Sunday, November 27, 2005

Weekend Outlook (27 Nov 2005)

West Ham United vs Manchester United

"What are the chances ManUtd will buang two games in a row?"

Potential foot-in-mouth words.

However, given that both Chelsea and Arsenal scored comfortable victories just 24 hours earlier, I think the Red Devils would be motivated enough kick it into high gear and grab the 3 points in order to stay in the race. Given that Wigan has suffered its third consecutive loss (two consecutiave home loss) and Arsenal only 2 points ahead, ManUtd would certainly see this as the perfect opportunity to:

a) Overtake Wigan,
b) Overtake Arsenal and
c) Take second spot and cut Chelsea's lead to 10 points with a game in hand.

Anyway, ManUtd will be playing this game away at Upton Park and it was the very same fixture when Joe Cole made his Premiership debut. I was impressed right away as this bor-dua-bor-sueh kid took Roy Keane head on with the battle of the midfield. Fearless kid, totally no respect. I like.

I would have loved to have Joe Cole play for ManUtd when he left West Ham but too bad he chose to follow the smell of money and ended up in Stamford Bridge.

Anyway, coming back to the game ahead, West Ham's home form is pretty good considering that fact that they only lost once in the last 5 home games and that was way back in August 2005. However, it must be said that the home victories were against relatively weak teams but the were still considered respectable getting home draws against Arsenal and Spurs.

Well, there is a sentimental element in this game as this will be a match-up between the 2 Ferdinand brothers who would be playing on opposite sides to see who would be making the bigger mistake. As it looks right now, the bigger the brother, the bigger the idiot. Haiz...

Also, Roy Carroll will be taking over Shaka Hislop for the goalie job and will be facing his ex-teamates. I think Van Nistelrooy and company would go gentle on him by keeping it under 5 goals. hahahaha....

But seriously, ManUtd shyness in front of goal is quite worrisome. Even if Louis Saha is back to full fitness, I doubt if it would make any positive impact in the fire-power department.

Speaking of returning to fitness, we also welcome Gary Neville back to the field. The veteran steward should be able to inject some stability in the back line and slap Rio Ferdinand in the back of the head should the latter goof off again.

JayWalk The Talk: I doubt the Hammers would be able to break down the ManUtd defence and so a ManUtd defeat is unlikely. However, given that ManUtd is quite cock up in front of goals lately (remember Andy Cole?), the bookies are pointing to a draw.

West Ham has never won ManUtd at home since EPL started but 7 of their last 10 home encounters ended with a draw.

Bookies are giving 1/2-ball to the home side with a 1.8 odds that ManUtd will beat that handicap.

JayWalk The Walk: I am going for ManUtd to beat the 1/2 ball handicap.

Disclaimer: The above views are purely my own two-cents' worth. In other words, I cannot and will not guarantee that my predictions are accurate. If you want to bet on the game, do so at your own risk. Also, please bet responsibly and within your means regardless of how "sure thing" that game may appear to be. As the old saying goes, "The Ball Is Round". Good luck.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Passing of a Legend

Manchester United legend George Best has just passed away, aged 59, after a long battle with alcoholism and liver failure.

Best, widely regarded as one of the greatest British footballers ever, was a prodigious talent who, unfortunately, threw it all away for booze, women, and a fast life.

Though he played for Manchester United before I was even born, I managed to catch a few video clips of him in action, when he was in his prime. And the accolades that people have heaped on him are not exaggerated. I was mesmerised by his mazy dribbles, incredible footwork, and the classy goals he scored. He was captivating in full flow.

In fact, he was so good, legend has it that Sir Matt Busby, before sending his team out of the pitch, would give the other 10 players specific instructions on what he expected them to do, but for Best, he simply told him "Do what you like". And Best went out there, did exactly what he wanted with no thought of tactics or formations, and created chaos in opposing defences.

