The Manchester Derby: Analysing Manchester United’s errors.

We are just a few short days after Manchester United’s methodical demolition by local rivals Manchester City, so where did it all go wrong for David Moyes and his men? We look at a few key pointers we feel they lost on.

    RVPs Absence

It seems RVP had been struggling for a few days with the injury, yet Moyes still chose to play him against Leverkusen when surely Hernandez or Welbeck could have done the job? It’s a sign that Moyes was so desperate to win his United European debut that he gambled with the Dutch strikers fitness and ultimately lost. Just how much of a difference he would have made to Sundays result we shall never know but there is no doubt that when the City team saw the tea sheet minus RVP it would have given them a massive psychological boost as he was so instrumental in the same fixture last season.

    United’s Overall Team Selection

With van Persie out United needed someone to give them an added goal threat, a situation made for the likes of Kagawa or Hernandez but for some reason Moyes decided to play Ashley Young. Now I know a lot of you may be saying surely it was Welbeck that could have been the replacement? But Welbeck is more than capable at playing out wide allowing for Hernandez, Rooney or Kagawa to play in the number 10 role. Also the fact that once again Zaha and Januzaj are nowhere near the squad has to be a worrying factor especially as they both had great pre seasons with the club and had the fans looking forward to seeing them push on

    United Failure to Capitalise on the games opening 25 minutes

The first 20 minutes of the derby were open and frenetic, you have to think that had United had scored in those opening exchanges it would have put City on the back foot for the rest of the game. As it was United failed to score and once the game settled to a slower pace, the flaws that seem to be in the squad this year surfaced.

    Ashley Young

Ashley Young has been dire in a United shirt and Sundays performance was one of his worst. He came to United with a reputation of a goal scoring winger whose pace and finishing could trouble any defence in the world, currently he is better known for diving. On Sunday he kept throwing high balls into the box aiming at one person who was marked by 2 defenders, or as the case a few times aimlessly launching it into the 18 yard box under the keepers nose. He needs to start attacking the wings more, driving to the byeline and firing crosses across the line between the 6 yard box & penalty spot.

    David Moyes substitution choice

“So the score is 3 – 0 to our local rivals at their own ground, I have a creative midfielder who has won many honours in his home country and a proven goalscorer who may have given United a boost. Which one shall I bring on? I know TOM CLEVERLEY!” This must have been David Moyes’s mind during the game. We are by no means talking Tom Cleverley down as he has come on leaps and bounds as player in the last few years but he was the wrong player in this situation.

There were some positives in the defeat from a Manchester United point of view? Chris Smalling had a good game and worked tirelessly down the right flank to get up and support Valencia and also Fellaini grew into the game when they went to a 3 man midfield and is slowly winning over the fans who said he wasn’t the right man for the club. Rooney looks to be enjoying his football at the minute and took his free kick goal well.

It’s too early judge Moyes on his performance as United boss just yet but this hard start to the season wouldn’t have helped him to silence the critics and we think he may need to get a handle on this squad and the issues he seemingly has with some players.


My Footballing Hero – François Sterchele

At Sat In Row Z we breathe football. We have those players who leave memories etched so deep in our mind it’s like it only happened an hour ago. In this series we will try and introduce you to some of them.

First up Annelies tells us about her footballing hero: François Sterchele


He Was My Maradona

We all know Maradona. A football legend. Loved by probably every football fan alive on the planet when he was running on the pitch. He stole hearts, made girls have crazy dreams about marrying him and changed football. We had more footballing legends in the past. Think of Ronaldinho, Ronaldo (the real one…) or George Best. We don’t have to look back if we think about Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo for example.
But who was my Maradona? And what’s the story behind my football hero?

It all began when I was at primary school. I played football during pauses with my friends. We were at the age when we had a bright imagination and were able to think we are a football legend during our games. Most kids fought to be Lionel Messi, Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo, Steven Gerrard, Thierry Henry or some other footballing genius at a big club. I wasn’t one of those. No. I could always be my hero without being afraid. I could play as my idol because he was ‘just a guy at a Belgian club’. My football hero was François Sterchele.
Sterchele was a Belgian striker. He played his last match in the colours of Club Brugge. His footballing career began in fourth division. Sterchele played for teams like Leuven, Charleroi, Beerschot and Club Brugge. He ended up in the Jupiler Pro League with Club Brugge in 2007. I followed Sterchele since he signed for Leuven. Watching him live was a hard task, but I managed to see him a lot. His days at Brugge were the best to me. I don’t live far away from the city and tickets were cheap enough.

