The Seasons are all Messed Up

As I sit here looking out of the window of my Siberia Manchester home on this late-March morning, I ask myself but one question: “Why the hell is it snowing outside?”

Yes, global-warming, global-cooling or just the sun playing silly buggers, there’s no doubt that the seasons are all messed up at the moment.

Perhaps it is because we have almost got the Premier League wrapped up and it isn’t even April yet or perhaps it is because there’s an International break but the journalists, desperate to find a story to fill those column inches, have decided Silly Season, which is usually reserved for those months between May and August, should also be brought forward by a month or two.

Looking at the “papers” this morning, I see that we’re still, apparently, looking into bringing in Stoke’s goalkeeper Asmir Begovic and this is “proved” by the presence of a United scout at Bosnia’s match against Greece the other day.

We’re apparently also looking at Benfica defender Ezequiel Garay and Porto’s Alex Sandro with this latter touted as a possible replacement for Patrice Evra.

I have no doubt at all that Fergie and his staff are watching players all over the world at all times but funds are limited as are squad places, these three represent the tip of an iceberg that will, unlike its globally warmed counter-parts, only grow as the summer (should it ever make an appearance) progresses.

It is a fact (i.e. I have just made this up) that 99% of these stories end up being complete fabrication on the part of the journalists and, even if not entirely without substance, rarely lead to an actual signing. Whatever signings Fergie makes this summer will likely to contain at least a couple completely out of left-field and all these “in-the-know” journalists won’t be able to point to a single reference to them in the articles they have published between now and August.

It’s all good fun, though, just remember to have a rather large bowl of salt handy when you read them although, given the current conditions, rock-salt may be more appropriate.

What’s With Wayne?

Since Rooney’s somewhat startling omission from the starting eleven against Real Madrid on Tuesday night and Fergie’s self-imposed media ban since then, the press have gone into overdrive and have not only decided that Wayne Rooney is leaving Man Utd but have even suggested places he might go and how much he will cost.

They have even taken into account whether or not these clubs could afford to pay him the kind of wages he has become accustomed to at United in these austere and FFP Regulated times.

Woah there, tiger!

A player was left on the bench for a match – admittedly a big player and a very big match but Kagawa was also benched despite scoring a hat-trick in his last game and costing us a fair packet to land in the summer, Evans was also benched despite being a colossus in defence for us this season, Valencia was also benched despite being a generally consistently high performer, Young was also benched despite… well… he was benched.

Are all these players facing the exit door too?

I do appreciate that none are of the high profile and of the same ability as Rooney and of the lot of them, Rooney’s omission was the most surprising but get a grip guys!

At least wait until Sir Alex has spoken on the subject before putting Rooney in your team sheets for PSG’s match against Nancy this weekend!

Which is what I have done so I was eager to see what Fergie had to say about all things Rooney in his press conference this morning.

And I wasn’t disappointed. Fergie was superb in his press conference this morning. He cut straight to the chase, told the reporters gathered that Wayne is going nowhere, that there are no issues between Rooney and himself (indeed, Fergie banned journalists from two newspapers from this press conference and all press conferences in future until they apologise for suggesting that there were any problems) and said that the reason for leaving Rooney out was purely tactical and that this was all explained to Rooney beforehand and he was “absolutely fine” with the decision.

Fergie ended by saying that “Rooney will be here next season, you have my word on that”.

Given that Rooney currently has two and a half years on his current deal, there’s probably not a great surprise about that so I would expect speculation to resurface in twelve months’ time!

Is Someone Taking The Mick Here?

A Load of Old Ballacks

I know that we didn’t exactly set the world alight with our signings last season and the signing of Michael Owen on a free was a bit of a stunner for everyone but this is getting a bit ridiculous.

The other week, all the talk was that we would be in for Joe Cole on a free transfer. OK. I can just about get my head around that one. He’s a decent player, still only 28 years old and would certainly provide a bit of something different in attack.

The other day, I heard we were in for Michael Ballack and that one is surely a non-starter? He’s too old, too injured and too… well… Michael Ballackish for my liking. If there’s anything we need in midfield (like a bit of pace and artistry) then it most certainly won’t be provided by Ballack.

Yesterday took the biscuit though as I read that Raul was about to be released by Real Madrid and would therefore be available on a free. Naturally, we are “monitoring the situation”.

Give me a break. What’s going on here? Are we running some kind of retirement home for crocked has-beens?

I don’t know if anyone has noticed but Fergie has been bringing in an awful lot of younger players recently, he’s rebuilding for the future. Michael Owen was a convenient stop-gap because, having lost Tevez and Ronaldo, we looked a little short up-front and we needed a bit of proven quality up there.

I don’t think for one minute that it signalled a new transfer policy of only signing every other club’s rejects.

That’s Manchester City’s job.

Troublecausing MEN at it Again

In lieu of any real news on the Manchester United front, the people at the Manchester Evening News have decided to try to drum up a bit of their own.

Yesterday there was a pointless article by Stuart Mathieson on how the Red Knights are getting ready to put their bid to the Glazers (yawn). How about come back and report when/if they actually DO put in a bid and let us know the outcome? That’s called NEWS!

Today, they have put up a questionaire that they would like the Manchester United supporters to complete.

It all starts off innocently enough.

“How would you rate the season overall?” is the first question.

It then asks you to give marks out of ten for the players. As if this makes any difference to anybody anywhere.

