During the World Cup, you never knew quite what to expect from Javier Hernández. The only footage I saw of him beforehand, and indeed many other fans can relate, was probably one of those compilation videos on YouTube. “He looks a natural goalscorer,” says Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (he knows a thing or two about goalscorers, and he’s right, despite the lack of game time in South Africa. He started all three group games on the bench, yet dazzled with a cameo against France which not only burst his team into life, but also included a goal of his own in a deserved 2-0 victory.
Then, against Maradona’s marching men in the second round, he was the stand-out performer in a rather disappointing Mexican performance in which they lost 3-1, and it was ‘Chicarito’ who found himself on the score-sheet again, albeit in a losing cause. This was further proof of the youngster’s talent and prowess, and proved that his goal against France was no fluke. And such was the quality of the goal, it is difficult not to get too excited. “He looks really sharp,” says Darren Fletcher. “He’s young, sharp and looks really hungry. He scored a couple of great goals at the World Cup and I think he’ll be a good addition.”
And with the new season looming large, it will be interesting to see just how Hernandez adapts to the English-game. Many of United’s exports from America have come and gone, failing to hit the heights that they have managed reached elsewhere. Solskjaer, the man in charge of nurturing the club’s stars of tomorrow, also believes that United’s latest acquisition may not settle as quickly as he’d like and has, somewhat understandably, compared him with one of those ‘exports’ who failed to get to grips with the faster game: ”There are not many who can handle the tempo straight away in England so he might need some time. But he has great attributes. There are similarities with Javier and Diego Forlan with both being two-footed and quick feet. Size-wise they are similar and both know where the goal is.”
And you can envisage Hernandez making a similar impact to that of Solksjaer’s, whether that’s starting or coming off the bench, something that can help alleviate United’s title charge this season. ”He looks very sharp in the box,” added Solskjaer glowingly. “He is quick and can finish with both feet. I like his attitude for finding space. He makes good runs for midfielders to thread the ball through. He is direct in his running.” Such words of wisdom from a fans’ favourite and club legend is more reason to feel confident that Javier Hernandez can become the natural goalscorer that United were looking for to help ease the burden that is currently all on Wayne Rooney.
Just who was Uruguay’s no.10 who took the 2010 World Cup by storm? Is it not Diego Forlan, the forward who failed to cut it at Manchester United? Is it not the player, who, fascinatingly took a mammoth 27 games to end a goal-drought spanning eight months while at the club? Is it not the player once dubbed ‘Diego Forlorn’ by the British media?
There are little good memories for Diego Forlan. A two-year long story that will certainly be cut short to about two minutes when told to the Grandchildren. Those years were dark, Forlan failed to make the impact that he had made on Argentinian football, where his exceptional form for Independiente had the whole of Europe on his tail. Why he could not replicate his deadly form into the Premier League is debatable, although you would argue that he simply could not settle and adapt to the fast, English game which may go somewhere to explaining his future successes in Spain.
Six years on, we saw a matured Diego Forlan in the possession of a captain’s armband and the expectation of a nation on his shoulders. He led from the front, inspired his team to success in South Africa that England can only dream of. What proved elusive for 28 other teams, reaching the semi-finals is in itself an achievement for a country that only just scraped through qualifying. And it was all because of chief tormentor Diego. Sure, his partner in crime Luis Suarez deserves a little credit for his role as goalscorer and emergency goalkeeper in this tournament, but Forlan was the stand out performer. If he wasn’t scoring goals, he was certainly creating them.
Off the pitch, Forlan is still quite the compelling character he is on it. His entire first paycheck at United went towards an operation for his sister who was on the brink of death. Forlan was just 12 years of age when she had been involved in a car crash which had killed her boyfriend instantly, and from then on Forlan vowed to do whatever he could do, that was get into football and become a superstar – which he has done. That is admirable.
And on the field, he continues to torment defences alike. In Uruguay’s third place play-off against Germany, one could not help supporting him rather than the two teams. You feel his sumptuous volley which had put his side 2-1 up had summed up his magnificent World Cup, just how he set the tournament alight. You can’t help but admire Forlan, whose remarkable reincarnation in the game has been nothing short of inspirational. He has now achieved greatness and well done to him.
