Quote of the Day: Ferguson Confirms Rooney’s Greatness, Whiteness

Ahead of last week’s Champions League clash between Benfica and Manchester United, Benfica coach Jorge Jesus called Man U striker Wayne Rooney the “best British player so far.”

Jesus then added, “but he doesn’t look like a British player but an Argentinian or Brazilian.”

Pressed for a response by The Sun, Alex Ferguson, Rooney’s coach at Man U, agreed—to an extent:

“If you look at Pelé, for instance, he was a very aggressive attacker also who could look after himself, so can Rooney. They have similarities that way—strength, speed, determination, but he’s white, completely white.”

Thanks for the clarification, Alex, but we’re pretty sure the Benfica manager was referring to Rooney’s style of play, not his physical appearance.

MLS Roundup: Vancouver Signs Gambian DP, Rooney, Ferguson Meet the Press

Vancouver Whitecaps FC announced the signing of Gambian international and former Belgian league standout Mustapha “Toubabo” Jarju today.

A 24-year-old striker, Jarju scored 18 goals in 31 games for RAEC Mons last season, leading the side to promotion to the Belgian top flight. He has 25 appearances and four goals for the Gambian national team, and is an alternate captain for his national side.

Jarju becomes the first African designated player in MLS history, and the fifth Gambian player in the league, after Sanna Nyassi (Colorado), Sainey Nyassi (Sanna’s twin, New England), Kenny Mansally (New England) and Mamadou “Futty” Danso (Portland).

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Manchester United has landed on U.S. shores in advance of the first game of their preseason tour (against New England on Wednesday) and coach Alex Ferguson had some interesting things to say about MLS and soccer in the U.S. Chief among these was his notion that the country should form several leagues, due to its size:

“I always thought the problem would be the size of the country. Travelling from Boston to Los Angeles is a long haul. But in Brazil they have two leagues. They could easily do that in the United States if it takes off and they got more clubs involved. In fact, you could have four leagues because of the size of the country and the population base. There are unbelievable possibilities for the United States.”

It would never happen, but we like it. You create regional leagues to get around the problem of travel (which is real; ask any MLSer), and then take the winners of them and do a playoff (or championship game) in one neutral site. Not a bad idea. Commissioner Garber, your thoughts?

Wayne Rooney is part of the Man U contingent that’s here, and he spoke with the MLS website today, saying he thinks the league is on the rise and “in the next five, 10 years, it’ll be one of the major leagues in football.” From  your lips to God’s ears, Wayne.

Rooney goes on to name-check Brian McBride and Joe-Max Moore, both of whom he trained with at Everton (Joe-Max “when I was a young lad”). Click here for the full article on Red Bull midfielder John Rooney‘s older brother.

New England–Man U kicks off at 8:00 tomorrow night on ESPN2.

Highlights Reel: All About the Bike

Wayne Rooney’s fantastic (three-quarter) bicycle kick against Man City on Saturday may end up as goal of the year in the Premier League this season, not only for the quality of the strike, but also for its importance—it proved to be the game-winner in a Manchester derby with title implications.

(The EPL has successfully scrubbed it from most of the interwebs, but you can still see it here.)

As great as it was, though, it’s probably not even in the Top 10 for overhead-kick goals in the past two decades. A quick search by the Backpost I-Team turned up several bikes more impressive than Rooney’s self-described “best goal” of his career—including a couple from the unsung ranks of MLS.

Let’s take a look, in ascending order of brilliance:

5. Taylor Twellman, New England Revolution, 2007

Sandwiched between two defenders, Twellman would have received a high-kick call (and possible booking) from the ref if he hadn’t punched the ball into the back of the net.

4. Ronaldinho, Barcelona, 2008

With a defender to his left and one directly on his back, he loops it over the latter and—golazo!

3. Marcelo Balboa, Colorado Rapids, 2000

MLS goal of the year that season, naturally, and a strong contender for top goal in league history.

