Sir Alex and Ryan Giggs, arguably his greatest protege share a laughafter winnning Manchester United’s Young Player award in 1992

 

While the great majority of people reading this article are likely Manchester United fans, its important to point out that you probably never would have followed Manchester United to this day had it not been for Sir Alex Ferguson. This week marks a historic 25th year in charge of the Red Devils, the longest single stint of top flight management in the history of the league. An achievement that no one can possibly deny.

To put his achievements into perspective, one has to look past the silver ware that he has brought to the club and think about how football has fundamentally changed over the last 25 years. Every aspect of the game is approached in a completely different way, as compared to a quarter of a century ago. Training regiments, nutritional planning, equipment and most significantly tactics.

While I can wrap my head around the idea of being able to move with the times with respect to the aforementioned aspects of the game that have evolved over time and can just about fathom the idea of a man being able to keep up with those changes. I rationalize that part quite easily; he probably helped write the book on most of those changes being the revolutionary agent of change in football that he is,  but what keeps me up at night is that last bit about how tactics have changed over the last quarter of a century.

While the game of football seems eternal in terms of its approach, those of us that are more familiar with the game know that is simply not true. To illustrate the kind of drastic change football has seen over  the last 25 years, that  new positions altogether have been invented is a good place to start.  If you don’t believe there has been fundamental change, please try and succinctly express what position Rivaldo played for the Brazilian national team in the 1990′s. I’m guessing there are few takers if any.

Expanding on the subject of positions evolving and put into perspective where Sir Alex started for the reader, his managerial career in a world where the left and right back were mere defenders, rarely if ever allowed to explore what the second half of the pitch felt like under their boots. The notion of moving up the pitch to burgeon the attack while being  shadowed by a midfielder that could take their place in an instant if things went wrong at the back, was a locker room fantasy in England.

I could go on forever, pointing out different positions and tactics that evolved over the last 25 years of Sir Alex’s reign but I can’t for a second hope to explain how he managed to evolve with the game during such a drastic period of change. His genius and ultimately his legacy in my mind is that whenever football changed he used the players he had to adjust formations and attitudes into a winning side, only for those same formations and tactics to often be replicated unsuccessfully by the competition until the next trophy brought further refinements. Eventually emerging the well oiled locomotive that he has been the conductor of for longer than some of us have been born.

While there will be significant argument over the subject of what his greatest achievement has been, as far as I’m concerned that is it in a nutshell. So from all of us at the Offsidetrap, we wish the Gaffer a happy 70th birthday and several successful years to come in charge of the club that he helped rebuild at Old Trafford, brick by brick.

This week in the Premiership was probably the least predictable as any since the season began. There is a lot to cover so I’ll get right to it.

Manchester United Loses Its Blue Eyed Boy Status

For everyone that argued that this Manchester United side is actually better than the one that Christiano Ronaldo starred in during his final year at Manchester United, I hope you saw what I saw at Wolverhampton this week. An absolutely pathetic display of United football and losing an undefeated season to the bottom feeders of the premiership, one word comes to mind. Pathetic.

Thankfully though, a clear distinction has been drawn between Wengers invincibles and Manchester United’s not so, well, invincibles. Did you REALLY think they would go undefeated this season?

The only thing United fans can take away from the match is Arsenal drawing to New Castle earlier under what was nothing less than dubious circumstances and lets get to that right now shall we.

An Arsenal Side That Still Hasn’t Grown Up

Four goal lead or forty goal lead, Abu Diaby’s red card was one of the most awful personal decisions since Bacaray Sagna decided to push someone earlier this season and pick up a red card. This in the same week that Cesc Fabregas allegedly made a series of hot headed comments about the referees being paid off in the tunnel at the interval against Blackburn. We have all felt that Arsenal are devoid of a proper medical staff with everyone injured constantly and quite mysteriously often not able to recover at a rate that makes any sense (See: Rosicky, Vermaalen).

Now it seems they might as well have their HR department on the look out for a permanent anger management professional to help their players manage flaring tempers. Was the challenge on Abu Diaby awful? Yes. Was it bad enough to warrant a pub esq wrestling manoeuvre. No. Does it make it more acceptable to Arsenal fans that he performed the act on a New Castle player. Okay well maybe a little, but if we could turn back time I think things would have taken a different more reasonable path in the minds of most Arsenal supporters. Not all, but certainly most.

