Monthly Archives: May 2012

For the fear of coming across as an arrogant pseudo-intellect, I have shied away from expressing such opinion. Glad someone else did it. All you people listening to crap music, throw that shit out.

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By Michael Njoroge (@Mikenjoro)

I’m scared.

Scared, not because of the Manchester City fans. No, not them. They don’t scare me. In my part of the world, there are not enough genuine City fans who can really rub it in. Just City sympathizers who really, to be honest, made the right decision. They did not want Manchester United to win. Manchester United haven’t won. But they, they don’t scare me.

Scared, not because of the Gooner. Unlike the City fan, he has more than enough comrades in this part of the world. He may want to rub it in, but unlike the City fan, he lacks enough firepower. And he secretly knows it. And though he claims that his club, along with mine, are at par in terms of the achievements of the season (or lack of), that assertion, quite oddly, is both true, and untrue. He is simultaneously right and wrong. But he does not scare me. No, not him.

I’m scared because my blood is red, and its not just because of the haemoglobin. Manchester red. It scares me because I try not to act like one. But I can’t really deny the emotions that come with it. It is impossible to be, and yet at the same time, act as if I wasn’t. It is impossible, yet it is still possible. That dilemma scares me. For it forces me to withhold my opinion. Fear of the fact that my opinion on the subject will be considered biased. Or as a consolatory remark. In truth, I am not sure myself which one it is. Objective or subjective. Clear view, or red view. Am not sure. And that scares me. Scares the living daylights out of me.

But the minute you are scared to voice your opinion is the moment you shrink your greatness. It is the moment your darkness obliterates your light.  But I am not inadequate. I am powerful beyond measure. This opinion will not stay in my head. And besides, this article cannot write itself.

So, here goes.

Manchester City are champions. They totally deserve it. They have played the better football. Expansive I think is what they call it. They have scored more goals. Brilliant ones too. About 5 or 6 (no, not those 6). They have also shown character. They should have lost against Sunderland. Mario Balotelli and Aleksandr Kolarov ensured they didn’t (of course, after sorting out their little spat). They should have lost against Chelsea. But Carlos Tevez reversed the pass. Samir Nasri clinched it. They should have given it up. Mikel Arteta sought to convince them so. But they did not. And now, they are the best in Manchester. Now, they are the best in England.

Don’t talk about the money. Yes, His Highness Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan has pumped in the millions. But fuelling a car doesn’t mean that the car will win the race. Money buys talent. Money buys class. It does not buy championships. It only seeks to steer. Money can buy Sergio Aguero. It can’t buy that last minute winner. That final day drama. It can’t buy a moment of history. It can only precipitate it.

Deserved champions they are. But also as well in the League, deserved runners up come behind them. Manchester United. For the 7th time in a row, they have finished either first or second.  And though their head to head record shows a huge gulf in class, the overall league table doesn’t.  Level on points. City won it on goal difference. It is an illusion. So far behind, yet so near.  The fact that the last day was so dramatic was due, in part to United as it was to City. United, in truth, pushed them to the limit. United, did what they had to. That meant that City had to as well. It wasn’t a procession. It was nerve-wrecking. It shouldn’t have been. It should have been a pleasure cruise. It wasn’t.

Why it wasn’t that easy for City doesn’t matter. They have reached the pinnacle, regardless. And there is no use mulling over the quality of the United squad. That is never an excuse. Never from Sir Alex Ferguson. Never from Arsene Wenger at Arsenal. It is the reason they overachieve. It is the reason they are 2nd and 3rd best, when all odds point to them not being 2nd and 3rd best. It is the reason it hurts to be second, or third. Because it was expected that 1st is the only objective. Even when it does not seem realistic. The belief was instilled. There is never any room for excuses.

But what happens  when 1st place does not materialize?

You react. He reacts. He always does. Its in his DNA. It probably hasn’t been in Wenger’s, at least for the past 7 years. But now, there are signs that it is. Wenger is looking to do what the knight has always done. React.  He has been doing it for years. Reacting to everything. To Liverpool’s tradition. To Kenny Dalglish and Jack Walker’s Blackburn. To Kevin Keegan, when he would have ‘absolut’ly lov’d it if we beat ‘em.’ To Wenger’s football. To Jose Mourinho’s pragmatism. To Rafa Benitez’s ‘facts rant.’ To Carlo Ancelotti. He has always reacted. And now, there is the Roberto Mancini problem. Now, what will he do.

