Posts tagged: Wayne Rooney

A Message From Liverpool To Manchester United: We’re Not So Different, You And I

By , October 19, 2010 1:14 pm

Wayne Rooney Eyes A Move Away From Old Trafford

They say that football, like most things in life, is cyclical. Peaks and troughs await the best and worst of teams, and just how long each one lasts is up to those involved. By no means is either a high or low guaranteed to be forever, which for some teams can ultimately be good, or for those at the top, a disaster.

Just ask Liverpool. This is the team that was at one time the best in England and the best in Europe. Consistently, year in and year out, they competed with the best players and best managers the game had to offer. It must also be pointed out that this period of utter dominance in the 70s and 80s was followed by a period of footballing wilderness in the 90s, at which point another team took over as the dominant force in England (more on them in a bit).

Even in the 2000s, Liverpool maintained their dominance in the “Top Four” domestically and continued to be commanding on the European stage. Under Rafa Benitez alone, Liverpool made it to four European semi-finals in six seasons, along with two finals, winning one of them. Although there were always some setbacks, Liverpool looked a great side in Benitez’s penultimate season by finishing second in the Premier League, their best finish in a long time.

But alas, Liverpool still find themselves in the position they are in now. From finishing second place two seasons ago, to seventh place last season, to currently in the relegation zone. It’s a harsh reality to observe after five years of steady highs and rebuilding, but the crash has hit and hit hard. The team now flounders after three years spent under poor ownership and previous and current miss-management. While there’s no one person to blame, whether it be the owners, Benitez, or Hodgson, the club has slid from its position of grace and is struggling to cope.

Then there’s Manchester United. A team so dominate in the 90s and 2000s that they climbed from winning seven division titles before that period to winning 11 in the last 17 years. Oddly enough, they won their 18th league title two years ago, equaling Liverpool’s all-time record, the same year Liverpool finished second at the end of an excellent season. Both teams finished the 2008-2009 season on a high, with a visible momentum for the future.

Eighteen months later and United look a completely different side, while, like Liverpool, selling their best players off and not bringing in adequate replacements. You can look at the negative impact owners such as George Gillett and Tom Hicks have had at Liverpool and see a very similar impact the Glazers have had at United. While they appeared to improve for a time under the American family, they have found themselves faltering after some notable sales and a heavy increase in debt.

This season has no doubt started poorly for the runners-up. A succession of dropped points to teams like Fulham, Everton, Bolton, Sunderland, and West Brom have left them stewing in mediocrity. No longer are they the fearsome team from the Northeast that used to put teams to the sword, but rather a side with a geriatric core and a defense resembling a sieve.

It’s not necessarily a game of “Let’s Blame The Owners,” but the debt that United now find themselves in, despite their large gate receipts and continued appearances in Europe, has to be worrying. And even with the incredible haul of £80 million for Ronaldo, whom have they replaced the prolific player with? The team has failed to attract stars of that caliber and started to become a team of unimpressive ‘value’ players. The likes of Valencia, Javier Hernandez, Michael Owen, and Gabriel Obertan have yet to impress at Old Trafford, and most importantly, they’ve yet to impress the only star player left in Wayne Rooney.

It’s sad news for those that follow United to hear of Rooney’s apparent desire to leave the club, following in the footsteps of his former strike partners Ronaldo and Tevez. The situation may change, but he appears out the door to the nearest trophy winning side in blue.

As Ferguson and Rooney remain at odds, it’s the first time the public have been privy to chinks in the United armor. While it may seem unfathomable to United fans to be protesting outside a courtroom to oust their current owners and languishing in the drop zone in desperate need of a turnaround, that’s exactly what Liverpool fans thought a year ago.

Let The Silly Season End And The Real Season Begin

By , August 12, 2010 1:31 pm

The Premier League Can't Start Soon Enough

In the four weeks since the World Cup ended, there’s not been much to note in the world of football. The summer suddenly became what it usually is between seasons: long and dull with no football in sight.

