Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Who would I pick, Berbatov or Tevez?

‘Berbatov has been nothing more than a passenger in United’s road to success’

‘If the ball and the pint-sized Argentinean are both visible on the same screen you can bet that Tevez will be chasing the ball down as if magnetised to the damn thing’

Carlos Tevez V Dimitr Berbatov

There’s a growing debate among Manchester United fans, with Tevez likely to leave due to insisting he isn’t getting enough football because a certain Bulgarian is Fergie’s preferred choice it begs the question, why? Why is Carlos Tevez, a dogged and a tireless worker, warming the bench when Berbatov strolls around the pitch having barely broken into a sweat?

It’s a question that echoes around Old Trafford, is debated by water coolers across the country and on internet forums alike, everyone is asking the same very obvious question, what is it that Ferguson sees in Berbatov than no one else does?

Two very different but unique players
Right, I understand that the Bulgarian showed immense promise at Spurs where he was a class above the rest but Berbatov - who has now had a full season to adjust to the United system - seems no closer to being a World beater than he was when he arrived at the club in August last year.

A few goals against nobodies like Aalborg, and a magical piece of skill against West Ham earlier this season aside – Berbatov has been nothing more than a passenger in United’s road to success. The Bulgarian has got to be one of the most frustrating players to watch, he strolls around the pitch unloading a few nice passes here and there but there rarely seems to be a positive intention to his play. He keeps possession- even when it looks like he’s second best - but he rarely passes the ball forwards, which is frustrating when I’ve witnessed during his Spurs days that he can be prolific going forward. He’s not the kind of player that will bust a gut to get into the penalty area either so he’s never on hand to deal the punishing blow, most of the Bulgarians work (and I use that term loosely) is done outside the penalty area with his back to goal. To put it in as simplest terms as I can muster – he’s nothing more than an expensive luxury – and I hope that over time he proves to be a worthy investment.

Tevez on the other hand is the complete opposite of Berbatov and it’s the Argentinian who would be my choice to partner Wayne Rooney up front. Unlike Berbatov, Tevez is a worker and one of the few players you could say earns his wage through shear commitment and determination. If the ball and the pint-sized Argentinian are both visible on the same screen you can bet that Tevez will be chasing the ball down as if magnetised to the damn thing, and his poacher-like nature sees him popping up in the 18 yard box with a clinical touch just when United need it.

However, for all of Tevez’s great qualities he does have a few issues that let his overall game down. He busts a gut at every opportunity but he has a reputation for failing to convert the simplest of chances at times and his decision-making with the ball at his feet doesn’t always leave much to the imagination. But overall, Carlos Tevez is a fine player who has earnt the respect of the United faithful, not only by the way he conducts himself on the pitch but for being such an important figure in United’s recent success.

Moving on?
The Argentine’s body language this season has been plain for all to see - the head shaking after being hauled off by Ferguson on numerous occasions’ this term only shows that Tevez feels like he has more to give. It must baffle Tevez - who comes off looking like he’s run a marathon - to see Berbatov maintain the same brisk pace as he joins the field of play as he does throughout the remainder of the game. If Tevez is to stay on next season I think the terms of his contract will raise serious questions as to why he is playing second fiddle to Berbatov.

Is Tevez worth the £30 million that his advisors insist United are to pay in order to secure his services? Probably not but if United were willing to spend the same figure on a lazy, flash in the pan Bulgarian then I’m baffled as to why the United board are reluctant to splash out on a player who works his nuts off for United’s cause.

What Tevez lacks in ability he more than makes up for in effort in comparison with Berbatov, but the Bulgarians lack of effort and current lack of examples to reflect his obvious potential are few and far between, should give Tevez the edge for a place in Sir Alex’s staring XI.