I assure you that for as long as Sir Alex has breathe in his lungs and chewing gum is still edible, he will react. The problem will be solved. It may take one year. It may take two. Eventually, it will be solved.  The cool Italian will eventually feel the pressure. He will be scrambling for his scarf. The noisy neighbours will eventually be silenced. Let them have their party now. They deserve it. A time will come when it will be their turn to watch us have the party as they have always done. Sir Alex will react. He always does.

And when he does, Manchester United will be back.

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So that’s that then. Man United will finish the season trophyless for the first time since 2005 bar a catastrophe for City on the last day. To say the least, it has been a pretty dire season by United standards. Our gameplay has been more functional than pleasant, efficiency being the keyword.

There have been extra ordinary highs such as the 8-2 win against Arsenal but more often than not, turgid affairs have been the order of the day. The regular three points kept the belief that we stood a chance (as it still does) but truth be told, entertainment has been little and far between.  It has been a gallant effort by Sir and his boys as they have maximized on whatever little resources availed to them to give the championship a go.

In hindsight though, our current position doesn’t come as much of a surprise. The parsimonious Glazer regime has hampered United’s ability to compete despite the best effort of the team. The three signings by Manchester United last summer were nowhere near enough to fill the gap existent following the departure of several players.

David de Gea was a direct replacement for VDS, a signing that was not out of choice. The fact that several clubs had their bids for Phil Jones accepted by Blackburn forced United’s hand as they had identified Jones as a future signing. His unplanned move has been reflected in the way the United management hasn’t figured where to use him best. This, as much as his versatility has been a reason as to why Jones has played at center back, right back and central mid at different spells this season.

Ashley Young’s signing epitomizes United’s transfer strategy in the Glazer era; players available on the cheap due to contractual reasons. It is arguable that we needed a central midfielder more than we needed a winger like Ashley Young. The fact that he was a quality English player available on a cut deal made United move for Ashley Young, instead of going for a central midfielder who was needed more. Young has been a good signing but his arrival signaled the close of summer business for us.

Those three signings were deemed enough to augment a squad that was already lacking in quality and later, numbers following the departures of VDSar, GNev, Hargreaves, Brown, O’shea, Scholes and in time Gibson. This meant that as much as we spent 50 million pounds, we went into the season without achieving squad balance with our central midfield lacking in quantity and quality. By October, the paucity in midfield options saw Rooney played in midfield for a number of games including a European tie.

Man United have largely won the easier fixtures without getting out of gear two but we haven’t looked convincing enough in the big games. We have surrendered easily in some of these matches and looked shaky on other occasions even when winning. Big games call for big players and few United players have stood up to be counted when the going has got tough.

Our transfer strategy has seen us concentrate the squad with players that have ‘resale value,’ a term synonymous with players under 26 years of age who can be sold for a profit, and senior players above 32 years of age. The only players in the 26-31 bracket are Carrick, Berbatov, Park, Vidic and Fletcher. Fate had it that the latter two would miss most of the season through injury with Park and Berbatov being non-features. Only Carrick would feature prominently.

It is arguable that in football, a player reaches his peak between the ages of 26 and 31. It is during this age bracket that a player finds the perfect balance between physical ability and mental maturity, with younger or older players lacking in either the experience or youthful vigour respectively to perform at their very best. It is therefore logical that the more of such players in your squad, the higher your chances of success. As it is, United’s squad is full of talented kids who will be world beaters in a few years and older players who despite their ability and experience, cannot be called upon in every game.

There are some instances where previous United teams with enough leaders on the field would not have let the game slip from their hands. The 4-4 draw against Everton comes to mind as an obvious example. Naivety was also evident as United tried to chase the game despite being 1-4 down in injury time against City. A team with older heads would have accepted the loss at that point and avoided the humiliation that ensued.