2. Trevor Sinclair, Queens Park Rangers, 1997

Pfffft. What?! Top of the box, man tight on his back, this one would top our list if not for …

1. Rivaldo, Barcelona, 2001

Forget bicycle kicks, this might get our vote for greatest goal of any kind, period. You heard the announcer: “…completes the hat-trick, a minute from time” to give Barca a 3-2 win over Valencia, send them to the Champions League, and claim the La Liga scoring title with his 23rd goal of the season.

Add that importance to the off-the-charts skill, and this one is tough to beat.

*Amusing footnote to Rivaldo goal: He’s currently 38, and played the past two seasons in Uzbekistan (really) after signing what he termed an “extremely tempting contract offer.”

Bonus clips!

Marcelo Balboa, United States, 1994 World Cup [“Missed it by that much!” says Tony Meola]:

Dwayne De Rosario, San Jose Earthquakes, 2004

Two words: De. Ro.

That’s our list (nothing against Rooney’s great goal of course). Care to dispute it? Know of any better ones? Let us know in the comments.

Bradley Debuts, Holden Sparkles, Altidore Do-Si-Do’s: Yanks-Abroad Weekend Wrap

On a weekend in which Wayne Rooney stole the show with what he called the best goal of his career—a bicycle kick into the top corner that gave Manchester United a 2-1 win over Man City—Americans in Europe made some key contributions of their own.

Leading the way was Bolton midfielder Stuart Holden, who set up Wanderers first goal in a 2-0 win over Tim Howard’s Everton on Sunday. Holden sent a 10th-minute free kick into the box, where it was headed home by Gary Cahill.

After Daniel Sturridge made it 2-0 for Bolton in the 66th minute, Holden thought he’d added a third in the 80th, burying a back heel from Sturridge. But the goal was waved off as the ref ruled that Sturridge had played the ball from beyond the endline.

Michael Bradley made his first appearance for Aston Villa, helping the 10-man Villans preserve a 1-1 tie against Blackpool with 18 minutes of defensive-midfield work.

U.S. keeper Brad Friedel started and went the distance for Villa.

Recently capped American midfielder Jermaine Jones played the full 90 for Blackburn in a scoreless draw with Newcastle on Saturday. In the early stages, Jones attempted to replicate Rooney’s golazo with a bike of his own, but … was whistled for a high kick on Newcastle defender Mike Williamson.

Jonathan Spector continued his recovery from a recent injury, logging 12 minutes in West Ham’s comeback from a 3-0 halftime deficit to West Brom. The Hammers got a second-half goal from Carlton Cole and two from Demba Ba—who was making his first start—to share the points.

Marcus Hahnemann dressed but did not play in Wolverhampton’s 2-0 loss to Arsenal on Saturday, and Clint Dempsey and Fulham host Fulham today.

In other Yanks-Abroad news, Aston Villa defender Eric Lichaj started and went the distance in the first appearance of his loan deal with second-tier Leeds United, helping his new team to a 2-0 win over Bristol City.

On-loan Villa keeper Brad Guzan played 90 minutes and made four saves in Hull City’s 1-0 win over Preston North End, which suited up U.S. striker Eddie Johnson for a goalless 90 minutes.

In Germany, 20-year-old U.S.-eligible attacker Timothy Chandler scored a goal and set up another in Nurnberg’s 4-1 romp over Stuttgart. It was the first professional goal for Chandler, who has yet to play internationally for any country, but is eligible for the U.S. and Germany, where his American father served for the U.S. military.

Steve Cherundolo played the full 90 on Sunday for Hannover 96—who are currently sitting fourth in the Bundesliga, one point shy of a Champions League berth—in a 1-1 tie with Werder Bremen.

DaMarcus Beasley did not dress for Hannover. (MLS return for Run DMB? We’d recommend it.)

Former Houston Dynamo midfielder Ricardo Clark did not suit up for Eintracht Frankfurt’s 3-0 loss to Bayer Leverkusen. He’s out with a fractured cheekbone.

Edson Buddle played 65 minutes in Bundesliga 2 side Ingolstadt’s 3-1 loss to Fortuna Dusseldorf on Saturday.

