Blog

04/11/2016 12:13

George Best Still Contributed

In the early years of the European Champions` Cup, the winner of the English league gained entry into the competition and, if they won, they`d be afforded the opportunity to play in the Intercontinental Cup against the Champions of South America, winners of the American continent`s equivalent of the European Cup, the Copa Libertadores, or `cup of freedom`, which the giant clubs of South America in Brazil and Argentina competed for against the other countries of the region before gearing up for the Intercontinental Cup Final contest with the Champions of Europe. The inaugural winners of the competition were Spain`s Real Madrid, 5-1, at their Estadio Santiago Bernabéu in Madrid against Uruguay`s Peñarol after a draw at the Uruguayans` Estadio Centenario, Montevideo, 0-0. An unsurprising result to the Europeans, because Real Madrid had won the inaugural European Champions` Cup competition in 1956 against France`s Stade De Reims, 4-3, and thereafter in 1957 versus Fiorentina of Italy, 2-0; 1958, versus A. C. Milan of Italy, 3-2; 1959 versus Stade De Reims, 2-0, and 1960 versus Germany`s Eintracht Frankfurt, 7-3. The heart of the team was comprised of foreign talent, for example, French playmaker Raymond Kopa, Uruguayan center back, José Santamaría, Argentine `keeper, Rogelio Domínguez, and striker, Ferenc Puskas of Hungary, whose national side had astonished the soccer world by beating England at home at Wembley for the first time ever, 3-5, in 1953. Although Manchester United perhaps could have beaten the Spanish giants in 1958, or afterwards, the Munich air disaster in which eight of the players, who had just qualified for the 1958 semi-final by drawing 3-3 in Belgrade against Red Star, died in the snow as the plane carrying the team back to Manchester crashed on the German runway during take off. Those who lost their lives would have been the heart of the England side that, along with United`s surviving left wing, Bobby Charlton, eventually won the World Cup at the national stadium, Wembley, London, in 1966, with four goals from West Ham United forwards, Geoff Hurst (3) and Martin Peters, 4-2, against Germany.

 The players who died at Munich were England`s left back and captain, Roger Byrne, and his understudy, Geoff Bent; center half Mark Jones; midfielder Eddie Colman; the play anywhere genius, Duncan Edwards; center forward Tommy Taylor; left winger, David Pegg, and Irish forward, Liam Whelan. England`s right wing, Johnny Berry, and inside forward and sometimes center half, Danny Blanchflower, brother of Ireland`s Jackie, who`d win the English F.A. Cup and League Championship with Spurs in 1961, never played again because of their injuries. England`s story was similar to United`s, who went on to lose the semi-final of the European Cup in 1958 to Italy`s A.C. Milan, 0-4, at the San Siro stadium, after managing to win, 2-1, at their Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, with an 80th minute penalty from Ernie Taylor brought by manager, Matt Busby, from Aston Villa as a quick replacement for lost stars. Two years after England`s World Cup win, Manchester United won the European Cup against Portuguese club, Benfica, 4-1, after extra time when the game had ended 1-1. Bobby Charlton, now playing in a deep lying center forward role, as he had for England in the World Cup in 1966, had scored in the 53rd minute with a rare header, but that had been cancelled out by Benfica`s right half, Jamie Graça, in the 79th minute. A dribbler`s 92nd minute dream goal from Irish superstar, George Best, made it 2-1, and another from England`s 18 year old Brian Kidd in the 94th minute, whose header had been headed back to him by a Benfica defender, but he`d remained calm enough to head it again, and in over the Portuguese defense under the bar it went, 3-1, before a 99th minute lobbed volley from a narrow angle by Charlton secured the 1968 European Champions` Cup for an English team for the first time.

 Although Manchester United had completed the given format of winning the English league and then the European Cup, the Intercontinental Cup Final against the champions of South America by virtue of that continent`s competing in the Copa Libertadores wasn`t perceived by the English as a part of the format needing to be completed. The Intercontinental Cup was perceived by the English press, and indeed advertised so, as a matter of form, that is, it wasn`t a part of a competition format whereby the winners of the English league had, as their ultimate objective, being crowned as intercontinental champions. It wasn`t until the format of qualification for the European Cup changed from being winners of the league to winners and runners-up that the Intercontinental Cup loomed larger as a part of the format of a much greater soccer vision. Manchester United again won the European Cup in Spain at Barcelona`s Nou Camp stadium in 1999, with two very late goals from England`s Teddy Sheringham and Norway`s Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, 2-1, against Bayern Munich. The German team had led since the 6th minute through a low free kick from forward, Mario Basler, which was awarded after United center back, Ronny Johnsen, brought down Carsten Jancker. With his right foot Basler bent the ball around the United wall from just outside the penalty area, and into the net beyond Danish `keeper Peter Schmeichel. The Germans had led until United`s despair ended in a late attacking flourish of the never say die footballing style for which they are justifiably famed. United had a corner, and with little time left `keeper Schmeichel, who`d scored in similar circumstances, ventured up to Bayern's penalty area. Beckham flighted the corner in just over Schmeichel's head, and center forward, Dwight Yorke, 18 goals in the league that season, put the ball back towards the crowded area. Bayern substitute midfielder, Thorsten Fink, had been brought on by Bayern manager, Ottmar Hitzfeld, who`d receive much criticism for it, because Fink replaced sweeper Lothar Matthäus, 37 years of age, and Hitzfeld clearly felt he was a tired risk by the 80th minute, but Fink failed to clear a ball that probably wouldn`t ever have troubled Matthäus, and the ball arrived at the feet of Ryan Giggs, whose shot fortuitously found Sheringham, who latched onto it gleefully to swipe it into the bottom corner of the net with his right boot in the 91st minute. Neither Sheringham nor Solskjaer were chosen to start against Bayern, and as Sheringham was on for left winger, Jesper Blomqvist, in the 67th minute, Solskjaer, who`d scored 12 league goals that season, replaced center forward, Andy Cole (17), in the 81st minute almost immediately after Lothar Matthäus left the fray.

 Sheringham had scored only twice in the league in 1998-99, but had redeemed himself by scoring with a low drive under Newcastle `keeper, Steve Harper, after a through ball from Scholes, in the F.A. Cup Final, which United won, 2-0, and so Sheringham had been picked to be amongst the substitutes. Within 30 seconds of the restart after Sheringham`s substitute`s strike, another Beckham corner found his head, and he nodded the ball down across the face of goal to where Solskjær, reacting quickly, stuck out his boot and poked the ball into the roof of the Bayern net in the 93rd minute. Matthäus` departure had ultimately sunk Bayern, and Hitzfelt was blamed, but United`s never say die attitude had won through for them again and the European Cup was theirs for only the second time in the club`s history since Benfica were beaten, 4-1, at London`s Wembley stadium in 1968. Despite winning the 1999 European Cup, the team had qualified for the competition without winning the league, and so the 1999 Intercontinental Cup Final against Palmeiras of Brazil, which United won, 1-0, on neutral ground at the National Stadium, Tokyo, with a goal from Irish midfield dynamo and captain, Roy Keane, who appeared at the far post to steer in a left wing cross from Welsh winger, Ryan Giggs in the 35th minute, loomed on the club`s horizon as a part of the format of the competition that had been taken on by the club in competing for the European Cup. In the Intercontinental Cup Final of 1968, Manchester United had lost to Estudiantes of Argentina, 0-1, away, and on aggregate overall, 2-1, after being only able to manage a draw at Old Trafford thanks to a late 90th minute goal from Scots` winger, Willie Morgan, bought that season to replace John Connelly, who`d arrived from Burnley himself. Morgan, who in 1974-75 would captain United out of the second tier of English soccer, whence they`d been relegated in 1973-74, had been seen at Turf Moor as a more than adequate replacement for England`s Connelly, where the team performed as well with Morgan, if not better, than it had with Connelly, who won the league title with Manchester United in 1966-67.

Because Manchester United had to win the English title to enter the European Cup competition, the format was seen as winning the European Cup after winning the league, whereas the later application form that had to be completed was of a qualifying position in the English league to gain entrance to the European Cup competition and, by winning it, qualify to compete in the Intercontinental Cup Final against the winners of the South American Copa Libertadores. Consequently, the application form shifted the format from winning the English league to winning the Intercontinental Cup, which was the true importance attached to the winning of the European Cup, that is, the chance to win the Intercontinental Cup. That had always been seen as the goal by the South American teams because their format was international competition, so the Intercontinental Cup was the zenith, whereas the English teams were conditioned to believe it was a formal friendly without any competition merit. In short, English clubs were encouraged not to compete on the world`s stage, because the clubs would become bigger than the country, which happens in the United States of America; for example, in Major League Soccer (MLS), where United`s pioneering Irish wing legend, George Best, saw out much of his playing career after leaving United in their relegation season, 1973-74, saying he wouldn`t play in any division other than England`s premier. Best played for California`s San Jose Earthquakes in 1979-80, and was second highest goalscorer with 8 after Steve David`s 14. In 1980-1 George was the top scorer with 13 for the Earthquakes, who finished a creditable fourth in the Western Conference of the North American Soccer League in each of those successive seasons he played there. By 1982-83 the US` experiment with soccer had produced the Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL), but although George scored 32 goals overall during his MISL career with the Earthquakes, their highest place in the Western Conference was third during his sojourning there. Best was followed to the US by, amongst others, Manchester United and England captain, right winger, David Beckham, who also helped to enhance the profile of the MLS and make the North American and Europe Intercontinental Champions Cup a significant prize in world football terms when, after winning the European Cup with Manchester United in 1999, he went on to win the Spanish title in 2006-07 with Real Madrid, and then the MLS Cup with the Los Angeles Galaxy in consecutive seasons; 2011 and 2012.

 In 2006 the Earthquakes moved to Houston, Texas, to become the Houston Dynamo, because of greater financial opportunities. Although the USA is a single nation, and the Houston Dynamo still played in the Western Conference, despite being a state other than California, where the Earthquakes originally hailed from, the states does provide a model of how England`s Football Association restricts clubs from becoming financially more lucrative in global terms; for example, by devaluing the Intercontinental Cup teams are kept from moving away from Europe in order to be more successful. Ignoring prejudice against spreading their wings to become a greater world force, Manchester United won the 2014 North America and Europe International Champions` Cup in the Sun Life Stadium, Miami, although Liverpool were 1-0 after an early 14th minute penalty from Liverpool`s captain, Steven Gerard, which was awarded for a trip on Raheem Sterling by United defender, Phil  Jones. After an equalizing goal from England`s center forward, Wayne Rooney, meeting Mexican striker Javier Hernandez’s arrowing cross in the 55th minute with a neat left-foot volley, two minutes later came a goal from Spain`s inside right, Juan Mata, whose shot was deflected off Mamadou Sakho in the 57th minute, 2-1. A third followed in the 88th minute from England left winger, Jessie Lingard, who`d come on as a substitute after the second United goal. Controlling a cross from England`s Ashley Young, who`d begun on the left, but had moved over to the right wing after injury to Antonio Valenica. Lingard half-volleyed low from the edge of the box beyond Liverpool `keeper, Mignolet. Although United celebrated with the trophy, it was a further instance of an international competition that didn`t receive national recognition at home in England. However, the subsequent inauguration of International Champions` Cup competitions in China and Australia gave warning to nation states that clubs might abandon localized fan bases for greater financial success. Manchester United had canvassed China for the organizers of the International Champions Cup through tours, and with the American business family, the Glazers, determining the board`s strategy, it couldn`t have come as much of a surprise that the International Champions Cup of North America and Europe should have been won by the team in 2014 whether the English F.A. thought it important or otherwise, and that the International Champions Cup of China and Australia should have been won by Real Madrid in 2015 suggests that perhaps Europe is becoming too parochial for its soccer giants who, adopting the approach of Major League Soccer in the USA, might seek to relocate for greater financial rewards and appreciation from a global fan base.

 Manchester United won the European Cup again in 2008 at the Luzhniki stadium, Moscow, against English rivals, Chelsea, on penalties, 6-5, after extra time, when the final score had been 1-1 in normal time through a 26th minute headed goal from Manchester United`s Portuguese right winger, Cristiano Ronaldo, from a right wing cross from right full back Wes Brown`s left foot, which was equalized by a typical surging 45th minute midfield run and strike from Chelsea`s Frank Lampard. After their success in the European Cup the club were invited to take part in the World Club Championship. In the 28th minute of the semi-final victory against Japanese side, Gamba Osaka, United`s Serbian central defender, Nemanja Vidić, from a Ryan Giggs’ corner, out-jumped Gamba captain, Satoshi Yamaguchi, to power home a header past `keeper, Yosuke Fujigaya, from 12 yards, 1-0. Portuguese right winger, Cristiano Ronaldo, put United 2-0 up in first-half injury time. Again the ball came from a Giggs` corner, and again the Japanese struggled to cope with the aerial threat. Myojin was out-jumped as Ronaldo directed a powerful header past `keeper, Fujigay. United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, didn`t bring on his star striker, England`s Wayne Rooney, until the 74th minute, but Gamba Osaka immediately pulled the score back to 2-1, courtesy of striker, Masato Yamakazi, with a shot from the right well outside the penalty area. A minute later, however, Rooney finished well, after a long ball from Scots` central midfielder, Darren Fletcher, split open the Japanese defence, 3-1. Fletcher then headed in French left back Patrice Evra`s cross, 4-1. In the 78th minute, and after linking up well with left-winger, Giggs, Rooney made it 5-1 a minute later. United conceded a penalty, 2-5, when United`s England right back, Gary Neville, was adjudged to have handled a cross from the left wing, and in the 85th minute Yasuhito Endō calmly scored from the spot, 2-5. Hideo Hashimoto scored in second half injury time in a way almost identical to Yamakazi`s first half effort, 1-2. From the right and well outside the penalty area, Hashimoto struck the ball past Dutch `keeper, Edwin Van Der Sar, 3-5, but United were through to the World Club Cup Final against LDU Quito of Ecuador.

 In the Final in the International Stadium Yokohama, Japan, a single goal against the winners of the Copa Libertadores, South America`s Champions of Ecuador, LDU Quito, scored by England`s center forward, Wayne Rooney, won the game for Manchester United, 1-0. Remaining where he was at the left corner of the LDU Quito area, Wayne played the ball back to left sided Brazilian midfielder, Anderson. He then waited while Anderson played the ball into the path of England right central midfielder, Michael Carrick, in front of the LDU Quito area. Carrick pushed the ball forward to Manchester United right winger, Cristiano Ronaldo, inside the LDU Quito area with two players in attendance. With his back to the goal, Cristiano Ronaldo turned to his right and slipped the ball to Wayne, who was still waiting at the left edge of the LDU Quito area where he`d begun the play. Rooney drove a shot low and right footed into the right corner of the LDU Quito net. Rooney had been lurking on the edge of the Ecuadorians` area after Serbian center back, Nemanja Vidić, had been sent off in the 49th, so causing the Manchester United front players to look for maximum impact, rather than mobility, which those behind them needed to employ to cover for their absent defensive colleague. Rooney`s 73rd minute goal had given the tiring defense a cushion useful enough to frustrate the South Americans and give the English team the World Club Championship.

 Although the club qualified for the European Cup in 2008 as winners of the English league title and were champions again in 2007-08 after which the World Club Championship was played between Manchester United as European Cup winners against Chelsea, 6-5 on penalties after a 1-1 draw, the format had at last been recognized. It wasn`t that the aim was to win the English league in order to win the European Cup, it was to win the World Club Cup by qualifying for the Final by winning the European Cup. Although United qualified for the European Cup by winning the English league, and then winning the European Cup to give them a chance of winning the World Club Cup, it wasn`t necessary to win the English league to qualify for the European Cup, because the aim was to succeed in the new format in which the winners of the European Cup qualified for the World Club Cup Finals, which were the goal of the biggest clubs that had been unrecognized as South America`s. Multiple World Cup wins by Uruguay in 1930 and 1950, Argentina in 1978 and 1986, and Brazil in 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002, should have left the English in no doubt as to who to beat to be champions. Although Manchester United won the English championship again in 2008-09, they lost the Final of the European Cup to Spain`s Barcelona, 0-2, at the Stadio Olympica in Rome, Italy, after goals from Cameroon`s Samuel Eto`o in the 10th minute following an exchange of passes between Spanish central midfielder, Andrés Iniesta, and right wing, Lionel Messi, after United`s defense had timorously backed away from Iniesta following an attempted headed clearance from England midfielder, Michael Carrick. Messi played the ball through into the path of Eto`o, who easily stepped inside Nemanja Vidić`s attempts to shepherd him harmlessly to the goal line and out of play, to toe poke the ball past United `keeper, Van Der Sar. Barcelona scored a second through Argentina`s Messi in the 70th minute, after a cross from Spain`s Xavi on the right of the United `keeper`s area, affording the then world`s best player a chance to send a header looping over Van Der Sar and into the far side of the goal to qualify for the World Club Cup semi-final against Mexico`s Atlante.

