Tag Archives: Gary Neville

Don’t let minority rule – the Manchester United fan protest was good

For the last two or three weeks, we’ve barely heard anything else from Sky other than how fans matter and that they’re the life of the game and the most important people in football.

So on Sunday afternoon when Manchester United were due to face Liverpool at Old Trafford and fans stormed the stadium to cause it to be postponed, why were they portrayed as hooligans and horrendous people?

We’ve all listened to Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher’s calls for fans to ‘mobilise’ and ‘march at stadiums’ to oppose the plans for a European Super League, with the owners of the six clubs rightly seen as the bad guys in this entire thing. So when it’s now been acted upon it’s deemed bad because it hit Sky in the pocket. Seems convenient.

Now, credit where it is due. Roy Keane, Carragher and Neville were all very vocal about their support of the fans’ protests and were quick to point out that anything that did go left-field was a small minority of fans who may have had an ulterior motive.

But this protest didn’t happen overnight and for no reason, as Graeme Souness wanted to try and point out.

This is off the back of 16 years worth of some parasite owners looking to bleed the club dry of all the fortunes and reputation they built up over the best part of a century since being formed. The Glazers bought the club using hedge fund loans, taken out against the club, plunging Manchester United into hundreds of millions of pounds of debt immediately.

There were protests then too, but the government and FA allowed it to happen and the fans could do nothing. The club are yet to pay any of that loan back despite being 16 years further down the line, with the only ground made up on clearing the debt is by paying over £700m of interest. Add to that the fact the Glazers take a dividends every year, totalling around £75m a year, plus another £70m in director fees means these bankers have taken over £1bn from the club.

Yet despite this, the club’s stadium and training ground have fallen behind the standards of a club of United’s standing as the Glazer’s flat out refuse to put any money into the club.

Now I understand that from their perspective, they are businessmen and want to make money not spend it. But the FA, Premier League and government have to look back at how they were allowed to buy a community asset with money they didn’t have and are now allowed to bleed it dry of all it’s profits.

United had been able to challenge for trophies and compete for a while, but it’s now caught up as other clubs spend their money wisely to progress.

This protest was absolutely nothing to do with the fact the club have been struggling for trophies in recent years and on the pitch aren’t the side they once were. The fans’ biggest protests came back in 2010 when the club reached won three consecutive league titles and made three Champions League finals in four years.

This is an issue that was reignited by the recent Super League saga and has only served to light the fire back under United fans to seek change. The only difference now is that the Glazers are under the microscope from the rest of English football for trying to lead the way.

There’s not much point in the fans singing and chanting with signs outside the stadium when it comes to the Glazers. They don’t pay attention anyway and I’d be genuinely shocked if they even knew there was supposed to be a game happening at Old Trafford on Sunday – that’s how little attention they pay.

The fans needed to hit them where it hurts and thats the pocket. By affecting match day they have proven that they can make a real difference with these protests and considering this was planned way in advance and they still pulled it off, shows just how serious they are.

Supporters protest against Manchester United's owners, outside English Premier League club Manchester United's Old Trafford stadium in Manchester,...

Yes there would be a small minority of fans who took it too far, clashing with police and/or other individuals but unfortunately you will always have idiots at things like this. It comes with the package and I’m sure you won’t find any fans defending their actions if they did go too far. But this protest at Old Trafford is and should be just the beginning.

United fans were forced to let them off the hook back in 2010 when the protests fell on deaf ears and eventually fizzled out. Now they have the attention of the world’s sports media and need to use it to show just what the Glazers have done to the club and force them out.

The protest was a good thing and should be treated as such – don’t let the handful of idiots take the limelight of what was a great thing.


Serie A XI vs Premier League XI: 1992 – Present


Before we get too far into it, “all-time” is defined by the life span of the Premier League in this instance to try and keep it as fair as possible. Anyone who played in Serie A or the Premier League between August 1992 and today was eligible to be selected, but I selected the players I saw most of and believe were the best.

I think it’s widely accepted that in the 1990’s, Serie A was the place to be if you were a world class footballer.

Italy started the decade by hosting the World Cup and losing in the semi-finals to Argentina in extra-time. It was the end of an era but also the start of one, as they began to bring through incredible youth players all over the pitch that would go on to become world champions in 2006.

Their domestic league was as competitive as always too. There have been five different winners since the 1992/93 season but a huge 12 clubs have finished in the top 3 positions since then too.

