Posts Tagged ‘Alex Ferguson’

United Now Top Trumps as Liverpool ‘Stick’ on 18 PLUS: Barnes Double for Title Winning Reds

by Rob Shepherd.

You will have to be well into your thirties to remember clearly the last time Liverpool won the title.

For those of us a little older and who witnessed Liverpool dominate English football at the end of the Seventies and throughout the entire Eighties, a period when they also won the European Cup five times, it would have seemed surreal to predict that the title success of the 1989-90 season would be their last for over two decades.

And when Liverpool disposed of United 2-1 at Old Trafford in March 1990 – John Barnes (2) Ronnie Whelan (og) – setting them on the run-in to an 18th title, it seemed incomprehensible the tables would be turned so dramatically. At the time that made the title count 18 – 7 to Liverpool.

While Liverpool were still then a well-oiled machine, United remained a team of talented individuals lacking consistency or identity.

Liverpool eventually held off the challenge of Aston Villa led by their former boss Ron Atkinson, whilst United finished 13th, a place behind Coventry City.

It was highly likely Sir Alex Ferguson would have followed Big Ron out of the Old Trafford door at the end of the season (Howard Kendall had been rumoured as a successor) had United not gone on to win the FA Cup that season beating Crystal Palace in the final after a replay.

That success gave Ferguson the breathing space he needed to see big money gambles like Gary Pallister and Paul Ince produce and home-grown players led by Ryan Giggs come through, before huge impact signings like Peter Schmeichel, Roy Keane and Eric Cantona made their mark.

The title score is now: United 20 Liverpool 18.

Yet for all United’s dominance the overall trophy count for both clubs remains pretty close. As this table shows:


The rivalry is not just about the shift in power over recent years.

It is deep rooted, it’s geographic context fueling the traditional rivalries and jealousies of both sets of fans – not just in football but in terms of their working class roots, industry, politics and even music.

Always played in a fraught and hostile atmosphere (sometimes hateful), there’s now the added spice as bitter rivals as players Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher go head-to-head as Sky TV pundits.

Despite Neville’s assertions, this is still a long way from being ‘a pub match’ though.

Can United maintain their recent momentum under van Gaal ?

Is Brendan Rodgers a one season wonder at Liverpool ??

Sunday could be a pivotal day for the future of both these great clubs.

Liverpool ‘Stick’ on 18

For those who have never seen Liverpool lift the title, here it is;


It’s so long ago that it’s the old Football League Championship trophy.

The teams from that day at Old Trafford:



Battle of the Bluffers
First Time in 25 Years Arsenal v United Has No Title Ramifications

by Roy Dalley.

Roy Keane’s dog will be well advised to steer clear when his master settles in front of the telly on Saturday night. Listen carefully and you might well hear the growls as Welbeck accepts manhugs, handslaps, best wishes and perhaps even a kiss on the cheek from his old Manchester United team-mates before the late kick-off at Arsenal.

It wasn’t always this lovey-dovey in the tunnel before and after this particular fixture, as Keane would bluntly testify. Once upon a time it was the prelude to Premier League titles, FA fines and suspensions, effing and blinding, pushing and shoving and the odd toss the pizza competition.

Vieira gets down with Roy Keane.

Vieira gets down with Roy Keane.

Last month was the 10th anniversary of a game so fondly recalled it has been awarded not one but two sobriquets: Pizzagate and Battle of the Buffet. It’s not just supporters who are still going on about it, the protagonists from both sides are also queuing up to reminisce to the media.

There’s now little doubt Fabregas was responsible for adding a few more autumnal colours to Sir Alex Ferguson’s features when a food fight broke out in the tunnel at Old Trafford. The flying pizza was the highlight in the aftermath of a defeat that brought to an end Arsenal’s unbeaten record of 49 matches (that, of course, had encompassed the entire previous season).

Wenger also ended up with egg on his face, at least metaphorically speaking, when he was fined £15,000 for calling Van Nistelrooy a cheat, and Reyes soon trooped back to Spain calling it the toughest game he’s ever known.

What makes the event even more remarkable is the fact Keane wasn’t even at Old Trafford that afternoon. He was nursing a stomach injury that was only compounded when news came through, as he recalled in his book: “I was gutted I missed the game, and all the fighting that went on in the tunnel afterwards.”


Now though the rivalry means something very different; little more than a side note concerning who will make up the numbers in the Champions League places for next season. Indeed it’s now more a Battle of the Bluffers; Arsenal’s Wenger has already put on his best Gallic shrug and conceded the title, while United’s van Gaal wore a poker face while bravely insisting they can still overcome Chelsea at the top of the League.