 The Spaniards beat Atlante, 3-1, after the Mexicans had taken an early lead in the 5th minute through Guillermo Rojas. Estudiantes of Argentina led in the Final, which took place at Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi, and were captained by Juan Sebastián Verón, son of Juan Ramón Verón, La Bruja, `the witch`, who`d tormented United in the 1968 Intercontinental Cup Final to score the opening headed goal at Old Trafford in the 6th minute after a free-kick from defender, Raúl Madero, which had left United too much to do, 0-1. Marcus Conigliaro had scored with a header the only goal of the Buenos Aires away leg in the 27th minute from a corner by his striking partner, Filipe Ribaudo. Despite Morgan`s late Old Trafford equalizer, Estudiantes won the Intercontinental Cup of 1968 and Juan Ramón Verón`s son, Juan `Seba`, La Brujita, `the little witch`, who`d won a league championship medal as a central midfielder with United in 2002-03, must have thought the 2009 World Club Cup was going to Estudiantes, `the students`, after a 37th minute headed goal from center forward, Mauro Bosellia, until a very late Pedro equalizer in the 89th minute. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the Barcelona center forward, who`d be taken to United from Paris St Germain by United supremo, Jose Mourinho, for the start of the 2016-17 campaign, sent a long ball through to Gerard Piqué, who`d been a young and promising center half at United, and had played 12 times between 2004 and 2008, before going back to his native Spain. Piqué headed it on towards Pedro, whose looping header found the net. Messi gave the Spanish victory in extra time, 2-1, after he chested a 110th minute cross from Brazilian right back, Dani Alves, into the Estudiantes` goal, and the world club game had arrived.

04/11/2016 09:23

Why Did UEFA Abolish The Cup Winners` Cup?

Manchester United won the European Cup Winners` Cup for the only time in the club`s history in 1991 after qualifying in a difficult competition, the F.A. Cup, which had been a model for similar cup competitions throughout the world since its inception in 1871-2 based on the perceived need for a national cup competition. The Manchester Senior Cup, which the `red devils` of United have won on 33 occasions since their days as `the heathens` of Newton Heath, LYR, won the first trophy of United`s history in 1886, 2-1, against Manchester, was won more recently in 2013-14 against Manchester Ciry, 4-1, with four goals from center forward, James Wilson, and such cup competitions proliferated in the wake of the inauguration of the national competition, the 1871-2 F.A. Cup, because the nature of the cup format is as a defining instrument.

 Manchester United are record holding winners of the F.A. Cup on 12 occasions with the first being in 1908-09, 1-0, against Bristol City, with a goal from Sandy Turnbull. Although after winning the 1990 F.A. Cup Final replay subsequent to a 3-3 draw against Crystal Palace, 1-0, with a goal from marauding left full back, Lee Martin, United went on to win the European Cup WInners Cup (ECWC) in 1991 against Spain`s F.C. Barcelona, 2-1, with goals from Welsh center forward, Mark Hughes, UEFA had abolished the ECWC in 1999, so United`s 2015-16 typically swashbuckling defeat of Palace, 2-1, with goals from Spain`s right midfielder Juan Mata in the 81st minute, when the team were, 0-1, and an extra time strike in the 110th minute from England left winger, Jessie Lingard, didn`t present an opportunity for the team to use the cup format as an instrument to further definition. In 1999, which was the year that Manchester United, as holders of the European Cup, beating Germany`s Bayern Munich, 2-1, with injury time goals from forwards, England`s Teddy Sheringham and Norway`s Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, qualified through that defining instrument to play the Final of the Intercontinental Cup against Palmeiras of Brazil, which they won thanks to a strike from Irish midfield captain, Roy Keane, who guided a cross from Welsh left winger, Ryan Giggs, into the net at the far post in the 35th minute, 1-0. It was a `defining moment` for that cup competition, because United qualified for the inagural World Club Cup through winning the Intercontinental Cup, and eventually won the World Club Cup in 2008.

 Manchester United qualified for the WCC Finals through the defining instrument of the European Cup competition. United beat Chelsea on penalties in the Final, 6-5, after the game had ended, 1-1. A 26th minute header from Portuguese right winger, Cristiano Ronaldo, from a left footed cross out on the right wing by United right back, Wes Brown, had been cancelled out just before half-time by Chelsea`s England goal scoring midfielder, Frank Lampard. When Chelsea`s captain and center back, England`s John Terry, slipped in the rain at Moscow`s Luzhniki stadium and hit the post when he had to score to win the European Cup for Chelsea, Ryan Giggs stepped up to take the crown for United. Consequently, Manchester United would have qualified for the Intercontinental Cup (IC) Final between the champions of South America, LDU Quito, who`d won the Copa Libertadores, `freedom`s cup`, but FIFA had abolished it, as UEFA had abolished that other defining instrument, the ECWC, won by United in 1991. In short, two of the trophies constituting defining instruments won by United were abolished in quick succession to prevent the club from reaching a higher definition in world soccer terms. Or, in other words, because cup competitions define champions on a continent wide scale, UEFA abolished the ECWC, and FIFA abolished the IC, to prevent clubs from defining themselves as continental and, ultimately, world champions.

 Although the World Club Cup Finals of 2008 looked more egalitarian and Manchester United had to defeat the Japanese team, Gamba Osaka, 5-3, to meet the winners of the other qualifying semi-final, LDU Quito of Ecuador, who were South American champions after winning the Copa Libertadores, as United were European Champions, and so the predicable Finalists made it through, in fact the abolition of the ECWC and the IC were symptomatic of an attempt by the Europeans to establish a totalitarian soccer dictatorship preventing European clubs from forming a world league with the South American Copa Libertadores as a South American championship cornerstone of an establishable format including the championships of Asia, Africa, and North America. In simple terms, a world league would contain five continents, that is, Europe, North and South America, Asia, Africa, and Australia, which of course looks the weakest, but nevertheless is a logical soccer unity incorporable into a global structure for defining champions through cup competition success, which is in realistic terms the only possible format for determining continental championships. Otherwise the bizarre spectre appears of Spain`s Real Madrid as champions of China and Australia, or of Italy`s Juventus as champions of Australia, which was the result of the Intercontinental Champions Cup (ICC) format in which clubs competed for the championship of North America and Europe, China, and Australia.

 Manchester United won the ICC in 2013-14 against Liverpool, 3-1, but in 2014-15, and 2015-16, the championships of China and Australia were included in the ICC format, and Spain`s Real Madrid won both, while Italy`s Juventus won the Australian ICC championship in 2015-16. In a league format in which Spain`s Atlético Madrid played one and won one against England`s Tottenham Hotspur, who went on to lose a second game to Juvntus, while Atlético had used up their allotted quota of a single game, Juventus in their second game played against Melbourne Victory of Australia, who were also allowed only one game in the league table, and Juventus won, 4-3 on penalties, after a 1-1 draw in normal time. In short, Juventus had two games in which to win the Australian championship, and the Australian team had just one, so couldn`t compete. When Spain`s Real Madrid won the China ICC in 2014-15 against England`s Manchester City and Roma of Italy, there weren`t any teams from China, and Real Madrid were also allowed to compete in the Australian ICC in 2014-15 against Italy`s Inter and A.C. Milan, which Madrid won, so becoming champions of China and Australia in the absence of those countries` national champions.

 The World Club Cup affords the possibility of genuine competition, before what effectively remains the de facto Intercontinental Cup (IC) encounter between the champions of South America, by virtue of that team`s winning the Copa Libertadores, for example, Ecuador`s LDU Quito in 2008, and the champions of Europe, that is, Manchester United, who though having to take part in the apparently staged formality of a 2008 semi-final against the Japanese champions of Asia, nevertheless had still to defeat Gamba Osaka, 5-3, to qualify for the final against LDU Quito, who had to similarly overcome Mexico`s Pachuca, champions of North and Central America and the Caribbean, 2-0, to qualify. However, the abolishing of the ECWC format for establishing cup competitions, as the `yardstick` for determining continental champions, and the abolition of the IC of South America and Europe, as a contest between the teams that qualify for the game to determine the champions of South America and Europe, and after their club sides have won their repsective continental cup competitions, is a deliberate handicapping of the instrument that defines champions. This has resulted in the bizarre scenario of a Spanish team, Real Madrid, effectively being declared champions of China and Australia without visibly qualifying, and in the absence of a Chinese or Australian national team taking part in the competition. Moreover, an Italian team, Juventus, was effectively awarded the championship of Australia by allowing the Italians one game more than Australia`s Melbourne Victory, who therefore weren`t afforded the possibility of making a comeback.

 By favoring a league format in Europe for all of the remaining European trophies, that is, the UCL Champions`s trophy, and the Europa competition, UEFA and FIFA, who abolished the ECWC and IC, left the way open for world leagues to emerge without legitimate competitive merit. The IC format was cogently based on the cup format, which began with the F.A. Cup in England in 1871-2, and developed throughout Europe in the form of the Cup Winners Cup (ECWC) tournament, wherein teams competed for their national cups, before participating in the wider European contest to determine the winners of an inter-nations` cup. Although there wasn`t an intercontinental version of the cup winners cup, the format remained in the form of the Intercontinental Cup Final between the South American champions, that is, the winners of the Copa Libertadores, which is the inter-nations` cup of South America, and the European champions, who are winners of the inter-nations` cup of Europe. In abolishing the ECWC, UEFA removed the cornerstone of a future world league based on intercontinental cup qualification, which is less time consuming, and more legitimizing, than a league system.

 In abolishing the IC, FIFA removed the possibility of basing the world club championship on a simpler series of intercontinental cup qualifiers. Manchester United hold the record for successes in the F.A. Cup (12), so from the club`s point of view abolition of the ECWC in 1999, after the club`s first and only success in 1991, was compounded by the abolition of the Intercontinental Cup in 2004, after United`s first and only success in 1999. In short, the removal of the ECWC was an attack on the F.A. Cup as the basis for English teams` success in international club cup competitions, and the IC was another cornerstone of that success. By establishing a system of non-qualifiers, and introducing continental championships as invitational, for example, the ICC of North America and Europe, and of China, and Australia, Europe`s teams could dominate global international competitions without having to qualify by winning, which seems to be the ultimate objective, for example, United won the European Cup in 1999, without winning the English league, but by qualifying as runner-up, which would never have occured in the 60s, when the club won its first European Cup in 1968 against Portugal`s Benfica, 4-1, with goals from Charlton (2), Kidd, and Best, after winning the 1966-67 league title: its seventh.

 In 1968 the club lost to South America`s winners of the Copa Libertadores, and so South America`s champions, Estudiantes of Argentia, in the Intercontinental Cup Final of 1968, 1-2, on aggregate, that is, 0-1 away in Buenos Aires, and after a 1-1 draw at United`s Old Trafford stadium, Manchester, despite a last gasp effort and an 89th minute goal by Scots` right wing, Willie Morgan. Though beaten, United participated in a legitimately formatted tournament, whereas in 1999 their defeat of Palmeiras of Brazil, 1-0, in the Intercontinental Cup Final, was founded on qualification for the European Cup as runner-up in the English championship. Consequently, although United won, 2-1, against Bayern in the 1999 Final, their subsequent qualification for the IC Final wasn`t exactly legitimate. Although United qualified for the European Cup of 2007-08 as champions, and won, 6-5 on penalties, after the game had ended in a 1-1 draw after extra time, the IC was abolished and the World Club Cup Finals` legitimacy was based on instant qualification for the semis for the champions of South America and Europe, which again wasn`t strictly legitimate.

 Qualification, based on a league system, hasn`t conferred legitimacy upon competitors, whereas cup competition is irrefutably legitimizing, that is, the winners compete against each other to win by means of the defining instrument, which is the cup undeniably won by teams competing directly against each other in a series of instantly recognizable qualifying contests, which have that irrefutable legitimizing authority absent from the ICC league tables, for example, which allowed Juventus to be declared champions of Australia while denying to Melbourne Victory the courtesy of allowing the Australian champions (1) to play the same number (2) of games as the Italians. UEFA`s abolition of the ECWC and FIFA`s abolition of the IC was a double blow to Manchester United, a club which had but recently begun to win those competitions, that is, the ECWC in 1991, which had been founded in 1960 and was aborted in 1999 by UEFA, and the IC in 1999, which had been founded in 1960 and was aborted by FIFA in 2004. Although the World Club Cup was attained in 2008, United`s achievement was tarnished, and the legitimate path to success was replaced with a sham. Despite that, Manchester United won the championship of South America and Europe in 1999, and the World Club Cup in 2008, before winning the championship of North American and Europe in 2014. If world football`s governing bodies can`t legitimize international club competition, Manchester United are the club for that.

29/10/2016 11:32

Malcolm Glazer: A Significant Achiever

When Malcolm Glazer of Rochester, New York state, USA, bought Manchester United in 2005, it made of the `red devils` at the `Theater Of Dreams`, Manchester`s Old Trafford stadium, `team United States` in England and Europe. Manchester United`s relations with the continent of America didn`t begin until after their European Cup win of 1968. The story is long and arduous. In the early years of the European Champions` Cup, the winner of the English league gained entry into the competition and, if they won, they`d be afforded the opportunity to play in the Intercontinental Cup against the Champions of South America, winners of the American continent`s equivalent of the European Cup, the Copa Libertadores, or `cup of freedom`, which the giant clubs of South America in Brazil and Argentina competed for against the other countries of the region before gearing up for the Intercontinental Cup Final contest with the Champions of Europe. The inaugural winners of the competition were Spain`s Real Madrid, 5-1, at their Estadio Santiago Bernabéu in Madrid against Uruguay`s Peñarol after a draw at the Uruguayans` Estadio Centenario, Montevideo, 0-0. An unsurprising result to the Europeans, because Real Madrid had won the inaugural European Champions` Cup competition in 1956 against France`s Stade De Reims, 4-3, and thereafter in 1957 versus Fiorentina of Italy, 2-0; 1958, versus A. C. Milan of Italy, 3-2; 1959 versus Stade De Reims, 2-0, and 1960 versus Germany`s Eintracht Frankfurt, 7-3. The heart of the team was comprised of foreign talent, for example, French playmaker Raymond Kopa, Uruguayan center back, José Santamaría, Argentine `keeper, Rogelio Domínguez, and striker, Ferenc Puskas of Hungary, whose national side had astonished the soccer world by beating England at home at Wembley for the first time ever, 3-5, in 1953. Although Manchester United perhaps could have beaten the Spanish giants in 1958, or afterwards, the Munich air disaster in which eight of the players, who had just qualified for the 1958 semi-final by drawing 3-3 in Belgrade against Red Star, died in the snow as the plane carrying the team back to Manchester crashed on the German runway during take off. Those who lost their lives would have been the heart of the England side that, along with United`s surviving left wing, Bobby Charlton, eventually won the World Cup at the national stadium, Wembley, London, in 1966, with goals from West Ham United forward, Geoff Hurst (3) and Hammers` left midfielder, Martin Peters, 4-2, against Germany.

 England, managed by former Ipswich boss, Alf Ramsey and captained by West Ham United`s center half, Bobby Moore, went behind in the 12th minute when left full back, Ray Wilson, misheaded to right winger, Helmut Haller, who scored, 1-0, despite center half, Leeds United`s Jack Charlton, and Leicester `keeper Gordon Banks` efforts to keep the ball out. In the 19th minute, central midfielder, Wolfgang Overath, conceded a free kick, which Moore took. He floated a cross into the German area, where Geoff Hurst rose unchallenged and levelled the scores with a downward glancing header. After half-time, Germany conceded a corner in the 77th minute. Everton`s right sided midfielder, Alan Ball, found West Ham`s center forward, Geoff Hurst, whose deflected shot from the edge of the area rebounded to the Hammer`s left midfielder, Martin Peters, who beat `keeper, Hans Tikowski, from eight yards, 2-1. In the 89th minute Jack Charlton conceded a free kick for climbing on German captain and center forward, Uwe Seeler, as they both went up for a header. The kick was taken by left wing, Lothar Emmerich, and the ball struck right full back, George Cohen, in the England wall. The rebound fell to striker, Siegfried Held, whose shot across the face of goal struck left back, Karl-Heinz Schnellinger. The ball deflected across England`s six-yard box, wrong-footing the defense, and center back, Wolfgang Weber, leveled the score, 2–2. In the 11th minute of extra time Alan Ball crossed for Geoff Hurst to swivel and shoot from close range. The ball hit the underside of the cross bar, bounced down, and was cleared. Tofiq Bahramov, the linesman from Azerbaijan, indicated that the ball had crossed the line when asked by Swiss referee, Gottfried Dienst, 3-2. With a minute left, Germany sent their defenders forward in a desperate attempt to score. England`s center half and captain, Bobby Moore, picked out the unmarked Geoff Hurst with a long pass, which Hurst swept forward before unleashed a blistering unstoppable shot, 4-2.

