Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Cristiano Gets Some New Playmates

Sorry I haven't posted in a while, I spent the weekend in DC for a wedding. I was planning to make a post yesterday until I accidentally played beer pong for 6 hours and passed out by 9 pm. But there's nothing like a United double signing to get the heart racing, and indeed wake the Trawler from it's week-long slumber.

So it's official, Manchester United have signed attacking midfielder Anderson from Porto F.C. and winger Nani from Sporting Lisbon. Anderson, a Brazil Under-17 international, is 19 and Portuguese international Nani is 20; they are both highly rated and were both linked with top sides throughout Europe. I'm a big fan of the youth, Nani (above in mid-goal celebration) is a left-winger and Anderson a creative midfielder so hopefully they can someday develop into worthy successors to Giggs and Scholesy.

I know that we've been heavily linked to Nani recently, but the added bonus of Anderson is a pleasant surprise. Any 19 year old who's earned a starting spot after just one year with the Portuguese champs can't be half-bad. I like the Portuguese-speaking flavor added to the squad, can't hurt in helping to keep Ronaldo happy. I've been trolling Youtube for the past half-hour for videos of these two guys and they look pretty talented but of course the level of competition in the EPL far more challenging than the Portuguese league and Youtube highlight compilations can be notoriously misleading. That there is actually a Kleberson highlight reel out there proves this.

One more thing, I know Nani is the more well-known of the two signings but there is one video of Anderson that caught my eye. I hate when people say so-and-so is the next Zidane or the next Ronaldinho (like this video does), especially at such a tender age, but in this case the similarities are definitely there. Like Ronaldinho, Anderson is a Porto Alegre native and started his career at Gremio. He's also got the requisite abundance of speed and creativity, able to shoot with both feet, and gleefully skipping past defenders seems to be a favored pastime of his. Plus he's got wacky hair like Ronaldinho and there's an absurd move he does at the end of the video that is just like one Ronaldinho pulled off at Gremio. I know, I know, it's pretty foolish to try and predict the next Best Player In The World, but I'm just saying...

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Champions League Final: Running Diary

Taking a page out of the Bill Simmon's playbook with a running diary of the 2007 Champions League final between AC Milan and Liverpool FC:

Pre-game: Can't help but think as I watch Jermaine Pennant waving at the crowd like a fool during the Champions League anthem that there's just something not right about Pennant being a part of a UCL final. Now watch, the drunk-driving little twerp will pop up with the winning goal.

6th minute: Danny Agger does his best snarling dog impression against the snarling dog himself, Rino Gattuso, with a solid tackle. Definitely one of the best signings this season, talk about value for money.

10th minute: Wow,
Pennant almost makes good on my little pre-game prediction. Pennant steals the ball outside the Milan box, does a one-two with Gerrard and hits a hard low shot to the far post forcing a great save out of Dida. I choked on my chocolate milk, just a little bit.

15th minute: This week's sign of the apocalypse: A plug for the Indy 500 just came up during the UCL final. That's like plugging a Starbucks poetry slam over the loudspeaker at a Texas rodeo. Just not the right audience.

23rd minute: My father bemoans the decision by Gerrard to go for the volley instead of laying off to the trail man. Forgive him he isn't aware of the immense power the lies within Gerrard's right foot with the ball sitting up for him like that. He also just asked if Gerrard is Argentinian...moving on...

24th minute: Hey, Javier Mascherano is pretty good, eh? Woudn't you say, Alan Pardew/Curbishley?

27th minute: 2nd sign of the apocalypse - Tommy Smyth: "Pennant is running them (Milan) ragged on the right side"....oh god..

35th minute: Another good scoring chance started by Pennant, Jankulovksi is looking absolutely dreadful tonight.

38th minute: Pennant just stuck in for not one, but two strong tackles..this is just fascinating..IS THIS THE FUCKING TWILIGHT ZONE? WHERE IS HIS ANKLE TRACKING DEVICE? WHEN DID HE GET OFF PROBATION?

