Fergie speaks and the world listens, Rafa’s keeping it Real and UEFA fixture insensitivity

Looking at the table yesterday morning was a bit like the feeling one gets during the month after Christmas.

In the lead up to the “big day” one spends and spends probably wasting money simply “because it’s Christmas”. Then the consequences of such “recklessness” hit home the following month when bank statement or credit card bill drops onto the mat. I guess yesterday the consequences of all those draws that should have been wins has really hit home. What was always in the back our minds, but were secretly hoping won’t become an issue, has happened. We were caught up, over taken and are now really playing catch up. The Mancs are five points clear.

Of course there is a long way to go yet and we are still very much in with a shout. A look at the table, even though it’s different from a few months back, still tells us that. We can also take “comfort” that the situation has been ratified from a “higher source” none other than Lord Fergie, Curator of Theatre of Delusion himself!

“Looking at the Chelsea situation from United’s point of view, I think they have played into our hands and that the title race now is going to be between ourselves and Liverpool. However, I shall be keeping a wary eye on Aston Villa, who seem to have picked up the baton from Arsenal.”

No doubt Guus Hiddink will feel has something to say about the Fergie’s comments over the “Chelsea situation”. I don’t know if it’s winning the Champions League, or the farcical jamboree that decided who was “World Champion”, that’s done it but it seems that Fergie suddenly feels his position is so secure and dominating that he can discuss the fortunes, organisation and internal dealings of other clubs as if he is some untouchable, sage who can do no wrong. For example I love the way he talks about keeping “a wary eye” on Villa as if he’s some crusty old schoolmaster who suspects, but cannot prove, a young third former of being up to no good!

The trouble is Fergie’s “authority” is self appointed and in football, as in life, the old maxim of “what goes around comes around” will inevitably apply. Some day Fergie, and no amount of experience or trophies will exclude you from that!

As I mentioned in the last blog I believe it’s not a disaster to be were we are. The Mancs have hit the front and, by the time we line up against City, could be eight points clear. However, perhaps the pressure is off and with our break we can simply concentrate of playing good football, that’s free of fear and shut out all the other off the field c**p?

Limiting speculation and deflecting pressure is certainly something that Rafa seems to be trying to do. Inevitably talk about the Real Madrid game is building with every day. Jose Reina has gone on record in saying he feels we can beat them, not that any player in L4 would state that he felt we couldn’t! Meanwhile Real’s manager Juande Ramos thinks we were mad to sell Robbie Keane and, more ridiculously and foolishly, one of his players, Van der Vaart, believes we will bottle it.

“We’re Real Madrid, which is why I think Liverpool are frightened of us”

This is a remark that barely deserves a reaction as it would give it credibility. He really has no idea at all has he? It’s a cliché but it’s the sort of statement managers pin to dressing room walls and say “there’s my team talk”.

Anyway, as mentioned before, Rafa’s having none of it.

“The main thing for us right now is the game against Manchester City – that is very clear. This game has to be the priority because it is in the Premier League and we are in a good position and want to take three points. We have three days after we have played City in which we can look forward to Madrid but for now our focus must only be on the league.”

Sound words but surely Rafa, as a Madrid man, can’t help himself! No doubt he will be professional about the City game but I bet, in his heart of hearts, he can’t wait for it to end so he can get cracking for Wednesday!

Finally can any one explain this to me? Why, in last season’s Champions League, did UEFA agree to us playing Inter Milan at the San Siro a week after all the other games? The answer is of course because there was a fixture clash, Arsenal were playing AC Milan in San Siro in same the week. So it can be done. Champions League fixtures can be moved, in this case put back a week. So why does UEFA in all its wisdom trot the following statement in response to our perfectly reasonable request to move a potential Champions League tie (assuming we overcome Real) from 15 April, the 20th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster, to 14th April?

“We have received a request and we will try our best to accommodate it, but we cannot guarantee at this stage that we will be able to.”


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