They have been blessed with some of the greatest talent of all time, and yet the majority of them won’t make it into this team.

Claudio Villa Archive : News Photo

The likes of Cafu, Chiellini, Thuram, Davids, De Rossi, Gattuso, Zidane, Kaka, Ibrahimovic, Shevchenko and Baggio all saw their primes in Serie A and yet they won’t make it into this lineup for me. I’m aware you’ll all shout at me in the comments or on Twitter, but it is what it is.

The Premier League on the other hand has managed to grab the tag-line “best league in the world” over the last 20 odd years and it’s hard to argue sometimes. Some of the all-time great players plied their trade in England, while some of the greatest teams in recent history have also come from England.

Arsenal v Manchester United : News Photo

Much like Serie A, some superstar names will miss out in this team too. Players like Schmeichel, Irwin, Lauren, Campbell, Van Dijk, Carvalho, Evra, Vieira, Giggs, Gerrard, Lampard, Yaya Toure, David Silva, De Bruyne, Fabregas, Beckham, Owen, Fowler, van Nistelrooy, Cantona, Bergkamp, Suarez, Hazard and Salah won’t be involved.

So lets take a look at who is involved, shall we?

In goal, it’s a battle between two legends. Gianluigi Buffon was the only logical pick for Serie A’s team, with over 650 appearances. He has won the title a record ten titles too, making him the only possible option.

For the Premier League, Petr Cech gets the nod. The former Chelsea and Arsenal stopper’s prime was one of the most unreal things I ever witnessed, with Cech conceding just 15 goals in his first Premier League season followed by just 22 the following year and won the title four times.

AC Milan v Inter Milan - Serie A : News Photo

In front of them will be two of the greatest defences you could possibly build from that generation.

Javier Zanetti and Gary Neville are two long-serving, former captains of their respective clubs where they spent almost their entire careers. Zanetti is the Inter Milan player with the most appearances for the club in history, while Gary Neville came through the academy and retired at Manchester United. Both were excellent defenders in their prime, too. Zanetti was an athletic, strong full-back who’s technical quality allowed him to move into midfield for a spell in his career. Neville was a bit more basic without the athleticism, but had a wicked delivery and was a solid one on one defender.

On the left, you have two of the best defenders in history. While Paolo Maldini is most often referred to as a centre-back, I saw him mostly at left back for Milan and he was incredible. Strong in the tackle, an excellent reader of the game, perfect timing and great technically. He’s only bettered in that role in history to me by the Premier League’s pick – Ashley Cole. The former Arsenal and Chelsea man had a very short spell in Serie A with Roma, but his peak came in the Premier League as part of Arsenal’s Invincibles and then with Chelsea’s Champions League winning side.

England v Hungary : News Photo

In the middle, I can’t think of two more complete central defender pairings you could make in my lifetime. Alessandro Nesta and Rio Ferdinand are, to me, the two best centre backs I’ve ever seen. Alongside them you’d have Fabio Cannavao, the 2006 Ballon d’Or winner and World Cup winning captain, and John Terry. Terry was incredibly underrated for his ability on the ball with both feet, but was also imperious in the air in both boxes and willing to put his body on the line to block a shot like any Italian defender would be proud to do.

Central midfield was probably the hardest decision I had to make for the Premier League team. So many world class options, but in the end I opted for a duo that won more Premier League titles together than any other.

Roy Keane and Paul Scholes were the perfect blend of force, finesse, intensity and goal threat that you’d need in a side. Keane was a stud of a ball winner, but also had energy to go box-to-box, while Scholes was able to be a threat in the final third or dictate play from a deeper position if necessary.

UEFA Champions League Quarter Final: Bayern Munich v AC Milan : News Photo

For Serie A it’s a mixture of finesse and technique, as Andrea Pirlo and Clarence Seedorf reunite. The two played together for both Milan sides, but most notably in the red half for AC. Seedorf was the total package and could play any midfield role to perfection, much like Scholes, while Pirlo was more about keeping the ball moving and using his technique rather than physical attributes in comparison to Keane.

Attack for the Premier League was probably quite easy in the end. While some top stars missed out, there were no four players who deserved their spot more than these.

