Posts Tagged ‘Giggs’

Premiership 2010/11 End of Season Review.

In Sport on June 21, 2011 at 6:33 PM

With Manchester United tying up the title and one of the tightest, most dramatic, relegation battles in premiership history, so comes to pass another season of the premiership. And what a season it was! It included ridiculously over-priced transfers (Torres, Carroll), bizarre sackings (Hughton), contract face-offs (Rooney vs Fergie), super-injunctions (inherently anonymous), multi-million pound takeovers (Kroenke of Arsenal) and the introduction of the inimitable Mario Balotelli, who at times kept the daily soap opera of football running single-handedly!

Oh, and there was also some rather fine football on show too. Though not consistently, the top 4/5 played some wonderful football; a relatively low title-winning margin personally showing the competitiveness of the league rather than the ‘mediocrity’. As demonstrated by the wildly erratic, plum-mid-table, Sunderland, those in the mid-table were far from boring plodders. And the teams at the bottom also provided the league with much colour too, especially Blackpool, whose spirited shoe-string squad cemented their place as ‘second team’ in hearts of seemingly everyone with their admirably gung-ho brand of ‘you score 4…we’ll score 5’ football. Personally, the league will be a lot less colourful without them, literally and figuratively. In this article, I give end-of-term reports on the top 6:

Ian Holloway unveils the new signature of himself.

Ian Holloway unveils the new signature of himself.

Manchester United

United were far from the seemingly invincible team that they have been in past title races, but continually managed to pull results out of the bag due to some abstract brand of ‘Champions spirit’, if you will. As Alan Hansen always (and rightly) lauds, Sir Alex specialises in this. This was a title won as much through infamous ‘hairdryer’ treatment, opportunism and ‘never say die spirit’ (see for one their Giggs-inspired comeback from two-down on a grim night at Bloomfield road), as it was through quality (not to mention a fair bit of luck too). They have, however, played consistently good football elsewhere, in getting to the F.A cup semi-final (only to lose to rivals City) and in reaching the Champions League final at their home-from-home (old joke, I know, but as a jealous Gooner, I couldn’t resist). Yes, Barcelona’s mesmerising passing made it a ‘men vs boys’ contest, but very few teams recently have come off as anything better than adolescents against this Barca team which, for my money, rank as the second greatest ever, eclipsed only by the great World Cup-winning Brazil ’70 team.

Stars: Van der Sar and Giggs continue to defy their age by putting in consistently great performances, the latter from his newly-realised position in the middle of the park. In front of the ever-reliable Van Der Sar, Vidic was, as usual, a rock, even if he occasionally displayed the movement of one too. Nani has continued to fill the significant void left on the wing by one Mr. Ronaldo by adding end product to his undoubted skill. And up front, United have been spoilt for choice. Berbatov has seemingly strolled, literally at times, to being the Premiership’s joint top scorer thanks in no small part to a staggering 5 against Blackpool. Javier Hernandez has been signing of the season; his estimated £7m transfer fee a mere snip for the frequent ‘poacher’ goals and permanent ‘last man’ threat. The ‘Little Pea’ is such a perfect foil to Berbatov and Rooney, the latter having improved greatly in the second half of the season after the settling of the contract debacle.

Flops: On his few appearances, new signing Porteguese winger Bebe has seemed entirely unworthy of the ‘new Nani/Ronaldo’ tags bandied around him. Evans often seems out of his depth and Gibson also does not quite look like a United player, as demonstrated by the harsh fan abuse which caused him to shut down his newly-opened Twitter account.


Manchester United FC lift the 2010/11 Premiership trophy

Manchester United FC lift the 2010/11 Premiership trophy


After a solid start playing attractive football, slightly atypical of Chelsea in recent years, they collapsed like Dominoes over the winter, plummeting out of the European spots. With little help from their megabucks flop Torres, they mounted a quietly impressive late run from February which, as rivals slipped-up, earned them second place finish, having lost the late top-of-the clash at Old Trafford. Alas, a decent 2nd  place in the league and Quarter-Final exit in the Champions’ league was evidently not enough for the ultra-demanding powers that be. Thus, Ancelotti was given his marching orders.