But why am I writing this in a past tense?
8 May 2008. Thursday. I’m busy giving a speech on François Sterchele at school. It’s an assigment. Talk about your idol. So there I am, talking about my favorite striker.
Meanwhile, a lot has happened. I never checked the news before I left for school and I still don’t. I check the news when I’m back from school, and I wished I never watched it that evening. My hero, my idol, my everything. He died. François Sterchele, aged 26, died in a car crash at 3AM. I couldn’t believe it. I even checked the calendar. It wasn’t an April Fool’s joke. The only footballer I liked…died. And I was only ten years old. The world meant nothing to me anymore. I was heartbroken, sad, angry, desperate, confused, quiet, pissed and furious at once. I could not longer accept anything that has something to do with football. I even ignored Manchester United, the team I was born to support, for three weeks. I ignored Club Brugge for five years. To me, the club wasn’t the same without François Sterchele. Football changed. I changed. Nothing will ever be the same.

10 May 2008. Saturday. I decide to go and see Club Brugge’s final match of the season. They take on Westerlo at home. A tribute to François Sterchele was held by both teams and 26.000 spectators. I was one of them and I cried my heart out. The home team carried a huge banner with a photo of my idol on the pitch. I sing ‘You’ll Never Walk’ Alone together with the stadium and chant Sterchele’s name during the 23rd minute of the match. François played with this number on his shirt and it still is a tradition not to give the number 23 shirt to someone else. Even the 23rd minute remains the most special minute in a game. Even after five years! Club Brugge wins 4-0, the best scoreline the club has had that season. Afterwards, two moments of silence take place and the Sterchele banner reappears. Also one of Sterchele’s former clubs, Charleroi, pay a tribute to the Belgian footballer with Italian roots. They lay down flowers by a number 23 kit. Beerschot, where Sterchele became top goalscorer in 2007, do their warming up wearing a shirt with his photo on it.

One year after his death, thousands of fans visited the Club Brugge ground to lay down a card or flowers for the striker. Sterchele got remembered once more during a match. In 2009, when Club Brugge played Standard Liége on 9 May. Every year, on 23 July, the Copa Sterchele takes place. A friendly match between two former clubs of François Sterchele, mainly Beerschot and Club Brugge. Club Brugge supporters also hold up a banner for Sterchele every year during the match closest to 8 May. Last year, the supporters were asked to put a flag or scarf outside their window to honour François Sterchele.


How did I get over it?

I still haven’t . But I managed to get back to football three weeks after the death of my first ever favourite footballer. I missed the game and I couldn’t live without Manchester United. We won the Champions League in 2008 and it was probably the main reason I got back into football so fast. I left Club Brugge behind for five years because I couldn’t see the team without François Sterchele. But after a period of wide interests in different Belgian clubs, I came back to where it all begun. I realized that ignoring Brugge was the worst choice I ever made. I felt guilty for letting them down. I came back to their Blue Army for Sterchele. I want to be proud again. Proud to say he is my football hero. He keeps me going.

François Sterchele is my Diego Maradona. My Lionel Messi. My past. My present. My life. My number 23.
All those you lost in your life. Friends, family, pets, idols. They are gone…but never forgotten!




Spurs – Stronger without Bale?

So one of the most unsurprising transfers of the summer was Welshman Gareth Bale’s world record breaking transfer to Real Madrid.

The only surprising thing about the whole transfer was the way Tottenham Hotspur went about replacing him before he was officially gone, instead of looking for that one star player who would cost them a decent chunk of the Bale fee instead they went about signing some of the best young talent and a proven marksmen which is something the White Hart Lane faithful have been crying out for for a while.

In came Nacir Chadli, another product of this Belgian golden age. Chadli is a tricky wide man with a burst of pace sure to terrify players in the embers of games and a steal at £7 million. Chadli was joined by Brazilian Paulinho who has already gone about deposing Scott Parker and seemingly forcing him into Andre Villas-Boas out pile, the Paulinho transfer also showed a ruthless streak in the transfer market as he was impressing in the Confederations Cup and Spurs had to act quickly to secure him before a bidding war ensued and they paid more for the player.