Did Arsenal deserve to lose? My answer is no. Two incredibly strange penalty decisions, the first one making some sense and the second making absolutely none sealed their fate. Not to mention a Tiote strike which, between you and me, I’m not entirely sure if he really knew how he did that either. That doesn’t change that it is a front runner for goal of the Premiership this year and it doesn’t change the fact that Arsenal drew 4-4 largely because of Abu Diaby’s moment of madness and a horrendous penalty call.

Arsenal take away from this another glimmer of hope from their young keeper Scheczny who has shown tremendous potential and was unlucky not to stop the second penalty. Almunia is looking like more and more of a write off every day. That isn’t necessarily such a bad thing either, especially for Arsenal fans. A swift bounce back will be required to be able to even trouble Barcelona in the champions league in ten days time. If playing against Messi last time felt like Play station football, this year will probably be an improved 3D Play station experience if you know what I mean.  Especially without Alex Song to try and keep Messi in line. Emphasis on try.

Oh and Liverpool Did The Double Over Chelsea This Season, Wait What!?

While this shouldn’t be technically possible in Rafa Benitez’s world, Liverpool just did the double over Chelsea without him and without Fernando Torres too. The first win at Anfield might have been a one hit wonder at the start of the season, but beating Chelsea at the Bridge? I can say with certainty that somewhere not so far away, the Special One is shaking his head at his record being made a mockery of in his absence. The fort that was the Bridge is experiencing nothing less than the same treatment that befell unshakable Babylon when the Persians diverted a river and walked right under their fancy gate.

Is this the end for Ancellotti, well probably not. He will still have the FA Cup and the Champions League to win, two last ditch attempts at saving his job because for all intents and purposes Chelsea won’t be defending their title this year if you live in the real world. The only possible avenue to the title for Chelsea is if both Manchesters and Arsenal decide playing football isn’t their main stay and go into heated competition manufacturing socks instead. Chelsea fans can only hope that Manchester City win the Premiership this year because that would probably be the least painful of all of their remaining options.

Manchester City winning the title wouldn’t be so surprising if a few more of these super surprise weeks like this one are what we have to look forward to. Some food for thought that I’ll leave you with is Ancellotti’s increasingly slippery slope at Chelsea timing itself perfectly to the whining tune of  Jose Morhinio getting vocal about how unhappy he is in Spain and how he wants to come back to England maybe sooner than expected. I don’t think Abrahmovich is going to let his old coach back in the hot seat, this season, next season or ever, but surely during weeks like this we can afford to dream just a little bit, can’t we?

The recent slumps of Liverpool and Chelsea might be a case of a certain No.8 missing this season

 

For more than just a few teams in top flight football across Europe, this winter has been one to forget. Previous performances by clubs that were full of confidence and potential seem to have been completely disregarded as bookies across the world collective scratch their heads with respect to the question of whom will win The Premiership this year. There are however a few very realistic assumptions that one can make about the fall from grace for Chelsea and Liverpool thus far.

Chelsea

As an AC Milan man myself, I can attest to the quality of Ancelloti’s coaching. He is most definitely not the problem, maintaining form and injuries however seem to be the bane of Chelsea’s existence. Lets not forget that it was mere months ago that the Chelsea manager himself could not explain the rationale for his teams 6-0 thumpings of sides at home and on the road. He even referred to it as “Play Station Football” a fitting reference to what had been an unbelievable run at the beginning of the season. It seemed my prediction that Manchester City would swoop in and take the title this year from aging Premiership sides was going to have to be torn up and thrown away given Chelsea’s start of the season performance. Fortunately for me and unfortunately for Chelsea fans, lady luck had some surprises in store for them on the injury front.

Never would the Blues regret sending Michael Ballack packing more than when Frank Lampard missed the run up into the winter of this season. Without him in the midfield, Chelsea went from its overconfident self to a largely disorganised mess. Something that Chelsea fans hadn’t experienced the sight of until well before the ‘Special One’s’ era.

If that wasn’t bad enough, John Terry having to sit it out for a few weeks only served to remind fans as to how large a gap Terry will leave behind after he retires eventually with Ivanovich looking particularly pathetic in his attempts to fill the role even if it was temporary affair. They need not look further than across the city to North London to realise how tough it is to replace a key central defenders with Arsenal struggling to this day to find an equivalent replacement to Toure and Gallas though to their credit they seem to be making some progress.