For any real fan, summertime is depressing. There’s no action to speak of for three months, which leaves you no choice but to grasp onto the ridiculousness of the silly season. Thank heavens there was a World Cup this summer because the post season has been one of the most uneventful in years.

The “word of the day” this particular summer transfer window has been one many clubs haven’t used for a while: value. Long gone are the days of the open checkbook and the ludicrously overpriced sales tags attached to the world’s top stars. No longer will clubs be willing to fork out £30 million for a player without batting an eyelid. In these hard economic times, even multi-millionaires need to pinch some pennies here and there.

Perhaps the Premier League is now finally catching up with the rest of the footballing world with its newfound thriftiness. They are being forced to look for players who provide value for money, rather than offer the biggest amount they can think of knowing the other team can’t say no (£80 million for Ronaldo to Real Madrid anyone?).

Bye Bye: Chelsea Gets Rid Of Some Dead Wood At Stamford Bridge

Chelsea, so often the big spenders in the transfer market, have barely made a peep this summer. They are doing themselves some favors by getting rid of the, shall we say, ‘old’ dead wood around the club. Michael Ballack, Juliano Belletti, Ricardo Carvalho, and Deco will all be playing their club football elsewhere next season.

So far, they’ve only brought in Yossi Benayoun, who, while a talented player doesn’t have the same ability to change games and unlock defenses as his predecessor Joe Cole. The squad they have will be strengthened more by players returning from long injury spells, including Drogba, Mikel, and most importantly, Essien, than it will from new signings.

Manchester United's Season Hinges On The Form Of Wayne Rooney

Still, the fact that Chelsea has done so little in the way of transfer dealings is definitely a sign of the times. And despite the big money Manchester United made off the Ronaldo deal last summer, they have yet to spend much money either. Their only summer signing of note is the Mexican World Cup sensation Javier Hernández, who, to be honest, doesn’t fill me with dread when I look at him on the pitch. With very few new recruits in key positions, Manchester United have every opportunity to go backward this season after their failure last year to pip Chelsea to the title.

United’s starting 11 is aging rapidly in the form of Giggs, Scholes, a 31-year-old Rio Ferdinand, and a 40-year-old Edwin van der Sar. But it’s the enormous chasm that Wayne Rooney left when he was injured last year that should be United’s chief cause for concern. There’s no way Michael Owen and Dimitar Berbatov can get the job done, and it will be the young Hernández’s first season, all too soon to carry the team himself. Without a fit Wayne Rooney, Ferguson’s team is in danger of falling way off the mark.

Can Mancini Deliver The Goods To Man City This Season?

Manchester City has been the only team willing to splash out the absurd amounts of cash on new players. They are believed to have spent around £77 million already, and with the arrivals of James Milner and Mario Balotelli imminent, their spending will reach the heights of around £130 million by the end of the transfer window. Despite having this grand notion that they’re doing something radical in bolstering their squad in such a manner, they are only doing what Chelsea did a few years ago, and it won’t last.

It can’t last, as Chelsea can now attest too. Even billionaire owners have to work with what they’ve got and shelve the spending after a while. This is really the season where Man City will have to prove that all this money is going to good use. They finished a very decent fifth place last season, just missing out on the Champions League, and look to be one of the most frightening prospects for the new campaign. But if things don’t change by May 2011, Mancini will be looking for a new job and the oil rich Abu Dhabi Group will cut off City’s supply of endless funds.

Christian Poulson, Another Shrewd Summer Signing For Liverpool

Then there’s Liverpool. After a devastating previous season in which they finished seventh and only through a fortunate turn of events squeaked into the Europa League, this season will be looked at as one for improvement. For the first time in a long time, Liverpool fans, players, and staff are realistically focused on rebuilding the team and looking for progress rather than trophies. That’s not to say they aren’t in with a shout. The league title might be a bridge too far for new manager Roy Hodgson, but with a fit Torres, Gerrard, and Aquilani, there’s no reason this team can’t finish in the top four and even go on to win the Europa League and a domestic cup.

