The two best managers in English football have lost
their marbles. There is no other conclusion to draw from the weekend's FA Cup
Between them, Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger have won
the Premier League 13 times in its 16 years of existence, and have seen their
sides lift the FA Cup on nine occasions.
They are the men responsible for bringing to these
shores such players as Schmeichel and Vieira, Ronaldo and Henry.
They are revered around the world for their tactical
nous, their ability to spot a talent and for their well-judged, inspirational
So why is it that Manchester
United and Arsenal would both have been better off with a feral cat sitting in
the dugout at Wembley?
We will start with United, the cause of whose demise is slightly
easier to pinpoint - Fergie's
selection of a group of players so infantile they looked like they should have
been extras in a Danny Boyle movie or competing in an Olympic diving event.
Is it Early Doors, or are kids getting younger?
When Alan Hansen uttered the immortal words "you'll win
nothing with kids" in August 1995, he was referring to the likes of David Beckham,
Paul Scholes and Gary Neville who had all celebrated their 20th
Hardly seasoned campaigners, but at least they were
legally allowed to buy a drink, rent a smutty movie or drive a tricked-out VW
Golf to training. Which, being model professionals, none of them did,
Now it seems you have to bear
significant physical similarities to a foetus before anyone even considers you
to be young.
United's comical team that lost on penalties to Everton
contained the barely-shaving likes of Danny Welbeck, Rafael and Fabio da Silva
(all 18) and Federico Macheda (17).
Despite sharing both his physique and his attitude with
Cristiano Ronaldo, Macheda cannot even go to the bar to fetch a white wine
spritzer for his mum.
He could be forgiven for his arrogance, however. Most
search engines already rate him as the third most famous Federico behind
legendary film director Fellini and legendary writer Garcia Lorca, and ahead of
legendary Holy Roman Emperor Barbarossa and legendarily insufferable Big Brother 4 loser Martone.
Goodness only knows why Fergie did it, but ED suspects
it is because he - like most United fans - is willing to sacrifice almost
anything to ensure Liverpool do not win the
You would never get him to admit it, but for Ferguson Wednesday's
game against Portsmouth is more important than
both the Everton semi-final and last week's
Champions League semi-final in Porto.
Not much consolation for the 50,000-odd United fans who
made the long trip to London from the North-West
and Devon to see a bunch of children lose on
penalties, but at least they would admit he has his heart in the right place.
It is less easy to accuse Wenger of wilful negligence,
as his selections of Emmanuel Eboue and Lukasz Fabianski - aka Dumb and Dumber
- were dictated by injuries rather than megalomania.
However, Wenger's decision to drop the brilliant Andrei
Arshavin so he could deploy Denilson as some bizarre midfield hatchet man must
rank among his worst as Arsenal boss.
True, Arsenal could have done with a Patrick
Vieira-style enforcer, but they simply do not have such a player. Accordingly,
they should just pick the best of what they do have, and Denilson is most
definitely not that.
It is not that Denilson is a better tackler than
Arshavin or the equally snubbed Samir Nasri; he is just so much worse at
everything else that his defensive deficiencies appear less glaring.
Time and again he was left for dead by Frank Lampard and
Michael Essien, clutching hopelessly at a blue shirt that was long gone.
And whenever he did get on the ball he might as well
have put a little bow on it and formally presented it to a Chelsea player.
His best contribution was when the red mist descended
and he pushed referee Martin Atkinson in the chest, but the official
disappointed Gooners everywhere by only showing a yellow card.
and Wenger compiled their catalogue of errors, Guus Hiddink and David Moyes
emerged triumphant by doing the little things right; little things like picking
Didier Drogba instead of Miroslav Stoch and not deploying Tony Hibbert as a
And when all was said and done, the grand old men of
English football did the decent thing and accepted where responsibility lay -
with the Wembley pitch.
Wenger called it "laughable" while Ferguson said it was
"dead" and even blamed it for his team selection, adding: "When I saw the pitch what I didn't want was to go into extra time with my strongest
- - -
Were he still alive, Brian
Clough would definitely call Fabianski a clown. And, unlike when he aimed the
same barb at Jan Tomaszewski in 1973, he would have been right.
display at Wembley was punctuated with numerous ill-advised excursions off his
line, the last of which gifted Chelsea
their winning goal.
Over the 90 minutes the keeper spent more time outside
the box than the members of a management-speak seminar.
It is good to know the great tradition of eccentric
Polish keepers continues unabated, as anyone who saw Artur Boruc's calamitous recent display against Northern Ireland
The Celtic keeper capped off an absolute horror show
with a Paul Robinson-style airshot resulting in a goal.
It was made all the sweeter for Northern Ireland given
Boruc's very public Catholicism including,
but not limited to, wearing a t-shirt saying 'God
bless the Pope' after an Old Firm
garment caused quite a furore before Celtic boss Gordon Strachan cut through
the sectarian babbling
with one of ED's favourite quotes:
not a bad lad to be fair (the Pope). If it was 'God
bless Myra Hindley', I might have a problem."
Even Poland's more sensible keepers are prone to the odd
eccentricity, such as Tomasz Kuszczak who conceded direct from a goalkeeper's punt in a friendly against Colombia in
2006. Jerzy Dudek, meanwhile, will never live down his Diego Forlan moment
while at Liverpool.
- - -
QUOTE OF THE DAY: Alan Shearer on Newcastle's
predicament: "We're in a
dogfight. If you can think of something bigger than a dog, that's the size of the fight we're
in." A Nissan Micra fight? A Susan Boyle fight?
FOREIGN VIEW: An Argentine third division game was called off because nobody
told the referee he had been to selected to take charge.
A club official
said referee Ariel Montero was sleeping at his home, nearly 600 kilometres away,
when worried colleagues called him two hours before kick-off to ask his
newspaper said that around 1,000 fans had travelled to see the game between
Alumni de Villa Maria and Racing de Cordoba.
were in the hotel and Montero hadn't
arrived and so they started to get worried," Alumni president Guillermo Morelatto
said in a radio interview.
his house and he didn't know
anything. He was sleeping.
the Council (championship organisers) said that they hadn't
told him. The assistants spoke to him and he said he hadn't
been told. There was a mix-up."
Clarin said that
Racing refused to accept a substitute official and the police would not allow
the kick-off time to be put back to give Montero time to arrive.
YOUR VIEW: Was Dimitar Berbatov's
penalty the worst you have ever seen? And if not, what was?
Here are a few suggestions to get the ball rolling:
Robert Pires (Arsenal v Manchester City,
Attempts to pass the penalty to Thierry Henry, somehow fails to make contact
with the ball, gets mocked by Danny Mills.
Gary Lineker (England v Brazil, 1992)
Future crisps spokesman attempts to equal Bobby Charlton's
goalscoring record, triesto dink one but stubs toe, which never recovers
David Beckham (England
Goldenballs slips as he strikes a potentially crucial penalty and lands on his
backside as the ball lands some three miles from the stadium.
David Beckham (England
See above. Notice how many of these involve England
That one on the bloopers DVDs
You know the one. Where it's
raining, and the bloke stumbles on his run up, and just ends up getting tangled
up with the ball. Hilarious.
Dimitar Berbatov (Manchester United v Everton, 2009)
Taken in the style of a man whose batteries have run out. Berbatov got
progressively slower before rolling the ball gently into Tim Howard's legs.