Monday, November 27, 2006
Missed Chances Cost Manchester United a 6 point lead Over Chelsea
Old Trafford - After the incessant hype, not to mention copious amounts of bluff and bluster, Jose Mourinho and his resilient Chelsea side were left to reflect on a point well earned after Ricardo Carvalho’s powerful second half header helped secure the west London outfit a vital 1-1 draw in their eagerly anticipated Premiership showdown with Manchester United at Old Trafford.
Whilst the Portuguese defender’s excellent finish may not have derailed United’s challenge - they do, after all, still lead their southern rivals by three points - it has undoubtedly left somewhat of a dent in the armour of Sir Alex Ferguson’s charges. As psychological blows go, this was something special.
“United have lost a big, big chance to open up a six point lead,” beamed a clearly delighted Mourinho.
“We're not top like we want to be but three points is just one weekend. It's a better result for us than them.
“If I was in their place I would be very disappointed. We showed our power in the second half and that we are not sleeping.” Never a truer word spoken.
With an expectant world looking on, a match that many thought would live long in the memory, frequently - despite the odd flash of genius - failed to deliver.
The opening, terrifically bright exchanges proved to be all too brief glimpses of what could have been. Wayne Rooney, no doubt buoyed by the signing of a two year extension to his contract, flashed a header over Carlo Cudicini’s bar and then proceeded to clatter into the excellent Claude Makelele. United and their very own boy wonder were clearly up for the fight.
When Cristiano Ronaldo’s sweetly struck free-kick forced Cudicini into an excellent save after 18 minutes, the capacity audience packed into the Theatre of Dreams sensed that an opening goal was in the offing. Just before the half hour mark Louis Saha duly broke the deadlock.
Following a flowing move that involved Ryan Giggs and Rooney, the Frenchman, given too much time and space by a back-pedalling Chelsea defence, beat Cudicini with an accurate low drive to make amends for his personal UEFA Champions League nightmare at Celtic where he fluffed an easy chance and missed a last gasp penalty.
To their eternal credit, the visitors steadfastly refused to buckle as first Geremi tested Edwin van der Sar’s reflexes and then Lampard fizzed an effort narrowly wide. Not that we should be surprised by Chelsea’s backbone, this is, after all the side that has swept all before them for the past two seasons. More was to come from them after the break.
If the first half had belonged to United, the second period was well and truly dominated by Chelsea who, in a move that signalled their attacking intentions, boldly replaced Geremi with the flying Arjen Robben at half-time.
In an instant, Andriy Shevchenko drilled a shot over, before Lampard’s drive and Didier Drogba’s neat flick from a Michael Ballack cross threatened, once again, to restore parity. The almost inevitable equaliser came after 69 minutes.
Lampard’s pinpoint corner - won courtesy of Essien’s persistence down the right flank - was met by Carvalho. Van der Sar, hampered by Saha on the line, stood little chance as the Portugal international’s header thundered in off the underside of the bar.
“It was a big opportunity for us but we didn't get the breaks," admitted Ferguson as the dust settled on two points lost rather than one gained.
“I think Edwin Van der Sar had Carvalho's header covered but these things happen in football. We knew they were going to change and for a little spell we started to sit off them a bit. They didn't make any chances but we should have been a bit more positive,” added the Scot.
Even though they still trail, you can’t help but feel that it’s advantage Chelsea in the title race, something that, on the latest evidence at least, may well be the case come next May.
Sunday, November 26, 2006
Anelka at the double to destroy Arsenal
Arsenal Jinx still continues against Bolton
Nicolas Anelka's first Premiership goals for Bolton condemned his former club Arsenal to a 3-1 defeat on Saturday. Anelka had scored only once, against Walsall in the League Cup, since his club record eight million pounds transfer from Fenerbahce in August.
But the France striker, who helped Arsenal win the Premiership and FA Cup double in 1998, produced a magnificent 45th-minute strike to put his side two goals ahead after Abdoulaye Faye had opened the scoring for Bolton in the ninth minute.
Gilberto Silva pulled one back for the Gunners moments after Anelka's goal but the former Real Madrid forward scored again in the 76th minute to put another dent in Arsenal's title hopes.
Arsene Wenger's side remain 12 points behind leaders Manchester United and have now lost four of their last five visits to the Reebok Stadium.
Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard broke his Premiership goal-drought with a stunning effort to earn a 1-0 home win against Manchester City.
By his own admission Gerrard has been below his best this season, but he is finally beginning to hit peak form and, after scoring in the midweek Champions League win against PSV Eindhoven, he provided a moment of brilliance to sink City.
With Rafael Benitez's side struggling to break down the visitors, England star Gerrard pounced on a loose ball and surged forward before driving a superb shot past Nicky Weaver in the 67th minute.
Benitez admitted he was delighted to see Gerrard get back on the scoresheet and said: "I think it is good for him because he can score goals for us when he is playing with confidence.
"He has scored in the Champions League and now the Premiership. I hope we will see more goals from him."
Gareth Barry's penalty preserved Aston Villa's unbeaten home record after Malcolm Christie had given Middlesbrough the lead with his first goal for over a year in a 1-1 draw at Villa Park.
Christie opened the scoring in 43rd minute with a close range strike after Yakubu had flicked on Julio Arca's blocked shot.
It was Christie's first appearance for three months and his first goal since February 2005 after an injury-plagued spell at the Riverside Stadium.
However, Villa drew level when Stilian Petrov was brought down by Australian goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer and Barry stepped up to smash home the spot-kick.
Southgate saluted Christie's return to action and said: "He's had a lot of misfortune with injuries and has had to slog away in the gym to get fit.
"The lads have lived through this injury nightmare with him and you saw how much it meant in the celebrations."
O'Neill added: "I thought we played some delighted stuff at times. They tell me their goal was offside by some distance but these things happen in football."
West Ham midfielder Hayden Mullins gave new chairman Eggert Magnusson the perfect start to his reign with the winner as his side beat Sheffield United 1-0 at Upton Park.