If I had to pick between the two, I’d still say that the absence of Lampard left Chelsea worse off this season and is probably largely responsible for their plight. With a lack of creative genius in the centre of the pitch they exposed themselves as one dimensional. Drogba looked less effective than ever, Anelka even more pathetic in terms of creativity than his usual uninteresting self. Hopefully though Frank Lampards return wouldn’t have come late enough to prevent their customary march to the top of the table. Something that I wish Chelsea fans the best of luck with.

The only foreseeable problem for Chelsea happens to be with its former saviour and owner Abrahmovich, who has reported lost hundreds of millions during his ownership of the club in yet another example of irresponsible management and spending. With the World Cup in Russia coming up in a few years and Putin encouraging Russian entrepreneurs to invest at home instead of abroad, Chelsea fans might be in for some bad news or at the very least less money in the transfer kitty than they are used to. There can be no doubt that Abrahmovich seems to have lost interest in what was once his most prized asset and that seems to have had a trickle down effect on the morale of the team.

Liverpool

Benitez’s successor has had a lot on his plate to deal with to be fair. A change of ownership at the club, trouble motivating Fernando Torres and having to deal with a back room staff that hasn’t really been able to cut the mustard. Not that I would make any excuses for ‘Big Roy’ but the truth is moving to a club and achieving instant success isn’t easy and not everyone is as fortunate as Carlo Ancelloti and Jose Mourhinio in their being able to transform a club into a league winning side in the first year on the job. Were every manager that good, everyone would end the season tied first!

Injury woes seem to have crippled Liverpool as well this year along with the departure of Xabi Alonoso which is being felt more and more as the days go by in what looks like a midfield in disarray. That Aquilani didn’t get a fair chance to perform was my biggest regret, as having seen him play nearly his whole career in the Serie A it was clear to me that he would be able to add some serious flair to the Liverpool midfield. Steven Gerrard out for a couple of weeks didn’t help the teams confidence either and with things at an all time low at Anfield I would be surprised if Big Roy manages to keep his job. To be perfectly honest though, I feel he definitely deserves another year having used this one to settle down as his performances against top flight sides have been impressive. What Liverpool lacks is consistency, something that can only be settled over time and that requires one thing that Liverpool fans are in short supply of these days. Patience.

Finishing in the top 5 would be a dream, but one that few fans should be banking on. Relegation being nearly impossible for a team of their calibre no matter how poorly they have performed as of late, brings Liverpool fans to the inevitable conclusion of having to write off this season and hope they can pick up the pieces for the next one without losing Fernando Torres to the La Liga. Something that will be weighing heavily on the minds of Anfields faithful as we get closer to the conclusion of this season.

TP Mezembe of Congo, the next Club World Cup Champions in 2010? Possibly. Maybe. Yes.

 

For years, the FIFA Club world cup has proven to be a largely ceremonial trophy in minds of many. The competition is a culmination of all of the champions league winners from each continent in a one off knock out format to crown the years greatest football club. The tournament tends to typically be a tooth extracting exercise for the champions of South America and Europe dismissing opponents from Asia, Africa and Central America en-rote to a Europe Vs. South America final that more often than not results in heart break for the South American side that ventured over the Atlantic to make it for the affair.

Last year was a game to remember not only because it went to the second period of overtime before Messi chested the ball into the goal off a cross in the 100th odd minute but because I was present in the stadium that day to see it all unfold in front of my very eyes. Estudiantes the Argentinian side that was playing against Barcelona was captained by none other than one Sebastian Veron in an almost Evander Holyfield esq bid at one last swipe at glory. Unfortunately for him, he left Abu Dhabi with a runners up medal and was forced to look on Lionel Messi’s achievements boding well for the future of Argentinian football on a national level rather than a club one. It was arguably one of the best Club World Cup finals in memory, however the critics were still harping on about how this was hardly a competition of anything other than Europe and South America once again, with calls from more than one contingent within FIFA to consider scrapping the tournament altogether in favour of resting players for their respective seasons.

This year however, is distinctly different from every other year that the competition has been played because for the first time ever an African club TP Mazembe is in the final having dispatched both Central and South American champions in 1-0 and 2-0 defeats respectively. The biggest upset coming against the South American champions Internationcle of Brazil, where after a show of technical brilliance with the first goal and calm nerves for the second they are through without the shadow of a doubt. Inter Milan now face Seongnam FC the K-League outfit from Korea that have had a great run of success in Asian Club Football over the last few years. If this Inter Milan side even began to resemble Jose Morhinio’s, one would think it impossible for anyone but them to go through, but after a disappointing string of results that has left the club mid table in the Serie A as opposed to their customary top spot over the last few years, Senognam FC fans should see this as one of their best opportunities to reach the final. In fact the prospect of an African club playing an Asian club for the crown of World Club Champion will have Sep Blatter positively giddy at the fodder he would have at his disposal to silence the doubters that have sullied the Russian and Qatar bid victories for the upcoming World Cups.

