Friday, September 12, 2014

Bringing Sexy Back

Impotence is a common yet very frustrating condition, impacting over half of the teams in the English Premier League (EPL).

Impotence is a team’s inability to rise to the occasion, disrupting the capacity to deliver consistent thrust and penetration when moving forward. This is not a disease as such, but a symptom of other problems – failure to invest in quality players, poor coaching, or a mixture of both.

Fans shouldn’t be too worried about the occasional failure to play exciting, attractive football. This is normal. Some of the root causes of occasional performance failure include bedding in new players, injury problems, back-to-back games, and experimentation with new tactical systems. Unless poor performance continues, there is no reason to be concerned.

However, ongoing impotence should be investigated and addressed as a priority.

For Manchester United fans the concerns around impotence and poor performance have been growing steadily over the past handful of seasons. And whilst victory in the pre-season International Champions Cup offered hope that we might be turning a corner, symptoms have persisted and the winless start to the EPL season offered evidence that our problems of maintaining sustained periods of penetration continue.

For a number of seasons now there has been a lack of thrust in United’s forward play, with a complete inability to breach the opposition backline consistently. The team has been boring, stale and unimaginative, offering little in the way of excitement or stimulation.

To be completely frank, Wednesday nights and weekends at Old Trafford have become dourer than David Moyes personality, and more depressing than following the stranger into the van then realising he doesn't have any candy.

Live viewing, replays and statistical analysis can determine if the flow of the ball from the middle to the tip has been adversely affected. Further testing can also help to isolate specific areas of dysfunction.

Unfortunately misdiagnosis can occur, which often leads to challenges in corrective treatment.

In the case of Manchester United many experts diagnosed the problem as a lack of investment on new recruits by the Glazer family. A combined $60M plus spent on Mata and Fellaini last season quickly dispels this theory.

Other notable authorities have cited the failure of the youth team to emulate the performance of the Class of 92. Certainly the likes of Cleverly, Welbeck et al. have flattered to deceive. Historically it’s extremely rare for teams to graduate one or two players from one academy squad into the first team, much less six players. Rarer still that they all become internationals.  The Class of 92 is such an outlier it cannot be used as a realistic benchmark.

Poor depth, especially in midfield, is touted as a factor. Undoubtedly ever since Roy Keane hung up the boxing gloves we’ve been overly reliant on Paul Scholes and his KISS like ‘final world tour’, along with the more pedestrian qualities of Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher. And while it's true this has been a problem, it does not get to the root of our difficulties.

All of these factors have contributed in some form to United’s embarrassingly rapid fall from grace. Yet there is a far more fundamental issue at the heart of United woes.

A lack of sex appeal.

For years we’ve heard about playing the ‘United Way’. How an attacking, flair based game played well into ‘Fergie time’ was somehow a trademark of Old Trafford…and to a certain degree it has been. But there’s something far more significant to the Manchester United ethos and success than a three on two fast break or an injury time winner.

Sex appeal!

It’s that bloody simple. Not convinced? Hear me out:

Each period of United domination has coincided with a United player who has stood head and shoulders above all as a sex icon.
It all started with George Best. Such was Georgie’s talent and charisma he became the first celebrity footballer…earning the nickname El Beatle. Anyone who was been quoted saying "I spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars – the rest I just squandered" simply oozes sex appeal. And it was with Best leading the line that United were first crowned European Champions.

Unfortunately George wasn’t equipped to handle celebrity, and his extravagant lifestyle led to various issues, including a painful battle with alcoholism. Best’s premature retirement was proceeded by a period of footballing darkness lasting decades.
It wasn’t until the mischievous, cheeky grin of Lee Sharpe and the slicked curls of a youthful Ryan Giggs strode onto the scene in the early nineties that United’s rejuvenation began.  Both players brought with them an exuberance that had been sorely missed, and a first championship after 26 painful years followed. 
Whilst Sharpe and Giggs got some of the girls panting, it was when David Beckham took centre stage – complete with sarongs, tattoos, highlights, hair gel and celebrity wife – that United’s domination hit peak form. As Beck’s got sexier, so United got more successful. It is a basis of scientific fact that a directly proportional relationship exists between images of Beckham half naked featuring in women’s magazines, and trophies appearing in United’s cabinet.