Stars: The backline has been typically solid, conceding the league’s joint lowest goal tally (with City). In the absence of a ‘20-goal’ forward this season, midfielders have been left to pick up the slacks. Malouda has impressed, bagging a very healthy 13, as has Lampard with 10, though he has not up to his usual stratospheric standards. Kalou has also popped up, often as a sub, to score 10.

Flops: Torres is the obvious, much-ridiculed flop with only 1 goal in his 14 starts, but the whole frontline has struggled to gel, perhaps as a result of too many big egos clashing. Anelka has bagged just 6 from his 32 appearances and Drogba 12; a little disappointing by his own standards. Indeed, arguably, they have all been upstaged by the on-loan Sturridge.


£50 million 'flop', Torres.

£50 million 'flop', Torres.

Manchester City

In contrast to the massive egos and transfer fees off the pitch, Manchester City have been steady, solid, yet rarely spectacular on it. At a relatively low 60, their league goals tally lies a good 18 below United’s total, but their parsimony defending goal (joint lowest conceded goals and most clean sheets at 18) has ensured many one and two-nil victories which has brought them the F.A. Cup and Champions league football with their 3rd place finish.

Stars: Of particular mention in their oft-changing rearguard is the ever-present, safe hands of Joe Hart, who has cemented his place as a world-class keeper. Going forward, Yaya Toure has to a large extent justified his astronomical wages with his surging presence and David Silva has often been a creative force. Tevez has had a very good season, being at times scrapping and at times spectactular and ending up as joint top scorer with 21.

Flops: Hard to mention flops with city because, with the size of their squad, they can afford to keep mediocrity (even better) hiding behind the proverbial curtains on the bench (see for one, Shay Given). That said Dzeko hasn’t justified his hefty January price tag, scoring just 2 in his 15 appearances. Undoubtedly entertaining, Balotelli could fit in either category, going as he does from brilliant and talismanic one week, to blundering and uninterested the next.


Mercurial Mario Balotelli - 'Super Mario'

Mercurial Mario Balotelli - 'Super Mario'


Arsenal were doing well up until about late February when they were still in serious contention for all four trophies. Then they had the seemingly customary ‘bottle job’ as the wheels fell off and they lost the League Cup final (courtesy of a horrendous, last-minute defensive cock-up), crashed out of the F.A cup and Champions League to the respective superiority of Manchester United and Barcelona and threw away the league too. The latter was largely down to throwing away points at home in goalless draws with Sunderland and Blackburn and the unbelievable draw with Liverpool. In this game, Arsenal scored a 95th minute penalty… only to concede a very clumsy one in the NINETY-NINTH minute which Kuyt converted.

Stars: Nasri had a stellar start to the season, though failed to quite match these astronomical standards upon returning from injury. In his first real season in the first team, Wilshere was very promising, even if his inexperience occasionally showed, especially in his sometimes rash tackling. Van Persie hit the ground running upon his return from injury managing to bag a very impressive 18, considering. Arshavin was intermittently impressive, as was Fabregas when fit.

Flops:  In the long absence of Vermaelen, none of the backline covered themselves in glory, particularly Koscielny and Eboue. Goalkeeper was a particularly problematic position, with newcomer Wojciech Szczesny the best of a bad bunch. Especially in big games, Denilson just isn’t up to the task of ‘enforcer’, which Arsenal so sorely lack a world-class example of. After a good start, Chamakh faded and Bendtner was his usually faltering self.


Arsenal crash out of the Carling Cup in the stoppage time

Arsenal crash out of the Carling Cup in stoppage time

Tottenham Hotspur

Spurs gamely fought for their second Champions League spot in two years, which indeed they occupied at various points of the season. But, perhaps due in part to the mental and physical toll of their European adventures, they were edged out by the literal and financial strength of City.

