April 8th, 2010
07:44 PM ET

Fiery Fergie's rage against the German machine

The world has heard far more inflammatory comments than Alex Ferguson's complaint that Bayern Munich acted like "typical Germans" during Manchester United's European Championship quarterfinal tie.

Alex Ferguson was enraged after Bayern Munich knocked Manchester United out of the European Champions League.
Alex Ferguson was enraged after Bayern Munich knocked Manchester United out of the European Champions League.

But those two words – in the aftermath of winning at Old Trafford on Wednesday but going out of the competition on the away goals rule - reveal so much about Britain's most successful manager.

It's impossible to explore the irony without dealing in tabloid cliche but Ferguson has never let anyone forget he's a Scotsman, despite working in the north-west of England for more than two decades.

Some Scottish fans are famed for hating the English who, in turn, are traditionally ambivalent towards the Germans.

If the old Chinese maxim was correct - that the enemy of my enemy is my friend - then Ferguson should find kinship with last night's victors. But alas, no.

So has United's boss brought Britain together in a common dislike for the ability of German football teams to get the job done?

Throw in the fact that Ferguson's main gripe was how Bayern Munich's players "surrounded the ref" and it's hard not to smile, especially given that the ref was surrounded by those well known Germans - Franck Ribery from France and Arjen Robben from Holland.

I'd bet a lot of money that Manchester United would top a poll of football fans if they were asked which English Premier League team's players surround the referee most often.

Just type "United," "Andy" and "D'urso" into a video sharing website to see how Ferguson's team are past masters at pressuring the match official.

But let me backtrack just a little. Fergie can't really be accused of xenophobia considering how many players of different races and nationalities he's embraced at Old Trafford down the years. Not many of sport's great winners like losing, so it isn't a huge surprise that he sounded so bitter immediately after crashing out of the Champions League.

Alex would dearly love to add another European title to his vast collection of trophies before retiring.

Although he likes to give the impression of not caring what others, particularly the press, think of him Ferguson craves respect and admiration as much as the next person.

He got his tactics against Bayern Munich spot on and you could argue that only Rafael's red card denied him another glorious night of vindication, proving that Alex Ferguson is just about the best in the business.

Instead, the press was left to ruminate on another victory for the Germans against the English.

And in that respect, Ferguson was right. Bayern Munich did act like "typical Germans." After all, they won.

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Filed under:  Football
April 8th, 2010
10:43 AM ET

Why Jose will end Barcelona's Champions League dream

London, England - What a week in the Champions League. Twelve goals in four matches, 10 of them scored in Barcelona and Manchester. While the brilliance of Leo Messi and Arjen Robben must be praised, it is my opinion that neither of them will lift the European Cup in Madrid this year. That honour will go to Internazionale.

Jose Mourinho: Can he upset Barca’s plans for European Champions League glory?
Jose Mourinho: Can he upset Barca’s plans for European Champions League glory?

I expect you want me to justify my pick, and I will gladly do so.

Right now, Barcelona are the bookies favorite. Most fans around Europe, and indeed around the world, also expect the Spanish giants to become the first team to defend the Champions League title since the format of the competition changed back in 1992.

However, although I love watching Barcelona play, and believe they are the best footballing side on the planet, they will fall at the feet of Inter Milan in the semi-finals. Jose Mourinho will be a big reason for their defeat.

Recently, before Inter played the second leg of their tie with Chelsea, the Inter manager admitted to watching the first leg match seven times. He analyzed and dissected the game, coming up with a masterplan that worked marvellously at Stamford Bridge. The Nerazzuri departed London with a famous victory.

I now expect my compatriot to dig into the archives and watch two specific games a few times over: both legs of last season’s semi-final between Barcelona and Chelsea. The Blues did what few teams have managed to do over the last two years, and that is to contain Pep Guardiola’s mean scoring machine.

They seemed to plug all the gaps and frustrate their opponents over both matches. Of course, they were eliminated by a last gasp goal from Andres Iniesta, but for large parts of that tie, they were in control.

So look for Mourinho to design a plan to contain Messi and company. He’s got plenty of physical players in midfield like Esteban Cambiasso, Thiago Motta and Dejan Stankovic and that will help his team’s cause.

I don’t expect a flurry of goals over the two legs, maybe only three or four - but when all is said and done, Inter will be on top.

After that, they will go on to beat Bayern Munich in the final in Madrid and win the European Cup for the first time since 1965.

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Filed under:  Football
April 8th, 2010
10:06 AM ET

What do you think of Tiger Woods advert?

London, England - Shot in somber black and white and narrated by the gravelly voice of his dead father, Nike’s latest advert showcasing Tiger Woods is certainly a departure from the affirmative, high-energy missives of old.

In golf's new era of moral austerity, it appears to herald a new approach by the U.S. sportswear manufacturer, who have stood by their man as the rest of the corporate world has deserted him.

Nike has faced a nagging problem: how can you capitalize on the intense publicity garnered by your brand ambassador without appearing to condone his many indiscretions?

Sparse, yet strangely obtuse, Nike packaged Tiger and the famous Nike swoosh into 30 seconds of contrition.

But will it be enough to convince the Augusta crowd ahead of what is arguably the most anticipated round of golf in the history of the game?

The advice dispensed by his father from beyond the grave seems oddly prescient. "I want to find out what your feelings are," he asks. "And did you learn anything?" Those questions will begin to be answered when Tiger tees off this lunchtime

What do you think of the advert? Is it timely? Or does it fail to convince you? Has Nike been right to stand by Tiger Woods? Leave your comments below.

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Filed under:  Golf