The fact that we didn’t address our central midfield was truly shocking. At best, it was short sighted and at worst negligent. Our central midfield has been crying out for reinforcements for several seasons before last summer and the departure of Scholes and Hargreaves meant that we were due at least one central midfielder if not two or three. That we brought back the ginger ninja mid season showed how ridiculous it was not to sign a central midfielder last summer.

Looking forward to next season, it is important we look at certain areas of our squad if we are to remain competitive both at home and in Europe. Of utmost importance is the signing of at least one central midfelder or two if Pogba leaves. We have been crying out for midfield signings for several years and continue to do so. Even with the return of Scholes, our midfield has not been good enough to compete against the very best. The mooted transfer of Shinji Kagawa from Borussia Dortmund to United would be a good start to our summer business. A destroyer to complement the midfielders we have wouldn’t go amiss either. It’s been a while since we had a midfielder who would crunch into tackles and terrify the opponent Keano-style.

Patrice Evra has been a consistent figure in our defence for over five years but his performances have began to tail off in the last two years. Personally, I’d have Fabio played more regularly with Evra deputizing but since that doesn’t seem to be on the cards with Fabio’s planned loan move, a left back to provide competition to Evra is required.

It remains to be seen whether Fergie will be able to convince the owners to fork out the amount required for transfers to keep United competitive. Without necessary additions, there is the nightmare scenario that City will deny us titles regularly, starting with the league title on Sunday. In the mean time, we can all concentrate our energies into hoping the Glazers disappear to whatever hole they came out from.

Game of the season: Man United 8-2 Arsenal

A day when all that could go right did exactly so. Its one thing hammering any team 8-2 but metting out such punishment to one of your biggest and loudest rivals is another story. Despite the poor quality of opponent on the day, this is one game reds worldwide won’t be forgetting any time soon.

Worst game of the season: Man United 1-6 Man City

Not just the worst game of the season but the worst in my time supporting Man United and beyond. Writing about it seven months later gives me the same sick feeling. The less talked about, the better.

Goal of the season: Ashley Young vs Arsenal 8-2

For his first season, Ashley Young has scored some amazing curlers. None has been better than the first he scored against Arsenal during the 8-2 demolition. The technique to curl the ball from outside the box and place iot in the top corner is a difficult one to execute and the fact that he’s scored several similar goals shows that its not a fluke. Other notable goals include Fletcher’s in the 1-6 debacle, Welbeck’s goal against Everton at Old Trafford and Nani’s goal versus Chelsea at Old Trafford.

Player of the season: Wayne Rooney

It’s a tricky one choosing the player of the season as different players have proved crucial at different times of the season. The mature performances by Johny Evans in Vidic’s absence and his recovery from the 1-6 low point makes the Irishman a viable candidate. Michael Carrick has been a pillar of calm and consistency in the heart of our midfield. So too has Valencia in the wings with consistently impressive outings, particularly in the second half of the season. Paul Scholes came back to steady the ship and soon went about doing his magic, his return coinciding with our most productive spell till the late season slump.

Ultimately though, Wayne Rooney shades it with his overall contribution that includes 33 goals in all competitions. He has largely had to play number 10 in a 4-4-2 formation this season behind Welbeck or Hernandez and to still finish the season with such a high return speaks of his undoubted world class quality. Infact, I’d go as far as proclaiming him the best player in the world after those two La Liga freaks.

Rooney’s return to number ten has seen him get involved in build up play more often while still exhibiting ruthless efficiency when infront of goal hence getting the best out of the player. His contract saga is now behind us and Rooney remains central to United’s fortunes now and in the future.

Worst Player of the season: Park Ji Sung and Michael Owen

A tie between Park and Owen for this one. Park has had his appearances few and far apart which has not helped his game as he ages and loses the physical ability to maintain his high energy performances that made him a key squad player especially during big matches. He has only managed 18 starts this season with nine of those starts coinciding with a loss for United. A fan favourite, the former South Korea captain is likely to leave in the summer. He will be remembered fondly by the fans.

Michael Owen has had a worse season than his prior seasons at United, something which seemed impossible given how poor his previous seasons were. He has been largely missing with just 3 starts this season (none in the league) and offered little on those few occasions he has been called upon to play. The ultimate low in Glazers frugal transfer policy of cheap/free signings, he is likely to follow Park out of the door and will not be missed by many.