Icelanic businessman Magnusson was present for the first game since he completed his 85 million pounds takeover and saw West Ham bounce back from two successive defeats.
Anton Ferdinand flicked on a Matthew Etherington corner in the 36th minute and Mullins headed home from close range.
Andy Reid's first goal for Charlton salvaged a 1-1 home draw against Everton, but the London club remain bottom of the table.
Republic of Ireland midfielder Reid, who signed from Tottenham in August, struck with a perfectly-placed low drive in the 68th minute after Hermann Hreidarsson's 52nd minute own goal had put Everton in front.
Kevin Doyle's first half penalty was enough to extend Reading's impressive start to life in the Premiership with a 1-0 win at 10-man Fulham.
Steve Coppell's newly-promoted side won their third successive match thanks to Doyle's winner after Fulham defender Ian Pearce was sent off.
Pearce was dismissed in the 17th minute after conceding a penalty with a professional foul on Doyle, who picked himself up to convert the spot-kick for his fourth goal in his last five matches.
Table-topping Manchester United face second-placed Chelsea at Old Trafford on Sunday, while Newcastle host Portsmouth and Tottenham entertain Wigan.
Saturday, November 25, 2006
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Can Arsenal Beat Bolton for the first time in four years?
Clashes between the two teams in recent seasons have been a tale of verbal spats between both managers and on-field disciplinary problems that have led to red cards, serious injuries and a distinct absence of Arsenal Victories over Allardyce’s team. Complaints by Arsenal Manager Wenger over Bolton’s physical style have upset Allardyce but the London club have now failed to beat Wanders in the Premiership for four years.
ANOTHER FAILURE to collect all these points this weekend will further damage Arsenal’s hopes of challenging Manchester United and Chelsea for the title.
Arsenal captain Thierry Henry will miss the game with a neck injury. Defender William Gallas and Tomas Rosicky are also out of the Gunners side with injuries but Gilberto Silva should return. Robin Van Persie is suspended.
But Allardyce admits that his team will not compromise their style against Arsenal as they attempt to end their run of four games without a win.
He said: “We need to get ourselves back to winning ways but we have a very ood record indeed against Arsenal and I want that to continue”.
“WE BEAT them twice at the Reebok Stadium in League and Cup last season and they haven’t won against us at home or away since 2002.”
“That is a terrific record for a club like Bolton.” Arsenal midfielder Freddie Ljungberg insists that Wenger’s Squad now have the mental and physical strength to compare with the likes of Bolton.
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Friday, November 24, 2006
Yet Not The Decider
There will be those trying to hype this weekend’s big fixture as the proverbial ‘six-pointer’. That would be too simplistic.
Personally, I don’t think it is. It’s no doubt a huge encounter but I don’t think it will decide anything in the long run. For the record, I’m backing Man U to take the points and of course, I’m talking about the match at Old Trafford between Manchester United and Chelsea!
The Red Devils have been winning games comfortably, and even when they’ve been chasing the game, as they were in Sheffield last weekend, one always got the sense that they would prevail, so it was no surprise they did thanks to Rooney’s brace.
Chelsea, on the other hand, have just been getting the results – often matching Man U. Yet, they have not been convincing at times and it won’t be a shock to see them lose on Sunday.
It wasn’t a shock to see them beaten midweek by Werder Bremen either. There was no reason for them to help out Barcelona, and they have qualified for the next stages anyway, so the defeat won’t affect them. Man U, however, need a result in their final Champions League game to ensure progression after themselves being defeated in Europe this week also.
To say that their loss to Celtic will have a bearing on Sunday’s tie is however difficult to judge. I’m inclined to think not. They’ll have a stronger resolve not to lose two games running and Luis Saha, in particular, will be keen to make amends after his penalty miss. You will not be picked by Sir Alex to replace Ruud van Nistelrooy unless you are made of some stern stuff, and Saha will want to make good his awful error.
So judging by their EPL form and with the home advantage I think Man U go into this as firm favourites. But I still back Chelsea for the league, despite a potential six-point gap come Sunday night.
The main reason for this is the strength and depth of their squad. Alex Ferguson’s troops are winning the war right now but as inevitable casualties develop through the season, the reservists are not of the same calibre of Jose Mourinho’s forces. This, I think, will be the telling factor in the long run.
Elsewhere this weekend, there are several intriguing matches. Bolton and Arsenal vie for table position, with the victor potentially taking third spot depending on how Pompey do on the long, long trip to Newcastle. Equally there’s a tussle at the bottom as West Ham, under new ownership, won’t want to drop in to the relegation zone as they face Sheffield United.
I’m tipping Bolton to dent Arsenal’s title hopes further with a 2-1 home win while Portsmouth will further deepen Glenn Roeder’s troubles with an away win at St James’. The Hammers should clean-up the Blades quite comfortably, 2-0 to the Londoners.
American ace trials with Man United
The 17-year-old, touted to become one of the stars of the game since his earliest years, was given permission to attend by his Major League Soccer club DC United.
Adu will not be able to play in a competitive match with the Premiership leaders as he does not have a work permit.
However United are thought to be keen to arrange a match behind close doors during his stay.
Two weeks ago United boss Sir Alex Ferguson confirmed they would be keen on signing Adu if he could prove himself.
"I think we would be interested, he's only young but we have known of him for a long time," said Ferguson.
"We tried to get him here some years ago but he signed for DC United and that stopped the progress of us keeping tabs on him."
Adu's workout could entice the Premiership squad to sign him, but Adu will not turn 18 until June and would need an exemption from FIFA to an international transfer rule preventing such a move until he turns 18.
Major League Soccer owns Adu's playing rights for the next three seasons and would have to approve a switch. The US league has been reluctant to swing such deals during its April to November season.
Adu, who plays forward and midfield, has been sought after by European clubs since age 12 and has said his goal is to play with a European squad, although he stayed near his Washington home for his first pro seasons.
Adu was 16 when he made his international debut for the USA in a friendly against Canada.
