Friday, October 31, 2008

Cristiano Ronaldo: The Evolution Continues

Since his inaugural dismantling of Bolton in 2004, Cristiano Ronaldo has displayed unparalleled speed and power on many occasions.

He is making it clear now that he has the confidence and intelligence to become the complete player.

Just 23, the celebrated winger is obvious favorite to run the table for European and World football individual honors for 2008.

At times during his brief career, though rife with silverware, Ronaldo has shown his age, remonstrating at lost causes, even appearing to blame teammates for poor passes or decisions.

These are surely the derivatives of the emotion that drives him to become the greatest player in the world.

It can, at times, be to his detriment.

However, this week he spoke with wisdom beyond his years, possibly suggesting the final maturation of a young athlete into a world-class ambassador for the game, a la Zidane, who achieved a level higher than other great players of this generation.

A level where only few names exist.

"You could consider it logical and that's pretty much my opinion," Ronaldo told French sports daily L'Equipe.

He's right.

"I was very consistent, I was a Premier League winner, I won the Champions League, I was the best European goalscorer, the best goalscorer in the Champions League."

For the record, he forgot top scorer in the EPL, too.

The way he is looking at the situation objectively, for a man with such proclivity for emotion, shows intelligence.

He speaks with the confidence his performances last year absolutely deserve.

He knows it.

"Everything I did, I did well, I succeeded in having an extraordinary season," he finished.

As he concisely says, last year, at 22, he was simply the best in the world.

He is now growing from that experience.

Maybe our generation has been blessed again.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Dead ball, indeed.

Two things have been bugging me for a long time. If I write about it here, at least I can convince myself that maybe Sir Alex will come to reading it and heed my ingenious advice.

Firstly, why does Nani take free-kicks? Why does he take corner-kicks? He is horrible at them. For some reason, commentators will rarely pick up on the ball not beating the first man, as is often the case with Nani's deliveries. Now, I'm not going to go through my extensive video archives to provide statistics, but my word is my bond. Surely I am not the only person who has noticed his poor passing.

I don't know how many times Liverpool have scored from corners this year, but with Steven Gerrard offering them up, the number wouldn't surprise me.

Rooney should be taking corners on the left side of the field, swinging in. I'd let Evra or Anderson take the corners on the right side, probably Anderson, because Evra usually covers the back while Ferdinand and Vidic get forward.

This segways easily into my second point of whining: Giggs taking both corners. He's not particularly good at them, in fact, he probably shouldn't be playing at all. But to have him out-swinging corners from the right flag makes little sense and produces very little result.

Since I'm blogging and writing so informally, let me also say that Michael Carrck is the worst fucking player on our squad and belongs on a team like West Ham or Newcastle where he probably wouldn't even be deserving of a starting job.

Sir Alex's faith in a player like Fletcher has paid off, but what will never pay off is both the $25 million we spent on Carrick, or any time invested in his maturation as a player, because he's already 26 and he's absolute shit.

I am quite confident I'd out-match him on the field, and if you've seen me play lately you know it's not such an outlandish statement! Carrick has no presence on the ball. Every errand pass he makes should be criticized; this is top level football and he's supposed to be a top level passer.

In reality, he lacks the class to be on our team, and perhaps even in the top flight.

I hope Anderson continues to see more playing time. There really is no reason to ever not play the young man, injury barring. It will be nice when Hargreaves returns, as their partnership is the best our central midfield has to offer, with all credit to Fletcher and his earnest performances lately.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Substance over style; Vidic shortlisted for Ballon d'Orr

On the heels a thoroughly, defensively dominant display at home to West Bromich Albion in the English Premier League, Manchester United defender Nemanja Vidic was included in the 30-man shortlist for European Player of the Year.

It comes not only as a surprise but a victory for so many defenders mired in relative anonymity when their staunch dominance of their craft goes so often overlooked for more stylish, offensive players.

Rio Ferdinand, Vidic's established partner in defense, is more of the second ilk, passing smoothly and turning artfully, but his nose is much less likely to ever be bloodied.

It is in fact Vidic who provides the nucleus of the defense. Vidic is the archetype ball-winner, always contending aerially, getting his head in where it hurts and using strength over guile, while Ferdinand assumes a more distributive, interactive role only once the carnage has cleared. While Ferdinand assumes the typified role of a yelling, screaming, inspirational British captain, Nemanja leads through eastern European stoicism and lengthy unassuming periods of consistently world-class form.

In truth, all four of United's defenders had great campaigns in 2007, as each member of the back-line started over 40 games for United allowing just 15 goals, only second to Chelsea. United allowed 6 goals in 13 games en route to their 1-1 victory over Chelsea in the UEFA Champion's League final.

Rio Ferdinand was not short-listed for the award despite having good form in the second of two consecutive years for United after the failure to attend a drug test and other factors contributed to a loss in form in years following his huge-money deal from Leeds United in 2004.

Both Vidic and Ferdinand were named in the 2007-2008 PFA Team of the Year.

French Football magazine has again done well in the discernment of player form, without the often accompanied superficial regard for the visible flare and inflated statistics of attacking players. It is a fair omen when recognition is given to the blue-collar base in a game's dynamic instead of proffering more gratuitous awe for the more stylized bourgeois attackers.

Having said that, Cristiano Ronaldo is the rightful favorite for this years Ballon d'Or.

2008 Ballon d'Or Shortlist

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Media goes berserk, boasts bollacks

Following an unusually exciting and optimistic international break for English football fans, Friday presented a dull opportunity for the British media to create a sensational transition into the weekend's Premiership action.

