History of the English Football League v Italian League inter-league match

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Manchester United and France’s Paul Pogba
With Premier League club’s transfer spending surpassing a billion pounds for the first time this summer, it adds to the age-old debate of which is the strongest league in Europe. There used to be a fixture which helped find the answer.

For over 100 years an English Football League XI faced a Scottish, Irish, and Italian league counterpart. Not to be confused with the Anglo-Italian and Anglo-Scottish Cup which involved club sides, the fixtures consisted of a select team of players playing in the respective leagues at the time.

The Football League’s first games against the Scottish League came in 1892 and 1893, followed by a 4-2 win over the Irish League in 1894. Regular fixtures continued and later the English League faced an Italian League side in 1960; a 4-2 defeat at the Stadio San Siro. A further three ties between the two followed that decade.

The fixture returned on 16 January 1991 in Naples when the EFL lost 3-0 to Serie A, the most cosmopolitan league in the world at the time. The Italian League squad included Marco van Basten, Diego Simeone, Lothar Matthaus and Paolo Di Canio. Diego Maradona, who was playing for Napoli at the time, was due to play in the game but had to return to Argentina after a family illness.

The Football League side was also strong with the likes of John Barnes, Ian Rush, David Seaman and Lee Dixon. Their manager at the time, Lawrie McMenemy, praised both sets of players for their desire to play in the match. The tie though struggled to capture the imagination of the public with many tickets given away for free. However, positive discussions took place regarding a further fixture at Anfield.

Final fixture

The last match, and 13th of its kind, took place on 21 February 2006 in Hull which was an under-21s affair. The Football League won the game 1-0 and featured Manchester United’s Ashley Young, Watford’s Ben Watson and Leicester City’s 2015/16 Premier League winning captain Wes Morgan.

The Italian League had the edge over the English Football League winning the majority of inter-league games on record between the two. Familiar faces featured in the fixture over the years but dwindling attendances meant the tie ultimately came to an end.

Today the Premier League can boast as being the wealthier division resulting in such deals as Manchester United’s acquisition of Paul Pogba for a record transfer fee. Although with Juventus performing strongly in recent Champions League campaigns, who would win between the two leagues today?

All of the Football League’s inter-league results can be found here.

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Manchester United’s FA Cup win huge for young squad

Manchester United’s FA Cup win this season is a huge hurdle its young squad has overcome.

The Reds beat Crystal Palace 2-1 after extra time at Wembley to claim their first trophy since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013. For the majority of the United’s young players, it has been their first season in the senior squad and early success will be huge for their development. A total of 10 players under the age of 25 have made their debut this season alone (including new signings). Although many of the academy graduates have won things at youth level, nothing can compare to senior success.

The famous class of 92 won two Premier League titles and an FA Cup in their first two seasons before going on to help the club achieve one of its most successful periods to date. Early success can only further strengthen a team’s spirit and helps overall squad growth. This season’s cup triumph also helps to end any talk of a baron trophyless run after three years without a title. It prevents pressure mounting regarding when a first senior winners’ medal for many of the squad will come.

As well as providing a huge confidence boost and belief for the squad, it also gives the players a taste of success which can only fuel their desire for more. Under Ferguson, a title-winning season would usually lead to further success the following season. This has become part of the club’s DNA, whilst continuing in the traditions and exceptions. The younger players can only grow having met these expectations to a certain extent while success also endears younger players further to fans.

Back in 2011, I wrote an article about there being a bright, young future at Old Trafford after a number of young players were either signed or promoted to the first team. That side went onto to win a Premier League title, following missing out on goal difference the previous year. Coming from two goals down at Wembley to win the Community Shield 3-2 against Manchester City had an invaluable effect on the newly formed squad’s resolve.

As Jose Mourinho takes over at Old Trafford next season, he can surely not ignore the club’s promising youth at his disposal – especially after winning the FA Cup. Louis van Gaal has followed in the club’s philosophy of promoting youth and hopefully this squad can continue to progress. Although much of United’s young side are yet to experience the success of winning the Premier League, this victory will only help with future title pursuits.

U21s – Manchester United 4-1 Bolton Wanderers

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Manchester United in action against Bolton
Manchester United fought back from a goal down against Bolton Wanderers to finish comfortable 4-1 winners in the Under-21 Premier League.

Will Keane marked his return from long term injury to score the equaliser – following a Conor Wilkinson opener for the visitors – just before half time. The Reds were much improved in the second half with a goal from Tom Thorpe and two from Jesse Lingard.

Bolton started brightly and almost went ahead when Jan Gregus’ free-kick clipped the bar. Soon after United conceded a penalty when Ben Amos brought down Tom Youngs in the penalty area. With the same two players involved, the Reds’ keeper made up for his error with a fantastic save to his left denying Youngs.