At that point, only the Sporting youth coaches were aware of his capabilities, but the player announced his arrival on the senior stage spectacularly (in much the same way as he did for United against Bolton a year later, striking twice in a 3-0 defeat of Moreirense“One of those goals was the best one he has scored,” De Freitas recalls. Young Ronaldo terrorising defenders“From midfield, he took the ball past three players and slotted it away. His mother watching in the stands and she almost fainted!”Former Sporting coach Laszlo Boloni used the prodigy sparingly for the rest of the 2002/03 campaign, restricting him largely to a substitute role and allowing him only a further 10 full appearances.
Despite the limited opportunities, Cristiano made a big impression and work of his special ability spread beyond the Alcochete.With uncanny things, Manchester United signed a ‘development partnership with Sporting in May 2003, the month before the Portuguese campaign finished. And by another happy coincidence, one of the club’s most illustrious former coaches, Carlo Queoroz, was in his first spell as Sir Alex’s right-hand man.Queiroz would have had the chapter and verse on the player and Ferguson was poised for a transfer coup. Three months later, Sporting faced United in the friendly to celebrate the inauguration of the new Alvalade stadium and the gaffer had a chance to see the player for himself. Cristiano seized the moment, conjuring one of his virtuoso displays in a 3-1 triumph.De Freitas witnessed what proved to be the player’s last performance for Sporting from a seat by the tunnel: “I was in the stand and he was coming out at half-time. I Shouted “Cristiano’ when he passed below me. He looked up, grinned and gave me a big thumbs-up.
A few days later, he was at United.”Only Cristiano was prepared for the speed at which the £12.2m deal went through and the attention it generated. “When the rumors that he was going to Manchester started we didn’t know if they were true,” Katia says. “Then everything happened very quickly and the common kicked off in a big way during his first week in Manchester. He was on the front pages of the newspapers, on the TV. It was mad.We couldn’t believe it, but Cristiano was calm because practically all his life people have talked about him.”Everyone who is qualified to comment agrees that United is the ideal club for Ronaldo.
The plan was for him to stay at Sporting for another season and then move to a big side. A raft of his peers who ventured outside Portugal – Quaresma and Simao (Barcelona), Heldr Postiga (Tottenham), Hugo spells abroad, yet Cristiano is settled in Manchester.Ronaldo signs for UnitedAgostinho, the deputy editor of the local newspaper, cites a trip to England he made at the end of last season as an example of why Cristiano is in good hands at Old Trafford. He was due to meet the player at the O Farol restaurant in London to raise funds for children in Madeira, but United had just drawn 1-1 at home against Chelsea in the penultimate match of the season.
The result meant the club missed out on second position in the league and were forced into the Champions League qualifying rounds. Sir Alex Ferguson called off all pre-arranged Media engagements so the players would focus on the FA Cup Final.“It was a disappointment for me, but probably the best for him,” Agostinho said. “Ferguson seems to be a disciplinarian and very demanding, but the policy works well. If Cristiano had gone to any other club he would be back in Portugal by now. United are a model side in terms of organization.”De Freitas agrees that United have provided Cristiano with the perfect platform to fulfill his promise: “Sporting couldn’t refuse the kind of money offered last year, but United was the best club in the world he could have gone to. Real Madrid hardly give youth a chance and Barcelona take on young players but lack patience. The move has worked out well and United are not about to let Cristiano go anywhere now.
There isn’t a better young player than him in the world, not in South American, not anywhere. His ability is frightening and in the big games it looks like he’s enjoying himself rather than burdened by responsibility. He needs to score a few more goals, true, but the commentators in England will be jumping off their seats a lot more this season. Providing he continues to develop at the same rate, avoid injury and bad influences, he could be the best player in the world in three years time.”
The Cristiano Ronaldo Story
For Santos, the tears that Cristiano shed after the final of Euro 2004 had a special poignancy. Crying was something of a trait with the boy Ronaldo and Santos had seen a similarly emotional response many times before. He remembers when Andorinha were facing Camacha, then the best team on the island, in the 1993/4 regional youth championship. Andorinha were 2-0 down at the break and Ronaldo was so upset that he sobbed at half-time. After the interval he inspired the side to victory, scoring one and making another in a memorable 3-2 win.Ronaldo in tears “Even then, he didn’t like to lose,” Santos says. “His will is to win. He’s pure spirit. He always used to cry when he lost. It wasn’t unusual.”In Spain, the story of Jesus Gil allowing Raul, whose first club was Atletico Madrid, to slip through his fingers and sign for bitter rivals Real because he refused to pay for his bus pass is now legendary. A similar anecdote about Cristiano does the rounds in Madeira.
By 1995, word had spread that Ronaldo was an outstanding talent and the island’s top teams – Maritimo and Nacional – both declared an interest. In theory, Maritimo – the bigger side – should have snapped him up but events took a different course. The Maritimo youth boss at the time allegedly failed to turn up for a crucial meeting with Santos because his board refused to pay for the two sets of kit Andorinha wanted in return for Cristiano, who duly joined Nacional.Fernao Sousa, Cristiano’s godfather and the man who DeFreitas says “deserves the credit for discovering Ronaldo”, disputes this. Sousa played for Nacional himself and argues that Ronaldo’s move to Nacional was always on the cards because of ‘family ties’. Current Maritimo president, Carlos Pereira, who now advises Cristiano on financial matters but also remembers his unrivalled skill for keeping tin cans in the air with his feet, maintains that the story is true. He reckons his club really did not want to pay for the kit – but stresses that the move worked out in Ronaldo’s best interest anyway.“If we analyse it today it was a mistake as he was better than the other boys,” says Pereira. “Maritimo would not have let him go to Sporting as early as Nacional did; we hold on to out talent for longer. And from Sporting, he went to Manchester United. If he had stayed, he might not have the same opportunities.Whatever the case, Cristiano came into his own in his one and only season in the black-and-white stripes of Nacional, captaining the side to the Under-12 regional youth championship for the first time in the club’s history and confirming Fernao’s opinion that Ronaldo was good enough to become a professional footballer.Cristiano’s father certainly has fond recollections of those days. It was the last year he spent with his son before his boy, who everybody always told him was going to be special, went to Lisbon to begin a new chapter in his life.Playing for Nacional da Madeira “I watched every single one of his matches at Nacional,” Jose says.“They are most treasured memories. Each time he played away, I had a place reserved for me on the bus or the plane. When the team lifted the title that year I remember drinking champagne with the directors at the Choupana [Nacional’s Stadium]. It was unforgettable.“We speak on the phone but because of the way his career has gone, I have not spent so much time with him. But Madeira gave him his childhood, his family and friends. People like Marques de Freitas , his teachers at the school, the coaches at Andorinha and Nacional…”“From there he hThe Cristiano Ronaldo Story (Page 2)For Santos, the tears that Cristiano shed after the final of Euro 2004 had a special poignancy. Crying was something of a trait with the boy Ronaldo and Santos had seen a similarly emotional response many times before. He remembers when Andorinha were facing Camacha, then the best team on the island, in the 1993/4 regional youth championship. Andorinha were 2-0 down at the break and Ronaldo was so upset that he sobbed at half-time. After the interval he inspired the side to victory, scoring one and making another in a memorable 3-2 win.Ronaldo in tears “Even then, he didn’t like to lose,” Santos says. “His will is to win. He’s pure spirit. He always used to cry when he lost. It wasn’t unusual.”
