Monthly Archives: August 2011

“How important we are to England” – Manchester United.

During the tenure of Sir Alex Ferguson, the Scot has led Manchester United to 37 honours, has received personal accolades from Manager of the Month to Knighthood, and has been labelled one of the greatest managers of the Premier League era, if not the stand-alone candidate. The success of the club has seen them over-take even the once famous Liverpool.

But today, Sir Alex launched a four-letter attack on the FA claiming the club have been unfairly treated. For anyone who may have missed it;

So, the key quote I picked out from the interview was;

“Maybe they will realise how important we are to England instead of treating us like s***.”

So what does this mean? Is Sir Alex calling for preferential treatment? It certainly sounds that way – but, as the rest of the league may say, doesn’t he already?

This blog post will not be a balanced article of all things United, this isn’t an article about how the league are for or against United. This is 100% just me compiling a range of counter-arguments which dis-prove Sir Alex’s arguments. I.e, he thinks they ‘are treated like s***’, I’m going to show them getting the rub of the green.

In my own opinion, I feel Manchester United have a habit of complaining when justice is served; i.e. The Wayne Rooney incident, swearing into the camera – People seemed to forget that Sky Sports pay Manchester United an excess of £40,000,000 a year, to show their games. Sky’s viewership on a weekend lunchtime is of all ages, and the aggressive nature of Mr Rooney’s actions were unacceptable for a pre-watershed audience. The FA would have been sanctioned by BSkyB, as part of the media contract, to warn players of behaviour on the pitch, and had the FA not punished Wayne Rooney, the FA would have been fined by Sky. Simple as that. Many argued “players swear on-screen all the time” – Yes, they do, but never at the camera, never directed at the viewers. That’s the fundamental difference.

Back to the pressing issue, Sir Alex claims that Manchester United are unfairly treated, interestingly, SJA Sports Writer of the Year; Nick Harris, compiled a report on the findings of @timjtlong (twitter), looking into how the league table would look, had all refereeing mistakes been corrected.

An interesting read, though I’ll be the first to admit there is flaws. For example, that table takes into account that all penalties would have been scored, fair – I guess. However, it does not take ‘momentum’ into account, for example;

Blackpool 2 – 3 Manchester United

Blackpool are leading 2-0, when Rafael appears to trip Luke Varney, BBC’s Sam Lyon describes the incident on ‘as it happens (bbc.co.uk/sport);

“I’m sorry, but how is that not a penalty? Blackpool forward Luke Varney looks to have been cleared out by Rafael da Silva inside the box, with the Brazilian nowhere near the ball, but referee Peter Walton waves the appeals away. Varney is incredulous and Blackpool boss Ian Holloway is incandescent.”

The aforementioned table counts that final result as a 3-3, but one would seriously argue that at 3-0 down United are out of the game.

Same can be said for West Brom 1 – 2 Manchester United; in the first 20 minutes Gary Neville is last man and clearly brings down Dorrans;

This time the words of BBC’s Chris Bevan;

Gary Neville brings down Dorrans as the Baggies man is 1 on 1.

“Big, big shouts for a West Brom penalty as Graeme Dorrans latches on to a long ball over the top. He is shaping to shoot inside the area when Gary Neville slides in. Does he get the ball? No. Does get the man? Yes. It should be a spot-kick but referee Chris Foy says no.”

This time, the table allows for 2-2, instead of taking into account the difference 1-0 (scored penalty), plus the sending off of Gary Neville.

Nor does it include the FA Cup, many Liverpool fans remember the 3rd round game at Old Trafford between the sides, where Howard Webb (who incidentally has given Manchester United 5 penalties in 10 matches) awards a penalty for a ‘foul’ on Berbatov when replays showed minimal/no contact.

Additionally, the table does not account for the difference a fair referee would have made to the potential suspension of a player;

Wayne Rooney elbow on McCarthy, should have seen a 3 match ban – Similar to how Alex Song was retrospectively punished for him stamp on Joey Barton, but was not seen. As well as the handball at the Emirates by Vidic  should have seen a 1 match ban, minimum, which would have seen the inspirational defender miss the title decider at Old Trafford with Chelsea. Further more, during: Aston Villa 2 – 2 Manchester United, Nemanjia Vidic scores the equaliser for the Red Devils, before going into the crowd to celebrate, a bookable offense, with the Serbian already on a booking the letter of the law demands he be sent off, as was Piquionne by the same referee vs Everton in Jan 2011, and Robben away at Sunderland for Chelsea in 2006. Pivotal decisions in a season, which are clearly inconsistent in United favour, appear to be so blindly missed.

