BBC BLOGS - Phil McNulty

Archives for August 2012

Who needs what on transfer deadline day

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Phil McNulty | 16:54 UK time, Wednesday, 29 August 2012

The transfer window shuts on Friday night and every sign points to a frantic conclusion to August's business as clubs finalise their squads until January.

Despite having had all summer to make those crucial alterations, there will be that familiar last-minute trolley dash to the line and beyond by Premier League clubs to sign the players who could make the difference.

Where does your team need strengthening? Who are the players you would choose as reinforcements? Have your say here.

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FA unwraps £100m monument to future of football

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Phil McNulty | 08:41 UK time, Wednesday, 29 August 2012

The words of Sir Bobby Robson deliver one of a series of inspirational messages at the Football Association's new £100m monument to the future of the game in England.

England's players will see the words "Practice Makes Permanent" adorning the wall as they walk through the corridors to their vast dressing room at St. George's Park, the FA's National Football Centre tucked away in the countryside at Burton-upon-Trent.

And when England's senior squad finally take up residence after the realisation of a long-held - and much-delayed - dream at the FA, they will find the perfect environment in which to practice what the great manager Robson was preaching.

The future of English football was in full bloom at Burton on Tuesday. Not simply bricks and mortar but flesh and blood as coach John Peacock's under-17 squad, "the Burton Guinea Pigs" as he affectionately called them, got first use of the national game's breathtaking new facility.

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Liverpool v Manchester City: Flat City gives Roberto Mancini ammunition in battle to buy players

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Phil McNulty | 08:00 UK time, Monday, 27 August 2012

At Anfield

Roberto Mancini's tongue was rattling loudly around in his cheek when he announced he wanted between 10 and 15 new players before Friday's transfer deadline - but he was happy to make his point all the same.

Mancini makes no secret of the fact he would have liked more action in the transfer market this summer and Manchester City's Premier League champions added weight to his case with a largely flat performance in the 2-2 draw at Liverpool.

The Italian manager dismissed claims he could walk away from City if he fails to get the backing he demands in the market, but his words and actions made it clear he expects a big name arrival in the next few days.

Swansea's Scott Sinclair will arrive in a £6.2m deal in short order but he is not a title game-changer and City's reliance on two crass defensive errors from an otherwise impressive Liverpool might just have played into Mancini's hands as he seeks reinforcements of the quality of Roma's Daniele de Rossi, Athletic Bilbao's Javi Martinez and Stevan Jovetic of Fiorentina.

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Towering Fellaini leaves Ferguson fuming

Phil McNulty | 06:44 UK time, Tuesday, 21 August 2012

At Goodison Park

The sound of Sir Alex Ferguson damning Everton with faint praise through grinding teeth will have been a sweet serenade to the ears of David Moyes. It was an unwitting tribute to a job perfectly done.

This thunderous night at Goodison Park was meant - in Ferguson's perfect world at least - to be about Manchester United's £24m statement of intent Robin van Persie, and the first step toward reclaiming the Premier League from Manchester City.

Instead, Van Persie was reduced to making a peripheral contribution in a 23-minute appearance as a substitute on a night when one man was, in every context you care to mention, head and shoulders above everyone else.

Those of us brave, or downright foolish, enough to tweet in the hours before the game that it was now time for Marouane Fellaini to show he can dominate the big games on a more regular basis were given the most emphatic answer.

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Rodgers faces long road to Liverpool restoration

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Phil McNulty | 22:37 UK time, Saturday, 18 August 2012

At The Hawthorns

Brendan Rodgers's conviction on his arrival at Liverpool that his restoration of the club's fortunes would not be a quick fix was underscored by his presentation of a 180-page dossier to the club's owners as a signpost to the future.

Built up over 15 years, it was a document embracing the Northern Irishman's plans for the club and the new culture he wants to put in place at Anfield - and now he has a heavy beating in his first Premier League game to graphically illustrate his point that Liverpool face a long road back to the forefront of English football.

Rodgers was measured and calm on the most maddeningly knee-jerk date in the English football calendar, as the new era dawned with a 3-0 beating by West Bromwich Albion that could have been even worse as 10-man Liverpool fell apart.

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'Angry' Sir Alex Ferguson fired up to reclaim title

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Phil McNulty | 11:00 UK time, Saturday, 18 August 2012

From the very instant the final words of congratulation left Sir Alex Ferguson's lips and headed in the direction of new Premier League champions Manchester City, the Scot will have fixed every fibre on reclaiming the crown.

And the eve-of-season signing of striker Robin van Persie from Arsenal marked what Ferguson hopes will be the defining moment in his fight to restore Old Trafford's supremacy.

Ferguson was keen to make a gesture of such significance that it would serve as a savage reminder to the new champions and anyone else daring to doubt his or United's hunger for continued success.

The signing of a player who illuminated the Premier League so brilliantly as the Arsenal captain last season, and who almost single-handled kept their campaign on course when it threatened to disintegrate, will do Ferguson nicely.

Indeed, such was Ferguson's determination to show how much United mean business, he laid aside his insistence on "value" in the market and paid £24m for the 29-year-old striker.

United have also agreed a not inconsiderable salary package over the length of a four-year contract.

An added bonus is that it was an open secret that his City counterpart Roberto Mancini would have loved to have made Van Persie one of his major summer signings.

The battle lines with City have been drawn - but will it be enough to get the title back from a squad of all-encompassing quality at the Etihad, a squad with attacking riches of their own in the shape of Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez (back on message and on solid ground according to close observers) and Mario Balotelli?

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My Premier League 2012-13 predictions

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Phil McNulty | 08:15 UK time, Friday, 17 August 2012

The after-glow of London's 2012 Olympics still burns fiercely - but Premier League football takes its place back on centre stage as the new season begins on Saturday.

Will Manchester City retain the title they claimed so dramatically in the final moments of last season or will Manchester United restore what Sir Alex Ferguson will regard as normal service?

Will big-spending Chelsea challenge under Roberto Di Matteo, who was confirmed as permanent manager after winning the Champions League? And what about the fortunes of Tottenham and Liverpool, under new management in the shape of Andre Villa-Boas and Brendan Rodgers?

There will be plenty of interest in all parts of the Premier League as West Ham United, Reading and Southampton return to the top tier.

With the usual armour-plated protection required in these circumstances, here are my Premier League predictions for 2012-13.

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Van Persie signing is a landmark moment for Man Utd

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Phil McNulty | 11:14 UK time, Thursday, 16 August 2012

Sir Alex Ferguson has made an exception to his rule for an exceptional talent. Manchester United's manager has moved away from his zealous investment in the younger market to sign Robin van Persie.

Ferguson's transfer mantra in recent seasons has been "value" - so it is a measure of the size of the statement he and United want to make that he is prepared to pay £24m plus a lavish salary for Arsenal's 29-year-old double footballer of the year.

For Arsenal, there will be injury at seeing their leader and main attacking threat leave. There is the added insult that after questioning their direction and ambition he has chosen to be the first player to switch from the Gunners to United since Viv Anderson in 1987.

Emotions among the followers of these fierce rivals will be in sharp contrast today. Old Trafford will be floating on clouds of renewed optimism after a signing that sends out a series of threatening signals while Arsenal's fans will bemoan the loss of another pivotal figure after losing Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri last summer.

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