 Although England`s Manchester United contingent, half-back Nobby Stiles, and deep lying center forward, Bobby Charlton, celebrated, if it hadn`t been for the Munich air disaster, England might`ve won the World Cup earlier in 1958 or 1962. The players who died at Munich were England`s left back and captain, Roger Byrne, and his understudy, Geoff Bent; center half Mark Jones; midfielder Eddie Colman; the play anywhere genius, Duncan Edwards; center forward Tommy Taylor; left winger, David Pegg, and Irish forward, Liam Whelan. England`s right wing, Johnny Berry, and inside forward and sometimes center half, Danny Blanchflower, brother of Ireland`s Jackie, who`d win the English F.A. Cup and League Championship with Spurs in 1961, never played again because of their injuries. England`s story was similar to United`s, who went on to lose the semi-final of the European Cup in 1958 to Italy`s A.C. Milan, 0-4, at the San Siro stadium, after managing to win, 2-1, at their Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, with an 80th minute penalty from Ernie Taylor brought by manager, Matt Busby, from Aston Villa as a quick replacement for lost stars. Two years after England`s World Cup win, Manchester United won the European Cup against Portuguese club, Benfica, 4-1, after extra time when the game had ended 1-1. Bobby Charlton, now playing in a deep lying center forward role, as he had for England in the World Cup in 1966, had scored in the 53rd minute with a rare header, but that had been cancelled out by Benfica`s right half, Jamie Graça, in the 79th minute. A dribbler`s 92nd minute dream goal from Irish superstar, George Best, made it 2-1, and another from England`s 18 year old Brian Kidd in the 94th minute, whose header had been headed back to him by a Benfica defender, but he`d remained calm enough to head it again, and in over the Portuguese defense under the bar it went, 3-1, before a 99th minute lobbed volley from a narrow angle by Charlton secured the 1968 European Champions` Cup for an English team for the first time. In the Intercontinental Cup Final of 1968, which took place later that year, Manchester United lost to Estudiantes of Argentina, 0-1, away, and on aggregate overall, 2-1, after being only able to manage a draw at Old Trafford thanks to a late 90th minute goal from Scots` winger, Willie Morgan, bought that season to replace John Connelly, who`d arrived from Burnley himself. Morgan, who in 1974-75 would captain United out of the second tier of English soccer, whence they`d been relegated in 1973-74, had been seen at Turf Moor as a more than adequate replacement for England`s Connelly, where the team performed as well with Morgan, if not better, than it had with Connelly, who won the league title with Manchester United in 1966-67.

 Because Manchester United had to win the English title to enter the European Cup competition, the format was seen as winning the European Cup after winning the league, whereas the later application form that had to be completed was of a qualifying position in the English league to gain entrance to the European Cup competition and, by winning it, qualify to compete in the Intercontinental Cup Final against the winners of the South American Copa Libertadores. Consequently, the application form shifted the format from winning the English league to winning the Intercontinental Cup, which was the true importance attached to the winning of the European Cup, that is, the chance to win the Intercontinental Cup. That had always been seen as the goal by the South American teams because their format was international competition, so the Intercontinental Cup was the zenith, whereas the English teams were conditioned to believe it was a formal friendly without any competition merit. In short, English clubs were encouraged not to compete on the world`s stage, because the clubs would become bigger than the country. Although Manchester United had completed the given format of winning the English league and then the European Cup, the Intercontinental Cup Final against the champions of South America, Estudiantes, by virtue of that continent`s competing in the Copa Libertadores, wasn`t perceived by the English as a part of the format needing to be completed. The Intercontinental Cup was perceived by the English press, and indeed advertised so, as a matter of form, that is, it wasn`t a part of a competition format whereby the winners of the English league had, as their ultimate objective, being crowned as intercontinental champions. It wasn`t until the format of qualification for the European Cup changed from being winners of the league to winners and runners-up that the Intercontinental Cup loomed larger as a part of the format of a much greater soccer vision.

 Manchester United again won the European Cup in Spain at Barcelona`s Nou Camp stadium in 1999, with two very late goals from England`s Teddy Sheringham and Norway`s Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, 2-1, against Bayern Munich. The German team had led since the 6th minute through a low free kick from forward, Mario Basler, which was awarded after United center back, Ronny Johnsen, brought down Carsten Jancker. With his right foot Basler bent the ball around the United wall from just outside the penalty area, and into the net beyond Danish `keeper Peter Schmeichel. The Germans had led until United`s despair ended in a late attacking flourish of the never say die footballing style for which they are justifiably famed. United had a corner, and with little time left `keeper Schmeichel, who`d scored in similar circumstances, ventured up to Bayern's penalty area. Beckham flighted the corner in just over Schmeichel's head, and center forward, Dwight Yorke, 18 goals in the league that season, put the ball back towards the crowded area. Bayern substitute midfielder, Thorsten Fink, had been brought on by Bayern manager, Ottmar Hitzfeld, who`d receive much criticism for it, because Fink replaced sweeper Lothar Matthäus, 37 years of age, and Hitzfeld clearly felt he was a tired risk by the 80th minute, but Fink failed to clear a ball that probably wouldn`t ever have troubled Matthäus, and the ball arrived at the feet of Ryan Giggs, whose shot fortuitously found Sheringham, who latched onto it gleefully to swipe it into the bottom corner of the net with his right boot in the 91st minute. Neither Sheringham nor Solskjaer were chosen to start against Bayern, and as Sheringham was on for left winger, Jesper Blomqvist, in the 67th minute, Solskjaer, who`d scored 12 league goals that season, replaced center forward, Andy Cole (17), in the 81st minute almost immediately after Lothar Matthäus left the fray.

 Sheringham had scored only twice in the league in 1998-99, but had redeemed himself by scoring with a low drive under Newcastle `keeper, Steve Harper, after a through ball from Scholes, in the F.A. Cup Final, which United won, 2-0, and so Sheringham had been picked to be amongst the substitutes. Within 30 seconds of the restart after Sheringham`s substitute`s strike, another Beckham corner found his head, and he nodded the ball down across the face of goal to where Solskjær, reacting quickly, stuck out his boot and poked the ball into the roof of the Bayern net in the 93rd minute. Matthäus` departure had ultimately sunk Bayern, and Hitzfelt was blamed, but United`s never say die attitude had won through for them again and the European Cup was theirs for only the second time in the club`s history since Benfica were beaten, 4-1, at London`s Wembley stadium in 1968. Despite winning the 1999 European Cup, the team had qualified for the competition without winning the league, and so the 1999 Intercontinental Cup Final against Palmeiras of Brazil, which United won, 1-0, on neutral ground at the National Stadium, Tokyo, with a goal from Irish midfield dynamo and captain, Roy Keane, who appeared at the far post to steer in a left wing cross from Welsh winger, Ryan Giggs in the 35th minute, loomed on the club`s horizon as a part of the format of the competition that had been taken on by the club in competing for the European Cup.

 In the United States of America; for example, in Major League Soccer (MLS), where United`s pioneering Irish wing legend, George Best, saw out much of his playing career after leaving United in their relegation season, 1973-74, saying he wouldn`t play in any division other than England`s premier, growth is perceived as intrinsically linked to relocation. In 2006 the Earthquakes moved to Houston, Texas, to become the Houston Dynamo, because of greater financial opportunities. Although the USA is a single nation, and the Houston Dynamo still played in the Western Conference, despite being a state other than California, where the Earthquakes originally hailed from, relocating to Texas seemed necessary to growth. Best played for California`s San Jose Earthquakes in 1979-80, and was second highest goalscorer with 8 after Steve David`s 14. In 1980-1 George was the top scorer with 13 for the Earthquakes, who finished a creditable fourth in the Western Conference of the North American Soccer League in each of those successive seasons he played there. By 1982-83 the US` experiment with soccer had produced the Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL), but although George scored 32 goals overall during his MISL career with the Earthquakes, their highest place in the Western Conference was third during his sojourning there. Best was followed to the US by, amongst others, Manchester United and England captain, right winger, David Beckham who, like many United players of the past, had also agreed to relocate and help the growth of the MLS when, after winning the European Cup with Manchester United in 1999, he went on to win the Spanish title in 2006-07 with Real Madrid, and then the MLS Cup with California`s Western Conference team, the Los Angeles Galaxy, in consecutive seasons; 2011 and 2012. As a consequence, the North American and Europe Intercontinental Champions Cup was to become a significant prize in world football terms.

  Manchester United won the European Cup again in 2008 at the Luzhniki stadium, Moscow, against English rivals, Chelsea, on penalties, 6-5, after extra time, when the final score had been 1-1 in normal time through a 26th minute headed goal from Manchester United`s Portuguese right winger, Cristiano Ronaldo, from a right wing cross from right full back Wes Brown`s left foot, which was equalized by a typical surging 45th minute midfield run and strike from Chelsea`s Frank Lampard. After their success in the European Cup the club were invited to take part in the World Club Championship. In the 28th minute of the semi-final victory against Japanese side, Gamba Osaka, United`s Serbian central defender, Nemanja Vidić, from a Ryan Giggs’ corner, out-jumped Gamba captain, Satoshi Yamaguchi, to power home a header past `keeper, Yosuke Fujigaya, from 12 yards, 1-0. Portuguese right winger, Cristiano Ronaldo, put United 2-0 up in first-half injury time. Again the ball came from a Giggs` corner, and again the Japanese struggled to cope with the aerial threat. Myojin was out-jumped as Ronaldo directed a powerful header past `keeper, Fujigay. United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, didn`t bring on his star striker, England`s Wayne Rooney, until the 74th minute, but Gamba Osaka immediately pulled the score back to 2-1, courtesy of striker, Masato Yamakazi, with a shot from the right well outside the penalty area. A minute later, however, Rooney finished well, after a long ball from Scots` central midfielder, Darren Fletcher, split open the Japanese defence, 3-1. Fletcher then headed in French left back Patrice Evra`s cross, 4-1. In the 78th minute, and after linking up well with left-winger, Giggs, Rooney made it 5-1 a minute later. United conceded a penalty, 2-5, when United`s England right back, Gary Neville, was adjudged to have handled a cross from the left wing, and in the 85th minute Yasuhito Endō calmly scored from the spot, 2-5. Hideo Hashimoto scored in second half injury time in a way almost identical to Yamakazi`s first half effort, 1-2. From the right and well outside the penalty area, Hashimoto struck the ball past Dutch `keeper, Edwin Van Der Sar, 3-5, but United were through to the World Club Cup Final against LDU Quito of Ecuador.

 In the Final in the International Stadium Yokohama, Japan, a single goal against the winners of the Copa Libertadores, South America`s Champions of Ecuador, LDU Quito, scored by England`s center forward, Wayne Rooney, won the game for Manchester United, 1-0. Remaining where he was at the left corner of the LDU Quito area, Wayne played the ball back to left sided Brazilian midfielder, Anderson. He then waited while Anderson played the ball into the path of England right central midfielder, Michael Carrick, in front of the LDU Quito area. Carrick pushed the ball forward to Manchester United right winger, Cristiano Ronaldo, inside the LDU Quito area with two players in attendance. With his back to the goal, Cristiano Ronaldo turned to his right and slipped the ball to Wayne, who was still waiting at the left edge of the LDU Quito area where he`d begun the play. Rooney drove a shot low and right footed into the right corner of the LDU Quito net. Rooney had been lurking on the edge of the Ecuadorians` area after Serbian center back, Nemanja Vidić, had been sent off in the 49th, so causing the Manchester United front players to look for maximum impact, rather than mobility, which those behind them needed to employ to cover for their absent defensive colleague. Rooney`s 73rd minute goal had given the tiring defense a cushion useful enough to frustrate the South Americans and give the English team the World Club Championship.

 Although the club qualified for the European Cup in 2008 as winners of the English league title and were champions again in 2007-08 after which the World Club Championship was played between Manchester United as European Cup winners against Chelsea, 6-5 on penalties after a 1-1 draw, the format had at last been recognized. It wasn`t that the aim was to win the English league in order to win the European Cup, it was to win the World Club Cup by qualifying for the Final by winning the European Cup. Although United qualified for the European Cup by winning the English league, and then winning the European Cup to give them a chance of winning the World Club Cup, it wasn`t necessary to win the English league to qualify for the European Cup, because the aim was to succeed in the new format in which the winners of the European Cup qualified for the World Club Cup Finals, which were the goal of the biggest clubs that had been unrecognized as South America`s, where the approach to soccer as an international league differs profoundly from England`s parachial approach to club football. The United States provides a model of how England`s Football Association could mature, whereas it restricts clubs from becoming financially more successful in global terms; for example, by devaluing the Intercontinental Cup, clubs are kept from moving away from Europe in order to be more successful. Ignoring prejudice against spreading their wings to become a greater world force, and although Malcolm Glazer sadly passed away in May, 2014, Manchester United won the 2014 North America and Europe International Champions` Cup in the Sun Life Stadium, Miami, although Liverpool were 1-0 after an early 14th minute penalty from Liverpool`s captain, Steven Gerard, which was awarded for a trip on Raheem Sterling by United defender, Phil  Jones. After an equalizing goal from England`s center forward, Wayne Rooney, meeting Mexican striker Javier Hernandez’s arrowing cross in the 55th minute with a neat left-foot volley, two minutes later came a goal from Spain`s inside right, Juan Mata, whose shot was deflected off Mamadou Sakho in the 57th minute, 2-1. A third followed in the 88th minute from England left winger, Jessie Lingard, who`d come on as a substitute after the second United goal. Controlling a cross from England`s Ashley Young, who`d begun on the left, but had moved over to the right wing after injury to Antonio Valenica. Lingard half-volleyed low from the edge of the box beyond Liverpool `keeper, Mignolet. Although United celebrated with the trophy, it was a further instance of an international competition that didn`t receive national recognition at home in England, but Manchester United had transcended parochialism at home to be European Champions (1968, 1999, 2008); champions of South America and Europe (1999), champions of North America and Europe (2014), and World Club champions (2008): a significant achievement.

02/10/2016 23:54

United Abolished?

Manchester United were the winners of the European Cup Winners` Cup in 1991 after winning the F.A. Cup at England`s national Wembley stadium, London, in the second attempt after the Final ended in a 3-3 draw with Crystal Palace and a replay was required. Then left back, Lee Martin, ran the length of the pitch on a speculative run that led to his being sought out by a long ball from England midfielder, Neil Webb, which fell into Lee Martin`s stride in the 59th minute and he crashed the ball delightedly into the roof of the net, 1-0. Scot Alex Ferguson`s team had benefited from the return of Mark Hughes from Spanish giant, F. C. Barcelona, where he`d been transferred by former Manchester United manager, Ron Atkinson, for £2 million before the start of the 1986-87 season; despite being United top scorer for the previous two seasons with 16 goals in 1984-85 and 17 in 1985-86. Atkinson was sacked largely because of his inscrutable transferring of Hughes, and Aberdeen manager, Alex Ferguson, arrived after winning the European Cup Winners` Cup with Aberdeen in 1983 against Real Madrid, 2-1, to pay Barcelona £1. 8 million to restore Hughes to the team for the 1988-89 season in which he scored 14 goals and never dipped below double figures for a season until his last with United, 1994-95, when he scored 8 goals as the club finished second in the league to new monied Blackburn Rovers and lost the F.A. Cup Final, 0-1, to Everton.

 In the 1990 F.A. Cup Final Crystal Palace had taken the lead in the 18th minute at a free kick when center back, Gary O` Reilly, headed home. United equalized in the 35th minute after Brian McClair ran down the right wing and sent over a cross to the far post where England captain, Bryan Robson, headed on and into the net. Hughes had given United a 2-1 lead in the 62nd minute forcing home a cross-shot from England right midfielder, Neil Webb, before a mazy run past two United defenders resulted in a successful strike on goal from Palace substitute forward, Ian Wright, who`d come on in the 69th minute, and scored in the 72nd minute of normal time. There followed another strike from Wright who volleyed home a floated cross to the back post by right winger, John Salako, in the 92nd minute of extra time. At 3-2 to Palace Mark Hughes then scored again in the 113th minute after he chased a through ball from United winger, Danny Wallace, and slotted it home past Palace `keeper, Nigel Martyn, which set the stage for Lee Martin`s dramatic 59th minute winner in the replay, 1-0, and United had qualified for the 1991 European Cup Winners` Cup competition that Alex Ferguson had won with Aberdeen in 1983.

 Manchester United`s route to the Final in the Netherlands` Fejenoord Stadion, Rotterdam, against F. C. Barcelona, Welshman Mark Hughes` former club, passed without a hitch in the first and second rounds, with a 3-0 aggregate win against Pécs of Hungary and a 5-0 aggregate win against Wrexham of Wales. France`s Montpellier proved more difficult, and United had to overcome the disappointment of a Brian McClair 1st minute strike cancelled out by a Lee Martin own goal in the 8th minute to give the French a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford.  Following a run down the left wing by Lee Sharpe who, at the goal line, cut the ball back into the penalty area, center forward, McClair, slid in to finish the move with a right foot shot to the left of the French `keeper. Then followed the bizarre own goal by Lee Martin in the 8th minute, who with his right boot side footed a low cross from Polish left wing, Jacek Ziober, into the United net past amazed `keeper, Les Sealey. United then had to win away, which they did, 2-0, after a goal on half-time from emergency left back replacement, midfielder Clayton Blackmore, whose right footed long range kick was inexplicably pushed into his own net as it bounced in front of the Montpellier `keeper, Barrabé, and soon after that a 48th minute Steve Bruce penalty put the contest beyond the French, when Blackmore collapsed some distance outside the penalty area clutching his chin, after a tackle by a defender out near the right edge of the `keeper`s area. Legia Warsaw of Poland proved equally difficult at Old Trafford, 1-1. Despite a spectacular opening goal from left winger, Lee Sharpe, who crashed a shot from the corner of the goal area into the top left corner of the `keeper`s net in the 28th minute, in the 57th minute a long ball from inside his own half was chested down by Kowalczyk with United center back, Gary Pallister, only able to keep pace with him as he ran at goal and put the ball through `keeper Les Sealey`s legs as he came out of his penalty area to close the Polish striker down, but the team had already proved hardier than their Polish opponents with a 3-1 win in Warsaw.

