Thursday, August 31, 2006

William Gallas for France (v Bosnia-Herzogovina), 16 August 2006

Predictions time again. It's International weekend (which I hate as it takes me blinking ages to sort out the scores). Anyway, finger in the air time, unless you have an encyclopaedic knowledge of Lithuanian football....

Updated tables on the right. This new scoring system seems to be keeping everything quite close...

Czech Republic v Wales
England v Andorra
Georgia v France
Germany v Republic of Ireland
Italy v Lithuania
Latvia v Sweden
Luxembourg v Holland
Northern Ireland v Iceland
Romania v Bulgaria
Scotland v Faroe Islands

and some random alliterative wildcards:

Brentford v Bradford
Bristol City v Brighton
Basingstoke v Bedford

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Stuart Rudd for FC United of Manchester (v Atherton LR), 26 August 2006

A propos nothing in particular, it may interest you to know that after last season's promotion, FC United of Manchester (the Man Utd supporters team) have taken to the North West Counties League Division One like a duck to water.

Played five, won five, for 21, against 1 so far.

This was on top of pre-season victories over Conference sides Halifax Town (4-2 at the Shay) and Leigh RMI (4-0 at Hilton Park). The Halifax game did have the downside however of the home side being so impressed by our best player Steve Torpey that they signed him in the days following the game.

However, FCUM are lining up this season with one R Giggs wearing the number 7 shirt - not that one but as close as you can get as brother Rhodri Giggs is patrolling the right wing (as Swiss Toni pointed out, there probably wasn't that much opportunity on the left wing in his house....)

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Pedro Mendes for Portsmouth (v Manchester City), 11 March 2006

I didn't get to see the Ben Thatcher challenge on Pedro Mendes until yesterday. For anyone wanting to relive the horror, you can find it here.

I know there is a lot of hyperbole surrounding football these days, but having watched this particular incident a dozen times, it gets worse with every viewing. I have genuinely not seen a worse assualt (I am reluctant to even call it a challenge considering the ball was long gone and you can tell that Thatcher never gave that the slightest consideration anyway) in a long long time.

This incident has raised a few interesting points.

Firstly, the FA have charged Thatcher with "serious foul play" even though referee Dermot Gallagher dealt with the incident at the time by awarding Thatcher a yellow card. Referees are not allowed to retrospectively upgrade red cards, but the FA is calling the matter "an exceptional case" and has charged the City defender.

I agree with the fact that Thatcher should be sanctioned, but it strikes me as yet another instance of the FA's complete inconsistency in dealing with disciplinary matters. Surely we either use retrospective video evidence, or we don't. If Andy Todd can use video evidence to appeal successfully against a red card then surely the FA ought to be able to use video evidence to retrospectively award a red card?

Secondly, Greater Manchester Police received several complaints following the match about the incident. So far they have not launched an investigation as they have yet to receive a formal complaint from either Mendes, Portsmouth or the FA. Notwithstanding this, it raises the interesting question of whether the police should get involved with incidents that happen on the field of play during a game.

There have been several incidents where they have become involved (and I don't mean for breach of the peace offences) - one recalls Gordon Watson's successful court case against Kevin Gray and Huddersfield when he suffered a double fracture of his leg following a reckless challenge.

There is always an argument trotted out that "if you elbowed someone like that on the street, you would be arrested". Whilst I can see that might be true, it is also true that you don't slide tackle pedestrians, or stand behind them to stop them getting into Sainsburys, or grab hold of their shirt to stop them getting onto the bus. Real life is not a football match. And to some degree a football match is not real life.

In this instance, I would like to see Thatcher banned/sacked/thrown out of the game as necessary as whilst there is a judgement call to be made about what constitutes a tough challenge and what constitutes a physical assault, I think this was so far into that second category that it becomes indefensible. You only have to see the reactions of Harry Redknapp, Mendes himself, other players and Stuart Pearce (who has been magnificent, in my opinion on the whole matter) to see that there is a consensus that what Thatcher did was completely inexcusable.

The final issue this raises is one that has always puzzled me. Referee Dermot Gallagher who only awarded a yellow card to Thatcher is facing a demotion to the Coca-Cola League as a punishment for not sending him off.

