Thursday, March 5, 2009

Setanta's Steve McManaman willing Liverpool to title glory

Setanta's Steve McManaman willing Liverpool to title glory

By Administrator on Jan 15, 09 11:59 AM in Journalists


CHAOS to play in, simple to prepare for. Steve McManaman may be poised to make his derby debut in front of the cameras, but the experience from his playing days will ensure there is no need for him to spend the next few days with his head buried in a script.

Almost 10 years have passed since McManaman last experienced the hurly-burly of this neighbourhood squabble as a player, his final outing being a 3-2 win at Anfield in April 1999 which, perhaps, is best remembered for the way Robbie Fowler 'celebrated' a certain goal.

Much, of course, has changed since then. McManaman, for one, had a hugely successful spell with Real Madrid before finishing his career after a stint with Manchester City, while Liverpool and Everton's fortunes in domestic combat have dramatically improved.

But although the 36-year-old has spent much of the last decade in different parts of the world, his enthusiasm for the fortunes of Merseyside's two clubs has never waned, which means he will slip into his role as Setanta's main pundit next week as deftly as he used to skip past defenders.

Never short of an opinion, McManaman's articulate way of making a point ensures he is a breath of fresh air compared to some analysts who do nothing but state the obvious, and with talking points guaranteed in the imminent double header, it is no wonder he cannot wait to get going.

"When I had finished I just wanted to get away from it all and I had two years of travelling, doing one thing and another and of course, we had our first child," said McManaman, a midfielder whose talents were beyond question.

"I hadn't had any real thoughts of getting involved in the media, but I was contacted by Setanta and after a chat with a guy called Andrew Hornett, he outlined his plans. I knew they were a good company as they basically owned every scrap of TV in Ireland.

"Things moved on from there and I'm thoroughly enjoying it now. I work with some really nice people and you can't ask for more than going to a place of work, where things are enjoyable and you can have a laugh and a joke. It's like being part of another family.

"That was the case when I was a player - you'd be in a dressing room with 20 lads and the camaraderie would be great - and that is the case now. Again you're working with a crew of 20 people and you're working to one aim and that's to get a great show out.

"Some matches you read piles of notes and pages of statistics but for a derby it comes easy. I'm a local lad, who was lucky enough to play in a few, so it's all about conveying the emotion and passion involved.

"They should both be cracking occasions. Everton are doing well and have played some of their best football without a centre-forward. If they can stay in the top six again, it would be another great achievement and bring the focus back on Merseyside football again."

Passion is one thing that certain Liverpool supporters have accused McManaman of lacking for the club and some are still clearly irked by the manner of his departure to Madrid, as he became the first high-profile Bosman departure.

Accused of being avaricious and concerned only about himself, the final few months of his career at Anfield were played under a cloud, but these are issues that the man himself is happy to confront and is eager to set the record straight.

"My affinity for Liverpool is as strong as it always has been, of course it is," said McManaman, who wore the Liver Bird on his chest some 364 times, scoring 66 goals. "I've heard it all before when people say that because I was an Evertonian when I was a kid that I'm not bothered.

"Maybe if the situation now had been the case back then, when you could play in the Champions League by finishing fourth, things might have been different. It had nothing to do with contractual issues.

"I've said it a thousand times and people may or may not choose to listen. But the reason I left was to accept a different challenge, for footballing reasons. I wanted to play in the Champions League and Real Madrid gave me that chance. Living in Spain was a fantastic experience.

"But how could I not have an affinity for Liverpool? I know Rafa Benitez very well, as I do Rick Parry and David Moores. I played in the same team as Stevie and Carra and play for the Liverpool legends teams when I can.

"Put it this way - I will be over the moon if Stevie and Carra have got their hands on that trophy in May and I honestly believe they have an outstanding chance of doing it."