 The Polish team had taken the lead through Cyzio who, receiving a pass from wide on the right in the 37th minute, took it on towards the United goal where, keeping the ball on his right side during his run, he drove a right footed shot low and to the right of United`s `keeper, Les Sealey, and into the net. United equalized almost immediately in the 38th minute when left back, Lee Martin, crossed into the penalty area to where `keeper, Robakiewicz, seemed to have the ball in his grasp close to the turf, but he failed to make it safe, and the ball bobbled out to where Bryan Robson aimed to strike it at goal. Brian McClair, standing almost on the goal line, forced it in. A second came in the 54th minute when Mark Hughes, cutting in from the right made a feint as if to strike the ball at goal, and then took it further before unleashing a right foot shot that hit the inside of the left post low down and bounced off and into the net. United made it 3-1 in the 67th minute after a right footed chip from Hughes on the right was headed inside the penalty area by McClair and the ball fell in front of center half, Steve Bruce, who carefully made sure that the ball traveled safely into the goal off his right boot. In the Final Hughes scored in the 67th minute after a Bryan Robson free kick was headed into the goal by center back Steve Bruce although Hughes was adjudged to have been the player to score after forcing it into the net to make sure it crossed the line. Hughes scored again from an acute angle on 74th minutes before Barca`s defensive Netherlands` midfielder, Ronald Koeman, struck with a free kick in the 79th minute to give United a nervous last 10 minutes before celebrating. The Cup Winners` Cup was competed for on only a further three occasions before Manchester United`s success in winning it was abolished along with the trophy itself in 1999 by UEFA.

 That year a similar fate overtook the Intercontinental Cup, which Manchester United finally won at the second attempt. In United`s first attempt after qualifying by winning the 1968 European Cup, 4-1, against Portugal`s Benfica, the Argentine team Estudiantes, `the students`, who`d qualified for the Final of the Intercontinental Cup by winning the Championship of South America, the Copa Libertadores, or `cup of freedom`, beat United in the away leg in Buenos Aires, 1-0, with a 27th minute headed goal from Marcus Conigliaro after a corner sent over by his striking partner, Filipe Ribaudo. The Argentinians drew 1-1 at Old Trafford, Manchester, after right winger, Juan Ramón Verón, La Bruja, `the witch`, had tormented United by scoring the opening headed goal at Old Trafford in the 6th minute after a free-kick from defender, Raúl Madero, which had left United too much to do, 0-1, and despite a late 90th minute strike from Scots` right winger, Willie Morgan, Estudiantes took the trophy, 2-1, on aggregate. In 1999 the story was different. United qualified as winners of the European Cup, 2-1, after two very late strikes by Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer against Bayern Munich at Spain`s Barcelona Nou Camp stadium. The German team had led since the 6th minute through a low free kick from forward, Mario Basler, which was awarded after United center back, Ronny Johnsen, brought down Carsten Jancker. With his right foot Basler bent the ball around the United wall from just outside the penalty area, and into the net beyond Danish `keeper Peter Schmeichel. United`s despair ended in a late attacking flourish of the never say die footballing style for which they are justifiably famed. United had a corner, and with little time left `keeper Schmeichel, who`d scored in similar circumstances, ventured up to Bayern's penalty area. Beckham flighted the corner in just over Schmeichel's head, and center forward, Dwight Yorke, 18 goals in the league that season, put the ball back towards the crowded area. Bayern substitute midfielder, Thorsten Fink, had been brought on by Bayern manager, Ottmar Hitzfeld, who`d receive much criticism for it, because Fink replaced sweeper Lothar Matthäus, 37 years of age, and Hitzfeld clearly felt he was a tired risk by the 80th minute, but Fink failed to clear a ball that probably wouldn`t ever have troubled Matthäus, and the ball arrived at the feet of Ryan Giggs, whose shot fortuitously found Sheringham, who latched onto it gleefully to swipe it into the bottom corner of the net with his right boot in the 91st minute. Neither Sheringham nor Solskjaer were chosen to start against Bayern, and as Sheringham was on for left winger, Jesper Blomqvist, in the 67th minute, Solskjaer, who`d scored 12 league goals that season, replaced center forward, Andy Cole (17), in the 81st minute almost immediately after Lothar Matthäus left the fray.

 Sheringham had scored only twice in the league, but had redeemed himself by scoring with a low drive under Newcastle `keeper Steve Harper after a through ball from Scholes, in the F.A. Cup Final, which United won, 2-0, and so Sheringham had been picked to be amongst the substitutes. Within 30 seconds of the restart after Sheringham`s substitute`s strike, another Beckham corner found the head of Sheringham, who nodded the ball down across the face of goal to where Solskjær, reacting quickly, stuck out his boot and poked the ball into the roof of the Bayern net in the 93rd minute. Matthäus` departure had ultimately sunk Bayern, and Hitzfelt was blamed, but United`s never say die attitude had won through for them again and the European Cup was theirs for only the second time in the club`s history since Benfica were beaten, 4-1, at London`s Wembley stadium in 1968.  United lost the subsequent Intercontinental Cup Final, 1-2, to Estudiantes of Argentina that year, but in 1999 the club faced Brazil`s Palmeiras and won, 1-0, with a goal from indefatigable midfield creator-destroyer Roy Keane, who forced the ball in at the far post from a left wing cross by Welsh winger, Ryan Giggs, in the 35th minute. FIFA almost immediately abolished the competition, so abolishing United`s victory, by inaugurating the World Club Cup, in which the club were invited to compete in 2000.

 Although the World Club Cup was competed for in 2000 and won by Corinthians of Brazil against Brazil`s Vasco De Gama on penalties, 4-3, after a 0-0 draw and extra time, it wasn`t competed for again until 2005, and so the Intercontinental Cup was allowed to continue until 2005. After 2005 the Intercontinental Cup was abolished, so abolishing United`s achievement in winning the trophy in 1999. Declaring Brazil`s Corinthians World Club Cup winners in 2000, FIFA effectively then abolished the World Club Cup until 2005, so leaving Brazil`s Corinthians undisputed champions of the world after Manchester United had become Champions of South America and Europe by winning the 1999 Intercontinental Cup Final, 1-0, against Brazil`s Palmeiras to become `unofficial` World Club champions. United`s victory so upset the prestige of Spanish colonial soccer in South America that FIFA had to abolish the Intercontinental Cup and make Brazil`s Corinthians indisputable World Club champions by abolishing the World Club Cup after Brazil`s Corinthians won it in 2000. Or, in other words, having established the World Club Cup, FIFA endeavored to allow Brazil`s Corinthians to remain unopposed forever after they`d won it, lest Manchester United, `unofficial` World Club champions of 1999, became able to try to wrest it away from the South Americans.

 When Manchester United qualified for the 2008 World Club Cup semi-final against Japanese team, Gamba Osaka, and won 5-3, it was through beating English side, Chelsea in the European Cup Final at the Luzhniki stadium, Moscow, 6-5 on penalties after a 26th minute headed goal by United`s Portuguese right winger, Cristiano Ronaldo, from a left footed cross out on the right wing by right back, Wes Brown, was cancelled out in the 45th minute by a strike from Chelsea`s Frank Lampard after a trademark surging run from midfield. In the 28th minute, Serbian central defender, Nemanja Vidić, from Ryan Giggs’ corner out-jumped Gamba captain, Satoshi Yamaguchi, to power home a header past `keeper, Yosuke Fujigaya, from 12 yards, 1-0. Portuguese right winger, Cristiano Ronaldo, put United 2-0 up in first-half injury time. Again the ball came from a Giggs` corner, and again the Japanese struggled to cope with the aerial threat. Myojin was out-jumped as Ronaldo directed a powerful header past `keeper, Fujigay. United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, didn`t bring on his star striker, England`s Wayne Rooney, until the 74th minute, but Gamba Osaka immediately pulled the score back to 2-1, courtesy of striker, Masato Yamakazi, with a shot from the right well outside the penalty area. A minute later, however, Rooney finished well, after a long ball from Scots` central midfielder, Darren Fletcher, split open the Japanese defence, 3-1. Fletcher then headed in French left back Patrice Evra`s cross, 4-1. In the 78th minute, and after linking up well with left-winger, Giggs, Rooney made it 5-1 a minute later. United conceded a penalty, 2-5, when United`s England right back, Gary Neville, was adjudged to have handled a cross from the left wing, and in the 85th minute Yasuhito Endō calmly scored from the spot, 2-5. Hideo Hashimoto scored in second half injury time in a way almost identical to Yamakazi`s first half effort, 1-2. From the right and well outside the penalty area, Hashimoto struck the ball past Dutch `keeper, Edwin Van er Sar, 3-5, but United were through to the World Club Cup Final against LDU Quito of Peru.

 In the Final at the International Stadium Yokohama, Nemanja Vidić was sent off in the 49th minute, and England`s center forward Wayne Rooney was, like the other remaining ten United players, conserving his energies to cover the ground of a teammate lost. That was the solution. Remaining where he was at the left corner of the LDU Quito area, Wayne played the ball back to left sided Brazilian midfielder, Anderson. He then waited while Anderson played the ball into the path of England right central midfielder, Michael Carrick, in front of the LDU Quito area. Carrick pushed the ball forward to Manchester United right winger, Cristiano Ronaldo, inside the LDU Quito area with two players in attendance. With his back to the goal, Cristiano Ronaldo turned to his right and slipped the ball to Wayne, who was still waiting at the left edge of the LDU Quito area where he`d begun the play. Rooney drove a shot low and right footed into the right corner of the LDU Quito net. To lurk on the edge of the box and wait for his 73rd minute opportunity to score was Rooney`s clever energy conserving strategy, and it gave the team the cushion it needed to withstand later LDU Quito pressure to win the World Club Cup for Manchester United, although the club had lost two trophies, the European Cup Winners Cup and the Intercontinental Cup, to those aborters.

02/10/2016 21:08

Learning Spanish At Manchester United

Because Real Madrid won the inaugural European Cup in 1956, and consecutively thereafter in 1957, 1958, 1959, and 1960, English clubs believed that the wresting of the European Cup from the Spanish giant was the aim of their soccer campaigning. When the Manchester United squad`s plane, which was returning from qualifying for the European Cup semi-final after a 3-3 draw against Red Star in Belgrade, crashed in the snow at Munich airport, it cost the lives of England`s left back and captain, Roger Byrne, and his understudy, Geoff Bent; center half Mark Jones; midfielder Eddie Colman; skillful goalscorer, or obdurate defender, and midfield play maker, Duncan Edwards; center forward Tommy Taylor; left winger, David Pegg, and Irish forward, Liam Whelan. England`s right wing, Johnny Berry, and inside forward, or center half, Danny Blanchflower, brother of Ireland`s Jackie, who`d win the English F.A. Cup and League Championship with Spurs in 1961, never played again because of their injuries. Although a patched up team and a penalty from Ernie Taylor bought from Aston Villa to replace the irreplaceable by manager, Matt Busby, brought a 2-1 home victory against A. C. Milan of Italy at the Old Trafford stadium, Manchester United lost, 0-4, at the San Siro stadium in Milan. The club would have to wait until 1968 before making the Final against Portugal`s Benfica. Munich survivor, Bobby Charlton, the former left winger, who by then was playing in the deep lying center forward role he`d made great when England won the World Cup in 1966 against Germany, 4-2, at Wembley, London, scored from a rare 53rd minute header, which was cancelled out in the 79th minute by Benfica`s right midfielder, Jamie Graça. Again the scene was set at the national Wembley stadium for an English team`s triumph, 4-1, with extra time goals in the 92nd minute from mercurial Irish wing genius, George Best, another headed goal in the 94th minute from 18 year old Brian Kidd, who was in the side for the injured goal `king` of Old Trafford, Denis Law, and a 9th minute lobbed volley from Charlton that went over the `keeper to wrest the trophy from the Europeans and into English hands for the first time when captain, Charlton, raised it aloft in London.

 Although it wasn`t evident to everyone, United`s rivalry with the Spanish giant, Real Madrid, had strong historical antecedents. It was the Spanish and Portuguese conquistadores that had colonized much of the world for Spain in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, and had made South America a bastion of Spain`s Imperialism.  The soccer champions of South America`s individual nations competed for the Copa Libertadores, and the winners competed for the Intercontinental Cup with the winners of the European Cup, that is, the Spanish and Portuguese teams in Europe had to be beaten before the English teams could beat South America`s colonial Spanish teams, which Manchester United finally had the opportunity to do in 1968. The Argentine winners of the `cup of freedom`, the Copa Libertadores, were Estudiantes, `the students`, who played against Manchester United in the Intercontinental Cup Final, and won, 2-1, after a 1-0 home win in Buenos Aires, and a 1-1 away draw at Old Trafford, Manchester, reasserting Spanish colonial soccer`s preeminence. Marcus Conigliaro had scored the only goal of the Buenos Aires away leg with a header in the 27th minute from a corner by his striking partner, Filipe Ribaudo and right winger, Juan Ramón Verón, La Bruja, `the witch`, had tormented United by scoring the opening headed goal at Old Trafford in the 6th minute after a free-kick from defender, Raúl Madero, which had left United too much to do, 0-1. It wasn`t until very late goals from Teddy Sheringham in the 91st and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in the 93rd minute beat Bayern Munich at Spain`s Barcelona Nou Camp stadium, 2-1, that United won the European Cup again in 1999. The German team had led since the 6th minute through a low free kick from forward, Mario Basler, which was awarded after United center back, Ronny Johnsen, brought down Carsten Jancker. With his right foot Basler bent the ball around the United wall from just outside the penalty area, and into the net beyond Danish `keeper Peter Schmeichel. United`s despair ended in a late attacking flourish of the never say die footballing style for which they are justifiably famed. United had a corner, and with little time left `keeper Schmeichel, who`d scored in similar circumstances, ventured up to Bayern's penalty area. Beckham flighted the corner in just over Schmeichel's head, and center forward, Dwight Yorke, 18 goals in the league that season, put the ball back towards the crowded area. Bayern substitute midfielder, Thorsten Fink, had been brought on by Bayern manager, Ottmar Hitzfeld, who`d receive much criticism for it, because Fink replaced sweeper Lothar Matthäus, 37 years of age, and Hitzfeld clearly felt he was a tired risk by the 80th minute, but Fink failed to clear a ball that probably wouldn`t ever have troubled Matthäus, and the ball arrived at the feet of Ryan Giggs, whose shot fortuitously found Sheringham, who latched onto it gleefully to swipe it into the bottom corner of the net with his right boot. Neither Sheringham nor Solskjaer were chosen to start against Bayern, and as Sheringham was on for left winger, Jesper Blomqvist, in the 67th minute, Solskjaer, who`d scored 12 league goals that season, replaced center forward, Andy Cole (17), in the 81st minute almost immediately after Lothar Matthäus left the fray.

 Sheringham had scored only twice in the league, but had redeemed himself by scoring with a low drive under Newcastle `keeper Steve Harper after a through ball from Scholes, in the F.A. Cup Final, which United won, 2-0, and so Sheringham had been picked to be amongst the substitutes. Within 30 seconds of the restart after Sheringham`s substitute`s strike, another Beckham corner found the head of Sheringham, who nodded the ball down across the face of goal to where Solskjær, reacting quickly, stuck out his boot and poked the ball into the roof of the Bayern net. Matthäus` departure had ultimately sunk Bayern, and Hitzfelt was blamed, but United`s never say die attitude had won through for them again and the European Cup was theirs for only the second time in the club`s history since Benfica were beaten, 4-1, at London`s Wembley stadium in 1968.  That qualified them to play against the Brazilian winners of the Copa Libertadores in the Intercontinental Cup Final, Palmeiras, which they won on neutral ground at the National Stadium, Tokyo, 1-0, after a Ryan Giggs left wing cross found captain, Roy Keane, running inexhaustibly in from his creator-destroyer midfield role to be at the far post in the 35th minute and steer the ball into the net for Manchester United to beat the Spanish in South America and become champions.

