Alex Ferguson’s comments about Steven Gerrard are fine. He’s not a “top, top player” (when did ‘top, top’ become acceptable?) insists Ferguson* who has every right to say that. He’s worked with players who have been top, top players so he should recognise one when he sees one.
Funny thing is though, he hasn’t worked with Gerrard. He’s been on the receiving end of him instead. Carling Cup Final defeats, goals in 4-1 defeats etc. Gerrard clearly doesn’t like Manchester United. So it’s a comment with a bit of history, rather than fact, as Rafa might have put it.
But the real question is: how much does Alex Ferguson love Manchester United? He loves the institution he created. He loves the success he has had. But he was interested in other things. Money. Power. He wasn’t afraid to have a go at the fans when they threatened that. He didn’t show any love for the Manchester United fans who sought to separate themselves from the club when the big, bad (or not, if you listen to Fergie) Glazers moved in.
He was at the institution for the best part of three decades, so it’s home. Of course it is. But, and this isn’t new news, the need to put out this book can only have been motivated by money, rather than the best interests of the club, its new manager, owners or fans.
In his defence, I can’t imagine Fergie would have trouble telling people what he thought of them face to face. But that also means it is doubtful that he felt a strong need to ‘get things off his chest’ by publishing the book, as people have suggested this week.
Kenny Dalglish says in the Mirror today that while Fergie may not have lost any sleep over any of Kenny’s signings he “certainly lost a few points” as a result of them.
That may be true, to an extent. But more interesting, is the need for people like Kenny (who remains respected in the game, despite recent gaffes) to come out and take a pop at Ferguson. He will certainly lose goodwill. Goodwill that he shouldn’t have had in my own, unbiased** opinion. Respect his achievements, yes. But admire the man? No thanks.
* I haven’t read it. I assume the media have got it correct.
As if Moyes doesn’t have enough on his plate.
In his defence…..
Andy Carroll is widely regarded as the biggest flop of the Premiership season to-date. Fernando Torres, pound for pound, perhaps deserves the title, but pundits have grown tired of taking him to task after each 12 minute cameo in the blue of Chelsea.
But every game the Spaniard starts (usually against weaker opposition) you think to yourself, Torres could get a couple today. In fact, he could get a couple any day. But he probably won’t until Roman Abramovich orders Villas Boas to make the Spaniard penalty taker (and even then I’m not sure I’d bet on him finding the net).
Pic: Andy Carroll in training ahead of the clash with Stoke (Pic from www.liverpoolfc.tv)
The problem with Andy Carroll is, you don’t ever start a game thinking, this could be his day. But rather than bash him for his lack of touch, pace, fitness, finesse, whatever the various criticisms are, let’s consider for a minute that he’s lacked the right support to blossom at Anfield.
(1): Stewart Downing/ Liverpool’s lack of width.
Carroll thrives, we hear all the time, on good crosses. He’ll win more than 50 per cent of hopeful balls launched at him in the air, but when he’s really attacking the ball, the percentage rises. In his games so far he’s shown that if you give him a ball to attack rather than hold up, he tends to beat defenders (though his accuracy is also questionable here).
But the one time he got a chance to do that in the recent 3-0 defeat to Man City, was from a cross from Jose Enrique. Carroll peeled away at the back post, easily beat Clichy with a perfect nod-down for Kuyt whose shot was superbly blocked by Vincent Kompany. So where’s the support from the £20m signing from Aston Villa.
When Downing signed, everyone said he would provide the ammunition for Carroll. To-date, Downing has been the biggest flop of the Premiership season.
Kuyt, Maxi and Henderson have all been tried on the right wing, none are any use to Carroll. Bellamy has been superb at driving crosses in from right and left, but tends to get to the penalty area and cut the ball back, something Gerrard is sure to benefit from in the coming weeks and that the likes of Shelvey and Maxi have already benefited from to-date this season.
The midweek game against Man City was exactly the wrong one for Carroll who played a thankless task in Liverpool’s 1-0 grind. His opportunity early in the game was on his weaker foot, however he out-muscled Savic and created space for the chance which was well-saved by Hart, the league’s most in-form keeper.
When Carroll plays, he needs support and space to make more of those opportunities to score.
(2): The Aquilani experience
Have Liverpool not learned from the signing of Aquilani from Roma? The club was arguably taking more of a risk with the Italian, not only was he injured but his move to the Premiership was bound to throw up the usual ‘foreign playmaker cant hack the rough stuff’ questions?