I always find this a little bizarre. Surely the Coca-Cola Leagues deserve exactly the same standard of refereeing as the Premiership? If a referee is deemed unsuitable to be officiating in the Premiership, how does that make him competent enough to referee another league? To me, it reinforces the divide between the leagues and somehow suggests that the League is getting an inferior standard of referee. If I was rubbish at my job, they wouldn't just shift me elsewhere to do it for a bit, they would stop me doing it altogether for a period. I don't agree with the demotion of referees anyway - they make mistakes in their job sometimes like we all do - but if they are going to punish referees they should simply suspend them from all competition for a period for "re-training" or something rather than tell Derby or Huddersfield or whoever else that they have a ref officiating their game who was deemed incompetent.

Finally, you will notice that Mike Dean was so scared that he would be demoted to the League's that he sent two players off in the same match yesterday for apparent use of the elbow. Both Herman Hreidarsson and Kevin Davies saw red in the Charlton v Bolton game for this offence. You watch - the knock on effect of demoting referees for not awarding a red card for an elbow will see a flurry of dismissals for this reason. And that can't be good for the game either, can it?

Friday, August 25, 2006

Michael Silberbauer for FC Copenhagen (v Ajax), 23 August 2006

Predictions are here.

I don't know whether it is just me, but it strikes me that the balance of power in European football is shifting very slightly. Well, not even shifting, but that the standard is levelling out a bit.

Yesterdays Champions League draw whilst containing most of the usual suspects struck me as having a few more unlikely/different teams than in previous years. Levski Sofia, Werder Bremen, Spartak Moscow, Bordeaux, Shakhtar Donetsk, Steaua Bucharest, Hamburg, FC Copenhagen and CSKA Moscow. Clearly some of these have played in the tournament before, but I just think it makes the whole competition more interesting to have a greater selection of different teams than watching the same old sides year in year out.

Looking at todays UEFA Cup draw, I just love how exotic European football is. For any football fan there is something romantic about the names of these famous, historic far flung clubs all setting off in a continent wide competition. I think my favourite tie is Atvidabergs FF v Grasshopper-Club closely followed by AS Livorno Calcio v SV Pasching (incidentally, the story of Swedish minnows Atvidabergs is here). The names just seem to conjur up the randomness and vague familiarity that I love about European competition.

Clearly no-one will bother to turn out and watch, like every other season, but good luck to one and all. Particularly to Derry City who drew the mighty Paris St Germain out of the hat today. And to FC Metalurg Zaporizhzhya who have possibly the best, least pronouncable and most-useful-in-Scrabble name of them all. (The full draw is here and thanks to Paul for the link.)

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Ole Gunnar Solksjaer for Manchester Utd (v Charlton Athletic), 23 August 2006

Predictions time again.

I hope we have sorted the issues with the scoring........(!)

Charlton v Bolton
Fulham v Sheff Utd
Liverpool v West Ham
Man City v Arsenal
Tottenham v Everton
Watford v Man Utd
Wigan v Reading
Aston Villa v Newcastle
Blackburn v Chelsea
Middlesbrough v Portsmouth

and some random away Counties:

Colchester v Derby County
Swindon v Stockport County
St Johnstone v Ross County

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

John Fitzgerald for Bury (v Sunderland), 22 August 2006

Just a brief mention to my "second" League team, the mighty Bury who dumped rudderless and now managerless Sunderland out of the Carling Cup tonight.

Two teams with identical records entered the match (played four, lost four) although Sunderland are freshly relegated from the top flight and Bury at the foot of the league.

Goals from John Fitzgerald and Andy Bishop sealed a 2-0 victory for the Shakers.

You watch, Bury will now crumple at home to Grimsby Town on Saturday but you do have to laugh at Sunderland, don't you? (especially as Kevin Phillips took one look at the Mackems offer and immediately signed for West Brom....)

Vincit Omnia Industria - "industry overcomes all things...."

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Paul Scholes for England (v Croatia), 21 June 2004

So, the FA have upheld their initial decision and decided to ban both Wayne Rooney and Paul Scholes for three Premiership matches following their sendings off against Porto in the Amsterdam tournament a fortnight ago.

Ignoring the incidents which led to these red cards (Rooney's in particular) the decision to ban them is an absolute disgrace and yet more evidence of the lack of consistency the FA displays and their nonsensical desire to make examples of certain high profile clubs and players.

If you get a red card in an international match, you are banned for a number of international fixtures. If you get a red card in the Champions League, you are banned for a number of European games. So, someone explain to me how a red card in a meaningless pre-season friendly match, against Portuguese opposition, can lead to a three match domestic ban? Surely the most appropriate and logical punishment is a ban for a number of friendly matches? And seeing as the opposition was Porto, perhaps at a push a ban for some European games.

