Saturday, July 25, 2009

Stranger in a Strange Land

Its very odd for me to go into a match as a neutral. I generally watch Premier League matches where I am either rooting for United or rooting for the club that will help United maintain it's place - the lesser of the two evils. Its the same in the Champions League. You can say you're a neutral when you watch perhaps say - Everton v Spurs - but somewhere in the back of your mind you're always wondering how the match will affect you and yours.

Last night I went to see Chelsea play AC Milan in Baltimore. I made the trip down with two friends of mine who happen to be fanatical Chelsea fans. So I think it was rather obvious what I did - especially since I wanted a ride home. I rooted for Chelsea.



Since I wasn't allowed to wear any of my United gear ( jerseys, shirts, hats, buttons, etc ) without upsetting my friends I decided to borrow a white away jersey and go dressed as a Chelski supporter. I think it also allowed me to see things from a different view - and allowed me to see the fans in a different view. They cheered in my direction and waved their team on to victory.

I learned that Chelsea fans aren't so different from me. They care. They scream. They clap. They're somewhat informed. I'm sure if you cut them they bleed, and so on and so forth.

I had a good seat. A very nice seat. Section 102. Row 11. Seat 10. I had a great view and the team warmed up directly in front of me.





My thoughts on the actual match itself? The announcer was awful and I was embarrassed that those player introductions were being broadcast. Drogba's goal surprised me but was well taken. Zirkov really impressed me - he has good chemistry with the club and knows how to finish. I think he was a good investment. His game winning goal was the best of the match in my opinion and he deserved his "Man of the Match." I thought the Chelski defense did a shoddy job though. Their clearance was poor and AC Milan could have had more goal scoring opportunities had they been able to capitalize on it. Chelsea also needed to work on crosses - especially Anelka. I know it's only pre-season but its a problem I thought they had all of last season. It doesn't bother me all that much but its something Ancelotti should fix. Ronaldinho still had some class moves but I was as impressed as I'd have been three years ago.




My favorite moment was when Gooch came on as a substitute. The crowd exploded into chants of U-S-A, U-S-A. It was a touching moment and it made me proud. There were also cries of "Gooch" whenever he touched the ball. I truly wish him the best of luck in Milan.

I also saw some Chelsea players I forgot still existed. Pizarro anyone? I even saw Sheva - complete with new surfer guy hair. I saw him warming up and tried to convince my friend that yes, it was Sheva. No one around me recognized him with his long hair. I always feel badly for Sheva. Not because I think he's exceptionally talented but because he genuinely wants to play at Chelsea and it is unfortunate that he is the only person with that opinion.

Do I think Chelsea will win the League next year? I wouldn't count on it. Champions League - no. FA Cup? I'm sure they've a good shot but I'd obviously rather it go to Old Trafford.

I wasn't thrilled with the fact that few of the fans knew any Chelsea chants. I knew more than most people - one. I learned it about an hour beforehand. I can name scads of United chants so why don't they know theirs? You can't blame it on not going to matches and learning them. You can't blame it on distance from your club. I'm not sure what this says about Chelski fans - or American fans - or AC Milan fans since they didn't seem to have any either. The size of the crowd showed that we care about the game but I found the behavior of a lot of the people there very - uninformed? Some had vuvuzelas - previous blogs have made my opinion on those pieces of garbage - er, South African culture - quite clear. People sat around and didn't know what to do. Chelsea fans around me asked my friend and me who was on the pitch - do you not know the players' numbers for your own club? Can you not recognize their faces? I think that being a fan requires some degree of research into your club and its history - I'm sorry if people disagree.

I have to say one thing about the city though. Baltimore was great. The light rail was great. They let fans on for free - both headed towards the match and leaving the stadium afterward. It made for a cramped and hot ride but at least it was relatively short. Baltimore did a good job accommodating fans of all sorts - all signs read in multiple languages.



I had a good time. I certainly don't appreciate Chelski anymore. Or AC Milan. I have a little more respect for the fans who put in a good showing - Baltimore bled blue yesterday. I'll never make the sacrifice of donning a non-United jersey again but I was a good sport and saw a decent match.

Hey Man United - your new sponsor is American. Come over?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

My Big Match

So tomorrow is a pretty big day. I'll be road tripping to Baltimore to see Chelsea play AC Milan.

I'll be rooting for Chelsea - which is something strange and slightly hard for me to do - but I think I'll root for an English side over AC Milan.

Expect an update when I return on Saturday!

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Pre-Season

I put a lot of faith into the pre-season. Its the first look at the new signings - and this season we really need to evaluate our new signings and our young players who are sure to see much more of the pitch this season. Its time to see their fitness.

I'm currently watching United play the Malaysia all star side on MUTV ( where - for some reason that is beyond me - they're showing Ronnie highlights during the halftime break ) and I'm in a good state of mind after the first half of this match and their previous Asia match.

Fabio and Tosic both did well - causing problems for the Malaysia attack and creating great chances for the United strikers.

