The Premier League and the race to Rio


TFN’s Piers Barber on the Premier League players who will be fighting desperately to make it into their national squads before the season is out.

The Spanish contingent

Spain, current defending World champions and winners of the last two European Championships, are extremely strong contenders for the title of Best Team To Have Ever Played Anywhere In The World Ever, or something like that. Their embarrassment of midfield riches has meant they are once again one of the favourites to walk away with football’s biggest prize in Brazil, yet their strength in depth has also laid on a substantial challenge for some of the nation’s most talented players to even make it on to the plane to South America. Juan Mata, who scored in the Euro 2012 final, felt his place in the national squad under such threat that he recently initiated a move from Chelsea to Manchester United in a quest to secure some playing time in the lead up to the tournament. Jesus Navas at Manchester City and Santi Cazorla at Arsenal, meanwhile, will have to ensure they are on top form throughout the rest of the season if they hope to figure in Brazil.

The suffering Man United players

It’s been a calamitous start to 2014 for Manchester United, who have lost five of their nine games since the turn of the year. Their dramatic post-Alex Ferguson slump has not only put the Old Trafford club in serious danger of failing to qualify for European football next year, but has also threatened to jeopardise several of their highest profile players’ international careers. Marouane Fellaini, for instance, desperately needs to find some form if he is to make the starting line-up for highly fancied Belgium, whilst Nani – who, through a combination of bad form and injury, has barely figured throughout 2013/14 – must also improve if he is to feature for Portugal. Elsewhere, whilst an excellent season last year put Michael Carrick in contention for a starting berth for England in Brazil, a dire first half to the current campaign has cast even his spot on the plane in substantial doubt. Continue reading

MUFC: Five more years of War is Peace, Ignorance is Strength & Nani is Useful


Joe Bookbinder returns to the TFN fold with a savage assessment of Nani’s contract renewal at Manchester United…

The year is 2007. Luís Carlos Almeida da Cunha is a very exciting winger with great pace and skill; a potentially world-class player in the making. Sir Alex Ferguson certainly thinks so and is prepared to spend €25 million on the 19 year old. Ferguson knows that da Cunha, more commonly known as “Nani”, is nowhere near the finished player but is confident that he can fulfil his potential and develop, like his compatriot Cristiano Ronaldo, into one of the greatest flair players around.

Skip ahead to 2013 and Nani has just been awarded a 5 year contract. In this time he has played over 200 games, scoring 40 times as well as winning eight trophies at Old Trafford and the individual honour of being named in the 2010-11 PFA team of the Year. Yet even with the silverware taken into account, the majority of football fans see the player’s staying power at the Theatre of Dreams as a point from which to mock United fans. United fans seem to be divided on the matter. By the very fact that his signature hasn’t merited sighs of relief nor scenes of celebration demonstrate Nani’s unfulfilled potential. A mixture of resigned apathy and disbelief hangs over his presence in the Premier League due in part to the sheer inconsistency of Nani’s performances these past few years. How the last 6 years have possibly justified another 5 seems beyond most.

The Portuguese obviously has talent. In fact, it’s a genuine shame that his default mode is to channel that ability towards individual showboating rather than the collective efforts of the team. There are several ways of looking at the situation surrounding Nani’s contract extension. Continue reading