It just wasn’t to be. Those dreams of Steven Gerrard holding aloft the World Cup on July 11th were only just a pipe-dream as England literally had no defence against the Germans. It wasn’t dewy-eyed fondness that England fans show whenever they think of ’66 and Bobby Moore, quite the opposite. Again.
Four years later, we’ll have another Baddiel-Skinner song. Four years later, we’ll have another shocking Cup spin-off with an ageing James Corden trying to entice us with some ‘Back the Beard’ nonsense (things won’t change much). Four years later, we’ll have another England manager, everything will end with disappointment and the coach will be to blame. Not the 11 players on the pitch who are the ones kicking the ball (although I do realise Rooney’s received a lot of stick) but the man who can only watch from the sidelines barking the same kind of things we at home are shouting.
Think of it like this: when a team wins the players get the praise. Teams lose, manager earns blame. It’s one of those unfair things that happen in football, a head-scratcher but it’s always going to happen. A master tactician like Capello was England’s hope. Breezed through qualification in flying colours and suddenly the nation warmed to him, ‘the Italian that who would bring the cup home.’ Now an early exit and calls for his sack.
And sure, if that Lampard’s ‘goal’ had counted, it would have, almost certainly, changed the complexion of the match. If it was 2-2 instead of 2-1, would England commit three of their back four and only have one defender back like they did when Germany knocked in their third? Probably not. Although just the one defender back wasn’t clever, especially as there was plenty of time left. Especially as that defender was Glen Johnson, of all people.
Is it not the ineffective, ageing England players that are to blame? Of course, many will point out that Wayne Rooney is, too, the scapegoat, and that’s another problem. Of course, he’s England’s best player but the reason for his no-shows is simply because Rooney gets service at Manchester United. He didn’t get any for England. He can’t do it himself, believe it or not, and football’s a team game. How about the defensive incapabilities of Glen Johnson or the failures of Frank Lampard, a player, like Rooney, delivers week in week out at club level. Had Robert Green not made that clanger, would England have played Germany or could it have been Ghana? So sure, Rooney’s had a miserable World Cup as he did in 2006, but football’s a collective effort, a team game. Let’s not blame any one player or man as in Capello’s case. It isn’t a cricket game, where a batsman or bowler could single-handedly win matches by scoring a hundred or taking five wickets. Of course, cricket is also a team game but you have to see my point.
The way managers are treated in the media is a touch unfair. Sven, McLaren and Capello. They’ve all been in charge of the same players. Who is to blame for these failures? The players of course, the so-called ‘Golden Generation’. If England want a new man in charge, who wants to take it? Hodgson? Redknapp? Judging by the way past managers have been treated, it begs the question of who would really want the England job?
A case for Carrick after England’s passing horror show?
One thing was increasingly obvious during the England-Algeria game – those bleach blonde hairstyles donned by some of the Algerian players were horrible. Oh, and if you didn’t notice England’s passing in that game was dreadful. Certainly, there were problems in that game, such as worryingly, England’s inability to press the opposition.
With all the quality England’s team possesses, it’s a mystery why they failed to pass the ball with any conviction. Step up, Michael Carrick. His range of passing is exactly what England need, although Capello looks set to only make a change or two to his team with Carrick rooted to the bench for the game against Slovenia. Spain’s Xabio Alonso believes England missed a trick in not playing Carrick, and presents a strong, convincing case to Capello on why he should be in the starting XI.
“If Carrick plays for the national team the way that he does for Manchester United, then it would be very good news for England. I think that he could easily fit in the Spanish system because I really like the way he plays.
“He reads the game so well, he is always ahead of what is going to happen and he is always in the right position. When he gets the ball, he plays it easy and he is available to his team-mates all the time. For me, he has the profile to play for Barcelona or any of the Spanish teams. He would also be very complimentary to Stevie (Gerrard).”
I don’t know about Barcelona, seeing as he too has the ‘profile’ to play for Manchester United. But, Alonso has a point. He can set the tempo in the team, and is, undoubtedly, the best passer in the England side. If Capello decides against playing Carrick for Wednesday’s crunch game, then you’d imagine a 4-2-3-1 is a must, playing Rooney by himself up front with either Gerrard or Joe Cole behind.