If you want to look at the strikers - its nice to see Michael Owen playing the way he is. He's scored twice - almost three times - in the past seventy minutes on the pitch. And if you've picked up an English paper or checked your RSS feed this week you'll have seen Owen's personal proclamations of his fitness:

"I feel like I did eight years ago."

It wasn't just Michael Owen - or as I will now call him "MO7" - who saw quality in the new #7. SAF publicly applauded Owen's goal and performance after the first pre-season match. I'm not at the stage where I want to call him the answer to all of United's post-CR7 problems - but I don't think I ever will. But I think he'll have a good season if only he can maintain his fitness. If he continues to produce in this pre-season that might produce a good show of faith from United supporters in his fitness.

SAF has also spoken about Macheda. I think he's young but incredibly talented. If you put him in - he will make chances. He will finish well. He will see the back of the net. I think Rooney, Owen, and Macheda will really be able to get results in this season. And he's already scored in the pre-season. If he keeps getting starts and scoring goals it will be great for his confidence and he should go into the season on the right foot.

Rooney had a nice goal during the first Asia match. SAF was happy with his performance, stating:

''You are seeing maturity from him now, which is what you expect from all young players,'' said Ferguson. ''I don't believe he needs to look at anything but himself because we know there is a lot of improvement to come from him yet. Wayne is not the finished article by any means.''

Rooney just came into today's match - the crowd really went wild. He almost had a goal in his first minute on the pitch. Now it's common knowledge that I have a special place in my heart for Wayne Rooney. I really hope that this proves to be his season. I think getting out of the shadow - and ego - of CR7 is the best thing for his career.

I really need to see more from Berbatov. I've never been too impressed with him.

I also think we'll see a lot more in terms of Fletcher this season. He greatly improved in the last campaign and I think he will continue to do so. I think Carrick and Nani will also have decent seasons. Nani just needs to be put on the pitch - but if he doesn't have a better time of it this season I wouldn't expect to see him around in 2011.

We've seen a bit of Foster in goal so far - something we'll be seeing a lot more of this season as he prepares to replace VDS as the number one. Unfortunately I bet we'll see Kuszczak in the second half of this match. Kuszczak - or as I refer to him "The Pole" - is still technically in the running to replace VDS but I hope that SAF realizes that he just isn't going to cut it for the club. Not in the long run. Maybe he'd do well at Blackburn or Sunderland. Maybe he'd be a solid first choice there. But I just don't see the quality that's needed to be the number one at a top club. I'd been hoping United would send him off on loan to do damage somewhere else. No such luck.

On a slightly related note I have to say that I'm really fond of the all white keeper's strip.

The older crowd is looking well - and its just as important for them to prove their fitness. Giggsy has created some good opportunities today and looks to me in better form than when they ended last season. Neville is seeing some action but I'm not counting too much on his fitness.

I'm eager to see the Asia tour continue. Safely. I was upset about what happened in Jakarta and am grateful none of the players were hurt. Lets keep it that way.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Be Careful

Groupie sex could leave six Premier League players with HIV.

I really don't want to imagine who it could be.

Classy.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Obertan

Ah. Well we've known about it for days but its finally official.

Gabriel Obertan is Man United's third major signing of the summer. The twenty year old French winger has been signed to a four year contract for a fee of £8 million.

From what I understand- Obertan can play on the left, can play on the right. Sound familiar? I should think so.

Of course SAF has told the press that the club has been following Obertan for a while time, the timing was never right before, the lad has great promise - all of the things Fergie usually says about his squad. And Obertan has made the obvious statements about how happy he is to be at Old Trafford :

"I am very happy to join Manchester United...This is a big opportunity for me to play at such a great club. I am very excited to be here and I look forward to proving what I can do."


So what is going to make him different from any old signing? What makes him different than Antonio Valencia, who was touted as the Ronnie Replacement? I'm not entirely sure.

He only has three goals from his French club in over fifty caps. I've tried to find clips of Obertan from Bordeaux or the French U-21 squad but all I seem to find are the same clips set to different music.



I feel as though I'm more impressed with Valencia, who already has experience in the Premier League.



Obertan and Valencia are both young - something Fergie likes. They will be able to be molded into the kind of players. They'll also have Nani to bring into the mix. I feel like Nani, Valencia, and Obertan might work well on the pitch in covering the wings.

I think that like other United signings that Obertan is a wait-and-see.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Lets Discuss Michael Owen

At the end of the season I never imagined that I'd see Michael Owen playing at Old Trafford but since that seems to be the case I suppose we should figure out what that means.

It comes off one of two ways. It's either another stroke of genius by Sir Alex or a completely desperate move of signing a star on the decline after the young, rising star Benzema - oh he went somewhere else. The name is on the tip of my tongue. But lets not focus on that.

I don't think its desperate. I think if this came two or three weeks from now I'd call it desperation from United. There's still time to blow that £80 million. Michael Owen we're getting for free.

