Reuters Soccer Blog
World Soccer views and news
By Simon Hart
For a brief moment, it seemed Sir Alex Ferguson really might be mellowing with age.
Twenty-four hours after ending his seven-year feud with the BBC, the Manchester United manager spent part of his weekly news conference on Friday defending the record of his erstwhile chief adversary Arsene Wenger, who comes to Old Trafford with Arsenal on Sunday.
Ferguson then reflected on the potential of his latest crop of young talent before a question about the possible involvement of some of these young guns in the England senior team.
“It is not a problem it is fantastic,” he began. According to reports in Friday’s newspapers, four of the United players aged 22 or under who have caught the eye in the season’s opening weeks –- Chris Smalling, Tom Cleverley, Phil Jones and Danny Welbeck –- will be watched by England manager Fabio Capello on Sunday before the Italian names his squad for next month’s Euro 2012 qualifying matches.
On Tuesday the bank-rolled Manchester City outfit reached the Champions League qualifiers for next season and could even secure an automatic berth if they pip Arsenal to third place in the Premier League. That would be a real kick in the guts to Arsene Wenger, who has barely spent anything in comparison to City since he took over the North Londoners in 1996.
It’s Easter weekend but there’s no rest for the world’s football players with another hectic schedule of matches.
Barcelona destroyed their fierce domestic rivals 5-0 in November, and although the gap at the top of La Liga remains difficult for Real to peg back, they looked a very difficult team to beat against Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League quarter-finals.
AC Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi seriously believes he can sign Cristiano Ronaldo in the next transfer window. Where did that one come from? Probably because of his frustration with Zlatan ibrahimovic for being sent off for swearing and banned for three games (see Wayne, the punshment is even worse in Italy).
Of course Berlusconi has no chance of landing Ronaldo but he’s a politician and positive thinking can do the world of good.
It’s gone quiet on the football news front though the sun’s still out in Europe as we await another weekend of unrelenting on-pitch drama in the Euro 2012 qualifiers.
Anyone out there lucky enough to be attending the Serbia v Northern Ireland match? 240 fans got the nod.
But what about Tottenham Hotspur fans. Are you worried your star man’s recent struggles with injury could hamper your club’s Champions League quarter-final chances against Real Madrid?
By Simon Evans in Miami
Television coverage of MLS’s opening game began with an attack on David Beckham from two television pundits and critics have continued to question whether the Englishman cares about the league or his club, LA Galaxy, Simon Evans says the Beckham bashing is off target.
The debate over David Beckham’s commitment to L.A Galaxy and Major League Soccer should have ended on November 22, 2009. On that rainy, cold day in Seattle, Beckham took a series of pain-killing injections, wrapped up his injured ankle in bandage and went out to face Real Salt Lake on the unforgiving artificial turf at Qwest Field.
MLS’s foreign imports have grabbed most of the headlines over the past few years, understandably given the name recognition of players such as David Beckham and Thierry Henry, but one of the most fascinating aspects of this season will be the progress of a new generation of American players on the fringe of the national team. Sporting KC striker Teal Bunbury and New York Red Bulls forward Juan Agudelo are fancied by many as a future pairing for Bob Bradley’s team but they will need to deliver week-in-week-out in MLS. Red Bulls defender Tim Ream had an excellent first year and will likely be scouted heavily by European clubs this season. Portland Timbers attacker Darlington Nagbe was born in Liberia but is seeking naturalization and there is a lot of buzz about his potential.
DIG THE NEW BREED
The Pacific North-West should provide plenty of lively derby action this year with the Seattle Sounders, the best-supported team in the league, joined by two new teams — local rivals Portland Timbers and Northern neighbours Vancouver Whitecaps. Both clubs are technically ‘expansion franchises’ but don’t confuse them with recent creations such as the Philadelphia Union and Real Salt Lake who started from scratch. Both the Timbers and the Whitecaps existed in the old NASL and continued in second tier soccer up until last season. Both have good fan-bases who expect an instant impact. Both were able to build upon their backroom and on-field staff from the second tier. In short – both are more like typical promoted teams in European leagues – they have to step up to a new level on the field and can expect some fresh impetus off the field. It should be fascinating to watch how they fare in their first season with the big boys. Who will make the bigger impact?
SHINY, HAPPY PEOPLE?
The Kansas City Wizards were not one of MLS’s big success stories having averaged crowds of around 10,000 for most of their existence – initially playing at the 80,000 capacity Arrowhead Stadium, home to the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs and then at a cozier but not-very soccer friendly minor-league baseball park. This season all that changes. The rather silly-sounding Wizards name has been dropped in favour of Sporting Kansas City – mocked by some as being a pretentious Euro-wannabe name (Sporting Club being a historic team in Lisbon, Portugal) but surely an upgrade on the Wizards? This season the team also move into their own, shiny new, purpose built 18,500 venue – Livestrong Sporting Park. The venue isn’t quite ready so the first eight games of the season for Sporting will be on the road but it will be interesting to see if the rebrand and the new home manage to attract more fans. That certainly helped New York Red Bulls last year – when they moved into Red Bull Arena their average home gate rose from 12,229 to 18,441.
Harry Redknapp does not need a right-sided midfield player and, with the depth of talent regularly available on his bench, he hardly needs to bolster his squad with a three-month loan signing.
Yet he, and several other Premier League managers, are trying to secure the services of 35-year-old David Beckham.