In England this weekend, all eyes will be on two of the league's less elevated teams. Indeed one of them isn't even based in England. Cardiff City meet Portsmouth in the FA Cup final. The encounter is a throwback to another era altogether. Portsmouth have not won the oldest competition in world football since 1939, while Cardiff have not featured at all in the running since 1927. You almost expect the two teams to run out on to the freshly laid Wembley turf wearing shorts so voluminous you could parachute in them. For the fans it is a remarkable moment. After years of watching the big fourRead More »from The view from the middle
Oh dear. There was me in my last blog bigging up the chances of Mark Hughes at Manchester City, talking about he could be the man to lead a club fraught with problems to the promised land of - well - at least seventh in the league table.
And then his team go and lose the home leg of their Uefa Cup qualifying tie against FC Midtjylland, a club that have yet to trouble the scorers in Europe's senior competition, the Champions League. Sure, there were mitigating circumstances. The Danes are four games into their league programme and already top their league, while City were still cooling downRead More »from The time to forget
Roy Keane was on typically entertaining form ahead of Sunderland's game with Nottingham Forest in the Carling Cup.
He was talking about Brian Clough, his first manager in the game and suggested that, despite some of the modern obsessions with what he referred to as "prozone, fitness coaches and pasta", Clough would have excelled in the modern game.
He is probably right. At least in this way: Clough was one of the few people on the planet who could put the fear of God into Roy Keane, which is a talent not to be sneezed at. Keane went on to reveal some of Clough's more eccentric ways. DespiteRead More »from Not exactly short for Sunday
The Champions League final is to be staged in the Olympic stadium in Rome next May. And the good news for Chelsea fans is that they are guaranteed to see their team play there in this year's competition.
Well, at least once. Phil Scolari's team drew Roma in Group A of the qualifying stages and will head off to the eternal city for what they hope is not the last time in the season on 4 November. In what must be regarded as the easiest draw of any of the English clubs, Chelsea's other two opponents are Bordeaux and Cluj of Romania, a side hailing from the Transylvanian town with the previousRead More »from A special victory
On Sunday in Tokyo Manchester United won FIFA's Club World Championship despite the fact - according to their manager Sir Alex Ferguson - their players were so jet-lagged none of them got more than a couple of hours continuous shut eye. One thing is for sure, as they pored over the newspapers on their return home, Ferguson's squad would not have lost any sleep.
As a cure for travellers' blues the news that none of their title rivals had managed to make use of United's absence to win a few matches could not be beaten. This is what they discovered as they returned home: Arsenal, Liverpool andRead More »from United return smiling
Coming back after two weeks holiday it appears that nothing has changed. Manchester United are still insisting Cristiano Ronaldo is going nowhere even as the player himself is preparing to pack his bags for the first available flight to Madrid.
Frank Lampard is still a Chelsea player, though nobody thinks that will last too long. And Gareth Barry is still heading to Anfield any day now. Seriously, any day now he will go. It is, according to Aston Villa's manager Martin O'Neill, finally a matter between the player, his agent, Liverpool and Aston Villa. Which makes you wonder, if that is aRead More »from The longest summer
There is an odd contradiction at the heart of our attitude to the longevity of football managers in England.
On the one hand, when a chairman starts to meddle in the dressing room, undermining a manager before dispensing with his services, we tut and shake our heads and say, well you'll never achieve anything without continuity. Look at Arsenal and Manchester United: what do they have in common? Yes, it's length of service in the manager's office. There is no coincidence that they have been two of England's finest teams over the past decade: while other clubs have gone through managers likeRead More »from Don’t drop the pilot
Cristiano Ronaldo has just achieved something that no
Manchester United player has done since George Best, 40 years ago: he has been
voted European Player of the Year.
Across four decades, it is a recognition not even
competitors of the scale of Bryan Robson, Eric Cantona, Roy Keane or David
Beckham were accorded. And, like Best before him, there is no doubt that Ronaldo
was the number one choice.
Of the 96 judges polled across Europe,Read More »from No disputing who is number one
77 placed Ronaldo top of their shortlist. Lionel Messi and Fernando Torres
trailed in second and third place like the other medal winners in the Olympic
Unlike Manchester United's last appearance in the Champions League final, this time round there was to be no last minute intervention by the substitutes, no wholly unexpected conclusion of business in normal time. Instead, at the end of a sinew-sapping season, as the two super powers of the Premier League pushed each other to the very edge of exhaustion in magnificent, determined pursuit of the prize they craved, it all came down to penalties.
What a twist: the first all-English Champions League final decided by the one footballing skill at which the English have never found much renown. AndRead More »from All on the length of a stud