End of an era

In a move that will outrage many of their longstanding shareholders, most of whom thought they were investing in a corporate behemoth, Manchester United PLC are to restore the words ‘Football Club’ to the club badge.

Ed Woodward, newly appointed Manchester United executive vice-chairman, confirmed that he and Joel Glazer, United joint-chairman, were unimpressed with the 1998 club crest redesign which removed the words ‘Football Club’.

According to Woodward, “We are a football club. We are not a business. The way I described it to the staff was ‘we are a 135-year-old club and that’s what you have to remember. We are a football club. A club with a capital C: Club’.”

There were gasps of astonishment when Woodward spoke, with many people concerned that this new-found focus on football might impact upon the company’s core business of extorting money from gullible supporters.

However, before anyone had chance to choke on their prawn sandwiches, Woodward was quick to reassure United’s core constituency that amid this groundbreaking u-turn, the club had not lost sight of the bottom line.

“And strapped to that is a commercial business that’s going to fund a lot of the player purchases going forward here and we have to be supportive of both,” he continued, as if addressing a gathering of second year business graduates. “We’ve got to make sure they co-exist together and don’t impact each other and that’s where we are trying to balance it.”

Woodward also confirmed that, despite recent speculation about possible interest from overseas in buying the United brand, there was “absolutely no prospect” of the Glazer family relinquishing their ownership.

“They are long-term owners, together with our other shareholders,” he said. “They first bought the club eight years ago and there won’t be any change for many, many years.”

Ageing process

A television report in Colombia has cast doubt on the age of Monaco’s newly acquired striker Radamel Falcao.

The prolific marksman, who joined the French outfit in a deal reported to be worth £53million, claims to be 27-years-old, although evidence unearthed in his homeland suggests that he is actually 29.

It is also claimed that the striker attended ‘pre-school transition’ in Colombia at the age of five, a scheme that no longer existed in 1991 – when Falcao officially would have turned five, while it also says he was born in Bogota, not San Marta.

The striker’s father has spoken out to deny the allegations, claiming that the dates were incorrect due to a clerical error.

The report follows.

Life ban

Nigeria’s football federation has imposed a life ban on the players and officials from the clubs involved in two matches that resulted in a total of 146 goals being scored earlier this month.

Plateau United Feeders thrashed Akurba 79-0 while Police Machine obliterated Babayaro 67-0 in third division promotion play-offs. Both winning teams had been looking to improve their goal difference in order to advance.

“Investigation showed that all the players and officials of the four teams were involved in the shameful act,” the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) vice-president Mike Umeh told a news conference in Abuja on Monday.

“It was embarrassing that in one of the games, a player scored 11 times while in the other, four goals were scored within a minute and a player scored three own-goals in a match.”

The NFF had set up a committee to investigate the matter after Feeders scored 72 goals in the second half of their game and Police Machine managed 61 times after the interval.

“All the players and officials of the four clubs involved in the two matches including all the technical and administrative staff who led them to the play-off in Bauchi are banned for life,” Umeh added.

“The captain of Akurba FC, Arijide Said Timothy, who scored three own-goals against his team, is believed to have been the arrowhead in the scandalous result. Thus, we recommend his ban from all football activities for life.

“The match officials consisting of the entire centre referees and their assistants and match commissioners for the two matches are also banned for life for not living up to their responsibility and allowing the game to be brought into disrepute. The four clubs … are banned for a period of 10 years.”

It must have seem liked such a good plan… for all of five minutes.

Itchy feet

It’s that time of year again; the time when Zlatan Ibrahimovic starts to wonder whether a move to pastures new might be best for him and when his agent, Mino Raiola, reminds him that there is no finer feeling in life than depositing a new signing-on fee into the bank account.

Never one for the long-term commitment, the peripatetic Ibrahimovic has been linked with a move away from Paris Saint-Germain following the arrival of fellow striker Edinson Cavani from Napoli.

However, Zlatan, a man whose motto could easily be ‘this club ain’t big enough for the both of us’, was keen to end speculation about his future.

“I don’t have any reason to leave,” Ibrahimovic told reporters. These rumors come about every summer. The press has me signing with every European club.

“I have a contract with PSG, but I have not yet met the president. I still have two years on my contract, and since I am a professional, I went to meet them.”

“I’ve never played with [Cavani] before. As is with any player, you have to adapt. He must learn the team and the club and the city. He will be a good reinforcement for us.”

Staying put?

If reports are to be believed, Gareth Bale is going to Real Madrid, where he will team up with Liverpool’s recidivist Luis Suarez, thus paving the way for Cristiano Ronaldo to return to Manchester United, where he will join forces with Cesc Fabregas and briefly hook up with former team-mate, Wayne Rooney, before the England striker jumps ship to Chelsea.

Simple hey?

Well, it would be if any of the current transfer stories were true. But, according to the managers of all the aforementioned players, no one is going anywhere.

Starting with Bale, who has been told by Tottenham boss Andre Villas-Boas, that he is staying put.

“On Gareth I want to repeat what I was telling you last season and what I was telling you from the beginning of pre-season so I cannot extend myself,” he said.

“He’s a player that we are willing to continue to have, he’s a Tottenham player, he’s one of the most fantastic players in the world at the moment and we are counting on him for the future.”

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers was quick to dispel rumours about Suarez’s departure.