Manchester United could be top by the time Howard Webb gets Monday night's derby under way, but even that possible scenario won't cause McManaman - whose four-year spell in Spain saw him win the Champions League twice - to alter his view.

"People go on about them being ready to collapse but I just don't see it," he continued. "Over the last three months, they have looked incredibly strong and have played the best football out of the top three. All Chelsea seem to be doing is be chugging along.

"Prior to last weekend, Manchester United had been poor in a number of games and hadn't been scoring too many goals. Can you say the same about Liverpool? No. Never mind what happened against Stoke.

"They've got the best player in the country (Gerrard), the best centre-forward in the country (Fernando Torres) has been missing and if he comes back firing on all cylinders, what's stopping them?

"Pressure? That's nonsense. There's no pressure for Stevie - he's played in two European Cup finals. Is there any pressure for the Spanish lads who played in the Euro 2008 final? The games they have got coming up are like getting out of bed in the morning."


STEVE McMANAMAN may currently enjoy the sanctuary of a television studio. But a part of him hankers for the chance to try his luck in a technical area.

Since hanging up his boots in 2005, the former Liverpool midfielder's involvement in the game that made him a household name has been restricted to working in the media.

But McManaman has made it his New Year's resolution to obtain the necessary qualifications to open up some different avenues.

However, his enthusiasm has been tempered slightly in recent months by the experiences of a number of men whom he played with and against.

"I'm still thinking of getting back into the game and hopefully I will do my coaching badges at some point this year," said McManaman, who was known on the Kop as 'Shaggy'.

"It was impossible to last year, but things are a bit more stable now. It is going to be hard, though. There seems to be far less jobs available for the younger guys.

"Paul Ince, Roy Keane, Tony Adams - it seems as if people have got it in for them. It's becoming a bit less attractive."

He is not, though, the type of character who would let a few negative headlines put him off and McManaman is quite clear in what he wants to do - if opportunity knocks.

"If I do get back in, I don't want to be a coach," he said. "I want to be a manager, but that's easier said than done.

"I want to be able to pick the team, make the decisions and everything that goes with it. That said, I can't do anything without my badges.

"It's better to be safe than sorry."

Steve McManaman factfileBorn: Bootle - 11.02.1972

Liverpool appearances: 364

Liverpool goals: 66

Other clubs: Real Madrid, Manchester City

Boyhood Evertonian who joined the Reds from school and as an apprentice cleaned John Barnes' boots.

Rose through the Anfield ranks and in December 1990 made his senior bow as a substitute in a 2-0 home win against Sheffield United.

Starred in the 1992 FA Cup final triumph over Sunderland and three years later shone at Wembley again as he scored twice in the Coca Cola Cup final win against Bolton.

His last Reds appearance was in a 3-0 win over Wimbledon in May 1999.

Left on a Bosman free transfer in the summer of 1999 and joined Spanish giants Real Madrid.

Capped his first season at the Bernabeu with a stunning strike in the 3-0 Champions League final victory against Valencia - becoming the first English player ever to win Europe's premier club competition with a foreign club.

Came on as a substitute in the 2002 Champions League final in which Real beat Bayer Leverkusen 2-1.

In 2003 he signed for Manchester City but was dogged by injuries and retired after being released on a free transfer in May 2005.

Won 37 caps for England and scored three goals.

Real Madrid v Liverpool (25/02/2009) - Double Agents

Real Madrid v Liverpool (25/02/2009) - Double Agents

Real Madrid v Liverpool (25/02/2009) - Double Agents
Monday, 23rd February 2009
YNWA takes a look at the players who have represented both Real Madrid and the reds as we visit the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu on Wednesday.

El Boss
Rafael Benítez arrived at Anfield from Valencia in June 2004 and has so far taken charge of the reds on 277 occasions, winning 156 times. He had been on Real Madrid's books as a player but was forced to retire aged just 26, without having made their first team. He went into coaching, taking charge of the Under-19's and Reserves, before becoming Assistant Manager. He then left the Bernabéu to take the hot-seat at Real Valladolid in 1995.

