…And The Living Is Easy… – Manchester 4th August 2016

Summertime…and the living is easy…fish are jumping and the cotton is high… (George Gershwin 1934)

United in blue and Wigan in white at the DW stadium on 16th July. The DW stadium by the way is named after Dave Whelan; a little known fact is that Whelan broke his leg in the 1960 FA Cup Final

After a Summer of easy living and virtually non-stop football, the new season is nearly upon us once again. So a big fat hurrah for that.

It seems like only yesterday since Manchester United’s glorious victory over Crystal Palace and the whole two minutes it was celebrated for before word leaked out over Louis van Gaal’s forthcoming dismissal. I’d love to know just what kind of knobheads we have in our support who thought it was a good idea to boo van Gaal every time his kite came up on the big screen at Wembley. Those wankers got their wishes almost seconds after the final whistle when the wholly accurate rumour that van Gaal was to be sacked Continue reading …And The Living Is Easy… – Manchester 4th August 2016

The Answer My Friend Is Blowing In The Wind – Manchester 5th of January 2014

We’re back to that time of year when the trees have come down, Father Christmas is back on the dole and everybody’s bills come through the letterbox. The time of year when people go off the beer and there’s slightly less cheer as the festivities disappear. That can only mean one thing; we’re back to the third round of the FA Cup. This is when players and supporters of smaller clubs get condescended by clueless commentators from ITV and BT Sports. Bemused players, who didn’t grow up in the UK are asked, “just what did the FA Cup mean to you as a boy growing up in Spain/Holland/Germany etc”? Before that though, we had the New Year’s Day fixtures. Continue reading The Answer My Friend Is Blowing In The Wind – Manchester 5th of January 2014

Grown men move on – Manchester United V Stoke City 20th of October 2012

Club football made a welcome return after the Paddies were murdered by Germany, the hilarious farce that went on in Warsaw on Tuesday just gone and last night’s incident at Hillsborough which reminded me of a similar event at the same stadium involving Paolo Di Canio and referee Paul Alcock in 1998.

Paul Alcock collapses in instalments from a push by Paolo Di Canio

Yesterday’s incident at Hillsborough summed up the verminous shithouses that follow Leeds United perfectly, a cowardly attack on an unsuspecting victim and the perpetrator was welcomed into the Leppings Lane stand by his fellow Leeds fans like a returning war hero. As for the attack itself, what kind of a punch/blow was that which landed on Kirkland? A seven year old girl could throw a better punch… Then there’s former Liverpool goalkeeper Chris Kirkland. Dearie me. I know from personal experience that it’s not the power of a punch or blow that can put you on your arse as much as the shock and surprise of one. If you’re slightly off balance and caught unawares by a hostile move, then it’s understandable but what I really want to know is why did Kirkland require such extensive medical attention? He was lying down for a good 2 or 3 minutes after that incident; it was nothing. In that situation you get over the shock pretty quickly and get up, more out of pride than anything else. On the photograph below, Kirkland is clutching the back of his head – why? He was slapped in the face! I look at people like Chris Kirkland and Robbie Savage and wonder what kind of street they grew up on?

Pain: Kirkland holds his face after the incidentLeeds fan Aaron Cawley applies the coup de grâce to a prostrate Chris Kirkland

On Tuesday passed, watching the farce unfold and subsequent waffle fest on ITV with Roy Keane, Adrian Chiles, Lee Dixon and Gareth Southgate was more entertaining than any England match I’ve watched in the last eight years. The most enlightening thing we learnt was that Roy Keane had only brought one whistle with him and it’s also now plainly obvious that one of the make up people does his tie for him. The programme bounced back and forth between the studio and hapless pitchside reporter Gabriel Clarke, who was desperately asking questions to PR people who are expertly trained in the art of not giving answers.

Boyhood red Gareth Southgate alongside Lee Dixon and Roy Keane in Warsaw

The one comforting thing to emerge from Warsaw on Wednesday night was that it isn’t just the English authorities that can be staggeringly incompetent. Sometimes the weather can waterlog a pitch and in the vast majority of cases, there’s bugger all that can be done about it. The Kazimierz Gorski stadium in Warsaw has a roof to make sure that a pitch is playable come rain or shine. The roof was used for the entirety of the Euros just gone when the weather was mostly glorious but not used on Tuesday night when presumably the local met office might have given the stadium management the ‘heads up’ that it was going to piss down. Ah well, I’m sure they know better than me what’s going on.

