Whilst John Terry will certainly still be feeling the weight of responsibility for his team’s failure, I don’t think that quite excuses the lunacy of his recent statements. Last week, Terry was claiming that United have peaked. Now, this can be forgiven I suppose. He’s ranting and trying to lift the confidence of his team mates and the fans, so talking nonsense about a team packed full of young players being at their ‘peak’ is the way he did it.
However, these comments clearly didn’t get enough column inches, so desperately, Terry has reiterated the same argument, but has now blamed injuries as well. Anyone else feel like they’re reading the desperate rants of a 14-year-old on a crappy football forum?
“I think Sir Alex realises we weren’t too far away from United when they were at the very top of their game,” Terry said. “I don’t think United have another level to go to. They had a lot of players in their team who have been at the peak of their form for the last two years. Rio Ferdinand has been awesome for the last two years and Cristiano Ronaldo was unbelievable – I don’t think you’ll see that again. Wayne Rooney, Carlos Tevez, Ryan Giggs – they have all been fantastic.”
Players at their peak
For Terry to think that three players who aren’t even in their mid-20s yet have already peaked is quite simply moronic. Cristiano Ronaldo (23), Wayne Rooney (22) and Carlos Tevez (23) have all got years ahead of them and there is not logic behind the idea that they can’t repeat or improve on their already proven form. Why shouldn’t they?
Despite what the press say, Rooney is actually improving with every passing season, picking up more goals and bagging more assists. Last season, he averaged 0.9 goals a game, in contrast to the 0.7 goals per game for the previous two seasons. Why then would he suddenly stop improving and become less effective at 22-years-old?
When Ronaldo scored 23 goals in 53 games in 2007, I can’t imagine there were many who imagined he’d score close to another 20 goals the following season. At the end of that season he was awarded PFA Player and Younger Player of the Year. The improvements he made the following season are nothing short of incredible. With Ronaldo being ruled out until October, there would reason to believe Ronaldo couldn’t repeat his brilliant form or goals tally. However, if you look at the fixtures, Ronaldo may only miss six Premiership games which would take him up to October. Last season, Ronaldo was missing for three Premiership games through suspension following his red card against Portsmouth. By the start of October 2007, Ronaldo had scored just one league goal.
We have an incredibly confident and driven player on our hands here, and the more he is told it cannot be done, the more he will want to prove people wrong. He has thrived on the negative following he gets from the opposition in the past two seasons following the World Cup, and I see no reason why he won’t be equally as keen to prove people wrong next season, including sections of his own team’s fans!
Carlos Tevez has had a fantastic pre-season and he has been praised several times over recent weeks on RoM. He looks sharper and fitter than we’ve probably ever seen him in a United shirt.
I see no reason why Rio can’t have another season like last, after signing a new contract with the club, he appears to be more driven and focussed than ever before. If he is given the captain’s armband by Fabio Capello, which he appears to be the favourite for, then that will serve as extra inspiration to perform well.
Then there are players like Nani and Anderson, who have more experience of the Premiership and will certainly see more time on the park next season.
“With the injuries we’ve had, as players we can all raise the bar a little bit,” Terry added. “With it being that close in the Premier League and Champions League, they know we’ll give them a big run for their money. I think we can close the gap because Man United were at the very top of their game last season. I’m taking nothing away from them because they’ve been unbelievable over the past two years. But we’ve been very close to them and we had injuries and a change of manager.”
Now, all teams have injuries, and it is rare that there is a team that is considerably worse off than any other. Newcastle and West Ham, in particular, were put through the mill last season with the amount of injuries they had, but for Terry to pull the injury card, particularly when considering the money that has been spent on adding depth to their squad, is quite frankly embarrassing.
GK: Edwin Van der Sar started 3 more games than Petr Cech in the league last season, although in one league game (Birmingham) VDS had to be subbed off through injury.
RB: Juliano Belletti played in 23 more league games than Gary Neville. People can look at Wes Brown, but there is no way he is a first XI player, and this is overlooked. United are fortunate that we have strength in depth to compensate when our players are out injured. Had JT been missing for the entire 07-08 campaign and Alex did a decent job filling in for him, could we overlook Terry’s injury in the way our captain’s injury has been?
CB: Rio (35) and Vidic (32) played in 23 more league games than Carvalho (21) and Terry (23).
LB: Evra (33) played in 6 more games than Ashley Cole (27).
DEFENCE: Over a period of 38 games, United’s first choice had a total of 9 more starts than Chelsea’s, averaging out an extra 1.8 league appearance for each of our defensive players.
The midfield and attack are trickier to work out because of the variation in formation the two teams play. Also, neither team has a set in concrete midfield, particular in regards to the central midfielders. So instead of breaking it down to midfield, if we look at the 8 players who are rotated in front of the defence, it will give us a fairer, clearer picture.
Whilst with the defence, the amount of games started was always their total appearances, the following players vary, so I will look at their starts as well as well as their overall appearances.
SWP 27 (20), J Cole 33 (28), Lampard 24 (23), Essien 27 (23), Ballack 18 (16), Mikel 29 (21), Kalou 30 (24), Drogba 19 (17). 207 appearances, 182 starts.
Giggs 31 (26) Ronaldo 34 (31), Scholes 24 (22), Hargreaves 23 (16), Carrick 31 (24), Anderson 24 (16), Rooney 27 (25), Tevez 34 (31). 226 appearances, 191 starts.
NON-DEFENCE: A difference of 19 appearances (an average of 2 extra league appearances per United player) and 9 starts (an average of 1.1 extra starts per United player).
So when looking at the 13 players from both teams who are closest to the starting XI, United have the advantage, but it is only slight. Of course, this is not a science, it’s just estimating as closely as possible. What these stats don’t take in to account is the importantance of the player missing. For example, for me, Wayne Rooney is the most important player for us, in terms of statistics (goals and assists) as well as the psychological effect he has (United lost 5 games last season. Rooney was absent for 4 of them, and was subbed off through injury at 1-1 in the 5th) on our team. So Rooney missed starting in 13 league games last season, would the difference in the table been just 2 points if he had been playing and another starting player was injured in his place? Like I say, it’s not a science.
Also, United were without their captain for the entire duration of the Premiership season. His absence obviously has a greater impact on the team than just any other starting XI player, again, for psychological reasons as much as anything.
Essentially, the difference between the injuries United and Chelsea had is neither here nor there, and certainly doesn’t account for the fact Chelsea trailed United all season from September onwards. Just like his best bud and team mate, Terry comes across painfully bitter and equally deluded.
Had Chelsea not had a new manager, they’d arguably have been more than 2 points behind United at the end of last season. Jose Mourinho was sacked after his side fell 5 points behind us in the league. In Grant’s time as manager, Chelsea were pretty much toe to toe with United.
The season before last, there were 8 points behind United and Chelsea on the day the title was actually won.
The fact that Terry has felt the need to make this redundant point about players at their peak not once, but twice, certainly suggets he’s feeling hot under the collar. I think you’d be hard pushed to find even the most moronic football pundit who would agree that a team with plenty of players yet to even reach their mid-20’s have ‘peaked’. Terry is clutching at straws, knowing that they’ll be little he can do to redeem himself next season.
Made in Manchester is available for just £5. It includes 30 articles from the country's best football writers about graduates from the Manchester United academy. Everyone who buys a copy enters a competition to win the new home shirt. All profit goes to Trafford Macmillan so please support this fantastic cause.