Here’s a low-down of my pros and cons for each player:


* Berba has the ability to read the game like no other, sometimes when he looks to be uninvolved he is working with space off the ball
* He has the ability to create a chance out of nothing
* The Bulgarian has a graceful first touch, which he showed in the build up to Carlos Tevez’s strike in the recent Manchester derby
* He has a rare quality that despite his fatigued manner makes you think he can be the best player on the park

* His work rate is on par with a lame sloth and he rarely looks interested
* Doesn’t score enough for a front man
* For all his ability he doesn’t take players on and instead opts to go backwards
* He’s frustrating as he rarely uses his quality (see pros) enough
* His nonchalant attitude doesn’t work in United’s system
* Not overly popular with the United faithful
* Frail, lethargic and visually uninterested Berbatov easily gets bullied off the ball

*Rugged, strong and determined Tevez is a defenders worst nightmare
* He runs his socks off for 90 minutes… or 20, depending how long he gets
* He imposes himself on his opponents and pounces on any mistakes he forces defenders into making
* Always seems to pick the right pass in the final third
* Has been known to score vital goals when United seem to have run out of ideas
* Is adored by the United fans, players and everyone associated with the club

* Probably doesn’t score enough for a £30m rated player
* Is known to blaze a fair amount of chances over the bar
* All one footed, defenders tend to know he’s going to shift the ball onto his right foot and unleash hell
* Has shown signs of petulance recently which has tarnished his professional persona.

For me Tevez is a clear winner in this dispute, he just gives more for United and his effort and intentions are clear to see. Berbatov on the other hand largely looks disinterested and although I only saw his ‘best bits’ during his time at Spurs I can’t help but feel he’s holding back. Ferguson dubs Berba as the new Eric Cantona, I can see the comparison in some aspects of the way the Bulgarian approaches the game but so far Berbatov is on par with Jordi Cruyff and at his current rate it will be a while until he even comes close to claiming King Eric’s crown.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

My Dream Team

I was recently asked by a friend, if I was a football manager who I would sign if money was no object and I could bring the World's best players to my (hyperthetical) club. My squad (assuming my 'Here's where the club wants to be in x amount of time' pitch is up to scratch) would look like this:

Starting XI

1. Iker Casillas (GK)- The Spanish Number one is agile, athletic, has great reflexes and his shot stopping abilities are among the best in the World. The decorated Spaniard has been consistent for Real Madrid and Spain for many years now and although he is still a relatively young goalkeeper he already seems to possess a great amount of experience and conducts himself in a mature manner.

2. Jose Bosingwa (RB)- The Portuguese International arrived at Chelsea in a big money move as a relatively unknown quantity from Porto. However, Bosingwa has been in stirling form for Chelsea this season and has given Phil Scolari's men some much needed stability down the right side. His distribution in the final third has contributed to a number of Chelsea's goals this season and he seems just as capable with his defensive duties.

3. Patrice Evra (LB)- As a United fan I watch Patrice Evra a lot and I am confident that the Manchester United left back is one of (if not) the best left sided attacking wing back in Europe. His low centre of gravity allows the French international to breeze past players going forward and gives him a great ability to turn in defensive situations. He's quick, can dribble at pace, tackle and he gets balls into the box- what more would you want from a left back.

4. Rio Ferdinand (CB)- For me Rio is the best centre back in the World at the moment. I may be biased because (like Evra) I see him play every week but he is everything a centre back should be- and even a little more. The England International is a solid presence at that back who's comfortable on the ball, even when under pressure. He seems to possess bursts of pace just when its needed and he looks to me like the kind of player that would be comfortable playing anywhere on the pitch. He seems to have an arsenal of tricks and often pops up with vital goals. Rio has been one of the main reasons for United's recent dominance in domestic and European competitions.

5. Nemanja Vidic (CB)- I know what your thinking by this point but I am not simply picking United players because I follow Manchester United. Vidic is a World Class centre back, he's strong, physical and he's comfortable dealing with the ball in the air and on the deck. He has formed a great relationship with Rio Ferdinand and I think they complement each other well, you would be hard pressed to find a better defensive partnership. Vidic is known to pop up with goals from set pieces and acts as a great attacking option in the oppositions penalty area.

