Posts Tagged ‘Manchester United’

Sports can be such a different career in a lot of ways. Sports persons peak at an age when young men and women take baby steps in their careers. They retire in an age where every other professional attain their peak powers. The moment their bodies don’t respond to the mind, they call it quits. Yet in such a short career span, sport can be so satisfying and fulfilling. As a professional sport, dominated by club games, football can be so demanding on a player’s body and mind. Yet with their endurance and skill set, they manage to illuminate our hearts as well as the stadiums they play in. This particular season in English football, many players who would be branded as greats in the not so distant future and one manager who is probably the greatest of them all, chose to call it a day. Here is a look at those amazing people.

He was the most naturally gifted striker that England has ever produced. Fast as a blur, boyish charm and with the kind of instinct inside the box, he was a nightmare for defenders around the world. But post his explosive start and prolific scoring for Liverpool, Michael Owen never really found that gear at Real Madrid where he found his chances limited among the galaxy of stars at the Bearnabeu. His career hit rock bottom after a plethora of injuries he sustained during his stay at St James’ Park. But that did not stop Sir Alex Ferguson from signing him (Being a Reds fan, I was livid to say the least).  Though he played fewer matches during his time at Manchester Unted, he did make his mark with a signature last minute goal in that amazing Manchester derby. Despite his move to United, he is still my favorite striker. Two moments still stays fresh in memory, that amazing goal at the ’98 World Cup game against Argentina and his brace in the FA cup final against Arsenal in 2001 where the Gunners did not lose to Liverpool but to Michael Owen.

A season of goodbyes, none bigger than Sir Alex Furguson.

He would probably go down as one of the last one club player in the premier league. The great wall of Liverpool, Jamie Carragher’s legacy lies in his loyalty, commitment, using maximum use of one’s potential, fighting instinct and most of all, being the ultimate team man. He was the bedrock of Liverpool’s defense for the past 15 years and every time I see his name on the team sheet I feel secure and assured. Images of an exhausted Carra fighting cramps but still throwing his body around against a marauding Serginho in 30 tiring minutes of extra time at the Champions  Trophy finals in 2005 still stands out. Wonder if anyone can replicate that.

He retired a year ago only to come back at his boss’ request. Though he had a very ordinary season by his high standards, one can’t take away the fact that Paul Scholes is one of the strongest pillars on which lies the museum of those glittering trophies that United won in the Ferguson Era. United will sorely miss and will need a midfield general that was Scholes. Who is going to deliver those killer passes from deep in the midfield? Who is going to dictate the game? Can Michael Carrick step it up?

He is a superstar in more ways than one. Despite not being an exceptionally talented player, with his dead ball skills and that precise, defense splitting pass, he was such a potent weapon in any team’s midfield. But David Beckham’s footballing legacy lies beyond the pitch. He was an icon, a poster boy who drove people, especially women to watch the game. Though the game is much bigger than him, he became the reason why a lot of people watched football. That is something very few people can do. You can talk about Dennis Bergkamp’s technical acumen, laud Steven Gerrard’s leadership or wonder how cool Alan Shearer is every time he puts it past a keeper. But you always need a Beckham to make people watch all that in the first place. He was football’s brand ambassador.

The English Premier League has indeed lost its sheen a bit after the decline and retirements of so many greats in recent years. When I first started to watch the game seriously, I remember the great battles between two amazing quartets. Sir Alex Ferguson’s trump cards Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, David Beckham and Ruud Van Nistelroy for Manchester United against Arsene Wenger’s invincible geniuses Robert Pires, Patrick Viera, Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry for Arsenal. When will we ever get to see something like that again?

