Posts Tagged ‘ FA Cup ’

Strip Club–Champagne Room Edition

Manchester United came into the 2008/09 campaign as the two time defending English Champions and the reigning European Champions, but Ferguson changed up the squad in an attempt to win a massive five trophies.  He brought in Brazilian twins Fábio and Rafael to add youth to the defense and Dimitar Berbatov to deepen an already strong front line.  Out went Mikaël Silvestre and Louis Saha.

The Red Devils retained the Premiership, using an unbeaten run in the middle of the season, during which they kept 14 straight clean sheets.  Back to back defeats to Liverpool (their main rival for the title that season) and Fulham saw the Champions’ lead evaporate but Fergie’s Army responded by winning eight of their last nine games, including Macheda’s amazing injury time goal against Aston Villa and a rousing comeback against Tottenham Hotspur.  In the end the club secured their 18th First Division title by four points.

In the domestic cup competitions, the Reds almost won both, beating Spurs on penalties in the League Cup before falling in penalties to Everton in the FA Cup Semis.  Defeat meant that it had been five years since the club won this storied competition.

Success the previous season saw the Red Devils play in the European Super Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup.  Zenit St. Petersburg upended the Reds 2-1 in the Super Cup while later in the year, the club travelled to Japan for the gathering of continental champions.  The Reds defeated Gamba Osaka of the host country in the semis and LDU Quito of Ecuador 1-0 in the Final.

In Europe, the club drew their way through a group stage of Villarreal, Aalborg and Celtic.  Their reward for winning the group was a tilt against Mourinho’s Inter.  A 2-0 win at Old Trafford set up a clash with Porto and the tie was on a knife edge as Porto had drawn at Old Trafford 2-2, but a stunning goal by Ronaldo settled matters, with domestic rivals Arsenal drawn in the Semis.  United took care of the first leg and then overran the Gunners in the second leg, going up 2-0 in the opening quarter of hour.  Next up was FC Barcelona in Rome and a chance at history.

The Blaugrana withstood a furious start by the English Champions and opened the scoring after only nine minutes as E’too stepped inside of Vidic to poke home past Van der Sar.  Eventually the Spanish club found their footing and took the game to United in a reversal of the first half.  United rode their luck, creating chances of their own, but a Messi goal with 20 minutes to go ended United’s hope of retaining their European crown.  With the victory FCB won the Treble and ushered in a cycle of dominance.

After the season, Ronaldo went to Real Madrid and Tevez crossed town to City, causing Ferguson to rebuild the squad yet again.  The following season, Chelsea would claim the Double.

Based on research done by Historical Kits, United wore blue and white vertical stripes as their away shirt starting in 1902, when the club changed their name from Newton Heath to Manchester United.  Starting in 1939, the club used an all blue shirt and white shorts until 1957 as their away kit.  From there they switched to a white shirt and shorts, with the blue shirt used as a third jersey on occasion (hard to imagine a third jersey used that long ago).  For the magical 1968 European Cup Final, Manchester United wore an all blue strip when the club defeated Benfica 4-1 (aet) at Wembley.  In my research I found this highlights package of the game, which was in color, the first time I had ever seen the match not in black and white.  For the next several decades, the club used the blue shirt as an away and third option.


The 2008-09 version is an homage to the 1968 European Cup triumph with the date of May 29th, 1968 and a note about the 40th Anniversary circling the team crest.


The full kit is as follows (via Colours of Football):


My wife gave me the long sleeved version of this shirt for Christmas one year and I love it.  She even personalized with JUNIOR #7, which is my go to for personalized kits.  Although the shirt is only a replica and not the authentic version, it fits nicely and I enjoy wearing it for game days and pick up games whenever possible.  One of my favorite shirts and I love the historical reference wrapped up in the kit.