The Lancashire side took the lead when Wilkinson finished with a left-footed driving effort. Will Keane netted the equaliser after Larnell Cole’s effort on goal from a corner hit Lingard and fell kindly for Keane who smashed the ball home.

The hosts doubled their tally when Lingard delivered a side-footed effort, from a Tyler Blackett cut-back, past Jay Lynch in the Wanderers goal. Adnan Januzaj, who made his Premier League debut for the first team at the weekend, put in another impressive display in front of David Moyes, and it was the Belgians free-kick which Thorpe headed home for the third goal.

The scoring was complete when Lingard won the ball inside the opposition half and impressively went alone, finishing with a low drive past the keeper for his second of the night.

With six points from three games for Michael Joyce’s side, tonight’s win moves them up to eighth in The Barclays Under-21 Premier League a point off Wolves and Arsenal.

Barclays Premier League Under-21, top 10

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Barclays U21 Premier League: Competition format explained

Manchester United’s Director of Communications Phil Townsend talks Reds off the pitch

Manchester United Director of Communications Phil Townsend believes the rivalry between United and City is a “good thing” for the Premier League.

The Manchester rivalry has intensified in recent years, and after Manchester City overcame their neighbours to win the Premier League in an emphatic late comeback on the final day, this sets up the most enthralling bout yet between the two sides next season.

Townsend believes the competition between the top teams is a positive advert for the league in general.

“The fact that it’s a more exciting and a closer product than the Spanish or Italian League, it’s a major part in its popularity and value to television companies around the world, ” he said. “I think it is a good thing for the Premier League as a whole, there are several teams now who are capable of winning the league.”

The Red’s Director of Communications believes the club has become more proactive on the commercial side since he arrived. After the club recently announced followers of 659 million across the world, he spoke about how it has become easier to communicate with such a large fan base.

“The mobile partners that we have in 45 countries, allow you to literally bring the team and action to the palm of someone’s hand as people obviously carry mobile phones around. Through that, it’s possible to speak directly to supporters.”

The Old Trafford board member made it clear, ahead of next season’s pre-season tour, how not only is a global fan base important but also local supporters. Last year’s ‘Champions 19 Tour’ visited places across the world but also to the local community.

“What is also important is the Manchester legs of the tour, so it went to schools in Stretford, Urmston, Flixton and places like that. There was never an ignoring of the local fan base. It was a global thing but very much for the whole Manchester United family.”

Old Trafford
Old Trafford

Townsend, who has been at the club for eight and half seasons, reiterated how important Old Trafford is to the club.

“Old Trafford is one of the key assets of the club. The centenary celebrations that we had in 2010 were reflective of the value everybody sees in Old Trafford, you wouldn’t want to change it. You go to say the Emirates Stadium, the concourses are larger, the seats are probably bigger but for me, it doesn’t have the feel of Old Trafford.”

Sir Alex Ferguson celebrated 25 years in charge of Manchester United last season and the club dedicated this achievement by changing the name of the ‘North Stand’ to the ‘Sir Alex Ferguson Stand’. Townsend, who was studying his A-Levels when Sir Alex took charge, said it was completed with great secrecy with only a few people knowing about the change.

Sir Alex Ferguson during the new stand name unveiling

“It was David Gill’s idea and he drew people in as and when necessary. We were able to source a company, the company was never told in what order the letters would be appearing. They were just sent a random array of letters,” he explains.

“They assembled them in blocks of three, those blocks were erected in a certain order and the guys putting them up didn’t know. Whilst they were putting it up it was covered so the CCTV cameras in the stadium couldn’t pick it up and see it.

“I think the fact the manager didn’t know was, firstly astonishing but also added to the sense of occasion on the day as he was staggered by what he was seeing.

“I think it achieved everything we wanted it to, we probably kept that more quiet than Paul Scholes’s return in January, because even his team-mates didn’t know. So it shows even in football you can keep secrets from people some of the time.”

The planned Sir Alex Ferguson statue is on course to be up by November time.

“The plan for that will probably be for in or around the 26th anniversary to unveil that. It will be like, in terms of size and feel, the Sir Matt Busby statue and will be outside the Sir Alex Ferguson stand,” Townsend explains.

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My first Sir Alex Ferguson manager press conference

Sir Alex Ferguson
On Tuesday 20 December 2011 I got in contact with Sir Alex Ferguson requesting I could attend one of his weekly manger press conferences at Carrington.

Often held at the end of the week during the season, the event is not open to all press. For students, entry behind the gates of ‘Fortress Carrington’ is extremely rare but much to my delight on Thursday 29th December I received a reply from Sir Alex who gratefully accepted.

The following day (30/12/11) I attended the Manchester United manager’s presser which started at about 9:25am. As Ferguson went to leave following the new conference, I was able to personally thank him for allowing me to attend.
News

The big news to come out of the news conference was that Chris Smalling is suffering from tonsillitis and not glandular fever which the United defender had suffered from when he was a child. Also Ferguson stated he felt Tottenham were playing the best football in the country at the moment and were serious title contenders. It was made known David De Gea would return in goal for the next two games but the Spaniard was later dropped against Newcastle.