  When Manchester United beat London side, Chelsea, in the Final of the European Cup at Moscow`s Luzhniki stadium in 2008, 6-5, on penalties after a 1-1 draw when a headed goal in the 26th minute from Portuguese right winger, Cristiano Ronaldo, from a left footed cross out on the right wing by Manchester United`s versatile center half playing right back on the night, Wes Brown, had been equalized in the 45th minute after a surging run and shoot from Chelsea midfielder, Frank Lampard, the club qualified for the semi-final of the World Club Cup, which had replaced the Intercontinental Cup Final between the champions of South American and Europe with a competition that included the winners of the Copa Libertadores amongst others of the world`s local best. In the 28th minute of the semi-final against Japan`s Gamba Osaka, United`s Serbian central defender, Nemanja Vidić, from a Ryan Giggs’ corner, out-jumped Gamba captain, Satoshi Yamaguchi, to power home a header past `keeper, Yosuke Fujigaya, from 12 yards, 1-0. Portuguese right winger, Cristiano Ronaldo, put United 2-0 up in first-half injury time. Again the ball came from a Giggs` corner, and again the Japanese struggled to cope with the aerial threat. Myojin was out-jumped as Ronaldo directed a powerful header past `keeper, Fujigay. United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, didn`t bring on his star striker, England`s Wayne Rooney, until the 74th minute, but Gamba Osaka immediately pulled the score back to 2-1, courtesy of striker, Masato Yamakazi, with a shot from the right well outside the penalty area. A minute later, however, Rooney finished well, after a long ball from Scots` central midfielder, Darren Fletcher, split open the Japanese defence, 3-1. Fletcher then headed in French left back Patrice Evra`s cross, 4-1. In the 78th minute, and after linking up well with left-winger, Giggs, Rooney made it 5-1 a minute later. United conceded a penalty, 2-5, when United`s England right back, Gary Neville, was adjudged to have handled a cross from the left wing, and in the 85th minute Yasuhito Endō calmly scored from the spot, 2-5. Hideo Hashimoto scored in second half injury time in a way almost identical to Yamakazi`s first half effort, 1-2. From the right and well outside the penalty area, Hashimoto struck the ball past Dutch `keeper, Edwin Van er Sar, 3-5, but United were through to the World Club Cup Final against LDU Quito of Ecuador.

 In the Final at the International Stadium Yokohama, Manchester United won, 1-0, even despite the sending off of Nemanja Vidić in the 49th minute, thanks to the clever strategic play of England center forward, Wayne Rooney who, along with the other remaining ten United players conserving their energies to cover the ground of a teammate lost, had rather waited on the edge of the box for an opportunity to come his way. At the left corner of the LDU Quito area, Wayne played the ball back to left sided Brazilian midfielder, Anderson. He then waited while Anderson played the ball into the path of England right central midfielder, Michael Carrick, in front of the LDU Quito area. Carrick pushed the ball forward to Manchester United right winger, Cristiano Ronaldo, inside the LDU Quito area with two players in attendance. With his back to the goal, Cristiano Ronaldo turned to his right and slipped the ball to Wayne, who was still waiting at the left edge of the LDU Quito area where he`d begun the play. Rooney drove a shot low and right footed into the right corner of the LDU Quito net. The goal in the 73rd minute gave the team the cushion it needed to withstand later LDU Quito pressure and win the World Club Cup for Manchester United, which gave the final lie to Spanish colonial soccer`s superiority.

02/10/2016 17:13

Seba Brujita

In the early years of the European Champions` Cup, the winner of the English league gained entry into the competition and, if they won, they`d be afforded the opportunity to play in the Intercontinental Cup against the Champions of South America, winners of the American continent`s equivalent of the European Cup, the Copa Libertadores, or `cup of freedom`, which the giant clubs of South America in Brazil and Argentina competed for against the other countries of the region before gearing up for the Intercontinental Cup Final contest with the Champions of Europe. The inaugural winners of the competition were Spain`s Real Madrid, 5-1, at their Estadio Santiago Bernabéu in Madrid against Uruguay`s Peñarol after a draw at the Uruguayans` Estadio Centenario, Montevideo, 0-0. An unsurprising result to the Europeans, because Real Madrid had won the inaugural European Champions` Cup competition in 1956, and thereafter in 1957, 1958, 1959, and 1960. Although Manchester United perhaps could have beaten the Spanish giants in 1958, or afterwards, the Munich air disaster in which several of the players, who had just qualified for the 1958 semi-final by drawing 3-3 in Belgrade against Red Star, died in the snow as the plane carrying the team back to Manchester crashed on the German runway during take off. Those who lost their lives would have been the heart of the England side that, along with United`s surviving left wing, Bobby Charlton, eventually won the World Cup at the national stadium, Wembley, London, in 1966, with four goals from West Ham United forwards, Geoff Hurst (3) and Martin Peters, 4-2, against Germany.

 The players who died at Munich were England`s left back and captain, Roger Byrne, and his understudy, Geoff Bent; center half Mark Jones; midfielder Eddie Colman; the play anywhere genius, Duncan Edwards; center forward Tommy Taylor; left winger, David Pegg, and Irish forward, Liam Whelan. England`s right wing, Johnny Berry, and inside forward and sometimes center half, Danny Blanchflower, brother of Ireland`s Jackie, who`d win the English F.A. Cup and League Championship with Spurs in 1961, never played again because of their injuries. England`s story was similar to United`s, who went on to lose the semi-final of the European Cup in 1958 to Italy`s A.C. Milan, 0-4, at the San Siro stadium, after managing to win, 2-1, at their Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, with an 80th minute penalty from Ernie Taylor brought by manager, Matt Busby, from Aston Villa as a quick replacement for lost stars. Two years after England`s World Cup win, Manchester United won the European Cup against Portuguese club, Benfica, 4-1, after extra time when the game had ended 1-1. Bobby Charlton, now playing in a deep lying center forward role, as he had for England in the World Cup in 1966, had scored in the 53rd minute with a rare header, but that had been cancelled out by Benfica`s right half, Jamie Graça, in the 79th minute. A dribbler`s 92nd minute dream goal from Irish superstar, George Best, made it 2-1, and another from England`s 18 year old Brian Kidd in the 94th minute, whose header had been headed back to him by a Benfica defender, but he`d remained calm enough to head it again, and in over the Portuguese defense under the bar it went, 3-1, before a 99th minute lobbed volley from a narrow angle by Charlton secured the 1968 European Champions` Cup for an English team for the first time.

 Although Manchester United had completed the given format of winning the English league and then the European Cup, the Intercontinental Cup Final against the champions of South America by virtue of that continent`s competing in the Copa Libertadores wasn`t perceived by the English as a part of the format needing to be completed. The Intercontinental Cup was perceived by the English press, and indeed advertised so, as a matter of form, that is, it wasn`t a part of a competition format whereby the winners of the English league had, as their ultimate objective, being crowned as intercontinental champions. It wasn`t until the format of qualification for the European Cup changed from being winners of the league to winners and runners-up that the Intercontinental Cup loomed larger as a part of the format of a much greater soccer vision. Manchester United again won the European Cup in Spain at Barcelona`s Nou Camp stadium in 1999, with two very late goals from England`s Teddy Sheringham and Norway`s Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, 2-1, against Bayern Munich. The German team had led since the 6th minute through a low free kick from forward, Mario Basler, which was awarded after United center back, Ronny Johnsen, brought down Carsten Jancker. With his right foot Basler bent the ball around the United wall from just outside the penalty area, and into the net beyond Danish `keeper Peter Schmeichel. The Germans had led until United`s despair ended in a late attacking flourish of the never say die footballing style for which they are justifiably famed. United had a corner, and with little time left `keeper Schmeichel, who`d scored in similar circumstances, ventured up to Bayern's penalty area. Beckham flighted the corner in just over Schmeichel's head, and center forward, Dwight Yorke, 18 goals in the league that season, put the ball back towards the crowded area. Bayern substitute midfielder, Thorsten Fink, had been brought on by Bayern manager, Ottmar Hitzfeld, who`d receive much criticism for it, because Fink replaced sweeper Lothar Matthäus, 37 years of age, and Hitzfeld clearly felt he was a tired risk by the 80th minute, but Fink failed to clear a ball that probably wouldn`t ever have troubled Matthäus, and the ball arrived at the feet of Ryan Giggs, whose shot fortuitously found Sheringham, who latched onto it gleefully to swipe it into the bottom corner of the net with his right boot in the 91st minute. Neither Sheringham nor Solskjaer were chosen to start against Bayern, and as Sheringham was on for left winger, Jesper Blomqvist, in the 67th minute, Solskjaer, who`d scored 12 league goals that season, replaced center forward, Andy Cole (17), in the 81st minute almost immediately after Lothar Matthäus left the fray.


 Sheringham had scored only twice in the league, but had redeemed himself by scoring with a low drive under Newcastle `keeper Steve Harper after a through ball from Scholes, in the F.A. Cup Final, which United won, 2-0, and so Sheringham had been picked to be amongst the substitutes. Within 30 seconds of the restart after Sheringham`s substitute`s strike, another Beckham corner found the head of Sheringham, who nodded the ball down across the face of goal to where Solskjær, reacting quickly, stuck out his boot and poked the ball into the roof of the Bayern net in the 93rd minute. Matthäus` departure had ultimately sunk Bayern, and Hitzfelt was blamed, but United`s never say die attitude had won through for them again and the European Cup was theirs for only the second time in the club`s history since Benfica were beaten, 4-1, at London`s Wembley stadium in 1968. Despite winning the 1999 European Cup, the team had qualified for the competition without winning the league, and so the 1999 Intercontinental Cup Final against Palmeiras of Brazil, which United won, 1-0, on neutral ground at the National Stadium, Tokyo, with a goal from Irish midfield dynamo and captain, Roy Keane, who appeared at the far post to steer in a left wing cross from Welsh winger, Ryan Giggs in the 35th minute, loomed on the club`s horizon as a part of the format of the competition that had been taken on by the club in competing for the European Cup. In the Intercontinental Cup Final of 1968, Manchester United had lost to Estudiantes of Argentina, 0-1, away, and on aggregate overall, 2-1, after being only able to manage a draw at Old Trafford thanks to a late 90th minute goal from Scots` winger, Willie Morgan, bought that season to replace John Connelly, who`d arrived from Burnley himself. Morgan, who in 1974-75 would captain United out of the second tier of English soccer, whence they`d been relegated in 1973-74, had been seen at Turf Moor as a more than adequate replacement for England`s Connelly, where the team performed as well with Morgan, if not better, than it had with Connelly, who won the league title with Manchester United in 1966-67.

 Because Manchester United had to win the English title to enter the European Cup competition, the format was seen as winning the European Cup after winning the league, whereas the later application form that had to be completed was of a qualifying position in the English league to gain entrance to the European Cup competition and, by winning it, qualify to compete in the Intercontinental Cup Final against the winners of the South American Copa Libertadores. Consequently, the application form shifted the format from winning the English league to winning the Intercontinental Cup, which was the true importance attached to the winning of the European Cup, that is, the chance to win the Intercontinental Cup. That had always been seen as the goal by the South American teams because their format was international competition, so the Intercontinental Cup was the zenith, whereas the English teams were conditioned to believe it was a formal friendly without any competition merit. In short, English clubs were encouraged not to compete on the world`s stage, because the clubs would become bigger than the country, which happens in the United States of America; for example, in Major League Soccer (MLS), where United`s pioneering Irish wing legend, George Best, saw out much of his playing career after leaving United in their relegation season, 1973-74, saying he wouldn`t play in any division other than England`s premier. Best played for California`s San Jose Earthquakes in 1979-80, and was second highest goalscorer with 8 after Steve David`s 14. In 1980-1 George was the top scorer with 13 for the Earthquakes, who finished a creditable fourth in the Western Conference of the North American Soccer League in each of those successive seasons he played there. By 1982-83 the US` experiment with soccer had produced the Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL), but although George scored 32 goals overall during his MISL career with the Earthquakes, their highest place in the Western Conference was third during his sojourning there. Best was followed to the US by, amongst others, Manchester United and England captain, right winger, David Beckham, who also helped to enhance the profile of the MLS and make the North American and Europe Intercontinental Champions Cup a significant prize in world football terms when, after winning the European Cup with Manchester United in 1999, he went on to win the Spanish title in 2006-07 with Real Madrid, and then the MLS Cup with the Los Angeles Galaxy in consecutive seasons; 2011 and 2012.

 In 2006 the Earthquakes moved to Houston, Texas, to become the Houston Dynamo, because of greater financial opportunities. Although the USA is a single nation, and the Houston Dynamo still played in the Western Conference, despite being a state other than California, where the Earthquakes originally hailed from, the states does provide a model of how England`s Football Association restricts clubs from becoming financially more lucrative in global terms; for example, by devaluing the Intercontinental Cup teams are kept from moving away from Europe in order to be more successful. Ignoring prejudice against spreading their wings to become a greater world force, Manchester United won the 2014 North America and Europe International Champions` Cup in the Sun Life Stadium, Miami, although Liverpool were 1-0 after an early 14th minute penalty from Liverpool`s captain, Steven Gerard, which was awarded for a trip on Raheem Sterling by United defender, Phil  Jones. After an equalizing goal from England`s center forward, Wayne Rooney, meeting Hernandez’s arrowing cross in the 55th minute with a neat left-foot volley, two minutes later came a goal from Spain`s inside right, Juan Mata, whose shot was deflected off Mamadou Sakho in the 57th minute, 2-1. A third followed in the 88th minute from England left winger, Jessie Lingard, who`d come on as a substitute after the second United goal. Controlling a cross from England`s Ashley Young, who`d begun on the left, but had moved over to the right wing after injury to Antonio Valenica. Lingard half-volleyed low from the edge of the box beyond Liverpool `keeper, Mignolet. Although United celebrated with the trophy, it was a further instance of an international competition that didn`t receive national recognition at home in England. However, the subsequent inauguration of International Champions` Cup competitions in China and Australia gave warning to nation states that clubs might abandon localized fan bases for greater financial success. Manchester United had canvassed China for the organizers of the International Champions Cup through tours, and with the American business family, the Glazers, determining the board`s strategy, it couldn`t have come as much of a surprise that the International Champions Cup of North America and Europe should have been won by the team in 2014 whether the English F.A. thought it important or otherwise, and that the International Champions Cup of China and Australia should have been won by Real Madrid in 2015 suggests that perhaps Europe is becoming too parochial for its soccer giants who, adopting the approach of Major League Soccer (MLS) in the USA, might seek to relocate for greater financial rewards and appreciation from a global fan base.

 Manchester United won the European Cup again in 2008 at the Luzhniki stadium, Moscow, against English rivals, Chelsea, on penalties, 6-5, after extra time, when the final score had been 1-1 in normal time through a 26th minute headed goal from Manchester United`s Portuguese right winger, Cristiano Ronaldo, from a left footed cross out on the right wing cross by right full back, Wes Brown, whih was equalized by a typical surging 45th minute midfield run and strike from Chelsea`s Frank Lampard. After their success in the European Cup the club were invited to take part in the World Club Championship. In the 28th minute of the semi-final victory against Japanese side, Gamba Osaka, United`s Serbian central defender, Nemanja Vidić, from a Ryan Giggs’ corner, out-jumped Gamba captain, Satoshi Yamaguchi, to power home a header past `keeper, Yosuke Fujigaya, from 12 yards, 1-0. Portuguese right winger, Cristiano Ronaldo, put United 2-0 up in first-half injury time. Again the ball came from a Giggs` corner, and again the Japanese struggled to cope with the aerial threat. Myojin was out-jumped as Ronaldo directed a powerful header past `keeper, Fujigay. United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, didn`t bring on his star striker, England`s Wayne Rooney, until the 74th minute, but Gamba Osaka immediately pulled the score back to 2-1, courtesy of striker, Masato Yamakazi, with a shot from the right well outside the penalty area. A minute later, however, Rooney finished well, after a long ball from Scots` central midfielder, Darren Fletcher, split open the Japanese defence, 3-1. Fletcher then headed in French left back Patrice Evra`s cross, 4-1. In the 78th minute, and after linking up well with left-winger, Giggs, Rooney made it 5-1 a minute later. United conceded a penalty, 2-5, when United`s England right back, Gary Neville, was adjudged to have handled a cross from the left wing, and in the 85th minute Yasuhito Endō calmly scored from the spot, 2-5. Hideo Hashimoto scored in second half injury time in a way almost identical to Yamakazi`s first half effort, 1-2. From the right and well outside the penalty area, Hashimoto struck the ball past Dutch `keeper, Edwin Van er Sar, 3-5, but United were through to the World Club Cup Final against LDU Quito of Ecuador.

 In the Final in the International Stadium Yokohama, Japan, a single goal against the winners of the Copa Libertadores, South America`s Champions of Ecuador, LDU Quito, scored by England`s center forward, Wayne Rooney, won the game for Manchester United, 1-0. Remaining where he was at the left corner of the LDU Quito area, Wayne played the ball back to left sided Brazilian midfielder, Anderson. He then waited while Anderson played the ball into the path of England right central midfielder, Michael Carrick, in front of the LDU Quito area. Carrick pushed the ball forward to Manchester United right winger, Cristiano Ronaldo, inside the LDU Quito area with two players in attendance. With his back to the goal, Cristiano Ronaldo turned to his right and slipped the ball to Wayne, who was still waiting at the left edge of the LDU Quito area where he`d begun the play. Rooney drove a shot low and right footed into the right corner of the LDU Quito net. Rooney had been lurking on the edge of the Ecuadorians` area after Serbia`s center back, Nemanja Vidić, had been sent off in the 49th, so causing the Manchester United front players to look for maximum impact, rather than mobility, which those behind them needed to employ to cover for their absent defensive colleague. Rooney`s 73rd minute goal had given the tiring defense a cushion useful enough to frustrate the South Americans and give the English team the World Club Championship.

