Saturday, May 28, 2011

Arsenal help Barca in bid to beat Man United

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Arsenal are doing Barcelona a huge favour by allowing them to use their training ground.

Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola and his players flew to England last night because of fears about the ash cloud affecting air travel before the Champions League final on Saturday.

Arsenal have put aside recent rows surrounding "tapping up" storms over Cesc Fabregas to allow them to use London Colney on Wednesday night and Thursday before facing Manchester United.

Swansea City will also use Arsenal's Hertfordshire HQ on Sunday ahead of Monday's play-off final at Wembley.

A Tribute To Roy Keane

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I was recently profiled on the blog of Norman Geras (link here), Professor Emeritus of Government at the University of Manchester and author of Marx and Human Nature, amongst other works. Bear with me here, this isn’t some massive self-promoting ego trip, it turns out that Mr Geras, having moved to Manchester from Zimbabwe (then Southern Rhodesia) in 1962, is a big United fan. Come on, he wasn’t going to choose City, was he?

Norm normally blogs on political and philosophical matters, such as this superb piece he did recently, putting forward the case for the spread of Western liberal democracy, by force where necessary (link here). However, his blog also has the odd piece on United, one of which I would like to share below. Written by Morris Sheftel in 2005 (link here), it is a tribute to Roy Keane, in my eyes arguably the greatest player in United’s history, and a man people would be foolish to write off as a manager. Hope you enjoy it.

Remembering George Best

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There was a tiny, insignificant incident in one of the first matches I saw George Best play for Manchester United that has always haunted me, in some ways more than than the many moments of genius I witnessed in his brilliant subsequent career.It occured in March 1964 against Fulham as United were desperately trying to keep alive a faltering campaign to win the league title, having recently unexpectedly lost both a Cup Winners Cup quarter final against Sporting Lisbon and an FA Cup semi-final against West Ham in successive matches. There was a packed Good Friday crowd in Craven Cottage hoping to see further humiliation heaped on the mighty Reds and the Londoners had a strong team with top-quality players such as Bobby Robson and the great Johnny Haynes. It was the latter who gave Fulham the lead with a perfectly struck volley past Dave Gaskell after ten minutes at which point United stirred themselves into action with surging passing movements.David Herd cracked in an equalizer from a Bobby Charlton corner and then Denis Law was suddenly put through, one-on-one against Tony Macedo in the Fulham goal, and with a shimmy of the hips slotted the ball home and wheeled away, arm raised in imperious salute. At 2-1 up after half an hour United looked in complete control and surely one more goal would settle it and secure the vital points. But then came the moment I’ll never forget.

With United pouring forward and carving openings almost at will, Bobby Charlton, who was notionally on the left wing, had switched to the middle, while the skinny 17-year-old George Best had crossed over from the right to take his place out wide on the left, where he was trying to get the jump on full-back George Cohen, the World Cup winner of two years later. Bobby swept one of his glorious 50 yard passes out to Best, who had suddenly found acres of space, all alone on the touchline, while Denis Law hurtled into the box towards the near-post, waiting for the ‘inevitable’ cross from which he would surely strike the killer blow. But then the most amazing thing happened. George completely mis-controlled the impeccably flighted ball from Bobby in an elementary error, allowing it to dribble miserably over the line and out of play. Denis screeched to a halt, gesturing angrily with his outstretched hands, palms splayed pleadingly to show where he’d wanted the ball played, while Bobby looked tense, giving George a withering look, as if to say, ‘For Christ’s sake, concentrate!’ But it was the look on the George’s face that I’ll never forget, a mixture of shy embarrassment, disarming naughty-schoolboy grin, disquieting little boy lost, and then chin-up defiance,all so characteristic of the Georgie Best the world came to know – and love- over the next five years.
George didn’t let his awful mistake throw him and he never tried to hide, but in the end Fulham equalised in the last few minutes through their own teenage winger, 18-year-old Steve Earle, and United’s tilt at the championship took a mortal blow.Bill Shankly’s Liverpool were eventually crowned champions and United were runners-up, four points behind.