The Highs And Lows Of Wayne Rooney’s Manchester United Career

7 03 2013

Rooney's Future Is In Doubt

Rooney’s Future Is In Doubt

Highs

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Chelsea’s Patience With Torres Is Wearing Thin

20 11 2012

Questions were asked when Chelsea decided to invest £50m in Fernando Torres. Yes he was a proven goalscorer, but he looked on the decline. Injuries had hampered his latter years at Liverpool, where he appeared as if he had lost a yard of pace. At his best, Torres was unstoppable; just ask Nemanja Vidic who he frequently tormented. A striker who would roam around the pitch, play on the last defender or cut in from out wide, and score goals with aplomb. In his first season alone he scored 33 goals and quashed the adage of foreigners needing time to adjust to the Premier League. Yet this seemed a signing from the owner Roman Abramovich, akin to when he invested £30m for Andriy Shevchenko four years previously who also looked a shadow of the player he once was.

Averaging a goal every four and a half games since his transfer down south, Torres seemed to have the role as no.9 nailed on this season, aided with the departure of Didier Drogba and Romelu Lukaku’s loan to West Brom. The club have supported him continually and suspension has been the only obstacle preventing him being involved in every game. However being relegated to the bench for the must win clash in Turin against Juventus has fuelled the rumour-mill once more that The Blues will be back in for a forward come January. With Daniel Sturridge the only serious competition for his position (despite being more effective on the right), Torres seems to have another six weeks to convince he still has the quality to lead the frontline for the European Champions.

The demise of Torres coincided with his injuries and the burden of such an overbearing transfer fee. Pressure was immediately upon him and at times during his spell in London it has seemed he has tried too hard. Bereft of confidence in front of goal, Torres has almost become a defensive forward at times, putting in a shift but not providing the goals. His overall game is arguably as strong as it was when at Anfield, but once he gets in a shooting position he lacks that predatory instinct which made him so prolific. Belief in him waned towards the end of the last campaign and Drogba got the nod in the Champions League and FA Cup finals.

Torres’s Position Is Under Threat

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From Back To Scrum: The Alteration Of Tom Youngs

10 11 2012

England kick-off of their autumn internationals this Saturday with a modest test against Fiji. The bruising encounter against the Flying Fijians will prove an initial examination for Stuart Lancaster to discover just how prepared his inexperienced side are before the triple-header against the world’s top three. These tests will not be encountered flippantly. World rankings in other sports might be farcical and maligned, but for England it is pivotal to ensure they remain in the top four before the 2015 World Cup seedings are formulated come the end of this year. This is to ensure their passage through the group stage is as feasible as possible, and avoiding the powerhouses such as New Zealand prematurely. England need to showcase to the fans that they have learnt from their mistakes from the Six Nations and South Africa. When Lancaster announced his team on Thursday morning, the name on the team sheet for the Fijian game which has caused most intrigue is that of Youngs. Not Ben, however, who has returned from injury quicker than expected; but his older brother Tom.

The boys grew up on a farm in Norfolk and were always destined to play rugby. Their father Nick played scrum-half and represented the Red Roses on six occasions. Ben Youngs told fond anecdotes at the team’s hotel in Surrey on Thursday how the two brothers would play ‘attack vs. defence’ out in the fields. Tom’s younger brother happily admitted he did not have the farming endeavour of his sibling, and how this grit and fortitude drove him to make it as a professional. Tom recollects how his first game at hooker went “I remember playing my first 90 minutes for Nottingham and just running around like a headless chicken. I wanted to become the best hooker in the Championship, and making sure I set little goals has been important in my career.”

Remarkably, his career has not followed the archetypal rugby path because Youngs converted from playing as a centre to the front-row. After the suggestion from former Leicester Tigers Coach Heyneke Meyer’s that both he and the club would have faith in him if he made the move, Youngs was given a few weeks to deliberate the decision “My dad said: ‘It’s your career, your life. Go ahead and do it if you want to give it a shot.” A move to Nottingham on dual registration allowed him the freedom to learn the arts in the lower division. “It was a matter of setting small targets and taking small steps. I had my head shoved up my arse on more than one occasion, but I was always able to go back to Leicester and talk things through with the top players there.” He also ensured his coaches reviewed tapes of his games and were analytical on his performance; keen to seek out where he was making mistakes. Was there much hesitation in his decision to alter position? “I was a hard-running centre who enjoyed tackling and knew how to pick a decent line, but I couldn’t kick. I didn’t have the skills to really make the grade in midfield. I’m glad I made the switch, although I wouldn’t say it’s been easy.” His first outing as a number two was actually against his parent club in a friendly; an occasion he is not likely to forget in a hurry “The Leicester front row that day was Marcos Ayerza, George Chuter and Martin Castrogiovanni, all of them internationals. I was on painkillers for a week.”

Brothers In Arms – Ben and Tom Youngs.

