Champions again

Man United - 2013 champions

Congratulations to Manchester United, who have secured their 20th league title after last night’s win against Aston Villa. Love them or hate them, there’s no denying that it really is a club with something special – to have won so many titles in the last 25 years.

Predictably, the Liverpool (and other) fans will be eagerly awaiting the day that Sir Alex retires, but when that time comes, we’ll just see how your teams fare… 🙂

Cup of disappointment

It was supposed to be spectacular. A football feast that drew the best in the world. One month of awesome talent on display – and all on the African continent, despite the reservations of many; and the phantom terrorist threats that others so boldly claimed.

I speak, of course, of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, which is being held here in South Africa.

The tournament has, thus far, been professional and well-organised. Aside from wage disputes with stadium security, the tournament has been relatively trouble-free.

We have our shiny new stadiums; sophisticated transport systems; and upgraded roads and airports – all of which cost the country (and its taxpayers many millions). And all in all, things seem to be looking up in terms of promoting future tourism to South Africa.

But, for me, the big irony in all of this glitz and glamour is the basic premise on which the tournament is being held: the game of football.

I haven’t analysed the statistics – but so far, it seems to me that this has been a most boring tournament in terms of actual football. I think the majority of the games have ended up as draws – and low-scoring draws at that.

I haven’t watched all of the games – actually only a few, and bits and pieces here and there – but the results so far tell me that this isn’t the mega-tournament it was billed to be.

Aside from Uruguay embarrassing the hosts 3-0, and Germany’s 4-0 opening win, I haven’t been impressed with the results or the play so far.

France are a huge disappointment, and England are not far behind (although, if Rooney can hit form, that can very easily change). Many of the big teams are stuttering while less-famous countries, like Mexico and Uruguay, are thriving.

In fact, it seems the biggest star of the tournament has been the “Vuvuzela” (the horns you hear at every game) – which, in my opinion, is a cultural thing that Europeans and others just need to get used to – rather than complaining about it. After all, just because singing  – and not trumpets – are the norm in England and Europe, it doesn’t mean that everything else is some twisted perversion of how a crowd ‘should’ behave at a soccer game. (See Azra’s views on it here).

We’re only just over a week into the tournament, so there’s plenty of time for things to turn around on the football fields. But, so far, it’s just been a very average tournament – which is sad for South Africa; because we don’t want to be branded as the country that hosted the most boring World Cup ever.

What are your thoughts on the tournament so far?

The perfect ten

Another year, another title.

Congratulations to Manchester United for wrapping up their tenth Premier League title yesterday, and making all United supporters around the world proud. It was especially heart-warming to see my favourite player of all time, Ryan Giggs, come on to score the goal that would cement the victory. It was his 758th United appearance for the club, tying the record set by Sir Bobby Charlton – and regardless of which club you support, I think you have to salute the longevity of a player who has stayed at the highest level of club football for 17 seasons, and won just about every club competition he’s played in.

It’s been an amazing season, much like last year, the difference being that we’re on for a double this season.

Hopefully, everyone will be fit and raring to beat Chelsea on May 21st…the 9 years since we last won the Champion’s League is a long time..

And the winner is…


Congratulations to Manchester United, who were, once again, crowned English Premier League champions this weekend. Its been a lean few years, with Arsenal, and more notably Chelsea, breaking United’s dominance – but I’m sure all the United fans will be well pleased that we finally took back the title this season.

They put their foot down right from the start, and kept their consistency both in the attractiveness of their play, and in keeping the wins coming – even when they weren’t playing so well. It was an all-round effort, in that both defence and attack were superb this season.

For the defence, there wasn’t that instability of last year, and the emerging of the central duo (Ferdinand and Vidic) has been one of the best partnerships to flourish in years.

Up front, Saha was excellent for the first half of the season, and proved that we don’t need to rely on one striker to get 20 or 30 goals, as Van Nistlerooy had done for a few years. In the 90s, when United dominated the English game, the goals were spread around – there was never one player that got 20 goals a season, and proved to be the matchwinner most weeks. This season was a reminder of that, and really, its a much more solid foundation to have than a single player dominating your scoring charts. What would Chelsea be without Drogba this season? (Thats not a dig at Chelsea fans…just bringing up a valid point 😉 )

The strikers and attacking players did very well, which is reflected in United scoring the most league goals this season. I really hoped Solskjaer would stay fit, because he’s one of my favourites. He had a great start, but, like Saha, fell victim to injuries for the 2nd half of the season.