This is all notwithstanding the fact that, for example, Liverpool's Neil Mellor was sent off in the very same Amsterdam tournament in 2003 and received no ban at all. Or how Sheffield United's Ade Akinbiyi was sent off the day after Rooney and Scholes in a friendly match against Sparta Rotterdam and also received no domestic ban.

I am not sure that is is some sort of FA anti-United vendetta, and I am not sure that Rooney throwing his toys out of the pram with the FA is necessarily the best response but I just cannot understand the rationale behind this decision. It strikes me as yet another example of the bungling ineptitude of the FA who couldn't make a consistent decision if their lives depended on it. Sooner or later someone needs to take a grip of the rules of the game and starting treating clubs and individuals fairly and with consistency and not just making an example out of a big name player or club to make themselves look clever.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Andriy Shevchenko for Chelsea (vs Liverpool), 13th August 2006

The Cheer Up Alan Shearer Premiership Predictions, 2006-7.

(predictions are here - don't miss the first round, for heaven's sake!)

This always takes bloody ages. Apologies if I lose interest before I get to the end....

1. Chelsea

Boring boring boring. I’d love them to be astonishingly shit, but I can’t see them finishing anywhere but first. They’ve just gone and bought bloody Michael Ballack and Andriy Shevchenko.

Watch out for: half of the first team squad going on a march and demanding regime change.

2. Liverpool

Do you think Peter Crouch wakes up in the morning and pinches himself? Has any player made quite the same transformation from sideshow freak to attacking lynchpin for his club and national side? Getting better year on year under Benitez and looks to have added sensibly this time.

Watch out for: Bellamy and/or Pennant getting into trouble on and/or off the pitch.
Inevitable headline: “Speedy Gonzalez”

3. Man Utd

I thought they were rubbish last year, and yet they still somehow managed to finish strongly in second place. They look a striker short, but they’ll have Heinze, Solskjaer and Scholes back this season and Michael Carrick and (possibly) Owen Hargreaves are surely a much better bet than the Djemba-Djembas, Klebersons and Darren Fletchers of this world, aren’t they?

Watch out for: Wayne Rooney getting booked for turning up.

4. Arsenal

Ooooh. Get them in their posh new stadium. Twice the capacity of Highbury, but at what cost? £260m of debt and only one signing thus far (albeit a good one). They’ve still got Thierry Henry, mind you, and he’ll be enough to see them land a top 4 place.

Watch out for: Theo Walcott. Fewer appearances for Arsenal than that Squirrel

5. Tottenham

Martin Jol has done a great job here, hasn’t he? Unlucky to be beaten to that last European Cup slot last season and with a side packed with decent players. Berbatov and Zokora should ensure that they hardly miss Michael Carrick and (ahem) Andy Reid at all. And they’ve got Aaron Lennon too.

Watch out for: Jermaine Defoe spending another season biding his time on the bench as Jol prefers Robbie Keane and Berbatov up front.

6. Blackburn

Ok. So now I’m going to start guessing. If the top 5 pick themselves, then I think it’s fair to say that the next 15 places are more or less entirely up for grabs. Blackburn gave Chelsea a right good going over towards the end of last season, and Mark Hughes is another manager making a name for himself. No Bellamy, but with players like McCarthy, Reid, Bentley, Pedersen and Roberts, should give most sides a good game. Solid defence too.

Watch out for: Robbie Savage. Rarely has a player of so little talent thought so much of himself (with the possible exception of David Beckham)

7. Bolton

If Big Sam can stop crying about the England job and the loss of Dietmar Hamann, then they’ll probably be alright in that not-very-pretty-but-undeniably-effective way.

Watch out for: the bulk of their goals coming from Nolan and Stelios in the midfield.

8. Everton

Hm. Interesting. Could Andy Johnson be the spark they need to haul themselves up the table? Will no doubt be intensely dull to watch, although the old “hoof it to Duncan” tactic will have to be consigned to history with Dunc’n’Disorderly’s retirement.

Watch out for: Jolean Lescott’s haircut – what’s going on there?

9. West Ham

Just how much will Alan Pardew rue England’s friendly with Greece? Thanks to his collison with the colossal bulk of Shaun Wright-Phillips, Dean Ashton will be out of action until November, and with him surely goes West Ham’s Plan ‘A’. Can ‘Marvellous’ Marlon Harewood cover for Ashton’s absence by continuing his barely believable Premiership goalscoring record? Surely not?

Watch out for: Anton Ferdinand’s increasingly excellent “mini-me” impersonation of his Gungan brother. I’m talking about haircuts, obviously.

