Between the Lines

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Archive for November, 2009

Six conclusions from the weekend

Posted by hakanrylander on November 30, 2009

1. After a comfortable 4-1 victory I suppose only a bona fide whiner could complain about our system. But why the * did we line up in this cautious way? If I’m generous I might call it 4-3-3, but it was perilously close to 4-5-1. Against Portsmouth! It would have been fine if someone from central midfield had moved forward a lot in support of Rooney, but it didn’t happen and you wouldn’t expect so with Carrick, Scholes and Fletcher in those positions. Maybe Ferguson felt a need to contain Pompey’s electrifying passing game. But, frankly, I didn’t see the point.

2. The signing of Antonio Valencia was a master stroke.

3. Thomas Kuszczak was my MotM alongside Valencia. I have to admit I haven’t really seen Kuszczak as a serious contender for the long-term no 1 spot. I thought it was Foster or a new signing. This game changed my perception a little bit. Look at it this way: When Foster got his big opportunity at the beginning of the season he made a dog’s breakfast of it. When Kuszczak got one of his last(?) chances to impress he raised his game to a new level. That’s an important quality for a United keeper, or indeed player.

4. A lot of United fans, maybe even a majority, seem to think that the referee was wrong to award a penalty against Vidic. At first sight that was exactly my impression. But the replay shows without a doubt that Vidic pulled the shirt of the Portsmouth attacker. A clear penalty. (And the ref was right about the other two penalties as well.)

5. I thought Avram Grant looked a tad more cheerful than he used too. But then again, maybe not.

6. Finally, and ominously, Chelsea have the look of champions.


Posted in Manchester United, Match Reports | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Quote of the Day

Posted by hakanrylander on November 23, 2009

“It was easy, though, to see why United are being prominently linked with Jack Rodwell, who played with a maturity beyond his 18 years. The teenager is two-footed, tall, plays with his head up and always wants the ball. He looks like a United player in the making.”

Daniel Taylor, Guardian.

Posted in Player Analysis, Transfer Gossip | Tagged: , , , | 7 Comments »

Four conclusions from United vs Everton

Posted by hakanrylander on November 22, 2009

1. Normally I’m on the edge of my seat worrying that the game will take a turn for the worse even when United are dominant. Not so in this game. I felt that United were totally in control throughout. This probably stemmed mostly from central midfield. Darren Fletcher (now generally known as “football genius“) had a great game, but so did Michael Carrick. Carrick’s brilliance is sometimes understated as it’s often “just” about positional sense and hitting the simple passes right. You tend to notice Carrick’s importance most when he’s not on top of his game as the United engine then tends to stutter.

2. Antonio Valencia gets better and better.  He has the rare quality that every time he gets the the ball I feel he will make something happen. The only other United players that give me this feeling are Rooney and Evra. Valencia even smiled after scoring.

3. We will probably have to get used to a mixed bag of performances from Ryan Giggs this season. Sometimes he makes brilliant use of his vision and experience, while at other times he drifts out of games. Pehaps not surprisingly at his age. This was not one of his better days.

4. If we can sign Jack Rodwell for £20m he will be worth every penny. Nothing very remarkable in this game, but he looks total class.

Posted in Match Reports | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Between the Lines Recommends

Posted by hakanrylander on November 20, 2009

Today I discovered A More Splendid Life which appears to be one of the most splendid footie blogs around. In this article Richard Whittall makes some very interesting points about the bleak future of football journalism and football bloggers.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

BBC Match Report: Marcus Aurelius 1 Sir Alex Ferguson 0

Posted by hakanrylander on November 18, 2009

After six years of boycott, Sir Alex Ferguson will have to start talking to the BBC. That’s a result of new Premier League media rules in effect from the start of next season. Ferguson has not spoken to the BBC since 2004 when a Panorama documentary claimed that his son, Jason, was using his father’s status to gain influence in the transfer market.

It remains to be seen how Ferguson chooses to interpret the new rules. Maybe he will continue to send assistant manager Mike Phelan to BBC MotD interviews. Personally I think Ferguson should consider the advice from Marcus Aurelius, the Roman emperor (AD 121 – 180) who is perhaps best known for his Meditations on Stoic philosophy:

“Accept the things to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate brings you together, but do so with all your heart.”

There’s no question that football clubs and broadcasters are tied more closely together than ever before, be it by fate or commercial realities. Global television is at the very heart of the business logic that brings millions of pounds to players and managers. Through television the “product” (a football game) can be sold to millions of people with very little additional production cost for each viewer.

It is well documented that Ferguson considers press conferences a total wast of time (except, I suppose, when they can be used for mind games) and occasionally treats reporters to rants from the Joe Kinnear School of Media Relations. I wouldn’t mind a more stoic approach in the future.