One of the biggest surprises was Christian Eriksen coming in and for a relatively modest fee given his talent and potential. Eriksen is considered by those in the know to posses enough talent to become one of the worlds best attacking midfielders and at 21 and moving to a club who play the same style of football has Ajax his career path will be kept along the same course.  Soldado coming in was another sign of the intent shown by Spurs, as they listened to the fans pleas for another striker and signed a player who as Matthew Le Tissier described “only posses the ability to score worldies.”  A look back at some of his goals in a Valencia (where he scored 59 goals in 101 appearances) show exactly what the fans can expect, with strength combined with excellent movement couple that with an explosive start for his new club if he continues the fans will be asking Gareth who by the end of the season.

It shouldn’t be forgotten the talent Spurs already had at the club with the likes of Dawson, Dembele, Holtby, Defoe, Lennon, Walker, Lloris & Vertonghen all looking to build on a relativley strong 2012/13 season and also the likes of Capoue, Lamela & Chiricheș arriving during the summer its fair to say Spurs had the best of the transfer market and can look forward to a strong season coming up.

The transfer window; how did Man United get it so wrong?

The 8th of May 2013, for Manchester United and it’s fans was the day that marked the end of an epic era. One of, if not the greatest manager of all, called time on his illustrious reign and as a result ushered in a new start under David Moyes. This huge change left United fans thinking how would their team perform on the pitch and at this stage of the season it is far too early to judge. However, just as important was how United would perform off the pitch, in the transfer market. To their rivals, United’s failure to land target after target proved to be a great source of amusement.

What the transfer deadline gives you is a clear indication of the badly run football clubs

Gary Neville

Manchester United are a global powerhouse financially, with enough clout to buy and sell most teams in the English game. Although the reign of their American owners the Glazers has divided many fans, United have continued to grow on and off the field. With a new manager eager to prove himself to fans accustomed to success, it was vital that Moyes brought in the players that he felt would smooth the transitional period that was bound to exist. The transfer window has now closed and Moyes was only able to land one of his many targets, ironically pinching Marouane Fellaini from his previous club Everton, for a fee higher than the release clause that Moyes himself helped insert!!!! You only had to go on Twitter for a few minutes on Deadline Day to see the anger this caused amongst United fans with the finger being pointed at various individuals. It probably didn’t help they were beaten by their deadliest rivals Liverpool a short time earlier. For the first time in a long while, United fans were the brunt of the jokes. But why did this happen to such a professionally run and ruthlessly ambitious club?

Those that don’t follow United closely may not have been aware of the summer departure of a man called David Gill, United’s Chief Executive. Ferguson and Gill formed a crucial partnership spanning the last decade and worked together closely in improving the United squad. Sir Alex identified his targets and Gill landed them, players such as Ronaldo, Rooney, Vidic and RVP who all became world class players. Gill was the footballing equivalent of the Terminator and proved himself a vital component of the United juggernaut.

Gill was not always a popular figure amongst fans and was a target of personal abuse during the supporter led ‘Green and Gold’ campaign in 09/10, when fans attempted to drive out the Glazers. He survived this and went on to become Fergie’s closest ally, his impending departure possibly being a contributing factor to the manager’s own retirement. It was perhaps just as crucial deciding Gill’s successor as it was in finding a new manager.

That man was Edward Woodward, who at 40 was promoted from Executive Vice Chairman to work alongside David Moyes. His previous track record was superb, driving commercial expansion to never before reached levels and was described as a commercial genius, but was he the right man for the job?

As a pair, it is my belief that Moyes and Woodward lacked the necessary experience to land their key targets. Pursuits for Fabregas, Thiago, Baines and Herrera amongst others proved fruitless, whilst United fans have never forgiven Woodward for his infamous departure from the preseason tour to conclude ‘urgent transfer business’. We’ve never found out what that was!!!! The worry is that Woodward is a ‘money man’, someone who is eager to count the pennies coming in and runs the risk of being a Glazer lapdog. His inability to pull the trigger may have been an indication that he just didn’t have the stones. I can only imagine it’s easier to seal a deal for money coming in than it is for money going out.