To be fair to the Deluded Dutchman he made that declaration before last week’s international break, during which De Gea, Carrick and Blind all added their names to United’s injury list. Certainly Welbeck will greet his former colleagues with a huge smile, feeling very confident of extending his goalscoring run of form for new club and country.

He could also lend more weight to the thought United seriously blundered when they allowed the blossoming England striker to take his talents to Arsenal at the end of the last transfer window.

“Not at the required level,” was van Gaal’s cold assessment.

Words that could reverberate if United return to Manchester on Saturday night 16 points behind Chelsea…



The Apprentice at Work
Mourinho Plys His Trade Under The Watchful Eye of van Gaal



Here’s a great shot of new Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal from around 1998 whilst in charge of Barcelona, deep in conversation with his assistant at the time, a certain Jose Mourinho.

Mourinho arrived at the Nou Camp as Bobby Robson’s assistant in 1996. Robson guided Barca to a cup treble that season, winning the Copa del Rey, UEFA Cup Winners Cup and the Supercopa de España. But Real Madrid pipped them to the title by 2 points, and that meant Robson, always viewed as a short-term appointment anyhow, could be moved on.

Robson quickly found work at PSV, but Barcelona insisted his young assistant stayed on to work with Robson’s successor; Louis van Gaal, the man the Catalans were waiting for all along.

Mourinho learnt much from the Dutchman’s diligent style. Both assistant and head coach combined well, their studious approach to the game saw Barcelona crowned La Liga champions twice in Van Gaal’s first two years as coach.

Van Gaal saw that his number two had a lot of promise. He let Mourinho develop his own style whilst coaching the Barcelona B side and also let him take charge of the first team for certain trophies, like the Copa Catalunya, which Mourinho won in 2000 with van Gaal supporting him in the role of assistant.

Soon after Benfica came calling for Jose, initially as assistant manager. Mourinho said “When I spoke with van Gaal about going back to Portugal to be an assistant at Benfica, he said: “No, don’t go. Tell Benfica if they want a first-team coach you will go; if they want an assistant you will stay.”

Mourinho did go to Benfica, and his opportunity to call the shots came quicker than anticipated after Jupp Heynckes was dismissed just four weeks into the season, and the man who would be later known as The Special One was promoted to his first managerial role. The rest, as they say, is history.

Next season he will go head to head with the man who – along with Sir Bobby Robson – helped shape him into the extraordinary success story of modern day football management. And while Mourinho will be looking to find the answers to his striking problems at Chelsea, van Gaal will be tasked with returning Manchester United to the force they were under Sir Alex Ferguson, which already seems a distant memory despite only being a year ago.

Roll on next season; their battles are set to be nothing short of fascinating…



United v Spurs: 3 Great Games
We preview the New Years Day encounter at Old Trafford


A rare win at Old Trafford for Spurs would be a tonic for Tim

by Karl Hofer.

Nothing cures a New Years hangover like a decent game of football and we look set for a good one in 2014 as the live match on the box sees Tim Sherwood’s Spurs (sounds weird…) travel to Old Trafford to face David Moyes’ United (still sounds weird…).

These two usually serve up entertaining matches, and the team at BOBBY have searched through the archives to pick out three of the best from down the years to prove the point. Before we give you the odds and our prediction have a look back at these classic encounters:

Oct 16th 1965  Tottenham Hotspur  5-1  Manchester United

A match graced with legends all over the pitch including Mackay, Greaves and Gilzean for Spurs who took on the league champions with Law, Best and Charlton in their ranks – and ran riot with a 5-1 win at the Lane in front of 58,000.

Many people will tell you that Glenn Hoddle scored the greatest goal ever between the two sides when he volleyed home in a league cup tie in 1979, but in my opinion Jimmy Greaves takes the accolade for his goal in this match as he waltzed through the United defence and slotted home in the relaxed manner that was typical of the man (see link below).

It was a tremendous win for Bill Nicholson’s side, but The Red Devils would get their revenge with a 5-1 win at Old Trafford just a couple of months later.

Sept 29th 2001  Tottenham Hotspur  3-5  Manchester United

This was one of the most extraordinary matches in Premier League history, and it helped create an aura of invincibility around Fergie’s Manchester United team. It is also a result that has ensured that Spurs fans will never be able to relax against United, whatever the score may be.

Spurs were enjoying one of their finest performances in recent memory after blasting into a 3-0 lead at the interval. Spurs were coasting through goals from Dean Richards, Les Ferdinand and Christian Ziege.

