This is the Life of a Manager

By Jordan Brown

The chant rang around Tehrir Square over the weekend—the chant of the revolution, the chant that brought down deposed Mubarak, ‘The people want to bring down the regime!” They shouted it this time for a new leader, the democratically elected Mohammend Morsi—a man who is suddenly discovering the confines of power, the limits of his reach.

Somewhere in London a dour Frenchman was ending his day, and if he were to have seen the scenes in Cairo, heard the chant of the young revolutionaries, it would probably sound to him much like, “You don’t know what you’re doing.” A game as ubiquitous in global culture as football finds itself mirroring many other spheres of human society, none so often as politics, and no role in football is so neatly politicized as Manager.

Football is a republic built on popular momentum; it is the modern circus maximus played out in coliseums of steel and glass, and the mobs are still the masters. In every seat of the stands sits a revolutionary, a fan who holds their own individual ideal of their club’s perfection. They know the way their team should play, who they should sign, and exactly what great heights of achievement each season should hold. Their minds are filled with gleaming trophy cabinets and memorable performances, and to all of them the one standing in the way of the dream made life is the flesh and blood man in the puffy jacket pacing the byline in front of them. Everyone is the best fit for the job except for the one who currently holds the title.

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Ferguson and the diamond

By Tim Palmer

The signing of Robin van Persie cast doubt over Sir Alex Ferguson’s ability to fit all his players into a working system. The presence of Shinji Kagawa, who is at his best in a central playmaking role, accentuated his problems, and while no manager would ever turn down such attacking riches, it poses difficult selection dilemmas.

Yet Van Persie arrived late in the transfer window and was deemed not ready to start in United’s opening game against Everton. That was a game lost 1-0 through a Marouane Fellaini header, where Wayne Rooney was so poor and off the pace he was dropped for their next match against Fulham. He did eventually come on for Kagawa in the sixty-eighth minute, playing alongside Van Persie, but he was injured with a serious cut to his knee twenty minutes later. Both had come as substitutes to play with the other, but it seemed that the universe was conspiring to keep the two apart.

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Dear Supporter,
The great support you gave the team here last season has seen our allocation back up to near-full levels. I want you to continue that progress today.
But today is about much more than not blocking gangways. Today is about thinking hard about what makes United the best club in the world.
Our rivalry with Liverpool is based on a determination to come out on top - a wish to see us crowned the best against a team that held that honour for so long.
It cannot and should never be based on personal hatred. Just ten days ago, we heard the terrible, damning truth about the deaths of 96 fans who went to watch their team try and reach the FA Cup final and never came back.
What happened to them should wake the conscience of everyone connected with the game.
Our great club stands with our great neighbours Liverpool today to remember that loss and pay tribute to their campaign for justice. I know I can count on you to stand with us in the best traditions of the best fans in the game.
Yours sincerely, Sir Alex Ferguson.

Dear Supporter,

The great support you gave the team here last season has seen our allocation back up to near-full levels. I want you to continue that progress today.

But today is about much more than not blocking gangways. Today is about thinking hard about what makes United the best club in the world.

Our rivalry with Liverpool is based on a determination to come out on top - a wish to see us crowned the best against a team that held that honour for so long.

It cannot and should never be based on personal hatred. Just ten days ago, we heard the terrible, damning truth about the deaths of 96 fans who went to watch their team try and reach the FA Cup final and never came back.

What happened to them should wake the conscience of everyone connected with the game.

Our great club stands with our great neighbours Liverpool today to remember that loss and pay tribute to their campaign for justice. I know I can count on you to stand with us in the best traditions of the best fans in the game.

Yours sincerely, Sir Alex Ferguson.

On Monday it’s unlikely they’ll be smiling

By Dominic Vieira

The Premier League has started magnificently, but Manchester United’s campaign only ignites tomorrow when they take on Everton. It’s a thrilling time to be a ‘Red Devil’ as there is immense excitement to watch Robin Van Persie in action, their super summer signing, who has probably joined Alex Ferguson’s greatest striking force of all time. He now posseses an envious supply of goal scoring quality, but is also confronted by the dilemma of choice.

Although it remains a mystery, it’s expected that last season’s leading scorer will be the principal option to play alongside the irreplaceable Wayne Rooney, creating a lethal partnership. It already appears that the pair are bonding well following Thursday’s training photos and Ferguson has hinted that they’re his leading men, he can’t his delight:

"They are two fantastic players and it will be great to have both of them."

This could be the perfect striking partnership the league has ever seen, a combination of experience, sophisticated skill and a high abundance of goals. But what does this mean for Danny Wellbeck and Chicharito, who both have the capacity to play for the team on a weekly basis? And what about Dimitar Berbatov who still wears the number 9?

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Was Bolt’s dream was to run or play the beautiful game?