Posted in Match Reports | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Quote of the Day

Posted by hakanrylander on November 17, 2009

“In a speech in Abu Dhabi last week, Garry Cook, the chief executive of Manchester City, told assembled guests that “people were wrong in saying that City are just a club from Manchester”. It was now, he said, “a club of the world”.

“The Peter Kenyon “Paint The World Blue” award for marketing bull***t has its 2009 winner.

Matt Dickinson, Chief Sports Correspondent of The Times.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Between the Lines Recommends

Posted by hakanrylander on November 17, 2009

Dirty Tackle shows that linesmen sometimes don’t really appreciate jokes.

101GreatGoals provides proof as to why we’re tracking Igor Akinfeev.

Tom Maginn at SoccerLens makes some interesting points about diving.

RoM talks to Jeff Winter.

Posted in Non-United | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Happy Birthday, Paul Scholes!

Posted by hakanrylander on November 16, 2009


Paul Scholes celebrates his 35th birthday today as a United legend. Not many people outside the United Academy could see that coming 19 years ago.

“At 16, we could play Scholsey for only 20 minutes a game. He was a little one. Had asthma. No strength. No power. No athleticism. No endurance. (…) If Scholsey had been at a lesser club, they would have got rid of him and he would probably not be in the game now”, said former Academy Director Les Kershaw in an interview with Henry Winter a few years ago.

Since then Scholes has played more than 600 games for United and 66 times for England. But even more remarkable than those figures is the respect he’s earned from his fellow professionals:

Thierry Henry: “Without any doubt the best player in the Premiership has to be Scholes.”

Rio Ferdinand: “Everyone at the club considers him the best.”

Zinedine Zidane: “Scholes is undoubtedly the greatest midfielder of his generation.”

(Thanks to Scott at RoM for bringing the Kershaw interview to my attention.)

Posted in Player Analysis | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Today the Floodgates Opened

Posted by hakanrylander on November 15, 2009

With 47 days to go until the opening of the January transfer window speculation about possible deals has slowly been rising in recent weeks, but today I felt the floodgates of rumours were finally fully opened. If every tabloid and their dogs (below) are to be believed, we will sign the following players in January: Carlton Cole, Jack Rodwell, Philipp Lahm, Edin Dzeko, Connor Wickham, Romelu Lukaku, Marouane Chamakh, Franck Ribery, Yaya Toure, Simon Kjaer and probably a few others as well. Or if we don’t actually sign them we will at the very least “closely monitor the situation”.

Transfer rumours normally stem from two main sources. Either an agent who wants to create the impression that his client is very much in demand, or a journalist who puts two and two together at his desk. Neither is a very firm foundation for credibility. It remains for each reader to decide whether it makes sense for United to target a certain player. In today’s avalanche of rumours I’ve picked up two that I feel are both reasonably credible and highly desirable:

Three c(l)ubs in tug-of-war over Jack Rodwell.

Jack Rodwell (Everton) is the most promising teenager in the PL. He is versatile and equally comfortable in central defence or as a holding midfielder. At 18 he was very impressive in the European Under-21 finals and I don’t think it will be very long before he plays for England. David Moyes will be desperate to keep hold of him, but Everton could find it hard to resist the financial might of United and Chelsea. These three clubs are likely fight it out, but probably not until the summer.

Philipp Lahm (Bayern Munich) is one of the best full-backs in the world. He could play either side, but United would want him mainly as a right-back.  This rumour is probably of the put-two-and-two-together variety since United have reportedly been interested in the past and Lahm’s position is now uncertain following his recent criticism of Bayern’s transfer policy and lack of strategic planning.

Rodwell would be a long-term investment, but the arrival of Lahm would immediately strengthen the first XI. Neville is past his best, probably Brown too, O’Shea is adequate cover while Rafael might become o world-class player, but that’s still a few years down the line.

My guess is that we will not see an awful lot of activity from Ferguson in January. But it might be a good idea to move quickly for Lahm while he’s unhappy about Bayern’s suits. And then we will hopefully pull out all stops to get Rodwell in the summer.

Posted in Transfer Gossip | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Fashion Statement for Spring of 2010

Posted by hakanrylander on November 15, 2009

Duncan White in the Telegraph reckons Rooney is the player of the season, but also that he will need protective gear during the run-up to the World Cup:moonboot

“At a third of the way through the season it is too early to prophesies who will become the player of the season but you can certainly establish who is in the running. Remember, the PFA send out the ballots for their award early in the New Year so there isn’t actually that much more time to make your case for that award.

As it stands, I think there are four superb performers in the slipstream behind one outstanding candidate. John Terry and Drogba of Chelsea and Cesc Fàbregas and Robin Van Persie at Arsenal are definitely in the mix but a superb Rooney has carried Manchester United this season.

He should be forced to play the last three months of the season in moon boots if that’s what it takes to keep his metatarsals intact.”

Posted in Player Analysis | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »