Tag Archives: uefa

Where Is The Love?

gibraltar

With its constant interruptions to the domestic game, I’ve long considered international football a major irritation. Recently however, like the Ebola virus, it seems to have developed into a full-blown epidemic. UEFA, in their infinite wisdom, recently decided to increase the number of games required to book a place at Euro 2016. As soon as the season starts, it has to stop again so players can disappear for two weeks testing themselves against the might of San Marino and Estonia. Including the likes of Gibraltar presents lolz aplenty and the opportunity of a lifetime for the assorted firemen and customs officials who make up their playing staff, but it does little to enhance the quality or credibility of the competition they’re staging.

The growth of the Champions League and the financial muscle of the G14 elite has resulted in a situation where international football can no longer be considered the pinnacle of the world game. Appearing at a World Cup or Euros might be a great honour for individual players and the tournaments still present a marvellous spectacle for fans worldwide, but for actual quality of football the Champions League wins hands down. One assumes that UEFA aren’t unaware of this fact, so rather than see power slip further from their grasp into the hands of the clubs, they’ve attempted to cement their position as the game’s true power brokers by imposing an even greater hold over the fixture calendar.

Rather then scheduling an increased number of irrelevant matches, it’s a shame that UEFA didn’t consider a ‘less is more’ approach. To ensure the long term health of the Euros they’d have been better advised to cull a few under performers from the qualifying groups rather than adding more. By all means give the likes of Gibraltar or Liechtenstein a shot, let them earn a place via a preliminary knock-out or something. Do they really merit a place in the qualifiers proper when you’ve already got the likes of San Marino competing with a slightly less-than-stellar record of 1 win in 123 internationals? It’s an absolute farce.

UEFA’s justification for the increase in numbers is, unsurprisingly, down to money. They care little about the concept of overselling and damaging the prestige of the product, everything is geared towards filling up TV schedules with day-after-day of football and shifting additional advertising space to their network of sponsors. “The pie is growing and so far we have generated 40 percent more revenue than before”, explained UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino. Well that’s just smashing isn’t it? Who cares about the influx of utterly meaningless fixtures clogging up an already crowded schedule since they can now cream an extra few million off the likes of Sony and Coca-Cola for the foreseeable future?

manforman-rooney-getty

With that rant over, it’s on to another person fully aware of the riches that modern day football can bring, Wayne Rooney. It’s a bit of a strange time for old Wazza at present: 29 years old, freshly installed as captain of club and country and set to become record goalscorer for both – yet he appears to be losing support rather than gaining respect. It’s no longer just United fans tired of his errant control and contractual shenanigans who have lost patience, there’s now a growing clamour from the wider football public to see him dropped from the England team too.

With United, despite not being in agreement, I can at least see the point of view of those who insist he should have been overlooked for the captaincy and no longer considered an automatic first team choice. Rooney committed the cardinal sin of asking to leave the club (x2) and it’s true that in many games he seems to be in a terminal slump. Leaden footed, a shocking first touch, the over reliance on switching play by pinging the ball 40 yards out to the wing – his ability to lose possession whilst under little or no pressure defies belief at times. When he’s bad, he’s really bad.

But… and this is a big but… I’m still completely convinced that United remain a much stronger team with Rooney in it. Despite no longer possessing that electric burst of pace he had as a teenager, despite his penchant for giving the ball away – Rooney still makes a huge contribution to the cause. It’s what he still does now, it’s what he’s always done. You might wish him and Paul Stretford had got their move to Chelsea, you might think he’s a fat scouser who’s a disgrace to the shirt, you might simply detest everything about the bloke – but you can’t deny he’s not still a top player for Manchester United. He just is.

I read something the other week suggesting the captaincy was too much of a burden and he was now trying too hard, evidenced by him lambasting Tyler Blackett following one of goals at Leicester – apparently an effective leader shouldn’t be doing such a thing. What a load of nonsense. Rooney has been dealing out regular bollockings for the last 10 years. Last season, as results got worse and most senior players failed to show for the manager – Rooney remained on side. He was still talking, he was still cajoling, he was still contributing when others had made it pretty clear they no longer fancied it – that’s why he’s got the armband now.