In Spain, the story of Jesus Gil allowing Raul, whose first club was Atletico Madrid, to slip through his fingers and sign for bitter rivals Real because he refused to pay for his bus pass is now legendary. A similar anecdote about Cristiano does the rounds in Madeira.By 1995, word had spread that Ronaldo was an outstanding talent and the island’s top teams – Maritimo and Nacional – both declared an interest. In theory, Maritimo – the bigger side – should have snapped him up but events took a different course. The Maritimo youth boss at the time allegedly failed to turn up for a crucial meeting with Santos because his board refused to pay for the two sets of kit Andorinha wanted in return for Cristiano, who duly joined Nacional.Fernao Sousa, Cristiano’s godfather and the man who DeFreitas says “deserves the credit for discovering Ronaldo”, disputes this. Sousa played for Nacional himself and argues that Ronaldo’s move to Nacional was always on the cards because of ‘family ties’. Current Maritimo president, Carlos Pereira, who now advises Cristiano on financial matters but also remembers his unrivalled skill for keeping tin cans in the air with his feet, maintains that the story is true. He reckons his club really did not want to pay for the kit – but stresses that the move worked out in Ronaldo’s best interest anyway.“If we analyse it today it was a mistake as he was better than the other boys,” says Pereira. “Maritimo would not have let him go to Sporting as early as Nacional did; we hold on to out talent for longer. And from Sporting, he went to Manchester United. If he had stayed, he might not have the same opportunities.Whatever the case, Cristiano came into his own in his one and only season in the black-and-white stripes of Nacional, captaining the side to the Under-12 regional youth championship for the first time in the club’s history and confirming Fernao’s opinion that Ronaldo was good enough to become a professional footballer.Cristiano’s father certainly has fond recollections of those days. It was the last year he spent with his son before his boy, who everybody always told him was going to be special, went to Lisbon to begin a new chapter in his life.Playing for Nacional da Madeira “I watched every single one of his matches at Nacional,” Jose says.“They are most treasured memories. Each time he played away, I had a place reserved for me on the bus or the plane. When the team lifted the title that year I remember drinking champagne with the directors at the Choupana [Nacional’s Stadium]. It was unforgettable.“We speak on the phone but because of the way his career has gone, I have not spent so much time with him. But Madeira gave him his childhood, his family and friends. People like Marques de Freitas , his teachers at the school, the coaches at Andorinha and Nacional…”“From there he has moved on. He cried like the rest of us when Portugal lost the final of the European Championship, but he will play more games with the national team and it was a good experience for him. He was angry to lose something that he shouldn’t have lost. That’s why he cried. It was the shock of it and the end of a dream. But he was still one of the best players on the pitch.”After the title-winning campaign at Nacional, Fernao contacted De Freitas who arranged a three-day trial at Sporting. The Lisbon club know potential when they see it and agreed to pay off cash-strapped Nacional’s debts in exchange for the younger. Whereas Cristiano was able to express himself on the pitch at his new club, it was a different matter off it. In an unfamiliar environment, and a long way from his loved ones, he became homesick and struggled to adapt to his new surroundings. as moved on. He cried like the rest of us when Portugal lost the final of the European Championship, but he will play more games with the national team and it was a good experience for him. He was angry to lose something that he shouldn’t have lost. That’s why he cried. It was the shock of it and the end of a dream. But he was still one of the best players on the pitch.”After the title-winning campaign at Nacional, Fernao contacted De Freitas who arranged a three-day trial at Sporting. The Lisbon club know potential when they see it and agreed to pay off cash-strapped Nacional’s debts in exchange for the younger. Whereas Cristiano was able to express himself on the pitch at his new club, it was a different matter off it. In an unfamiliar environment, and a long way from his loved ones, he became homesick and struggled to adapt to his new surroundings.