The problem was the job was only half done, and in the second half United launched an astonishing comeback. After the restart Andy Cole grabbed the all important early goal to instill belief. Spurs were then blown away by the visitors as United fought back and then took the lead with goals from Laurent Blanc, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Juan Sebastian Veron. David Beckham completed the comeback in a match Sir Alex described as his most memorable during his long tenure at Old Trafford (highlights below).

It would be fair to say that this result had a bit of an affect on Spurs, who wouldn’t beat United for another 11 years.

Dec 7th 1986 – Manchester United  3-3  Tottenham Hotspur

One of the greatest clashes between Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur came in a league encounter 27 years ago that really had it all. A topsy-turvy thriller that saw both sides wrestle control from each other at one stage or another before having to settle for a draw. United stormed into an early 2-0 lead thanks to goals from Norman Whiteside and Peter Davenport, before Spurs hit back with a diving header from Gary Mabbut in the second half.

Shortly afterwards Kevin Moran inadvertently turned a Glenn Hoddle shot into his own net and then Clive Allen put Spurs 3-2 ahead.

There was to be one final twist, though, as Davenport held his nerve to equalise with a last minute penalty. You can enjoy the highlights (and the wonderful commentary from John Motson) below.

(By the way, that match was played on December 7th despite what the graphic at the start says…)


Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspur, Wednesday January 1st 2014, 5.30pm, Live on BT Sport

The head-to-head record between the two very much favours United who have 85 wins against Spurs over the years. Spurs have won only 47 and there have also been 47 draws.

United in fact had an astonishing 33 match unbeaten run (which included 28 wins) against Spurs in all competitions from 2001 to 2012.



Van Persie 3/1, Rooney 7/2, Welbeck 9/2, Januzaj 7/1

Defoe 7/1, Soldado 7/1, Adebayor 8/1


United to win: 1-0 13/2, 2-0 7/1,  2-1 7/1, 3-0 11/1, 3-1 12/1, 3-2 25/1, 4-1 22/1

Draw: 0-0 11/1, 1-1 7/1, 2-2 16/1, 3-3 66/1, 4-4 200/1

Spurs to win: 1-0 14/1, 2-0 28/1, 2-1 16/1, 3-0 66/1, 3-1 40/1, 3-2 50/1


Rooney to score first @ 7/2

United to win 3-2 @ 25/1


Odds courtesy of William Hill


Brian Clough Sacked! Brian Clough and Leeds United: Divorced almost before they married

Jock Stein and Brian Clough. Two very different characters. Two different paths to the very top of their profession. And two significant common denominators:

• Jock Stein was offered the manager’s job (and declined it) at Leeds before Brian Clough was appointed – though he did accept the post in August 1978.
• Both men, astonishingly, reigned at Leeds United for just 44 days.


Clough: My players are right behind me

But whereas Jock Stein resigned the manager’s role to fill the vacant Scotland post and left Yorkshire amicably, the same cannot be said for Brian Clough who, on the 12 September 1974, was unceremoniously sacked.

Though this cloud did have a silver lining. He left with a handsome payoff of around £100,000 which set him up for the rest of his life.

To many it seemed a strange appointment. Why would Leeds employ a man who had been highly critical of previous manager Don Revie (who had left to manage England) and had branded the Leeds style of play cynical and dirty – which Clough felt undermined the more skilful football they often produced.

And why, after such criticism would Cloughie take the job? He must have known it could be a poisoned chalice. Perhaps not because later he said he didn‘t realise the extent of the dislike and resentment waiting for him at the club.

In his defence Clough said he took the job so he could try to win the European Cup (as League champions Leeds had already qualified for the competition).

Looking back he could see the funny side of the experience when he wrote in his autobiography in 1994, “Did I say the European Cup? I hardly lasted long enough to be given my own teacup at Leeds.”

His brash style upset a team of seasoned professionals almost from day one when he reportedly told them that they could throw their medals in the bin because they had not won them fairly. But then Clough was never short of an opinion or two.

Yet such was the enigma of the man that before the Charity Shield match in August against Liverpool he telephoned Revie, a man he held in disdain, to ask if he would like to lead the team out at Wembley as it was Revie’s team that had won the league the previous May. The offer was declined. And Liverpool won 6-5 on penalties after the match finished all square at one goal apiece.

Things didn’t really improve after that. During Clough’s time in charge Leeds won only once in six league outings and sat in 19th place in the table with just four points. It was the club’s worst start in 15 years. Something had to give.


Brian Clough is warmly welcomed to Elland Road by Leeds chairman Manny Cussins. The young lad with the ball at the front is the current Derby County manager Nigel Clough, then 8 years old.