40th minute: Gattuso gets a yellow card, yawn. The over-under on when he would get card (because him getting one was never a question) would've been 30th minute, I'd guess. And I would've gone under, obviously underestimating his level of restraint. Sorry, Rino.

44th minute: Against the run of play, just before half-time, Milan wins a free-kick (Kaka went down too easy for me) outside the box. Pirlo's free-kick is deflected off of Inzaghi, King of in the right place at the right time goals, and into the back of the net. Milan 1 - Liverpool 0.
Half-Time Verdict: The Athenian air is thick with controversy. Stevie Nichol, half-time pundit and Liverpool backer, says that if the ball goes off your arm and into the net--intentional contact or not--it's not a goal. And I must concur. FIFA is kind of ambiguous about this issue but I must concur with Nichol.

Liverpool are the better team so far and I actually feel bad for the Scousers, brutally unfair end to the half. I'm expecting Liverpool to come out with more of the same led by the talismanic Jermaine Pennant (wtf?!?!) and eventually break through with an equalizer, then who knows.
Start of 2nd half: Those guys drumming the boys back on the pitch are outrageously lame.

58th minute: Kewell comes on for Zenden, finally. (wow never thought I'd say that, looks like we're still in the twlight zone)

62nd minute: "He gets away from Nesta, how often can you say that"--GOLDEN opportunity for Gerrard clear on goal, should've done better. 'Nuff said.

70th minute: Milan are doing the Italian thing. Content to sit back put 9 men behind the ball before punting the ball back to Reina. Inzaghi is stranded on a faraway island of In Front of the Halfway Line. Negative football and I don't like it, almost makes me want to root for Liverpool. Almost.

74th minute: Derek Rae points out that Jemaine Pennant has not been as effective here in the second half. All is right with the world. Also good news, Milan are opening up a bit more which makes it easier for me to root for them.

77-79th minute: "A gangly handful he is"--Peter Crouch comes on for Mascherano. Took you long enough, Rafa. Kaladze comes on for Jankulovski, that should put to bed any possibility of a Pennant resurgance.

82nd minute: Despite Sir Fergie's assertion that Inzaghi was born offside, he is in fact also the King of beating the offside trap. And he does it to perfection before coolly slotting under the on-rushing Reina. Slipping away for Liverpool...

84th minute: Inzaghi may be a Milan folk-hero but he's still a wanker. He blocks a Kewell cross with his midsection, seems ok at first, then in true Italian wanker-dom realizes the opportunity to waste time and hits the ground rolling around in "pain" from the blow he took. Kewell tries to help him up and get on with it while resisting the temptation to give put him in real pain.

88th minute: Istanbul flashbacks. Kuyt scores off a corner, it's not over yet.

91st minute: Foul called against Crouch on a 50-50 aerial challenge. Wasn't a foul. Poor guy get's penalized all the time just because he's a giant.

Full-time: Referee blows the whistle a bit early using 2:44 of the alotted 3 minutes stoppage time as Rafa is shown furiously pointing to his watch amidst Milan celebrations.
Final Verdict: Liverpool can feel a bit hard-done by some decisions and bad luck but what it comes down to is execution vs. lack therof. The point is that you shouldn't let the game be decided by referee's decisions or any other outside forces, you decide it yourself. Say what you want about Inzaghi, he's not my favorite guy either, but he had his chance one-on-one vs the keeper and took it well to put the game beyond Liverpool's reach. Gerrard will surely look back on the 62nd minute chance with only Dida to beat and think that was THE opportunity to bring it level. Hmm wonder if Sammy Eto'o would've put that away...let the transfer rumors flow. And Sir, let the wine flow, too.

Champions League Prediction (Premonition?)

Ok so I was about to finish up on a post that had nothing to do with the final today and then I looked at the time and saw it's about an hour or so til' kick-off. I realized it probably wouldn't have been good form to blatantly ignore such an occasion.

So anyway, I think Liverpool will win.