My player of the year, based on his performance the whole season (and nothing else), was Christiano Ronaldo. For a midfielder to get more than 20 goals, on top of all the assists and build-up play, is an excellent return – especially considering the cloud he started the season under, after the World Cup incident with Rooney. Those two proved to be an excellent partnership, and I wonder what the tabloid writers have to say now. Once again, though, his case is a reminder of previous cases at United, where a player has returned after some major ‘tragedy’: we had Cantona coming back after his big suspension, and proving the catalyst for United to win the double that year. Beckham came back after his 98 World Cup sending off, where he was made the scapegoat for England’s exit. And this time, Ronaldo was the player who started the season with so much speculation and ill-feeling towards him – but like his predescessors (all of them wearing the number 7, by the way…coincidence?), he proved all the doubters wrong, and scooped all the awards at the end of the season (3 individual honours in total, i think).

I was also pleased that Ryan Giggs had a good season, particularly the first half of it. He’s my all-time favourite United player, and – regardless of who the player and club is – I just love it when an older player is successful towards the end of his career. (Not that he’s done yet – hopefully he’s got a few years left).

Looking to next season, there are a few players I’m looking forward to seeing, when they get back from their loans. Giuseppe Rossi, who was on loan at Newcastle and Parma, has a big reputation from the Youth and Reserve teams, and I’d love to see him get his chance to become a regular. Ben Foster has done well in goal at Watford, but is supposed to be staying at Old Trafford next season, pushing Van Der Sar for the goalkeeping spot. I think that’ll be good for the competition as well as the defence, because since Schmeichel left, we haven’t had a rock-steady ‘keeper until Van Der Sar, but he’s in his mid-30s already, which means that in a few years, we’re going to need a ‘keeper capable of filling those boots. Hopefully, Foster will prove a worthy successor.

From here on, the transfer speculation picks up, and many think Hargreaves will be one of the big signings for next season. Personally, I don’t think United need many new faces, because this team – this squad – is very young, and along with the strong talent already present, I’m hoping that another batch of superb youngsters will come through all at once, and energise the club to dominate once again for the next decade or so. I grew up watching “Fergie’s Fledgelings” – Beckham, Scholes, the Nevilles, Butt – that group, all coming through the ranks together, and making a big impact. It has been a bit sad to see the younger players come through in ones and twos over the last decade, and not many of them have had as big an impact as the famous class of the 90s.

Anyway, if you support other clubs, all the best to you for next season. Its an exciting league, and the standard of competition is extremely high after Chelsea’s dominance over the last 2 years. With big foreign investors popping up more and more, it seems other clubs may soon be challenging Chelsea and United, and thats a good thing because – unless you support the winning player/team – its not so exciting when one entity dominates a sport for a long time. (Think Pete Sampras with tennis in the 90s, Michael Schumacher with F1, Australia with cricket).

So, once again, congratulations to Sir Alex and the team, and the club as a whole. The last few years have been a building phase, and this season has seen the results of that development.Its been a great season, and although a Treble would’ve been great, a Double would do just fine. (That *is* a dig at the Chelsea fans 😉 )

Frozen in time (part 2)

These aren’t quite as classic as part one, but still worth a look:




David Beckham is sent off for the 2nd time in his international career (October 2005)



nevilles_2005.jpg         ferdinands.JPG

Gary and Phil Neville (left); Rio and Anton Ferdinand (right).



rvnfergie_getty.JPG         carlingcup2006.JPG

Happier times: Van Nistlerooy and Ferguson (left); Saha, along with Rooney and Ronaldo (right)

Heroes of yester-year

With the World Cup over, I thought it’d be good to remind you not of today’s stars, but those from previous years.

First up is one of my all-time favourites, Andrei Kanchelskis. One of the reasons I liked United so much back then was their play from the wings, with Giggs and Kanchelskis being the fastest and best dribblers I’ve ever seen.


Next is one of Italy’s all-time greats, Roberto Baggio. He was their star of the 1994 World Cup. It’s a pity he’s remembered for missing the final penalty, rather than the 5 goals he scored to get Italy to the final, making him joint top scorer with Romario.


And finally, the best for last….