The experience of attending Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson’s press conference was invaluable. As a trainee journalist and Manchester United employee, it was a huge pleasure to attend my first Ferguson presser. I’m very thankful to Sir Alex and the club’s media team.

Carrington news conference area 
The press conference audio in full:

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David De Gea can be the greatest for Manchester United

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David De Gea with Sir Alex Ferguson
Edwin van der Sar left large boots to fill in goal for Manchester United, but summer signing David De Gea looks like becoming the long term replacement for the Reds.

After a shaky start, it seems the talented youngster has now settled to life at Old Trafford. The Premier League champion’s most expensive summer signing has shown real character by over coming his opening two game mistakes. De Gea acknowledged his mistakes and has shown a desire to improve further. After his debut in the Community Shield win over Manchester City he said: “No, football is football here and in any country. I have to adapt quickly and improve on the whole of my game.” 

The Spaniard may still be young but has a wealth of experience after winning the UEFA Europa League, Super Cup and European under 21 Championships earlier this year. The clean sheet at home to Tottenham and having saved a Robin van Persie penalty in United’s 8-2 victory over Arsenal, will have given the United goalkeeper the major boost needed to get his Old Trafford career firmly on track.

As I spoke about in a previous post I’m very optimistic about the young talent Sir Alex Ferguson has brought in over the transfer window but for me De Gea seems to have been the most important addition. The goalkeeper position was a real problem after Peter Schmeichel moved on in 1999 but eventual long term replacement van der Sar was instrumental in nets for six seasons. The £18 million man seems to be a quick and ideal long term replacement. Also the fact he’s young means he’s a great investment in comparison to buying a 30 year old with a similar price tag. The 20 year old become the second most expensive keeper behind Gianluigi Buffon, who cost Juventus £32.6m in 2001.

Although it maybe premature to say the Spainnish under 21 international will be the long term number one at Old Trafford, from the little we’ve seen of him and the ability he has there is every chance he will be. The 20 year old is clearly ready to claim the long term number one shirt, I can only see the former Athletico Madrid star gaining in confidence and stature for many years to come at the Theatre of Dreams.

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Manchester United – The future’s bright the futures ‘Young’

Nani, Ashley Young and Tom Cleverly celebrate

After a thrilling Community Shield comeback yesterday, Manchester United’s talented youngsters make for an exciting future at the club.

After what was, most would agree, an average season in terms of performances last season, the new term has already promised to be a vast improvement for the Reds. Although the champions won the Premier League and only lost out to Barcelona in the Champions League final last season, they often struggled with inconsistency away from Old Trafford. Sir Alex’s men had to grind out far more results than they’d have liked, often having to comeback from behind. Although some things haven’t changed, the squad has had an injection of young talent with loanees returning and three new summer signings. Four players featured for England earlier in the summer during the under-21 European Championships while also new signing David De Gea kept goal for winners Spain.

Additions

Phil Jones from Blackburn, Ashley Young from Aston Villa and with goalkeeper De Gea moving from Athletico Madrid this completes Sir Alex’s signings thus far this summer. Young, who looked as though he’d been playing for the club for years yesterday, created United’s first goal. Jones came on in the second-half and performed strongly on his début partnering fellow youngster Johnny Evans in central defence. De Gea made the mistake for Manchester City’s second goal but it looks as though the 20-year-old can make a real impact in England after admitting his games suits the English game. Danny Welbeck, Tom Clevery and Mame Biram Diouf have returned from successful loan spells in the Premier League plus with Federico Macheda returning from half a season with Sampdoria, this adds to the talented youngsters already at the club.

The squad already feels much stronger and larger than last season, even after influential departures including Edwin van der Sar, Paul Scholes and Owen Hargreaves. The midfield which was once seen to be lightweight now consists of Darren Fletcher, Antonio Valencia, Darron Gibson, Tom Cleverley, Ashley Young, Nani, Michael Carrick, Park Ji-Sung, Ryan Giggs and Anderson. Also with Wesley Sneijder recently quoted as saying “Inter need money and I’m for sale if there are clubs willing to pay the right price. I don’t know what my future is.” Could the play-maker be the finishing touch to this already strong squad.

The squad has a core of British players which is important for the development of future young talent while they also understand exactly what it takes to play in the Premier League and understand the importance of rivalries between clubs. Welbeck and Clevery both were called up to the England squad for the proposed friendly game with Holland along with team-mates Wayne Rooney, Ashley Young and Rio Ferdinand which can only further their development.

So as the new season approaches Manchester United look to once again be the team to beat with smart buys and dynamic young talent which are set to thrill on the biggest stage. If the Reds can improve on there league form from last season, title number 20 will surely be another addition to the clubs already impressive honours.

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