Soon enough though Brand Beckham got too big for the Boss…at some point too much sex appeal can become a distraction. And so Becks was exported to Spain, and we imported a new product from Portugal. Genetically modified in a Lisbon laboratory, Cristiano Ronaldo kept the men and their wives enthralled, terrorizing defenders without a single strand of hair out of place. He’d thwack in a free kick stunner and follow that up by removing his shirt to reveal 16 perfectly sculpted abdominal muscles.
After delivering another European Cup Ronaldo nearly caused our sex drive to go into overdrive, and like Becks we bid adios and he was sent packing to Madrid. It seems the appetite and tolerance for coitus is much higher in the sunshine of Spain than the colder climates of the UK.

Darkness once again began to envelope the Theatre of Dreams. With the likes of Rooney, Carrick and Fletcher as our poster boys not only did we lack inspiration on the pitch, this translated to an appalling lack of stimulation and activity in the terraces and the homes of Manchurian’s the world over.

But that’s all changed, because after years of searching we’re finally bringing sexy back to Old Trafford. Welcome Radamel Falcao.

I know there have been a lot of critics who have panned the Falcao transfer. “He’s injury prone” they say. “He’s overpaid”, “his best days are behind him”, and “what about a midfielder and a centre-half?”

All rational critiques steeped in logical footballing fundamentals.

But f#ck all that I say, because they all miss one glaring fact – the man looks amazing! And if history teaches us anything it’s where good looking men go, success follows.

I simply cannot wait to see Radamel, resplendent in Manchester red, with his long locks flowing and tanned thighs pumping, start banging away goals left, right and centre. With each goal he scores Radamel will re-ignite the Theatre of Dreams, rekindle our passion, and revive our primal lust for winning.

It’s not enough to win…you’ve got to look good doing it. And now we look pretty f#cken sensational!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Are you not entertained?

So cried Maximus, his rhetorical question echoing off the bodies off his fallen victims, into the ears of the bloodthirsty crowd above, perversely enjoying this feast of death and destruction.

Yes we bloody hell are!!!

I’m not big on hyperbole, but this past ten days in sport has been as vicious, as violent, as exhilarating and as impactful as Maximus’ performance in the Coliseum that day.

So without further ado let’s jump into our DeLorean and travel back to the weekend before last, when the World Cup delivered an entrĂ©e of quarter finals.

The second knockout stage of the Cup promised much, but after an exciting round of 16, flattered to deceive. The favourites all won through in unconvincing style…but this was but the teaser, the lap dance, before the full show began.

And what a show it was!  

The very same weekend the footballing minnows packed their bags to depart Rio, Le Tour kicked off…and in spectacular fashion. Hundreds of thousands of Brits lined the streets of Yorkshire anticipating a Mark Cavendish victory. If the Manxman crossed the finish line first he’d don the Maillot Jaune for the first time in his glittering career, in front of his countrymen no less. Unfortunately Cav took a tumble and was subsequently forced out of the race, leaving British dreams in tatters.

He wasn’t the only Brit to suffer the same ignominy, with Chris Froome becoming the first champion to retire while defending his title. Not the only victim on the dreaded paves, Froome’s early departure has robbed cycling nuts, including yours truly, of a Froome versus Contador head to head clash heading into the mountain stages. At the very least though we can sleep well at night, safe in the knowledge that Froome hasn’t been injected with some horse tranquilisers to stay on the bike. Maybe cycling is clean after all!

From the rough and tumble of Northern France to the more refined greenery of SW19, where Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic served up a main course of sumptuous tennis worthy of being washed down with some sparkling vino and a portion of London’s finest strawberries and cream. Roger’s first served thundered, while Novak’s groundstrokes dominated proceedings, in a four hour exhibition of the highest quality grass court tennis. In the end Novak put his personal demons to rest. To lose four consecutive Grand Slam finals would test even the strongest of dispositions, especially after allowing a seemingly impregnable fourth set lead whittle away. After a public display of nerves that would have made Any Murray proud Nole steadied the ship long enough to slay Federer, once again climbing the summit of men’s tennis. Seven slams, with only Roland Garros standing before Djokovic and true greatness.

