More CONCACAF players played for Man United than any other top-four club in Europe during Sir Alex Ferguson's time.
During Ferguson's 26 years in charge of the Red Devils, United became an international club with an extensive scouting unit that was not afraid to take chances on players from outside of Europe.
One of Ferguson's greatest successes during his tenure was developing reliable knowledge of talents in CONCACAF. Manchester United recruited more talent in the region than any other top-four club in any of Europe's major leagues (England, Germany, Italy, France, Spain). Barcelona comes second, with three players recruited from Mexico and one U.S. youth trainee.
It started with the club signing American forward Jovan Kirovski to a youth contract in 1992 and has steadily progressed, eventually leading to star Mexico striker Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez in 2010 for a fee of 10 million pounds. Over the past two decades, Ferguson had the unique foresight to realize the potential of the athletic ability and growing skill of Americans and the technical prowess of Mexicans.
Four of Ferguson's nine notable CONCACAF recruits had reasonable success with United. Dwight Yorke (Trinidad and Tobago) became a superstar in Manchester. He was part of arguably the team's greatest season ever, 1998-99, when the club won the treble. Yorke added two more titles during his spell with the Red Devils. Hernandez won two EPL championships. Tim Howard (USA) won an FA Cup and Carling Cup. And Owen Hargreaves (a sore spot for Canucks as he spurned Canada for England, but he was born in Calgary, Alberta) was part of the 2008 double winning side that took home the EPL title and Champions League trophy.
Three of the remaining four recruits have all had productive careers elsewhere.
Kirovski became the first American to win the Champions League, with Dortmund in the 1996–97 season. Giuseppe Rossi (born in America, plays for the Italian national team) became one of the world's most prolific strikers at Villarreal before injuries derailed his past two seasons. He should make a recovery at his new club, Fiorentina, next year. Jonathan Spector (USA) only played three matches for United but featured heavily during his five-year stint at West Ham and is an important role player at Birmingham. Kenny Cooper (USA) has been a dominant in his time in MLS, scoring 66 goals in 157 appearances.
Only Ian Joy (USA) had a so-so career between 2000-10, bumping around Germany and the United States.
The Red Devils' ability to find undervalued talent in the region motivated other teams to follow suit. Heck, for better or worse, half of Wigan's roster is from CONCACAF. Liverpool gave a chance to Brad Friedel and desperately pursued Clint Dempsey last summer. Arsenal offered opportunities to Danny Karbassiyoon and Carlos Vela. We're still waiting on Chelsea and Manchester City, though the London Blues added Mexico starlet Ulises Davila last year.
United has often been the standard bearer for English soccer. Whoever (likely David Moyes) takes over the reigns of the storied club should continue in Ferguson's footsteps. Last I checked, Howard became a world-class keeper under Moyes' watch.
Follow Alex Labidou on
Tottenham's Champions League hopes not looking good: Don't write off Clint Dempsey's Champions League chances yet, but it is looking very likely that Spurs will be in the Europa League again. Once again, Tottenham has weltered down the stretch and it only has itself to blame. The team failed to address its issues up top by finding a striker who is guaranteed to score 15-20 goals a season. Both Jermaine Defoe and Emmanuel Adebayor are good finishers . . . on just above mid-level teams.
Compare Tottenham's situation to AC Milan's. Milan shipped away 12 key veterans last offseason and struggled to start its season. But the team figured out the young stars to keep and brought in Mario Balotelli to secure a run into the Champions League. Tottenham came very close to signing Brazilian targetman Leandro Daimao before the transfer window closed, but couldn't cover Internacional wanting an extra three to five million pounds. Considering the 30 million pounds that Spurs will lose by missing out in the Champions League, maybe they should have caved.
David Moyes has Brian Clough written all over him: Listen, David Moyes is due for a big job . . . I just don't think succeeding Ferguson at Manchester United is the right call. Tottenham? Yes. Newcastle? Sure. Manchester City? Possibly. United? Eh, not sold. Any manager who follows in a legend's footsteps has a hard task ahead, and the similarities between the two men could be problematic.