Sunday Papers v Wayne Rooney
The talk of the town is Wayne Rooney and his so-called ‘attitude’. After two years of nothing of sort, its been back brought into question and now Sunday papers are littered with ‘journalists’ all attempting to have a go at someone who, just a few weeks prior to the tournament, was labelled as a ‘national treasure’. It’s a shame, do study this link here. This a ‘piece’ from a hack named Neil Ashton in the News of the World, who claims to have a senior source (apparently), not just saying negative things about Rooney, but about Capello and the whole team.
If Capello says about Rooney: “The problem is in his mind” it doesn’t mean he has ‘psychological problems’, like the writer tried to suggest.
Yet, the same newspaper doesn’t stop there. Andy Dunn, ‘Britain’s No.1 Sports Columnist’ says Capello should axe Rooney after his poor performance against the Algerians. Click here to see the horrifying (a Sunday paper’s favourite hyperbole, yet this isn’t an exaggeration) piece.
You’ll notice that both hacks named are highlighted with links to their Twitter page. Feel free to voice your opinion to both…
The Mail on Sunday is also threatening to derail England hopes with this headline: ‘Rooney apologises for foul-mouthed rant..’ Foul mouthed?! Surely, not. For saying ‘Nice to see your home fans booing you’.
This is the definition of foul-mouthed: ‘using foul or obscene language’. So sarcastic comments is seen as ‘foul’ or/and ‘obscene’, these days. Seriously, best of luck to England in this World Cup. After two below-par performances, I still believe we (I say ‘we’ loosely now) can still win the tournament. And best of luck to Rooney, who if and when he scores the crucial goal in the finals, will certainly see the Sunday papers suddenly label him as a ‘hero’ and a ‘national treasure’.
The thing that shocked many about England’s 1-1 draw with the USA is that the opposition were a team that apparently play little football in their homeland. It may be the sixth most watched sport in the States, but funnily enough it is the most played. Let’s not forget, the USA did progress to the final of last year’s Confederations Cup. They were severely underrated.
Yet, the United States were largely on the backfoot and indeed, the only real problem for England was their defence. That said, it is quite a major one and for all the quality England possess in the final third, their work could be cut out by a back four who lack pace and awareness. However, that’s for another day. On a positive note, it was an impressive performance from not just captain Steven Gerrard, but Emile Heskey. Much has been made of the fact that he plays very little for Aston Villa, although Villa simply do not have a Wayne Rooney.
His first touch of the game was sublime. A lovely lay-off in the path off Gerrard, who did little wrong himself, finishing neatly past Tim Howard. He won everything in the air and his link up play, at times, with Rooney and co was a joy to watch. It was so good that even Clive Tyldesley continuously purred every time he leaped above a US defender.
He is the ideal foil for Rooney. Heskey has been made to look something of a joke, at times in ITV’s coverage Adrian Chiles and even that oat Gareth Southgate poked fun at him, but yesterday was proof, if any were needed, that he is the best target man. Sure he missed a great chance to put England ahead, and finishing is definitely something to work on. He is almost certain to play against the Algerians, and expect Rooney to benefit most from Heskey’s hard work come Friday evening.
EDIT: Turns out I was wrong, and Heskey did little to impress on that Friday evening against Algeria. People point to his goalscoring record, and although that is a concern, Heskey’s game is so much more than trying to score goals. That includes link up play and falling down a lot.
Ah, The World Cup. It is undoubtedly the biggest, most-anticipated sports competition in the world. So, as clever as I am, I decided that I’d invite the best United bloggers on the net to come together and make some predictions. I have to, unfortunately, settle for this lot. Yolkie from Stretty Rant, Pos from When the Seagulls… and Hakan from Between the Lines. So, without further ado, here’s our predictions…
· World Cup Winners?