Even if that doesn’t happen, anyone that watched TP Mezembe’s victory over the Brazilian outfit last night saw what I saw. The constant undercurrent of clubs from other continents becoming increasingly competitive and football turning into a more global game than ever. Right in line with Blatters predictions for the future and the direction he wants to take it. We saw the tide turning on an international level I thought at this last World Cup with teams like North Korea losing by a slender 2-1 to a power house like Brazil and eventual winners Spain nearly getting knocked out at the group stages by the most unlikely of eastern europes finest.

Anyone pinning TP Mezembe’s success on the potential of it being a fluke should  first ask themselves if their winning the African Champions League two years in a row was also some sort of strange co-incidence? With better training methods being employed, ex-national team players with international club experience coming back to share their knowledge, a near flawless World Cup and an increasingly improving football infrastructure, Africa has plenty to smile about already. Who knows, in a few short days they might be doing more than just smiling, they might be dancing their way back to the continent as Champions of the World!

 

Of the two pictured above only one seemed to be playing football on the pitch tonight

The significance of Barcelona’s 5-0 defeat was far more than 3 points to the Catalans and the build up to tonights game had started the second Jose Mourinho signed up to be the coach of Real Madrid earlier this season. There were in the mind of most fans three distinct battles that were being fought between Real Madrid and Barcelona on the pitch tonight and not analysing each separately wouldn’t be doing either side the justice they deserve.

Mind Games Vs. Stony Silence

The build up to any clash in which one of Jose Morhinios sides participates is usually a series of snide remarks and back handed comments in an attempt to get into the oppositions mind. The build up to this El Classico was no different. Morhinio went out of his way to comment that El Classico was nothing more than a fixture on the calendar a meeting of the best team in the league with whoever was currently in second place. To add another douse of petrol to the flames he piled on the fact that he had beaten Barcelona with both Chelsea and Inter Milan, which he reckoned wouldn’t see him incredibly popular with the home crowd.

Perhaps what he failed to realise is that El Classico is more than just a game of football. It is an opposition of philosophies on the subjects of politics, economics and yes even football. That his mind games did not seem to have any effect on Barcelona should be no surprise. His victory over two legs when he coached Inter Milan last year was far from comprehensive and even into the 92nd minute it could have gone either way. Though one would probably be short sighted to think that he would bank on his mental ping pong alone to tip the scales in his favour.

His counterpart Pep Guardiola didn’t seem to be buying into it one bit and it seems his players took to his usually reserved demeanor choosing instead to do the talking on the pitch as it were.

A Tale of Two Midfields

If one were to sum up the game in just two words it would be ‘midfield dominance’, Barcelona were not only accurate with their passing they were the picture of consistency over the course of the full 92 minutes played. In fact even Real Madrid fans would be hard pressed to remember a moment where a Barcelona player was comprehensively dispossessed without the hint of a foul in the midfield. The ball movement in the midfield began to look more than more like a matador tormenting a clueless bull with one back heel transitioning into the next players step over only to be passed back for them to do the same all over again to an increasingly agitated Madrid side. In terms of sheer brilliance though it has to be said that Xavi and Iniesta probably had the single most magical midfield partnership in their careers tonight with a fair share of scoring opportunities one of which was converted and almost all of the remaining assists that led to goals prior to their partnership breaking owing to substitutions in the dying minutes of the game.

While two quick goals must have done wonders for Barcelona’s confidence, it seemed like Real Madrid were never really in it to be fair. Di Maria and Ozil were just two of the many players for Real Madrid that seemed absolutely non-existent over the course of the game. Ronaldo had two set pieces from distance neither of which he managed to convert. Xabi Alonso seemed absolutely lost and the only man in the midfield that managed to make any positive impact from a footballing point of view was actually Khaderia who was forced back into his own box, on one ocassion making a crucial intervention that prevented further embarrassment that was yet to came later at the hands of a goal from the unlikely Jeffren. Real Madrid didn’t even seem capable of mustering enough confidence to string four or five passes together through the centre of the pitch, which just showed how utterly out of form they appeared even having won seven straight games in the run up to this match. They often seemed legthargic and ultimately paid a high price for their inability to hold up the midfield, which just transferred more pressure than the Madrid back four could have ever hoped to handle. A back four that went through an utter melt down which resulted in their frustrating boiling over in the final minutes.

