious over Pompey, The malaise around Old Trafford is hard to explain… but it can be discerned in the fitful contributions of Cristiano Ronaldo and the unease in the stands about the intensifying debate over Carlos Tevez and Dimitar Berbatov.” On the same theme Daniel Taylor observed Sir Alex’s demeanour during last night’s frustrating victory, reporting how the Scot “looked like a man who had just been tipped off there were teenagers stealing the apples from the bottom of his garden.”

Yet there is a growing sense of inevitably in the title race this Thursday. United are not going to lose two league games. Maybe one, but not two.” While Sam Wallace concluded “entertainment? Head west to Anfield. Trophies? The Premier League trophy looks even more safe on its shelf at Old Trafford after last night.”

Focusing on United’s forwards, Henry Winter gushes over Wayne Ronney’s performance in the Telegraph. “Rooney last night embodied every quality the Stretford End adores in those who wear the famous red: technique, work-rate, team-mindedness, a predatory touch and a lust for victory.” While on the news that Carlos Tevez is set to leave Old Trafford, Daniel Taylor comments “the partnership between Rooney and Berbatov has failed to ignite, the two players combining directly for only one goal all season, but it has become clear to Tevez that he is increasingly seen by Ferguson as the odd man out.”

Staying with United, Stuart James looks at the effect of a £1 a game increase in the price of season tickets at Old Trafford next year. “With around 55,000 season-ticket holders from the start of next season, increasing the prices by £1 a game will make United an extra £1.045m from Premier League matches and, potentially, around the same again from cup competitions.”

Martin Samuel features Paul Scholes following his 600th game for Manchester United. “He has always been more interested in serving the team than servicing his ego and, those looking for a celebratory flamboyance in his game will have been disappointed. White boots with a red tongue were about the size of it. Even his haircut has not changed in all his years at Old Trafford. No harsh number ones or experiments. He is that wonderful contradiction: almost an anti-footballer off the field, and a pure footballer on it.”

Reporting from Stamford Bridge, Dominic Fifield observed how Chelsea’s title challenge “was choked last night by a wonderfully rugged and committed Everton team to leave the hosts frustrated and forlorn.” Paul Hayward seizes on the result to herald that “the precursor to the FA Cup final was a demonstration of how tough David Moyes’ Everton will be as Chelsea’s Wembley opponents.” Matt Hughes seconds that motion writing “on this evidence winning the FA Cup will not be as straightforward as many imagined.”

Still chewing over Arsenal’s 4-all draw at Anfield, Sam Wallace points an accusing finger at the Reds’ full-backs. “Essentially it was the lapses from the full-backs that let Arsenal into a game they had no right to draw – Arshavin’s finishing aside – and if it is Aurelio and Arbeloa who are malfunctioning, that tells us something about the pressure on Benitez’s team.” Fellow Independent hack James Lawton also comments on the Liverpool-Arsenal match, looking to sour the hype surrounding the game. “The game was absorbing and often thrilling but it wasn’t great because it lacked a vital ingredient: the balance and challenge imposed by a decent level of defence… nor was it English because Liverpool and Arsenal started a total of one Englishman each.”

Roy Keane is back in football management after takng over at Portman Road, with Louise Taylor celebrating the new union. “A devoted Brian Clough disciple, Keane is commendably dedicated to precisely the sort of purist pass-and-move football which Ipswich Town are all about. And whereas many players and managers regard history as bunk, it remains vitally important to Keane.”

Looking forensically at Keane’s appointment, Keane is inheriting “a similar situation, but without the large transfer funds, that he took on at Sunderland three years ago, when the club were bottom of the Championship. Keane persuaded a club bereft of hope and optimism to believe in themselves again.” The issue of funds is also raised by Colin Young, arguing “if he can once again find a bottomless pit of cash, Keane has proved he is one of the best qualified to spend his way into the top flight.” While I admire Roy’s desire to be a winner but his aloofness is beyond belief sometimes. To last, he will have to develop his people skills. I am surprised he is coming back to management so quickly, but the one thing he does have in common with others is that the game is his drug.”

Once again the tabloids peddle transfer rumours that are no more than likely to come to nothing. According to the Daily Mail, “Lokomotiv Moscow goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic claims he is being lined up for a move to Tottenham… [while] Espanyol goalkeeper Carlos Kameni has put Newcastle and Blackburn on alert with his interest in a move.”

The Mirror also have a couple of transfer stories, first reporting that “Arsene Wenger is tracking CSKA Moscow’s teenage striker Tomas Necid.” And Alan Nixon claiming that “Sir Alex Ferguson is signing a Brazilian teenager – Corinthians centre-half Jose Rodolfo Pires Ribeiro Dodo.”