Moyes is a stern disciplinarian who runs his Everton almost identically to the way Ferguson has ruled United, with a quarter of the budget. Yet, Ferguson has over three decades experience of building and rebuilding teams. Stars listened to Ferguson because they've heard of the stories of boots being thrown at the head of David Beckham or how quickly he discarded Juan Sebastian Veron. Moyes doesn't have that pull and his act could wear thin if he doesn't find a way to differentiate himself from his storied predecessor. Just remember that star striker Wayne Rooney wrote a book in which 50 percent of it ripped Moyes' style of coaching during their time together at Everton.
Not saying that Moyes will be out in less than a month like Clough was at Leeds United, but he's already walking on thin ice.
Can MLS please stop scheduling midweek games at Red Bull Arena? An abysmal crowd of just over 11,000 came to Harrison, N.J., to watch a marquee match between two of MLS's leading Eastern Conference teams in New York and Montreal on Wednesday. The problem is that this isn't exactly a surprise. Unless you're living in Portland, Seattle or Salt Lake, attendance for midweek games in MLS are usually lackluster.
The increased midweek schedule of MLS is a result of trying to fit in international fixtures, but it seems odd that the league would arrange for two of the Red Bulls' highest-profile opponents for Wednesdays when attendance is bound to be disappointing. As one Sporting KC official joked: "Why do we always get midweek games at Red Bull Arena?" Here is a suggestion: leave Wednesday games for the Columbus Crews and Chivas USAs of the MLS world.
I will give props to the fans who did show up, however. Once the Red Bulls secured their fourth win in a row, a fan sitting behind the press box (the best in all of MLS) kept on screaming "PETKE FERGUSON" in the game's final five minutes.
Oh, and Thierry Henry is a beast. Five goals in nine games -- first-half season MVP? His second goal made the top play of Wednesday's night Sports Center.
Utterly depressed about having to see The Great Gatsby with the wife on Friday.... till I heard Jay-Z produced the movie's soundtrack. The snippets I've heard of Jay's track sounds solid and reviews on Metacritic have been promising so far. Not saying I hate the Great Gatsby -- the book is obviously a classic. However, I hope the movie doesn't get a Romeo and Juliet bastardization. Director Baz Luhrmann is known for that.
Summer is coming: While some of you are looking forward to beaches, ladies in bikinis, beer gardens, there are plenty of reasons to stay indoors. Namely, a killer TV schedule that features the return of Breaking Bad, The Killing, Arrested Development and Dexter. Then you got new shows in Ray Donovan and The Bridge that also look intriguing. Plenty of DVRing ahead.
What to watch:
New England Revolution vs New York Red Bulls - MLS LIVE, 7:30 p.m. ET - New acquisition Juan Agudelo is likely out with an injury and we all know of Henry's aversion to turf fields, but the Red Bulls have a chance to cement themselves as a legit contender ahead of their match against the LA Galaxy on May 19. If the team wins five in a row, confidence will be sky high facing the reigning champions.
Prediction: Revs 1-2 Red Bulls
Manchester City vs Wigan - FSC, 12:15 p.m. ET - It's the FA Cup final and the pressure is on for City manager Roberto Mancini. City has disappointed in all competitions aside from the FA Cup and, considering City's Premier League leading payroll, heads will roll if the Blues allow Wigan to get an upset on Saturday.
Prediction: City 2-2 Wigan. City wins in penalty shootout only adding more pressure on Mancini.
Lyon vs Paris Saint-Germain - beIN Sport, 3:00 p.m. ET - Can we get this right this time? PSG is the master of making every title run unnecessarily complicated. Last week was an embarrassment as the team's GM Leonardo reportedly shoved a referee and that could cost the team points. Still, for now, a win secures the team's first title since 1994.
Prediction: Lyon 2-2 PSG