This season for Liverpool is all about starting over, and due to their current lack of new ownership on the eve of the first premier league weekend, ‘value’ has been on the lips of everyone involved with the club this summer. So far, Liverpool have done a pretty decent job of finding players who are a value for money. Joe Cole, Milan Jovanovic, and Fabio Aurelio came on a free, while Danny Wilson, Jonjo Shelvey, and latest signing Christian Poulsen all came for less than £10 million combined. While the strength in depth to actually challenge for the title can’t be there until a much needed injection of funds comes from a new owner, this Liverpool squad has definitely used the word value to their advantage, more so than any other team in the league so far.

A Tale Of Two Countries

By , June 14, 2010 4:28 pm

England Keeper Green Makes A Howler

Team USA Celebrates The Draw

Where to begin when discussing the England vs. USA World Cup match. For a game with few goals and overall little action from each team on the pitch, there could easily be a novella written in response to the game, which enraptured so many from both sides of the pond. That the game induced such a polarized response from each country was astounding. What was seen as a massive disappointment in the English camp for not producing a win they should have easily attained was conversely seen as a monumental triumph to the USA. How can two such disparate opinions be used to reflect the same 1-1 draw? In an attempt to answer this, let’s take a look at both sides.

For England, before the game even began and the team lineups were announced, there were definitely some raised eyebrows. Two things struck me immediately. One, where was David James? I think it’s safe to say that while James has had his “calamitous” moments for England, he’s still the most experienced and trust worthy keeper they have, surely the best bet to be in goal in what was always going to be a cagey match. Instead, Robert Green, a very good keeper despite having a somewhat mixed season at West Ham, was the starter between the posts. An interesting choice by Capello, but not a total shock. And two, young winger James Milner was on the left wing, a position I questioned who would fill before the start of the game. Despite the piqued interest the lineup brought, I decided to have faith in the manager, and especially applauded his choice of Milner over Joe Cole. While Joe Cole is one of England’s most creative players, he’s been injured off and on for almost two seasons and Milner has shown vast improvements in his game over the same period of time.

Even with a strong lineup, there was doubt in the team selection, and trust me, the English don’t need much of a reason to have doubts about their team, so much so that winning the World Cup wouldn’t quell them all. But even with those doubts, you felt a sense of confidence in Capello and his strategy. Conversely, you had the USA team. And, unlike England, the USA doesn’t need much of a reason to get behind their team. They felt confident in their manager, Bob Bradley, who proved that the USA can not only compete in the world of football, they can win, as their infamous win over Spain showed. Nevertheless, England were still highly favored to get the job done and after four minutes, with influential captain Steven Gerrard scoring, you felt it would be a day of vindication for England and a way to silence their own supporters’ ever-present doubts.

Five minutes before half time and once again, it was the England fans who felt vindicated as Green committed a howler to end all howlers. He fumbled what should have been a simple save and the USA went delirious with joy. The game continued for another 50 minutes, with neither team making much of a push to win and it ended in a 1-1 stalemate. England, perhaps as usual, started the game brightly with a lot of cut and thrust, as well as an early goal. They ended it, perhaps as usual, with a whimper rather than a bang. Despite Green’s massive mistake, England made no real effort to win. Golden boy Wayne Rooney was nonexistent, Milner was substituted after 30 minutes for being ineffective, and Ledley King came off injured at the half. A great wave of disappointment certainly washed over the England camp, even though they got what some would see as a respectable result.

On the other side, the USA celebrated as if they had just won the World Cup. They defended well, created some chances, and in the very American tradition of seeing the glass half full, they saw their team’s lucky draw as proof they can come up against the best teams in the world and walk away with a result. In some ways, I can see their point. This is a team who not so long ago were always amongst the lowest rated in the world, yet they recently beat Spain and now have an important draw against England in the World Cup under their belt. All credit to them feeling a great sense of accomplishment, but I’m afraid this really wasn’t much more than England living up to their reputation of bottling it when the pressure is on.

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