Sadly, he was more interested in partying than playing football, and once famously said "My talent is mine; I will throw it away if I want to." And that was exactly what he did. Even after his liver failed due to decades of drinking and he had a liver transplant, he still continued drinking - sparking outrage among liver failure patients who accused him of wasting the very rare chance, which he'd managed to get, of a new liver.

Like so many other great players - Paul Gascoigne, Diego Maradona - he allowed his off-field antics to dominate his career, and his addictions to spiral out of control and eventually to ruin him. However, there is no denying that George Best, despite his weaknesses, was an immensely gifted footballer, and there will never be the likes of him again. Manchester United supporters are mourning the passing of one of the club's greatest and most loved players.

Now let us just hope that Wayne Rooney doesn't tread that same path (as all the truly gifted footballers seem wont to do).

NB: Soccernet has a very concise factfile on Best's life and career, for those who are interested.

[Editor's note:
This is just so fucking sad, I have tears in my eyes as I type this. And I don't care if people think I'm being stupid.]

A History of Manchester United

I have been a Manchester United supporter for 13 years, since I was 10 years old (yeah, yeah, do the maths). Which means, of course, that I was one of the "lucky ones" to have had the privilege of supporting a team that was just beginning to peak in the early 90s and starting to establish its supremacy in the English Premier League, culminating in the historic Treble win in 1999 - so much so that each time the team loses I literally feel a sharp stabbing pain in my heart.

Plainly put, we Manchester United fans are used to winning. Used to steamrolling over any team that sets its feet on the hallowed grass of Old Trafford. Used to lifting trophies season after season.

So you can imagine how many times I've had that sharp stabbing pain over the last 2 seasons. But that's another story.

Of course, Manchester United wasn't always all glory and mighty. We had our humble beginnings and our humiliations.

The club was formed in 1878, under the name Newton Heath LYR (Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway). It was not a very good team to begin with, as it was formed just for the railway workers to enjoy a simple game of footie. When it joined the Football League in 1892, it was suffering serious financial problems, and in the early 1900s was on the verge of extinction.

However, it was saved by a wealthy brewery owner, John Davies, who decided to invest in the club and in the process, changed its name to Manchester United Football Club. Legend has it that he learned about the club's plight when he picked up a dog that belonged to Harry Stafford, Newton Heath's captain, who told him about the club and its problems. The dog's name was Trafford, and in 1910, when the club moved into its new ground (purchased and built by John Davies), the stadium was named Old Trafford in honour of the dog that helped to preserve it.

In 1945, during the Second World War, Sir Matt Busby was appointed manager of Manchester United. In the 25 years that he managed the club, his name would become synonymous with that of the club itself. He won the FA Cup in his second season, but was unable to challenge for the League trophy, and in 1950 the team that he had painstakingly built up after the war broke up.

Not that it stopped him. He introduced the youngsters whom he had been recruiting and coaching, known as the Busby Babes. They included famous names like Duncan Edwards, Bobby Charlton, Liam Whelan and Roger Bryne. In a mere 7 years, the Busby Babes won 3 Championships and 5 FA Cups.

However, the darkest moment in the club's history came in the Munich air crash in 1958, where the team, en route to play Red Star Belgrade in a European Cup game, was involved in an airline crash. 8 players were killed in the disaster. Sir Matt Busby, however, recovered from his wounds and went straight back into management, bringing the team to second place in the League and the FA Cup final in the same year - all while building a new team, again around the club's youth system.

The 1960s were the glory years of Manchester United, what with players like Denis Law, Bobby Charlton, and George Best, viewed by many as the best ever British player. The team swept League Championships and FA Cups in these 10 years, and in 1969 won the European Cup for the first time. Sir Matt Busby, however, retired at the end of that season.

For the next 20 years, it was a series of ups and downs, as the club could never find a manager able to fill Sir Matt Busby's shoes, and neither could it replicate the domestic or European success of the last decade, despite the strengths of Stuart Pearson (current Manchester City manager) and Lou Macari in the 70s, and "Captain Marvel" Bryan Robson in the 80s. It didn't help either that Liverpool, powered by Ian Rush, was the dominant force of the 70s and 80s.