Ronaldo in Sporting Lisbon shirt At Sao Joao, Ronaldo had been “well-behaved, fun and a good friend to his classmates,” according to Maria Dos Santos, but there are no such glowing descriptions offered at the Escola Barreiros in Lisbon. Cristiano’s heavy Portuguese accent set him apart from the other lads, who would tease him. On one occasion he even launched a chair at a teacher for a perceived slur on his Madeira heritage. “He does not have the accent any more when he is away from Madeira,” sister Katia says. “But it soon comes back again when he returns.”Agostinho Silva, the deputy editor of Diario de Noticias, picks up the story: “Sporting specially asked for Ronaldo’s mother to go to Lisbon to be with him because they saw he needed support. Being goaded because of his pronunciation was a big shock. We heard stories from Lisbon that he turned into a bad boy but we didn’t know for sure what was going on. He’s calmed down now, but those were difficult times.”Agostinho also explains how much Cristiano’s achievements have meant for his island. “The success he has had is much more important than it would have been in other areas of the country because of the social status here. Madeira has traditionally had an inferiority complex in relation to Lisbon. Lisbon has the political power but Madeira now has a player who is a key part of the national side and that’s a big feather in our cap.“It ‘s much more important than football. He’s a phenomenon. It’s extraordinary. We’re quite a reserved people, but during Euro 2004 there were parties here everyday.Cristiano was a fundamental piece of the team and he’s already at the biggest club in the world.”De Freitas, who is also the Portuguese government’s Attorney General on Madeira, admits that at Sporting there were “some embarrassments”, but the arrival of Maria Dolores, who now lives in Manchester with Cristiano, Katia and Hugo. And he believes the 19-year-old winger’s determination that saw him surpass expectations to become one of United’s most important players last term was forged by adversity. “At 18, he already had the personality of an adult,” he says. “Now he is mature beyond his years. The difficulties he went through helped to form a player with great deal of resilience. They created his temperament and created a unique person. He is also hungry and football is his life, his passion, his pleasure.”Of equal importance is that Sporting was the best place for Cristiano to develop his talent. De Freitas explains that the club’s academy – the Alocochete – is a veritable “football factory”, and the player received first-class instruction at the state-of-the-art institution, which is located on the southern outskirts of Lisbon, near the River Tagus, for a full seven years.Former Nwcastle midfielder Hugo Viana, Porto’s Ricardo Quaresma and Nuno Valente, Fulham midfielder Luis Boa Morte, Benfica’s Miguel and Simao Sabrosa, and Real Madrid star Luís Figo were all groomed at the famed ‘Academia de Futebol.’ Every one of them was a member of Portugal’s Euro 2004 squad.Playing for Sporting LisbonThe academia’s overriding aim is to turn gifted youngsters into footballers who can cope with the demands of the modern game both on and off the pitch – and there is no greater example of the effectiveness of their methods than Cristiano. He is a textbook case study in the evolution of young talent. Assigned special tutors to help him in his school work, and child psychologists to guide him through adolescence, doctors also monitored every aspect of his physical transformation from boy to man.“At Sporting he was given special treatment,” De Freitas says. “ Cristiano is the product of a laboratory in the sense that he is the fruition of what is essentially a scientific process. Not many clubs use science the way Sporting do. For example, a study was done of the density of Ronaldo’s bones to see what sort of rate he was going to have.“The doctors wanted to know how tall he was going to be as it is important for tall players not to play an excessive amount of football when they’re young. There were times when he was kept out of the team as a result of the tests. The analysis predicted he would be six foot two inches (189cm) tall and he’s not far off that now.”Cristiano was preened in the rarefied confines of the Alcochete for six years before he played the first full 90 minutes of Portuguese Superliga football at the Alvalade in October 2002. Seventeen is assumed to be a young age to make a debut but he was ready by the time he set foot on the pitch.
Cristiano Ronaldo Dos Santos De Aviero
i m posting the biographies and profiles of the manchester squad. here is the first one with many to follow so keep checking and please comment so that i can try improve the next post.
The Cristiano Ronaldo Story
Cristiano, who grew up in the working-class district of Santo António, three miles inland and a world away from the grand hotels that adorn the rocky coast, has only been back to the island on holiday. Only the more inquisitive tourists venture to the area.
His childhood home is perched on a hill overlooking a main road that winds through the island’s hilly interior. The back wall of the now deserted house is crumbling. The wooden slats that serve as windows, have holes in them and the corrugated iron roofs needs attention. It is typical of the other properties in the ‘bairro’ and worth less than £5,000.
Four brothers and sisters – Cristiano, Hugo, Elma and Katia – shared the humble abode with parents José Dinis and Maria Dolores. Cristiano first began kicking a ball on the patio when he was two or three. By the time he started at the local primary school in 1997, when he was six, his passion for the game was obvious.
Maria dos Santos, a teacher at the Escola Sao Joao, vividly remembers the distinguishing Characteristics of pupil number 587: “From the day he walked through the door, football was his preferred sport. He took part in other activities, learnt songs and did his work, but he liked to have time for himself, time for football.”
“If there wasn’t a real ball around – and often there wasn’t – he would make one out of socks.
He would always find a way of playing football in the playground. I don’t know how he managed it.”
The mere mention of the former pupil’s name at the school these days send the kids into noisy delirium. They are excited to see a recent copy of United Magazine and hurriedly leaf through the pages to find a picture of their idol. “Look, it’s Cristiano Ronaldo,” announces one. “Cristiano Ronaldo!”
Unsurprisingly, Cristiano’s popularity has soared following his stellar performances on home soil at Euro 2004, where Portugal finished runners-up to Greece. He may have been able to walk around untroubled during the Sporting years, but not any more. Cristiano is now the closest thing Madeira has to a pop star and when he returns for a short holiday after the European Championship, he decides it would be more convenient to fend off journalists at a hotel in Funchal rather than the new family home. He is also to be spotted handing out presents to poor children at charity events and featuring in a photo shoot with Miss Portugal for the best-selling local newspaper, Diario de Noticias.
“All the kids wore a shirt with his name on it during the tournament,” Maria says.
“They know Cristiano went to school here and think of nothing else. They want to be the next Ronaldo. It would be fantastic if he came back to visit them one day.”
Cristiano studied at Sao Joao at the same time as he played for Andorinha, his first club where dad Jose was the kit man. He was officially on the books of the amateur team between 1993 and 1995, from the ages of 8 to 10, but had started training with the side before that.The club youth director Alvaro Milho remembers going to fetch Ronaldo in his car from the camshackle house on the hill. Sometimes I would find him asleep and have to wake him up,” he smiles.
“So when I saw him play at Euro 2004, the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end.”Understandably, Andorinha officials are delighted to have been put on the map by the club’s former charge. The team were without a regular during Ronaldo’s era but now president Rui Santos enjoys an office to himself and the club boasts a full-size, all-weather astroturf pitch.A footballer like Ronaldo does not surface every day,” Santos says.“The first time I saw him, I knew he was out of the ordinary – he was more developed than the other players, different. But nobody ever thought he would achieve so much so soon.”