 Although the club qualified for the European Cup in 2008 as winners of the English league title and were champions again in 2007-08 after which the World Club Championship was played between Manchester United as European Cup winners against Chelsea, 6-5 on penalties after a 1-1 draw, the format had at last been recognized. It wasn`t that the aim was to win the English league in order to win the European Cup, it was to win the World Club Cup by qualifying for the Final by winning the European Cup. Although United qualified for the European Cup by winning the English league, and then winning the European Cup to give them a chance of winning the World Club Cup, it wasn`t necessary to win the English league to qualify for the European Cup, because the aim was to succeed in the new format in which the winners of the European Cup qualified for the World Club Cup Finals, which were the goal of the biggest clubs that had been unrecognized as South America`s. Multiple World Cup wins by Uruguay in 1930 and 1950, Argentina in 1978 and 1986, and Brazil in 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002, should have left the English in no doubt as to who to beat to be champions. Although Manchester United won the English championship again in 2008-09, they lost the Final of the European Cup to Spain`s Barcelona, 0-2, at the Stadio Olympica in Rome, Italy, after goals from Cameroon`s Samuel Eto`o in the 10th minute following an exchange of passes between Spanish central midfielder, Andrés Iniesta, and right wing, Lionel Messi, after United`s defense had timorously backed away from Iniesta following an attempted headed clearance from England midfielder, Michael Carrick. Messi played the ball through into the path of Eto`o, who easily stepped inside Nemanja Vidić`s attempts to shepherd him harmlessly to the goal line and out of play, to toe poke the ball past United `keeper, Van Der Sar. Barcelona scored a second through Argentina`s Messi in the 70th minute, after a cross from Spain`s Xavi on the right of the United `keeper`s area, affording the then world`s best player a chance to send a header looping over Van Der Sar and into the far side of the goal to qualify for the World Club Cup semi-final against Mexico`s Atlante.

 The Spaniards beat Atlante, 3-1, after the Mexicans had taken an early lead in the 5th minute through Guillermo Rojas. Estudiantes of Argentina led in the Final, which took place at Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi, and were captained by Juan Sebastián Verón, son of Juan Ramón Verón, La Bruja, `the witch`, who`d tormented United in the 1968 Intercontinental Cup Final to score the opening headed goal at Old Trafford in the 6th minute after a free-kick from defender, Raúl Madero, which had left United too much to do, 0-1. Marcus Conigliaro had scored with a header the only goal of the Buenos Aires away leg in the 27th minute from a corner by his striking partner, Filipe Ribaudo. Despite Morgan`s late Old Trafford equalizer, Estudiantes won the Intercontinental Cup of 1968 and Juan Ramón Verón`s son, Juan `Seba`, La Brujita, `the little witch`, who`d won a league championship medal as a central midfielder with United in 2002-03, must have thought the 2009 World Club Cup was going to Estudiantes, `the students`, after a 37th minute headed goal from center forward, Mauro Bosellia, until a very late Pedro equalizer in the 89th minute. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the Barcelona center forward, who`d be taken to United from Paris St Germain by United supremo, Jose Mourinho, for the start of the 2016-17 campaign, sent a long ball through to Gerard Piqué, who`d been a young and promising center half at United, and had played 12 times between 2004 and 2008, before going back to his native Spain. Piqué headed it on towards Pedro, whose looping header found the net. Messi gave the Spanish victory in extra time, 2-1, after he chested a 110th minute cross from Brazilian right back, Dani Alves, into the Estudiantes` goal, and the world club game had arrived.

20/08/2016 10:25

Le god

France`s center forward, Eric Cantona, was something of a legend; even before he retired at Manchester United to become a recognized artist, and Hollywood movie actor. In the 1991-92 season he led the line for a while at Leeds United after his transfer from French club Nimes. Appearing 15 times for 3 goals, he inspired the Yorkshire outfit to win only their third league title ever with 82 points and their first since 1973-74 after coming on as a substitute against Oldham Athletic on February 8, 1992, 0-2. It was a blow to the Lancashire club across the Pennines where it`d been anticipated that the `red devils` would win their first title since 1966-67, but 78 points wasn`t enough and Manchester United finished second and had to wait until the following season, 1992-93, when the appearance of Eric in a red shirt on December 6, 1992, against Manchester City, 2-1, after 13 appearances and 6 goals for Leeds, was the significant catalyst that finally wrested the trophy back to Old Trafford`s theater of dreams after its 26 year absence. The championship win effectively resulted in the eclipsing of United`s Northern rivals Leeds, who`d won their first league title in 1968-69, the year after United`s first European Cup win over Benfica, 4-1, at London`s Wembley stadium. Leeds never again ascended to the dizzying heights of league championship winners and were relegated to the second tier in 2004 subsequent to a transfer deal upsetting to Leeds fans in which popular center half, Rio Ferdinand, went to Manchester United for £30 million, before the commencement of the 2002-03 season, when Rio had performed well in taking Leeds to the 2000-01 semi-final of the European Cup against Valencia, although the Yorkshire team lost, 0-3, away after a 0-0 draw at Elland Road. Manchester United had won the 2000-01 title and had won it the two seasons previous to that also, along with the F.A., European Champions`, and Intercontinental Cups in 1999, and they`d win it again in 2002-03 with Ferdinand at center half. Leeds, on the other hand, would be relegated to the third tier of English football in 2007 after the loss of Rio.

 By the time Rio had arrived, Cantona had left, but his legacy continued. Although he strenuously denied it, Eric`s influence on the young players coming through at Manchester United during his sojourn at Old Trafford`s theater of dreams was invaluable in their development as players. Gary and Phil Neville, full backs; Nicky Butt in midfield; David Beckham on the right wing, and Paul Scholes, a forward who was known as the `Ginger Prince` to Eric`s `King`, received the full benefit of playing alongside the creative attacking forward. United didn`t win the European Champions` trophy until 1999, when Eric had retired at 31 years after the 1996-97 season`s campaigning produced another league title, which was Eric`s fourth with United since 1992-93. During that five year period, United won their first league and F.A. Cup doubles in 1993-94 and 1995-96, before their completion of the unique treble in 1999, which included the European Cup, 2-1, against German side, Bayern Munich, and injury time goals from Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to seize the trophy after being behind, 0-1, for most of the game after forward, Mario Basler, scored in the 6th minute from a free kick. In the 1996 F.A. Cup Final it was a single volleyed goal from Eric Cantona that decided the issue, 1-0. On 85 minutes, Liverpool `keeper David James tried to punch a corner clear, but the ball landed outside the penalty area, at the feet of captain Cantona, who struck through the crowded penalty area.

 The team was fairly representative of what would also win the title that 1995-96 term. Peter Schmeichel, Denmark`s ever reliable `keeper, was in goal, a ten goal start every season, because of his clean sheet statistics, manager Alex Ferguson often observed. Ireland`s Denis Irwin was at right back, and England`s Gary Neville`s brother, Phil, at left back, although Gary would become United`s captain after Cantona, and would replace Phil in the regular side, while Phil would vie with England`s Nicky Butt for the role of most used utility player. At center back, England`s Gary Pallister played alongside England`s David May, who`d arrived from Blackburn to replace England`s ageing Steve Bruce, who`d virtually assured United the 1992-93 title with two late headed goals (86th and 90th minutes) against Sheffield Wednesday on April 10, 1993. Wednesday  had taken the lead with a 64th minute penalty towards season`s end when defeat could`ve put the reds two points behind nearest rivals, Aston Villa, whose scoreless draw against Coventry City instead put United two points clear with five to play.

 The `red devils` never looked back, and won those last five games to take the title; Coventry City away, 1-0 (Irwin, 40); Chelsea at home, 3-0 (Hughes 24, Clarke, o.g., 44, Cantona, 48); Crystal Palace away, 2-0 (Hughes, 64, Ince, 89); Blackburn Rovers at home, 3-1 (Giggs 21, Ince 60, Pallister 90), and Wimbledon away, 2-1 (Ince 63, Robson 70). Bryan Robson scored the eventual winner at Wimbledon, but United had already won the championship after Cantona`s 48th minute goal in that 3-0 home win over Chelsea. The final margin was 10 points, so United could have lost the last three games and still won the league, but Robson`s only goal in five starts (and 9 as substitute) was more than symbolic at Wimbledon, because it meant he qualified for a title winners` medal, and he`d do so again the following 1993-94 season after making 10 starts (and 5 as sub) for one goal on the opening day of the campaign away at Norwich; the second and 58th minute goal after Giggs` 26th minute opener, 2-0. Ireland`s Roy Keane, who`d been bought from Nottingham Forest by Ferguson for £3. 75 m to replace 36 year old England star, Robson, as a lynchpin midfield workhorse and creative goal-scoring dynamo for the start of the 1993-94 campaign, was alongside the ever industrious Butt in midfield for the `96 F.A. Cup Final, although England`s tenacious attacking midfielder, Paul Scholes, was available on the bench, and would be a luminary second to none in the history of United`s assault on the medals and trophies after midfield strong man, Robson, had led the club to its first league title in 26 years in 1992-93. Left winger, Ryan Giggs, had been working full time magic there since 1991-92, and would remain as an established immovable fixture in the team until his decision to retire having reached 40 years in 2013-14 after winning the championship yet again the previous year, 2012-13. England center forward, Andy Cole, the latest in a lengthy list of successful forwards purchased by Ferguson for £7 m from Newcastle in January 1995, and immensely skillful goal-scoring England left winger, Lee Sharpe, a £200, 000 snip from Torquay after 16 games, completed the 1995-96 F.A. Cup Final line-up.

 It was United`s second double winning season in three years after Chelsea, 0-4, were beaten in the F.A. Cup Final. It was largely a last effort by United`s old guard. England`s Paul Parker was at right back, and captain Bruce was at center half. Russian right winger, Andrei Kanchelskis, a very good fast nippy forward, but who just wasn`t able to keep England`s future right wing, and United captain, David Beckham, out of the team, had done just that to England`s left winger, Lee Sharpe, who found himself competing for the right wing spot, because Giggs had made the left wing position his. England`s midfield tough guy, Paul Ince, and Welsh forward, Mark Hughes, who`d been inexplicably sold by former manager, Ron Atkinson, to Spain`s Barcelona, after top scoring for two seasons, before being bought back by Ferguson to score twice against the Spanish side to win the Cup Winners` Cup, 1-2, in 1990-91, were the mainstays that day as United won with a penalty from Cantona in the 60th minute, and another in the 66th. Hughes struck after a slip from defender Frank Sinclair in the 69th minute, and Scots` forward, Brian McClair, who`d moved into midfield since being brought by Ferguson in 1987-88 from Celtic for £850, 000, and had that first year gotten 24 goals, a personal best at United, came on as a substitute for Kanchelskis and got a fourth in the 92nd minute. An unselfish pass from Paul Ince, when Ince looked likely to score, saw Ince put McClair in, because Brian`s success looked even more certain.

 The Cup successes give an indication of how the team had evolved since 1990. Danny Wallace had been on the left wing when United took the F.A. Cup in 1990 against Crystal Palace after a replay. Then left full back, Lee Martin, ran the length of the pitch to receive a pinpoint 50 yard pass from Neil Webb in the penalty area, before lashing it delightedly into the net, 1-0, in the 59th minute. England`s ill-starred midfielder, Webb, a fine distributor of the ball bought from Nottingham Forest for £1.5 m, who`d incurred damage to an achilles tendon shortly after arriving for the 1989-90 season, and which ultimately proved to have slowed him down too much, played on the right side of midfield. Webb would win a Cup Winners` Cup and, as an unused substitute, a League Cup winners` medal in 1991-92, after a 14th minute goal from McClair against Forest, 1-0. Gary Pallister played the ball midway inside the Nottingham Forest half to McClair, who laid it off to Giggs. Giggs then drove at the Forest defense, drawing defenders towards him and away from McClair in the center. He then slid the ball sideways to McClair, who dribbled into the penalty area and shot left-footed into the bottom-right corner. The loss of pace, resulting from the tendon injury, caused manager, Ferguson, to transfer Webb for £800, 000 back to Forest for the 1992-93 season. England midfielder, Mike Phelan, was at right back for the 1990 Final win in the absence of a recognized right full back, before England`s Paul Parker arrived from Queens Park Rangers, and so the club geared up for its 1992-93 first title success since 1966-67.

 A very low scoring United won the title with a strong defense consisting of Irwin at left back, Parker at right back, and Pallister and Bruce as the center backs. In a very settled team, Hughes made 41 starts and top scored with only 15 goals. Schmeichel kept 18 clean sheets, and United won with 84 points. Cantona`s arrival, and a debut goal in a 1-1 draw with Chelsea away at Stamford Bridge on December 19, 1992, was the fillip United needed. Eric duly made 21 starts and weighed in with 9 precious goals that made him joint second highest scorer alongside Giggs, who made 40 starts, and McClair (41). The 1993-94 season`s title campaign saw United open up more in attack. They won the title by 8 points with 92, Cantona (18), Hughes (12) and Giggs (13) reached double figures, while Sharpe got 9 from the left wing. United finished second in the league in 1994-5 to Blackburn, despite obtaining the services of their England center half, David May, as cover for Bruce. Andy Cole was at center forward, but it was Kanchelskis with 14 goals that top scored, while United also lost the F.A. Cup Final, 0-1, to Everton without Cantona, Cole and Kanchelskis, although Gary Neville had replaced Parker at right back by then, and Butt was becoming the midfield stalwart that was his destined role.

 In 1995-96 the bridesmaid was once again the bride and the title was won along with the F.A. Cup. Cantona top scored with 14 goals, although the revelation was Scholes who bagged 10 in 16 starts. Giggs got an impressive 11 for a wide player, while 11 from center forward, Cole, wasn`t so impressive, but Beckham out wide on the right made 26 starts for 7 goals as Kanchelskis` star dimmed. Cantona`s last season with United saw the title won with 21 wins from 38 and only 75 points. The Frenchman struck 11 times, while Norwegian striker, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, brought from Molde for £1.5 m in time for the 1996-97 campaign, top scored with 18, and the `red devils` were champions. Teddy Sheringham was bought from Spurs at the beginning of the 1997-98 season for £3. 5 m to replace Cantona, and two years later, having made 17 appearances for just 2 league goals in 1998-99, Ferguson brought on substitute Sheringham for Swedish left winger, Jesper Blomqvist, himself only in the European Cup Final team because of Scholes` suspension, and Teddy subsequently repaid the manager`s faith with the second injury time goal in the 93rd minute that won the European Cup, 2-1, against Bayern Munich in Spain at Barcelona`s Nou Camp stadium, after Solskjaer, substituting for Cole got the 91st minute equalizer. The irony was that, although Trinidad and Tobago striker, Dwight Yorke, who was brought from Aston Villa for £12.6 m at the start of 1998-99, top scored in the league with 18, and Andy Cole was second top scorer with 17, it was Solskjaer, who made only 9 starts for 12 goals, and Sheringham that won through for United at the Nou Camp on the foundations laid by captain Cantona, `le god` to the supporters, but only a leading man to the rest of the players on the stage at the theater of dreams.

02/08/2016 20:46

No Threat To George

George Best was the footballing genius who dribbled with the ball as if he didn`t know where he was going, and neither did anyone else on the pitch, but the forward, loosely defined as a left winger, or inside forward that could play in midfield, or up front as a recognizable striker, had an unerring ability to put the ball in the net from almost anywhere he found himself to be on the field. Comparisons with Duncan Edwards, who lost his life in the February 6, 1958, Munich air crash, as the team came back from playing Red Star Belgrade, 3-3, and so qualified for the European Cup semi-final against A.C. Milan, after winning the home leg, 2-1, at the club`s Old Trafford stadium, were relevant but inaccurate. Duncan was a big, strong, player, who could play as a central defender, a central midfielder, or a forward, with equal effect, which is why he was described as the heart of the England team torn out on the eve of the 1958 World Cup Finals. The team lost eight players in the snow and ice of the failed plane take off at Munich, that is, England`s left back, and captain, Roger Byrne, and his understudy, right back, Geoff Bent, midfielders, Eddie Colman, Duncan Edwards, centre back, Mark Jones, left winger, David Pegg, centre forward, Tommy Taylor, and mercurial Irish forward, Liam `Billy` Whelan. Irish inside forward and sometime centre back, Jackie Blanchflower, and England winger, Johnny Berry, were so badly injured they never played again.

 By 1966 a much slighter figure than Duncan Edwards was holding centre stage at Old Trafford and at many of the world`s biggest stadiums as United continued their quest to win the European Cup and other of the world`s soccer prizes. George Best had been discovered in Northern Ireland`s Belfast and was now playing for the club to great effect. Matt Busby, United`s manager, had rebuilt the squad after the disaster, which had taken the lives of the team the media and public had called `The Busby Babes`; a squad of players that had won the English league championship in 1955-56 and 1956-57. Although Best was the player that caught the eye of the glamor obsessed paparazzi, United`s deep lying centre forward, Bobby Charlton, had begun as a powerful striker of the ball and goalscorer from out on the left wing with the Babes, and moved into the deep lying centre forward position after the crash, while Scots` goal `king`, Denis Law, had been brought from Italian club Torino for £115, 000 in 1962, and preceded George`s arrival on the Old Trafford stage at what came to be known as `The Theater Of Dreams`.

