Jim White

  • Roman bought the wrong man

    Roman Abramovich stormed out of Old Trafford last night, soon after Ji-Sung Park's goal had taken the home side to their fourth Champions League semi-final in five years. The man with the European obsession had seen his hopes drizzle away once more into the Stretford night. No one wants this competition more than him, yet the fulfilment of his quest looks less plausible by the season.

    On his way back south, the Chelsea owner would have had time to reflect on several things. That his players do not share his  infatuation in the way Manchester United's buy into the victory addiction of their

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  • They’re not paranoid, the world really is out to get them

    As the season reaches its critical point, in addition to worries about injury and loss of form, the main clubs appear united in their sense of persecution: this week the world is clearly out to get them.

    First we had Arsene Wenger complaining that the fixture computer is institutionally biased against Arsenal. Every weekend from now until the end of the season, the Gunners are obliged to kick off after Manchester United. This, Wenger claims, is unfair. It gives significant advantage to the Mancunian side. Every week, Arsenal are required to play catch up, never given the opportunity to set the

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  • Spurs: Why the second leg matters

    Gareth Bale was putting a brave face on things. There was some defiance among the wearied supporters gathering at Madrid airport. Someone even remembered that Real had once lost a two-legged tie after winning the first 5-1. But the fact is, everyone knows it is over: Spurs' Champions League foray is now in the past tense.

    There was no doubt it was going to be hard in the Bernabeu, but none of the optimistic platoons setting forth from North London could have imagined it was going to end up like that. Spurs didn't just lose against Jose Mourinho's team, they were hammered, humiliated, brushed

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  • Too good to go down?

    It was quite a week for Stewart Downing, Darren Bent and Ashley Young. The threesome all gave performances which announced them as the future.

    Downing passed and crossed with authority and aplomb, Bent moved and finished with real sharpness. But it was, in two matches scrutinised in every detail, Young who really shone.

    Unworried by responsibility, he demonstrated a handy amalgam of pace and intelligence which made him look as good a prospect as any around. Watching him run and move with such authority, playing at times like a proper number 10, it comes as no surprise to learn that his

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  • Why Terry can handle the pressure

    Last week Fabio Capello invited a group of journalists to lunch at San Lorenzo. This Knightsbridge restaurant was once the favourite of Princess Diana and Gianluca Vialli (though not necessarily at the same time). But its reputation has diminished since its glory days of the late eighties and early nineties and it is now an eaterie largely ignored.

    So, an Italian that was once a world beater but is these days renowned mainly for being hugely over-priced: why did Capello think that an appropriate venue?

    Although it was his juggling with the captain's armband that made all the headlines after

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  • The recipe for worthwhile friendlies

    At last night's game against Ghana at Wembley, an 80,000-strong crowd experienced something not normally associated with England friendlies: they had fun.

    This was a competitive match, feisty, at times exciting, filled with incident and blessed by a wonderful climax. Asamoah Gyan's brilliant equalising goal and even more vivid celebration will linger long in the memory. And when was the last time anyone could say that about fixtures that had long ago become a byword for pointlessness?

    It might be by default, but last night the FA may have hit on a new format for the friendly. The governing

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  • Just sit down

    Tomorrow afternoon,
    hundreds of England supporters, armed with inflatable sheep, will spend 90 minutes in Cardiff's Millennium
    Stadium
    on their
    feet.

    That is what away fans do
    at most grounds these days: they stand. As do many home supporters. The Kop has
    been known to be entirely vertical this season; at least since the departure of
    Roy Hodgson allowed the denizens to awake from their slumber.

    It might seem a good idea,
    given that so many prefer to watch their football standing up, to give them the
    proper space in which to do so. Also, if those who like such things are doing
    their standing

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  • Rooney the key to United’s season

    Didier Deschamps reckons this Manchester United side entirely lacks the fantasy of previous Red Devils. He may be right. But one thing is intact as the club continues to seek its second treble: all the luck appears to be on their side.

    Last night against Marseille, United played in a fashion that was the exact inverse of the rest of their season. Up until this point, while they might have laboured in midfield, but their defence, with Nemanja Vidic their titan, has maintained the old adage about strikers winning matches, defenders winning titles.

    Then last night, they were quick-witted in

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  • Calling time on the great ‘if only’

    There is not much that boosts a footballer's reputation quite like absence. Miss out on error, watch from the stand as humiliation unfolds, sit in the treatment room as defeat follows defeat, and see how your standing grows. Soon, as the clamour for your return increases, you become less an injured athlete and more the missing link, the one person who could make a difference, the new messiah.

    There is a footballer who, right now as he languishes on the physio's table, can do no wrong. One player, as he seeks specialist help and scours the medical encyclopaedia, whose presence would be lauded

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  • Arsenal have no right to blame the ref

    For a brief, flickering moment last night, the 3,000 Arsenal fans watching from the top tier of the Camp Nou were subjected to the most debilitating emotion known to the football-watching man: hope.

    The second half had only just got underway when Abou Diaby exploited the fact that the Barcelona team he was facing were so small most of them would be refused entry to half the rides at Alton Towers.

    As a corner was gained for the visitors, he stepped forward into the opposition area and, towering over the defence like Stephen Merchant at a midgets' convention, he spread such panic that Sergio

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