Where have all the leaders gone at Manchester United?


Chris Francis pinpoints the real issue behind Manchester United’s failings this season…

Forget the midfield deficiencies. Leave the questions regarding full backs. Ignore the limitations of a strike force shorn of Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney. The biggest issue United have at present is leadership.

There is a distinct lack of the stuff at Old Trafford.

It sounds ridiculous to hold this up as a problem when you look at the experience of the players available to David Moyes. Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand, Ryan Giggs, and Patrice Evra have all got bucket loads of the stuff, and at different points in their careers in Manchester have show outstanding leadership skills. But Vidic looks unhappy and frustrated at the predicament in which his team currently find themselves, Ferdinand is rarely given a game, Giggs is no longer the influential figure he was, and Evra’s performances have been decidedly hit and miss for the first half of this season.

So where are the others? Continue reading

Editor’s Column: Moyes, BT Sport and Referees


The False Nine editor James Dutton begins his new weekly column, focusing on some of the talking points of the weekend’s football action…

So David Moyes has made the worst start of any Manchester United manager for the past 850 years. Or something like that.

A return of seven points from the opening five fixtures was below-par, but by no means a disaster. The way those points were won though, was hardly a sign of encouragement for the season. United were by no means rampant in their opening-day win at Swansea, merely clinical in the opposition’s penalty area and solid in their own.

In the middle third there was little that was excellent though, a shortcoming that Ferguson was able to paper over for years but which Moyes is struggling with so far. The insipid 0-0 with Chelsea lacked the typical Ferguson tour-de-force, and the performance in defeat at Anfield was little better.

Their dispatchment of Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League was impressive, but has been followed up by three performances which have straddled between lacklustre, indifferent and diabolical. Continue reading

Jose Mourinho, Chelsea and the Cult of Brian Clough

Mourinho Chelsea

As the press go wild for Jose Mourinho’s reinstatement as Chelsea manager, Greg Johnson ponders the source of England’s love affair with the Special One and the interrupted quest for domestic domination he will look to now reassume…

The all-encompassing British football manager is perhaps the most revered piece of dogma in this island’s footballing belief system. Arguably no one has typified this ceremonial role of idol, patriarch and high priest as much as Brian Clough, who continues to influence popular tastes on the sort of perfect, omnipotent higher-being fans should desire to run their football club to this day.

It is this cult of the archetype head coach that led the English media to first be seduced and later fall in love with Jose Mourinho: their messianic, romantic saviour. But back to Brian Clough.

“Old big head”, he was called: the most arrogant, quotable and brilliant manager of his age, and Clough’s achievements remain legendary. Continue reading

Sir Alex Ferguson Reminds us that he is Human after all

Sir Alex retiring

In his final Old Trafford farewell as manager, Sir Alex not only showcased his humility but also the emotional intelligence that powered his title-winning record writes Scott Jenkins

Sir Alex Ferguson bid farewell to his reign as manager of Manchester United in the most befitting style possible; as a champion. He also reminded us of how football can be guilty of forgetting the very nature of the people involved in the beautiful game. Behind every player or manager is a man with their own story and views on life.

There can be little disputing that Ferguson is the finest manager the game has ever seen. He has won a record haul of 38 trophies during his time as United manager including 13 Premier League titles, 5 FA Cups, 4 League Cups, 10 Charity/Community Shields, 2 Champions Leagues, 1 Cup Winners Cup, 1 Super Cup, 1 Intercontinental Cup and 1 World Club Cup. And last Tuesday he announced that his position as the longest serving domestic coach at the biggest club in England was coming to an end with his impending retirement next weekend.

Amongst the many things that Sir Alex is famed for beyond aforementioned success include: his infamous half-time hair-dryer treatment, 26 years’ service at United, persistently chewing gum, wearing coats and of course, “Fergie time”. Yet one of the most underrated qualities he shows is his sincerity when it comes to the value of life and hard work, instilled in him from his working class background growing up in Govan, Glasgow. His appreciation of the intrinsic balance between these two vital qualities allowed him to get the best out of the temperamental Eric Cantona, gave strength to David Beckham following his dismissal at the France 1998 World Cup and the national vilification that followed, and defused the Ronaldo-Rooney issue post World Cup 2006. Continue reading

David Moyes, Sir Alex Ferguson and 5 other successions from football’s past

Who will replace Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United? - video

With the dawn of a new era breaking over Old Trafford, Greg Johnson looks back to some of football’s most famous (and infamous) hand overs of power between dynasties, empires and icons…

On July 1, David Moyes will enter the manager’s office at Manchester United’s Carrington training complex for first time, not as a visitor but as its reigning incumbent following the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson.

The club’s selection of successor to follow in the footsteps of their outgoing leader has been widely discussed online and off. Is Moyes capable of lifting the team to the precarious heights many argue Jose Moruinho would have been certain to deliver? Why was the capture of Jurgen Klopp, with his exciting, direct football and evangelism of youth talent, not priotitsed? How important will Moyes’ domestic experience and strict management of Everton be in ensuring transition at the top runs smooth?

Having recommended Moyes for the post himself, Sir Alex clearly believes the Scotsman to be capable of building on his work, but are such handovers of power, with their ceremonial baton passes, effective at protecting a footballing empire?

Below are five examples of successions from football’s past for United fans to mull over. Continue reading

The Manchester derby: United’s last chance to land a knock-out blow

RVP AliGreg Johnson looks at why Manchester United must go for the uppercut against Manchester City in tonight’s Premier League derby or risk damaging their own victory like the faded glory of modern heavyweight boxing.

The causes for heavyweight boxing’s failing fortunes have been blamed and cited far and wide. From the attritional tedium of slow, lumbering fighters to professionalism’s purge on personalities, the sport’s biggest hitters have lost their box office clout.

Yet while boxing worries itself over the quality of its sporting supply, could it be that demand has in fact shifted elsewhere to the realm of goalposts, crossbars and avant garde hair design? Has football become a surrogate home for the drama, structure, celebrity and stories that once elevated heavyweight showdowns to the level of world-stopping spectacle?

Across Europe’s top leagues, title races have become season-long duopolies: intense feuds and brutal duels between two genuine, opposing heavyweights. The appetite for pre-season gossip within each league has birthed functioning pre-fight hype machines while transfer deadline day is now ritualised institution; the new weigh-in. Continue reading

The Problem with Wayne Rooney


Scott Jenkins asks whether Wayne Rooney has fulfilled his potential as he reaches a crossroads in his career…

The issue with Wayne Rooney is simply that there isn’t one that he can solely control. It’s inherently our own problem on how we view him and subsequently what we expect.

When the boy from Croxteth burst onto the scene at Everton as a 16 year old record breaker, scoring that goal against Arsenal, something happened. Suddenly fans, players, managers and media all bolted up and took notice of him. He was the name on everyone’s lips. The player every club wanted. Instantly he was the hope of a nation too. Continue reading