 In 1963 United won the F.A. Cup Final, 3-1 against Leicester City. Charlton`s name on the team sheet for the programme of the event still has him down as an `outside left`, while Johnny Giles, who went on to play for Leeds United in a much lamented transfer deal on Busby`s part that saw Giles boss the Leeds` central midfield for a decade, and which brought that club the Second Division title in 1963-64, was marked down as an `outside right`. On the subject of his transfer to Leeds, Giles reportedly said to Busby: `I am going to haunt you.`1 He did, and United were thwarted time and again by Giles` Leeds, who became league champions in 1968–69, and 1973–74. The Leeds side also won the F.A. Cup in 1971–72, and the UEFA Cup in 1968, and 1971. It was Giles that provided the defence splitting pass for Herd`s opening goal in the F.A. Cup Final of 1963, which United won with goals from England forward, David Herd (2), and Law. At Manchester United wingers, like Giles, were prized, and though after the F.A. Cup win over Leicester City, 3-1, John Connelly arrived from Burnley for £56, 000 to play on the wing in a team that would win the League title in 1964-65, and 1966-67, before winning the 1968 European Cup in extra time after the game finished, 1-1, at London`s Wembley stadium against the Portuguese side Benfica, 4-1, with goals from Charlton (53, 99), Best (92), and Kidd (94), Giles` success at Leeds showed Manchester United how much greater their success might have been with John in the team.

 In 1964-65 George Best had been a part of the F.A. Youth Cup winning side which had featured several future stars of the upcoming successful campaign seasons; England`s Bobby Noble (Capt.), who`d be United`s left full back in 1966-67 before a car crash ended his career; Scot, John Fitzpatrick, who`d deputize in United`s back, and half-back line, for much of the club`s successful 1960s period; England centre back, David Sadler, who many thought was better at centre forward, but he preferred the back line; England right winger, Willie Anderson, and England left winger, John Aston, son of John Aston Snr, who`d played as a left full back, or inside forward, with the United team that had won the F.A. Cup, 4-2, against Blackpool in 1948, and the league title winning team of 1951-52, which saw the emergence of England`s Bill Foulkes at right back, and who was later switched to great effect to centre half after the Munich air crash and the deaths of England centre back, Mark Jones, and the career ending injuries to Irishman, Jackie Blanchflower. Foulkes was still there at centre half for the 1968 European Cup Final defeat of Benfica, 4-1, in a more or less half-back line that included Sadler and Stiles; or Fitzpatrick in the event of injury or suspension.

 Bobby Charlton won the World Cup with England playing in the same role for the national side as he did for United and alongside his United team mate, defensive half back, Nobby Stiles. England won, 4-2, at London`s Wembley stadium, against Germany. Although John Connelly played right wing in the first game of the World Cup Finals against Uruguay, 0-0, he didn`t figure in the Final. Manager Alf Ramsey was unimpressed and decided to opt for a team without wingers. England subsequently won the trophy with goals from West Ham`s centre forward, Geoff Hurst (3), and midfielder, Martin Peters, who had essentially been drafted into the team to replace John Connelly in Ramsey`s `wingless wonders`. Connelly had been ousted from the Burnley team by the play of winger, Willie Morgan, and Morgan was winging his way to United after the European Cup Final win of 1968 to replace Connelly. Although Morgan scored an 89th minute goal against the South American champions, Estudiantes of Argentina, to give United a 1-1 draw at home in the second leg of the Intercontinental Cup Final, they`d lost away, 0-1, and so the trophy went to Estudiantes, 1-2, on aggregate, and it wouldn`t be until the 1974-75 season when Morgan as right wing captain of a United side relegated to the Second Division the previous season, 1973-74, would lift a trophy, the Second Division championship. George Best had remained the doyen of the fans until he`d intimated to the press before the relegation season of 1973-74 that he wouldn`t play Second Division football with United and shortly afterwards he `retired` from the game; ostensibly to a beach in Spain.

 Sir Matt Busby, knighted for his winning of the 1968 European Cup by England`s queen, Elizabeth II, was criticized for what happened after he retired in the 1968-69 season United lost the Intercontinental Cup Final, 1-2, to Estudiantes of Argentina. Busby`s role was taken over by Wilf McGuinness, a half back who, like many future successes at the club, won the F.A. Youth Cup (1953-54, 1954-55, and 1955-56) as captain, before making the step up to the senior squad with which he won a league title in 1956-57 after making 13 qualifying appearances, and later he was a coach with Busby`s squad. Wilf`s tenure was characterized by failure. The team made the F.A. Cup semi-final of 1970 but lost after a second replay, 0-1, with goal `king` Denis Law mysteriously unused on the subs` bench in consecutive 0-0 draws. Law missed most of the season supposedly injured and McGuinness transfer listed him at £60, 000. Earlier that 1969-70 season United had lost on aggregate, 3-4, in a League Cup semi-final to Manchester City, which saw the team draw 2-2 at home, and the fans` support for Wilf evaporated when Italian midfielder, Carlo Sartori, was preferred to Denis in the F.A. Cup semi-final to Leeds, which the side lost, 0-1 in a second replay, and with reputedly injured goalscoring legend, Law, kept by McGuinness in the `transfer shop window` of the substitutes` bench.

 In the 1968-69 season George Best had top scored with 19 goals, and Denis Law was second top scorer with 14. It`s unlikely that Denis` potency as a forward should have declined so much through injury that Wilf McGuinness was justified in transfer listing him at £60, 000 before the commencement of the 1970-71 season. In 1969-70 George Best again top scored with 15 goals while, Brian Kidd, the club`s hero in the European Cup Final of 1968, when aged 18 he`d scored United`s third with a header as a replacement in the side for the injured Denis Law, was joint second top scorer with Bobby Charlton that season with 12. Because no other club came in with the £60, 000 needed to obtain the transfer signature of Denis Law, he was there in 1970-71 when McGuinness` United again lost their League Cup semi-final to Aston Villa, 2-3 on aggregate, and played in the 1-2 away defeat, while Brian Kidd scored both United goals. Kidd didn`t figure in the list of top scorers at United that 1970-71 season, although Denis Law did. He was second top scorer to George Best (18) with 13 goals, so suggesting that McGuinness` attempt to sell him on when injured was based on something other than professionalism.

 Frank O` Farrell of Leicester City was appointed as United`s new manager because of Wilf`s lack of success and managerial inexpertise. George Best again top scored with 19 league goals, while Denis Law was second top scorer with 13, and Kidd got 10. Top of the league at Christmas, United lost seven straight games thereafter, and O` Farrell`s £225, 000 emergency buy, Ian Storey-Moore, a left winger from Nottingham Forest, scored 5 goals in eleven appearances to keep United out of the relegation zone and finish in 8th place. Moore scored only 7 more goals for United before injury curtailed his career and he retired in 1974, but he was in the mould of great United wingers and his early retirement from the stage at `The Theatre Of Dreams` was tragic for both club and player as it brought United closer to relegation. Scotland boss, Tommy Docherty, ironically replaced O` Farrell on December 19 midway through the 1972-73 season. Ironic given the fact that United had been top of the league the previous Christmas before a run of seven straight successive defeats saw them finish 8th. Docherty`s United finished 19th and Bobby Charlton top scored with 6 goals. As wingers, Best (4), Storey-Moore (5) and Morgan (4) weighed in with their expected share of goals, but the forwards, Brian Kidd (4), Lou Macari (5) bought from Celtic by Docherty for £200, 000, weren`t good enough. For £200, 000, Ted McDougall (5) arrived from Bournemouth, where he`d scored 103 goals in 146 games, and Manchester City`s Wyn Davies (4), brought by O` Farrell to replace then 34 years old Denis Law (1), who made only 9 starts that season, and was given a free transfer to Manchester City in a move that, like John Giles` to Leeds, would haunt Docherty, because the following term it was Denis, who`d left Manchester City in 1961 for Italian club, Torino, where he scored 10 goals in 27 games for £110, 000 in 1961-62, who back-heeled the ball into the net in the 81st minute at Old Trafford, 0-1, to relegate United in 1973-74, a season in which he played 24 games for City while scoring 9 goals from midfield.

 For a while Docherty`s side was known as `Scotland United`, because of the predominance of players from across the border with England. In 1973-74 there were eight Scots` players that played in most of the league fixtures (42); centre backs, Martin Buchan (42), who`d been signed by O` Farrell in February 1972, for a then club record transfer fee of £120, 000, and would still be at United in 1983 after winning the 1977 F.A. Cup Final against Liverpool, 2-1, and Jim Holton (34), who played alongside Buchan as centre back for Scotland in the 1974 World Cup Finals in which the Scots were undefeated, but went out at the group stage on goal difference when Brazil beat Zaire, 3-0; right full back, Alex Forsyth (18), bought by Docherty for £100, 000 from Partick Thistle, who famously beat the Glasgow giant, Celtic, 4-1, in the 1971 Scottish League Cup Final; left full back, Stewart Houston (20), bought from Brentford by Docherty for 55, 000 in 1973, midfielder George Graham (23), who`d won `the double` with Arsenal in 1971, and was bought by O` Farrell for £120,000 in 1972, Jim McCalliog (11), bought from Wolves by Docherty in 1974 for £60, 000, Lou Macari (34), and Willie Morgan (41), who also played in the 1974 World Cup for the famously unbeaten Scots `team. The other mainstays of the 1973-74 season were England`s Alex Stepney (42) in goal, who`d still be there, like Buchan, when United won the F.A. Cup Final against Liverpool, 2-1, in 1977; England`s Brian Greenhoff (36), who`d play alongside Buchan in that final in the centre of defence; England`s centre back Steve James (21), who`d been in the team that won the quarter final with Austria`s Rapid Wien in the European Cup of 1969, 3-0, but without him the side lost to A.C. Milan in the semi-final, 2-1 on aggregate; English right full back, Tony Young (29), and Irishman Sammy McIlroy (24), often billed as `last of the Busby Babes`, who made a scoring debut on November 6, 1971, against Manchester City, 3-3.

 The 1973-74 season saw United relegated to the Second Division. George Best made only 12 appearances for 2 goals, and the top scorer was his Northern Irish compatriot, Sammy McIlroy, with 6. Goalkeeper, Alex Stepney, was nominated as the penalty taker by `The Doc` in the face of nervousness at accepting such a burden of responsibility amongst the outfield players, and Alex subsequently scored from the spot twice, which made him top scorer after 22 games. Best`s unsanctioned retirement to a Spanish beach saw the emergence of Gerry Daly, an Irish winger who played 14 times in 1973-74. Daly was a mainstay of United`s year long stay in the Second Division before retuning as champions in 1974-75. Willie Morgan was captain, but gave way to Martin Buchan towards the end of the campaign when future England winger Steve Coppell arrived from Tranmere Rovers to replace Willie on the right for £60, 000. England`s future left winger, Gordon Hill, arrived from Millwall for £70, 000, and Daly, who`d filled George`s boots for 11 goals that season, switched inside to midfield, where he played alongside `Super Sam` McIlroy, withdrawn from the front line despite being the previous season`s top scorer with 6, and he still managed to score 7 goals in 1974-75 from midfield. Up front, alongside Lou Macari, who scored 11 goals that season, was England`s future front man, Stuart Pearson, bought for £200, 000 by Docherty from Hull City, because he was a reputable Second Division scorer, and he netted 17 times. Brian Greenhoff and Martin Buchan were the centre backs, and Alex Forsyth and Stewart Houston were the full backs in front of Alex Stepney in the United goal.

 

1 `Interview: Leeds legend John Giles`, The Scotsman, Saturday, November 13, 2010,  https://www.scotsman.com/sport/interview-leeds-legend-john-giles-1-1370246 .

01/08/2016 09:41

Red China`s Soccer Imperialists

The World Soccer Challenge was a competition that took place in 2009 by invitation and the teams were Chelsea of England, America of Mexico, Internazionale of Milan, and A.C. Milan. In a league system Chelsea won their three games and were champions. The 2011 tournament featured Spain`s Barcelona, invited by virtue of their being European Cup winners. Spain`s Real Madrid were champions by virtue of their winning their three games. Although Manchester United won their three games also. Against New England Revolution left winger, Ashley Young, signed from Aston Villa, made his debut.  United won, 4-1. In the 51st minute half-time substitute, former Liverpool and England centre forward, Michael Owen, kept his cool to slot into the far corner when confronted by onrushing Revolution `keeper Shuttleworth. Another of manager Alex Ferguson's second-half substitutes, Italian forward Federico Macheda, who`d begun with Lazio but signed for United at 16, made it 2-0 (54) after Owen's opener, and with an equally composed finish. Macheda added a third on 61 minutes; lashing a shot into the far corner of the New England net after right full back Rafael's cross had eluded a crowd of players inside the penalty area. On 80 minutes French winger, Gabriel Obertan, bought for £3m from Bordeaux in July 2009, South Korean midfield dynamo, Ji-sung Park, bought from PSV Eindhoven for £4m in July 2005, and Welsh left winger, Ryan Giggs, a product of United`s youth policy, who debuted on March 2, 1991, as a sub for injured full back, Denis Irwin, against Everton at Old Trafford, combined superbly inside the penalty area to play in Park, who clipped an audacious finish over Shuttleworth.

 New signings, `keeper David de Gea brought from Atlético Madrid (£17.8 m), and defender, Phil Jones, brought from Blackburn Rovers (£16.5 m), debuted against Chicago Fire as United won, 3-1. England centre forward, Wayne Rooney (66), who latched onto a pinpoint long ball from United central defender, Rio Ferdinand, and lifted the ball over the onrushing Chicago `keeper, Conway. With 15 minutes remaining of the second half, combining down the right flank with Portuguese right winger, Nani, Brazilian right back, Rafael shimmied along the by-line and coolly squeezed the ball through Conway's legs (75). To wrap things up, Nani made the Fire look foolish in defence when cheekily dinking the ball into the net (82). United won their last and third game against Spain`s FC Barcelona, 2-1, with a goal from Nani (22) after the Catalan side committed forward and the Reds cleared the set-piece to break quickly down the pitch. England forward, Danny Welbeck, slipped a pass between two Barcelona defenders for Nani to chase and, collecting the ball, the Portuguese right winger kept his cool to steer it through the gap between Barca `keeper Victor Valdes' legs. United`s second came through Michael Owen (76) when England`s Tom Cleverley collected a stray pass and put the striker in through the middle where, in his favored one-on-one scenario, Owen dinked the ball over onrushing Barca `keeper Valdes. Madrid were crowned International Champions Cup winners by virtue of their scoring more goals.

 The 2012 tournament featured Chelsea, invited by virtue of their being European Cup winners, and again Real Madrid were the only team to win all their games. In 2013 the World Soccer Challenge was rebranded the International Champions Cup. By virtue of their winning two games, 3-1 against Los Angeles Galaxy, and 2-1 against Everton, Real Madrid progressed to a Final with Chelsea, who also progressed by virtue of their winning two games, 2-0 against Internazionale and 2-0 against A.C. Milan. Real Madrid beat Chelsea in the Final of the International Champions Cup, 3-1. In 2014 Manchester United progressed to the Final by virtue of winning their three group games. Against Roma of Italy, 3-2, Rooney latched onto Mata’s pass on the edge of the ‘D’ and arced a wonderful shot into the top-left corner (36). Three minutes later Rooney provided a superb ball over the top from the halfway line, which Spanish midfielder, Juan Mata, brought down expertly before lobbing `keeper De Sanctis (39). Just before the break, England defender Phil Jones ran forward and played the ball to Spanish midfielder, Ander Herrera, transferred in June 2014 from Athletic Bilbao (€36 m), whose first-time lay-off into England striker Danny Welbeck’s path resulted in the forward being felled by Urby Emanuelson inside the box. Rooney stepped up to take the spot kick and sent De Sanctis the wrong way for the goal (45 + 1).

 Internazionale of Milan were then beaten, 5-3 on penalties after a 0-0 draw, with spot kick successes for England winger, Ashley Young, Mexican forward signed from Chivas on July 1, 2010, Javier Hernández, England midfielder, Tom Cleverley, Scots` midfielder and sometimes captain, Darren Fletcher, and Japan`s midfield star, Shinji Kagawa, bought from Borussia Dortmund for £13 m in 2012. Real Madrid were beaten, 3-1, with goals from Manchester United left winger, Ashley Young (20, 37). His first came after a one-two between Scots` midfielder, Darren Fletcher and Rooney on the edge of the box. Fletcher slipped a pass to Welbeck, who found Young on the far left of the box, and he steered a shot inside `keeper Casillas' near post. On 37 minutes Young collected possession on the left and curled a cross towards Rooney which was just too high for the striker but the ball crept in at the far post. Mexican forward, Javier `Chicharito` Hernández, `little pea`, converted a header from Kagawa's cross on 80 minutes. In the International Champions Cup Final United faced Liverpool, who progressed by virtue of the three group games they`d played against Olympiacos of Greece, 1-0, Manchester City, 2-2 (3-1 on penalties) and A.C. Milan, 2-0. Manchester United beat Liverpool in the Final of the International Champions Cup, 3-1, with a goal from a volley back across the goal and into the far right corner of the net by Wayne Rooney (55) after a deep cross past the far post from Hernández on the right and behind the forward players, a deflected left-footed shot from 12 yards by Juan Mata (57) after Shaw found him with an infield pass from his left foot out on the left wing, and England left winger, Jessie Lingard (88) who, after Shinji Kagawa half-controlled a right wing cross into the centre from Ashley Young, pounced to unleash an unstoppable right-footed drive from 15 yards out, and that after Liverpool`s midfield captain, Steven Gerrard, had opened the scoring with a 14th minute penalty.