Leeds chairman Manny Cussins acted swiftly and wielded the sword. Cloughie was on his way after just 44 days in the job.

He left Elland Road with his ego dented. But he wasn’t known affectionately as ‘ole bighead’ for nothing. After his experience at Leeds many clubs wouldn’t touch Cloughie with a barge pole. However one did, Nottingham Forest. And the rest as they say is history.

But what of Jock Stein? He steered Scotland to within touching distance of the upcoming World Cup in Mexico. Then on the 10th September 1985 at the end of a World Cup qualifying fixture against Wales at Ninian Park Stein collapsed. He died a short time later from a heart attack. Sadly he didn’t get to see the fruition of his labour in the Mexican sunshine, the task of guiding the team at the finals fell in the lap of a certain Alex Ferguson, then manager of Aberdeen.

by Richard Bowdery.

The Legend of King John – Buono Gigante

by Bob HarrisJohnCharles

When I wrote John Charles autobiography “King John” I noted on the inside cover that it should be required reading for every millionaire footballer around the globe – and every fan of the beautiful game.

It has never been truer as his fellow Welshman Gareth Bale prepares for his world record breaking move from Spurs to Real Madrid.

Worlds apart? Don’t believe it!

The comparisons between the two stretch well beyond the fact they are both of Welsh stock and able to play either in defence or attack.

Il Buono Gigante was, for those as young as or younger than Gareth, one of the world’s greatest ever footballers, ranked right up there with the likes of Pele, Maradona, Best, Ronaldo, Messi.

Don’t take my word for it, Sir Alex Ferguson once picked his best team of all time and had Big John in his side TWICE – at centre half and at centre forward. That was how good he was.

They were different for Bale, often rebuked for going to ground too easily, has a fine collection of yellow cards while John, despite always being in the thick of things at either end of the field, was never once cautioned or sent off despite being the target of some vicious Italian defenders playing the infamous catenaccio in his domestic game while he was literally kicked out of the 1958 World Cup in Sweden, denying us all of the confrontation of Charles versus Pele, something the Brazilian himself has always regretted.

Born in Swansea in 1931 he began his professional career at Leeds United, making his debut at the tender age of 17, before being sold to the mighty Juventus in 1957 where he reigned as King John, the Gentle Giant for five years.

The fee was a stunning £65,000, every bit as eye opening then as is Gareth’s £100 million now.

How good was he? Sir Bobby Robson, in his forward to my book, said: “Incomparable. Masterful in both positions. A staggering talent.”

In Italy he simply became known as Il Re (The King) and such was his standing he rarely bothered to carry even a five lire note in his pocket. Restaurants, tailors, whatever, they were only too pleased to serve the best footballer on the planet for nothing and boast about it afterwards.

Years later when we visited his old haunts and talked to his former team mates he was still welcomed with open arms wherever we went and looked on with awe by young and old alike in the streets.

Thirty four years after he finished playing he was named as the best foreigner ever to play in Serie A ahead of the likes of Maradona, Platini, van Basten and Zidane. That’s how good he was.

Gareth will find it a bit different in Madrid but if he can get off to the same sort of start as John did with Juventus – scoring the winning goal in his first three games in Serie A – he will find that his vast wage can go straight into the bank.

And if he can win three titles as John did with Juve, the world will certainly be his lobster.

If he can achieve all his great talents suggest and still remain gentle, unaffected and himself, he can follow in these giant footsteps.

Michael Parkinson said of Big John: “There should be a statue of John Charles outside every football ground to remind footballers what they can aspire to.”

SOCCER Charles 7

King John in action against Arsenal at Highbury

I could go on quoting the good and famous, Italian, Welsh, world citizens all loved John the person and worshipped John the footballer.

Many of them turned up on St. David’s Day, Monday March 1 2004 at the magnificent Leeds Parish Church for the funeral service of John Charles C.B.E.

It was a magnificent send off with the Swansea Male Voice Choir who sang Land of My Fathers, baritone Tayo Aluko singing the Aria: Lascia ch’io pianga, a poem about the legend, written and read by John Toshack, and finally we all sang John’s own choice, Sixteen Tons, his stand up performance whenever he was asked to perform.

It was about a big, silent man named John who laid down his life to save his fellow miners. Sounds like the Gentle Giant.

“King John- John Charles” The autobiography was published by Headline Book Publishing in 2003. ISBN number  0 7553 1208 2.

The latest book from Bob Harris is “The Boxer’s Story”, the Robson Press, an extraordinary true tale of a survivor of the Holocaust.