Real hosts United in clash of titans

Updated 13 February 2013
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Real hosts United in clash of titans

MADRID: The world’s richest football clubs Real Madrid and Manchester United meet today here in a Champions League last 16 first leg tie described by Jose Mourinho as “the match the world is waiting for.” Alex Ferguson takes his United side to the Spanish capital after extending their lead at the top of the Premier League to 12 points with Sunday’s 2-0 win at home to Everton.
“The world is not waiting for other matches in the Champions League so I hope we can give the world what they are waiting for,” purred Madrid boss Mourinho.
The meeting also marks the latest installment in the Ferguson-Mourinho duel with the Scot emerging triumphant last time the pair locked horns as United dispatched Mourinho’s former employers Inter Milan 2-0 on aggregate at the same stage of the 2008-09 competition.
His current Madrid side is sixteen points behind Barcelona in La Liga and only the delivery of a tenth Champions League title to the famous old club would be enough to appease his critics in the Spanish capital.
Mourinho’s reign at Madrid has been a tumultuous one this season, with a series of dressing room disputes between the Portuguese coach and his players.
However, one of the club’s captains Sergio Ramos feels the tension in the Madrid camp has been overplayed and that his team is motivated for the United game.
“It’s more a case of things that people said that weren’t true than a reality of conflicts in the dressing room,” Ramos told English Sunday newspaper ‘The Observer’.
“If there are problems in the dressing room or if the relationship is bad and stories are published that can create issues and affect you, it generates a problem.
“But when there are no problems and people invent it, it does not matter,” added Ramos, who was dropped by Mourinho and told to train apart from the squad for several weeks earlier this season.
Despite the problems Madrid are enjoying some good form, losing only once in twelve outings in all competitions, and it is two years since they lost a Champions League game at the Santiago Bernabeu when Barcelona were the victors.
Cristiano Ronaldo will face his old club on the back of another hat-trick in the 4-1 win over Sevilla on Saturday and his attacking partner Gonzalo Higuain is convinced their side can beat United in the Bernabeu.
“With our individual quality and counter-attacking play we can do a lot of damage to United. We have to keep it solid at the back and find our winning mentality and team spirit,” he said.
Madrid are almost at full strength and the inclusion or not of Portuguese center-half Pepe is Mourinho’s big dilemma.
Pepe has recovered from an ankle injury in time, but has not played a minute since the turn of the year and only started training again last week.
French youngster Raphael Varane or the experienced Ricardo Carvalho are the alternatives to partner Ramos in the center of defense.
The return of Xabi Alonso in midfield will be key for the Spaniards.
He was rested against Sevilla after suffering discomfort last week and he missed the Spain friendly against Uruguay in midweek but trained on Monday and should be ready.
United rested Rio Ferdinand, Michael Carrick, Ashley Young and Shinji Kagawa against Everton, but with rivals Manchester City losing on Saturday, Ferguson did not introduce the wholesale changes he had promised.


United are undefeated in fourteen games and Ferdinand told UEFA.com that former teammate Ronaldo is the key man to stop.
“You get as many people around the ball when he’s got it as possible, but Madrid are that good a side you have to make sure you’re set up right and that your team are in good positions all over the pitch to defend.
“The fans appreciated him when he was here and since he’s been gone they sing his name. He came here a young boy and left a world-class player. He showed a lot of respect when he left and still does,” Ferdinand added.


Why even the #WengerOut brigade should lament Arsene Wenger's exit from Arsenal

Updated 20 April 2018
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Why even the #WengerOut brigade should lament Arsene Wenger's exit from Arsenal

  • The Frenchman revolutionised the game in England across all leagues, not just the Premier League.
  • After initial success he found the going tough in the second half of his reign, but will still go down as an all-time great.

Over the past few seasons it has been fashionable to view Arsene Wenger as some sort of figure of fun — a man living in the past, left behind by the modern game, but too stubborn to realize it.
In time, though, even the most ardent, frothing-at-the-mouth #Wenger Out believer would have to agree that the Frenchman will go down not just as one of the best managers Arsenal have had, but also among the greatest in English club football.
As with any caricature, there is a hint of truth in the picture created, crude as it sometimes is. Yes, Wenger’s past few years at the Emirates have been painful to watch. Yes, he was stubborn when it came to both activity in the transfer market and belief in his methods and tactics. Yes, it is fair to say he leaves the club, on the pitch at least, in a bit of a mess. And, yes, he should have left two or three years ago.
But if there is one thing that any sane fan should remember about Wenger’s 22 years as Arsenal boss, it is this: He was a game-changer, a manager who oversaw not only a revolution of the Gunners, but also of the English game.
As soon as Wenger landed in England in 1996, he banished Arsenal’s Tuesday drinking club and munching of Mars bars — in their place came stretching sessions and broccoli. Hardly profound or radical in today’s game, but this was the era when change in English football invariably meant no pies and pints on a Friday night.
The technical, passing, possession football that is now the norm for any side with ambitions to remain in the Premier League, let alone win it, and the idea that eating vegetables rather than a tub of lard would help player performance, were brought in by Wenger alone.
He won the double in his first full season in charge, signed unheralded foreign talent such as Emmanuel Petit and Patrick Viera — who went on to become world-class players — and created teams that were a joy to watch, culminating with “The Invincibles” of 2003-04, who won the Premier League without losing a match.
The irony is that the one-time revolutionary ended up being viewed as a throwback, a stuck-in-the-mud anachronism; a manager who harked back to a time when playing with the owner’s chequebook was not seen as the only path to success and when paragraphs were favored over 140 characters.
And that perhaps explains why so many Arsenal fans seemingly wanted him gone: Wenger is not of the Twitter generation, of instant opinions for the 24-hour news agenda and of hype over humility. The man who was once seen as the future stuck to principles that were deemed as belonging to the past.
It is clear there is a lot of bad blood at the club — a ridiculous Facebook post by an Arsenal fan claimed Wenger’s announcement he was leaving made it the “greatest day in Arsenal’s history.”
But for all the bluster and nonsense, Wenger’s legacy will be that of “The Invincibles” — one of the greatest club sides of modern times; of beautiful football played at pace and with artistry; of being a decent, yet flawed, man who was never anything but articulate and courteous.
Having been in charge of Arsenal for 22 years, he is undoubtedly the last of a kind, and in the era of trigger-happy owners, short-term fixes and sensationalism over stability, that is something everyone, even the #WengerOut brigade, should lament.