Ryan Giggs' Biography
Ryan Joseph Giggs (born Ryan Joseph Wilson on 29 November 1973 in Cardiff) is a Welsh football player. He is noted as an outstanding winger and for his lengthy career at just one club, Manchester United.He was born in Wales to father Danny Wilson, a noted Rugby League player, and mother Lynne, but was brought up in England. Danny Wilson was of mixed race and Ryan Giggs has always expressed pride at his mixed heritage.Giggs' current and only club so far is Manchester United. He is their longest-serving current player and has the 3rd highest number of appearances for the club of all time. He is the most decorated footballer in the history of Manchester United, having won eight FA Premier League championships (a record he shares with Liverpool F.C.'s Alan Hansen, Phil Neal and Kenny Dalglish), four FA Cup titles, two League Cup titles and one Champions League.
Giggs played for the England Schoolboys (which all schoolboys in England are eligible to do, regardless of nationality), but plays for the Welsh national team as an adult, once holding the record for being the youngest player to ever play for Wales.He has also won the PFA Young Player of the Year award twice, making him the first player to win the award in consecutive years - a feat matched only by Robbie Fowler and current team-mate Wayne Rooney. Giggs holds many other records, including that of the top all-time scorer in the FA Premier League not to play regularly in the position of striker, and interestingly, as a non-striker, holds the record for scoring Manchester United's fastest goal (15 seconds), set in November 1995 against Southampton F.C., and is one of only two players to have scored in every Premiership campaign (Gary Speed being the other).He also has the honour of scoring Manchester United's greatest goal as voted by the fans. The goal in question was scored in the semi-final of the FA cup in 1999 against Arsenal where Giggs beat 4 defenders (Lee Dixon twice) to score. Giggs's squad number for both Manchester United and Wales is 11. He is known affectionately as The Welsh Wizard to the United faithful.Despite being with Manchester United since 1990, and playing in every season of the Barclays Premier League, the first time Giggs was named Premier League Player of the Month came in August 2006.Giggs is today Vice Captain at Manchester United, playing deputy to Roy Keane when he was captain and as of late 2005, Gary Neville.
Ron Atkinson: After you see Ryan Giggs on the Football Field then you believe in
Beggining of Giggs Era
Giggs began his football career at Manchester City, signed as a 14 year old by the club after being spotted on the streets of Manchester. His mazy dribbling skills would earn him comparisons to players such as George Best, Diego Maradona, and Johan Cruyff.Giggs's talent grew in reputation, and thus Alex Ferguson, manager of Manchester United, went to his house to urge him to sign for Manchester United instead of Manchester City. He persuaded Giggs by waiving YTS Scheme forms with the opportunity to turn professional in three years. Giggs ended up signing with Manchester United.Similarly, England Under-21 coach Lawrie McMenemy checked to see whether he was eligible to play for the nation. Contrary to popular belief, Giggs could not have played for the full England national side. He was only eligible to play for the English Schools' team because he went to school there. In order to play for the England national football team, he would have had to have been born in England or have had English parents or grandparents. However, both his parents and all four grandparents are Welsh. Giggs has often been seen by England supporters as the dream solution to the lack of left-sided English talent for the national team during the 1990s.
A left-sided winger who occasionally plays as a supporting striker for United, Giggs shot to superstardom in Great Britain in 1992 as one of the most exciting talents in the history of the game when he was barely 18 years old. He earned the tag of Boy Wonder, and in one description by the tabloids, became The boy who converted a million innocent teenage hearts into United fans.He was arguably the first teenage football poster boy to have garnered such attention since the likes of George Best, a player Giggs has been compared to, and who, alongside Bobby Charlton, personally went down to United's training sessions at 'the Cliff' specifically to watch Giggs play. Giggs's form in the years to come was impeccable, earning him two PFA Young Player of the Year awards and admirers world-wide. Other world-class players like Roberto Baggio described Giggs as 'the most exciting British footballer' they had seen in years. According to an article in World Soccer by Stephen Thanabalan he was, alongside Steve McManaman, regarded as the leader of a new breed of creative new wingers in the English game that was crucial to its new image, dispensing with that of the often seen as 'boring' long-ball styles of previous generations.
Superstar is born
In 1994, the BBC described Giggs as "one of the most photographed persons" in Great Britain. Giggs or "Giggsy" as he was known, was also hailed as one of the FA Premier League's biggest stars and could often be found as the picturebook merchandising icon of the league's early years. He (along with Jamie Redknapp and Lee Sharpe) was part of the league's attempt to market itself globally, reforging its image after the hooliganism affected years of the 1980s.Giggs turned professional in November 1990 and made his League debut against Everton F.C. at Old Trafford on 2 March 1991, as a substitute for Denis Irwin. In his first full start, Giggs scored his first ever goal in a 1-0 win in the Manchester derby. He collected his first piece of silverware in April 1992 as United defeated Nottingham Forest in the League Cup Final, after Giggs had set up Brian McClair to score the only goal of the game.
By the start of the 1992-93 season - the first season of the newly-formed FA Premier League, Giggs made the left-wing position at United his own, and became known as one of British football's most prodigious young players. His emergence, and the arrival of Éric Cantona (who later claimed that he had a telepathic understanding with/of Giggs) heralded the dominance of United in the new Premier League.His ability to consistently dribble past opposing players by using his own exceptional balance, pace, and skill to beat players he ran at became the most noticeable aspect of his game. Giggs was also renowned for pre-meditating celebrations with team-mates, such as Paul Ince and Andrei Kanchelskis. He was afforded many opportunities which were not normally offered to footballers at his young age, such as hosting his own television show, Ryan Giggs' Soccer Skills, which was a hit with ITV and Granada in 1994.Ryan Giggs chants often heard from the fans during the Manchester United games include:"Ryan Giggs, Ryan Giggs, Running down the wing, Ryan Giggs, Ryan Giggs, Can do anything, Feared by the Blues, Loved by the Reds, Ryan Giggs, Ryan Giggs, Ryan Giggs."and:"Giggs, Giggs will tear you apart, again"the latter adapted from the enduringly popular Joy Division song, 'Love Will Tear Us Apart'.His goals were constantly on shortlists for Goal of the Season and tended to be memorable, particularly the ones against Queens Park Rangers F.C. in 1993, Tottenham Hotspur F.C. in 1994, Everton F.C. in 1995, Coventry City F.C. in 1996, and the most remarkable of all, his amazing solo-goal against Arsenal F.C. in the replay of the 1999 FA Cup semi-final. During extra time, Giggs picked up possession just after Patrick Vieira had given the ball away, then ran away from the half-way line, dribbling past the whole Arsenal backline, including Tony Adams and Martin Keown before launching his left-footed strike just under David Seaman's bar and beyond him. It has been hailed as one of the best goals ever scored in the competition.