'But whaaa?' is probably what your saying. Yea I know I'm a United fan, but I never said I was rooting for Liverpool. I just said they're gonna win. I do want Milan to win. For one, I think they are out and out a better team and much more fun to watch. I also want to see Seedorf lift his 4th Champions League trophy because he's just a class act and that would be cool. I also like rooting for the team that knocks your team out a tournament because then you can at least say "Well, at least we were beaten by the eventual champions." Otherwise you have to deal with degrees of seperation and Liverpool fans claiming to be two levels better than United because they beat Milian who beat Uni--it's just a big fucking mess.

And I also think that Liverpool should not be rewarded for their squad rotation system that sacrificed the league for Europe. Any respectable Liverpool fan knows the phrase "The league is our bread and butter" and Benitez has thrown that tradition out the window (but you kind of can't blame him when the Reds haven't won the league in 17 years, it's basically our bread and butter these days). In contrast, Milan only started playing for the Champions League when they got off to a slow start after already being deducted points to start the season.

So why do I think Liverpool is gonna win again? Oh right, I had a dream about it. It was a bizarre dream that was very hazy--either from the whiskey sour shots I took in the dream or it was just one those hazy dreams y'know--but I do distinctly remember Stevie G lifting the trophy once again, this time in Athens. That being said, I still hope Sir can open up that bottle of wine when all is said and done. And the latest news that Rafa is NOT PLANNING TO MAN-MARK KAKA also gives me hope that my dream (nightmare?) is not a premonition after all.

But here's the thing, when Milan have the choice of wearing their black and red or wearing their white away jerseys and they choose white despite the fact that Liverpool has never lost a European Cup final in red against a team in white...see that's foolishly tempting the football gods and then you're just asking for it.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Top 20 Champions League Goals Ever

20-6 and 5-1

I spotted this on The Offside's homepage who got it from a 101 Great Goal's post

"The goal at Sparta Prague by Thierry Henry just shows what a poor player he is, y'know, no left foot"

On that Bergkamp-Ljunberg goal: "The build-up, Bergkamp's juggling when surrounded by defenders, turning, twisting--I mean his feet are moving, you have to watch it in slow-motion--It's like Van Basten on speed"

Patrick Barclay you cheeky man. He is my new (only?) favorite football pundit. And as usual, Andy Townsend is a wanker in this.

By the by, hats off to Mikael Nilsson for getting not one, but two goals on the list.

Paul McCarthy on the #1 goal: "It's one of the those moments when you stop, you look, you think 'Have I really seen that?'and then you see it on the replay and you think 'privilege'"

Just about sums it up, I think. Though it's not #1, Ronaldinho's goal at the Bridge is my personal favorite. And Smudge's "i'm baaaackk" goal vs Roma got all the way up to #6!

I'll do an original post later tonight just haven't decided what yet. Cheers.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Owen Hargreaves: The Anti-Transfer Saga

The media reports in Germany were confirmed by club president Franz Beckenbauer when he said four simple words: Owen Hargreaves will go. It seems as if Manchester United and Bayern Munich have finally agreed upon a price and as a United fan I’m thrilled about adding a true ball-winner in Hargreaves to our midfield ranks, but this isn’t exactly a surprise development. Everyone knew he would move to Old Trafford this summer it was just a matter of when, and in that way this is a surprise. With the ridiculous transfer saga of Cashley Cole and William Gallas between Arsenal and Chelsea that dragged on all last summer still fresh in all of our minds, I’m sure everyone dreaded (and expected) a similar drawn-out tug of war over Hargreaves.

This has, however, been averted thanks to a certain degree of professionalism and respect exhibited by both parties that is sadly lacking in the front offices of Chelsea, in particular the sniveling chief executive, Peter Kenyon. Yes, the same Peter Kenyon that sickeningly refers to Chelsea as a “brand” and said today that it would’ve been “unjust” if Chelsea only won the Carling Cup this year. And yes, this is the same Peter Kenyon who on more than one occasion professed to be a life-long United supporter before leaving Old Trafford to join Chelsea once Abramovich’s millions came calling. Not that we miss him in the least.

Sorry I’ve been posting on only United news thus far, very myopic of me and I apologize. I think I’ll do a La Liga post next or even mix it up with a music post, who knows. Cheers.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

2007 FA Cup Final: Chelsea 1-Manchester Utd 0

So the 2007 English domestic season is officially done and dusted. All that's left is the Champions League final in a little less than a week and then we'll have to make do with transfer rumors and atrociously boring MLS action to get by.