David Moyes has also come in for criticism, mostly from rival fans wanting to score points over United supporters. In fairness, how much experience of major transfer deals did he have whilst at Everton? In fact the only major star who arrived at Goodison in recent years came in the shape of Hollywood celebrity fan, Sylvester Stallone. Or was it a case that he was afraid to challenge those above him so early into his new job? In any case, come January he will need to be better prepared.

For me, the blame has to lie mainly with Woodward as he is seemingly responsible for sealing the deals and as I previously mentioned, many United fans have called for his head and for David Gill to return. I firmly believe that in the next two windows, United will have a point to prove and they will flex their muscles a little more appropriately. That will be the chance for Moyes and Woodward to prove they are more like Stallone and Schwarzenegger than they are Laurel and Hardy. Never before have United fans been as desperate for instant success, uncertainty is probably a feeling that many have never experienced before. It’s certainly not time to hit the panic button, yet………


Steven Gerrard – Replacing a Legend

As a Manchester United fan there is not many players from “rival” teams I can honestly say I would like to have seen in a Manchester United shirt, but one player I have always admired is Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard.

Gerrard may have 2 or 3 seasons left but ever since he made his debut back in 1998 he has summed up Liverpool’s hard working never say die attitude that makes them a challenging opponent for any side (just ask the AC Milan side from the 2005 Champions League Final or the West Ham United side from the FA Cup final the following year.) A dynamic central midfield player who is as deadly in and around his opponents 18 yard box as he is solid in front of his own. Gerrard’s range of passing is probably surpassed by 5 players in the duration of his career and his reading of the game and fearsome tackle make him a mangers dream. The fact he has been Liverpool captain for 10 years, and an England regular since 2000 (as well as a short stint as captain) also help cement his legacy in the modern era.

The fact that Gerrard has collected numerous accolades on a personal level as well is another testament to his quality as a player and the respect he holds throughout the game. Having been named in FIFA World Team of the Year 3 times, UEFA Club Footballer of the Year, England Player of the Year twice & also came 3rd in the 2005 Ballon d’Or behind Ronaldinho & Chelsea’s Frank Lampard.

Gerrard himself is an unassuming kind of person away from the pitch who has never really been in the public eye for any misbehavior, apart from one or two minor scrapes and this kind of record makes him a model professional. So the key question is how do Liverpool replace him? Yes they have the likes of Couthino & Lucas playing some exceptional football, but do they understand what it means to The Kop when you score a late winner against Manchester United? or Everton? It is highly unlikely and something that also helps cement Gerrard’s place in Liverpool folklore as you could imagine him on the terraces spurring Liverpool on. He is a lad that lives & breathes his city, you cut him open and the red that flows through him is mixed with the liverbird and sounds like The Kop singing You’ll Never Walk Alone. The unfortunate thing is that his time at the top level grows short and as Manchester United have found out with Paul Scholes replacing a legend is no easy feat.


The Emirates Stadium Tour, a United Perspective.

Sunday morning, 26 August 2013. I wake up at 6.58AM for the last time at my hotel in London. A fine (English) breakfast is waiting for me at 8.00AM. I get dressed to enjoy my breakfast.
I grab my bags and my Manchester United jacket before I leave for Kings’s Cross Road Underground Station to pick the Piccadilly Line to Arsenal. I leave the tube at Holloway Road Station and try to find my way. Turning left was a bad idea as it never seems to look like I’d find the stadium, so I ask the road to one of the locals. The fine man sends me back to the station where I came from and tells me to turn left at the university which is located close to the Emirates Stadium.
When I walk further I bump into one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever been standing in front of. The Emirates Stadium and the Armoury Square with its cannons and memorial floors impress me. As a non-Gunner I enjoy the view pretty much, probably because of my love for football in general. If I didn’t love football in general I’d never have been to the Emirates, but probably Wembley as it is a neutral ground.