ManUtd24: I’d go for one of the ‘Perennial Underachievers’ (gosh, how I hate when people say that). That’s either Spain or the Netherlands, though the former is a rather safe bet and a boring choice. Brazil’s another obvious one and much, in my eyes anyway, will rest on Fabiano, whose uncanny knack of goals and style of football is comparable to that of World Cup legend Ronaldo (the fat one). However their football is rather dull, no longer sexy, and I believe that Dunga had missed a trick by not including Milan’s Ronaldinho in his squad. If England don’t win this tournament due to some metatarsal-related reason, I hope the winner is a team that plays an entertaining brand of football. Not Italy or Brazil, then. France will crash out of the group stages and Argentina will most probably succumb in the last eight. I’ll plump for Spain. Beating England in a penalty shoot-out, of course, along the way.
Yolkie: I’m half tempted to go with France.. awful build up, cheated to get in, they seem charmed, but under Domenech I hope that the comedy show continues. It’s wonderful that Evra is captain and there are some great talented individuals but I can’t predict a team that loses to China days before the tournament as winners. England without Ferdinand and sticking with shoehorning an out of form Gerrard and a glory hog Lampard into the team won’t win it – I think the Maradona factor will derail the Argentinian push, too. So, regrettably, it’ll be a run of the mill prediction, and I’ll plump for Spain just ahead of Brazil because their squad is stronger, full of players in top form and in Casillas, Pique, Xavi, Iniesta and Villa, have arguably the top 5 players in their positions in the world. I can’t believe I haven’t even considered the holders; but I thought Italy’s win in 2006 was the last hurrah of that generation.
Pos: In terms of raw, outstanding talent and therefore who should win it based on that, I’d like to see Argentina winning it (yes, Argentina!!). But as we all know from many a World Cup (Cruyff’s Holland missing out in ’74 and ’78, as well as Spain’s consistent underachievement in the tournament) it really doesn’t work like that. Spain are obviously looking good and are the bookies favourites, with Brazil not far behind; so I think realistically, it’ll be either one of those.
Hakan: Spain. The best and most well balanced team in the world over the last few years. Truly outstanding midfield, and Villa/Torres is the world’s best twin spearhead. I hope their kind of football will triumph.
· Surprise Package?
ManUtd24: I genuinely feel that Uruguay could spring a major surprise and make it as far as the quarter finals – or further. Diego Forlan, you could argue, single-handedly won the Europa League for Atletico Madrid and the two-time winners will rely on him to take them to the last eight. The other two Diego’s in defence, Lugano and Godin are solid and reliable but could have their work cut out as Uruguay’s three goalkeepers only have about 20 caps between them. Serbia is a name often sprayed around but let me be the first person to say they won’t even get past the group stages. Ivory Coast, another candidate, will make it as far as the second round at most, certainly can’t expect Aruna Dindane to come up with goals in the absence of Didier Drogba. So Uruguay. Maybe because they have a funny name.
Yolkie: This would have been Ivory Coast before Drogba’s injury. I don’t think I can squeeze Germany or Portugal into this category fairly so I’ll go with Serbia – a great, well drilled defence used to playing together, some wonderful creativity in midfield and firepower that can be described as “not bad at all”. I’ll stop short of predicting how far they will go; should they advance from the group stages though I imagine they’ll be difficult to break down. They could meet England in the second round and if they do, don’t put it past the Serbians to knock us out.
Pos: I’d like to say Ivory Coast would finally be the surprise package they’ve been promising us they would be (Drogba, Toure x2, Kalou etc). But after a poor World Cup in ’06, where they were supposed to give group members Argentina and Holland a good run for their money (instead finishing 3rd, losing to both teams along the way), they will probably struggle just as badly this time round with Portugal and Brazil getting in the way of their progression. I’d go for Uruguay therefore. I’m definitely not saying they could win it, but with an alright group that could potentially see them finishing top (assuming they overcome the unpredictable France, and Suarez and Forlan play as well as they can), they could have a surprisingly easy route to the quarters and beyond.
Hakan: Holland. Maybe a bit of wishful thinking, but ever since the 70′s I always want Holland to do well. Very encouraging performances by Sneijder and Robben in the later stages of the Champions League.
· Top Goalscorer?
ManUtd24: Jamie Carragher. That’s if we’re counting own goals. Pundits alike will back David Villa for the Golden Boot, probably as many of his goals could come in the group stages where Spain face relatively poor opposition. If I were a betting man, I’d plump for Luis Fabiano. Kim Myong-gil (North Korea’s ‘no.1′) will surely regret the day he ever came across him when they do face each other in the group match. I’ll go Fabiano.
