Football, Superstars, Fans & Expectations

I was busy writing the Day 3 experience from the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix over the past couple of days but what has conspired in the last six hours has made me stop and immediately switch focus to the World of Football.

Its been a long time since I have written something about the sport but the recent developments have persuaded me to pen my thoughts.

Pic Credit : www.mirror.co.uk

The past week has been quite eventful for the sport. Zlatan Ibrahimovic announced his retirement from the International team at the end of the Swedish European Campaign. Unfortunately they were ousted in the group stages. Zlatan served his country well and the time was right to pass the baton.


Lionel Messi returned from injury for Argentina at the Copa Centenario and propelled them to the finals only to face Chile ( like in 2015 ), miss a penalty in the shoot-outs and come up short again.

Messi was devastated and the tears flowed freely as the 5 time Ballon D'Or winner once again fell short of success for the International Team.

However the news of Messi announcing his immediate retirement from International Football have sent shockwaves around the world.  Aguero & Mascherano followed suit.

Is this a knee-jerk reaction by the 29 year old legend? Is he really the reason due to which Argentina's 23 year trophy drought has not ended?


Rooney, Scholes, Giggs, Terry, Lampard, Gerrard, Puyol, Ronaldinho, Casillas, Kaka, Maldini, Nedved, Zidane, Henry, Figo, Raul and so many others made football the sport we adore and love since childhood.

Lionel Messi & Cristiano Ronaldo are the biggest stars of the Footballing world with a fan following that no one can keep a count of.

Zlatan too has his fair share of followers even in the twilight of his career.


Messi's decision to call it a day with Argentina underlines the pressure of performing that even the best have to endure while wearing national colours.

Ronaldo too faced ridicule due to a missed penalty and lacklustre play at the Euros.

Both Messi & Ronaldo have scaled unthinkable heights in Club Football but have been found wanting at the International level.

Why?

The difference between Club and Country is huge. A Player plays week in week out with players from different nationalities at a club and a bond is formed. Making Runs off the ball become muscle-memory and a trust is developed. A chemistry is formed that helps propel many to greatness.

International Football on the other hand features less games compared to Club football. A Player teams up with some people who he used to play against at Club Level and sometimes that same style of play cannot be replicated.

Some Clubs have Fantasy Teams whereas a certain player is the mainstay in his International Squad.

Every Footballer dreams of wearing his National Colours and most would still prefer Country over Club, so the passion to win and succeed increases even more. Sometimes a team, no matter how talented simply fails to win it, be it any tournament. England is one classic example.
We have seen naturally gifted players down the years but Football is a team sport - you win together, you lose together, you score together, you conceed together. There are days when a player can single-handedly change the outcome of a match. There are days when that very player becomes the butt of all jokes amongst fans, specially in the Social Media.


Players like Ronaldo and Messi are captains of their respective countries and this comes with added responsibility.
Ronaldo and Messi 
have borne the responsibility of carrying their countries to the crown, the former more so. Messi has had better players with him in Argentina ( as against Portugal ) on paper at least but the performances on field is what matters. Ronaldo was ridiculed when he missed the penalty at the Euros and was visibly under pressure with the media harassing him about his lack of performances. The Focus then shifted to Messi who missed the chance of winning the Copa, a cup that escaped his grasp in 2015 as well. Social media left no stone unturned in ridiculing both. Both sets of fans had their field days but Messi's radical call should make us re-examine our attitude towards footballers. Messi didn't play alone and like I mentioned earlier, the other 10 have to perform and support their marquee player to be successful. Argentina misfired as a team, not just one individual.

Germany, Spain, Italy, France don't feature players that can outclass Ronaldo's and Messi's abilities ( legendary if I may say ) but they have a solid set of World Class Players who perform as a team and have enjoyed their fair share of success.

Ronaldo and Messi will continue to be successful at Club levels as they are surrounded by players who understand their game and deserve equal credit as the players themselves. At International Level, some go for glory and in their zest to achieve greatness deny these two the opportunity to play at their highest level; the result then is what we see before us.

Messi's decision shows that footballers are human too and the weight of expectations can be too much to bear sometimes. We as fans will never understand what players like Messi and Ronaldo go through mentally, emotionally and physically when they are on the losing side. It hurts deep to finish second best on 3 occasions in the span of 3 years. They are expected to win it all, produce Man of the Match performances everyday, everytime. Was Messi not good enough? No. This has simply drained him and if he feels that his continuity will affect the future prospects of Argentina, then he has thought right. His decision, he knows best.

The banter and ridicule is not going to change but for once as a family we can salute the man who has amazed the world of football with his skills and abilities. We are fortunate to be alive in this era.