Manchester United: The Biography

man utd bio pic

Manchester United: The Biography: The Complete Story of the World’s Greatest Football Club, Jim White

Jim White’s book tells the story of one of the world’s great football clubs.  As a Manchester United fan of almost 20 years, I am pretty familiar with the Fergie era and admit that anything before 1994 was a vague knowledge of the Munich Air Disaster, the 68 European Cup win and the relegation of 1974.  Starting with the early days around Newton Heath, White retells the days of near bankruptcy (twice), early successes and failures, the rise of the Busby Babes, the lean years of the 70’s and 80’s and finally, the emergence of Alex Ferguson and nearly 25 years of success at every level.

White’s stories added depth to incidents that I was familiar with—Fergie in 1990, why Ruud and Keano left, the Glazer takeover— and the comments on Sir Alex at the end of the book were especially poignant, considering I read them right after the great man retired, for real this time.  One disappointment was that the lean years were glossed over, and while I agree that it would not have been great reading, it would have given context and contrast to the great times.

If you’re not a United fan, not sure what the book offers you.  A glimpse into a great side, a sense of history.  If you are a United fan, it’s well worth the read.  Biased, not keen to show too many warts, but re-living those moments of glory throughout the years is a treat.  This is a book I can return to time and time again as I continue to learn more about the club.

Strip Club–RIL Edition

It has been said that you don’t find a football club, a football club finds you, and Manchester United found me via my best friend Erik. When we were in high school and college, he would share stories of this great club called the Red Devils from England, and he had all this swag—jerseys, scarves, articles, magazines, trinkets. He would talk about the amazing achievements of Hughes and Kanchelskis and Sharpe and Schmeichel and Ince, and he won me over, taking me to this hole in the wall bar in Detroit to watch live games.

By the time USA ’94 rolled around I was excited but not caught up in World Cup fever. I watched several matches on TV, but this was only a prelude to my viewing dedication for the following tournaments. Soccer on TV in the US was rare in the early 90’s, and in 1995 life changed forever for me. We watched the 1995 UEFA Cup Winners Cup between Arsenal and Real Zaragoza, and I still remember Seaman backpedaling and falling into his own net, unable to stop a ridiculous shot from Nayim.  From there it was on to the 1995 Champions League Final, which Patrick Kluivert won for Ajax against AC Milan.

All of this set up the 1995-96 season, which, thanks to a slow internet connection at college and ESPN’s coverage of the Champions League, I was able to follow. What a year that was. Juventus won the Champions League Final, and Euro 96 was epic, with Poborsky’s chip, Gazza’s goal against Scotland, and Bierhoff scoring the first Golden Goal. But all of this paled in comparison to the Domestic Double won by Manchester United.

Here is a synopsis of the season from

1995-1996 brought a second Premiership and FA Cup double in just three seasons. Newcastle United squandered a ten-point lead in the Premiership and Liverpool were beaten in the final of the FA Cup.

There was controversy before the season began. Three established players left over the summer. Mark Hughes signed for Chelsea, Andrei Kanchelskis for Everton and Paul Ince for Inter Milan. The first two wanted to leave, but it appeared to be the manager’s decision to sell Ince. With Cantona suspended until the beginning of October, it was assumed that experienced replacements would arrive, but they didn’t. Gary Neville, Nicky Butt, Phil Neville and Paul Scholes all began the opening game of the season and David Beckham came on as a substitute. The game at Aston Villa was lost 3-1, leading TV pundit Alan Hansen to famously declare that you win nothing with kids. Ferguson continued with the ‘kids’, they won their next five consecutive league games and remained undefeated until November. They were strengthened by Cantona’s return. His first game after suspension was against Liverpool. The game ended 2-2, with Cantona making Manchester United’s first goal and scoring the second (a penalty). He was on his best behavior for the rest of the season, ending it as the club’s top scorer and the Football Writers’ Player of the Year.

Newcastle United should really have won the league. In December they led Manchester United by ten points. Gradually the gap was closed. Great saves by Schmeichel and a goal from Cantona won a crucial game in Newcastle in March. Alex Ferguson employed all his psychological ploys to successfully get under the skin of Newcastle manager, Kevin Keegan. Newcastle imploded and Manchester United won the Premiership by four points. Another Cantona goal won the FA Cup Final. After a fairly dull game, Cantona scored the only goal with just a few minutes remaining.

