Fergie XI: The best of Fergie’s best

More than 25 years ago an up and coming Scottish manager, who had achieved the unthinkable by tearing apart the Old Firm domination in Scotland, was appointed Manchester United’s manager to wake United up from its slumber and get the club a League title that it had failed to garner since 1967 under Sir Matt Busby. The expectations surrounding the arrival of the young Scot were immense, for he was going to bring United back to its glory pedestal, but even the most ardent of ‘mancs’ would not have forseen the impact Sir Alex was going to have on the club and its functioning winning 12 domestic league titles and in the process overshadowing the bitter rivals Liverpool.

Sir Alex- then and now

Today, quarter of a century later, time that has seen analog watches being replaced by digital stopwatches for training drills, from the times of unnamed shirts turned to an era of proper merchandising at the club, from a mid table club to the forefront of the battles for European trophies, Sir Alex has seen it all and been through it, being the only constant in numerous transitions that the club has gone through over the years, still putting out one top bunch of players after another for United each passing year. The colour of his hair may have changed but the hunger and passion for more has’nt, today he stands synonymous with the club itself, its greatest protagonist.

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The player, the legend and the fanboy in Red Nev

Its been almost six months and it already seems so long to not have seen that guy called ‘Gary Neville’ on the pitch for Man Utd. Veteran of over six hundred appearances for Manchester United and over 80 caps for his national side England, senior Neviller not being around Man Utd after all these years leaves around bit of a wrench in the heart, it was always going to, just that a sense realization finally seems to be flowing through about what had long been a painful thought of his departure has transposed to actuality. The chants about him(remember them?) havent been heard for a while, it pains but they might not be heard again.

Neville Neville, Your future’s immense,
Neville Neville, You play in defence,
Neville Neville, Like Jacko you’re bad,
Neville Neville, Is the name of your dad!

To the Manchester United fans, he will always be fighter that he was on the pitch battling for the colours of his club, he was afterall a fan who made it onto the pitch. He was what a run of the mill United fan would stand for, passion for the club and nothing but hate for that team from Merseyside, the Anfield Kop and the noisy neighbours from Eastlands, long bereaved of major silverware. Its not as if his exuberance or over-enthusiasm as you might call it hasnt got it him into trouble, but that was the fan in him to go with the legendary player that he was, victory tasted sweeter if it had been rubbed into the rivals- players and fans alike. What they thought of him or still do is immaterial, he still doesnt give two hoots to them, while most rival fans still get riled up by him which is like a cherry on top of the cake for him, for there is nothing better for the United  fan in him to cause a sense of vexation among them.

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The rise and rise of Spanish super Stopper David de Gea.

Just as the ink was drying on the five year contract agreement signed by 20 year old Spanish goalkeeping sensation David de Gea, a sense of optimism was ushering through many a Manchester United supporters worldwide, for arguably the most promising young goalkeeper in the world had signed for the club in a rather prolonged transfer move worth some 18-20 million pounds, depending on the sources that you might look to believe.

And while some would still argue that the  transfer fee paid for his services to Atletico Madrid is pretty steep for a 20 year old with very limited experience of playing in a European top league, what needs a bigger mention here  is the fact that United have extensively scouted him during his matches over the last year and a half, almost as if he had already been hand picked to be the heir to the legendary Dutchman Edwin van der Sar and it was going to be a matter of when rathern if Sir Alex was going to get him, with the first contact that United made for him dating to as far back as January 2010. And while Sir Alex has made the odd error in buying young players with potential, more often than not he does get it right often unearthing previously unknown gems(Chicharito being a glittering example of a previously unheard name, now having a worldwide fan following), and to bank against the great man’s judgement is a risk you take at your own peril(cue-Alan Hansen).

Continue reading The rise and rise of Spanish super Stopper David de Gea.

Michael Ballack- The agony and the Löw blow of damnation

For more than a decade, modern football’s ‘Nearly’ man Michael Ballack was synonymous with the Germany National Team, lovingly nicknamed the ‘Die Mannschaft’ in the German footballing circles. He was the inspirational figure that had guided the German renaissance post the debacle of Euro 2000 where the Germans had had a catastrophy, finishing bottom of the group stages.

Michael Ballack was the catalyst to the redemption of the German National team who faced an unexpected humiliation in Netherlands-Belgium during Euro 2000. He traversed a long journey from the rather anonymous Saxony based club Chemnitzer FC to going on to play for some of football’s biggest clubs in Europe- Leverkusen, Bayern Munich and Chelsea, touching glittering heights in his career.

Ballack & Frings and their tale of what might have been.
Ballack(L), Frings(R). Wondering what might have been?

Ballack alongside good friend Torsten Frings were going to hold fort for the Germans in the heart of midfield, a task the talented sanguine duo did with utmost humility. The two marshalled Germany from the disappointments of two years ago to the finals of the World Cup in Korea in 2002, but the disappointment refused to leave Ballack’s career, after having already experienced the rather infamous ‘Treble Horror’ with Leverkusen at club level the same year, he got himself booked in the semi-final against the hosts Korea Republic resulting in him missing the final and the tears that flowed are in the memory of every man that ever loved the ‘Mannschaft’. And the rest as they say is history. Germany got run over by Ronaldo and co 2-0 in the final, a scoreline that flatters to decieve the Germans, for Brazil had dominated and the score could have been worse.