Class Vs. Hooliganism

While I am often ridiculed for it, my personal opinion is that I don’t hold Jose Mourhinio in incredibly high regard as a manager from the standpoint of being a role model to the 20 something year olds he influences on a day in and day out basis. This stems from my strongly held belief that he is an opportunist at heart and his style of football certainly reflects that. His strong arm tactics in his game plan seem to be a common theme throughout his careers with Chelsea, Inter Milan and now Real Madrid, something that I feel takes away from the game rather than giving it greater room to evolve. While I understand that instructing your players to take on a tough physical mentality is sometimes needed in the game of football at certain positions, I feel he breeds every one of his players to exhibit the ruthlessness of a holding midfielder, no matter what club he goes to. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I’m not sure how safe it really is to be impressing that idea of aggression on a bunch of 20 something year old premadonnas in the first place.

Ultimately, players bred with that kind of aggression snap and we saw just that happen rather uncharacteristically on the pitch tonight. The first and really the most glaring incident in my mind was that of Ronaldo’s push on Pep Guardiola. Which I honestly thought was the worst of the three offenses committed. Love him or hate him, you would never expect him to go so far as to push a coach which is absolutely inexcusable. There is a huge difference between getting physical with another player as a peer and a coach whom should always be looked upon as a senior no matter what the circumstances. I don’t care how high tempers was flaring, any fan of Ronaldo is not going to tell me they would have expected him to behave that way in years gone by when he wasn’t being managed by Mourhinio.

Next was the Ricardo Carvalho elbow to Messis face which to me was an incredible rarity. Carvalho has to be one of the coolest heads on the pitch that line up in the back four of any team that I could think of, this to  me was akin to seeing Maldini losing his temper and lashing out physically. Something that just never happens. The cou’de grace was yet to come however in the form of Sergio Ramos taking a swing at both Puyol and Xavi’s faces en-route to his walk of shame down to the dressing room. Something that should be of serious concern to Del Bosque in that he should have already dialed Ramos to explain that he had better apologize before the night was over for his actions if he planned on playing alongside both Puyol and Xavi in his national team colors.

All in all, Barcelona’s performance could not have been overshadowed by any number of red cards and a comprehensive 5-0 defeat of Madrid will put them two points ahead of their arch rivals in what looks to be a fiercely contested fight for being crowned the champion of La Liga. The battle might have been lost for Real Madrid tonight, but the war is far from over. To think that Morhinio will suffer this kind of embarrassment in Madrid for the return leg of this fixture later on in the year would be wishful thinking and even the Barca faithful will know that to be true. Few if any teams have managed to pull a double over the Special One during the course of his league records from Chelsea onwards.  If anything tonights victory is significant in that it could be thought of as a telegram being sent from Barcelona to Madrid – “Our legitimacy is a product of our ability and philosophy. You will have no place in our history as victors, whether it is on the pitch or off it.”

Your move next Mr. Mourhinio.

1) The first two goals both featured the goalscorer being involved much earlier in the move before ghosting into the box and scoring. Classic Barca football with plenty of pirouettes and passing.

2) On the other hand, Ronaldo’s defending was terrible for both the first 2 goals. Interestingly Mourinho started him on the right. The pre-match thinking was he would be on the left, almost daring Dani Alves to attack. Instead he was on the right and didn’t help on Villa. The first goal he was just drifting aimlessly and on the second one he was nowhere to be seen.

3) Early in the second half, Leo Messi went on one of his trademark slalom runs. As he beat 3 defenders and sucked in the rest of the Madrid defence David Villa was wide open on the left and calling for the ball. Unfortunately Messi shot and the chance was wasted.

Fitting then that Messi’s next two big contributions were brilliant assists to David Villa who not surprisingly finished them with aplomb.

4) The referee – I didn’t agree with all his decisions but I enjoyed the spirit in which he refereed the game. He didn’t pull players up for silly off the ball incidents but did step in and book players for bad tackles. Overall an excellent performance in difficult circumstances.

5) Xavi – With Barca starting Messi in a false 9 position, it left space for someone else to run into the centre forward position. Who would have that would be Xavi. Seizing the moment he made an uncharacteristic run and was rewarded by a sublime ball from Iniesta and just a bit of luck.