I check in for an audio-guided stadium tour in combination with a visit to the Arsenal Museum, but the man at the desk reports there are only group guided tours available today. What a pity!
The desk guy notices my Manchester United jacket and smiles. “You shouldn’t wear that over here. And surely we knock you out if you like Van Persie in a United kit.” are his words. Before I can anwser him, my mother (who has been around all the time) tells him I adore RVP. I blush heavily and give her a push. The man still allows me to enter the tour as I tell him I love football in general. Later on, a Spurs fan joins the group.

The tour starts with a short walk into a corridor filled with a view of the stadium we’re about to see. After that, we enter a hallway with some stairs where our guide warns the Arsenal supporters among us that we are about to see some silverware. Trophies! We end up in the Director’s Lounge where we take a seat in the most comfortable seats for visitors in the stadium. The view over the stadium from those seats looks great. After the Director’s Lounge we come into the Diamond Club, where you only can arrive if you are invited by a Diamond Club member and are able to pay £30.000 for a seat, with a payment of three seasons in advance. So get to know a member if you have £120.000 on your account and love Arsenal. At this moment, according to our guide, the Diamond Club has an eight year waiting list.

We are going back down using the fancy Arsenal elevators. Downstairs we see a huge Arsenal crest on the wall. Time for a photo… This is the player’s entrance where the footballers leave the bus and make their way to the dressing rooms. By this, we continue our tour to the Arsenal changing room with its futuristic showers and baths, a fine massage room and a special built changing place. The space is built in the shape of a horseshoe, which is said to bring luck and which is a fine construction if you want to see all of your teammates. Finishing his talk on the Arsenal dressing room, the guide leads us through the tunnel which brings us onto the pitch. The tunnel exists of photos of every footballer who has ever worn an Arsenal kit at the Emirates Stadium. I cheer as I see a picture of Robin Van Persie at the end of the tunnel. We take a seat in the Arsenal dugouts and listen to what our guide has to say. I quickly go on a picture with the pitch on the background.

Our tour continues with a quick look at the visitor’s dressing rooms. These contain less modern showers and a square shaped changing space with less comfortable benches. It is said that Sir Alex Ferguson demanded the club to lower the table in the middle of the room so it is better to communicate with a team member on the other side of the room without having to talk to the bags that are on it (compared with Arsenal’s rooms, the table over there is low enough). On the other side, Ferguson said that the dressing rooms at the Emirates are the finest rooms he ever experienced during his career. These rooms have been used by footballers like Messi, Ronaldo and…Van Persie. We leave the room noticing a piece of floor sitting loose, the guide makes it funny by telling us it’s a trap for the Spurs. They could trip and get injured. The Emirates has a total of six changing rooms. After this we enter another corridor. This one has rooms, used for interviews with the players. Further in the corridor is the press room. Again we take a seat and listen to our guide, telling us more about Wenger and the Champions League.

Our tour is almost finished as we enter the technical center of the club, the final stadium location before entering the shop. I leave this collection of (expensive) Arsenal items immediately.

After that, I go further on to the Arsenal Museum. What you see there is obvious: the history of the club and its legends. I buy myself one of those monument coins with the Emirates Stadium on it. Less obvious must be the trophies…

We all mock the Gunners for not having won any trophy at all. But in fact, they have not won a trophy since 2003! Afterwards, I get myself a photo of me standing with my back towards the camera so the name of Manchester United is visible.

This stadium is a magnificent place for not only the Arsenal supporters, but also for those who have nothing to do with the club. It must be a fact that the stadium can be even more beautiful on a tour if you know something about the club’s history, its legends and its current team.


England’s Upcoming Failure

After watching another uninspiring England performance against Scotland a few weeks ago, you have to wonder what the upcoming World Cup will bring and let’s be honest they will never be world beaters but if we are honest this is the worst England team we have come across in a while.

Let’s start from the back, Joe Hart. Since becoming the unchallenged England number one, his performances have slowly gone downhill both for club and country. He seems he is more interested in being the face of a shampoo company than keeping the ball out of the net. Hart only seems to keep his place in the team down to default with him being only one of three England goalkeepers who are regularly playing for his club in the Premier League, the others being Ben Foster at West Bromwich Albion who seems to have fallen out of favor with 3 Lions coaches due to taking 2 years away from international duty to allow himself to heal up from the niggling injuries that have blighted his career. Norwich’s John Ruddy is the other who despite some impressive performances for his club side, but has never had a chance to prove what he is capable of at international level. You could argue that he deserves a decent shot at the number one jersey as he plays in front of a less solid back four than Manchester City’s Hart.