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The Crazy Spending Of The January Transfer Window

13 10 2011

The transfer window is a period the tabloids love with their continuous volumes of rumours to fuel the avid fan with belief his team is going to invest heavily in a top class forward, finally. The window at the turn of the year is traditionally one which sees low costs moves, usually mid-table clubs investing heavily to help avoid the drop. But this January saw an anomaly in England; big signings. Fernando Torres (£50m), Andy Carroll (£32m), Luis Suarez (£22m), David Luiz (£25m), Darren Bent (24m) and Edin Dzeko (£27m) all moved for prices above £20m, in deals you would generally expect to see in the summer. But what was the general trend across Europe?

The difference between the other European nations was drastic. With UEFA implementing new financial regulations next season in which clubs cannot spend more than their annual turnover, it seems the powerhouses of England – riddled with debt – wanted to make one last splurge. Overall in January a reported £225m was spent in the Premier League, a record amount which even surpasses the previous milestone of £175m which was set back in 2008, mainly due to Manchester City’s spending. The Citizens would be part of proceedings once more, but the big spenders were Chelsea. Russian oligarch Roman Abramovic has been reluctant in the past few seasons to invest, hoping the influx of youth signings under Frank Arnesen would be promoted and provide an ending to the Jose Mourinho years of economically draining investments.

Over in Spain money was spent, but not in large quantities. Barcelona’s sole purchase was young Dutchman Ibrahim Affelay from PSV Eindhoven who cost roughly €2m, while Real Madrid’s recruitment was the flimsy loan signing of Emanuel Adebayor from Manchester City. Malaga, under the ownership of a Qatari millionaire, helped spice up the transfer window signing six new players, the most costly being former Arsenal forward Julio Baptista who returned to Spain from Italy for  €3m.

Giampaolo Pazzini Celebrates After Scoring A Goal For His New Club

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How Do Manchester United Beat Barcelona?

24 05 2011

Saturday is a chance for redemption for Sir Alex Ferguson. Two years ago on that fateful night in Rome, Manchester United succumbed to a 2-0 defeat in a final which has been privately exasperating the manager. Barcelona overran the Red Devils in the centre of the pitch and it has been said that Michael Carrick is only just starting to rediscover that consistency which vacated him after that game.

United come into this match after a title-winning campaign brandished as lacking ‘fantasy’, but perhaps that will put them in good stead against a team who have it in abundance. Trying to play Barça at their own game will generally result in defeat, but with dogged determination, team full of energy and a potent striker, United have a great chance of reversing the disappointment from 2009.

Despite claims that we might be witnessing one of the greatest teams ever in the Catalans, they still have their flaws, and Ferguson knows if he can exploit them and more importantly take their chances, then United are one of the best teams to sit back and play on the counter-attack when protecting a lead.

Busquets Needs To Be Prevented From Playing

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The Rebirth Of Michael Carrick?

7 04 2011

Every club needs a scapegoat. For years homegrown Scotsman Darren Fletcher bore the brunt of the anger of the Manchester United fans and questioned Sir Alex Ferguson’s insistence on playing someone who they felt was not up to the requirements of the club. Gael Clichy and Jose Bosingwa receive the same treatment from their respected clubs, but there is one midfielder at Old Trafford who splits opinion more than anyone; Michael Carrick.

When he signed in 2006 from Tottenham Hotspur for a potential £18.6m, many fans were apprehensive with the price tag for a consistent, yet unspectacular player. However Carrick was the man who helped inspire United to three consecutive Premier League titles and the Champions League in 2008. Playing as a deep-lying playmaker, Carrick was key in sitting deep and intercepting play in a way which Sergio Busquets does for Barcelona, yet his passing meant he was a perfect deputy with Paul Scholes’ injury problems around that time. His form was so good that people were surprised he was not a regular in the England set-up.

Carrick's form has dropped since the 2-0 defeat to Barcelona

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Manchester United Player Focus – Jonny Evans

21 10 2010

At the start of the 2008/09 season, Manchester United Coach Sir Alex Ferguson had a dilemma; albeit one he was not complaining about. With Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand being the first choice centre-back pairing, a deputy was needed, someone who would be the long-term successor to Ferdinand, yet would get opportunities to develop in the first team.

The previous season Spanish defender Gerard Pique had impressed everyone at Old Trafford, with mature performances and the manager was not afraid to play him in big games against the likes of Arsenal and Roma. In the second half of the 2007/08 season Jonny Evans rejoined Roy Keane’s Sunderland side, whom he had already played for in a spell the season before, to help them in the fight against relegation, and displayed performances which caught the attention of his parent club. He had spent the first half of the season at the Red Devils, but appearances were restricted to just cup competitions. Eventually Barcelona resigned Pique, but Ferguson was not as reluctant as people would have expected in letting him depart, as he knew that Evans was ready for the step up to the first team.

Evans Needs To Rediscover Form

Evans Needs To Rediscover Form

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