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Today Manchester United sealed the signature of Shinji Kagawa, a player who has been instrumental in Borrusia Dortmund’s recent Bundesliga domination and a signing as close to perfect as any.

In Kagawa Manchester United have a world class player with little hype heaped upon his shoulders in comparison to the similarly talented Gotze and Hazard. A key player in Dortmund’s effort to keep the Bundesliga title out the grasp of the traditional teutonic powerhouses Bayern Munich for two seasons in a row. A player in the last year of his contract and “only” on around £20k a week (38% of a Djourou), so even if his wages were quadrupled he would still arguably be a steal when compared to the aforementioned Hazard’s oligarchic £170k a week. A player who has performed on the biggest stages, putting Bayern to the sword in the German cup final. And finally Kagawa at only 23, is a player with vast potential who has already achieved the consistency of a veteran in one of the worlds toughest leagues.

All things considered you would assume that Fergie would be busy deflecting praise for such a managerial master stroke with the steady, nonchalant ease he masticates his way through a family pack of Wrigleys. However the predominant reaction, as with any Asian player, has been a knowing tap of the proverbial nose. “you sly manc bastards, you’re going to be bollocks deep in a big ol’ bento box of that sweet commercial Yen”.

It is rare that players of any other nationality have the same moronic assumption cast upon their signings, and when it is mentioned there is no suggestion that it is the sole reason for their recruitment. For example when Cristiano Ronaldo sealed his £80 million transfer to Real it was mentioned that £80 million wasn’t that much really, because they would sell quite a lot of shirts, likewise with Beckham’s transfer to Real. However at no point was it suggested that the undeniable marketability of these two players was the overriding reason for their signings, an ugly assumption which seems to follow any Asian signing today.

It seems bizarre to remember that it was only the success of Park Ji “three lung” Sung at Manchester United in 2005 that dispelled the blatant racism spouted by pundits that “Asian players can’t adapt to the premier league”. Racism justified with “Asian’s aren’t strong enough, there are too many cultural differences…”. Over 2 billion people cast aside with one cack handed statement, a statement eerily reminiscent of the following quote from Crystal Palace manager Ron Noades in 1991:

“The problem with black players is they’ve great pace, great athletes, love to play with the ball in front of them…when it’s behind them it’s chaos. I don’t think too many of them can read the game. When you’re getting into the midwinter you need a few of the hard white men to carry the athletic black players through”

The sad fact is that this statement was far from an isolated incident, with black players derided throughout the 1980’s with statements such as “they’ve no bottle” “they don’t like the cold” “you don’t want too many of them in your defence”. These statements should seem ridiculous to any educated adult, yet we retain our inherent prejudice when it comes to Asian players. Any article on Kagawa’s imminent arrival will look to quell the nerves of fans with reassurances about his strength, and might even mention how he’s settled in to Germany so well.

There’s no doubt that Asian player’s can be commercially lucrative, but only when they are also excellent players. A requirement no different than that of white or black players. Players like Rooney, Wilshere, Drogba and Henry are the faces of Gillette and Pepsi because they are supremely skilled athletes who people aspire to be. It may well be that Kagawa will bring a bountiful Yen harvest for United’s Asian market, but that will be because he’s fucking great, not just because he’s Asian.

by Mike Robertson, @Miketweetgood

The quote from Ron Noades was taken from the excellent “Soccernomics” by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski and the following article (and side links) on Asians in football details the ongoing efforts to erase the prejudices faced http://www.kickitout.org/228.php

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Michael Carrick is pretty forgettable.

He’s not a midfielder that will dribble past eight players, deftly place his shot into the top corner, perform Robbie Keane’s infamous celebration and then scream “Fuck you Robbie Keane, this is my celebration now”. Though if he was to do that Robbie Keane would be totally cool with it, he’s supported Carrick since he was a boy.

Neither is Carrick a midfielder who will pick up the ball 50 yards from goal and twat it as hard as he can, basking in glory when he breaks every single bone in the goalkeepers hands.

In fact, I can’t remember Carrick even taking a free kick. He just sits in the middle, mopping up any poo/sick/jizz and doing all the boring things that allow other players to be reckless and exciting. As such he is constantly portrayed as a massively underrated player, his custodial skills unappreciated by the vast majority of fans.

This might lead you to the logical conclusion that Michael Carrick is a pretty cool guy; devoid of ego, ready to just do his job and do it well.

This would be wrong, Michael Carrick is a total dick.

He ruled himself out of England contention, the supposed highest honour in football, because he didn’t feel he was getting a big enough role. Lampard then pulls out in the eleventh hour with a severe case of obesity, after Gareth Barry has already pulled out due to an injury completely unrelated to Lampard’s tragic Prader-Willi syndrome.

These two injuries put Carrick in such high demand that if this was an episode of Scooby Doo he would have shot to the number one spot on my list of suspects. Like in every single Scooby Doo ever made, he would have gotten away with it… Except in Carrick’s case there are no pesky kids foiling his diabolical plans, just a slight sense of unease. He would have gotten away with it, if he hadn’t felt slightly awkward joining the England squad a bit late.

This leaves England pretty fucked. Now there’s nobody to look after Gerrard, the football equivalent of a sex pest in a brothel. England have gone from a pretty solid midfield of Barry-Big Frank-Gerrard, to one that might have to contain Jordan Henderson and Phil Jagielka.

As a Scotland fan, I’m fine with this. There’s something about the England national team that makes me want to punch myself in the penis. No matter how likeable a player is prior to wearing those three cunting lions, they always have a touch of the John Terry’s about them when they slip on an England top.

England fans however, should definitely be pissed. Opting out of a major tournament due to a slightly bruised ego is, in my opinion, unforgivable.

So next time you’re watching Man United and thinking “is Michael Carrick playing?”. Instead think “I hope Michael Carrick isn’t playing, because he is a wanker”

At time of writing it appears as if Chelsea have emerged as champions in the transfer market tug of war over Belgium’s precocious young star Eden Hazard. It has long been the accepted truth that the transfer market tug of war was a by invitation only three-way between Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United (rather depressingly my beloved Arsenal didn’t so much fall at the first hurdle as fall off the starting block, smashing their dignified face on the rapidly disappearing heels of the leagues elite.)

Eden Hazard has been one of the very few genuine superstars available on the open market in recent years and the (presumed) failure of Manchester United to secure his signature should come as a crushing blow to the clubs fans.

There can be no doubt that Manchester United are the most successful team of the premier league era, continuously reinventing themselves after losing their star players. To lose the title on goal difference to the ridiculously resourced City with a poor United squad is a feat only achievable via Glaswegian witchcraft. However with the league going to City, and Chelsea back to winning ways with their Champions league victory, both teams now have the champions kudos to go with their infinite resources and United may not be such an attractive option for top young talent any more.

The popular assumption that United would be an ideal destination due to guaranteed playing time also has to be questioned. If you look at the breakthrough stars of recent United seasons in Nani, Berbatov and Hernandez, all three have found their opportunities limited recently. With Nani facing fierce competition on the right wing from the excellent Valencia, Chicharito sharing the lone striker role with Welbeck and finally Berbatov, a £30 million pound signing, falling from league top scorer to a largely unused substitute.

The fact that Paul Scholes, at 37, was able to effortlessly emerge from his pasty ginger cocoon of retirement and become the “beautiful” butterfly of United’s midfield shows just how desperately United need to invest in quality talent. Whether they can still attract the best in Europe remains to be seen.

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