London Calling

I recently went to London to cover the 800th anniversary celebration of the sealing (no, King John never signed it- but I bet he still had that sourpuss expression on his face) of the Magna Carta for the ABA Journal. I may have also made a detour to Manchester to see Old Trafford (I also had the chance to see Take That in concert, but my wife never would have forgiven me for going without her). Anyway, here are the stories that came out of it:

The Ballad of Clever Tom

(Sung to the tune of “The Ballad of Jed Clampett“)

Come and listen to a story about a man named Tom,
Clever midfielder, thought he was the bomb.
Then one day he was lighting up the grounds,
And Sir Alex came a calling – he was Manchester bound.
(United that is. 20 league titles. 3 European crowns)

Well next thing you know, he’s creating lots of goals,
Starting for United, he’s the next Paul Scholes.
Bossed Arsene’s boys – clinched the Shield at Wembley,
The sky was the limit for that lad Cleverley!
(Tom that is. TC23! Future England superstar!)

But then Clever Tom had some really bad years,
No more forward passes, always stuck in second gear.
Said it wasn’t his fault; sent to Villa on loan,
Now Goodison Park is his brand new home.
(Best of luck at Everton, Tom. But please don’t come back now, ya hear?)

The Manchester United Perennial Transfer Targets XI

For certain players, being linked with Manchester United has become a semi-annual tradition. Some players have been on the verge of joining United for so many years that you wonder whether media outlets merely have templates that they trot out every few months where they just fill in the name and price.

In fact, you can make a pretty good team with all of the players that Manchester United have been linked with in the transfer market over the last few years. Some ground rules: I looked at longevity of the rumors and gave preference to players who are still currently linked to the club (sorry Cesc). Also, I disqualified Cristiano Ronaldo, Paul Pogba and Gerard Pique and other ex-United players because it’s only natural for them to be linked to their former team.

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It Was Seven Years Ago Today

One of my favorite memories. Cristiano Ronaldo scoring on a beautiful header off a Wes Brown cross. Ryan Giggs nearly scoring in extra time. Drogba hitting the post, then getting sent off near the end of extra time for slapping Nemanja Vidic. Both sides employing game theory during the penalty shootout. Ronaldo missing his penalty. John Terry slipping and falling. Edwin van der Sar psyching out Nicolas Anelka. And, of course, Manchester United winning its third, and to date, last, Champions League trophy.

This match also marked the start of my professional writing career. At least I’ll always know that I started out on a high.

Here We Go Again…

Perpetual Manchester United target Wesley Sneijder finally looks set to fulfill his destiny by securing a lucrative move… to Juventus.

Based on various media sources, Wesley Sneijder has been on the verge of joining Manchester United in nearly every transfer window over the last four-plus years. The media continue to link Sneijder to United even though the team has no need for him as he doesn’t play center-back and there are already too many creative midfield types at the club. Sure, there have been other names continuously linked with the club, like Cesc Fabregas, Gareth Bale or Arturo Vidal. But none of those players have generated as many stories or produced as many twists-and-turns over the years as Sneijder. He’s been on the way to Old Trafford for so long that United might as well have a testimonial for him when he retires.

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Super Dave

“Is that skinny kid with the bad alpaca-like facial hair the guy we just bought from Atlético for £18 million?”

I got to see one of David de Gea’s first starts for Manchester United. I went to watch United play Barcelona in Washington, D.C. during United’s pre-season tour of the United States in 2011. The match took place several months after Messi, Villa, Xavi and Iniesta dismantled Sir Alex Ferguson’s last great United team in London during the Champions League Final. The 20 year-old, rail-thin de Gea had just signed for the club to replace United legend Edwin van der Sar, and he looked like an overgrown tuft of grass standing in his green kit on the Fed Ex Field turf.

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Goal of the Year?

I don’t know if RVP’s diving header against Spain in the World Cup was the best goal of 2014. In fact, I don’t even know if it was the best goal of the World Cup (the James Rodriguez goal made my jaw hit the floor as if I were a Looney Toons character). That being said, it might have been the most impactful goal of the year. The goal seemed to break Spain’s spirit (Spain was headed towards halftime with the lead until Daley Blind passed it to Van Persie) and signaled the end of La Roja’s dynasty which saw them win an unprecedented two Euros and a World Cup from 2008 to 2012.

Anyway, I couldn’t get enough of this goal. Be it as a coin, flipbook or Internet meme.

Wither the Manchester United Youth Academy?

A lot has been made of Manchester United’s decision to sell home-grown player Danny Welbeck to Arsenal while bringing in Colombian hitman Radamel Falcao from AS Monaco for a (potentially) astronomical fee. Predictably, many United alums are up in arms that the move is a betrayal of the club’s history of putting youth development first and giving prized academy graduates an opportunity to succeed with the first team. Former assistant manager Mike Phelan sounded the warning bell immediately after the transfer window shut, saying that the club was “losing its identity.” Eric Harrison, the famed youth team coach that won the FA Youth Cup in 1992 with the likes of Ryan Giggs, David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and the Neville Brothers said he was worried the club would “lose its soul” by importing foreign stars and failing to give opportunities to academy graduates.

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Talent Isn’t Everything

If you type “Nani work ethic” into Google, the top result is a 2010 story on an inactive Manchester United blog with the headline: “Nani’s trickery and Berbatov’s work ethic inspires United to crucial win.” That’s right. Dimitar Berbatov, who has never done anything at full speed, is the one whose work ethic is praised. The next two results are social media posts complaining about Nani’s lack of work ethic. The next two are about two people named Nani who don’t play soccer. Likewise, if you type in “Nani hard work” the top result is 2011 story from the Daily Mail about Nani, who was in the midst of a career year, talking about the hard work he put into learning how to shoot with both feet.

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