His first season in charge at Anfield saw him lead us to glorious victory in the Champions League Final in Istanbul, to claim the European Cup for the fifth time in our history. He then added the UEFA Super Cup and FA Cup to the Anfield trophy collection to become the first reds boss to claim major trophies in his first two seasons in charge. He has since claimed the FA Community Shield and taken us to a second European Cup Final in three seasons.

Other current double agents
Álvaro Arbeloa signed from Real Club Deportivo de La Coruña for £2.64m in January 2007, and has so far featured 85 times across the defence, as well as notching two goals. He started out with Real Madrid, playing for their youth team and captaining the Castilla reserves side, as well as featuring twice for the first team before moving to Coruña in July 2006.

Jerzy Dudek signed from Feyenoord for £4.85m in August 2001 and made 186 reds appearances, helping us to glory in Istanbul, as well as the Worthington Cup in 2003. He left to join Real Madrid in July 2007, although he has only played eight times for their first team to date.

Up front
Fernando Morientes signed for the reds from Real Madrid for £6.3m in January 2005. He bagged just twelve goals in 61 reds games, but helped us to claim the FA Cup and UEFA Super Cup before moving on to Valencia in July 2006, where he regained his scoring touch. He had moved to Madrid from Real Zaragoza in the summer of 1997 for a €26.6m fee, notching a total of 98 times in 259 matches, including bagging five goals in a 7-0 trouncing of Las Palmas in February 2002, as well as having a penalty saved. He helped them to three European Cups and two La Liga titles, but was deemed surplus to requirements after Ronaldo's arrival from Internazionale. He joined AS Monaco on loan for the 2003/04 season, scoring in both legs of their Champions League Quarter-final defeat of Real Madrid, and making his fourth Final appearance as they lost to Porto. He struck 22 goals in 42 games for the principality side, including an impressive nine in twelve European outings. He returned to Madrid that summer but was now behind Michael Owen in the pecking order, prompting his switch to Anfield.

John Toshack signed from Cardiff City for £110,000 in November 1970 and scored 96 goals in 247 reds appearances, leaving Anfield having helped us to three League titles, two UEFA Cups, FA Cup and FA Charity Shield before returning to Wales to join Swansea City in February 1978. He was later in charge of Real Madrid twice in his chequered managerial career. He led them to the La Liga title in 1990 but was sacked in the November of that year on the back of three straight defeats. He returned to the Bernabéu in February 1999, lasting just nine months before being sacked again, eleven games into the new season with his new big money signing Nicolas Anelka having not yet set La Liga alight.

Michael Owen joined Real Madrid for £8m in August 2004 after 158 goals in 297 reds games, and having helped us to claim the UEFA Cup, FA Cup, League Cup, UEFA Super Cup and FA Charity Shield, as well as being voted European Footballer of the year in his time at Anfield. He remained in Spain for just one season, moving back to England to join Newcastle United for £17m in August 2006, after sixteen goals in 43 games for the Spanish outfit and the highest goals per minute ratio in the Spanish league that season.

Nicolas Anelka joined Real Madrid from Arsenal for a staggering £23m fee in August 1999. He only grabbed four goals in 24 games while at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, before moving on to Paris St. Germain the following summer. He joined the reds on loan from the French club in December 2001, netting five times in 22 reds games, but was not taken on permanently at the end of the season.

Steve McManaman bagged 66 goals in 364 reds games, helping us to the FA Cup in 1992 and the Coca-Cola Cup three years later, as well as being named in the PFA Team of the Year for four successive seasons. He joined Real Madrid on a Bosman free transfer in July 1999, returning to England to sign for Manchester City on another free transfer in August 2003. He had grabbed fourteen goals in 157 outings after becoming only the second ever Englishman to play for the Madrid side.

