Monday, July 21, 2003

For soccer fans (especially Man Utd haters) only

Apologies to the rest of you who were subject to excess Becks a few weeks ago; we are making a brief return to blogging about the Evil Ones, aka Manchester United. But to put this issue in a wider setting: we will bring to your attention a state broadcaster displaying naked bias, continually slanting its reporting and presenting "sexed up" accounts that always support a particular point of view. Yes, we are talking about Irish state broadcaster RTE and their shameless boosterism of Manchester United. Exhibit A is this Saturday report from RTE's sports site.

The context is provided MU's disastrous summer of personnel moves, in which Becks inexplicably left the world's biggest football club to play for some scrubs in Madrid, and the spurned club then turned to the chase for Brazilian star Ronaldinho -- who, it was assumed, would view a transfer from Paris St Germain to MU as an irresistible step-up. Sadly for MU, Ronaldinho [and that final 'o' is pronounced 'u', by the way] seems to have liked the pitch (and perhaps also the pitch) from Barcelona (bit players in the Becks move) a lot better. So where to turn now?

As luck would have it, a Russian billionaire buys Chelsea Football Club, henceforth known as Chelski, and immediately embarks upon a spending spree -- most likely with the goal of blowing all his money before Pootie-Poot can get his hands on it. The transfer frenzy thus turns to Blackburn Rovers' Irish star Damien Duff, with three years left on his contract. Chelski successfully get negotiating rights to Duff and look set to sign him -- triggering horror amongst the MU fans at RTE, who realize yet another prize catch is passing up a chance to play at the Theatre of Dreams. There is no other way to read the part mournful, part panicked, tone of this report, written around the MU team's time in transit to the West Coast to begin their US tour:

With Manchester United losing out to Barcelona in the capture of Brazilian wizard Ronaldinho, it has become increasingly likely that United will move swiftly in a bid to lure Damien Duff away from a move to Chelsea.

Manager Alex Ferguson will disembark from a 14-hour journey to the United States later this evening determined to wreck Damien Duff's proposed move to [Chelsea]. By the time Ferguson and his Manchester United squad land in the west coast city of Portland, Oregon, word will have filtered through that their self-imposed deadline for the capture of Ronaldinho has passed without a reply.

Even worse, the Red Devils boss will learn that his major summer transfer target has flown to Barcelona in the hope of concluding a (pounds) 20 million move from Paris St Germain.

Having missed out on Harry Kewell [Leeds to Liverpool] and with David Beckham settling into his new home in Madrid, Ferguson will be eager to bring a big name signing in a bid to boost his squad and appease fans. The word is that Duff would jump at the chance to join the set-up at Old Trafford and link up with former Irish captain Roy Keane.

"The word is..." From who? Because today, without a peep from Man Utd, Duff signed for Chelsea. There's reporting. And then there's wishful thinking. And often the twain shall meet.