And now the biggie, the actual reason why most of you are reading this article. Being a Reds fan it is such a difficult thing to talk, let alone praise someone from 40 miles away, especially one who vowed to knock Liverpool off their perch and did that successfully. But of late, Sir Alex Ferguson is held in such high esteem that it’s okay to do so. Looking at him from beyond my mental borders, I have to say, “Thanks Fergie”! I remember my time in Manchester when I used to work at the Theatre of Dreams as a bartender, interacting with the club’s long standing members. They spoke so fondly of Sir Alex and how he is the source of all the glittering trophies that begs for space in the Museum downstairs and that no matter who comes and goes, as long as he is there United will be fine. I wonder if they can still say that next season.  Yes they do have a credible replacement in David Moyes, handpicked by Sir Alex himself, but it remains to be seen how the Red Devils play from here. Of course in all those interactions, I had to put up with a lot of RED faced poking, making a mockery of Liverpool’s current form and I had to endure all that with a straight face. Damn me and my dignity! I also vividly recall the aura that he carried. I remember this one time in the 1969 Suite inside Old Trafford where I was working, suddenly there was a buzz around the place. It was strange because I already saw Christiano Ronaldo, Nemaja Vidic and Ryan Giggs walk into the suite a while back and it was all normal. But this time there was a lot of buzz and this time it was Sir Alex himself. In a flash, the whole place transformed into some sort of a hypnotized magic hut. Everyone, including the players themselves was looking at him and only at him as he moved from table to table greeting the members. That aura is carried only by one other sporting icon that I know;  a little man who got the most British of all crowds in Brighton buzzing when he walked in during a tour match, a certain Sachin Tendulkar. Very few personalities justify this increasingly over used term, but from the next season “Football will never be the same again”.

This season significantly closes the chapter of the end of a beautiful era in EPL. With only the likes of Gerrard, Lampard, Terry, Cole & Ferdinand left, let’s hope that the Suarezs, the Carricks, the Matas, the Hazards, the Wilsheres, the Bales and the Walcotts will step up and become the next set of greats to have played the beautiful game. There certainly is talent but it also needs careful nurturing. This is where I hope the Rodgers’, the Villas-Boas’, the Martinez’, the Ladrup’s and the Mourinho’s will step it up.


Niranjan K

When it first started about a decade back, the England team was set to become the most decorated and successful teams of this generation. Golden generation, they were called. Certainly, with the likes of Terry, Ferdinand, Cole, Gerrard, Lampard, Owen and Rooney, there was an expectant. But tournament after tournament, they have failed to produce the best of their club form. Is it the lack of heart while representing England or are they just not good enough. I had dissected the problems of the so called golden generation in detail just after England so embarrassingly lost in the World Cup. So let’s not dig too deep into it again, shall we? England punched above their weight in Euro 2012 and let’s discuss how.

Roy Hodgson to me is the reason why England performed respectfully in the Euros. After a tumulus time at the helm in Anfield, he had a point to prove and did so with merit at West Bromwich Albion. Pop comes the chance to manage the national team, which surprised and shocked many.

His was a logical choice with Redknapp’s personality looming large over his credentials. With 40 days to go, there isn’t so much that he could do. But he ensured he prepared a team, though boring mostly, was hard to beat. They were prepared to look ugly to get the results they wanted. But a team with a large heart and thin on creativity could only go so much which, when exposed to a master in Andrea Pirlo, succumbed in the quarters. But I will go on a record and say that, they finished as the 5th best team in Europe because, even though they were dominated by Italy, they did not lose the match tamely. The one thing that inspired me was how England played as a team rather than a bunch of individuals which had been their cause for downfall in the past.

Rooney: Brilliant for Manchester United, but under achieving for England. Photo:

What they lacked in the end was creativity. Of the 5 goals that they scored, the creative part of 3 of them came from Steven Gerrard and 2 from Theo Walcott. For all his inspiration and leading from the front, I think Gerrard has one big problem in his game. He thinks that he had to do almost all the work in the field and at quite a few times ends up on the wrong foot. For example, in the game against Italy, he was constantly running behind Pirlo. If he let Scott Parker do that, then he would have had the time for some creativity. Although I love Gerrard, I think he needs to start trusting his players more.

Wayne Rooney has always been the curious case. Brilliant for Manchester United and below average for England. He had the perfect set up to explode when he finally made it to the starting lineup. But instead of inspiring his mates like how he does for United, he ended up waiting for the chances than grabbing them. What England also missed was a clinical striker of pure instinct like how Michael Owen used to be in his best days. Miss his boyish charm.