Although this post has been restricted to Ronaldo and Messi, there are so many others who displayed the same passion and love for football and have the same aura about them in their respective countries.

I Salute them too..

Yes I am a Big Fan of Messi and although I am saddened by this sudden decision of retirement, I still believe Messi will return to don his National Team colours and drive them to success.

I pray that this only turns out to be a sabbatical and I hope I am not proved wrong...

Matchday at the Theatre of Dreams - Encore!!

November 2012, the last time I was at Old Trafford to see Manchester United. We tamed Queens Park Rangers that day. I was so fortunate to see Sir Alex Ferguson in his final year at United. A lot has changed since then - David Moyes & Louis Van Gaal.

I wanted to see United play under the Van Gaal regime and plans were drawn, dates set! I was to visit the Theatre of Dreams again on 23rd January 2016 to see Manchester United face Southampton! This time I opted for the Salford Suite seats with Hospitality at Hotel Football.

My Family Friend accompanied me on this journey and we stayed at Hotel Football ( for 3 nights ) as well since its opposite Old Trafford. My friend was returning to the sport after a span of 40 years and what awaited him was truly an eye-opening experience for him.


Day started early as we left London :


London Euston..now where is our train..We travelled in style - Virgin Trains First Class :


Menu onboard Virgin Trains First Class :


Enroute to Manchester :


Manchester!


We reached Hotel Football and had a couple of hours before Kickoff. The Hotel was buzzing with activity! You knew it was matchday!


Passes for the game :


The Hospitality Suite at Hotel Football :


Menu :


Time to binge :


We were soon joined by David May in the Suite who discusses United's season so far :


Part 1 of the Q&A ( Video Link ) :


Part 2 of the Q&A ( Video Link ) :


Post the Interview, it was time to go to the Stadium for the game.

An Important Update :

The Only recording equipment allowed now is your mobile phone. Cameras, Selfie Sticks are banned on matchdays ( in the aftermath of the Paris Attacks ) - Huge disappointment but safety first.


The View from the Salford Suite in Sir Alex Ferguson Stand :


Manchester United enters Old Trafford ( Video Link ) :


The Boys entering OT!


Team Announcements ( Video Link ) :


Selfie Time :


First Half Commences ( Video Link ) :

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J5gDW5NE4es


Shots from the First Half :


Manchester United pressurizing Southampton ( Video Link ) :

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BWpmdNb7Gmg


Barring a few minutes of pressure, United played possession football with nothing to show on the scoreline. These pictures sum up the mood of the United Supporters that night :


First Half comes to an end ( Video Link ) :

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TmBFZGN-JeM


Waiting for the Second Half to begin :


Seats filling up again before the Second Half :


Second Half begins ( Video Link ) :

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=drvFRdkPAhk


Juan Mata came on in the Second Half and the play was a lot more positive for United :


United creating chances in the Second Half ( Video Link ) :

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SySaBziNaLw


However Southampton scored in the dying minutes of the game and boos were heard all over the stadium!


The Atmosphere in the stadium after Southampton scores ( Video Link ) :

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4v8rc-8T5No


We had been pretty ordinary over 90 minutes and I was very disappointed with the display that night. However Win or Lose, United for Life!


Final Whistle and a disappointing day at Old Trafford :(

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x62znw516bw


We returned to the Hotel Suite and the mood was pretty sober. However we were soon joined by another United Legend - Sammy McIlroy!



Part 1 of Interview ( Video Link ) :




Part 2 of Interview ( Video Link ) :





Norman Whiteside!!

Making new friends in Manchester :


The Final Selfie as an eventful day comes to an end :

4 years had passed since I last visited Old Trafford. A lot has changed since then. The Result and the performance wasn't what was expected but the joy of being a part of the Manchester United Family is unparalleled! My Friend cherished the experience and his love for football was rekindled!

A big thank you to Mr. Peter Watts from Premier Explore for arranging Hotels, Match passes and the Hospitality for us at Hotel Football.

Hope to be at the Theatre of Dreams - Again!












La Blaugrana at the Camp Nou

1st December 2012, Barcelona, Spain.

FC Barcelona hosted Athletic Bilbao at the Camp Nou. I had the privilege of witnessing the action from one of the best seats in the house. I was not disappointed.

Outside the Stadium :


It was quite a walk from the Gate I entered into the premises and finally I was there :


The Lounge :


Food!


The Team entering Camp Nou :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vFib9DiGzW4

The Team :


The View from my Seat :



Messi, the player the world adores!


Marcelo Bielsa watching his team implementing tactics :


Cameramen who make it easy viewing for us :



Valdes and Pique :



Pique Opens the scoring for Barcelona :


Video Link :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qozziC6rlZ0


Pedro warned for a Poor Tackle :



Xavi the Captain and Pass-master calling the shots in the midfield :



Messi makes it 2-0 for Barcelona!