By the late 1990s, with the retirement of Cantona and the emergence of Giggs's fellow fledgling young colleagues like David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Gary Neville, Philip Neville and Nicky Butt, Giggs's popularity and fame gradually dissipated. However, his football skill was still marked genius, and he developed into a more mature senior player by the time United won their record breaking and unprecedented "Treble" in 1999. This achievement aided by Giggs's form and key contributions in several tournaments. Memorable was his extra-time goal in the FA Cup semi-final against arch-rivals Arsenal (see above) to give United a 2-1 win, and his 90th minute equalizer in the home leg of the Champions League semi-final against Juventus F.C..Giggs set up the equalising goal scored by Teddy Sheringham in the UEFA Champions League Final that set United on their way to the treble. Giggs was also the man of the match as United beat Palmeiras to claim the Intercontinental Cup that year. He has been considered a Manchester United 'Legend'.In November 2003, Giggs was mentioned in an episode of The Simpsons, entitled "The Regina Monologues", which takes place in England. In response to Marge complaining that Homer punched out three people on the street, Homer replies, "That was over soccer results. Can you believe they gave Giggs a yellow card in the box?!"
Giggs was one of United's most experienced and senior players at United when Denis Irwin left, and he become a pivotal part of the club. According to a BBC Sport article in 2003, "the trajectory of Giggs' United career follows that of the club almost exactly", underlining his importance to United.Giggs's form in the years after the achievements of 1999 were reflective of Manchester United's dominance of the English game up until 2003 (when the club won its last FA Premier League title)- with Giggs still relishing his left wing slot. United won the League title four times within those years, and had always made it to UEFA Champions League Quarter-Finals at the very least. He celebrated his 10-year anniversary at Old Trafford with a testimonial match against Glasgow Celtic at the start of the 2001-02 campaign. A year later, he bagged his 100th career goal in a draw with Chelsea F.C. at Stamford Bridge.
With the departure of David Beckham to Real Madrid before the 2003-04 season, many United fans were concerned that the team would lose its world class set-piece threat which Beckham provided, at both shooting directly and also creating numerous chances from dead ball situations for his team-mates. However, on the opening day of the season, with United playing Bolton, Giggs had his first free-kick chance from 25 yards out. It should be noted that Giggs was very much United's first choice taker until Beckham emerged; indeed, Giggs' first goal for Wales was a memorable free-kick itself, against Belgium in 1993. Giggs, out of Beckham's shadow, curled a wonderfully hit free-kick which went in off the post leaving the goalkeeper helpless. The United fans saw the irony and chanted 'David who?' to Giggs' obvious amusement. Giggs also got the second in a comfortable 4-0 win.He managed to win the FA Cup once more in 2004, making him one of only two players (the other being Roy Keane) to have won the trophy four times.
He has also finished with a runners-up medal twice.His participation in the victory over Liverpool in September 2004 made him the third player to play 600 games for United, alongside Sir Bobby Charlton and Bill Foulkes. He was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2005 in recognition of his contribution to the English game. During the first half of the 2004-05 season, Giggs was linked in a transfer speculation with Newcastle United F.C., a club his best-friend at United, Nicky Butt, had left for. However, no move was made before the transfer window closed on 31 January 2005. In that season, Giggs still managed to churn out a 'masterclass performance' (in the words of Sky Sports commentator Martin Tyler) when given the chance, and together with the old guard of Paul Scholes, looked to be the epitome of the football saying 'form is temporary, but class is permanent'. After that season, Giggs signed a two-year contract extension with Manchester United when chairman David Gill relented on his normal policy of not signing players over 30 to contracts longer than one year. The extension, which runs through to July 2008, will most probably keep him at Old Trafford for the remainder of his playing career.
Giggs has reinvented himself and continues to contribute positively to the Manchester United cause even after team-mates like David Beckham and Roy Keane had left. He has become the role model to the latest batch of talents at the club like Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo. Giggs is used today as an example, alongside Gary Neville and Paul Scholes, as a model professional for young players with hot tempers to follow.This is largely due to his upbringing by United manager Alex Ferguson, who has sheltered the player since developing him. It remains to be seen whether Giggs outstays his career mentor at the club or vice versa. His versatility has supplemented his raw skill and talent in recent years, and he has been called upon by his manager to play as a forward and a central midfielder for his team, roles in which he applied himself admirably. It is without question that Ryan Giggs will be ranked alongside the best wingers ever to play the game of football.