Even when he isn’t playing particularly well, there’s still ample justification for Rooney keeping his place. Or, to put it another way, a Rooney bad game is worth more to the team than a Van Persie bad game. A growing consensus suggests he’s past it, but (and I’m sorry to have to resort to this) the stats don’t suggest that’s the case at all. Anyone bleating about Rooney would probably be quick to tell you that United or England would be better off served by somebody truly world class, say, for instance, Sergio Aguero. Well actually, (statto glasses on) it appears that since 2011, Aguero has played 93 games in the Premier League and scored 56 goals with 23 assists. Rooney’s record during that same period is 96 games, 59 goals and 32 assists – hardly the record of someone who’s no longer making a telling contribution.

Though gripes about Rooney’s form are nothing new at Old Trafford, quite why England supporters have decided to jump on board is something of a mystery – at least at United we have credible alternatives up front or in midfield. At international level, it appears to be more a case of Rooney bearing the brunt of fans’ frustrations with an ongoing lack of success; and the chronic dearth of players capable of challenging his nailed-on starter status. Is it really fair to blame Rooney for the current generation of England players being so incredibly average? Did Ronaldo get similar stick from the Portugese nation for earning astronomical money yet failing to carry their team beyond the World Cup group stages?

Given that England’s alternative is to call up the likes of Andy Carroll, Darren Bent or Rickie Lambert, I’m pretty sure Rooney will get plenty more chances to play and miss shedloads of chances before eventually surpassing Sir Bobby’s record of 49 international goals. The nation can then unite in belittling the achievement due to 90% of those strikes being against San Marino, before he then resumes scoring the goals that will make him the leading scorer in United’s history too – another milestone that’ll be greeted with seething resentment/complete indifference by many supporters.

Sometimes in the dead of night, when he wakes on a Luis Vuitton mattress stuffed with £50 notes, suffering with heartburn from eating too many burgers. Wayne probably takes a swig from his can of Fosters, scratches his head with nicotine stained fingers and thinks, “why do I bother?”

Copyright Red News – October 2014

www.rednews.co.uk

Roll With The Punches

kate upton

Last month I had a proper whinge about our abysmal home form, a moan about the relevance of the FA Cup and ended with a flippant call for Moyes to do something to sort things out. To be fair to the manager, my gripes have certainly been addressed over the last few weeks. We’re now losing away games as well (evidence that we’ve discovered some long overdue consistency of performance) and we’ve been knocked out of both domestic cups. This time out I’ll limit my requests to next week’s lottery numbers and a night with Kate Upton if you’re reading, Dave?

I’m writing this in the aftermath of the Stoke game: another mess of a performance and our 8th league defeat of the season – this one with the added bonus of losing two more centre backs to injury. Despite results getting steadily worse as the season progresses, this car crash of a campaign remains quite captivating… in the same way one feels compelled to gawp at someone with an unfortunate facial disfigurement. It’s far too early to start trumpeting ‘things can only get better’, because the very distinct possibility exists they could get a whole lot worse over the next few months.

The one upside of regular defeats is that they stop stinging after a while. For the last 20 years, a narrow defeat in a game we expected 3 points had the ability to wreck an entire weekend. Not anymore. The blows have become so frequent of late that I’m barely flinching now. City are scoring a million goals per game and look unstoppable whereas we’ve gone shit. To deal with it, I’ve focused on not dealing with it – and I’ve discovered that being utterly impassive is helping immensely. It’s a bit mard, I know and I’ll have to face up to things eventually but in the meantime, don’t judge me. This is just how things are… the new reality. We’re surveying the wreckage of the post-Fergie apocalypse.

Even during these dark times, however – there are days that come along which give you a spring in your step, a fresh sense of optimism and some renewed hope that things might be heading in the right direction. No, not the Juan Mata signing – we’ll get to that in a bit. What I mean is that whatever David Moyes does or doesn’t achieve in future, he’ll always have my eternal gratitude for finally ridding us of that appalling, fat waster Anderson.

fatpig

Quite how this clown managed to complete 6 and a half seasons at OT will be difficult to explain to future generations. He was constantly out-of-shape, his re-fuelling habits a source of mirth even amongst his own team mates and when he did manage to get himself on the pitch, his performances were frequently dreadful. He didn’t tackle, he lacked the energy and discipline to play box-to-box and his passing was woeful… I’m not even going to comment on his shooting technique. Actually, I will – it was completely shit.