During 1995-1996 there was embarrassment as well as success. Rotor Volgograd knocked Manchester United out of the UEFA cup. York City knocked them out of the League Cup, winning the first leg at Old Trafford 3-0. Then, towards the end of the season, the club lost at Southampton after being 3-0 down at half-time. Ferguson blamed the grey shirts they were wearing, had them changed at half-time and then determined that they would never be worn again!

A marvelous blend of youth and experience brought success in 1995-1996 and Alan Hansen – a former Liverpool player – had to eat his words.

I still remember watching the replay of 1996 FA Cup Final on Fox Sports South, and after Cantona’s winning goal (about 2:40 in), running around my parents’ house, screaming in celebration.

This was the third jersey from the 1994-1996:


MUFC 94 3rdA big fad in the 90’s was sublimation, whether it be the club crest or an iconic image or the home ground. For that year, barely visible all over the jersey, United used the names of the legends of the club, plus a sublimated reminder of the 1968 victory in the European Cup at Wembley. Not only recent players were included, but legends like Charlton, Best, McIlroy, Robson, Law, and Whiteside. I knew about some of them and as I’ve learned more and more about the club, I’ve found out why some of the names are on there. Recently I got a DVD of 1001 Manchester United Greatest Goals and it’s cool to see the names on the shirt actually playing.

This United kit is not my favorite, but when I finally I found it on eBay in my size, I snapped it up. As for the shirt itself, it’s not the greatest, as it doesn’t breathe all that well and doesn’t fit all that great, but for the years and history it represents, it’s a true collector’s item.

Old Futbol Buffet–Blues, Yaya & Third Star

Originally I had May 5th all worked out.  Get up, go for a quick run, then head over to the pub for the FA Cup Final, and back to my house to get ready for a community event.  Plan the work; work the plan.  Then the FA decided to move the game to 5:15p local time, which threw off my finely constructed plans.  So I got up, went for my run, checked the score of the Arsenal game (HOLY COW!) and started my media blackout.  After the event, I took a nap and headed up to the pub to watch the replay.

I should have taken a longer nap or drank more at home or done something else because the first half made me want to poke my eyes out with a fork.  LFC were awful, playing 60 yard balls to a striker who is like 5’8”.  The Reds also could not play down the middle and constantly pinned themselves in the channels which led to turnover after turnover.  But Chelsea were not exempt from criticism either despite heading into the interval up 1-0.  Cech’s distribution was terrible as over back pass to him ended up as a throw-in at midfield.  Drogba had obviously been working on passing with his chest during training as that was only the way he could connect a dot.  Finally, I know Mikel does something, I just don’t know what it is.

The second half was a little better as some good build up play led to Drogba’s goal, with Skrtel and Reina very unlucky as the ball went through the Slovakian’s legs to give the goalkeeper no shot.  Carroll was immediately introduced and thought he played well.  I missed his goal.  Why? Liverpool played another wasted ball into the channel, so I immediately went back to my beer.  I looked up to see the big Englishman celebrating. After some more Liverpool pressure came the controversial non-goal.  To be honest, I still don’t think it was a goal.  Between the freeze frame and how the ball came out, just have to give Cech kudos.

In the end, Chelsea got the measure of the game right, doing just enough to ease past a poor Liverpool side.  And did I mention that Jose Enrique is shambolic?  Wow! What a bad game at the end of a poor season for the Spainard.  No way he’s getting a ticket to Poland and Ukraine.

John Brewin summed up the game for Soccernet, noting that Chelsea now has four FA Cups in six years, with four different managers.  As for the Reds, he focused on their poor start and a lack of presence from Suarez and Gerrard.

Zonal Marking saw the game as basically two completely separate games – Liverpool before Carroll, and Liverpool with Carroll, with Chelsea following their game plan and getting the result.