Video Link :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZZc99bgNMg

Some More Stills :



Iniesta then missed a Golden Chance to put the game beyond reach, Video Link :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7fANMBpRxyc

It was 3-0 at Half-time with Adriano scoring in the dying minutes of the First Half


Messi and Iniesta :



Substitutes Warming up at the start of the second half :



Fernando Llorente came on but the damage was done :



The atmosphere at the Camp Nou was absolutely electric, the supporters indulging in a Mexican Wave.

Video Link :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2WgC-M_4Bg



Messi put the Icing on the Cake with a fabulous finish to make it 5-1 !!

Video Link :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1fZWm_Ux4Uw




Tito Vilanova, the Victorious Tactician on the Night :



More Substitutions, this time FC Barcelona too got on Fresh Legs :


Video Link :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2uwFvK6u-8w


Messi The Maestro the real difference between the two teams :



The Final Whiste! A Great Victory for FC Barcelona!

Video Link :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PdMHgXY2uRY



What an experience it was!! The Joy is evident as I am joined by Fans of the Catalan Club



Some Panaromic shots of this Majestic Stadium!


Time to Wrap Up!



Truly More than a Club!



A Sweet ending to a sweet victory!





Thiago Alcantara Obliged us with Autographs!



Bye Bye Camp Nou. I shall be back soon!



It was an awesome experience. There are many more to follow!!

I have a lot to write! So watch this Space.... More in Store!

Matchday at the Theatre of Dreams

Date : 24th November 2012.

Location : Manchester, United Kingdom

The Big Day had arrived. The Day when I would see the "Red Devils" take the field in their quest for yet another English Premier League Title.

Their Adversaries : Queens Park Rangers better known as QPR.

QPR was a very strong team on paper. It boasted of having players who have played for top teams in their early days but yet the team looked in disarray.

QPR had been going downhill and had just sacked Mark Hughes ( Manager ) a day before their game against Manchester United.

It was quite a nice game to be at as United had to dig deep to attain all 3 points.

 

My Day started with a big surprise. I exited the Elevator of my hotel to discover the entire QPR team sitting in the lobby getting ready for their "pre-match warm-up walk".

I got hold of a few players and they obliged me with autographs while some honoured me with a picture with them

 

Shaun Wright-Philips :

Park Ji-Sung :

 

There were still a couple of hours until kickoff but the Trams were already full

 

I alighted at Old Trafford Station and was amazed at the scores of Supporters moving towards Old Trafford!

 

The Stalls brimming with Scarves and other Manchester United "Merchandise"

 

The Walk to the Theatre of Dreams!

 

I had opted for the Hospitality at Old Trafford. I was at the EUROPA SUITE :

 

My Ticket and all the goodies that came with it!

 

I settled into my seat and soon enough we were all surprised by the arrival of our "Captain Fantastic" - the man from Serbia, NEMANJA VIDIC!! I was one of the privileged few to get an autograph from our Captain

 

It was time...

 

The Boys warming up :

 

Fred The Red :

 

Getting ready for Kick - Off :

 

Stretford End!!

 

The Teams coming out onto the pitch, here is the link of the video uploaded by me :

 

Accolades for Robin Van Persie :

 

Boys waiting for the whistle :

 

Kick-off!! Video Link :

 

Some shots from the First Half :

 

QPR Goal Disallowed! Sigh of Relief...

 

Half Time!

 

Second Half saw Manchester United conceed.

 

Substitution Time :

 

Manchester United equalised through Johnny Evans!

Video Link :

 

Manchester United wasted little time in taking the lead from another setpiece. Corner Kick by Rooney and into the Goal by Darren Fletcher!! 2-1 

Video Link :

 

As Smalling and Jones warmed up, United decided to put the game to bed. Javier Hernandez, our Little Pea defeated the offside trap to score from a one-on-one situation.

3-1 to United!!  

 

Old Trafford in all its Glory!    

 

Nick Powell comes on for Danny Welbeck    

 

WAYNE ROONEY what a game our lad had!   

 

The Final Whistle went off and United secured all 3 points against QPR. United went to the Top of the Table and have stayed there since!!  

 

Video Link :

 

 

The Home of Manchester United - OLD TRAFFORD! 

 

A Picture to Treasure, A Moment to Cherish!!

 

 

Anderson paid a quick visit to the suite. I did get time to have a nice chat with a Legend at Manchester United.

SAMMY McILROY!!


It was time to leave the stadium and return home. The words said by the 2 greatest managers on the planet shall always stay with me!

Sir Matt Busby who revived the United Legacy after the Flowers of Manchester went home early...