Ah - the glory of the free transfer. Owen became a free agent on 30 June and has since been openly trying to find a new home. He's been a bit of a media joke, so why is SAF taking the risk? Why is this actually ( well - possibly ) a genius signing by United?

One. He has experience and skill. Owen scored 26 goals out of 60 starts in the past two seasons for both Newcastle and the English side. He scored 118 goals for Liverpool from 1996-2004, 13 for Real Madrid in the 2004-2005 season. He also has 40 goals in his 89 caps for England. He knows how to score and is a rather decent finisher. If he has chemistry with the United midfield I can see him having a lot of chances to get promising shots on goal.

Two. It costs nothing to take this risk and find out. Because it is a risk. Luckily there is no transfer fee. The club will pay him his wages like any other player and be able to put a chunk of the Ronnie money elsewhere. Sure - his fitness has been questionable. Its been months since hes seen the back of the net. He has an injury. If the United medical staff think his knee problem is too bad then he won't be signed. But we're nothing if not a deep bench. I constantly say that Macheda needs more starts and he will develop into a world class striker. Owen wouldn't be in every match. He doesn't have to be ( think Giggsy people - not that Owen is a Giggs ). It may the most ideal of situations but he has two big reasons to get fit and they are reason number -

Three. Motivation. Motivation for two things. The World Cup is right around the corner and he still has a shot to make it back on the pitch for England. He's very passionate about it and such a return to the English side isn't unheard of ( think Becks - not that Owen is a David Beckham ). He is also motivated to restore his pride, his image to the fans. He has been written off and belittled by the British media. Owen is eager to prove that his time isn't over. Michael Owen is the desperate party here.

I think I have to feel this way. I have to think that Fergie sees something in him. There has to be a spark left to his story. I don't like to believe that Sir Alex makes mistakes. I know that he does - I can name some for you now. But I have a lot of faith in him. His decisions may not be the word of God but I'd like to think he has the ear of someone important up there. ( As if some higher being - if that's what you believe in - has the free time to be a fan and has chosen to support my club )

http://bettingexpertblog.files.wordpress.com/2009/05/michael-owen-newcastle-fc.jpg

This story has redemption written all over it and that might be reason enough for Fergie.

I really hope he's not crap all season.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

I've Red Carded Real Madrid - Lets Talk About A Liverpool Mob Connection

I've decided to ban all talk of Real Madrid from my blog for the next three days as punishment to the club for spending such a ridiculous amount of money, taking many top players off of the summer transfer market, and generally getting on my nerves. I can't help but read about them everywhere else - I might as well make a safe zone somewhere.

At the end of the three days I'll probably want to cover any new acquisitions they've made and how that affects signings for the Premier League but I just don't want to read any more about them today.

Instead I'm going to talk about a story I found yesterday at the Telegraph's Web site.

Do you know Nikolay Mihailov? Don't feel bad if you don't. He's a reserve keeper at Liverpool and has been on loan to the Dutch club FC Twente since 2007. But there is reason to suspect that he might be Liverpool's new Number Two with the departure of Itandje.

Well - Mihailov is Bulgarian had been dating Bulgarian Playmate and model Nikoleta Lozanova. Had is the important word in that sentence. The model is now linked to Georgi 'The Head' Stoilov. 'The Head' just happens to be a mob godfather in Bulgaria.

Here is where it gets interesting. Mihailov compared his former girlfriend to his recent. He basically said that the current WAG was a much newer, shinier model. The Telegraph reads:

Mihailov allegedly joked to local media that if his new girlfriend was a Ferrari, Nikoleta must be a broken down Trabant from the old East Germany.

Mihailov actually does have a Ferrari.

Footballers don't seem to have the best luck with these cars - remember Ronnie crashed his back in January near the Manchester airport.

Milhailov's car now has lovely damage caused by an acid attack which has been attributed to the mob boss. It's about £17,000 in damages to be more specific.

So where is he now?

Mihailov is now reportedly in hiding while club bosses decide whether he should remain in Bulgaria or return to Anfield.


You really can't make that up.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

When Will The Shopping Spree Stop?

It has just been announced that former Lyon striker Karim Benzema has been signed by Real Madrid for a fee in the region of £30 million today.

Sky Sports
is the first place I've found the story - which should add more to come in the story in the hours to come.

Benzema has been a United target for the past year. I wonder why United hadn't made a bid for the player sooner this summer - reports have said for weeks that Lyon hadn't received a single offer from Manchester. Did they wait too long?

I know that Florentino Perez wants to have the era of the
galacticos at the Bernabéu - but I'm going to repost the Andy Gray quote I used with the Ronnie singing.

"You can buy Kaka, you can buy Ronaldo, [ and now you can buy Benzema ] but you can't stop letting goals in."

Thumbs Up Colbert

Last night on Comedy Central's wildly popular show The Colbert Report host Stephen Colbert did a segment called "Is It Time To Care About Soccer?" Even though - yes - some of it was in jest, it was great coverage.

The video from the show's Web site wouldn't embed for some reason so here is the link: Soccer

And I do agree - football does have great scarves.