Great news for followers of north-east clubs - Manchester
United will field a strong side to play Hull City
on the final day of the season.
So expect the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Dimitar Berbatov,
Michael Carrick and Wayne Rooney to take to the field at the KC Stadium.
Expect United to put every resource they possibly can into
their final game of the season in a bid to give their 3,000 or so travelling
fans a glorious send-off ahead of next Wednesday's Champions League final
Expect Alex Ferguson to throw caution to the wind as he casts
aside thoughts of Rome and concentrates solely on
the one thing that really matters to him - victory at all costs against Hull.
Er, not quite.
While today's newspapers report that Fergie will field a 'strong
side' on Humberside, further inspection reveals that the team he is expected to
send out is merely a 'stronger' one than first thought.
So no Ronaldo et al, merely the likes of Tomas Kuszczak,
Gary Neville and Park Ji-Sung. And possibly Nani. ED rates just one of that
particular quartet, and it doesn't take a genius to work out which one (clue: a
popular terrace chant refers to eating habits in his home country).
And while Darren Fletcher will also play, out of the names mentioned
only Rio Ferdinand, who needs to prove his fitness ahead of the Barca game, can
legitimately claim to be first choice.
It would usually be enough to enrage even the most placid of
Middlesbrough, Newcastle or Sunderland fans, but
the truth is that even a third-string United side are more than capable of
At least Ricky Sbragia has realised that and has backed Fergie,
whatever his team selection, such is the Sunderland
boss's supreme confidence in United's reserves. Or, more likely, Hull's incapability to
get anything from the game.
Anyway, Fergie is well within his rights to select exactly who
he wants. ED has never been a big fan of rule E20, a name more suited to soothing
skin cream or even a food additive number than a regulation which states teams
must field their strongest side.
Surely the term 'strongest' is relatively subjective anyway.
Who is to say what Fergie's strongest side is, other than himself? He has to do
what is best for his own club, and if that means upsetting some people, so be it.
Meanwhile, Spanish champions Barca are set to rest every one
of their starting XI when they play Osasuna at the weekend.
- - -
ED quite enjoyed last night's UEFA Cup final, and not only
for the brief hint it offered that Michel Platini is a deeply unpopular man -
an idea ED rather likes.
The brain behind next season's rebranding of the competition
was pictured soon after the half-time break cutting a lonely figure in the
directors box, a ring of empty seats
surrounding him on all sides.
Of course, it could just have had something to do with the
quality of the corporate feast laid on by their Turkish hosts - and sure enough
by the time the camera panned back onto Platini midway through the second half,
rather disappointingly he appeared to have found some mates - albeit a bunch of
bloated-looking UEFA suits.
On the pitch, the football was good enough to prevent ED
flicking over to Extraordinary People: Electric Human ("A Puerto Rican man
demonstrates his ability to transmit high-voltage currents through his
body"), or at least the prospect of a penalty shoot-out was too tempting.
Of course, that possibility evaporated with Tim Weiss's
gaffe in extra-time, but interest remained, at least to witness confirmation
that money can still buy success on the field.
With pretty much the same formula as Shakhtar Donetsk (filthy
rich owner willing to spend money on classy Brazilian imports) Manchester City have so far failed in their bid to
bring trophies to Eastlands.
So it will have been with great interest that City fans
watched Shakhtar's victory last night. If a miners' club from Ukraine can do it, then surely so can self-styled big club City.
- - -
FOREIGN VIEW: Ronaldo, the larger one, has caused a bit of a
stir over in Brazil since
his return to South America. Not only has the
Corinthians striker been banging in the goals (eight in his latest comeback),
he has grabbed headlines for his involvement in several escapades, most notably
a dangerous encounter with a microphone and a mad goal celebration that nearly
ended in disaster.
His latest brush (read on, and you'll get the terrible pun)
with infamy came at the weekend, when television cameras caught the Brazil
international pulling an opponent's hair during a Brazilian championship clash
"We've requested the video of the match and on Thursday
I am going to analyse it and see if there was an infringement," said Paulo
Schmitt, an official with Brazilian football's disciplinary tribunal.
"I've never seen hair pulling in a football
match," he added.
ED has. Remember Peter Crouch's tug on Trinidad defender
Brent Sancho's dreadlocks to open his England account at the 2006 World
Cup? Or how about Deco's less than manly pulling of Athletic Bilbao midfielder
Carlos Gurpegi's hair when playing for Barcelona in January of the same year?
Ronaldo should be wary. While Crouch got away with his Hair
of God moment, Deco was sent off and was slapped with a two-match ban.
COMING UP: Gossip Shop will be bringing you all the latest
transfer tittle-tattle while Paul Parker offers his thoughts on Rafa Benitez's
snub to Ferguson.