2012 has been Usain Bolt’s year once again, and he’s already comfortably defending his crown as the world’s fastest man. However, the Jamaican athlete has incessantly expressed his love for Manchester United and in a recent interview with the BBC, Bolt spoke about completing a trial at the club:

"People think I am joking. But if Alex Ferguson called me up and said: ‘OKAY let’s do this, come and have a trial,’ it would be impossible for me to say no. I would not take up the challenge if I didn’t think I was good enough. I am a very accomplished player and know I could make a difference."

Following this interview, Twitter addict and Manchester United centre-back Rio Ferdinand sent the fastest man in the world a tweet offering his help to realise Bolt’s dream.

Although the footage from a preview of his recent upcoming documentary does not promise high expectation, there’s more legitimate footage to be found here. The basic skillset is clearly there, and we’ve been arguing about this amongst ourselves: Could Bolt really be a Premier League footballer?

The Premier League or nothing: Sir Alex is in his element

By Dominic Vieira

The 2011/12 Premier League is now Manchester United’s to win or lose. Alex Ferguson is sitting in a position which he’s overly familiar with, which is not only a throne of comfort but one where he freely shares his wise words to antagonize local rivals Manchester City as he bluntly indicated "A season lasts for a bit longer than three months."

Sir Alex has made a valid point. In December, Manchester City were crystal clear favourites to lift England’s most prestigious crown and led the race until March. But their drop in form was exploited by the Red Devils who have accumulated 28 points from their previous 10 encounters. Surely the 1996 ghost of Kevin Keegan is haunting Roberto Mancini or is this typical Manchester United?

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Don’t speak too soon?

By Azeem Banatwalla

Last season was strange for Manchester United fans. It began with the traditional sluggish start that follows most World Cup summers. A ton of draws and unconvincing displays led many pundits and even more fans to write off United’s chances when they were nine points off the pace in October. You couldn’t blame them. But Chelsea and Arsenal underwent their respective collapses and somehow, despite the Wayne Rooney saga, sub-standard displays and a glaring lack of quality, United found themselves on top of the tree at Christmas. 

Yes, last season was strange. Because it wasn’t a “vintage” Manchester United team, as every pundit on every television channel and newspaper has severally pointed out. It was a team that ground out results and battled through to victory relying less on attractive football and more on a winning mentality. Some went as far as saying that it was solely Sir Alex Ferguson who was responsible for the 19th title. Poetic, since he did want to knock Liverpool off their “perch” himself.

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Giuseppe Rossi, another one who flew away

By Dominic Vieira, writing from Lancaster, England

A consistent pattern is revealing amongst the young players at Manchester United: they’re awarded limited minutes on the field, sold, transform into first team players elsewhere and then Alex Ferguson admits regret. The manager normally makes the right decision having released a combination of international players who failed to attain their hype or potential, that list includes the likes of Manucho, Dong Fangzhuo, Markus Neumayr, Rodrigo Possebon, and Madds Timm. 

However, the stories of the sold talents who flourished elsewhere have become a growing concern issue. Ryan Shawcross departed in 2008 and is an irreplaceable captain for FA Cup runners-up Stoke City. A year later Pique joined Barcelona where we won everything and can be regarded as one of the most complete centre-backs. Finally, after hitting over 30 goals for Villarreal this season and on the verge of joining FC Barcelona, Giuseppe Rossi can officially join the list. Are you still crying Fergie?

Like most footballers, Giuseppe Rossi carries an intriguing football adventure starting in New Jersey before flying ‘across the pond’ at the age of 12 to develop at the Parma academy. He completed the dream which thousands of aspiring boys envisage to materialize, joining a world famous club like Manchester United. That ambition turned into reality for Rossi on the 6th of July 2004, during the same summer Gerard Pique also joined and the pair became close friends during their time in England; the club was heavily criticised in their approach for the two players.

His first team opportunities were slim as competition was high; players such as Saha, Rooney, Ronaldo, Nistelrooy and Alan Smith were above him in the pecking order. On the other hand, Rossi who could play as an attacking midfielder or striker was developing with the Under 18’s and Reserves coached by the expertise of Brian McClair, Francisco Filho and Rene Meulensteen. After winning the prestigious Blue Stars/FIFA Youth Cup in 2005, Rossi played in red hot form for the Reserves throughout the 05/06 season scoring over 30 goals and winning the treble which consists of the Barclays Premiership Reserve League NorthManchester Senior Cup and Reserve Shield. 

Following a 6-0 victory against Manchester City Reserves in April 2006, Arthur Albiston praised the Italian youngster on manutd.com: ”He is a box of tricks, a real bundle of energy. He doesn’t look the tallest player, but he has a low centre of gravity and great control with both feet. When you have that low center of gravity, you can get away from people quite quickly. He looks an exciting prospect.” The future looked incredibly bright and promising for Giuseppe Rossi.

Frequent playing time is essential for a youngster’s development and in the 06/07 season Rossi spent the first 6 months on loan at Newcastle. His opportunities at the Premier League side were incredibly restricted as he completed 13 appearances and scored on a single occasion, a strike in the League Cup against Portsmouth. The second half was spent in the Serie A representing Parma, this is where the striker was finally able to demonstrate his true capabilities. He scored 9 times and was a vital component in their relegation escape. Rossi’s January debut goal was sublime and was probably scored on a day when Fergie was busy on the golf course.