The back four seems to be getting a bit more settled with Baines and Walker deservedly holding down the wide positions after some impressive performances for their clubs and they both seem to be growing with confidence with every international game they play. The center backs cause me a bit of alarm though. I have never been convinced with Phil Jagielka as an international player, an example of this would be the second goal against Scotland in the recent friendly where Kenny Miller shook him off with ease to score. When you look at the options you have to wonder why Michael Dawson hasn’t added to his solitary 4 caps, he has been rock solid for his club for the last 2 seasons yet hasn’t played for England since 2011 and has grown leaps and bounds since becoming club captain, he reads the game well and is capable of winning the ball in the air or playing a sweeping role to win the second balls that are crucial at international level, especially in and around the box. Elsewhere you have Steven Caulker who has recently left Spurs to join Premiership new boys Cardiff City in search of regular football and has youth on his side at just 21 he has already proven himself to be a capable defender. Phil Jones and Chris Smalling at Manchester United could benefit from regular games for their club as could Martin Kelly at Liverpool and Nathaniel Chalobah at Chelsea, all of whom fans have been hearing about for a few years but first team glimpses have been few and far between.

In midfield the only really guaranteed name on the plane is Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard who deserves to be there (as a United fan it’s not even hard for me to say that.) He leads from the front, fights for his team no matter what colour he is in and has a great passion for his country that is rarely seen now days. You have the likes of Jack Wilshire who if he can manage his injury woes could well become a future linchpin for the Three Lions as he has a great range of attacking possibilities and never shirks out of a challenge, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is going to be a great player in the future and hopefully with this repackaging to a center midfielder that he is currently undergoing this will help him on the road to greatness, he has a great turn of speed and is also built like a tank so can easily throw his weight around in the center of the park. Elsewhere you have have Huddlestone, Shelvey, Zaha and Spearing all of whom have moved to new clubs during this transfer window and all of whom deserve a chance, even if in friendlies to show what they can do as we will never find out players capabilities if we don’t give them a chance. Scott Parker is a great example of moving to further his international prospects as moving to Spurs was probably his best and easiest decision in his life and he rightfully got the recognition he deserved and lets hope that continues with his move to Fulham. I would personally say thank you but goodbye to James Milner who I have never rated in an England shirt and also Frank Lampard who has performed amicably for England but they need to look to the future.

Up front England will always be left with Wayne Rooney as quite simply we do not have another striker possessing his ability looking anywhere near ready to step up to the mark and challenge him for line leader. Much has been made of Danny Welbeck’s lack of goals for Manchester United but you also cannot deny his tremendous work ethic and also the energy he brings to the team. Theo Walcott needs to step up the potential we are always being told he has and start producing on a regular basis for club and country to show he is worthy of a place in the squad. Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge had a great start to his Liverpool career and has always seemed to be a player who was in need of a chance to show what he is capable of and now he is getting that lets hope his eye for goal gets a lot of exercise. In terms of a big physical threat that England have always played with you have Andy Carroll & Rickie Lambert who made an impressive start to his international career with a goal from his first touch. Lambert is in possession of the big man shirt at the minute and Carroll’s record hasn’t been the most prolific in and England shirt so it may be time for England to either move away from the big man strategy or give Lambert a decent run in the squad.

So there you have it, my breakdown of the squad and where I see it going forward. There is a lot of unanswered questions surrounding a lot of the players I have mentioned but either way I think England fans may be in for a long wait for trophies.

My 25 man World Cup Squad.

Goalkeeprs: Joe Hart, John Ruddy, Ben Foster

Defenders: Kyle Walker, Glen Johnson, Carl Jenkinson, Leighton Baines, Micah Richards, Micheal Dawson, Gary Cahill, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Martin Kelly.

Midfielders: Steven Gerrard (Captain), Jack Wilshire, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Wilfred Zaha, Scott Parker, Micheal Carrick, Tom Huddlestone, Jonjo Shelvey.

Forwards: Wayne Rooney, Daniel Sturridge, Rickie Lambert, Danny Welbeck, Theo Walcott