United overcome their “tremor of uncertainty,” Manchester City target Wenger, plus the new proposals to tackle racism and poor referees

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “I have heard the rumours about Wenger leaving for the past three years. If he left the club then of course I would consider my own future and whether I would leave the club. I am happy at Arsenal and believe that we and Barcelona play the best football in Europe. But Wenger is a main part of that.” – Cesc Fabregas.

Runner-up: “Since last year there have been firm bids from Inter Milan and Manchester City who offered a golden deal. Didier was OK but Chelsea directors said ‘No.’ They refused an £18million transfer offer. It proves how much they trust Didier. Roman Abramovich was right to keep Didier because the team are winning again since he’s back in. Didier is one of the 10 best paid players in the world but humility is part of his personality. I want him to become an African Michel Platini when his career is over, a decision-taker… The fact that he was told to sit on the bench had nothing to do with sport. It was just a problem between two men who couldn’t work together.” – Drogba’s agent, Thierno Seydi.

Today’s overview: Consensus opinion today sees many hacks calling time on the title race following United’s win at Newcastle.

Clutching at straws for a more competitive race for the title, Kevin McCarra kicks off the analysis of last night’s match at St. James’ Park saying “it was not to be the night that prised open the contest for the title, but at least there was a tremor of uncertainty.” Sam Wallace was far less generous over any excitement in the title race concluding “are United feeling the pressure from Chelsea and Liverpool’s wins on Tuesday night? It did not look like it. Can they still be caught now that their seven-point lead, not forgetting that game in hand, has been restored? The chances look slim.” While Louise Taylor kept her post-match analysis much more focused, reporting that the highlight of the evening was that a “washed up winger recently shown the door by Germany’s FC Schalke proves that Van der Sar is mortal after all.”

In the latest dig at Liverpool, Laura Williamson wonders where all the local heroes are. “Since Liverpool won the 1996 FA Youth Cup with a team including Carragher, David Thompson and Michael Owen, which young Scousers have graduated to become Anfield legends? None. What went wrong?”

Turning to Manchester City, Paul Doyle laments Sparky’s decision to offload Jo in the winter sales. “City choosing to let Jo go on loan to Everton was stranger than Liverpool’s sale of Keane, but has attracted little criticism… lending him to another English team in the hope that he will come back more battle-hardened (or increase his value) makes sense, but why give him to direct rivals?” But the big rumours surrounding Eastlands appears in the Daily Mirror, Martin Lipman penning that “Arsene Wenger has been identified by Manchester City as their first choice to replace doomed Mark Hughes… Former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho, Croatia coach Slaven Bilic and even Diego Maradona are also on the shortlist being drafted by the Abu Dhabi money men.”

Writing in the Guardian, former Arsenal midfielder Martin Hayes expresses his concerns of the Cunners’ current predicament. “The problem appears to be that this current side has too many young players who are all being expected to mature on their own, without experienced voices guiding them on and off the pitch. That is a lot to ask and the players are clearly struggling.”

Following news earlier in the week over Setanta’s financial difficulties in paying the fees agreed under their new licensing deal with the Premier League, Paul Kelso today writes that the FA “is confident that it has robust guarantees to protect its £150 million contract with Setanta despite the broadcaster’s failure to make a scheduled payment of at least £10 million this week.”

Keeping on a financial footing, the Telegraph report that Liverpool has agreed a new £5 million sponsorship with the Bank of America as well as “a summer tour to the Far East for Rafael Benitez’s team.” while there maybe some good news in the offing for Hammers fans, Ken Dyer claiming “West Ham are believed to have held talks with more than five potential new owners ahead of a crucial court date in Iceland on Friday when the club’s holding company, Hansa, could be put into insolvency.”

What has happened to English grassroots football? In a worrying article in the Telegraph, Brian Moore announces how the Premier League intend to reduce the number of footballing academies across the country “believing that there is insufficient talent and, more particularly, insufficiently talented coaches to properly develop the cream of youth football.”

New footballing directives seem to be being proposed on almost a daily basis, with Patryk Wasilewski today reporting how “Uefa will back referees who stop matches because of racist behaviour from fans.” And in another proposed change to the status quo, Ian Winrow writes that the League Managers Association have called for “a major overhaul of the system for training and assessing referees… [including] calls for a fast-track route for former players who want to take up the job, as well as a new complaints procedure that will give clubs, managers and players the right to comment on referees’ displays.”

The Daily Mail tell the story of how Eyal Berkovic has been found guilty in Israel of assaulting a football coach who substituted his son in schoolboy match. “In front of dozens of other parents, former Israel star Berkovic, 36, screamed at Etzioni: ‘I’ll screw you, I’ll see you are finished. I’ll come after you for the rest of your career.'”

The tabloids continue to push transfer gossip, with The Sun farting that “Chelsea are set to battle Juventus for Brazilian teen ace Lanyan. The Vasco De Gama full-back, tipped as the new Roberto Carlos, has earned rave reviews for his impressive youth team performances.” Gary Payne then quotes the discredited Sulaiman Al Fahim over reports that “Manchester City are set to make a spectacular £100million summer move for Lionel Messi.” While Antony Kastrinakis claims that “Harry Redknapp is eyeing a £5million swoop for Bordeaux hitman Marouane Chamakh.”