Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The "alleged best player in the world on current form"

The points stand at the conspicuous number 69, a good nine points clear of Chelsea (who indeed have a grand one game in hand), but let’s be very honest, I could have well been just 67 points after the game against Fulham. Indeed, it could have stayed at just 66 had a certain Edwin van der Sar not have anything to do with it.

Cue Christiano Ronaldo, who at the 88th minute showed his peers, his manager and the staff and board of my beloved Manchester United exactly why he deserves – demands even – a salary reflecting the club’s estimate of his talent.

What a difference 8 months make

In his shoes not many would play it differently; if United were to own the bragging rights to the alleged best player in the world on form, then they had better put their money where their mouths are. From Ronaldo to Ferguson, Gill et al: “Show me the money!”

Few would have interest to argue with the caveat-laden tag of ‘best player in the world on current form’ that Ronaldo has been said to warm up to of late. This time last year Thierry Henry would have easily deserved this, had it not been for the deserving Ronaldinho; I personally would have handed it to Henry who single handedly inspired and led his team of fledgling prodigies to within 13 minutes of Champions’ League victory – a large portion of the game played with only 10 players - only to be thwarted by the Brazilian's more accomplished team-mates.

Didier Drogba’s goals aside, it would be a tough argument for anyone to put the Ivorian in contention for this tag. Ronaldo’s goals on the other hand have spurred United on to where they currently are in the Premiership. Cesc Fabregas has been immense for Arsenal (I still think he should have taken a good swing at Lampard), but again Ronaldo’s influence on the growingly confident United team has been truly immeasurable. And great results aside there certainly doesn’t seem to be anybody from Liverpool – including Steven Gerrard – who can hope to compare with the twinkle-toed Ronaldo – on current form.

United will need more and more from him, in the light of Larsson’s return to Sweden in 10 days, and in clear and honest consideration of Rooney’s decline in form.

Without meaning to jinx it, the team seems to be peaking just at the right time though, and Giggs, Scholes and Saha are really coming into their own. Still, it only takes a rash or malicious tackle or an uneven pitch to throw the boy wonder from Medeira into the Old Trafford injury list, and along with it perhaps any chance of United wrestling the title they last won four years ago.

Best player in the world? On current form, definitely. Show him the money United!

Golf lessons this Saturday
The ‘current form’ phenomenon continues, and I for one will not begrudge Liverpool their recent results against Sheffield United and Barcelona, coming as it did in the wake of the slightly-too-exuberant night out in Portugal.

Rafa seems to have built a dream midfield, and new-kid-on-the-Kop Javier Mascherano looked the solid player he was at last year’s World Cup. That aside – on current form – he still isn’t their best central midfielder, and neither is Gerrard or Xabi Alonso. That honour belongs to Momo Sissoko, who was simply phenomenal in the Barcelona game. Another foray to the right wing for Gerrard perhaps?

All things said, this game has all the makings of a classic; but as all predicted classics go, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised with an eventual stalemate.

Liverpool vs. Manchester United
LIVE from Anfield. Saturday, March 3rd, 2007. 7.45 pm.

This is the match of the week!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Manchester United juggernaut rolls on

Without sounding too proud, I'm delighted to say how much I enjoyed seeing my beloved Manchester United zoom past a hapless Tottenham Hotspurs on Sunday.

The first half was a frenetic affair, and there was a sense that if Spurs came up with the opening goal it could have been a difficult evening for United. But when Ronaldo scored (from a dubious penalty claim, I accept) there was only going to be
one winner.

To be honest though, Larsson had a reasonable claim to a penalty from that careless Gardner tackle earlier on, which the referree didn't award. Another claim at the other end was also ignored, but in the end Spurs took home exactly what they brought to the game, which is to say precisely, nothing!

Many would say that the momentum is on the side of United at the moment, and their movement, squad depth and most importantly team spirit is at an all time high. It is their title to lose indeed.

The critics though will continue to go to town claiming United can win a title only at the expense of other teams' misfortune. These are those who say that had Cech, Terry and Joe Cole not been injured, Chelsea would definitely be ahead at this point.

Why the long face, Jose?

These are also those make the erroneous claim that United have been strangely fortunate to not have injuries in the course of the season, myopically ignoring the fact that Vidic - by far United's best player this season - didn't start the season. They will also conveniently forget that Giggs, Neville, Heinze and Saha have all had their spells with injury and needed to have been deputised time and again by their able replacements.

And they resolutely forget that Solksjaer made a two-year recovery before returning to the field and popping in the goals the way he has. Or that Alan Smith is still shrugging off the effects of a horrendous injury. Or that Scholes and Rooney were unavaiable for four matches at the start of the season, serving time for a longer than necessary suspension.

Worst of all, they can't seem to remember what the club with all the rubles in the world and their special manager once boasted - not too long ago - that they have enough so much strength in their squad, they actually have two first team players for every position.

... and on...
In recognition of that claim, let's all take a look at how things look like at the United bench (or indeed, the plush, Audi-branded bucket seats, as the case may be). I don't ever remember United going on a buying spree in past seasons - and I did indeed bemoan the
bleak team sheet when the season began - yet it looks like there somehow seems to be enough to field another strong team in the Premiership.

Consider if you will: Kuszczak, Silvestre, Heinze, Brown, O'Shea, Fletcher, Richardson, Park, Smith, Dong, Solksjaer. Could a team like this sit well about... Spurs?

... and on...
I watched the
Addicks play Chelsea over the weekend, and if not for that fortunate strike by Frank Lampard, Alan Pardew's men could have come away with a result of sorts.

Charlton stand a good chance as the other relegation candidates to stay up in the Premiership next year. Which means all is not lost for them. Which means they'll be playing like hell to save their skins. Which can only mean a tough afternoon at Old Trafford.

Previous Premiership aspirations have always been scuppered by poor results against bottom teams, which means United will have to be extra resolute to get maximum points in this game and keep the blue bastards at bay.

Manchester United vs. Charlton
LIVE from Old Trafford. Saturday, February 10th, 2007. 11.00pm.

This is not the match of the week though. That game is at St. James' Park, where
Newcastle take on Liverpool - two teams battered and bruised from their weekend mis-adventures, and very eager to get a result.