Stars: Dawson was a consistent presence at the back. Van Der Vaart proved a mere snip at £8m, claiming 9 assists and 13 goals in his 28 starts. Alongside Lennon (who’s recently acquired the ability to cross), skilful Modric and speed-merchant Bale, so electrifying in Europe, Van Der Vaart marshalled a very creative Spurs midfield.

Flops: Gomes, though often brilliant, is still prone to horrific errors, such as the ones he made against Real Madrid and Chelsea. Crouch and Defoe’s respective totals of 4 goals are quite paltry, though the former did link well with the midfield, especially Van Der Vaart, and the latter was injured for much of the season.

B –

Gareth Bale dazzles on the wing against Inter Milan

Gareth Bale dazzles on the wing against Inter Milan


Under Roy Hodgson, Liverpool started the season disastrously, lacking both the creativity and drive necessary for a Champion’s League finish which the club so desperately craves (even feels it has some sort of God-given right to). Indeed, by January, they were languishing not far above the relegation zone. But then, on the 8th of January, Hodgson left and ‘King Kenny’ returned to his beloved Kop! He evidently put some fire back in to the hearts of the players (and fans) as, with the help of the incoming Carroll and Suarez, they subsequently rose up the table to finish in sixth.

Stars: Since his £23m arrival in January, Suarez has proved he is worth every penny, putting in far superior performances to the ones Torres was (and indeed continued to do at Chelsea). His movement is so brilliant that he could probably find space in a telephone box and his touch ain’t bad either (see his trickery to set up Kuyt against United). Kuyt scored 13 and, as ever, was a tireless workhorse all season, whether deployed wide on the right or as an out-and-out striker as he often was before the arrival of Messers Suarez and Carroll. Mereiles and Maxi Rodriquez were two particularly rejuvenated by Dalglish’s return to the Kop. After fairly non-descript starts to the season, their performances improved drastically, going on to score some crucial goals to end with 5 and 10 respectively.

Flops:  It’s hard to really pinpoint where the blame lies for the early-season slump because it seemed like a largely collective malaise. That being said, Joe Cole, admittedly plagued with injuries, seems a shadow of his former self and N’gog has yet to mature into anything resembling a world-class striker.

D+ (E in 2010, A in 2011)

3 of Liverpool's mid-season saviours: 'King' Kenny, Carroll and Suarez

3 of Liverpool's mid-season saviours: 'King' Kenny, Carroll and Suarez

Joel Durston

Super-injunction Follows Rapturous Failure

In Culture, Satire on May 25, 2011 at 4:05 PM

We at TAY can exclusively reveal that a super-injunction has been granted to an unnamed deity by the Universal Crown Court to protect his/her name in mention of his/her broken promises to deliver upon the Rapture, announced for this just gone Saturday; 21st May 2011.

As a result of this, TAY is legally bound to not disclose the deity’s name, nor even its gender. We can reveal, however, that rumours abound on the Twitterverse and other social media that ‘Deity’, as it can be referred to, belongs to one of the most, if not the most popular, successful religion in the world today. Consequently, the speculation regarding Deity’s identity is proving a major test of faith for many religious believers, especially those who believe in a deity which fits at least some of the bill.

So, many adherents of the world’s two biggest religions – Christianity and Islam – are frantically pontificating on Deity’s identify. Jews who stake a claim to the religion still being a ‘big religion’ are also worrying, although not as many Jews are worrying due to the common perception among Gentiles that they are ‘just a small religion with nothing to play for’. Hindus have come to a general consensus that Deity cannot be Brahman because, if it were, Westerners would no doubt be speculating upon deities, as they so often misinterpret Hinduism as polytheistic. Many Sikhs have come to similar conclusion, in addition, exonerating Vãhigurũ on the basis that even many of them believe Sikhism to be a ‘small religion’. Most Buddhists have considered themselves exempt from reckoning due to not believing, at least conventionally, in a detiy or deities.