 

Sir Alex Ferguson who took Manchester United to the top. The man who knocked Liverpool off their perch, the man the world reveres and respects. The man who made us dream and took the club to glories unthinkable. The Undisputed king of the Managerial World!! 


I KNEW I WAS HOME!!!


What a day what an experience. Unforgettable, Unparalled. A dream fulfilled.


Thank you God and Thank you Dad for letting me experience the experience of seeing the Red Devils play in front of their faithful. 

 

There is more to come!! Watch this Space!!

The Return of the League!!

A lot has happened during the Summer Break in Football. Euro 2012 and Olympics ensured that players stayed in shape before the start of the League Season. Euro 2012 was particularly tiring for some and it wasn't a surprise to see many players excusing themselves from International Duties during the Olympics to get some rest. The Olympics came to a close on 12th August, just a week before the start of the leagues.

The Break is also renowned for the Transfer Season when Clubs go scouting to bring in players they deem fit to play for them. This Season a lot has conspired.

The English Premier Legue campaign kickstarts tomorrow and Manchester City will now defend the title.

So how have things shaped up prior to the start of the league???

 

 

ARSENAL :

Arsenal entered the market fairly early and acquired the services of Lucas Podolski, Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla ( just a couple of days back ).

Arsene Wenger is a wise investor and the arrival of the trio has definitely strengthened the squad. However Arsenal have suffered a huge setback as their Ex-Captain Robin Van Persie felt it was time to leave the club and joined Arch-Rivals Manchester United.

The Departure of the Captain is a blow for any club but Arsene is famous for rallying his troops and producing results. The likes of Jack Wilshire, Aaron Ramsey, Per Mertesacker, Koscielny, Squillaci, Walcott, Arteta combined with the ability of the newcomers make them a force to be reckoned with.

Arsenal cannot be discounted....

 

CHELSEA :

Chelsea offered a 2 year contract to the Interim Manager Roberto Di Matteo. The Italian had fulfilled Abromovich's dream of winning the Champions League. 

Chelsea have done good business in the Transfer Window. Roman Abromovich opened up funds to bring in Marko Marin, Eden Hazard and Oscar ( Brazilian ). They also signed Thorgan Hazard ( Eden's younger brother ) from Lens.

The Quartet are very young and have done exceptionally well for their former clubs, Oscar though is an unkown entity for most clubs. His performance at the Olympics would definitely boost his confidence.

Chelsea have had to contend with the departure of their Prolific Goal-Scorer Didier Drogba. Saloman Kalou and Jose Bosingwa left the club after rejecting Contract Renewals. Romelu Lukaku has been sent for a season-long loan to West Brom.

Chelsea seem to be lacking Firepower at the front. Fernando Torres would need too find his form upfront. However a Talented Midfield ( The BEST Midfield for me ) would definitely help Torres share the burden of Goal - Scoring.

Roberto Di Matteo needs to play his cards right. Chelsea are definite contenders for the title.

 

LIVERPOOL :

Liverpool have been quite inactive in the Transfer Market. The Arrivals of Youngsters such as Borini, Allen and Assaidi leaves much to be desired.

Liverpool will suffer greatly from the departures of Aurelio, Rodriquez, Aquilani, Bellamy & Kuyt. Maxi Rodriquez and More Imporantly Kuyt are big losses for Liverpool.

The onus will be on Gerrard to deliver in the midfield and its quite a big ask. Suarez did well last season and a mis-firing Carroll seems to be finding his feet.

Brendan Rodgers has limited options. Its going to be a difficult season again for Fans as Liverpool clearly lack strength in depth.

Liverpool will struggle. A top 4 finish seems hard. However they can sign someone with a fortnight of Transfer Period left.

 

MANCHESTER CITY :

The Current Champions have a lot of funds to tinker with. They have a team that can challenge the best of Europe. Can they deliver a repeat of last season? Possible.

City have been silent in the market. Their team is strong enough. The only arrival has been that of Jack Rodwell from Everton.

Departures have been insignificant

Mancini is an excellent manager and knows how to handle his team well. A Fantastic Strength in Depth makes team selection a headache but eases the pressure on regular starters.

The Strongest team on paper.... Can Definitely repeat their performance..

 

MANCHESTER UNITED :

Manchester United fans suffered heartbreak last season. They lost the title to arch-rivals City on Goal Difference!

Sir Alex Ferguson - The most decorated manager for any football club knew that reinforcements were necessary to wrestle back the title to the Red of Manchester.

The First Arrival was of Shinji Kagawa from Borussia Dortmund. That was quickly followed by the Arrival of a promising young talent called Nick Powell. The Biggest signing of the season though was the Arsenal Ex - Captain Robin Van Persie.

