A new decade has crept up from seemingly nowhere, just as most of us are still getting used to the idea of a new millennium. At moments like this, we turn to reminisce of the ten years that have passed and reflect on times gone by. Picking an XI of Premier League players for these ten years seems like an unenviable task. However, after much consideration, plenty of soul-searching and the putting aside of many personal grievances, I have constructed a team. A team that does not only include players that have excelled from 2000-2009, but one that as a unit would be a formidable side of balance, power and attacking threat. So here we go:
There are any number of reasons to dislike Rio Ferdinand. From his failed attempt to become football’s equivalent of Mike Murphy in ‘Rio’s World Cup Wind-Ups’, to missing a drugs test due to a shopping trip, to kicking female stewards, he really does his best to test the public’s tolerance of him. Not to mention video-recorded frolics whilst holidaying with choirboys Kieron Dyer and Jody Morris amongst others, and a drink driving charge at the age of 18, which postponed an international debut. Before this descends into a rant, I must stop myself here. But you get the general idea. However, more worrying developments for Ferdinand is his on the field performances. His dip in form has been well documented, but is there any way way back for a player that 12 months ago was arguably the best centre-half in world football.
One Thomas Haynes Bayly wrote this commonly uttered phrase. No, I never heard of him either. But there is much truth in this statement. These days one way for a footballer to raise his profile, and become a favourite amongst supporters and pundit alike is to take a leave of absence for a couple of games. One might be injured, suspended or just decide that being teased about one’s new haircut is just not worth the hassle. Is the method of gaining plaudits by actually being out on the pitch and enhancing your reputation with outstanding performances old hat at this stage? Let us take a closer look.
There it was. It flashed across the bottom of my screen with the familiar yellow tag. Thursday the 11th of June 2009 would be a day I would never forget. These are the type of moves that sake the very foundations on which football is built. Where are they getting the money? How will he fit into the style of play? Will he settle in the area? But enough about Scott Dann’s thrilling £4 million switch to Birmingham from Coventry. Cristiano Ronaldo somehow managed to make the most predicable transfer of the 21st century drag out for over 2 years. His ambiguous comments about Madrid, claiming he is ‘happy at Manchester United’, questioning his manager’s tactics were just a few of the ploys he used to make himself even more desirable for Real Madrid. Did he even utter a word to thanks the club and manager that over the last 6 years made him the biggest name in football? Sure why would he?
Any time the camera focused on Alex Ferguson last Wednesday night, it showed him in an unusual pose. He was sitting down quietly. He looked lost, defeated, deflated. He realised soon after Samuel E’too’s 10th minute toe poke under Edwin van Der Saar that there was no way back. A one goal margin was all there was, but it seemed insurmountable. Ferguson’s teams have never known when they are beaten, as we have seen all too often over the last 20 years. Against Sheffield Wednesday in ’93, Bayern Munich in ’99, Tottenham ’01. Certain defeats turned into glorious triumph. But this Barcelona team was not for bullying.
More of the usual ‘mind games’ coming from the Manchester United camp last night, with news of Cristiano Ronaldo’s ankle needing strapping, and Nemanja Vidic holding his hamstring. They have tried calling the media’s bluff on too many occasions in the past. Not even Sky Sports fell for this one. And that says an awful lot. Those two will undoubtedly start and have been vital to the United cause since for the past three seasons. But it’s Ferguson’s promise of a start to two of the lesser lights in his vast squad that has given me reason to doubt the Scotsman’s decision in the biggest game in club football. Tonight’s Champion’s League Final in Rome against Barcelona.
Before people think that this blog is just another ABU site, that holds all things Manchester United with contempt, please read on.
The argument goes that this season has been noted for being very short on outstanding individuals. Ronaldo was head and shoulders above everyone last season, with 42 goals an phenomenal return at the highest level of the game. He even managed to miss a few penalties. But has it really? I think that there have been 5 stand out players in the league this season, and Ryan Giggs would certainly not be one of them.
When one has some time to kill (or waste as it should be known), You-tube is always a website that attracts those who are actually not sure what they want to see. We type in the name of one of Dutch footballs brightest talents, expecting to see some of his goals, tricks and flicks. Whilst we do get that, we are also treated to a collection of hip-hop videos and freestyle raps. To be fair it never did John Barnes any harm. Has Ryan Babel taken his eye off the ball this season? I have no doubt that Rafael Benitez’s music collection is sans a Tak Taki effort.
Luís Carlos Almeida da Cunha has been quiet too this year. Nani, as he is known to the masses, has been an outsider looking in at Manchester United pursuit of a 3rd successive Premier League crown. He’s played more cup games than league ones. That’s a sure sign in Alex Ferguson’s books that he doesn’t fancy you (see Darren Gibson as case in point). In between looking like Michael Jackson, he has only managed to start 5 Premier League games so far this season.
Let’s cut to the chase here. It was a stonewall, cast iron, whatever adjective you want to put on it penalty. Jagielka clearly caught Welbeck, who had an open goal after another one of Tim Howard’s patented rushes of blood (see March 2004 Old Trafford, August 2004 Reebok Stadium). But is there really any excuse for this reaction:
It’s not acceptable behaviour from a 67 year in any walk of life. Less acceptable when you take into consideration that he is a 67 year old knight of the realm, who is manager of the most popular team in the most popular sport in the world. Who is considered to be the one of the greatest managers in the history of the game, whose name is often mentioned amongst those such as Clough, Stein, Shankly, Paisley, Busby.