Vidic celebrating just before entering the Away Section at Villa Park.

And these decisions are just in 2010-2011.

In 2009, Arséne Wenger coined the phrase ‘Old Trafford-ish’. A phrase which I can best define as; “The decisions that Manchester United get when playing at Old Trafford, the type of decisions that aren’t completely in-fitting with the rules of the game, nor are they expected when at other grounds”, after Darren Fletcher made 11 fouls in a match against the Gunners before being booked, then making around 3 prior to being substituted, also Arsenal conceded this penalty;

Watch Rooney’s leg in the slow motion replay, he’s leaving it into the ground, and forcing the contact. Not to mention the fact he’s booted the ball into  Row Z and is never going to get there. As Wenger said; ‘Old Trafford-ish’.

However, that is not the decision Arsenal fans are most bitter about; in 2004, their unbeaten record of 49 games was ended, you guessed it, at Old Trafford in a 2-0 victory for the Red Devils. With the game balanced at 0-0, Mike Riley, who – like Webb (above) had a record of giving penalties – had given Manchester United 7 penalties in his last 7 games at Old Trafford, made it 8 in 8, after awarding a penalty for this;

Make up your own mind if Sol Campbell makes contact.

It is very easy to get carried away in this debate, as a self-confessed Arsenal fan, I do try to maintain un-bias, and I understand there is an element of fortune that goes with any successful side, I just feel the comments of Sir Alex Ferguson can be translated as such;

“Help, we’ve done so much for English football over the last 25 years, and now, this mob from the other side of the City have a lot of money and are buying superstars like they have cheat-codes for Football Manager – we’re the best positioned team to challenge them and if you want this league to be competitive I suggest you help us out to make it so” – Or am I just being really cynical?

To conclude, Manchester United are not unfairly treated, in fact, I believe, had decisions gone a differently last season, and Manchester United not been given the rub of the green like they had been in 2010/2011, they would not have won their record 19th title. Manchester United remain, in my eyes, one of the most favoured clubs in the league.

However, the position that this leaves the FA in is tricky, they have two options;

Sir Alex gives the 4th Official his opinion.

1) Leave Sir Alex unpunished for his comments, but risk sending out an uneasy message to the football world. This action would be viewed as; “Hmm… we accept your point”

2) Charge Sir Alex. His comments are spiteful, and are leading towards the governing body acting upon them. He is playing mind-games with referees and the malicious nature of the comments threaten the integrity of the game.

Time will tell.

….. And let the barrage of Manchester United fans hate messages begin, direct them all to;

Over and out.

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Leg Breaks; Dirty or Mistimed?

I’m going to begin this blog piece by sending out my best wishes to Chung-Yong Lee of Bolton Wanderers FC, on 30/07/2011 he suffered a double-leg break (tib and fib, not both legs) in a pre-season friendly vs non-league Newport County, after a reckless tackle by Tom Miller. Lee will be out for around 9 months, but as many Arsenal fans know, with the case of Eduardo, in some examples the individuals may struggle to find form again.

So here we go;  Tackles. Are footballers under-protected or are safety conscious viewers attempting to remove physicality from the beautiful game?

I must add, and this is a key point from myself. I do have an element of hypocrisy in this blog post, given I’m a proud Rangers AND Arsenal supporter, it would seem ludicrous that I support crunching tackles in Old Firm encounters, yet slate wild attempts to injure Arsenal players, perhaps there’s no continuity in football. I’ll try to maintain an element of neutrality, but I’m not promising anything.