Young Player of the season: Danny Welbeck

Young players often endure unproductive spells during their formative years of pro football (through loss of form or injury) as part of the growing up process. Phil Jones, De Gea, Cleverley, Smalling, Rafael and Fabio have all had such unproductive spells for different reasons this season despite some promising outings.

The stand out performer among the younger players has been Danny Welbeck. Welbeck returned from a season-long loan in Sunderland and came back having matured physically and his perfomances proved equally mature and impressive. Welbeck has formed a good partnership with Rooney, nailing down a starting spot for club and his form sees him going to the Euros with England with a chance of leading the line in their opener against France.

We are often reminded of how Man United hasn’t produced a first team striker from the reserves since Mark Hughes almost two decades ago but that unwanted statistic is about to be rectitfied.

Welbeck has shown great versatility upfront, dropping deep to influence play and leading the line well. A big tournament might just be what he needs to announce himself to a world stage and Euro 2012 provides the perfect platform for that as Euro 2004 did for Wayne Rooney. Gwan Danny, kill it.

Disappointment of the season: Berbatov (mis)treatment

Top scorer in the league last season, Bulgarian record goal scorer and the silkiest touch in football since Zidane and still Berbatov struggles to secure even a bench spot at United. Fergie’s preference for a quicker style of play and Berbatov’s selfless love for United has seen the mercurial striker stuck at United and relegated to fourth choice striker at the club. Nowhere has graft over craft been exhibited better and at such a costly price.

It’s been sad seeing Berbatov consistently miss out on even a bench spot for most games and the sooner he takes his talent to a place where it is appreciated more the better. All the best in your career, Mitko.

Best moment of the season: Return of Scholes

That forgettable night at Wembley seemed the last we had seen of United’s most technically gifted players and one of the best in our history. Seeing his name on the squad sheet before the F.A Cup tie at City had our collective pants wet with excitement as we never expected to see the magical Scholes perform live again. As Ian Holloway put it, what he does is art and the chance to watch his masterful play once again  was one we welcomed with glee.

The second half of the season has been full of wonderful long range passes from Scholes with a few late-run goals for old times sake. It was arguably the best moment of the season when Scholes returned and another season of spoiling us with his technical brilliance would be welcome especially as the only other technically perfect player, Berbatov looks likely to leave.

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The forgotten twin

The forgotten twin, Fabio da Silva

When signing for Manchester United in 2008 alongside his brother Rafael, Fabio da Silva was widely regarded as the more talented of the Brazilian twins. After all, he had captained his country at different age groups including the U-17 team at the World Cup where he was the joint top scorer for his country despite playing as a defender.

Fast forward a few years later and Fabio is struggling to establish himself in the United team, his brother having long settled into the team and arguably nailed down a spot for himself in the starting eleven. The reversal of fortunes leaves you wondering whether this was just another instance of wrongful judgment by pundits or whether there is a deeper cause to Fabio’s stagnation.

Over the course of his time in England, the former Fluminense prodigy has suffered a plethora of injuries, his shoulder bearing the brunt of such malaise. Much like his brother, Fabio has proved to be a very fragile player, rarely completing the full ninety minutes on his equally rare starts due to injuries and knocks. To say this has been a frustrating feature of his United career would be a gross understatement. Given his immense potential, it’s amazing to think how far Fabio would have progressed in his United career had he stayed injury free.

The consistent and seemingly indefatigable nature of Patrice Evra’s play has also put paid to the young pretender’s claim to the throne. Evra has been a permanent feature of that defence to the extent that he was given the armband at Rio Ferdinand’s expense. The combination of these two factors has seen Fabio limited to just 36 starts in his United career to date.

However, there is a third reason (though not as obvious as the first two) that can provide a clue as to why the more talented of United’s twin dynamos has had a difficult time finding his feet in England. For the better part of the 2008/09 season, Fabio featured prominently for United’s reserves. It’s during this time that another feature of his game, albeit a less heralded one began to emerge. For the most part of that reserves campaign, Fabio da Silva played predominantly on the left side of midfield. His stint as a winger showcased his versatility but more importantly, his immense attacking abilities usually associated with Brazilian fullbacks. Able to use his right foot as well as his left, the dimunitive Brazilian tore apart fullbacks with his repertoire of skills and explosive dribbling bursts with the ball. He proved a key outlet for United’s stiffs.