On the 1st of August 2007, Rossi, aged 20, having only played 14 matches scoring 4 goals for Manchester United, left England for Spain as he joined Villarreal. He was viewed as the long-term replacement of Diego Forlan, another former United striker who failed to establish himself at the club. It’s fair to state that Manchester United were reluctant in letting him go and secured a buy-back related clause in the transfer. But the move was crucial for his development as Rossi could play 90 minute football. 

The New Jersey-born striker proved his capabilities immediately as he scored on his La Liga debut against rivals Valencia. However, Rossi required time to adapt and develop in Spain, but the glimpses of potential continuously unveiled and strengthened. Each year he was maturing, improving his game and created a dangerous attacking partnership with Nilmar who joined in 2009. Last season was his best where he scored 18 league goals equalling David Villa’s tally, including a quality strike against Espanyol. Throughout the four years, Rossi has yet to lift a piece of silverware and any top footballer wants to be a champion.

After shining at the 2008 Olympics were he was top scorer for Italy, Rossi made his international debut in October against Belarus for a 2010 World Cup qualifier. Despite making the provisional squad for the tournament he was left out of Lippi’s final 23 man team. Under new manager Prandelli, Rossi became a frequent figure for the Azzurri and partnered Cassano last week for a Euro 2012 qualifier against Estonia where he scored.

It’s the time of year when money is consistently circulating, the summer transfer window and Rossi isset to complete one of the biggest transfers. His agent told Sport.co.uk: “He is happy to stay there (Villarreal), but he is willing to wait for a big offer from a top club. He will only leave for a bigger club than Villarreal, and he would like a call from a Barcelona, Real Madrid, Inter Milan, or Chelsea. If not, he is happy and he will extend his contract.”

But when asked about his previous club Manchester United who’ve been linked with a move, the agent stated: “before the club can accept any offer for Giuseppe, they must check with Manchester United.” However, Rossi does not have to accept the offer and probably won’t; a return to Old Trafford is unlikely.

After years of hard work, Rossi has displayed his sheer talent and quality, the 2010/11 season portrays him as a world class star, 32 goals in 56 matches. In a recent interview with Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport, the 24 year old stated: "Playing for Barca is the dream of every player." And it probably is.

The Barcelona bells are ringing. A top player must win and medals are definitely missing in his trophy cabinet, a club like Barcelona guarantees him major victories. His versatility, ability to use both feet, speed and killer instinct enable him to play anywhere in the club’s attacking trademark trident. However, it’s likely to see Rossi sitting on the bench as it’s virtually impossible to dismantle the high scoring 'M + V + P'.

Messi is irreplaceable up front, but will miss the start of the season as he’ll be busy in South America fighting for his first major trophy, the Copa America. Therefore, his position will be filled by either David Villa or La Masia product Bojan who’s been linked with a move to the Premier League. If it’s unlikely to see Rossi filling Messi’s shoes, he would play on the left flank where he normally does at Villarreal. However, Rossi will struggle to play as frequently as he does at El Madrigal which would become an issue. Winning trophies for the best club or playing 90 minutes every week? The choice is his.

Another factor which must be taken into account is the estimated transfer which is €35m (£31m) this price has the potential to reduce Barcelona’s interest as they may focus on lowering their debt or other prime signings such as Alexis Sanchez and Cesc Fabregas. The club does not necessarily require Rossi as their youth academy is blossoming, Gerard Deulofeu is an emerging star who plays on the left for the Under 19’s and could be the solution. 

Juventus and Tottenahm Hotspur are also linked with a move for the Italian star, but neither is playing in the Champions League like Villarreal. Remaining at his current club is a realistic option for Rossi who will continue shining and running riot alongside Nilmar. But is it possible to say no to FC Barcelona?

There’s another Italian who could follow Rossi’s footsteps, a name which hasn’t been forgotten and belongs to Federico Macheda. The youngster impressed in his debut season scoring 2 crucial goals in Manchester United’s title winning campaign. Since then he’s played a low number of games and struck the back of the net twice. He spent the second half of this season on loan at Sampdoria and unlike Rossi’s Italian spell; Kiko scored one goal and failed to save the club from relegation. Macheda is one year younger than Rossi and is competing against Rooney, Chicharito and Berbatov for a place in the XI; if there’s no room for him, what will United do?

Fergie’s right-back headache and Pep’s left-back dilemma

By Dominic Vieira, writing from Lancaster, England

It’s Wednesday, the 2011 Champions League Final kicks off in 4 days and it’s certain that numerous thoughts will be troubling the great minds of Alex Ferguson and Pep Guardiola night and day. One of the greatest concerns will be United’s choice for the right-back position whilst Barcelona has a dilemma with left-backs. From a positive perspective, both managers will be delighted with the several match fit options available for the position. Who to play?

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