 

Was it the best signing?

Robin Van Persie joins a list of abled strikers for UnitedThe Top Scorer last season, Van Persie's Partnership with Wayne Rooney would attract a lot of attention. 

Considering the need of United, although the Dutch Acquisition seems good business, the 24 Million Pounds could have been invested elsewhere. The Primary Need for United was the arrival of a Central Playmaker and a good Left-back.

Fabio left the Club on loan, so Patrice Evra has to bear the burden of the Left - Back Position. 

 

So United have options galore upfront but are light in the Mid-Field. A cause of concern but Sir Alex Ferguson knows how to handle such situations. ( 1999 Treble Season was similar )

 

As a UNITED SUPPORTER, MANCHESTER UNITED ARE FAVOURITES TO WIN THE TITLE....

 

The Likes of Tottenham and Newcastle United would definitely add more Spice to the Title Race.

 

However there is definitely a Shift in Power.

A NEW BIG FOUR has emerged... Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea & Arsenal. 

Liverpool Fans would not like this... Liverpool don't seem to be a Title-Winning Team anymore ( Unless they spend heavy ). 

 

TITLE CONTENDERS - MANCHESTER UNITED, MANCHESTER CITY & CHELSEA.

Arsenal at best would spoil someone's party. They need better players..

 

Let the Games Begin!!

 

2004 - Greece, 2008 - Spain, 2012 - ???

This is that time of the year when the Football Season is over, everything is done and dusted, the European league teams are busy regrouping, restrenghtening their squads. The Transfer season is in full swing as Players leave clubs for others to get more lucrative deals.

This season though all this will take a backstage, albeit for a period. Club Rivalries will be put aside, football lovers will unite as one force to support their national team!

The Euro is the here & this time its Poland & Ukraine who host it!

The Contenders to the crown are :

Group A

Poland, Greece, Russia, Czech Republic

Group B

Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Portugal

Group C

Spain, Italy, Republic Of Ireland, Croatia

Group D

Ukraine, Sweden, France, England

Teams that should make it to the Knock - out Stages :

Group A features the 2004 Champions Greece. Greece was definitely a surprise winner in 2004. Russia & Czech Republic have world class players. Poland unfortunately doesn't offer much to challenge the other three in the group. This Group is not an easy one even though it doesn't feature the more glamourous teams. Russia & Czech Republic should advance from this group.

Group B - THE GROUP OF DEATH!! We definitely have 3 top contenders for the crown in one group!! Netherlands are known for their strength in depth & their fascinating style of football. However they haven't had enough silverware to show for all their efforts. Germany showed fantastic form in the World Cup and also in the Qualifiers. Portugal have a star - studded lineup & they would definitely want to reward their fans with the cup. Cristiano Ronaldo will be looked upon as the one who can lead them to the Cup single-handedly! However their biggest weakness is team - spirit. Denmark aren't pushovers either & are known to produce upsets. The Experience of playing in the top leagues of Europe would definitely help the Danes. It's a very tough call - Germany & Netherlands should advance.

Group C features the 2008 Champions Spain. Spain is my favourite. They have literally trampled the opposition in the qualifiers. The 2010 World Cup Winners have also silenced critics by showing they are not chokers when it comes to the big stage. Italy, 2006 World Cup Winenrs have had a very torrid road to the Euros. Mercurial Perfomances, an Ageing Team, Match - Fixing Scandals in Serie A have definitely disturbed their focus leading upto the Tournament. The Azzuris though have the knack to defend exceptionally if they get the lead. Republic of Ireland have some top players in their ranks. The experience of Captain Robbie Keane will definitely help them on the field. Croatia became famous when they knocked out England in the Euro 2008 Qualifiers. The Players playing in the Premier League didn't get the best welcome. Croatia is definitely the Dark Horse in this group. This might be a bold prediction but Spain & Croatia would advance, although it would be better for Italy to advance rather than Croatia from a neutral's point of view.

Group D - Teams that have a lot to prove. France have been on the decline since their 2006 World Cup Final Defeat. Their lack of performance inspite of having some of the best talent in Europe baffles me. Their Road to Qualification wasn't an easy one either. Their failure to advance would definitely shock football lovers. England have been the lion that needs to wake up from its slumber. Fantastic talent has come & gone & yet the team has underperformed, be it the World Cup or the Euros. The saclking of Fabio Capello was a big mistake. Roy Hodgson has definitely shocked supporters by listing a team that has snubbed some quality players. The Inclusions of some has amused experts too. Only time will tell whether the decision was right or wrong. Ukraine seems to be in the same state as their co-host. They might only be also - rans. Sweden have been a close - knit team. They have been known to play around their more talented players. This Euro shouldn't be any different. England should top this group, France should clinch the other spot. Sweden is good but not good enough.