For all the respect that Hodgson has gotten from his first two months in charge, he would know that the real work starts from now. Yes, his compact strategy has helped England gain some sort of respectability but if this is how they are going to play, it won’t help them in the long run.

Hodgson has a lot of work to do if he has to make England a world beater. Picture: The Sun

Hodgson has to take the positives from the tournament and look for improvement especially when the injured players come back. He has to instill in those players, the same pride that the current squad seem to have in them in representing the three lions. The likes of Gerrard, Terry, Lampard, Barry and Parker in the twilight of their careers, he would do well to make players like Martin Kelly, Jack Wilshere, Alex Oxalade Chamberlain, Theo Walcott, Andy Carroll, Danny Welback and Daniel Sturridge as regulars. Face it, for all the excitement of the EPL, the emerging English talent has been thin.

They need a comprehensive youth development program to improve their long time prospects. It is in how Hodgson takes the team forward that determines his credentials. And with wealth of experience in coaching international teams, I think he can do that. All answers lie on the 15th of August when the 3 Lions take on the same Azzuries in a friendly.

In the second edition of Kick-Off!, we are joined by Chandrasekhar JayaramakrishnanNiranjan K and the and the star twins Gautam Rajagopalan and Gaurav Rajagopalan and the star mid-fielder Sairam Vijai (who took the Bangalore-leg of Pepsi T20 Football tournament by storm) as they take a look at the Euros that has already seen three semifinal berths taken, with the final QF to be played between England and Italy today. We also hear the sorrows of a Dutch fan, the delights of a German fan, the optimism of an English fan and a Spanish fan who says he fears the Germans! We also hear the panelists’ take on the Quarter Final to be played between the Three Lions and the Rossoneri later today.

Introduction Music: Composer and singer – Rakesh Salian

Guests: Niranjan K, Gautam Rajagopalan, Gaurav Rajagopalan and Sairam Vijai

Host: Chandrasekhar Jayaramakrishnan

In the first edition of Kick-Off!, we are joined by Chandrasekhar JayaramakrishnanNiranjan K and the and the star twins Gautam Rajagopalan and Gaurav Rajagopalan  (who took the Bangalore-leg of Pepsi T20 Football tournament by storm) as they touch upon Euro 2012 and the transfer wishlist. The panelists discuss Netherlands’ woes, whether favorites Spain can pull it off again, and England’s rather surprising displays under Roy Hodgson. We also hear their wishlist from the summer transfer window for Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United – including a certain Ricardo Kaka.

Introduction Music: Composer and singer – Rakesh Salian

Guests: Niranjan K, Gautam Rajagopalan and Gaurav Rajagopalan

Host: Chandrasekhar Jayaramakrishnan

 Mayank Gupta

Football Analyst, The Couch Expert

29 August 2011

A hurricane was blowing across the atlantic ocean towards the eastern coast of USA in the morning of today. Images of havoc and distress were splashed across the internet news and media across Europe. However, in due course the football fans in London would be singing a different tune asking for respite from a hurricane that travelled South from Manchester to London in 2 different batches and lasted exactly for 4 and a half hours.

I cozily slipped into my bed with chips on my plate and Kipcroquet alongside it for lunch to accompany an exciting prospective game at White Hart Lane, I duly expected Mr. Harry Redknapp to honor his statement from the previous evening of ‘Tottenham can win the EPL this season’. For the first 20 mins in the game, I was forced to believe in the words of Ole Harry with the performance of the 11 Londoners. As the REDS derived sadistic pleasure from the woefully looking City after a fine performance of THE REDS yesterday, mocking their spending and oil money, a puff of air passed across the White Hart Lane that took Nasri’s cross across the Tottenham defence right at the feet of Kaboul and its chosen lover of the day – Edin Dzeko – who caressed it into the goal touching Friedel’s feet on its course.

0-1 does not seem to be a worrying scoreline for a championship team and the whiff seemed to have passed away. However, it became stronger and a brilliant goal made it 0-2 at White Hart Lane with a defender challenging him as he kissed the ball with the back of his head giving the right moves on the head. The pleasure started to become an annoyance as the ball danced to the tune of Nasri, Silva and Toure with Dzeko holding it across the waist. Half time and 0-2.