Scenario; ‘a player is coming towards you with the ball, he’s quicker than you, he’s technically superior to you, and you’re a CB who’s found himself out of position beyond the half-way line, you swing a boot in a scythe-like motion, completely missing the ball and leaving your young opponent lying on a heap in the floor, with his leg and ankle shattered.’ Ouch. If your mind is struggling to invisage this, check the inbedded video, below. The victim of this ‘tackle’ is sidelined for the next 9 months, in some cases – longer. The attacker serves a 3 match ban and then is available for the remainder of the campaign. How does this sit with your moral  conscience Mr/Mrs.Reader?

Okay, that’s my dig at Ryan Shawcross out the way.

In my opinion, cases like this should see the player who breaks his leg, be suspended for the time it takes the victim to recover. So; 9 months.

It seems harsh, but is there any other way to stomp it out?  – excuse the pun.

Let’s dive deeper; my only issue with my initial punishment is that where do you confuse recklessness with lack of skill. Many have argued that Shawcross’s attempt was a 50:50 and that to alter the rules, thus removing the physical edge, would turn the game into a non-contact sport? Or, in this case, alter the rules to suit Arsenal’s style of play? I think it’s fairly common knowledge for English Premier League supporters that; “To beat Arsenal, you kick them off the park”, – except Manchester United, who just absorb and counter – but kicking them off the park can lead to injuries. And with Diaby/Eduardo and Ramsey all suffering leg-breaks in the last 7 years many Gunners’ fans are beginning to worry at the tactic’s instructed which may lead to this. – Let me back up this point with a good example;

…You all remember being 14/15 years old, you’re playing for your local or school football team and the coach tells you; “First tackle you make, make it a hard one! Make sure they know they’re in a game!”. Well, I happen to think that’s very similar instructions to what some <8th place sides get when they face Arsenal. Of course I’m not suggesting they’re encouraged to attempt to injure, but surely if you’re encouraging hard, crunching tackles, then injuries to your opponents are a potential by-product.

Holden and Evans contest a ’50:50′

Further more to this point, since the take-over of Owen Coyle at Bolton Wanderers, many bloggers and media alike have noted the style of play exhibited at the Reebok, and have commented on their new-found notions of passing, moving and playing a better game. Their style of play has become a far cry greater than the Allardyce days and I believe Europa League is not outwith their abilities should they secure a few more signings. So, and I think you know where I’m going with this, since Christmas, Bolton have had 2 leg breaks, the fantastic and highly rated Stuart Holden, and now Chung-Yong  Lee. Is this a coincidence?  Perhaps not.

Though I do find the irony in Trotters fans tweeting in out-cry at the same reckless tackles they were happy to cheer on during Allardyce’s tenure.

There currently is a panel, set up by the FA, to look at red card incidents and decide on if these are worthy of an extension to the 3 match ban imposed automatically. – Most notably in the case of Ben Thatcher vs Pedro Mendes. However, this is the same panel who happened to deem Wayne Rooney’s elbow on James McCarthy as okay.

Which brings me nicely on to the topic of this blog entry’s title. How do you distinguish between dirty and mistimed?  

Nolan challenges Victor Anichibe of Everton, leaving the Toffee’s man out for months.

The fact of the matter is, it’s difficult to. Every coach and team-mate will claim “he’s not that type of player”, and I’m sure he’s not malicious at all off the field, in fact… I’ve been told Mike Tyson is one of the nicest people I could ever meet, still doesn’t alter his sporting personality. Dirty tackles are an everyday occurrence, so I would say that the only way to distinguish between tackles and punishments is the severity of the out-come caused, and a harsher view upon this by the governing panels in situ. Cause at the end of the day, the intent behind this (Wayne Rooney vs Portsmouth) and this (Karacan vs Liverpool) is the exact same, it’s merely the contact, and the effect is what should determine the punishment. Similar to driving a car, if you are speeding; 3 points. If you speed into a residential area and kill someone, slightly more than 3 points. Similar system…..ish.

So I guess the jury is out, this blog piece has been a build up of entirely my own opinions, but it doesn’t necessarily make it right or wrong. I guess this is one of the few times where, in my eyes, the responses I get are just as valuable as the original piece.

Get voting on the poll, give a good overview without needing to read through everyone’s comments!

Follow me on twitter, link below, and if you guys have your own blogs please let me know so I can check them out and hopefully add them to my ‘recommended read’ section!

Over and out.