6. Steven Gerrard (CM)- Steven Gerrard is the one English player I wish United could sign, but I know (considering the rivallry between the two sides) that is never going to happen. For Liverpool Stevie G often acts as a one-man-team and he is the one player who, when the going gets tough digs deep and finds that extra gear to drive the team forward. The Liverpool number eight is a class act, he possesses great vision, a hunger and engine like no other and can unleash unstoppable rocket-shots from anywhere in the attacking half.

7.Cristiano Ronaldo (RM)- It would be wrong not to include the newly crowned World and European Player of the Year. Last season the boy was magic, scoring as well as creating goals for Manchester United in England and in Europe. He is an unbelievable talent who has a great passion and desire to constantly improve. He has won almost every accolade possible, all before his twenty-fifth birthday. He's quick, full of tricks, determined and is comfortable playing with both feet. To top off his endless list of qualities, he is also surprisingly dangerous in the air....oh and he's also a bit of a free-kick specialist.

8. Kaka' (CM)- There is no surprise Manchester City wanted to recruit Milan's Brazilian playmaker Kaka' and were willing to pay massive sums of money to do so simply because he is one of the finest players in World Football. Kaka' is technically gifted as well as possessing a great footballing brain. He seems to be able to slow play down and exploit space that other players wouldn't even find. He is surprisingly quick (as I found out when he destoyed United two years ago), loaded with flair and he is an arcitect in the middle of the park. He has the ability to create goals out of nothing and also contributes with his fair share of goals for club and country.

9. Fernando Torres (CF)- The Liverpool and Spain striker is an explosive player who seems to be able to score any type of goal. Torres always seems to be making a menace of himself in and around the penalty area ready to pounce on any opportunities and courting defenders into making mistakes. The Spanish international completed his first season in the Premiership with an impressive goal haul and showed his doubters that he is one of the best finishers around.

10. Sergio 'Kun' Aguero (CF)- This may seem a bizarre choice considering the number of great strikers around today but I have been impressed by the pint-sized Argentinian in recent months. He is still only 20 years old but he seems to have been around for years, he's been impressive for Atletico Madrid the past two seasons and seems to have effortlessly filled the void left by Fernando Torres, who the Altetico Madrid fans idolised.

11. Lionel Messi (LM)- Cristiano Ronaldo may have been crowned World Player of the Year recently but on current form I believe Leo Messi holds the mantle as the Best Player in the World. His performances for Barcelona recently have been out of this World and it seems no one can touch him, without fouling him anyway! It is one thing to be better than the players who oppose you but when you are a professional making other professionals look like amatuers then there is something special at work. Leo Messi is a phenomenol talent who possesses dribbling skills that others could only dream for, he's quick, by-passes defenders like statues and has the ability to score everytime he picks up the ball.

And to the rest of the squad:

12. Gianluca Buffon (GK) A player you wouldn't want sitting on the bench but the World's most expensive keeper would certainly be a more than capable deputy for Casillas.
13. Petr Cech (GK) In any squad three keepers are a must and Petr Cech is one of the best around.
14. Sergio Ramos (RB) Can play on the right or in the centre of defence, the Real Madrid and Spain international came so close to pipping Bosingwa in my starting XI.
15. Jaime Carragher (CB) A man who literally throws himself fearlessly into preventing goal bound opportunities, Carra's solid and plays as if his life depends on it.
16. Xavi Hernandez (CM) The Barcelona playmaker is great in possesion and seems to glide around the pitch effortlessly.
17. Arjen Robben (LM) The Dutch winger is rapid down the left and plays in a similar style to Lionel Messi. He was phenomenol for Chelsea during their glory days (and that is no coincidence) and he is currently in the form of his life for Real Madrid.
18. Andrea Pirlo (CM) Pirlo possesses everything you would want from a holding midfielder and like Xavi he seems to create space and openings without breaking out of his stride. The Italian is also deadly from set pieces.
19. Robihno (AM) If you want an attacking midfielder who possesses flair, direct forward play and sharpness in front of goal then look no further than 'Chelsea...I mean Man City's' record signing Brazilian.
20. Samuel Eto' (CF) The Barcelona and Cameroon striker is a proven goal scorer at every level of football. He is deadly in front of goal and possesses lightning pace, which makes him one of the best strikers in World football.
21. Zlatan Ibrahimovic (CF) Sweden's Zlatan Ibrahimovic is is rare breed, a striker who combines a clinical egde with extraodinary attacking flair. Every detail of Ibrahimovic's play is a work of art and it is clear why his creative exploits are often compared to those of a Mr.Cristiano Ronaldo.
22. Ryan Giggs (LW-CM) Even at the ripe old age of 35 Ryan Giggs is still putting in stirling performances. The man is a legend and should be part of any current or future dream team, for his wizardy with the ball at his feet, his vision for a penetrating pass and for continuing to show young whipper-snappers how things should be done.