As for the league, Villa secured Premier League football next season (despite only winning seven times) and put a real dent in Tottenham’s chances for the Champions League.  Yaya led the way for City against Newcastle, scoring both goals to give every advantage to the Citizens next week.  United rebounded with a home win against Swansea(entirely predictable) and will now need a favor from former United great Mark Hughes next week.

The panel on the Manchester United Redcast tried to get excited for a final day in which the Reds are not in control.  They looked ahead to next season and identified five players to get rid of: Park, Anderson, Berbatov, Owen and the twins.  Funny as always, we’ll see how Sunday shakes out.


What a day in Serie A.  After the Buffon blunder in midweek, which I feel partially responsible for*, things were tense as Juventus travelled to Cagliari for Match 37.  The game was moved to the same time as the Milan Derby, so that the league leaders played at the same time to increase the drama.  Juve took care of business, winning 2-0 while Milan fell 4-2 to Inter, results that meant the Old Lady was crowned champion officially for the first time since 2003.

Giancarlo Rinaldi tied this success back to the 2003 victory in his post for Football Italia, noting the presence of Conte, Buffon and Del Piero threading throughout both triumphs.

Paolo Bandini commented on the proceedings as Conte delivered the title for Juventus through a mixture of man-management and tactics.  Plus he hit the highlights of a crazy night at San Siro. assembled some great videos and pictures of the celebrations.

The celebrations of Juventus’ scudetto game continue to hit the web, including this great video compilation from Sky Italia of the build up, dramatic moments at the end and raucous scenes afterwards.  Plus Del Piero wrote a letter praising the fans and the players who supported the club through thick and thin.

*I haven’t watched a Juventus game since mid-March and they have been winning almost every match, barely giving up a goal.  I tune in for the last 15 minutes of theLeccematch and watch in horror as Buffon loses the ball in front of the goal.  Had they lost the title, I may had to into hiding.



Ken Early interviewed Roy Keane for Off the Ball and they discussed Keane’s future while also revisited the Irishman’s bust up at World Cup 2002.  Things get frosty.

The panel at the SI Soccer Roundtable wrapped up the Manchester Derby and looked at the battle at the bottom going into the weekend.  Plus they discussed Hodgson’s hiring for the England job.

Another great pod from the World Football Phone In.  Couple of highlights:

  • The legacy for Poland and Ukraine after Euro 2012 especially as Ukraine are struggling with infrastructure.
  • Status of Brazilian league and the CBF and possible call ups for 2014.
  • Anderson trade for James Rodriguez from Porto.
  • Great venues. Vallecas, Velodrome, La Bombonera, etc.



A friend on Facebook and twitter posted this article.  It struck me as interesting because of the political and ecopinomic comparisons that seem to be ignored by the uniformed.  I really don’t care if you hate soccer.  That’s fine.  I don’t enjoy other sports but I don’t go around railing against.  There are dozens of games; you can’t like them all.  Just keep your opinions to yourself, especially if you have a platform like Beck orRome or Kornheiser.


Europa League Final

To be honest I missed first 15 minutes of the match, getting my son situated and all that at the pub, so didn’t even see Falcao’s opener live. After that Bilbao had plenty of possession but lacked the necessary quality in final third. The second goal was a stupid turnover and then an amazing finish from Falcao. To be fair Los Leones were slipping all night with both goals indirectly caused by defenders playing on roller skates.  Bielsa went right to the bench for the start of the second half, but it didn’t do much to change game. Eventually Diego completely killed the game off with the third goal minutes from the end.

Overall, Simeone’s side got everything just about right.  An early goal, disciplined defending from all players and a quick, dangerous counterattack.  For Athletic, Muniain had a good game but wasn’t able to influence the game enough; Ander was poor; Llorente was isolated; and Amorebieta struggled all match.

Zonal Marking assessed the game, noting that Atleti’s early goal set them up perfectly to sit back and counter.  With Bilbao having a hard time breaking through the middle and also not being able to stretch the play wide, the winners were able to absorb pressure and get forward quickly, with special praise given to Falcao.