Yolkie: Probably best to study the groups for this one and see where strikers could “fill their boots” if they were selected. England have Algeria and Slovenia so there is a case for Rooney (if he plays, if qualification is already assured by the Slovenia game) while Luis Fabiano could, with the greatest of respect to North Korea, rattle a few past them. The heart says Rooney but the head says David Villa, with relatively soft defences in the group stage and their chances of progression, he looks more likely. I wish I would name “A N OTHER” because the golden boot always seems to go to someone nobody previously predicted.
Pos: Always a tough one. Villa and Messi would be the obvious choices, yet who knows what the likes of Higuain and Klose can do. Realistically however, I can’t see past Villa continuing his fine goalscoring form for Spain and finishing with the golden boot as he did 2 years ago in the Euro’s.
Hakan: Van Persie. He hasn’t played much this season, and I feel this will be an advantage. Any top scorer depends on good service, and van Persie will receive this from Sneijder and Robben (if fit).
· Best Player?
ManUtd24: It has to be one of the two midfield marvels in the Spanish team. Never has a nation possessed so much talent in one position, so it seems a fairly obvious choice to go for either of Messrs Xavi and Iniesta. Both are capable of doing something spectacular and Spain will almost certainly progress to the latter stages (talking semi-finals or finals) of this tournament if either these two can stay fit. That’s not exactly assured – both having spent time on the sidelines in the previous year.
Yolkie: This is the first World Cup played in the generation that is truly appreciating the art of the previously understated central midfielder. This might just be the time that Andres Iniesta, still regarded as something of a second fiddle to the wondrous Xavi, underlines his position as the best in the world at what he does.
Pos: Unquestionably it’s the team(s) that reaches the final who produce the player of the tournament. Messi, Ronaldo, Kaka, Rooney…which ever one of those teams holds their nerve to reach the final (assuming at least one of Argentina, Portugal, Brazil or England do), their star man will undoubtedly be one of those.
Hakan: Xavi. If you want to know why, watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iq_zRoGI5mA
· And how will England fare…?
ManUtd24: I wouldn’t expect them to under-perform like they did in Germany 2006, but that could just be me (once again) believing that they could go all the way and lift the Jules Rimet trophy. And guess what? They will go to the semi finals. England have probably got the easiest route to the last four, potentially taking on Ghana or Serbia in the last 16, then France or the Argies in the last eight before taking on Brazil on the semis. All of this could be achieved if, of course, they avoid penalties. It also depends on Wayne Rooney’s fitness and, arguably more importantly, that Jamie Carragher is no way near the starting line up. Optimism is the name of the game…
Yolkie: They will advance from the group stage, even if the USA game will be far more difficult than people anticipate. I do think Fabio got the team working far better in qualification and showed he is no nonsense in selection when he – rightly – omitted Theo Walcott from the 23, even if he did pick Jamie Carragher. Thankfully even with Rio’s injury Carragher shouldn’t get anywhere near starting when it matters; even so, I just see the norm. Maybe the clever management will squeeze a semi final out of them but Capello is about to learn that no matter how much you do well in qualification, when tournament time comes around, Lampard and Gerrard are only interested in being heroes, to the detraction of Rooney’s contribution to the team. I’ll go for an optimistic semi final defeat based on the combination of opponents they could face to get to that stage.
Pos: Hmm. They will top their group and hopefully see off the second placed team in group D to reach the Quarters. So on that note I can see England reaching the Semi’s. As long as Rooney, Lampard et al perform as well together as they do for their clubs, they could easily go further.
Hakan: Round of 16. My main concern is that England are more dependent on one player (Rooney) than any other team, except Ivory Coast (Drogba). Opponents will know this and Rooney will receive some rough treatment. Furthermore, the defence looks vulnerable with Ferdinand out, Barry injured and Terry not back to his best. James, Green and Hart are good keepers, but none of them is world class. The opening game against USA could prove a lot more difficult than most people think. I expect England to progress from the group, but they will struggle when they come up against stronger opponents.