THE WEEK THAT WAS

A Real load of bull and Fergie's legacy

April 17, 2009
By Phil Holland
(Archive)

That was the week in which, amongst other things, a linesman saved a player's life, a referee got punched in the face by a manager, Obafemi Martins definitely did not over sleep, Sergio Ramos got caught out at a bullfight and Chelsea and Liverpool shared eight goals in one amazing Champions League game.

EmpicsSir Alex Ferguson: No time for actors

Fergie and finance - Friday, April 10

There was bad news for the legions of Fergie haters on Friday with the disclosure that Sir Alex Ferguson, despite being two years over the UK's enforceable retirement age of 65, wants more silverware before he contemplates a quiet life with his pipe and slippers.

Legacy is the main driving force behind the 67-year-old's continued enthusiasm. The man from Govan's view is that greatness as a manager is defined by consistent success in Europe, to that end he hopes to double his haul of two European Cups before he clears his desk.

Few could legitimately question the old curmudgeon's place in the pantheon of great managers, but that he wants another two European Cups speaks volumes about his determination to be classed among the very best.

It was with the world weary experience of maturity that Age Concern's unofficial poster boy batted away press conference questions over United's finances after it had been revealed that the club's parent company has debts north of £650m.

While it would be a brave man who tried to tell Fergie what to say, you can't help but feel his soothing comments were designed to calm fears amongst rank and file fans about the club's balance sheet.

Chelsea and the super-sub - Saturday, April 11

Forget the interminable wibble over Cristiano Ronaldo maybe, possibly, one day going to Real Madrid, the new story that doesn't know when to die concerns Carlo Ancelotti and whether he'll be the next Chelsea manager. It's a story which at the last count has been going on for three years. Seriously.

On Saturday the AC Milan coach said: ''I exclude the possibility of going to Chelsea.'' So that's it, all over. Or is it? Probably not. In fact, later in the week there would be more news on the Stamford Bridge hotseat...

In more cheery news, Manchester United's latest teenage sensation, Federico Macheda scored another vital goal for the second game running. Following his injury time match winner against Aston Villa last weekend, Macheda bested himself by scoring with his first touch to give United a 2-1 win over Sunderland.

But for the 17-year-old, United could have dropped six points in a week and would have been third in the Premier League.

Martins: Injured or asleep? - Sunday, April 12

Alan Shearer wore his perma-frown a little more prominently on Sunday when he had to explain that Obafemi Martins missed out on the previous day's 1-1 draw with Stoke because of a groin injury, not because he overslept.

Martins trained all week, had a massage on Friday evening and went to bed fit as a fiddle. But when Shearer picked up the phone at 11am on Saturday, Martins was on the line explaining that he'd damaged his groin. How, no-one knows, or has not dared to ask.

Rumour quickly enveloped the story with the conspiracy theorists putting it to the interim Newcastle boss that Martins, wary of punishment under Shearer's new authoritarian regime, overslept and needing an excuse to explain his tardiness created a phantom injury.

Shearer dismissed the suggestion that Martins was a sleepyhead and a naughty liar and insisted that he had grudgingly accepted the Nigerian's version of events. What is true is that Shearer has instigated rule after rule for the Toon players ranging from strict time-keeping and discipline to compulsory ice baths in the hope of galvanising the squad for the fight for survival.

Taking it on the chin - Monday, April 13

Different people deal with the heartache of relegation in different ways. Some hit the booze, others weep, some go mute for weeks. Pedro Santilli may have done all three but not before flying into a rage and planting an uppercut on the chin of referee Flavio Rodrigues de Souza.

During Brazil's Paulista championship second division game against Catanduvense the Comercial coach lost his rag and barged an opposing player to the floor before sticking one on the ref.

Fair play to Rodrigues de Souza who took the shot like a man, no glass chin on him. For Santilli, once an assistant coach for Brazilian national team, relegation to the third division of the Sao Paulo state championship followed, as did a rather nervous wait outside the ref's room after the game as he waited to apologise.

Check the look in his eyes. Priceless.

On Monday there was more insufferable Chelsea manager ''news''. Well, alright there was an actual development in the story, sort of. Club chairman Bruce Buck confirmed what Guus Hiddink has been saying for months, that he's not sticking around after this season and that Jose Mourinho will not be coming back.

Most of us knew both of these things already, but with Chelsea things are rarely as straightforward as their fans would wish.

Eight goals, bullfights and lifesaving linos - Tuesday, April 14

EmpicsLiverpool fans remember those who died at Hillsborough in 1989

The cherry on top of a great news day on Tuesday was Chelsea and Liverpool playing out an amazing 4-4 draw in the second leg of their Champions League quarter final.

No-one gave Liverpool a chance of overturning Chelsea's 3-1 first leg advantage with Steven Gerrard ruled out, but Liverpool gave it everything and can hold their heads high after playing their part in a remarkable game that ended 7-5 on aggregate.

That followed a great story that Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos had been forced to apologise for leaving a game early so he could go and watch his friend contest a bullfight.

Ramos sloped off at half-time during Real's home match against Real Valladolid, but got busted when pictures of the suspended defender were published in newspapers. The Spanish love a good bullfight, but leaving long before the final whistle has been deemed a serious no-no.

Tuesday's other corking story came from Bulgaria where a linesman saved the life of Georgi Iliev after the Cherno More midfielder fractured his jaw, collapsed and swallowed his tongue.

With the player quietly choking to death and everyone else looking panicked, linesman Plamen Georgiev forgot the lifetime of spittle-laden vitriol he's had to endure from irate players and stepped up.

''You have to act very carefully in such a situation'', said Georgiev, before adding with the justifiable air of a hero: ''But I've done it before and I didn't hesitate''.

Hillsborough - Wednesday, April 15

Wednesday marked the 20th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster. Tributes were paid and memorial services held in Sheffield, Nottingham and most poignantly at Anfield where 28,000 people gathered to remember the 96 Liverpool fans who lost their lives at the 1989 FA Cup semi-final.

While there was thanksgiving for the lives of loved ones sadly lost there was also anger and frustration amongst those who are still campaigning for accountability over the tragedy.

Also on Wednesday it emerged that Inter Milan are prepared to rip up Adriano's contract if, as reports suggest, he has fallen out of love with the sport. It is unclear whether the 27-year-old striker, who has had well-documented problems in his private life and has said he is unhappy with life in Italy, will retire or try to resume his career in his native Brazil.

Biased refs and poker faces - Thursday, April 16

Remember Christian Vieri? Well, it appears the seemingly always-miserable former Italian striker is lining up a new way to make money after walking out on Atalanta last month in a typically temperamental strop: Poker.

You never know he might be good. After all he won't need sunglasses or need to spend hours practising his poker face, so inscrutable is his constantly cantankerous demeanour that anyone sitting opposite will have no idea whether Vieri's holding the high hand or a busted flush.

And finally, David Moyes' pram was teetering on the brink and his toys poised to be thrown on Thursday after it was put to him by members of the press corps that Mike Riley, the man chosen to referee Everton's FA Cup semi-final against Manchester United is in fact a fan of the Red Devils.

Moyes seethed at the suggestion and said he hoped the FA would investigate the claims ahead of Saturday's match at Wembley.