For the first FA Cup final at the new Wembley it was a letdown and not just because I'm a United fan. The first half was horrendous as was the state of the pitch. Ryan Giggs once said he never like playing at the old Wembley because the pitch was so poor. $575 million dollars later and some things just never change. The second half was improved from both sides and Rooney was in sparkling form, his mesmerizing run from box to box probably the most breathtaking. Anyway blahblahblah you guys can read the match report anywhere you want. Let's get down to the talking points:

The Giggs incident. Let's be frank, Giggs should've done better. Regardless of Essien's challenge, which I don't believe warranted a penalty, Rooney put the ball at his feet and he had the entire goal at his mercy from less than 6 yards out. And all he could do was scuff a shot into Cech's body. And no it wasn't a goal just because it crossed the line, it wasn't a goal because Giggs pushed Cech over the line after he had saved his weak effort. Moving on.

For me one of the most overlooked moments of the game was Ronaldo's chance in the 87th minute. Scholes releases him on the right edge of the box with a lovely chipped pass, Ronaldo does a stepover, cuts inside and INSTEAD of passing to the completely unmarked Ryan Giggs in the center of the penalty box just outside the 6-yard he goes for an outrageous near-post shot against Petr-fucking-Cech. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why Kaka is the best player in the world. Ronaldo is only 22 to Kaka's 25, so you hope that in the future he'll do the right thing and keep his head up and pass the ball like Kaka probably would've done in that situation. Good news is Ronaldo will probably be World POY within the next few years.

When it comes down to it neither side deserved to win or lose, it was a cagey match from start to finish with momentum swinging both ways (if at all). The game was up for grabs and Chelsea snatched it with a fine goal (hate to say it but it was a superb return ball from Fat Frank) when the United defense was probably caught napping a bit. Enough of the Mourinho impersonations, whining about fatigue, disallowed goals, and penalties that weren't given. United had their chances and didn't capitalize, Chelsea did.

Yes, it's a tough loss to swallow--being the first one at the new Wembley and all--but I think I'll wash it down with some champagne I've got left over from when we won the league...cheers.

..It's because ze sink sardines will be srown into the sea

Seeing as how the title of this blog is the first part of one of the most legendary quotations in football history, I figured I'd title the first post as the remaining end of the quote by Manchester United icon Eric Cantona (complete with french accent spelling). As some (many? I have no idea the general football knowledge of my readership or whether I have a readership to begin with) of you may know King Cantona said this at a press conference after recieving his near-year long ban from Premiership football for "kung-fu" kicking a Crystal Palace supporter.

So if you haven't guessed it, yes, I am indeed a Manchester United fan, through and through. But apart from my allegiances, I am an unabashed football freak. Some might call the beautiful game soccer but I will only call it football on this blog as it is actually played primarily with one's feet and is an older sport than American football (and I'm a NY Giants fan from Long Island, no less, so this is not coming from a Eurosnob place). Moving on...I wouldn't say I have the most extensive football knowledge and being on 20 years old I definitely don't have as much of a sense of history as others (I was 8 years old when Cantona uttered those famous words, wasn't even born yet when Sir Alex took over at Old Trafford) but I do have a fierce and undying passion and respect for the game and that is one thing that no one can ever question.

I hope this blog can be a haven, a forum, and an all-around informative site for my fellow football fanatics around the world (especially all my fellow United fans!). I also hope that this blog can help put to the bed the notion that Americans (yes, I was born and raised in Long Island and only discovered the beautiful game around 9-10 years old) don't know what they're talking about when it comes to footie.

Yea high hopes, right? Truthfully, acquiring any readership (as in at least one person) would be nice but I really just made this thing so I could get my constant thoughts and opinions on football out of my head when I don't have my buddies around to tell them to. So that's all for now, being a United fan I'll obviously have some thoughts on the FA Cup Final which I'll post tommorrow as I'm home from college now and have nothing better to do. Cheers.