Finally, in Turkey, Jozy Altidore debuted for Bursaspor and helped create his team’s goal in a 1-1 draw with Eskisehirspor.

Picking up the ball in midfield, Altidore made a surging run and pulled off a Gretzky-esque spin-o-rama move around a defender before laying the ball off to a teammate on the wing. The ensuing cross was cleared to 25 yards, where Bursaspor’s Serbian midfielder Ivan Ergic met it with a drive into the back of the net.

Here’s an Opportunity for Wayne Rooney—Or Any Scandal-Plagued Premier Leaguer—to Do Some Image Rebuilding

Former England and Manchester United defensive midfielder Nobby Stiles, who has, for our money, the greatest name ever, has fallen on hard times and is looking to auction off his 1966 World Cup winners medal, along with other memorabilia from his career.

The 68-year-old recently suffered a stroke, and is hoping to leave the proceeds from the sales—estimated at $470,000—to his family.

This is a sad turn of events, to be sure—Stiles wept as he made the announcement—but it doesn’t have to be that way: Wayne Rooney (or John Terry or Ashley Cole) could take these lemons and turn them into lemonade by stepping up and donating $500,000 to the English soccer icon.

That’s a drop in the bottomless bucket that is Rooney’s bank account, and it would be a boon to all involved: The priceless mementoes (also including the shirt Stiles swapped with Alan Ball after the ’66 final) would remain in Stiles’s family, where they belong, his heirs would be taken care of, and Rooney would gain some much needed positive press.

It’s a win-win.

Someone get us Rooney’s PR firm; they’re asleep at the switch.

Ricketts: Rooney, All Footballers Have to Fight ’Em Off with a Stick

Shedding a bit of light on the recent Wayne Rooney sex scandal, former Tottenham and Toronto FC midfielder Rohan Ricketts has written a refreshingly frank account of life as a pro soccer player and all the opportunities and temptations that involves.

Here’s a nugget from the article, on Sabotage Times:

“Even if you don’t want to get involved it’s right in your face. I remember a time when one former England international who was always a good boy woke up in his hotel room to find a girl hiding in his bathroom. She had been brought in by another player. He didn’t do anything with her and went mad at the other player – but a lesser man would have found it hard to resist the temptation.”

And another:

“The girls can be like vultures – they see football as a market and they want the most expensive brands. They equate you to your market value. Players will shag each other’s mistresses all the time as well and some of the girls seemed to get their kicks out of that. One time I was chatting to a girl and she was proud to tell me that she was up in the 30s with football players. She thought that telling me that was cool.”

Click here for the entire article.

We’re fairly certain that you can take this same dynamic and apply it to the NBA, NFL, Major League Baseball, the PGA Tour and  to some extent, the NHL and NASCAR.

But not our Major League Soccer, ha. No … our little league is still in its innocent youth.

Thai Media Files Vital Report on Wayne Rooney Scandal

You’ve surely seen this week’s accounts of Wayne Rooney’s alleged extramarital excursions, and the additional reporting on Bolton-born Jennifer Thompson and her 6-3-4 Premier League formation.

Considering the extremely strict libel laws in the UK, there’s a good chance that there’s some truth to the allegations.

But Thailand, apparently, has fewer restrictions in that department, and can take their reporting of the Rooney story several steps further—freely depicting, for example, working girls enjoying sudoko, and Rooney struggling to hit the broad side of a barn.*

See below, and tip of the hat to the Yorkshireman for the clip (be sure to close the ad so you can read the subtitles):

*Rooney may have taken this to heart, as he broke out of his nearly year-long goal-scoring slump with the English national team, scoring a goal in the Three Lions’ 3-1 win over Switzerland in Euro 2012 qualifying yesterday.

Wayne Rooney World Domination Plan Continues Apace

U.S. defender Jonathan Spector got an up-close glimpse of what the American backline will have to contend with on June 12 in Rustenberg, South Africa, as England and Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney scored goals on either side of halftime to lead Man U in a 3-0 romp over Spector and West Ham.