“Do I expect him to stay? Very much so,” he said. “A lot has been said in the off season, but the reality is that he is very much a player of importance. Every player has a value and a worth, but it doesn’t mean we are going to sell him.”

As for Rooney, United boss David Moyes was short and to the point when he said: “We have said he is not for sale, and that hasn’t changed.”

Fabregas? Ditto.

“Fabregas is not for sale,” a Barcelona source said. “The president (Sandro Rosell) has been very clear with Man United.”

Those words were echoes by Real Madrid president Florentino Perez when he was asked about the prospect of Cristiano Ronaldo leaving.

“Cristiano Ronaldo is the cornerstone of our project,” Pérez said. “He’s the world’s greatest player and I can now say that he will end his career at Real Madrid. We haven’t received any offer for Cristiano Ronaldo.”

So, there you have it. Either the press is making this stuff up or the clubs are telling fibs. Probably a bit of both. Only another 6 weeks of this.

Quote of the day

“I needed it to be the David Moyes era now and I had to take David Moyes’ era and David Moyes’ time so that meant me taking some of my own people.”

David Moyes has only been in charge of Manchester United for five minutes, but the pressure seems to be getting to him as he has already started talking about himself in the 3rd person.

Young Fergie

While Moyes attempts to escape the huge shadow of Sir Alex Ferguson, he perhaps could have done without being compared directly to the his predecessor – especially by one of his own players.

United youngster Jesse Lingard believes new manager David Moyes “is like a young Sir Alex Ferguson”.

Moyes was announced as Ferguson’s successor in May and officially took over on July 1 before guiding the club on its pre-season tour of Asia and Australia.

Lingard, who would not be conceived until six years after Ferguson became United manager, believes the new manager is a like-for-like for Ferguson.

“He’s good, he’s like a young Sir Alex really,” he told reporters. “He’s going to learn and get better obviously, he wants to win trophies.”

Moyes to suggest that the 20-year-old is on the verge of the United first team, and if he keeps talking his manager up like that, he may well end up captaining the side by the end of the season.

“I’ve got to keep playing well, getting my name on the score sheet and keep playing in the rest of the games,” he added.

Ryan Giggs also admitted that things are starting to take shape under Moyes’ stewardship.

“It’s something new for the players,” he added. “The players are getting used to the manager, the manager is getting used to the players.

“We’ve only been together for maybe three weeks, but we’re enjoying it, we’re enjoying the tour so far and looking forward to the start of the season.”

As for Moyes, when he wasn’t referring to himself in the 3rd person, he was trying to remain calm after a slightly underwhelming start to his United career which has resulted in 2 defeats in his first three matches in charge. The latest being the 3-2 defeat by Yokohama F-Marinos on Tuesday.

Moyes, too, probably despite himself, has struggled to shrug off the Ferguson factor.

“I don’t want to mention Sir Alex in every conversation I have but in the same breath I would hate to think in any way that I was disrespecting someone of his level,” he said. “But I will always respect him and Manchester United will always do so too.”

It’s a tricky balancing act for Moyes: looking ahead, whilst being respectful to the past. The manner in which he reconciles the two elements may ultimately determine his Old Trafford career.

Nou boss

Barcelona have made Gerardo “Tata” Martino their new coach.

The Argentinian, who led Newell’s Old Boys success in the clausura and to the semi-final of the Copa Libertadores, will sign a three-year deal at the Camp Nou, following Tito Vilanova’s decision to step down because of a recurrence of the cancer that he first suffered in 2011.

The former Paraguay coach will bring with him his backroom team, including the assistants Elvio Paolorroso and Jorge Pautasso.

Today’s Guardian includes an insightful piece from Jonathan Wilson in which World Soccer’s tactical supremo explains exactly what might lie in store for followers of Barcelona under the new man.

Double standards

Conditions at Brazil’s new stadiums have plummeted since the Confederations Cup ended and the venues began hosting Brazilian league matches, say fans and journalists who accuse football authorities of double standards.

Media facilities have been dismantled, roads to stadiums are jammed with traffic and high ticket prices have left seats empty, they say.

“They took away the desks, the chairs, the internet, everything, and we had to work with our equipment balanced on the roof of the substitutes’ bench,” said Rener Lopes, a commentator for Esporte Brasilia.

“We had to watch what we said because if we said something the fans beside us thought was critical of their team they’d scream at us.”

“There is one standard for FIFA and another for the Brazilian league,” said fan Andre Doria.

The National Stadium, which won plaudits when FIFA hosted the Confederations Cup opener there, was one of six used for the event, a test for next year’s World Cup in Brazil.

FIFA took control of the six arenas weeks before the tournament began and installed its own facilities, including modern media centres and refreshment stands.

However, that all went when FIFA packed up its bags and returned to its lavish 5-star lifestyle, while the venues have suffered benign neglect.

“FIFA has a standard of management that is all their own,” said Ricardo Araujo, a stadium management consultant and author of the blog Novas Arenas.

“Outside those events the responsibility is transferred to the concessionaries and it doesn’t seem to me that they are ready to manage them on a day-to-day basis.”

Claudio Monteiro, Brasilia’s special secretary for World Cup planning, said improvements would come.

“I recognise that there are deficiencies in the way fans are treated,” he said.

“FIFA did everything and I can’t offer today all I’d like to offer.

“Today the clubs are learning.

“We will only reach that standard after the World Cup, until then we will keep improving.”