Recently retired Wayne Rooney was the ultimate number ten in the Premier League and to this day is the only player to have ever scored over 200 goals AND assisted over 100 goals. Around him, are the three of the best to ever touch the league. Cristiano Ronaldo started his career on the right but moved to the left and became a goalscoring demon before joining La Liga and eventually Serie A.

Manchester United v Arsenal : News Photo

His ability to go either way while also being a threat aerially and from range mean he can play anywhere along the front line and still produce, so he slots in there. On the left is arguably the most complete striker of his generation in Thierry Henry.

Normally I’d put Henry up front because that’s where he became Arsenal and France’s all-time top goalscorer from, but he had a preference of drifting out wide and using his lightning pace to get in behind defences. That also allows me to put Alan Shearer up front.

The all-time top goalscorer in the division with 260 goals, nobody has come close to matching that number. He holds almost all the goalscoring records you can think of in England’s top flight and in his prime, was one of the best strikers in the world.

For Serie A, the conversation is much the same. Two of Italy’s golden attackers of all-time will sit just behind the strikers, with Alessandro Del Piero and Francesco Totti taking the creative mantles in the side. Agility, skill, vision, technique, power and finesse, between them they had it all.

Ahead of them are probably my two favourite strikers ever. Batigol, Gabriel Batistuta, who made a name for himself by trying to rip nets when he scored goals because of the pure power he could hit a ball with, had everything in his game to trouble a top defence on his own. Now pair him up with the GOAT, Ronaldo Nazario. El Fenomeno. R9.

The man was at his absolute best for Inter Milan during the 90’s before a knee injury took away his explosiveness. Even after that he scored goals for fun wherever he went and his inclusion was a no brainer.

Originally tweeted by إسحاق الهاشمي (@is7aqalhashmi) on September 16, 2018.

So who wins? It’s almost impossible to say. It would without a doubt be the best football match I’ve ever been able to see but I’d give the nod to Serie A – just. The complete football team.

VAR Isn’t Killing The Game, The Application Of VAR Is!

I think we’re all in agreement by now that in it’s current form, VAR is killing the game of football that we all love.

Another Premier League weekend has come to an end and all the talk is about decisions made by VAR across several different games.

Monday’s fixtures were ultimately decided by VAR, as a penalty was awarded thanks to VAR to help Fulham take three points away to Leicester in a 2-1 win. Later that night VAR ruled out a late Ollie Watkins equaliser for a minimal offside call but failed to miss a blatant foul that led to the offside in the first place, as West Ham held on to beat Aston Villa 2-1.

While Fulham fans will be delighted with VAR’s implementation, Villa will have gone home absolutely fuming.

Sky Sports had a compelling argument post-game between co-hosts Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher about what the issues currently are.

Watching the games in recent months, it’s clear that the issues are coming from the video referees rather than the actual technology.

Offside is offside, however minimal it is. As Neville says, it will always be a matter of an inch. When those decisions used to be called incorrectly by linesmen fans and coaches would be up in arms about how officials need help.

The offside rule at the moment is a nonsense. That is because the handball rule is a farce.

Since the handball rule was adapted in the summer and it became accepted to include part of the arm it has made offside even more difficult to accept.

What makes it even harder to understand is when the officials miss something in the build-up so blatantly and then just pretend they haven’t seen it.

As can be seen above, Watkins is only offside because his arm is in an offside position. His arm is only in an offside position because Angelo Ogbonna is fouling him, but according to a statement from PGMOL that wasn’t a ‘clear and obvious error’ and therefore a penalty wasn’t awarded.

It’s incidents like that, that VAR was brought in for to begin with, to see things missed by the on-field officials that needed to be picked up on retrospectively.

Go back and watch Scotland’s penalty shootout win over Serbia to see how the game is dying. After making the save that sees his nation make it into an international tournament for the first time this century, goalkeeper David Marshall doesn’t celebrate. He instead asks the referee if the VAR check is complete before celebrating.

Moments are being ruined, the raw emotion of the game is being taken out of it. As if it wasn’t hard enough without fans in the stadium currently, everything being double checked for any minute issues has just thrown a blanket over anything good happening.

The rules need to be clearer and there need to be a proper review of how the system is used. Right now, referees are being barked at through an earpiece to make a decision they potentially don’t agree with.

They need to be braver in sticking with their initial decision if they believe it’s the right one, otherwise there is no point having a referee on the field whatsoever.

The game is dying a slow and painful death right now. Fans are falling out of love with the sport and players are falling out of love with it too.