Manchester United Player Focus – Antonio Valencia

16 09 2010

On Tuesday evening Manchester United opened their Champions League campaign with a 0-0 draw against Scottish side Rangers. There were a few talking points, firstly how Coach Sir Alex Ferguson rotated with his squad and made 10 changes to the line-up from the Everton game, bringing up accusations of arrogance and where his priorities lie – with a Premier League clash against rivals Liverpool on Saturday. Secondly how Rangers performed marvellously to frustrate and stifle United with a disciplined defensive performance, which the Red Devils are used to from travelling teams. Questions arose as to how good this squad really is and how they did not have somebody to unlock the tight knitted defence. Unfortunately the headline was not one people will have comfort in seeing.

Luis Antonio Valencia caught his foot in the turf while under-pressure from Kirk Broadfoot and dislocated his ankle, an injury which is likely to rule him out for the remainder of the season. It evokes sour memories for United fans, as only four years ago Alan Smith picked up the same injury when blocking a shot from Liverpool full-back John Arne Riise. The worry is not if he will recovery from the injury physically – thankfully medical advances in football mean the chances are he will recover – it is that recovery from such an injury is fraught with psychological implications. Since his setback Smith has moved on to Newcastle United, but it is fair to say he is not the same player he was pre-misfortune. He is not alone in that.

Valencia Has Made An Impact At Old Trafford

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My Favourite Player – David Beckham

10 09 2010

It’s easy to look beyond David Beckham as a footballer and associate him solely with glamour, advertising or just being a pretty face. There’s a reason that Beckham was – and perhaps still is – the most recognisable footballer in the world; his ability with a football.

Playground rules dictate that kids pretend to be a footballer when participating in a kick-around and Beckham was always the player I imitated. Not because of his diverse hairstyles or the elaborate tattoos, merely the fact he is a fantastic player.

Beckham During His Loan Spell In Milan

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Manchester United Player Focus – Edwin van der Sar

9 09 2010

On the 24th May 1995, Dutch football had reached a new chapter, one which was meant to go one step further than the much admired total football era. Ajax had just won the European Cup 1-0 against AC Milan in Vienna; the first time the team from Amsterdam had won the trophy since their treble of successes in the early 70’s. That unique side consisted of footballing greats such as: Johan Cruijff, Johan Neeskens, Ruud Krol and Wim Suurbier. Defeating Milan was a brilliant accomplishment; the Italian team had reached its third consecutive final and was regarded as the best team in Europe at the time. De Amsterdammers had a team full of promising young players, a batch that has gone on to establish fantastic careers. With the likes of the de Boer twins, Edgar Davids, Clarence Seedorf and Patrick Kluivert amongst the squad, it’s easy to see why the Oranje fans were optimistic about the future. One player has gone on from that glorious bunch to not only be remembered as one of the greatest goalkeepers of his generation, but is still competing at the highest level admirably at the age of 39.

In that same period Manchester United had arguably the greatest goalkeeper in Premiership history between the posts in Peter Schmeichel, who was a pivotal reason for the team’s dominance in the 90’s. Since he left the club in 1999, the Red Devils have struggled to replace him. Talented keepers such as Fabien Barthez, Mark Bosnich, Tim Howard and even Roy Carroll have been and gone. It was not until the 10th June 2005 that the Great Dane had finally been replaced, by the man who since his glory days at Ajax was now at Fulham. When Sir Alex Ferguson finally spits his chewing gum out onto the Old Trafford ground for the last time, he will look back and say that one of his best buys, pound-for-pound was Edwin van der Sar.

Still Going Strong at 39

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Manchester United Player Focus – Wayne Rooney

2 09 2010

This summer’s World Cup was meant to be the platform where Wayne Rooney would showcase his talents in front of a global audience, where he would brush aside the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo and demonstrate to everyone just how brilliant he is. Ever since that goal he scored against David Seaman at the age of 16, Rooney has had the pressure of a nation on his shoulders. He is the one contemporary player who has that unique ability and natural confidence, which very few players from these shores have had since Paul Gascoigne. Although it looks like he will be a target for opposition fans this season after his dreadful tournament, how has the lad from Liverpool developed into the forward everyone longed for?

Last season was the greatest season of Rooney’s career in terms of goals, a season in which his style of play was altered. In previous seasons he had been someone who would look to drop deep and link up with the midfield, somebody to drift around the pitch, chasing teams on the counter-attacks, influencing the game and tempo or perhaps put in a defensive shift when asked to play on the left wing on European nights. His defensive work accommodated the virtuoso talents of Cristiano Ronaldo and Ronaldo’s departure meant his goals needed to be replaced, and the replacement was a source that was not renowned for being prolific. In his five seasons in Manchester, Rooney had only scored 20 or more goals on two occasions. Whilst on the face of it this seems prolific, we have to account for long barren spells the Scouse firebrand so often endured. So how has Rooney morphed into this predator?

Rooney Breaks His Drought

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