 In 2015 the tournament featured an International Champions Cup of Australia, China, and America. Real Madrid were champions of Australia by virtue of their becoming winners of the group. Despite losing 6-7 to Roma on penalties after a 0-0 draw, they beat Manchester City, 4-1, while City drew 2-2 with Roma, who won on penalties, 5-4, so Madrid were champions by virtue of their being the only clear winner. Real Madrid were champions of China by virtue of their beating Internazionale, 3-0, and drawing, 0-0 with A.C. Milan, who beat Inter Milan, 1-0, and so Madrid were champions by virtue of their scoring more goals. Paris Saint Germain became 2015 International Champions Cup winners of America by virtue of their scoring more goals than New York Red Bulls, after they amassed 10 league points in their four games against Benfica of Portugal, 3-2, Fiorentina of Italy, 4-2, Chelsea, 1-1 (5-6 on penalties), and Manchester United, 2-0, who were defeated on that basis. If United had beaten PSG they`d have been International Champions Cup winners after inflicting defeat on América Mexico, 0-1, with a goal on his debut for France`s defensive midfielder, Morgan Schneiderlin, bought by United manager, Louis Van Gaal, for £1.2 m from Southampton, and who rose at the far post to float a header from Juan Mata's cross beyond Hugo Gonzalez in the Club América goal. Following that success United had beaten United States` San Jose Earthquakes, 3-1, with goals from Juan Mata (32) after a run down the left from winger, Ashley Young, followed by a cross. Dutch forward Memphis Depay (37), with his first goal for the club, latched onto a loose back pass from Jean Baptiste Pierazzi to score, before Brazilian U-20 International, Andreas Pereira (61), also with his first goal for the club, headed home from England winger Jessie Lingard`s cross. United then beat Spain`s Barcelona, 3-1, through a headed goal from Wayne Rooney at the centre of the penalty area from a corner on the left by Ashley Young (8), a right-footed strike by England winger, Jessie Lingard (65), who converted a low cross into the six yard box by defender, Tyler Blackett, from his left boot, and a strike from Belgian midfielder, Adnan Januzaj (90+1) who, turning back and away from the Barca goal to collect a pass falling behind him with his right foot, turned to his right and, controlling the ball, resumed his run on goal. Surging on through the Barca defence Januzaj drove the ball left-footed low and into the net, but it wasn`t enough goals scored and PSG were Intercontinental Champions Cup winners.

 In 2016 the tournament featured an International Champions Cup of Australia, China, and America. Borussia Dortmund of Germany beat Manchester United, 4-1, with new manager Jose Mourinho`s first major signing as United boss, Dortmund`s right winger, and captain of Armenia, Henrik Mkhitaryan, scoring the United goal after England`s teenage sensation goalscorer, Marcus Rashford, on for winger Memphis Depay in the 45th minute, dummied for Spain`s Juan Mata to lay the ball off for Mkhitaryan to shoot from the centre of the goal in the 59th minute, 1-3. The China group game between United and Manchester City was cancelled due to bad weather, so despite City beating Borussia, 6-5 on penalties after a 1-1 draw, a champion was neither discernible nor declared. Juventus of Italy became International Champions Cup winners of Australia, despite losing to Melbourne Victory of Australia, 3-4, after a 1-1 draw, because of a 2-1 defeat of Spurs. Paris Saint Germain (PSG) became International Cup Champions of America after winning their three group games, 3-1 against Inter Milan, 3-1 against Real Madrid, and 4-0 against Leicester City.

 What isn`t evident is the legitimacy of teams being declared champions of continents when they don`t have clubs and stadiums there. In 2015 Spain`s Real Madrid participated in separate International Champions` Cup tournaments, and were declared champions of Australia and China, although their club stadium is the Santiago Bernabéu in Madrid, which suggests that the organizers of the ICC have hubris. Australia and China fans might find it presumptuous of Spanish team, Real Madrid, to accept the title of Champions of Australia and China, where it might be legitimate to suppose that the champions there are Australia and China. In the International Champions Cup of China there weren`t Chinese teams, and in the International Champions Cup of Australia, Melbourne Victory`s defeat of Juvé, 4-3 on penalties after a 1-1 draw, was the only championship sign of a national Australian defence in a competition awarded in 2015 to Real Madrid in the absence of a team from Australia participating, and to Juventus in 2016 despite the Italian`s being beaten by Melbourne Victory, who were allowed to play only a single game in accordance with the rules of the competition, whereas Juventus played a second game against Spurs and won, 2-1.

Though Manchester United participated in the International Champions Cup of China, as English F.A. Cup winners in 2016, 2-1, against Crystal Palace, it isn`t a qualifying round from an Australasian perspective. Whereas it`s logical to suppose that the European Champions might participate in a tournament in the United States of America, with the International Champions Cup as a prize, it isn`t sensible to suppose that a team that`d won a national cup competition in Europe should be invited to contest a continental trophy without the participation of the local clubs there. United made attempts to be welcomed in China and Australia with pre-season touring, and the bringing into the squad Asian talent such as South Korea`s industrious midfielder, Ji-sung Park, in July 2005 from Dutch club PSV Eindhoven, and Japan`s energetic midfield star, Shinji Kagawa, from Borussia Dortmund in 2012, but the ICC organizers proclaimed Real Madrid and Juventus conquerors without a welcome to face.

31/07/2016 10:06

The Steve James Phenomenon

Steve James was the centre back Manchester United did have. He was a member of the F.A. Youth Cup side in 1965-66, which didn`t progress to the Final as some of his predecessors had. James` contemporaries were future England `keeper, Jimmy Rimmer, England left back, and 1966-67 championship winner with United, Bobby Noble (Capt.), Scotland`s centre back, John Fitzpatrick, Irish winger, George Best, who`d win the league in `67 and the European Cup in `68, along with England centre back, and sometime United centre forward, David Sadler, and England left wing, John Aston. Those players had been in the team that had won the 1963-64 F.A. Youth Cup, 1-1, against Swindon Town away, with a 70th minute goal from Best, and 4-1 at Old Trafford, after a hat-trick (3) from Sadler and a single goal from Aston, which gave the team a 5-2 aggregate victory.

 Steve James was behind Fitzpatrick in Sir Matt Busby`s thoughts about selecting centre backs for the first team. Bill Foulkes, who`d been at right back before the Munich air crash, when the club had lost eight players dead and two permanently disabled coming back from a 3-3 draw against Red Star Belgrade that guaranteed a European Cup quarter final against A. C. Milan. Foulkes, who`d won the league in 1956 and 1957 with United, which had allowed Busby to accept an invitation for the club to participate in the European Cup, moved into the centre half berth but, despite a 2-1 win at Old Trafford, A. C. Milan destroyed a weakened United in the San Siro, 4-0. By 1963 Foulkes was partnered by Maurice Setters at the back and United overcame Leicester City, 3-1, in the F.A. Cup Final for their first trophy since the 1957 league title. The emergence of hard tackling Nobby Stiles, alongside Foulkes, brought United league titles in 1964-65 and 1966-67, before the historic night at London`s Wembley stadium, when the reds overcame Benfica of Portugal, 4-1, with a rare headed goal from deep lying centre forward, Bobby Charlton and, after Benfica`s Jaime Graça equalized on 79 minutes, goals in extra time from George Best (92), 19 year old Brian Kidd (94), who was in the team for injured Scots` goal getter, Denis Law, and Charlton again in the 99th minute.

 Steve James made his debut against Liverpool in October 1968 and, capped by the England Youth team that year, James went on to make 21 appearances in the red shirt. Early in the season United lost 1-2 to Argentina`s Estudiantes de La Plata, winners of the Copa de Libertadores, that is, `freedom`s cup`, against Brazil`s Palmeiras. It was the Intercontinental Cup Final contested between the South American champions and the winners of the European Champions` Cup. United lost 0-1 away, and drew 1-1 at home, and so were beaten on aggregate, despite a last gasp 89th minute goal from then record signing from Burnley (£117, 000), Willie Morgan. Although Estudiantes` victory over Palmeiras of Brazil went to three games, because each team had won a leg of the final, and the rules didn`t provide for aggregate wins, the IC competition did, and many supporters were angry over a Brian Kidd strike at Old Trafford that was disallowed after having seemingly been in the Estudiantes` goal, and which would have made the final result, 2-2 on aggregate, which by the rules of the contest would`ve meant a third game to decide the issue, much as the rule governing the Copa de Libertadores required a third deciding game if each side had won a leg of the contest.

 Although Steve James made 21 appearances that 1968-69 season, he didn`t win a medal. The club made it through to the European Cup semi-final, but defeat 0-2 in the San Siro to A.C. Milan, followed by a 70th minute Charlton strike for a 1-0 win at Old Trafford, put the team out on aggregate, 1-2, although Steve had made two appearances in the competition quarter finals against Rapid Wien, at Old Trafford, 3-0, with goals from Best (2) and Morgan, and in the Vienna away leg, which United drew 0-0, so he might have anticipated a centre half berth in the final, which A.C. Milan won against Dutch side, Ajax of Amsterdam, 4-1. Busby, knighted by England`s queen, Elizabeth II, retired in 1969 to be replaced by coach Wilf McGuinness, whose tenure as manager was characterized by semi-final failure in the League Cup, 1970, 3-4 to Manchester City on aggregate, and 1971, 2-3 to Aston Villa on aggregate. Although Steve James didn`t figure in either the League Cup semi-final loss to City, or the semi-final loss to Leeds United in the 1970 F.A. Cup, 0-1, after two 0-0 draws followed by replays, he played in the 1-1 home leg against Villa in 1971, before the side lost 1-2 away in the semi-final of the League Cup. The 1970 F. A. Cup semi-final defeat to Leeds was characterized by McGuinness` seemingly inexplicable preference for Italian midfielder, Carlo Sartori, over goal scoring legend, Denis Law, who was sub for the three games. Steve James made only two league appearances, and a single appearance in the League Cup campaign in 1969-70, but 13 appearances in 1970-71, and 3 in the League Cup, were followed in 1971-72 by 37 league appearances for new manager, Frank O` Farrell, formerly of Leicester City, and United were top of the league at Christmas, but finished 8th.

 Steve James was perceived as a good centre half by O` Farrell, which is obvious from his number of appearances in the league (37/42) that 1971-72 season. Ian Storey-Moore, a left winger bought from Nottingham Forest in the New Year, scored 5 goals in 11 games towards the end of the campaign, but it wasn`t enough. United experienced 7 successive defeats at the turn of the year, before O`Farrell`s emergency buy, Storey-Moore, for £225, 000. Steve James missed the first three defeats, and Paul Edwards, who`d been deployed as a right back by McGuinness, most notably in the League Cup semi-final United lost to Manchester City, 3-4, when Paul had let fly from long range in the home leg, which finished 2-2, and beat the city `keeper with his only ever goal for the club in the 23rd minute to equalize a 17th minute Ian Bowyer effort. Edwards played only four games in the 1971-72 league campaign and was centre back for the three January 1972 contests United lost to West Ham away, 0-3, and to Wolves and Chelsea at home, 1-3 and 0-1. Steve returned to the team for the away game at West Bromwich Albion on January 29, which United lost, 1-2, and despite Brian Kidd opening the scoring with a goal on 24 minutes. James remained in the side for the subsequent February home defeats at Newcastle, 0-2, and Leeds away, 1-5, which were followed by a March 4 away defeat to Spurs, 0-2.

 Steve James` absence from the team for the first three games in the New Year had dented his and the club`s confidence and collapse had ensued. Despite Ian Storey Moore`s almost instant impact upon arriving from Forest immediately after the 7th successive league defeat, 0-2, at Spurs, when Ian scored 5 times in the last eleven games of the 1971-72 campaign, United finished 8th when looking every inch champions before January 1st. Storey-Moore retired in 1974 through injury after scoring only another 7 goals for United. Unpredictable genius, George Best, had told the press he wouldn`t play for the Manchester club if they were relegated, and without Ian Storey-Moore the reds didn`t have a replacement. The Irish winger, whose highest number of goals scored in a season was 28 in 1967-68, had top scored in 1971-72 with 18. George had reached double figures in terms of his season`s tally in every season since 1964-65, apart from 1965-66 (9), but retired to a beach in Spain, rather than assist the team out of deep trouble in 1973-74, and without an adequate replacement, which Storey-Moore had been, relegation resulted.


 Steve James remained amongst the loyal members of the squad. He played 22 games in 1972-73, and United finished 18th, barely out of the relegation zone. O` Farrell was replaced as manager by Scotland`s national team boss, Tommy Docherty, and a whirlwind of buying and selling ensued. George Best played 19 games for 4 goals, and Bobby Charlton was top scorer with 6. Docherty bought Lou Macari from Celtic for £200, 000, a diminutive but striking header of the aerial ball with `springs in his heels`, who ultimately found success with the red devils as a tigrish midfield goal poacher, and free kick specialist. Macari`s late 5 goal tally in 1972-73 was a sign of what might be to come. In 1973-74, however, the United slide proved unstoppable. George Best could spare the team only 12 appearances and 2 goals, and `crocked` Ian Storey-Moore played only twice. Steve James contributed 21 games at centre half and 2 goals, which otherwise would seem negligible, but for the fact that Irish forward, Sammy McIlroy who, labelled the last of `The Busby Babes`, had made a scoring debut as a forward for Busby`s managerial successor, Wilf McGuinness, in a 3-3 draw with Manchester City in 1971, and finished the 1973-74 relegation season as United`s top scorer with only 6.

 The club recovered well enough in the Second Division to win the title, largely because of the centre forward Docherty bought from Hull City for £200, 000, future England striker, Stuart Pearson, who netted 17 times, while Lou Macari rediscovered his striker`s boots for 11 goals. In Scotland he`d played for Celtic, where the opposition to the `Celts`, and the other Glasgow team, Rangers, was around the playing level of the English Second Division, before future United manager, Alex Ferguson, began winning titles and cups under the noses of the Celts and `Gers in the 1980s with Aberdeen. Consequently, United and Macari`s renaissance was largely due to Pearson`s knowledge of the Second Division, because he`d scored in it with Hull City, and a reduction in technical level, which suited Macari, who`d been used to Celtic`s marauding of lesser clubs in their plundering of silverware at the top of the Scottish league. With the `green hoops` Macari had won Scottish championships with a highest goal tally of 10 in 1972 from 20 appearances, which was his highest number of appearances in 4 seasons that saw him amass Scottish league title medals in 1969–70, 1970–71, 1971–72, and 1972–73, and Scottish Cup winners medals in 1970–71 and 1971–72. With his appearances limited by Celtic`s wealth of talent and in depth resources, because everyone wants to play for winners, and the only other winners in Scotland were Rangers, Macari was persuaded by Docherty to move to Old Trafford.

 Steve James moved on at the end of the 1975-76 season having helped United through the dark days with 13 appearances at centre back in 1974-75. Jim Holton, who after arriving from Shrewsbury Town broke his leg twice in 1972-73, and after United were relegated in 1973-74, when Jim made 34 appearances, had gone on to play in all Scotland`s undefeated 1974 World Cup Finals` games. Jim appeared 14 times in 1974-75 at centre back, although Yorkshire cricket`s fast bowler, Arnold Sidebottom, making 13 defensive appearances in the centre successfully competed with Steve James to rival Holton for a place in the first eleven. The team challenged for the league title in the 1975-76 season, and they perhaps would have won, but for an inexplicable change of `keeper, Irishman Paddy Roche for `68 European Cup winning `keeper, Alex Stepney, midway through the campaign, which saw United lose 0-4 to Manchester City at Maine Road in the 4th round of the League Cup; 1-3 away at Liverpool`s Anfield, and 1-3 away at Arsenal`s Highbury. Roche had been given his chance on November 1, 1975, and the team scraped a 1-0 win against Norwich City at Old Trafford. Though United beat Villa, 2-0, at Old Trafford, Roche`s away form was disastrous, and many believe that, although Stepney returned for the rest of the campaign, Roche`s inclusion for those few games had cost United the league Cup and the title, which they finally conceded to Liverpool with 60 points to United`s 56.

 Despite failing to win the league title in 1975-76, with Pearson (13) and Macari (12) more able to do what they could, because of more able support from well chosen new faces, for example, future England right winger, Steve Coppell, bought from Tranmere Rovers for £60, 000, and left winger, Gordon Hill, who came from Millwall for £70, 000, United made it to the F.A. Cup Final where, expected to win, they confounded the pundits and lost, 0-1, to an 83rd minute breakaway Southampton strike by Bobby Stokes. Centre back, Steve James, didn`t play that season and was transferred to York City, while Holton went off to Sunderland, but James` career, 1966-76, from youth to seniority, was more typically United. George Best died of alcoholism.

<< 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 >>