The signing of a half-fit Carroll in January made little sense. His role in the second half of the season was minimal and Liverpool knew signing him he would have little impact on their season.
The argument that Suarez couldn’t play in Europe was fine, but Carroll wouldn’t play for the team till March and it didn’t seem as though Europe was anyone’s priority in the early days of Kenny Dalglish’s second coming.
Another argument went that the more Newcastle demanded for the striker, the more Liverpool asked from Chelsea for Torres.
But that makes little sense from a business point of view either. Carroll had started well in the Premiership, but in the summer, once he had recovered fitness, he would hardly have cost more than the amount Liverpool eventually shelled out for him in January 2011.
There is an argument, in fact, that Carroll would have cost less as Newcastle would have had time to buy a replacement, but maybe the move was to appease Lfc fans who expected a marquee signing to replace their former idol in the number nine shirt.
Carroll has lost weight and looks fit, but seems to have lost confidence and was his touch always that bad? His goal against Oldham showed he can still turn things around at Liverpool, but against a defeated team late in an FA Cup third round?
He has a run of games now to show his worth. The Geordie has found himself in and out of the team all season (unlike Stewart Downing who has been given every chance to prove his worth) and has mostly played without Liverpool’s best players Gerrard and Suarez (more often than not chosen instead of, rather than alongside Carroll).
At home, against so-called ‘weaker’ opposition is the time for Carroll to show he can still bully defences and can score goals like that against Oldham given half a chance. Better strikers than Carroll have been given more time to find their feet and the 23-year-old has barely 100 first team starts to his name.
Stoke at Anfield is time to show an ‘old-fashioned centre forward’ can still prove his worth. However if he fails to impress in the coming month, Andy may go down alongside Aquilani as yet another expensive Liverpool mistake.
All the debate post match here has been about the yellow card shown to Kieran Richardson for the last-man foul on Suarez early in the game.
Dalglish got it right at the start when he talked about how no-one wants to see a guy given a red card that early in the game (season) and in truth it makes a sort of sense. Had Suarez buried the penalty Liverpool could have strolled it and there would not have been a reason to look at the incident as a talking point.
Personally feel that Suarez, unlike Steve Bruce’s claim, had timed his run around the keeper perfectly, would have scored and was thus denied a legitimate goalscoring position by the foul. Did Richardson know what he was doing with the foul? Probably, but the slightest contact at full tilt was always going to send Suarez to ground, legitimately, as a tangle of legs ensues once one foot stops doing what it’s supposed to with a trip.
(Courtesy of Sky Sports. Video from YouTube)
That said, a yellow card and a penalty is probably the right call for the good of the game, depending on how blatant it is. Had Richardson taken Suarez down nearer to the half way line with a clear run on goal looming ahead of the Uruguayan a red would have been justified. However Richardson did attempt to match him for pace, and did reasonably well. Once the keeper closes the striker down and the defender is back far enough to make a difference, the incident gets downplayed to a yellow in my opinion.
The rest of the game was both satisfying and worrying for Liverpool fans. Downing and Adam looked bright, and perhaps more of a talking point was Carroll’s strike being wrongly ruled out for a push that was barely evident. How Jordan Henderson fits into the team is more of a question mark. This is a player who was called up for England in the first half of last season before being dropped by Steve Bruce when his performances dipped. He’s also not had a full summer break, having played for England u-21s in their Euro 2011 tournament, where he failed to shine.
Gerrard will (presumably) eventually return to full fitness, while Raul Meireles, if he stays at Anfield, will expect a place and generate more of a threat going forward. Once again it seemed as if Liverpool were in decent control of the game with few Sunderland chances, but it is breaking teams down as Ashley Young just did for Manchester United that will prove crucial.
Dirk Kuyt ended the season in good goalscoring form but is not a right-winger and Dalglish seems to realise that pace is needed for Liverpool when going forward. Kuyt will have a role, potentially in more defensive formations against the bigger teams, but Meireles and Gerrard may be needed to break down weaker opponents at the expense of Henderson and Adam.
Chelsea and Arsenal both drew, getting Liverpool off the hook slightly, but both had away games. This should have been a banker for a strong Liverpool team aside from Gerrard, Johnson and Skrtel being absent. Arsenal next week shouldn’t be a crucial game but is, as the Gunners are struggling for morale and will be missing key players with Gervinho and Song expected to miss out through Joey Barton (or suspension as the FA will no doubt call it).
Expect a similarly attack-minded Liverpool team but fitness and the possible appearance of some new Arsenal players will no doubt have a bearing….