Surely, Ole Harry would make changes to back his claim of the previous evening and bring the pleasure in the REDS. Changes done but pleasure never returned as Yaya Toure ran down the right side of the pitch, slapped the ball across the 6 yards box which missed the feet of Aguero as an ex-lover is overlooked in sadness and massaged the left feet of Dzeko to complete his Perfect Hat Trick. Not even 60 minutes but GAME OVER.

A header by Kaboul and there was a teeny-tiny hope like the tip of the little finger but another goal by Aguero to win back his love saw the ineffective Dawson left behind mesmerized in the wake of the run by Aguero who slammed it past Friedel. To further remove any doubts of his ability and price Dzeko finished the game with kissing good bye to the ball with another goal and in the process making the scoreline look exactly as it should have 1-5.

The noisy neighbours had arrived with a bang by beating a team at it’s home which had lost only to the champions in their homeyard the previous season. The RED half of Manchester did not want to leave for the international break without a reply to this sublime performance. To their discomfort and embarrassment, Arsenal helped them make even a louder noise than their noisy neighbours.

After a brief break of half an hour as the winds travelled from London to Manchester, it was the Gooners – the arch rivals of Tottenham – who got a lesson of football from Manchester United – the arch rivals of Manchester City. So befitting were the teams to receive the beating as the base of UK football shifts again to the northwest after a brief domination of clubs from London in the past decade.

It began as it began. A slow cautious start and within a second the gear change from Anderson and Welbeck scored. Arsenal came back with a bang and alsmost were level only for David de Gea – the much criticized young keeper – to make en excellent penalty save from Robin van Persie diving to his right. Then the natural course started to unravel the spectators. Nice, passing football from the gooners as they are renowned for but leaving gaps in the wake, making a defensive shape which had no boundaries and the free flowing speedy counter attacking football from Manchester hit them hard again and again.

Ashley Young scored a blinder of the goal bending the ball to the far right corner of the post where no keeper could have made a save of it. Rooney scored and 3-0 seemed GAME OVER at half time and taking his tally to 150 goals. However, Walcott brought some hope by scoring at the stroke of half-time making 3-1. 

In such situations, one is usually asked to put the first half behind and look forward to the second half with some excellent football in order to make a come back.This is exactly what the Arsenal defenders did. They forgot how Rooney scored his free kick in the first half and let him score a free kick again in the second half in exactly the same manner.

Subsequently the game became a statistical bonanza after Nani scored the 5th and geeks turned out their laptops looking for what was the best defeat inflicted on Arsenal by Manchester United. A late consolation by van Persie could not stop from a humiliating display of lights on the score card and the opening gulf between the teams in the premier league.

Critics may make as much noise as they want about the closeness of the league and other facts and stats in order to keep the spectators interested but however, the truth is much concerning and grey for us REDS. With the vast spending power of Manchester City and the influence of Sir Alex Ferguson in the English football game, there is very little left for the other teams in the form of Carling Cup and FA Cup to look forward to in order to achieve silverware.

From being touted as the season of Big Six, after the departure of Fabregas, Arsenal remained in no contention but as bad things come in pair so came the annoyances of Modric in the headlines and Tottenham are no contenders for the top 4 that became pretty evident and completely transparent after todays performance.

For us REDS as dazzling as Suarez and the teams performances may have been this season so far, it it pretty evident we need some more creativity  pace. Some more concentration at the defence would have given us the honor of being the only team with 3 clean sheets after 3 games.

As much buying Abramovich wants to do he can do but he will not reach the squad depth of Manchester City nor will AVB have the influence of SAF or the character and attitude of Mourinho. As disciplined as their teams’ performance looks after the scoreline, the fact of their ageing squads and slow movements on the pitch are exploited by teams like West Bromwich and Norwich.

With the above consideration and concerns, it is pretty evident for the league title to go to Manchester this year again.

PS – As I sleep tonight I will pray for Wenger and Harry to still be managers of their teams tomorrow or that Wenger finds a pot of gold to invest in his young squad as his owners won’t let him buy big which he must do in the next 3 days.