Reuters Soccer Blog
World Soccer views and news
from Left field:
The clock said 68 minutes, and no one at the Emirates Stadium in north London was looking at the action on the pitch as the fourth official held aloft his lit-up board to signal the re-introduction of Thierry Henry to English football.
Ten minutes later and he'd scored the game's eventual winner. Comebacks don't get this good this often.
14 to replace 15 shone the bright numbers before the goal, but alas Henry's former number has since been taken by young English talent Theo Walcott, who idolises the French great.
Now, for six weeks and six weeks only after which he will return to the United States with the New York Red Bulls, Henry can be seen wearing an Arsenal shirt with the number 12, the same as his France days during which he won the 1998 World Cup and 2000 European Championship.
from Left field:
There was the usual hushed silence and then sudden intake of breath heard in Nyon on Friday, though not for the Champions League Round of 16 draw but the first two ties of the Europa League Round of 32.
Holders Porto will play mega-rich Manchester City, they were the first two names out of the little plastic balls when UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino was finally able to open the second after Davor Suker had tried and failed, and Ajax Amsterdam will take on Manchester United.
Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini was quick to say that his team’s 6-1 mauling of arch-rivals United meant little more than another three points in the bag, but the Italian must surely be hoping it could signal a shift in the balance of power.
Having knocked Liverpool off their perch when they won a record 19th league title last season, United now face the prospect of playing second fiddle to City in England and Manchester, should their heaviest defeat to their neighbours in 56 years prove to be more than just a temporary setback.
The plain sailing Manchester United would have expected in the group stage of their Champions League campaign has turned into a rough ride after Tuesday’s 3-3 home draw with Swiss side Basel, who were unlucky not to have come away from Old Trafford with the three points.
Two draws in their last two games, away to Stoke City in the Premier League and the late escape against Basel, will have rooted out any complacency that might have crept into Alex Ferguson’s men after their flying start to the season which included an 8-2 drubbing of Arsenal.
Fernando Torres woke up to mocking headlines on Monday after his open goal howler against Manchester United but there were signs at Old Trafford that the Spaniard is beginning to rediscover the form that prompted Chelsea to sign him from Liverpool for 50 million pounds.
Since joining in January he has been barely recognisable to the player who scored goals for fun while playing for Atletico Madrid and then Liverpool, managing just one goal in Chelsea blue before doubling his output with his side’s reply in the 3-1 defeat at United.
The easy answer is no.
They were so strong last season that even the final against a good Manchester United side was a stroll.
This term Pep Guardiola’s men have strengthened, if that was possible, with the additions of Cesc Fabregas and Alexis Sanchez so it is hard to look past them and their silky skills.
It is a bit early to single out Manchester rivals United and City as the only title contenders this season, but it appears highly likely that Arsenal will not be among the chasing pack now headed by the new-look Liverpool and Chelsea.
What is more, the 8-2 hammering the Gunners suffered at Old Trafford suggests that Arsene Wenger’s side might even struggle to finish in the top six, unless the Frenchman can swiftly turn around their fortunes.
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.
Paul Scholes may have left a huge pair of boots to fill in Manchester United’s midfield, but Alex Ferguson may not have to add a big-money signing to his squad if their performance in a captivating 3-2 Community Shield win over Manchester City is anything to go by.
While Ferguson has apparently made several attempts to lure Inter Milan and Netherlands playmaker Wesley Sneijder to his outfit during the break, United’s second-half comeback at Wembley suggests he may have found one or two replacements closer to home.
“You can’t win anything with kids,” said former Liverpool defender Alan Hansen of Manchester United’s young team in 1995. Alex Ferguson’s troops went on to win the Premier League that season in 1996.
Are we about to see a similar outcome in the 2011/12 season after Ferguson hauled off the experienced trio of Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Michael Carrick with United 2-0 down to rivals Manchester City before they staged a second-half comeback to win the Community Shield 3-2 on Sunday?