10. Aston Villa

Two words: Martin O’Neill. Post match interviews should get a whole lot more interesting, anyway. Surely not hard to improve on last year’s flirtation with relegation.

Watch out for: The signing of a big lump to play up front for a more direct style of play.

11. Newcastle

Duff is a great signing, and the midfield has some real talent in the shape of Emre, N’Zogbia, Parker, Milner, Solano and…er… Nicky Butt. But who’s going score the goals?

Watch out for: Glenn Roeder to be under early pressure from idiot chairman Fat Freddie Shepherd.

12. Portsmouth

I’m not sure that Harry Redknapp knows what to do with all that money. It shouldn’t be hard to improve on last year’s near relegation, but any defence containing David James, Sol Campbell and Glenn Johnson is going to have its comedy moments, isn’t it?

Watch out for: Harry’s droopy face. It should be listed by English Heritage and maintained by the National Trust.

13. Charlton

On the face of it, Ian Dowie has an impossible job: how can he ever match up to Curbs? But then again, all he really has to do is to make sure that his side finish as strongly as they start, and he should be fine. Curbs did a brilliant job, but it’s time for the club to take the next step. Are Andy Reid, Jimmy-Floyd, Amady Faye and Djimi Traore the men to take them there? Doubtful.

Watch out for: A shirt big enough for Andy Reid

14. Wigan

A great first season in the Premiership, but they surely can’t do that again

Watch out for: Emile Heskey. The clown is back in town.

15. Man City

I’m bored now. Dull side. Won’t do much.

Watch out for: Kaspar Schmeichel’s nose. Like father like son.

16. Middlesborough

Southgate is a brave managerial appointment, but I think he might find it hard work this season. Julio Arca has always done well for me in Championship Manager though.

Watch out for: Viduka and Yakubu causing minor earth tremors as they lumber into the box.

17. Sheffield Utd

I have a confession: I quite like Neil Warnock and I look forward to seeing what kind of a swathe he can cut in the Premiership. The Blades have been one of the best sides in the Championship for the last five years, and it will be interesting to see how players like Michael Tonge and Phil Jagielka cut the mustard. I’d like them to stay up. I’m not sure they will, but I’d like them too.

Watch out for: Warnock making some misty-eyed remark about his tractor. Oh, and slagging off referees and opponents at every opportunity.

18. Fulham

Struggle – especially if they don’t persuade Steed Malbranque that he’d really like to stay another season.

Watch out for: Brian McBride of course – he is after all (according to David Pleat, who knows these things) pound-for-pound the best striker in the Premiership.

19. Reading

Another side who have been good in the Championship for a number of years and who I would be delighted to see make a decent fist of the Premiership. As a Wolves fan, I’ll be very interested to see how Seol does, but if he’s their biggest signing, then I think they’ll struggle.

Watch out for: erm. Your guess is as good as mine.

20. Watford

Whipping boys, surely?

Watch out for: David Furnish. The thinking man’s WAG.


It's hard this. Like I say - after the top 5, almost anything could happen.

Should be good, eh?

Theo Walcott for England u-21s (v Moldova u-21s), 15 August 2006

Good lord. Is it that time again, so soon....?

CUAS Premiership Predictions League

Well, as the remaining champion (!) it is time to launch the 2006/7 Premiership Predictions competition. Wahey. Wahoo. (etc). I would also like to extend this invitation to everyone to participate - the more the merrier. Come on, you know you want to.

Slight changes to this years scoring. The points remain the same - 1 point for the correct outcome and 3 points for the correct score - but in order to try and keep the whole thing a bit closer, and, more importantly, to not penalise anyone horrifically if they miss the odd week, I am going to implement a sort of Formula One scoring system.

Whoever scores the most points in any given week will get 10 points. Second scores 8 points, third 6 points, fourth 5 points, fifth 4 points and so on down to one point. Anyone lower than eighth will get a big fat zero.

I am hoping that this should mean the whole thing will not be so much of a "whoever plays every week will win" stroll as missing a week is only equivalent to having a bad week.

Make sense?

Without further ado, let's get this show on the road.