Billy at reveled in the fine performance of Los Colchoneros, appreciating the actions of the rearguard, Diego and Falcao.  Their twelfth win a row in this competition saw Atleti raise a European trophy for the second time in three years.

Meanwhile, at the Athletic Bilbao Offside site, the title of Jack’s post match wrap said it all—Heartbroken. Maybe the occasion was too big for Los Leones as their sharp, incisive game was blunted by an organized Atleti team.

Old Futbol Buffet–Just a Game

A great weekend of footy was overshadowed by the scenes at White Hart Lane on Saturday.

My son spent Friday night at friend’s house, so I woke up, did some research for my blog, read more of The Damned United and then headed off to his floor hockey game (for yet another weekend). After that I headed over to James’ house, with the Tottenham flag flying on a beautiful spring day, for the Spurs v Bolton FA Cup tie.

Spurs got off to an energetic start and were sucker punched, much in the same way United hit them just before halftime a couple of weeks ago, as Walker lost his marker on a corner kick. The resulting header deflected off Bale and into the back of the net. Spurs responded well and Bale, in his usual spot on the left, wreaked all kinds of havoc. His serve to Walker resulted in a fine headed equalizer. The hosts really went for it but couldn’t find the second, and eventually Bolton came into the game. A terrible turnover by Gallas led to a quick break that Klasnic fired into the side netting. Then minutes from halftime the game came to a screeching halt as Muamba collapsed and the medical teams from both clubs rushed to the field. The announcer mentioned “possible cardiac issue” and there was also talk of an epileptic seizure. After several minutes of shots of fans and players in stunned disbelief, referee Howard Webb took everyone off the field to figure out the next step. Eventually the game was eventually abandoned.

During those crazy moments, all I could think about was Hank Gathers and Reggie Lewis and Mark Vivian Foe. The pictures of the players and fans told the story and I really don’t know what to say. Eventually reports filtered out that he was in stable condition, so that was a welcome relief.


Fiorentina 0 Juventus 5

During halftime of the Barca game, I switched to the Juve game, during which I saw some nice team moves from the visitors, with Vucinic hitting the post and scoring a sumptuous goal. While I was watching the second half of the FCB game, Fiorentina got a straight red and the Bianconeri added a second. I turned back with the hosts turning up the heat and creating lots of danger, but Marchisio started a move with a layoff to Vucinic, and, with Matri getting out of the way to avoid offside, the Montenegrin fizzed in a ball for Marchisio to smash home. At 3-0 that was good enough for me and I was off to my son’s floor hockey game. The Old Lady would run out 5-0 winners and keep pace with AC Milan. As I tweeted later that night, I hope the black and whites didn’t use up all of their goals for the run-in.


Here is a stat that I read at the Republik of Mancunia: For the first time since the 2001-2002 season, Manchester United will not play in a cup final, after losing to Athletic Bilbao over both legs.  That’s a pretty amazing as Fergie’s management of the squad has led to a constant quest for silverware.  It’s obvious that Fergie’s statement that United were close to FCB has been completely eviscerated and the defeat to Bilbao was further proof that the Reds still have a ways to go, which the post briefly touched on.

Doron and Phil were back on Beyond the Pitch to discuss the club as the Reds get ready for squeaky bum time and the upcoming summer.  One of the topics was the transfer needs for the summer, especially in central midfield, as there is concern over the futures of Anderson and Fletcher.  They moved on to discuss Pogba and his future in light of the contract negotiations.  After talking about the WBA game, Berbatov’s status at the club was discussed, especially as Welbeck has come on this season.  Doron also shared thoughts on Matty James, who looks to be a good prospect, possibly a better Carrick replacement.  Finally the guys discussed the fan experience at Old Trafford as there is the possibility of a singing section to increase the atmosphere.

United rebounded from their elimination in the Europa League to pound relegation candidates Wolverhampton Wanderers.  The Reds are now four points clear and put City under pressure as they host Chelsea on Wednesday.

