Michael Owen has upped the stakes ahead of Manchester United’s future game with Liverpool. Owen has said that United are the biggest club in the world, which will not go down well with Liverpool fans that saw Owen forge his career on Anfield.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s decision to give Owen a chance in a United shirt does not seem to have been a bad one just yet, even though the player is struggling with another injury.
What will not go down well with Liverpool fans is that Owen, a Liverpool legend, even considered a move to United in the first place. His comments are sure to fire up the passion of many fans who will be expecting Liverpool to up their game after some disappointing results.
Owen said: “It’s fantastic, everything you would expect of a top, top team. It’s probably the biggest club in the world. Everything right down to the kit man and the canteen girls through to the manager, it is just first class.”
“The older you get, the more you get to learn your body. A couple of years ago I would have carried on playing, pulled something and been out for a couple of months, or a few weeks at least. But I felt something coming and if I’d continued I think I would have pulled my groin so I came off just before it happened and instead of three or four weeks it was three or four days.”
If United are going to succeed on more than one front this season then they will need Owen to play his part. The trick will be keeping him free from regular injuries that he now seems prone to and if the club can do this then they have the poacher that they have been missing ever since Ru ud Van Nistelrooy went to join Real Madrid.
Owen has already done a large part in making himself an Old Trafford by scoring a winner against Manchester City in injury time of one of the best derbies in recent memory. It was just what United needed to lift the side after a dodgy display and if he can do it again in another important match they will love him for a long time.
Owen seems to know that he is lucky to have been given a contract at United when he could easily have ended up at a Hull or Stoke City. The point that someone showed such faith in him seems to be something he will never forget.
Former Premier League referee, Jeff Winter, has said that Sir Alex Ferguson over stepped the mark with his comments on Alan Wiley. Ferguson implied that Wiley was unfit and not up to the standard of refereeing during Manchester United’s 2-2 draw with Sunderland.
Winter himself was once part of the referee’s club that had to put up with verbal bashings from the likes of Ferguson on a daily basis and he says that this time the big Scotsman was out of order.
He said: “I think Sir Alex may have overstepped the line this time and he may be about to get his comeuppance. I think referees will be so incensed about this that Sir Alex may find that United no longer get the benefit of the doubt on certain decisions.”
“Every game Alan Wiley takes charge of now where he makes a decision which upsets some fans is going to result in chants of ‘You’re not fit to referee’, he’s going to be known as the ‘unfit ref’. Sir Alex won’t care though. He’s a knight of the realm and he thinks he’s untouchable, bullet proof.”
“But he’s also a bully. He spoke at Sir Bobby Robson’s memorial service a couple of weeks ago and said he’d learnt a lot from Sir Bobby. But he hadn’t, they were totally different, Sir Bobby was a gentleman. He was humble and had respect for people.”
“I’ve trained with the guy and I know just how fit and professional he is. He’s 49 now but he’s still extremely fit. If he wasn’t he wouldn’t be getting a game, simple as that. Referees don’t just have an annual fitness test which is pretty tough but they are continually assessed and re-assessed.”
Winter may have a point in relation to the age of Wiley. Referees in England tend to get a longer lease of life than the rest of those across Europe. The referees in Spain, Germany, Italy and other countries all have to be younger and pass sterner fitness tests in order to qualify. The fact that Wiley is still going at 49 is remarkable and is something that should be admired.
It is unlikely that Ferguson would have made the comments were he happy with the way his side had played at the weekend and the FA will no doubt send him some form of warning sooner rather than later for his outburst.
Sir Alex Ferguson is likely to be charged after his rant about the fitness of referees at the weekend. Speaking after the 2-2 draw with Sunderland, Ferguson said that the fitness of referee, Alan Wiley, was appalling.
Ferguson is not shy of making a few comments about referees, especially when his side have just come off the back of a bad performance. Ferguson makes a good point that the fitness of referees in the rest of Europe is a lot higher than those in England but the Football Association will still invite him into the office to explain his comments.
He said: “He didn’t add any time on for the goal we scored. There were only four minutes and two seconds’ injury time. There should have been another 30 seconds, but he was actually walking up the pitch after the goal, needing a rest. He just wasn’t fit enough for a game of that stature.”
“The fitness of both sets of players, the pace of the game, demanded a referee who was fit. He’s not fit. It’s an indictment of our game that we see referees from abroad are fit as butchers’ dogs. We’ve got some good referees in our country who are fit, but he wasn’t. He was taking 30 seconds to book a player as he was taking a rest.”
The FA are unlikely to take the comments with a pinch of salt because they are very good at protecting referees in the Premier League. Ferguson was probably a little annoyed that his side had played badly and could not get another three points on their title hunt this season.
Had they won the game then the obvious thing to say would be that the Scotsman would not have said a thing about the referee. However, when you draw a game you want to win or lose a game you need to draw then it is very easy to start looking for excuses.
The FA have said: “The fitness of select group match officials is continually assessed throughout the season to ensure it is of the highest possible standard.”
The point is that in recent years officials in other high profile European games have been a lot fitter and have been able to get a lot of decisions right. Maybe the situation in England needs to be reviewed but for now the FA seem happy with things the way they are.