Spain, England, Germany, Netherlands should be the Semi - finalists. Spain vs England would be a dream final.

MY WINNER FOR EURO 2012 - SPAIN !!!

The REDS vs The BLUES

The Football season has ended. This year though has given way to a new level of rivalry. The Title Race in England has always been between Manchester and London. Chelsea, Arsenal have won the title for London but Manchester has always had one representative - MANCHESTER UNITED.

Manchester United became the most successful club in England when it surpassed Liverpool's 18 Titles last year; a number that everyone thought would be diffcult to reach considering the level of competition in the League.

As United finally enjoyed victory over Liverpool, a club in the same city was building a team to match or at least Challenge United's supremacy both in Manchester & England.

They have always played second fiddle and after seeing United be so successful over the years it was high time that City do something about the League.

United have been heavy spenders in the past with SIR ALEX FERGUSON not holding back funds to bring in reinforcements to wrestle back the title to United.

BUT THIS WAS DIFFERENT....

As I said in one of my earliest posts this season was a very close one and predicting a winner would be very tough.

CIty went in overdrive after getting a cash-laden owner. He channelised his assets and signed some of the best players on the planet. Some were paid higher salaries and other players who were overvalued and overrated made it to the club thanks to fat salaries that came from the owner's pocket... All this to try to silence the Red Army of Manchester.

The Entire season both clubs were dead-locked in battle while the rest had to contend with a fight for the third place. City humiliated United at Old Trafford 6-1, United got a revenge of sorts by knocking City out of the FA Cup at the Etihad Stadium.

City were 8 points clear at the top and then it all went bad for them. The cluttering of too many stars in a dressing room can be dangerous. The Clash of egos even spilled out onto the pitch.

United had a merry time and went about their usual job of winning fixtures. United were 8 points clear and at the business end of the League, the Reds were famous for finishing competition.

However, the league would experience another twist.. United performed poorly at relegation - threatened Wigan and lost. The gap down to 5. They maintained their lead with a win over Aston Villa but then came the match when they lost the initiative.

Everton played United at Old Trafford and United relinquised a comfortable 2 goal lead in the dying minutes of the game to draw. The scoreline a staggering 4-4. The Lead was down to 3 points and Clearly the game between United and City a week later would be the title decider.

City had been prolific in their scoring and had a better Goal Difference. United fielded a squad with the clear intentions of playing for a draw. The Plan worked perfect until the 45th minute when City Captain Kompany scored from a corner.

United lost the game and with two games to go the title charge was practically over. City struggled to win but eeked out a result at Newcastle. United overcame Swansea comfortably.

Final week & arguably the most tense ending ever to a league season. United went to Sunderland and hung onto win 1-0. The result clearly meant that City needed to lose or draw for United to hold on and win their 20th league title. City playing at same time seemed to be winning 1-0 until a defensive lapse helped QPR score. Joey Barton's moment of madness reduced QPR to 10 men but they rallied around to take the lead. Into Stoppage time ( 5 mins ) and City equalised in the 92nd. The Death Blow came in the 94th....

I was distraught.

Kun Aguero had broken the hearts of Millions of United supporters across the world!! The Etihad erupted in triumph. City Supporters simply couldn't believe that they were champions! The fans invaded the pitch & mingled with the players as they shed tears of joy! City were finally champions!!

As for United, the Community Shield was the only Silverware they could achieve this season.

The Curtains now close and a new chapter will begin come August. Till then Congratulations City for being deserved winners!!

We Wait for the opportune time..... GGMU!!

 

The Malaysian Sojourn

Malaysia has been so good to me and I have no words to express how thankful I am to TOURISM MALAYSIA for the 2 day race tickets. I never thought I would bump into so many accomplished people on this short trip.

It was only a 3 day trip but I will cherish every minute of it!

Day 1 : 24th March 2012

I reached my Hotel Mandarin Oriental around 9 in the morning and was simply awed by the location. Right next to the Petronas Towers and the Designer Laden Suria KLCC, I knew I had booked the Right place!

I entered the Lobby and couldn't believe what I saw! This hotel was packed with Formula 1 teams, FIA Members and even Footballers!

I first met the Legendary Sir Jackie Stewart!! The Triple World Champion also called the Flying Scotsman was very kind and I had the privilege of getting a photograph with him!

My Wait to be checked into my room turned out to be a Blessing in Disguise!

Michel Salgado was the next Celebrity I met! The Ex-Real Madrid and Spanish Defender had recently visited India for a Blackburn Rovers event ( His current club ) and we had a healty conversation.

I then met a Fellow Manchester United Supporters Mr. & Mrs. Wong  and we couldn't stop talking about the club we loved! We shared experiences and opinions about the club and more importantly talked about Formula 1.  

