It has not been a good season to be a soccer fan in Manchester, England. Two years ago, the city was the zenith of the Premier League with Manchester United and Manchester City both flying high. My, how times have changed.
Manchester United, the defending Premier League champion, last week dropped to 12th place — no, that is not a typo — after the club’s poorest start since 1989-90. Going into Saturday’s game against Sunderland, United had lost three of its first six league games, including a humiliating 2-1 loss to (brace yourself) West Bromwich Albion last weekend. It was West Brom’s first win at Old Trafford since 1978.
New manager David Moyes, who took over for retired legend Sir Alex Ferguson, insists there is no need to panic and that he is the right man for the job. Good to know he has given himself a vote of confidence.
“Manchester United is a good club,” Moyes told reporters Friday. “I am sure they know they picked the right man for the job. Sir Alex was part of that process as well. There is a long way to go in the Premier League. It’s a long season. You’ll see great changes as the season goes on. We’ll hang in there and get ourselves as close to the top as soon as we can.”
The only consolation for ManU fans is that crosstown rival Man City hasn’t exactly been the toast of the league, either. The Blues were in seventh place after six matches, and lost 3-1 to Bayern Munich in their Champions League matchup.
City was feeling mighty good about itself after drubbing Man United 4-1 last month, but a 3-2 loss to Aston Villa last weekend brought it right back to earth. The team also lost to Cardiff City, and goalkeeper Joe Hart has been struggling.
It’s hard to believe the loss of Ferguson could make that big of a difference with Manchester United players. The roster is virtually the same as last season.
“I can’t put my finger on what’s happened,” player/coach Ryan Giggs told the (London) Mirror. “We have just not played as well as we can, both individually and as a team. Sir Alex was a great manager and a great influence on the team and the club. You’re going to miss someone like that, but I don’t think that’s an excuse when individuals aren’t playing as well as they can.
“We know the quality in the dressing room. We’re the champions, so we showed that quality last year and we have to show it again. … There is no excuse. You have just got to hang in there to the turn of the year and then hopefully hit a bit of form like we historically do.”
Arsenal sits atop the standings, followed by Liverpool and Tottenham.
That is good news for Colombia and Belgium, neither of which qualified for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. As host, Brazil will get an automatic seed, and the top-seven-ranked teams also will be seeded. Right now, that would be Spain, Argentina, Germany, Italy, Colombia, Belgium and Uruguay.
The World Cup draw is Dec. 6 in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil.• Upcoming U.S. matches: The U.S. team clinched a World Cup berth with last month’s win over Mexico, but it has two World Cup qualifiers remaining — Oct. 11 against Jamaica in Kansas City, and Oct. 15 at Panama. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann plans to use these matches to continue to evaluate his talent pool. He also is planning friendlies against Scotland and Austria in the coming months.
• Local tryouts: Miami United, a semipro team in the National Premier Soccer League, is holding tryouts Monday through Wednesday at Ted Hendricks Stadium in Hialeah (4800 Palm Avenue). The club plays against regional teams such as the Cape Coral Hurricanes, Jacksonville United and Tampa Marauders. Players 15 to 20 years old try out from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., and “first-team” players try out from 7:30p.m. to 9 p.m. Entry fee is $50. For registration and information, go to miamiunitedsoccer.com or call 305-318-2026.