As if fans from around the world needed more anticipation after two weeks without domestic action, three particularly fanciful stories emerged Friday based solely on old quotations and a further heaping of unabashed conjecture.

David Beckham was tipped for an off-season loan move to Arsenal to facilitate his ambitions to play for England in the remaining World Cup 2010 qualifiers next spring. Beckham is currently obligatorily applying his trade in the MLS until the season's end in November, leaving an off-season without real training. Capello has made it unequivocally clear to media, fans, and players alike that form applies and if players aren't playing for club they won't be playing for country.

The idea itself may not be far-fetched, but applying the theory based solely on Beckham's recent and understandably positive reaction to England's performances is more conjecture than substantiated prediction, especially with consideration for Beckham's historical inability to say anything meaningful (or intelligible) to reporters.

Again, based seemingly only on England's past few brilliant performances, Emile Heskey has been linked with a romantic move back o Liverpool in the January transfer window. In replying to a question about his performances for England possibly attracting attention from bigger clubs, the big target-man replied Thursday, ""Yeah, I hope [to attract interest], ... but I'm still a Wigan player and I want to do my best for them. Everyone wants to be playing on these big stages, and for their club to be in the Champions League." It's hardly irrefutable evidence linking him back to the club where he spent his glory years, during which he displayed form similar to recent emulations with England and Wigan.

To top it off, as drooling football yobs like myself and you alike surfed the Internet in a futile attempt to alleviate our anticipation, we found that Carlos Tevez will be targeted by Real Madrid in the summer. Apparently the "rule of threes" still exists in comedy, and this story completed the farcical hat-trick by centralized British soccer media. This story was fueled solely from a quote from the average Madrid player Higuain, saying, "I hope Carlos comes. He's a great player and, if he comes, he will be welcomed." Tevez is then quoted stating with a complete lack of equivocalnesses his desire to remain the Premiership at Manchester United.

Neither story represents much to sink your teeth into, but at least we are all reminded of the preposterously speculative nature of prevailing soccer journalism during a time where the action itself was doing more than enough to sustain our interest. There is never a shortage of supply for cynicism in this field, or during this age.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Rooney on song

Rooney on song

What's this? Rooney may actually be world-class? I'll put a question mark instead of a period because of the lack of form he displayed all last year, but it's not hyperbole to state that he is finally displaying the form that burst him on the scene with Everton in 2004. By the way, I cite years without any research, only intuition, so give me a +/-1 spread. He displayed the same sort of grace during his first season with United but has sputtered out off since--enough, in fact, to bring journalists British or otherwise to question the value of a player most emotionally are inclined to support.

I'm not going to shrink from my own criticism of Rooney earlier in the year, as I cautioned how important this year would be for the young bloke. His current form doesn't justify long periods without confidence but it does portend well; I'll hold off on the unequivocal, sensational declarations until he shows consistency, which is an exciting idea for any United fan, and a worth reward for our patience and belief.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Paul Scholes is out for 3 months. He may still score 10 goals. Last year Ferguson said getting Scholes back in January was just like getting a new player in the transfer window -- this year should be no different. Scholes can run games if you substitute him in after United have nicked the lead, however, without the opponent's midfield stretched in attack, he is not nearly as dominant.

Anderson shouldn't have problems filling his little booties, and Darren Fletcher could have a seriously claim alongside him. Hargreaves will probably never be injury-free; tendinitis doesn't go away, and he's had it forever.

Hopefully Ferguson will experiment with Rooney behind the two strikers (Tevez, Berbatov) if only to justify this blog's existence.

Despite Ryan Giggs playing error-free for a full 70 minutes on Tuesday in Denmark, I wouldn't expect him to be starting too many times in there, except against weaker opponents. I don't believe in him despite a really good run out against the Danes.

Patrice Evra is having an awesome season so far, and he was stellar last year. It's too bad defenders never receive the credit they may deserve. In fairness, Evra can still be dominated by a Kevin Davies type player, if a team decides to pick on his aerial deficiency. Granted, Kevin Davies did no such thing last week when United trumped Bolton 2-0.

Tommy Smythe of ESPN, also known as Andy Gray's bitch, said "That's why they bought him - to score goals" in reference to Dmitar Berbatov. Well, I acknowledge that I am critical of anything he says, because he is so ridiculous, and I know I'm being uber pedantic, but he's not entirely correct. Berbatov is not there to score 25 goals in a season. His impact is on the quality of football United play. He occupies the space that creates the whole damn dynamic. And he is a brilliant passer, and has insane, light touches in a Zidane mold. Berbatov himself is too unselfish to ever get more than around 22 (+/- 1) in a year. I expect him to get 15-20 and I expect most of them to be fucking cracking finishes. He's majestic when he's on song, languid yet serene, someone to assume the prestigious mantle of "Nate's favorite player" when Scholesy hangs 'em up.

Speaking of which, I was thinking about buying a new United jersey (most of mine are Vodafone; Ronaldo, Scholes, Beckham, Van Nistelrooy, etc) and they're like 120 bucks. So.

United play Blackburn on Saturday. Fergie is going to own Paul Ince's face. Are you kidding me? Ince barely has any credentials, having only managed league two side MK Dons to promotion last campaign; Ince is far too immature to successfully manage a top flight club; no wonder they're shit. Selling Bentley didn't help, but Paul Ince hasn't lost the plot, he never had it. The guy is a clown. I look forward to Keane's Sunderland getting some points from them later in the season. Ince doesn't have the bottle.

United are going to beat the living bejesus out of them.