The Hotel Room was lavish! Mandarin Oriental is the best Hotel there. My room overlooked the Petronas Towers and the KLCC Mall which has Solar Energy for majority of its Energy needs.

I spent the rest of the day at Sepang watching the Saturday Practice and the Qualifying. I did a quick tour of the KLCC Mall when I returned and Met Fabio Cannavaro!!

This was followed by a sumptuous dinner at Lai Po Heen, the Award winning Chinese Restaurant of Mandarin Oriental. I ended the day with a recce of the rest of the hotel and more importantly.. its Cake Shop!

 

Day 2 : 25th March 2012 - RACEDAY :

Post Breakfast I made my way to the lobby and many celebrities were waiting for their rides to the circuit. Fernando Morientes was the next to oblige me with a Photo! I wished the Spaniard the best and my jaw dropped when I reached the Hotel Driveway.

Ferraris, Maserati, Porsches dominated the driveway. I couldn't stop gazing at them!

After Attending a Fantastic Grand Prix I Spent my evening at Mosaic the Coffee Shop of Mandarin Oriental and got a picture with Johnny Herbert ( Ex F1 Driver, Sky - Sports Co-presenter, Herbie Blash - FIA Deputy Race Director Charlie Whiting - FIA  Race Director!!

Day 3: 26th March 2012 :

I spent the morning exploring the Mall and had High Tea at the Lounge on the Park ( Courtesy AMEX Platinum Services ) before checking out of the Hotel.

It was a great trip. Never Expected to meet so many celebrities as Formula 1 teams prefer staying near the circuit and this hotel was an hour's drive away.

I must say Mandarin Oriental is the Best Property in Kuala Lumpur!  

A Big Thank you to TOURISM MALAYSIA for giving me the opportunity to enjoy the Malaysian Grand Prix.

MALAYSIA, TRULY ASIA !! 

A Day with the LEGENDS!!

These two Footballers have been successful at Manchester United. Their Participation in this event is testimony to the fact that the club is thankful for all that they have done for the club. One was there when Manchester United won the treble - The Barclays English Premiership, The FA Cup & the most coveted Champions' League in 1999. The Other has been a part of 2 FA cup winning Squads. Legends in their own right, both represent the club who with their official sponsor DHL are on a whirlwind Trophy Tour that shall traverse more than 45000 miles!

The Purpose of the tour is to show Fans across the World the most celebrated trophy at Manchester United - Their 19th Title!! which makes them the MOST SUCCESSFUL CLUB IN ENGLAND.

I had the privilege of Meeting these 2 Legends - something I never thought would happen even in my dreams!

Today I rubbed Shoulders with DENNIS IRWIN & QUINTON FORTUNE!!

The Venue was the Manchester United Soccer School - the First Facility in India to teach the youth to play football the ' Manchester United Way '. Inaugurated by another great GARY NEVILLE, I must say I was completely floored by the facilites at the School. The Building resembled a mini Old Trafford with plaques of Different Players adorning one wall and the Trophy presentation and Celebrations at Old Trafford on the other. The Coaches room, the Locker room & the Business facilities nothing short of World Class. 

Both the legends were engrossed in a high tempo games showcasing their skills to the delight of the media and fans alike. This was followed by a nice photoshoot with the kids from Magic Bus - who enjoyed their time with the legends asking them questions that varied from the first time they kicked a football to representing their country at the World Cup. The Work Ethic of the players amazed one and all. This was followed by a very popular tradition practised post training at the Carrington Training Ground - THE CROSSBAR CHALLENGE. Honours were shared with both players hitting the crossbar. 

The Trophy was presented in full view of the media as both the players smiled for the shutterbugs with the kids. I had the privilege to ask Dennis Irwin what was the greatest rivalry for him when he played for Manchester United. The answer was LIVERPOOL, and the man didn't flinch one bit. "Liverpool is a club with a great history and great players. Winning the league 18 times was a big thing. Now we've won 19! " His declaration of the 19th title was greeted with a great cheer from the crowd.

The Press Conference was the icing on the cake as I had the honour of asking the greats two questions.

Question : Why did you want to join United? There were other clubs. Any specific reason for switching to this club?

Dennis Irwin : When I was young, there were clubs around, but it was always United that appealed to me. The style of play, the quality of play, the philosophy of the club made me want to be a part of it. But there was a big difference between joining United and staying at United. The Quality of Players at United is top class, so you have to maintain a high level to be able to stay in the team, else you have to leave.

Quinton Fortune : I just knew I had to join United when I started playing football. They are the best club in the world and play the best football in the world. So I just had to be a part of it.

The next question was in light of the memories of 6th February 1958.