Hammers coach Gianfranco Zola said that in Rooney the Red Devils “have a player who turns everything to gold.” His United counterpart Alex Ferguson called his striker “magnificent.”

Rooney’s first goal, in the 38th minute, came on a superb diving header after a great cross from United winger Antonio Valencia, who’d been released on the wing by Dimitar Berbatov. His second was also a header and also after a buildup by Berbatov and Valencia, in the 54th minute.

He nearly poached a third later in the half, but West Ham defender Julien Flaubert cleared his tight-angle shot off the line. United’s Michael Owen made it 3-0 in the 80th minute.

Rooney now has 23 goals in league play (leading all scorers), with 10 games to go. Thirty for the season would seem to be in reach, and the Premiership record of 34 (held by Andy Cole and Alan Shearer) is not out of the question.

Spector, for his part, started and went the distance. No word on whether he gained any insights for his U.S. teammates on how to stop Rooney, but we’re guessing no.

Tracking Back: Premier League Weekend

Rooney: on the warpath.

Is it safe to open the “Wayne Rooney is the best striker (player?) in the world right now” discussion?

After Sunday’s display against Arsenal, and the four-goal performance the week before against Hull, we say yes.

The 24-year-old Manchester United striker is clearly coming into his prime: He’s been injury-free all season, he leads the Premier League with 20 goals (22 in all competitions) and he’s been playing his preferred position of forward, after having been deployed out wide on the left in recent years.

Rooney has developed off the field, too: He’s a father, which seems to have helped ground him; he’s improved his diet and training with the help of Man U staff, and United observers have credited him with an increased maturity. 

Put it all together with his unbelievable motor, his strength, and his skill, and you have a player who can be legitimately included, alongside Didier Drogba and Fernando Torres (and your choice here), in the conversation about the best strikers on the planet. 

His goal in United’s 3-1 win over the Gunners on Sunday strengthens the case: picking up the ball in United’s defensive third, facing his own goal, he sprung Nani (who also had an excellent game) with a great ball out to the right. The Portugese winger took a beautiful first touch and was off to the races. Rooney turned and sprinted the length of the field, trailing the play, and when it entered the box, completed the longest give-and-go of the season, one-timing Nani’s return pass into the far corner. The sequence combined all of the qualities that make Rooney great: tirelessness, determination, skill and lethal finishing. The U.S. will want to keep an eye on him come June 12.

Rooney’s 20 goals make him the first Englishman since Andy Johnson in 2004-05 to reach that milestone, and with 14 games remaining, United fans are calling for him to hit 30. (The Premier League record is 34, by Andrew Cole and Alan Shearer.) That might be a stretch, but then again, we wouldn’t put it past him.

United’s win—which was televised in 3D at nine pubs around the UK—put them four points clear of third-place Arsenal and one shy of table-toppers Chelsea, which edged Burnley 2-1 on an 82nd-minute header by Mr. Nothing to see here! Just move along! John Terry.

In games involving U.S. players, Brad Friedel and Aston Villa dropped injury-riddled Fulham 2-0 at Craven Cottage. Gabriel Agbonlahor scored both for the Villans. Yank Brad Guzan did not play. Fulham’s American, Clint Dempsey, is hurt. The Villans join Chelsea and Arsenal as the only teams to win at Fulham this year.

A Dirk Kuyt goal and a Kevin Davies own goal handed Liverpool a 2-0 over Bolton at Anfield. U.S. midfielder Stuart Holden did not dress for Bolton.

Landon Donovan started and played 74 minutes in Everton’s 1-0 win over Wigan. The Toffees, who got another goal from Tim Cahill, are unbeaten in nine Premier League games.

Relegation-battling West Ham and Jonathan Spector hosted mid-table Blackburn, producing a snoozy 0-0 draw. Spector started and went the distance.

Manchester City blanked last-place Portsmouth 2-0 while fourth-place Tottenham gave up a stoppage-time equalizer to scrappy Birmingham City in a 1-1 draw. Man City and Liverpool are just one point behind Spurs for the final European spot, and City has two games in hand.