Then “Who is your favourite player?” ooo… now let me guess who might come out on top there.

It then goes on to ask some pretty poor taste questions such as “Should United sell Berbatov?” and “Who was the biggest disappointment?” and “How much longer will Scholes/Giggs/Neville continue to play for?”

And then, right at the very bottom, we come to the REAL purpose behind all the nonsense.

“What is your attitude to the Glazers?”

“What is your attitude towards the Red Knights proposed takeover bid?”

Expect an article next week saying that “90% of Manchester United supporters strongly oppose the Glazers and 90% are strongly in favour of the Red Knights’ bid”.

If, after months of anti-Glazer/pro-MUST/Red Knights articles appearing in the very same paper these figures somehow miraculously show the opposite scenario then expect an article saying, “Wayne Rooney: The Fans’ Favourite!”

Is La Liga The Place To Be?

La Liga (Basically)

An article in today’s Daily Mail claims that La Liga is the place to be for top footballers and cites the examples of Ronaldo, Kaka, Villa and Fabregas as examples of top players all wanting to play (or stay) in Spain.

Looking at the Barcelona and Real Madrid teams, it is certainly hard to argue that a lot of the best players in the world do indeed play there. But is La Liga itself actually a better League?

Arsene Wenger certainly doesn’t think so and he said recently words to the effect that La Liga is basically two teams and then the rest finish miles behind.

A look at last season’s standings certainly bears this out. Champions Barca (99 points), Runners-up Real Madrid (96 points), third placed Valencia (71 points). That’s twenty-five points between second and third.

It’s like the SPL with Sun.

However, there is a much more important reason why some of the top players are all heading for Spain at the moment and it is something that makes it very difficult for English clubs to compete for these players and that is the Income Tax difference between the two countries.

The top tax rate in Spain at the moment is 30% but the top tax rate in the UK is 50%.

What this means is that a top player in England would have to be paid nearer £140,000 a week to earn about the same as a player paid £100,000 per week in Spain.

It doesn’t tell the whole story, of course, but I’d be prepared to bet a pound to a penny that it is a major consideration.

Pointless Press #1

The first article in the Pointless Press archives goes to an article appearing in today’s Daily Mail and is a great piece of fiction written by Matt Somerford.

You can read the article here.

Basically, Mr Somerford is saying that Gary Neville is probably feeling a bit upset that Fergie did not appeal his sending off against Barnsley in the Carling Cup this week and that Fergie’s inaction on that score probably means that Gary Neville is now being viewed as surplus to requirements and already has one foot through the exit door.

That United have since said that they will be “challenging” the yellow card dished out to Fabio when the card should have been shown to Rafael is supposedly going to make Neville even more miffed.

None of this has come from Sir Alex Ferguson or from Gary Neville, it is pure fiction on the part of the writer.

Firstly, Fergie is probably wise not to rock the FA boat any more than he has done in recent weeks. His comments after the match that the referee was probably right in the current climate to send Neville off for the tackle were not intended to be a slap in the face for Gary Neville, they were intended to put to bed any possibility of the press twisting what he said into some kind of anti-referee rant. Something Fergie doesn’t need at the moment.

Secondly, Gary Neville is still a highly valued member of the squad. Fergie is loyal to his players to the point where it is almost a failing but it is fair to say that at 34 years of age, Gary’s best days are now behind him. He was never going to be a first team regular this season. He has spent a lot of time out injured in recent seasons and during his absence, the team moved on, replacements were recruited and Fergie is pressing ahead with making them fully-fledged first teamers.

If Mr Somerford is hoping that predicting the departure of a 34 year old with about seven months of his contract left to run represents some kind of “scoop”, he’s a sad man.

Thirdly, the Fabio/Rafael mix-up WAS a mistake by the referee, there are no ifs or buts about it. He booked the wrong man. It is a simple mistake because I cannot see any difference between the two either and in Manchester United’s defence, they are playing by the rules here because if they sent Fabio out wearing Rafael’s shirt should Fabio end up with a totting-up ban, I doubt anyone would even realise!

Each case has to be judged on its own merits and United’s decision to appeal one decision is in no way a sleight on the player involved in an incident that they don’t challenge unless Mr Somerford is suggesting that Fergie should challenge every red card ever issued to a United player?

Hardly a policy to make him more popular with the FA!

Anyway, technically, you can’t actually “challenge” a yellow card and I am not sure how the rules stand on this one but surely if the wrong man is booked then the FA should overturn the booking and hand it to the correct man of their own accord anyway without prompting from the football club concerned?

In the current climate, the card given to Gary was probably deserved, as soon as I saw the tackle I thought, “Oh dear, that looked bad”, although Mr Somerford thought it was “a little harsh”.

Replays showed that whilst the tackle itself was not particularly bad, it was the way Neville seemed to bring his leg back and then kick forwards with studs up into his opponent’s leg that landed him in hot water. Quite frankly, it would be very difficult to argue Gary’s case and if an appeal was made which was subsequently turned down then the FA could actually increase the ban handed to Gary for a “frivolous” appeal so the whole process ends up counter-productive.

Gary Neville is one of the more intelligent footballers out there and has been around the block enough times to know how things work.

This is just another mischievous journalist trying to create an imaginary rift between two men who probably have nothing but respect and admiration for each other.

Shame on you Mr Somerford.