Weekend Warrior

This weekend is problematic for me on several levels.  One, just found out my son is involved in yet another floor hockey tournament.  Seriously, this needs to be over.  Two, Saturday is St. Patrick’s Day, which prevents me from watching games at my favorite pub.  Three, March Madness has started so my eyes will be inexorably drawn towards those games.  But there are some really good fixtures over the weekend so I will attempt some sort of balance.

All Times Eastern Daylight Time


1:30p FA Cup Tottenham Bolton FSC
3:00p La Liga Sevilla FC Barcelona ESPN3
3:30p Serie A Juventus Fiorentina FSC


9:30p EPL Wolves Manchester United FSC
1:00p La Liga Atl. Bilbao Valencia GolTV
4:30p La Liga Real Madrid Malaga GolTV

Old Futbol Buffet–Tell Me When the FA Cup is Over

So I took the weekend off from non-La Liga games this weekend.  As I talked about in my Weekend Warrior post, I just don’t get into the FA Cup.  I should, but I looked at the fixture list and nothing really jumped out at me. Honestly, with United out, I probably won’t watch until the semis or the final.  May not watch at all.  Don’t think I’ve watched a Final since Portsmouth beat Cardiff in 2008.

Watched bits and pieces of Spurs game against Stevenage, and when I left Liverpool was tied 1-1 with Brighton.  The pressure must surely be mounting on Arsene at the Emirates as the Black Cats dumped the Gunners out of the FA Cup andMilanabsolutely thrashed them in the Champions League.  The battle for fourth in the Premier League is going right down to the wire and I’m not sure Arsenal has the stomach for the fight.

As for Juventus, I find them hard to watch right now.  As a fan, I should support them not matter what, but game after game of grinding play and poor finishing has left me struggling to carve out time in my calendar.  Of course I didn’t watch Sunday’s match against Cataniaand, from what I’ve read, missed a commanding performance from Pirlo as the Old Lady won 3-1.

I didn’t watch the Juventus game and Aaron’s post match wrap mocked me as I missed an open game full of chances and mistakes and goals.  Catania could very well have taken all three points but the Old Lady, orchestrated by Pirlo, won the match and set up a big time game with AC Milan.

Paolo looked back at a weekend in Serie A that saw Inter running off the rails and Napoli surging back up the table.  Their fortunes continued in the Champions League with Napoli beating Chelsea 3-1 and Inter falling to Marseille 1-0 in France.

One thread I hope to develop this summer is the nature and quality of my fandom going forward.  I can’t see how I can fully devote myself to three clubs (Manchester United, FC Barcelona and Juventus).  I never really have but maybe it’s time to invest in one to the exclusion of others.

I missed the Napoli v Chelsea first leg so read Zonal Marking’s recap of the game, which focused on high positioning of Ivanovic and the lack of organization from the Blues that the hosts were able to exploit.  Down 3-1 heading back to Stamford Bridge, don’t see how Chelsea turns it around.



I spent a lot of time on the road on Thursday and Friday so was able to keep up with my podcasts.

On the SI roundtable, the panel discussed the Suarez/Evra fiasco, gave some thoughts on the African Cup of Nations and talked about some possible stories this season in the MLS.

The Men in Blazers pod featured a host derby as Chelsea played Everton. Again, HandshakeGate (what a stupid name) was discussed before Aaron Ramsey’s deadly penchant for scoring was mentioned.

Anto had Phillip Delves Broughton on Beyond the Pitch to talk about his interview with Silvio Berlusconi.  Great conversation and interesting insights into the former Prime Minister and AC Milan President.


Jersey Leaks

This week I also came across possible jersey leaks for next season.  Underwhelming to say the least.  The Men in Blazers had snapshots of the US kit, which hearkens back to the 1994 World Cup kits from adidas.  After watching highlights on, I clicked on a post with mockups up kits from Barcelona, Arsenal and Manchester United.  Ugh.