The only time Anderson ever looked like he had a genuine (no pun intended) appetite for any on-pitch physical exertion was during end-of-season trophy presentations when he’d rouse himself from his perpetual stupor and head straight for the cameras, doing that samba dance routine that’s mandatory for all South American ex-pat footballers. That’s the sum total of what we’re going to miss from Anderson – his ability to dance and balloon about the gaff whilst sticking his tongue out. I just hope to Christ he manages to convince Fiorentina that his loan move should be made permanent in the summer so we’re rid of him for good, the fucking fraud.

The departures didn’t stop there. Fabio left for Cardiff, which seems a hell of a comedown for a still young, international footballer who featured in a Champions League final less than 3 years ago. Unfortunately he just never seemed to kick on and find a settled position at United – looking identical, playing in the same position and sharing the same impetuous streak as his brother all counted against him in the end. Wilfred Zaha also headed to South Wales and following his debut, has already racked up the same amount of assists that Antonio Valencia has managed all season. The way our season is unravelling, don’t be surprised if he continues this progress and ends up picking up the PFA Young Player award.

Amazingly, it turns out that Federico Macheda is still on United’s payroll and has now been loaned out for something like the 17th time in his career – this time to Birmingham City. Quite why he was ever given a long term deal remains a mystery – as it was clear within weeks of his career high debut that he was incredibly limited and unlikely to make the grade at the top level. Still, he started well at his new club too, scoring a last minute equaliser in a 3-3 draw – which Wikipedia informs me is his 10th goal in 6 seasons. Prolific or what? If he keeps this up, expect United to bring him back in the summer and reward him with a new 5 year contract.

mata

Moyes signalled the start of the transfer window by stating that although he didn’t expect any significant arrivals, “the number of big players who want to join Manchester United is incredible.” Really? Whether this meant ‘big’ as in ‘good’ or ‘big’ as in ‘tall, like Fellaini’ remained uncertain, but within days we’d actually managed to not completely mess up the signing of Juan Mata. This was something of a shock and surely evidence of a u-turn in United’s thinking. In the summer we didn’t pursue a reputed interest in Özil due to still having hope that Kagawa would prove his worth, but surely Shinji’s legion of internet fanboys/apologists would now concede that he simply hasn’t worked out?

Mata, like Kagawa, is undoubtedly a great talent. Unlike Kagawa, however – he’s demonstrated the ability to adapt his talents to the demands of English football. If Moyes has lost patience with Kagawa’s failings and come to the conclusion his future lies elsewhere, then I at least applaud his decisiveness. One of the obvious shortcomings of United’s squad at present is that there are too many habitual under performers – limited players on top wages and long term deals who are going to prove difficult and expensive to replace. Young, Cleverley and Valencia (the first 3 who come to mind… there are more) need to be moved on ruthlessly and efficiently. Signing a player of Mata’s calibre is all well and good, but it’s only going to start paying dividends when he’s joined by 3-4 more of a similar standard.

It was interesting to note the reactions of certain blue-tinged acquaintances of mine following the Mata signing. It’s fair to say they were a tad miffed by events, with them being so well-versed now in outspending United during each transfer window. One on my radar even attempted to outlandishly claw back some moral high ground by asserting that “City have never spent that much on a player.” This didn’t ring true at all, which prompted me to check and discover that Aguero cost them £38M and Tevez, reputedly as much as £45M. City fans taking umbrage with United’s spending – you have to admire their chutzpah, you really do.

Even more comical was the recent publication of City’s accounts for their financial year ending May 2013. Everything appears to be going swimmingly for ‘the project’: losses are down to a mere £52M and their income is now the 6th highest of any club in Europe, a total of £271M. It’s only when you scratch beneath the surface they reveal this figure includes £143M from sponsoring themselves and another £44M from selling intellectual property rights (again, to themselves.) Unsurprisingly, with this fantasy island income stream in place, they are more than confident of meeting UEFA’s FFP requirements. “Growing revenues and controlled expenses are bringing the club to break even in the immediate future, and profitability thereafter.”

I’m going to presume they edited out the “…LOL, not really!”

Copyright Red News – February 2014

www.rednews.co.uk