Arsenal v Aston Villa
Bolton v Tottenham
Everton v Watford
Newcastle v Wigan
Portsmouth v Blackburn
Reading v Middlesbrough
Sheff Utd v Liverpool
West Ham v Charlton
Chelsea v Man City
Man Utd v Fulham

Good luck, folks. And here's to a non-Chelsea dominated season.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Didier Drogba for Chelsea (vs Arsenal), 7th August 2005

With the new Premiership season only days away, and before we get down to the serious business of predicting who is going to finish where, I thought it might be nice to have a look back 12 months at last year's season predictions.... (which can be found here)

Here's the table I predicted (with their actual finish in brackets):

1. Chelsea (1st)
Right, but not a terribly difficult prediction to make. Did anyone get this wrong? Picking Wright-Phillips as the player to watch was a bit daft though, although I still maintain he's better than Beckham (who I hope will also be on the bench soon).
"England fans will be praying Lampard & Terry stay fit for summer" Hmmm. Terry anyway.
"I should hate them, but somehow I don't" I do now.

2. Manchester Utd (2nd)
This one was probably a bit tougher to call, and looking back at the table now I'm actually a bit surprised that they managed to finish this high.
"Fortune wears the #25 shirt." Tee hee. Not any more.
"Player to Watch: Alan Smith – is he really the new Roy Keane?" No.

3. Arsenal (4th)
4th was a good finish for them in the end and was only achieved right at the death.
"Leggy Leader lost to Old Lady. Can Gallic genius galvanise greatness for final fling before the Grove?" Oh God, it's Mystic bloody Meg.
"Player to Watch: Cesc Fabregas – filling big boots" And filling them with aplomb.

4. Liverpool (3rd)
Well, they're definitely getting better every season under Benitez, aren't they?
"Freakishly European Champions. Not so much luck in Europe this time, but surely a stronger showing in the league." That's not so very far off the mark is it?
"Player to Watch: Peter Crouch – hard to miss (good touch for a big man, etc.)" And I'm pretty happy with that too.

5. Tottenham (5th)
I'm quite pleased with this prediction. They did really well last year and were ultimately very unlucky to miss out on a place in the European Cup. Martin Jol appears to be doing an excellent job.
"More optimistic than usual with a young squad yet to taste the bitterness and disappointment that are their destiny." A bit harsh really. The future looks bright.
"Player to Watch: Michael Dawson – if he can stay clear of injury" Well, he did get injured a bit, but he was good when he played and is certainly one to watch this year.

6. Boro (14th)
Blimey. Miles off with this one. I obviously gave Second Choice Steve more credit than perhaps he was due (although to be fair he did make the UEFA cup final).
"slightly dull" Only slightly?
"Player to Watch: Gaizka Mendieta – occasionally one of the best players in Europe".... and last season, even less occasionally than usual.

7. Bolton Wanderers (8th)
Not bad. Big Sam's doing a good job up there. They should make the most of the good times whilst they last as surely he won't be there for much longer?
"Since Southampton’s relegation, Big Sam is now the undisputed king of the Used Car Salesman school of management".... and then Harry came back.
"Player to Watch: Stelios – goal-scoring midfield dynamo" 10 goals last year.

8. Everton (11th)
I'm not sure I can remember a single Everton game from last year. Not a single one. I don't think I can remember a goal either. Or who plays for them.
"Only 2 words are needed to summarise the disappointing season ahead: Phil Neville. Oh, and maybe four more for good measure. "Early", "exit", "from" and "Europe"." Fair enough on all counts, I think.
"Player to Watch: Phil Neville – 52 cap England legend" I was JOKING of course.

9. Manchester City (15th)
Only 15th? I thought they'd done better than that. Was Stuart Pearce really a candidate for the England job?
"Psycho Therapy, Psycho Therapy!" He is a very odd looking man though, isn't he?
"Player to Watch: Joey Barton – what will he do next?" Score lots of goals and look to get a transfer?

10. Newcastle (7th)
Started appallingly but Glen Roeder and Alan Shearer did a fantastic job in turning them around. Or actually, perhaps it was just getting rid of Souness that made the difference?
"This great club is being reduced to a laughing stock by the ineptitude of its board and management. Shame". Still true, sadly. Good luck to Glen Roeder though.
"Souness won’t last the season, but Freddie Shepherd has little to be proud of here." Souness is gone, but Shepherd is still there. How has he got the nerve?
"Player to Watch: Scott Parker – point to prove" Very much still true this year.

11. Birmingham (18th)
WRONG! What was I thinking? Bernard Cribbens took them down with something to spare.
"They play a bit like Steve Bruce’s nose looks: ugly, crooked, damaged and yet strangely effective… " Well, all except the effective part.
"Player to Watch: Jermaine Pennant – will he let his football do the talking?" Now to be seen plying his trade at Liverpool.