Question : How strong an inspiration have the Busby Babes been in the Locker Room ?

Dennis Irwin : Well all of us remember the Busby Babes & we have always been trained to play the way they played. Fast, Attacking Football, Wingers running down the flanks crossing the ball into the box for strikers to score. The same philospohy is imbibed into the youth at the Soccer Schools too. Everything that United does is to honour them!

 

AMAZING!

The Press conference ended with the Head Coach of the Soccer School - Chris O' Brien posing with the greats holding the Trophy.

 

Both Quinton Fortune and Dennis Irwin Obliged me by autographing the Photo Prints I had carried to the event. I got a chance to pose with the Trophy too!!

TRULY A GREAT DAY!!

GLORY GLORY MANCHESTER UNITED!

The tale of two Manchester Clubs

"Football is a funny game" someone said and its very hard not to agree with him. Barclays English Premier League, Europe's most televised, most physical and maybe the toughest has seen a lot of changes in terms of dominance by teams. The Merseyside teams - Liverpool and Everton were the teams to beat in the 80s with the former racking up many titles in the process.
The 90s saw the emergence of Manchester United under the reign of the greatest manager on earth - Sir Alex Ferguson. He was more than happy to take up the challenge of beating Liverpool's record of 18 titles and slowly and steadily his dream took the Manchester Club to great heights which included a Champion's League Crown. The club produced some footballing greats - David Beckham was one.
Just when everyone thought that United were untouchable, a Frenchman entered the fray - Arsene Wenger. So talented was his team that they Didn't Lose One Game in the 2003-04 season; the team famously dubbed " The Invincibles ". Arsenal's youth system was more than capable to rival United's who combined with the experience that Wenger got to dominate the league at the turn of the century.
2005-06 were the Mourinho years for Chelsea - a team whose fortunes changed with its takeover by Russian Billionaire Roman Abromovich. The influx of finances brought in World Class players who repaid their manger's faith with back to back titles after 55 years.
07-10 was a power struggle between United and Chelsea, the title going to United thrice in those years. However " the Big Four " of England - Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and United were going to face a worthy challenger and they were " the Noisy Neighbours of Manchester " - Manchester City.
City have always been in the fray only to become "also rans" towards the end of the season. HH Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan  ( Ruling Family of Abu Dhabi ) bought the club and supporters knew fortunes were about to change. Signing players from all across Europe, notably Silva, Aguero, Toure from Spain, Dzeko from Germany,  City were going all out for the crown in 2010. The English Clubs including the Big Four lost some players to City earning them the term " the club for Rebels ".
2010 saw them displace Arsenal and Liverpool for the third spot and the Big Four had now become the Big Five.
Manchester United's title in 2010 was their 19th, dethroning Liverpool to become England's most successful Club in Premiership History. This added fuel to City's fire who responded with more signings in the transfer season in their quest for the 2011 title.
Roberto Mancini had built a fantasy team and with the Owner's backing, one knew the Manchester faceoff would now be a very mouth-watering affair.
The season kicked off with a flying start for the reigning champions United who enthralled one and all with the quality of their youth. Arsenal bore the brunt with a 8-2 hammering at Old Trafford, the London club totally outclassed and struggling to catch up. Liverpool and Chelsea also had mediocre starts to the season. So the Manchester Clubs were dominating the Londoners into September - October. October featured the first faceoff of United vs City at Old Trafford but the home team failed to turn up and lost 6-1 to the horror of supporters. October, a miserable month for United saw them concede first position to City with the gap extending to 5 points. A series of injuries to important players didn't help United's cause either. City suddenly were the force to reckon with and after handing their next door neighbours a humiliating defeat went on an unbeaten run; a draw at Anfield against Liverpool their only blemish.
United, after their demoralizing loss struggled to score but amazingly didn't Lose ground to City maintaing the gap to 5 points into December. However both clubs were on the verge of a shocking exit from the UEFA Champion's League - Europe's most elite competition featuring the Best of Europe. United failed to draw at Basel and City's win at home against Bayern Munich went in vain as Napoli grabbed second spot in the group. The exit hurt United more, the team featuring twice in the last three finals with a title to their credit.
Chelsea's and Arsenal's progress into the knockout stages only rubbed salt into the wounds as United and City were left to contend in the Europa League. However United responded well winning comfortably even though they lost their captain Nemanja Vidic for the season.
City faced a tougher test as they travelled to Chelsea and lost at Stanford Bridge, their lead reduced to a meagre 2 points. Its a three horse race for the title with United, City and Chelsea capable of walking away with the accolades. The toughest league in the world just got more exciting. What lies ahead is very intriguing. I personally believe that the title will stay at Manchester but which club? Lets Watch!!