However, in 1986, the man who would epitomise success at Manchester United arrived - Sir Alex Ferguson. Already a proven winner in the Scottish Premier League with Aberdeen, winning the SPL title several times as well as the European Cup Winners' Cup, it took him 4 years before he won his first trophy with the club - the 1990 FA Cup. A year later the team won the European Cup Winners' Cup.

By 1992, Ferguson had built an unbeatable team with Peter Schmichel, Mark Hughes, Steve Bruce, Roy Keane and, of course, Eric Cantona, who did for the team what George Best did years ago. In that year, they won the Double of the League Championship and FA Cup - the first ever team in England to do so. At the same time, the youth system started by Sir Matt Busby was utilised by Ferguson - Fergie's Fledglings, which included David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt, and Gary and Phil Neville all made their debuts between 1992 and 1993.

It didn't stop there. In 1999, the team won the unprecedented Treble of the League Championship, FA Cup, and the Holy Grail of club football, the Champions' League. Ryan Giggs scored what has been voted on the club website as Manchester United's best ever goal in the semi-final of the FA Cup against Arsenal, and who can forget Roy Keane's heroics on that night in Turin when he single-handedly dragged the club to a 3-2 win over Juventus, en route to the final against Bayern Munich? And the rest, as we say, is history, as Manchester United fans all over the world erupted in celebration when Sir Alex finally lifted the European Cup for the club, for the first time since 1969.

Currently, the club is still trying to replace the ageing Fledglings. There are promising youngsters in the club - Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo, Giuseppe Rossi, Phil Bardsley - but, as can be seen how the club took almost 20 years to replace one man - Sir Matt Busby, we shouldn't hold our breath and expect Sir Alex to miraculously pull another bunch of immensely talented youngsters out of the academy anytime soon.

Many people feel the club is in some sort of "crisis", what with the Glazers plunging the club into debt to buy it (and what the heck they want to buy it for, no one knows up till now), the emergence of Chelsea and its roubles, the inability to replace players like the Neville brothers, and murmurings of in-club dissent, with the abrupt departure of our beloved captain Roy Keane, and a lengthy injury list.

But you know what? Somehow, I don't see it as a crisis, but rather a transitional stage. And I wouldn't put it past the wily old fox, Sir Alex, to really pull off a miracle once again.

About this blog

Most people would know me as the author of the blog "Sheena's Little Fragments of Time". At the same time, these people would also know me as a huge Manchester United fan.

And so, I decided to create this blog as a platform for Manchester United fans, where we can interact, discuss issues near and dear to our beloved club, and in general have lots of fun. Also, I intend to have match reports for Manchester United matches, and updates on players, the manager, transfers, and the club itself of course.

But wait! Lest you people start thinking that Manchester United fans are elitist, I state that I welcome fans from other clubs as well, to comment or tag on this blog. I ask only one thing from all of you (yes, even the Manchester United fans - just because we support the same club doesn't mean that I have to give you special consideration if you fuck up here) - that is, to conduct discussions in a civil manner.

That means no flaming, no insults, no personal attacks directed at each other, or at supporters of rival clubs. And supporters of rival clubs will have to adhere to this as well. Anything that I perceive to be out of line will be deleted without prior notice. You have been warned.

All right, now that the threats are out of the way, I hope you guys enjoy this blog. I welcome contributors for this site. Anyone interested in joining this blog as a team member can email me ( see my email address just below my profile picture). Unfortunately, since this is after all a Manchester United blog, contributors have to be Manchester United fans.

But if you are a supporter of a rival club who has suggestions and blog ideas, or a Manchester United supporter who doesn't want to be a team member of this blog but merely has some ideas to contribute, you can email me as well.

Just to give you a little idea of what kind of news this blog will include, up on the agenda is a short history of the club, a description of the legendary George Best who is not expected to live through today, Roy Keane's departure, and the match report after Sunday's clash with West Ham (if I have time I'll put a match preview up as well).

Enjoy my version of the beautiful game here.