12. Aston Villa (16th)
Well, at least they have something to look forward to this year. O'Neill can't fail to improve on this, can he?
"Mid-table. Mediocre. Average. Uninspired and uninspiring." Not even that.

13. Blackburn Rovers (6th)
Fair play. Mark Hughes is doing a grand job. Not sure they can top this though.
"Guaranteed to turn any game into an undignified scrap. The wise man gives Premiership Plus a miss if this lot are on. Actually, I think the wise man gives Premiership Plus a miss full-stop" I think they actually belied their reputation for violence last season, but I stand by what I said about Premiership Plus.

14. Charlton Athletic (13th)
Another one that was fairly easy to predict. Good start followed by predictable fall away. Can Dowie make the step-up that Curbs couldn't manage?
"Outside bet for an early managerial casualty?" Not quite, but he knew it was time to go.

15. West Brom (19th)
As a Wolves fan, this was perhaps my strangest prediction. More of the same this year please.
"Should be easier this time around" Er, or perhaps not.

16. Portsmouth (17th)
Well done Harry. Certain relegation avoided thanks mainly to pots of cash. Genius.
"With no Yakubu, goals will be hard to come by and Laurent Robert will storm off in a huff" Did he actually storm off, or did he just flounce about complaining?

17. Fulham (12th)
Cookie Coleman did a brilliant job last year. Surely he can't top this performance.
"Struggle ahoy! If Malbranque leaves, relegation beckons." Well, in my defence, he's still there now, so does that make me sort of half-right?

18. Sunderland (20th)
Big Mick is still a management legend in my books though.
"They just popped up to say hello, and now they’ve gone back down below." Harsh but fair.

19. West Ham (9th)
oops. Nearly right eh?
"Nice to have them back, but I don’t expect an extended stay." And I was pleased to be wrong.
"Player to Watch: Anton Ferdinand – it’s in the blood (allegedly)" It was in the haircut, anyway.

20. Wigan (10th)
To be fair, I don't even think that Wigan fans saw this coming in their wildest dreams.
"Back to the Championship quicker than you can say “parachute payments”" Apparently not. Are they the new Bradford or Ipswich though? Confound critics last year only to slip below in their second season....
"Player to Watch: Nathan Ellington – goals at this level?" For West Brom, yes. Well... a couple.


It's harder than it looks this. I'll have to have more than about a 5 second think about it this year. I'll get back to you before the big kick off.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Ruud van Nistelrooy for Manchester United (v Fulham), 19 August 2001

Time for one of these, I think...

Lord Bargain - Players I Love - Ruud van Nistelrooy

This man re-ignited my interest in being a Manchester United supporter. I have only ever had one players name on the back of my jersey in all my years watching football, and I shall continue to proudly wear my 2001 "10 - Van Nistelrooy" shirt as long as it survives my washing machine.
For me, he was far more than a prolific goalscorer. From his first game, the fans could tell that we had bought someone who was going to score us goals (two on his Premiership debut) but also someone who was prepared to roll his sleeves up and work hard for the side. His energy levels and capacity to run and run were exactly the sort of things to immediately enamour him to the United faithful.

His goalscoring record at United was immense. 150 goals in 219 appearances. 38 Champions League goals in 47 appearances. A Premiership record for scoring in eight consecutive games. Bear in mind also that for most of this time he was up front on his own with no partner as Ferguson attempted to put the square pegs of Juan Veron and latterly Roy Keane into the round hole of the centre of United's midfield.

I don't think I have ever seen a player as capable of controlling a ball instantly, irrespective of at what height it came to him and at what pace as the Dutchman. He could kill any ball stone dead on his chest or with his huge feet, with his back to goal. He is also blessed with much more pace and skill than you would be led to believe, and his penalty technique (save for one memorable miss against Arsenal) is also ice-cool.

van Nistelrooy also managed to largely achieve one of the most difficult things a United player can manage - that is the ability to be respected and generally tolerated by fans of other clubs. Most United players tend to be bitterly hated by opponents, but I always got the impression that van Nistelrooy - a model professional with integrity if ever there was one - was begrudgingly admired by other football fans. Sure, he had a tendency to go down a bit easily in the penalty area at cerain times, but his work rate and finishing were second to none.

And now, he's off to Spain with his name added to the list of ex-United greats who crossed Sir Alex. His recent performances for both United and Holland have not been up to his previously high standards (although remember he nearly ended up being the Premiership's top goalscorer last season having not played much after February) and so perhaps the timing of his departure was right. I will just always remember the committed, skilful and polished goalscorer that graced Old Trafford for five years.