Manchester United V West Bromich Albion, 28th January 2009

United fans echoed Sir Alex Ferguson’s summary after the match, ‘this was Manchester United’s most ruthless performance of the season so far’ and United signalled their intentions by moving three points clear at the top of the Premier League.

Build Up
Manchester United hosted bottom of the table West Bromwich Albion so a big win was potentially on the cards. United started the game with a depleted side but were boosted by the return of Rio Ferdinand who has been struggling recently with a back problem. Goalkeeper Edwin Van Der Sar started the game knowing that a clean sheet would see him breaking the record for longest period without conceding a Premiership goal, a record held by Chelsea’s Petr Cech. Gary Neville enjoyed an extended run in the team following the absence of Rafeal and John O’Shea slotted in on the left side of defence in place of the injured Partrice Evra. Micheal Carrick and Ryan Giggs started in the centre of Midfield with Park-Ji-Sung occupying United’s attacking threat down the right and Cristiano Ronaldo started on the left. United were still without Wayne Rooney, so Tevez started alongside Dimitar Berbatov in attack.

Dimitar Berbatov combined well with Michael Carrick on the edge of the box and the Bulgarian’s low shot managed to squirm under ex-England keeper Scott Carson in the West Brom goal to give United an early lead.

United doubled their advantage when Scott Carson gifted Carlos Tevez possibly the easiest goal he's ever likely to score. The West Brom goalkeeper failed to claim a cross and dropped the ball in the 6 yard box in front of the Argentinian, who obliged by thrashing the ball home from close range. Carson appealed to the referee having felt he was unfairly impeded by United defender Nemanja Vidic in the build up to the goal but his appeal fell on deaf ears.

Seeing Red
West Brom were reduced to ten men when Paul Robinson’s lunge on Park Ji-Sung was judged as wreckless by the referee who saw no alternative but to send the West Brom Right-Back for an early bath.

Manchester United made it three without reply when Nemanja Vidic headed in his sixth goal of the season from a corner. The Serbian international rose the highest in the West Brom box to put the game beyond the visitors.

4-0, 5-0...

Cristiano Ronaldo added two more goals late on and showed the clinical edge that he has been missing this season. For his first the World Player of the Year managed to squeeze a low shot through Scott Carson’s legs. Ronaldo completed the rout with his second of the game with five minutes remaining. The Portuguese star looked relieved after netting his tenth Premiership goal of season.

New Face

New signing Zoran Tosic made his first Premiership appearance coming on as a late substitute for Dimitar Berbatov.

Edwin Van Der walked off the pitch clutching the match ball after completing his eleventh consecutive clean sheet in the league, setting a Premiership record.

Manchester United were clear winners in a game that rarely saw Edwin Van Der Sar’s record in doubt, the visiting sides closest chance crashed back off the post and out of danger. With the attacking presence of Berbatov, Tevez, Cristiano Ronaldo and Michael Carrick pulling West Brom apart in midfield it was always going to be a difficult encounter for the visitors. At times United looked untouchable and the intricate passing in the final third was too much for West Brom’s defence to deal with.

Manchester United host Everton on Saturday at Old Trafford and a win could take Fergie’s men five points clear at the top of the table.