Italian referee Gianluca Rocchi inspects the pitch in Warsaw on Tuesday night

Too often this season United are getting caught cold. When up against a decent side, like Tottenham for example, it becomes irretrievable. When up against a spirited but rubbish side like Stoke, as today proved, it can be recovered. United had better tighten up and do it quick as there’ll be no margin for error in forthcoming games against Chelsea and Arsenal. On 11 minutes, Paul Scholes gave away a soft free kick which, to use a hockey term, was effectively a short corner for former Blackpool midfielder Charlie Adam. He crossed it brilliantly and it lead to Wayne Rooney heading the ball into his own net. Before Wayne Rooney equalised on 26 minutes, were it not for profligate finishing by Stoke, United could have been 3-0 down. Two goals either side of half time put United 3-1 in front. Robin Van Persie scored Uniteds’ second with a beautiful flick over Stoke keeper Asmir Begovic and Danny Welbeck headed United into a two goal lead. Just as United were threatening to run riot, Michael Kightly went past Rio Ferdinand on 58 minutes like he was a ghost to bring the score back to 3-2. Seven minutes later Wayne Rooney scored to wrap up both the goals for today and the week of the 10th anniversary of his first goal, a brilliant winner at Goodison against a Arsenal.

Wayne Rooney equalises on 26 minutes

Michael Owen came on for Michael Kightly on 74 minutes and I’m pleased to say that he was warmly if not rapturously received by United fans. Owen was never going to be unconditionally loved by United fans but fair play to him, since he left Old Trafford, he hasn’t said anything out of order. There was a chant from the stretty comparing Owens league title medal haul to that of Steven Gerrard. His most memorable moment for United came when he scored that injury time winner against City in September 2009. That day, my mobile phone nearly combusted with berties sending me angry text messages and conspiracy theories about how referees always play the match until United get the neccesary goal. Oddly enough, with todays winner for City at the Hawthorns deep into injury time and Sergio Aguero’s goal against QPR on the last day of the season just passed, City fans now have a more sanguine outlook on injury time. I wonder why ?

Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney exchange post match salutations

Rio Ferdinand today invoked the ire of his manager for his refusal to wear the Kick it out t-shirts which players were supposed to wear this weekend. Whatever Ferdinands reasons are for not wearing the shirt, it’s surely his right not to align himself to some tacky and toothless gimmick if he so wishes. The only shirt that Ferdinand wears that really matters is the United shirt. Does Ferguson really think that the refusal of (amongst others) Rio Ferdinand, Kenwyne Jones and Reading’s Jason Roberts to wear the shirts will have any impact on the increase or decrease of racism? The Kick it out campaign for this year commenced on Thursday just gone and finishes on the 29th of October. Why does it end then? Will the scourge of racism be cured by that time or will there be some other fashionable Cause célèbre that succeeds it? Sir Alex Ferguson, a man famous for rarely publicly rebuking his players claimed that Ferdinands refusal to wear the shirt was an embarrasment for him. Here was me originally thinking that Fergusons’ disapointment stemmed from Ferdinands refusal to back the campaign (whatever that is) but it turns out that his chagrin is down to his own personal embarrasment. This is surely not the same Sir Alex Ferguson who famously bats for his players against all comers. Anybody would think Sir Alex might not personally like Rio. Everybody knows that there was, to put it mildly, a fall out between Ferdinand and Sir Alex’s son, Darren a few years back. Grown men move on, don’t they Sir Alex ?

Eagle’s Still Flying. Manchester, 14th of September 2011

United played Benfica three times in two famous European Cup ties in the 1960’s. Barring friendlies (one which in 1992, was Eric Cantona’s debut for United), after 1968 United went 37 years without playing the Lisboa eagles and then, like a bus, we’ve now played them six times in six years. It’s a sign of both overkill and the times that I only know two people that have gone to Lisbon for tonights match where once upon a time I would’ve known tens if not hundreds of people who’d have gone.

Ryan Giggs, Darren Fletcher and Antonio Valencia made a first start to a competitive match this season. A far less welcome first start of the season goes to the bloody awful black & blue hooped shirts who’s only redeeming feature to me is that it’s not as bad as the Tesco bag away shirts United used in the mid 1990’s. I sometimes think that the people who design Uniteds away shirts are on a diet of bad acid. Can anybody tell me what’s wrong with having United play in red as first choice and a white shirt when having to change ?

United started well but then Benfica got a grip on the game with Cardozo scoring past the impressive Anders Lindegaard on 24 minutes. Giggs came up with a moment of magic just before half time to equalise. The match ended 1-1 and tonight I think Sir Alex Ferguson just about got away with resting Young and playing an increasingly ineffective Michael Carrick. I believe that a full strength United side would’ve beaten Benfica tonight.

It’s a real coup for ITV to get the refreshing Roy Keane as a panellist for the match, his no nonsense analysis contrast sharply with the drone of the pride of Crawley, Gareth Southgate. For some reason over the last couple of seasons, ITV have developed a penchant for conducting their half time and post match analysis pitchside. Maybe it saves them the expense of hiring a commentary booth in these times of austerity (we’re in it together and all that) but tonight they’ve come unstuck. Adrian Chiles, Gareth Southgate & Roy Keane struggled to make themselves heard with the healthy lungs of Angus Young  (AC/DC) singing, playing so loud over the stadium tannoy, they could’ve been giving a live performance in the centre circle, à la Monday night football on SKY Sports in 1992. They were stood in front of the United fans and once the AC/DC CD had been turned off, they were serenaded by United fans with their extended repertoire of songs in homage to Keane.