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Player Co-ownerships and how they work in Italian Football.

There has been for long a sense of bewilderment among people from outside the Calcio circles about the co-ownership of players, very prevalent in Italy’s Serie-A, actually work. The recent blooper by Bologna’s Director General Stefano Pedrelli during the blind auction to settle the co-ownership of Italian NT’s no.2 goalkeeper Emiliano Viviano has served to bring back a bit of limelight on the confusing rules regarding co-ownerships in Italy.

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Of JCT’s demise and the dominion of doom in Indian Football.

JCT crest

Phagwara based football club JCT FC(prev. JCT Mills), for long the face of football in the Northern parts of India, was disbanded yesterday, confirming rumours that had been going around the Indian footballing circles for the past few weeks. The news  landed a bitter blow on the face of Indian Football and the trend is worrying, for two India’s leading clubs JCT and Mahindra United have both disbanded within the last one year citing a lack of popularity of the domestic clubs and televsion coverage of football in the country.

JCT, winners of the inaugaral National Football League(now the I-League) in the 1996-97 season, have been home to some of India’s leading stars- Bhaichung Bhutia, Sunil Chhetri, I.M. Vijayan, Renedy Singh and Jo-Paul Ancheri amongst others. JCT had for long  been fighting a lone battle to increase football popularity in these parts of the country and give the people up north their go-to club, becoming the first non-Kolkata club to win the IFA Shield in the process along with that inaugaral NFL title. Despite the flourish that they once had, the last couple of years for them had been much less successful, often been dogged by debts and insufficient finances. The team’s relegation in the last I-League season acted as the final nail in the coffin, pulling them beyond the point of no return resulting in the club’s professional football team being disbanded, though their works at the grass roots and their much famed youth academy would still function.
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Dimitar Berbatov: The story of a failed genius

For the last 3 years, or slightly less, Dimitar Berbatov has perhaps been that one player to have shouldered the disappointment of not one but several United fans (read millions and still counting). But the disappointment which bothered him the most, and still does, is the one of himself.

The big Bulgarian’s impending move to Manchester United was followed with great curiosity across the footballing world. Sir Alex openly admitted interest in him, breach of code they said. Tottenham were determined to milk it and sure they did when Berbatov moved to MUFC rejecting City in the process who also had their bid accepted. The fee was supposedly something around 30.5 million pounds and here I am writing this.

Berbatov signing with MUFC.
Berbatov displaying his new jersey amidst much razzmatazz

The new no.9 started off his United career with an assist against Liverpool. Mesmerizing ball control, turning around the defender and sliding a neat pass for Tevez. Sign of things to come? The match ended in 2-1,and yes United lost. First league defeat of the season and first to Liverpool since 2002 in the league coincided with his debut. The next game could not have come at a better time for Berba, Chelsea away and maybe time to mark his arrival. In retrospect, had his shot gone in that day the story could have been far different. Ji Sung tapped in of the rebound from Berba’s shot which was parried by Cech. Still waiting.

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The Ginger United of Paul Scholes

Paul Scholes, a name most revered by every Manchester United fan across the globe and respected by every true football fan and critic who has seen him play. As a young boy, he was one who excelled in football and cricket alike but as fate would have it, he chose football and it was as a 14 year old twinkle-eyed, brown-haired boy that our ‘Scholsey’ first joined the youth ranks at Manchester United and the rest as they say is history. Scholes was going to win every trophy imaginable including  a grand haul of 10 Premier League medals only bettered by good friend and fellow club legend Ryan Giggs.

But for every bit of his legendary status that he truly deserves, it was not always as easy for him. As a young academy kid, he was seen by some as one who wasnt the paciest of players, couldnt tackle and the critics had remarked that he was certainly not a ‘typical’ British player.

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The morning after and where to now United?

Done in by Barca AGAIN!

Less 24 hours ago, most of the Manchester United contingent and the fans were full of optimism and before them stood a chance to claim their fourth European title and for Sir Alex Ferguson to win his 3rd Champions League title matching the likes of Liverpool’s former great Bob Paisley, elevating Sir Alex to heights of unquestionable greatness from the perspective of Man United fans and rivals alike.

Forward to little less than 24 hours and the optimism, excitement and the underlying confidence has been cruelly replaced by unending disappointment and despair of having lost to Barcelona again for the second time in 3 years in a European final. The disappointment of having been battered by Barcelona again, the ignominy of having repeated the mistakes of Rome ‘09 and having to climb up those uncountable stairs to get your loser’s medal despite having been one step from glory. United had finished second best again, and as Shankly famously once said, “If you’re first, you are FIRST, if you’re second, you’re nothing”. United have to strive to ensure that they don’t let this happen, to rise and come back to challenge for continental glory again.

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