International Achievements and Personal Life of Giggs
Other than his notorious spate of womanizing as detailed in tabloids such as the Daily Mirror over the years, Giggs has otherwise managed to avoid the limelight of celebrity trappings that tagged his earlier years. In his autobiography, Giggs: The Autobiography, he revealed possible reasons for his aversion to attention, and accounted for his quiet and bashful demeanour.The biography described Giggs' difficult upbringing. He endured racial taunts as a child because he was the product of a mixed marriage. Although he admired his rugby-playing father's sporting gifts (Giggs' attributes his speed and balance to his father's genes), he hated the impact his "bullying aggressive nature" had on his family.In an infamous interview with the Daily Telegraph, Giggs described his father as a "real rogue". He adopted his mother's surname after his parents' separation so that "the world would know I was my mother's son".Giggs is considered by many as a player who, unlike Lee Sharpe and George Best, achieved considerable fame despite a relatively low profile overall as a celebrity. He has done ads for Reebok, Sovil Titus, Citizen Watch Co., Ltd, Givenchy, Fuji, Patek Phillipe and Celcom, and has been used for video-mapping in computer game simulations like EA Sports' FIFA 2003 series for which he also did a commercial.According to an article by BBC Sport: "In the early 1990s, Giggs was David Beckham before Beckham was even holding down a place in the United first team. If you put his face on the cover of a football magazine, it guaranteed you the biggest sales of the year. Why? Men would buy it to read about 'the new Best' and girls bought it because they wanted his face all over their bedroom walls. Giggs had the million-pound boot deal (Reebok), the lucrative sponsorship deals in the Far East (Fuji) and the celebrity girlfriends (Dani Behr, Davinia Taylor) at a time when Becks was being sent on loan to Preston.Giggs is currently living with partner Stacy and their daughter Liberty and newborn son Zach.
In recent years, Giggs has also become a UNICEF representative, launching a campaign to prevent landmines from killing children in 2002.Giggs, who had visited Unicef projects in Thailand, told the BBC: "As a footballer I can't imagine life without the use of one of my legs...Sadly this is exactly what happens to thousands of children every year when they accidentally step on a landmine." Giggs is also an active campaigner in the fight against racism in football. Alongside fellow mixed-raced players like Rio Ferdinand and Thierry Henry, Giggs is adamant about stamping racism out of the game.He told the Football Anti-Racism site 'Stop the BNP' the following in 2004: "A lot of people don't know that my father is black. He was a professional rugby player in the area that I played as a youngster. So a lot of people who I went to school with knew who he was and knew that he was black. So I would get racist taunts in school."He also added in the French L'Equipe Sports Newspaper: "Looking at me from the outside, it is not very obvious, I know but half my family is black and I feel close to their culture and their colour. I am proud of my black roots and of the black blood that runs in my veins. I do not wish to hide my origins, nor do I seek to make it a subject of conversation. I am what I am."Giggs is also a patron of the Manchester-based 'Five Star Scanner Appeal', a charity that aims to raise £1m to fund a new scanner at a new Manchester Childrens Hospital due to be built ready for 2009.
Career Stats and Honors
Ryan Giggs with Manchester United Career Competition
FA Premier LeagueStart -1990 End - 2006Matches - 510 Goals - 96 Assists - 228
UEFA Champions LeagueStart -1991 End - 2006 Matches - 123 Goals - 27 Assists - 28
FA Cup Start - 1991 End - 2006 matches - 57 Goals - 10 Assist - 26
League CupStart - 1991End - 2005 Matches - 29 Goals - 7 Assist - 8
With Manchester United (1990 - 2005)
FA Premier League - Champions: 1992/93, 1993/94, 1995/96, 1996/97, 1998/99, 1999/00, 2000/01, 2002/03
UEFA Champions League Winner: 1998/99
FA Cup Winner: 1994, 1996, 1999, 2004 English
League Cup Winner: 1992, 2006 English
FA Youth Cup Winner: 1992
FA Cup Runners Up: 1995, 2005
FA Premier League - Runners Up: 1991/92, 1994/95, 1997/98, 2005/06
Intercontinental Cup: 1999
UEFA Super Cup Winner: 1991 Runner Up: 1999
Community Shield Winner: 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997, 2003 Runner Up: 1998, 2000, 2001, 2004
Premiership Player of the Month for August, 2006. Manchester United Players player of the year award 2005/2006 Inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame, 2005 Honoured with the greatest goal ever scored in the FA Challenge Cup, 2005 Inducted into the Premiership team of the decade, 2003 U-21 European Footballer of the Year (1993)
Intercontinental Cup man of the match (1999) Wales Player of the year award 1996,2006
Preceded by:Lee SharpePFA Young Player of the Year1992 and 1993
Succeeded by:Andy Cole
Charlton confirm Reed as Dowie's replacement
LONDON (AFP) - Struggling Premiership side Charlton have named former assistant Les Reed as their new head coach to replace Iain Dowie who was sacked on Monday.
The club brought a premature end to Dowie's reign after Saturday's 3-2 defeat at Wigan left the Addicks with a meagre eight points out of a maximum 36.
Reed, who has been named in his post on a permanent basis, will take charge for the weekend Premiership clash at Reading when The Addicks will be bidding to get off the foot of the table.
The London club also named Mark Robson, their development coach, as his new assistant.
Dowie, 41, took over from Alan Curbishley on a three-year deal in May after a controversial move from Crystal Palace.
He has spent almost 10 million pounds since taking over and despite a poor Premiership run has led Charlton to the quarter-finals of the League Cup.
Charlton chief executive Peter Varney said the club are "probably" looking for a third person to come in and help the pair.
Plc chairman Richard Murray said Dowie was sacked after a review of the club's structure.
"We had to consider if we believed our current situation would improve and we reluctantly came to the conclusion that it would not," said Murray.
"It is vital everyone works as a team in this situation. Unfortunately, I have to say that hasn't been the case."
Dowie is the first Premiership manager to lose his job this season.
Dowie had received a vote of confidence late Monday from an unexpected source - his former chairman at Crystal Palace, Simon Jordan.
Jordan, despite taking his former manager to court over last summer's move to The Valley, told Sky Sports News: "I think Charlton haven't really given him a chance.
"It's a shame because Iain is a bright young coach, and he's a strong character. One of the things Iain brings to a football team is strong leadership."
After a playing career which took in spells at West Ham, Southampton and Palace as well as a distinguished international career with Northern Ireland, Dowie took his first steps into management at Oldham.
He led them to the Division Two (now League One) play-offs in 2003 but after financial trouble hit the club, he moved on to Palace in 2003.
The south London club were languishing in 19th in Division One but a sensational run of form saw them reach the end-of-season play-offs and earn promotion to the Premiership.