6) Jose Mourinho is famous for his daring substiutions – today he took off Mehsut Ozil and bought on another defensive midfielder in Lass Diara. Then he took of Marcelino and bought on Arbeloa – damage control.

7) Iniesta was outstanding. There was talk of him starting as part of the front 3 which I’m okay if you’re looking to strengthen the defence, but its not his best position. When he and Xavi are part of a 3 man midfield, Barca are irresistible. Real looked like they were trying to press higher up in the 2nd half, but Iniesta, Xavi, Messi and even Busquets were just spinning and passing their way around them.

Let’s not forget that Iniesta was missing against Inter Milan. I have feeling that if he had been there, the result would have been different.

The Federer-Nadal rivalry was forced to write a new chapter this weekend and fans from both camps will be hoping that it continues to last as long as possible.

Out of nowhere tennis fans across the world this week were treated to another edition of the closest thing Tennis has to El Classico, Rodger Federer versus Rafa Nadal. Though this match wasn’t the most eventful the two have had over their long rivalry, one that boasts its own Wikipedia page no less (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federer%E2%80%93Nadal_rivalry). Nevertheless, it provided substantial fodder for Rodger Federer fans that have had little to celebrate as of late and even less to say about whether the Federer versus Nadal rivalry exists anymore. Though that is partly owing to the fact that the final at the O2 arena this weekend was only their 2nd head to head match up on tour. At 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 some might incorrectly assess this as an outright thumping and re-changing of the guard on the subject of the no.1 ranked player in global tennis. However the nature of best of three set matches is such that it will be tough to draw any definite conclusions from this particular final, ones that will be able to settle the age old question of whom is the superior tennis player.

For Rodger Federer, his speech at the end of the tournament after accepting the trophy said it all for me, he had the excitement in his voice that only beating Nadal could produce and the sense that making it to the top of the rankings might just be a realistic prospect by the end of the opening grand slam of the 2011 season. As for his form in the match, Federer was his efficient self with over 10 winners in the middle of the first set by the time Nadal managed to finally post his first. He came out of the gates all guns blazing on the Nadal service return, which was refreshing to see after previous performances of a more passive nature with respect to the service return aspect of his approach had led him to lament missed chances to turn things around during earlier losses to the Spaniard. His serve, seems to be going through the same evolution that Pete Sampras experienced towards the peak and latter half of his career in that both players seemed to be able to summon an ace at will during their peak but that weapon in the arsenal seems to be confined to being called on to to extract oneself from the trickiest of positions during the match, largely owing to their own fault. With the lack of first serve accuracy that Federer managed during the final, there can be little doubt what his training regiment will be focusing on come monday morning, but what was most refreshing for the entire Federer nation was the resurgence of his single handed backhand against the Nadal forehand. This a constant battle that he had in the last few match ups against Nadal seemed to be losing quite comprehensively though he stubbornly stuck to it, a strategy that arguably cost him more than one Grand Slam Final against the Spaniard. This resurgence of form is no doubt a product of having a new coach and perhaps adding to it is the stability associated with his family life, beginning to yield dividends.  Either way, expect your average Rodger Federer fan to have that spring back in their step tomorrow morning at the office water cooler.

As for Nadal, only he will know best as to what prompted the slew of poorly played shots , the cost of which showed on his face, nothing less than the look of a man facing near impending doom after he had lost his first break in the third set. To be fair, in a best of three format even the shortest lapse of concentration can cost you vital points that decide these pro-ported epic encounters. However there are plenty of positives to be taken from his performance in London this weekend, into the 2011 season, aside from his conversion rate at the net, his first serve accuracy would even have had Goran Ivanišević sitting up his seat in anticipation of a fault that never really came. Had more of those first serves been aces, Rodger Federer would definitely not have had such a seemingly smooth night. Something that Andy Murray learnt first hand during his semi-final knock out.  One loss in a final at the last tournament of real significance at the end of the calendar though, can take nothing away from his achievements this year which was one short of a Grand Slam sweep and although he might seem to have tripped towards the end, plenty of tennis fans know better than to count this loss as more than a blip on the radar.

When its all said and done, two things are for certain. Firstly, both of these athletes will be going into the 2011 season in an effort to further cement their legacies and are almost inevitably going to get in each others way in the process. Secondly, this rivalry is far from over. In fact in some ways, its only just begun all over again.

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