The confusion is proving a test of faith for many people because, if it hasn’t been already, their respect, even adoration, for their beloved deity would be considerably dimmed if these unsavoury rumours, amounting to broken promises to wronged loved ones, proved true of their deity. Furthermore, some have been left penniless after donating huge sums in support and some, such as this poor fellow must repair now-unsustainable lifestyles, drastically changed due to assuredness of the rapture.

Others, however, believe the rumours to be mere ‘tabloid tittle-tattle’. Some even argue that, even if the rumours were proved true of their deity, their support will remain strong. Some claim this is due to their deity’s long career of great, loyal work and some to a supposed distinction between on the earth actions (such as God creating earthly beauty) and off-the-earth actions such as this universal apocalypse, upon which as mere mortals it is supposedly unfair to judge.

Controversially, a minority even support Deity’s actions (or, rather, inactions) for their playfulness. One such commentator claimed: “well, it shows he’s a bit of a geezer, ennit [sic etc.]…foolin’ us..lettin’ us know tha’ he’s still abbaart. I’s reckons he’s still up having a cheeky laugh right now. Let’s be honest, he was never really gonna miss the Premiership relegation battle, was ‘e?! ” [N.B. In the interests of not getting sued to high Heaven (or Paradise, or Nirvana), TAY must clarify that the above views are solely those of the individual and do not necessarily represent those of TAY. Specifically, Deity may in fact be of either sex.]

It is speculated that the reasons given for Deity pursuing legal action to protect his/her name were that, for one ‘small’ indiscretion, he did not want to cause harm to friends, family and followers who would be hurt and, consequently, possibly stop supporting him/her and his/her religion. Some, however, see it as a more cynical move, instigated to protect his/her image rights.

Be sure to check back with TAY for the latest on this super-injunction saga….

Joel Durston.

Manchester United vs Schalke ’04 match report

In Sport on May 5, 2011 at 8:33 AM

Manchester United returned home to Old Trafford for the second leg of the semi-final with a justified sense of hope, even inevitability, in the air after their performance in the Veltins-Arena against Schalke ’04. Indeed, such was the quiet confidence, that Old Trafford was a little subdued by its own cacophonous standards. In the first leg, United won 2-0, but it could have been a lot more had it not been for the heroics between the sticks of rising star Manuel Neuer (indeed a performance which caught the eye of his many pursuers).

Surely with half an eye on United’s potentially title-deciding clash with Chelsea on Sunday, Ferguson made eight changes from the team that lost 1-0 at the Emirates on Sunday. They set out in a 4-5-1 with Anderson, Gibson and Scholes in the middle, Nani and Valencia as attacking wingers and Berbatov the lone frontman in place of the rested Rooney.

There were few big chances for either team in the first half of the first half as it seemed both teams were feeling each other out. The first goal came after 25 minutes when a misplaced pass gifted the ball to Nani who squared the ball to Gibson, who played an exquisite through ball to Valencia for him to coolly slide the ball between Neuer’s legs.

From here, United really started to assert their dominance, particularly in midfield with Gibson having a performance that should silence some of his cybernetic detractors (he recently deleted his Twitter account because of the abuse received from ‘fans’). Just five minutes later, United were on the scoresheet again. A typically wonderful Scholes cross-field past led to a throw in, from which Anderson laid off to the run of Valencia. Whether intended to or not, his touch found Gibson who shot from the edge of the box. It was hit with considerable venom but a keeper of Neuer’s standard will be disappointed he let it slip when it was straight at him.

Jurado got one back for Schalke five minutes later with a thumping finish from the edge of the box, but it only ever felt like a consolation for Schalke who were just going through the motions. United continued their stroll in their park in the second half with stand-out performer Anderson doubling his total of United goals by applying the finishing touches to two flowing passing moves late in the game.

Joel Durston