While Nole was busy feasting on the sweat stained turf that is Centre Court (would that be considered a gluten free meal I wonder?), 70 kms away Formula One was putting on its own show. From the tens of thousands gathering at the hallowed grounds of Silverstone, to the first lap shunt between Massa and Raikonnen through to championship leader Rosberg retiring, this race had drama aplenty. But nothing was more dramatic than the person dual between Vettel and Alonso. Watching these two world champions duke it out for P5 was breathtaking. Each driver, at the absolutely peak of his powers, was pushing the car harder than it had any right to go, and using more of the road than a New York cab driver. Exhilarating.

At this point I’ve got to give a massive shout out to the good people at Apple and to the late Steve Jobs. It’s only through his ingenuity and creativity, along with the pitiful wages paid to pre-teen Asian kids in some technology sweatshop most probably, that I was able to enjoy watching Nole versus Fed on the idiot box while tracking Le Tour on the iPad and Silverstone on the iPhone. Gotta love technology, despite what An#l C#nt think.

Mid-week and it’s another early morning wake up – this time to watch two powerhouses meet for only the second time in World Cup history. Hosts Brazil versus Ze Germans - the ultimate tournament team. What was to follow will be remembered as one of the most shocking results in the games great history. After 90 minutes the scoreboard read Germany 7, Brazil 1. Generations to come will look back at this score line and believe it’s either a misprint, or that Brazil fielded a team of amateurs as a show of solidarity to a nation on the brink of revolution. Neither is the truth...although most disturbingly eleven overweight amateurs would at least have put 10 men behind the ball at three nil down, protecting their goal, the result and most importantly, their pride.  To be perfectly honest I felt there was something extremely disturbing about my gleefully watching the German machine tear strips off the Brazilian backline, exposing all of their cracks out back. With each goal Germany put paid to the myth that is Jogo Bonito.

In the shadow of Christ the Redeemer, Brazil felt the wrath of the footballing Gods not seen since the Good Lord himself came down to Earth, tapped Russell Crowe on the shoulder and told him to build a big fucking boat because it would rain...a lot! The destruction was absolutely biblical.

Another quick shout out...this time to my mate from the sandpit, Lujo. Lujo correctly picked Brazil, Germany, The Netherlands and Argentina as semi final protagonists. Whilst one could easily dismiss his prediction as stating the bleeding obvious, seeing as all four teams are part of football’s elite, it was a far more scientific methodology that allowed him this wonderful insight. Lujo, a student of history, correctly deduced that there would be a game within a game fought at the 2014 FIFA World Cup. This game was Adidas versus Nike, with ghost of Adi Dassler rising from the ashes to smite his foes. And so it would come to pass, with two teams, Germany and Argentina, both proudly displaying three stripes, dismissing the young upstart with their swoosh sign. 

I was still reeling from Brazil’s atonement for violating each of the seven deadly sins that I almost missed LeBron James stunning declaration that he was leaving the sun, sand and surf of Miami Florida for a journey back home to Cleveland Ohio. The self styled Heatles would be no more, only this time without a Yoko Ono type scapegoat for the general public crucify. It’s rare that one player has the capacity to completely alter a team’s destiny, rarer still to find a player so powerful that his choice has direct consequences on the entire league. But sure enough with this one move LBJ has altered the landscape for almost every team in the NBA. His decision (with a small ‘d’) has made Cleveland a legitimate contender in the Eastern Conference, along with a marquee free agent destination. It relegates Miami from Championship calibre to playoff fodder. It meant Chris Bosh cashed Riley’s panic cheque and left Houston empty handed, which in turn secured Chandler Parson’s move to the Mavericks. This bumped the Rockets from potential Western powerhouse to middling playoff team. It has also paved the way for a Kevin Love power move to the Cavs, with the potential of a new super-team in Cleveland. The permutations are seemingly endless.
And finally, if that’s not shocking enough…Ian Thorpe came out of the closet to tell Parko he’s officially gay (despite being unofficially gay ever since he gave himself a pearl necklace)! 

This seemingly endless festival of sport culminated this morning with the Mundial final, where a unified Germany finally conquered the world. A sublime goal by ‘Super Mario’ Goetze capping off a marvelous four weeks of football. World Cup, oh how I’ll miss thee! But I’ll certainly enjoy returning to my normal sleeping patterns.

At the end of the day sports…along with Boris Becker and Puma…are the real winners! 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The dark art of self control

In a season of turmoil there is finally light at the end of this very dark tunnel, as the great city of Manchester yet again sits on the cusp of collecting another English Premier League title. Arise champions of England-elect.