The increased attacking responsibilities sans the need to defend gave an interesting alternative to Fabio the fullback. The shackles were off and rather inevitably, the goals followed. Fabio scored an incredible hatrick against Rochdale in the Lancashire Senior cup.

Back to Spring 2012 and Fabio is facing an uphill battle to establish his place in the United side. His lack of action this term has led to Sir Alex deciding that the player’s development would be served better with action elsewhere.

“With Evra such a consistent performer over the last five years, it doesn’t matter who would have been second choice, it would have been difficult for them and that is the situation with Fabio,” said Sir Alex. “It has been difficult for him.”

“We will put him out on loan, possibly to Portugal next season; I know there has been a bit of interest.

If the loan proves to be half as beneficial as Welbeck’s or Cleverley’s loan spell, we will have one hell of a player in our ranks, a fact Fergie recognizes.

“Fabio’s brother has improved by getting consistent games for us. So I think a year out at a good level playing every week will make Fabio a real top player for us.”

While a full season with game time would do his career a world of good, it is the opportunity to prove himself in a number of positions that will ultimately be the making of Fabio. (Fabio hatrick against Rochdale)


( I’m pleased to announce that the blog has been nominated among the ‘Best Sports Blog’ at the inaugural Bloggers Association of Kenya Awards. Kindly head to and vote ‘Panoramicdon’ as the best sports blog. Voting closes tomorrow with the awards ceremony slated for Saturday. Your continued support is greatly appreciated. Ta)





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Squeaky Bum Time

Agony for reds..might not last long

It’s two days after the derby. The feeling of disgust has subsided enough for me to jot down a few words on Man United. I can think clearly now the shit storm is over. I know the last thing y’all wanna read now is anything United related but bear with me.

An interesting feature of this season’s title race has been the handing over of the initiative by each Manchester side once on the ascendancy. At some point early in 2012, City all but looked assured of winning their first title in 40-odd years after establishing a healthy lead. As April approached, the jitters of leading the title race got the better of City to a point of implosion. United, having hauled back the bitters and established an eight point lead at the top of the table were going to defend their title. Or so it seemed.

The eight point lead United had over City in mid-April vanished as quickly as the time it took for them to establish that lead. Having dropped just two points since the turn of the year, United dropped points in three succesive games culminating in City’s return to the top of the table. For a team that had such consistency, the sudden desertion of United’s famed resolve was unimaginable. It seemed the hot seat was too hot to handle.

And now we have City back at the top with two games to go. Only the most hopelessly optimistic reds think that the title race is not over yet. The blue confetti has been thrown all around and obituaries in red fill the sports pages. But don’t pop the champagne yet. If the take-and-give that has been happening at the top is anything to go by, the last chapter of this race might not have been written yet. And what an ending we might be in store for.

City face Newcastle away in their next game followed by QPR at home. Newcastle are still in the race for the coveted champions league places and have an impregnable record at home. Reds will no doubt remember the 3-0 drubbing we got at the Sports Direct Arena, arguably our worst performance this season. This game has the potential to be a title decider in more ways than the derby itself. So to is the QPR match. As Wigan have shown, facing a relegation bound team at this stage of the season is one of the most difficult games you can ask for.

The point of all this is that the number one spot has been a poisoned chalice up to this point with both teams losing their radars as soon as they get to the top. For now, all United fans can do is squeeze our bums, what Fergie famously alluded to but the press reported it as ‘squeakybumtime’ due to his heavy Govan accent. As it has repeatedly proven so far this season, its not over till the fat lady sings. With City being City, anything is possible. So for one last time, BELIEVE!


( I’m pleased to announce that the blog has been nominated among the ‘Best Sports Blog’ at the inaugural Bloggers Association of Kenya Awards. Kindly head to and vote ‘Panoramicdon’ as the best sports blog. Voting closes tomorrow with the awards ceremony slated for Saturday. Your continued support is greatly appreciated. Ta)

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