Early Doors

Twelve Doors of Christmas: March

Early Doors

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Early Doors takes a nostalgic and sherry-fuelled look back at the year's big stories through the medium of recycled posts. ED returns on January 4.

March 2: Manchester United win Carling Cup on penalties thanks to Ben Foster's iPod

ED's take: If United do go on to complete an amazing five-trophy haul, they will have one man to thank - Steve Jobs.

The Apple CEO, for all his forward-thinking and business acumen, could never have imagined when he unleashed the iPod on the world that it would sway the result of a Wembley final, but so it has proved, according to Ben Foster (pictured).

The 25-year-old goalkeeper, who saved Jamie O'Hara's penalty in the shootout, said: "Just before the shootout I was looking at an iPod with goalkeeping coach Eric Steele. On it were images of Spurs taking penalties. The iPod was Eric's innovation. It's an amazing tool."

ED would venture that studying videos on a nifty little portable video player is a good idea, but an innovation? The way it's been talked up following the game, you'd think Foster was some kind of techno whizz-kid, utilising equipment developed by NASA, not just an over-stylised Walkman with a battery that always packs up after a year.

March 5: United struggle to victory against Newcastle

ED's take: As Cristiano Ronaldo and Steven Taylor went into the tunnel after a fractious first half at St James' Park last night, a riled-up Ronaldo taunted his opponent.

"Your style of football is s**t," he sneered.

"Well you're ugly!" Taylor hit back.

It was an insult that must have penetrated Ronaldo's very core. All those hours spent on the sunbed, in front of the mirror road-testing different brands of hair gel, at the dentist's getting those perfect, white teeth. Was it all in vain?

Well, Taylor later gifted Manchester United the match with a backpass so ugly it made Luke Chadwick look like Luke Perry, so the joke was on him.

But he was right in one sense - United were decidedly ugly. Heck, for 10 minutes we nearly had a title race.

March 10: Chelsea knock Juventus out of the Champions League

ED's take: "A war machine built by spending lots of money."

What was Claudio Ranieri talking about yesterday? The US army? Paul McCartney's legal team? Secret government plans to equip nationalised banks with nuclear launch pads? Or Max Clifford's publicity empire, built one cancer-stricken 13-year-old father at a time?

No, of course not, he was talking about Chelsea. It seems a little rich for the manager of Juventus to complain about other people's wealth. The Old Lady spent years not so much trying to buy their way to the title as cutting out the middle man and trying to buy the title direct.

However, while there is no doubt that their managing director Luciano Moggi tried to influence matches - specifically the appointment of referees - little evidence exists to suggest he was any good at it.

He seems to have spent a lot of time bellowing uselessly down the phone or, when really enraged, locking referees in their dressing room.

March 13: Jose Mourinho is accused of hitting a Manchester United fan

ED's take: In 36 hours on these shores, Jose Mourinho was involved in a bigger controversy than all 20 Premier League managers have managed all season - and that includes the scandal of Phil Brown's fluffy pink pencil case.

Greater Manchester Police have obviously sorted their war on guns and drugs because they have the time and inclination to investigate a claim that the Special One clobbered a United supporter (appropriately enough from East Anglia) in the face as he left Old Trafford on Wednesday night.

So did, as Mourinho's growing army of critics would have it, the s**t really hit the fan?

As much as ED would love to add the thumping of a fan to a rap sheet that already includes impersonating laundry and fighting police over a dog, the claim seems far-fetched for one reason only: it is unlikely that Mourinho could so much as pick his nose without first summoning a paparazzo to capture the event for posterity, winking and delivering pithy quotes throughout.

March 24: Emile Heskey, Ledley King, Ben Foster and David Beckham are named in the England squad.

ED's take: From the moment that evolutionary happenstance first endowed mankind with intelligent self-awareness, the human animal has worked unceasingly to unravel the mysteries of the universe.

And, following aeons of tireless endeavour in the field of science, we have now reached a state of progress in which we can be proud that our species has flown to the moon, invented the iPod and canonised Jade Goody.

Yet there are some questions out there which are still outside the grasp of even our most distinguished physicists, philosophers and gossip columnists:

Which is better: smooth or crunchy?

Connery, Brosnan or Craig?

And, perhaps most confusingly of all, what does it say about the state of English football when the squad for a crucial World Cup qualifier includes a striker who never scores, a tough-tackling defender with a knee made from finest lead crystal, a goalkeeper who struggles to get a spot on the bench for his side and a midfielder who has spent the majority of the last two years working as a glorified underwear model?

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