That the colour of the recipient’s shirts will be sky blue rather than devil red is a mere trifle. Better sky blue than Scouse red.

Across many oceans and vast plains of land I can hear my brethren in the Stretford End reluctantly agree. Despite the difficulty, the distress, and the sheer idiocy of basking in the success of our noisy neighbours, it is the tragic demise of Liverpool FC that we really celebrate.

Call me a little man if you will…but it is often the little man who rises against the odds to strike down his larger foe. Was it not David who defeated the Philistine Goliath?

It has been a cathartic season for United fans. For the first time in over two decades wins were not guaranteed, dynamic performances few and far between, and highlights a rarity. Records at Old Trafford were smashed like cheap dinnerware at a Greek wedding. Unfortunately it was the West Brom’s, Newcastle’s and Everton’s of the world that were doing the dancing.

For the first time in this mobile digital age I was reluctant to check the overnight scores on a Monday morn. As rays of sunlight streamed into my bedroom I could only anticipate bad news would greet my eyes. Like a drunkard struggling with irritable bowel syndrome, it was better not to turn around for a glimpse at the damage left in the toilet bowl.

Yet every cloud has a silver lining. And for long suffering fans of MUFC the lining shines brighter and brighter each day.

Firstly, David Moyes was correctly advised to change his Facebook status from Chosen One to Demoted One. The Moyes reign was like the vomit that swells up in the pit of your abdomen and flies uncontrollably out of your mouth following a heroin high… euphoria promptly replaced by partially digested kebab, stomach lining and bile all over your overpriced denims. Moyes was that bile…a nasty, foul tasting stench that only serves to cleanse the system before moving onto the next high. And move on we shall.

The news that Louis Van Gaal is positioned as Sir Alex’s real replacement can only be greeted with cheers…a proven leader of big clubs, a proven manager of big players, a proven winner, and an absolute mother#cker. Those likening Moyes resume to an early Sir Alex take note…in a pissing competition it’s always the man with the biggest c#ck and balls who’ll urinate farthest.

It was not long after the Sporting Gods adopted an 11th Commandment ‘Thou Shalt Banish David Moyes’ that the shadow of darkness enveloping Old Trafford began to dissipate, travelling across the North of England to settle on Merseyside.

For many a month the Kop had been holding its collective breath, unable to fully embrace a series of unfolding events that would potentially crown Liverpool FC as the new champions of England. The demise of Sir Alex, inevitable decline of Arsenal, turmoil in Tottenham, and uncharacteristic stumbles of City and Chelsea left a vacuum at the top of the table. And Brendan Rogers, Steven Gerrard and Co were more than happy to waltz through, playing a cavalier brand of football that can only be described as breathtaking.

For a United fan it was the direst of situations. Not only was David Moyes successfully tearing down 25 years of domination in a heartbeat, but our most feared and despised rivals were on the cusp of returning to the very perch that Sir Alex had knocked them off so devastatingly. The Gods certainly have a twisted sense of humour.

Meanwhile Liverpool fans were caught in a storm of conflicting emotions. Years of disappointment had hardened them against premature celebration. But as win after magnificent win piled up, and with the finishing line in touching distance, they began to believe. Scousers the world over played a delicate game of edging, the glorious art of maintaining high level of sexual arousal for an extended period of time without reaching orgasm. Unfortunately, when you’re out of practise it can be extremely difficult to sustain the required levels of self control. And so it came (pardon the pun) to pass that on the 13th day of April in the year of our Lord 2014 that Liverpool defeated Manchester City 3-2, opened up a seven point lead at the top of the table, and all Liverpool fans felt the slightest bit of sticky leakage.

And from that moment it was all over.

Inspiring visions of Steven Gerrard marshalling his troops in the middle of Etihad Stadium were quickly replaced a fortnight later by Stevie G slipping over to gift Chelsea a goal. Then followed the tragedy at Crystal Palace, with the irony that Liverpool’s greatest and most heart-breaking moments both forever tied to a three goal lead lost on no-one.

For Scousers there will only be memories of a wonderful 2013/24 season, where they threatened to overcome all odds, but fell at the final hurdle. And with Chelsea, Manchester’s City and United and Arsenal all promising to be stronger next year, the stinging reality that this lost opportunity may never be recovered.

For United fans there is joy in celebrating the bitter, salty tears of Luis Suarez, and the promise of another dynasty on the horizon.

Come on you Reds!