McManaman and Morientes both struck as Real Madrid beat Valencia 3-0 in the European Cup Final in the Stade de France in May 2000, with Anelka also featuring. McManaman and Morientes also played in the Final at Hampden Park two years later, when they beat Bayer 04 Leverkusen 2-1, with Morientes also having featured in their 1-0 defeat of Juventus in the 1998 Final in Amsterdam. McManaman also claimed two La Liga titles, the UEFA Super Cup, Supercopa de España and the Intercontinental Cup while in Spain.

Other double agents
Antonio Núñez arrived at Anfield as part of the deal that took Michael Owen to Spain and made 27 appearances, becoming the only player to score his solitary reds goal in a major cup final, as he netted a consolation in the Carling Cup defeat by Chelsea in February 2005. He was sold to Real Club Celta de Vigo in July 2005, and is now playing for Real Murcia. He had notched once in eleven La Liga outings for Real Madrid.

José Ochotorena played nineteen League games between the sticks for Real Madrid, before joining Valencia in 1988, where he is currently goalkeeping coach. He spent three years at Melwood from the summer of 2004, before being replaced by Xavi Valero when he returned to the Mestalla.

Former Real Madrid Midfielder McManaman Believes Liverpool Can Win League Title

Former Real Madrid Midfielder McManaman Believes Liverpool Can Win League Title

Two time Champions League winner Steve McManaman believes Liverpool boast the credentials necessary to win the Premier League for the first time in 19 years...

15-Jan-2009 8:12:43 PM

Steve McManaman, Liverpool - Real Madrid (PA)
Photo Gallery
Steve McManaman, Liverpool - Real Madrid (PA)
Steve McManaman played for two of the most successful clubs in Europe: Liverpool and Real Madrid, and therefore has an expansive knowledge of what it takes to lift a trophy.

The Bootle-born winger won the FA Cup and the League Cup as a Red, and won La Liga twice and the Champions League twice as a Merengue.

The 36-year-old believes he has seen enough from Liverpool this season to convince him that they have an "outstanding" chance of lifting the Premier League crown in May.

"Put it this way," he told the club's official website. "I will be over the moon if Stevie [Gerrard] and Carra [Carragher] have got their hands on that trophy in May and I honestly believe they have an outstanding chance of doing it.

"People go on about them being ready to collapse but I just don't see it. Over the last three months, they have looked incredibly strong and have played the best football out of the top three. All Chelsea seem to be doing is be chugging along."

He continued: "Prior to last weekend, Manchester United had been poor in a number of games and hadn't been scoring too many goals. Can you say the same about Liverpool? No. Never mind what happened against Stoke.

"They've got the best player in the country in Gerrard and the best centre-forward in the country in Fernando Torres. He has been missing and if he comes back firing on all cylinders, what's stopping them?

"Pressure? That's nonsense," he claimed. "There's no pressure for Stevie – he's played in two European Cup finals.

"Is there any pressure for the Spanish lads who played in the Euro 2008 final? The games they have got coming up are like getting out of bed in the morning."

Steve McManaman is the most decorated Englishman in terms of medals won outside of England.

While playing for Liverpool, he was regarded as one of the finest dribblers of the football, and provided a century of assists for his team-mates.

Alan Dawson,

Hala Madrid!! Where Are They Now: Steve McManaman

Hala Madrid!! Where Are They Now: Steve McManaman

Steven “Steve” McManaman (born 11 February 1972, in Bootle, Merseyside, England) is an English footballer of the 1990s and early 2000s, who played as a midfielder and winger in a career spanning two of European football’s most successful club sides in Liverpool and Real Madrid. He is the most decorated English footballer to have played in any foreign club in terms of trophies won overseas, was the first British player to win the UEFA Champions League title twice, and was also the first English footballer to win the Champions League with a non-English club. In 2008, he was ranked as 3rd in the Top 10 greatest British footballers to play overseas, just behind Kevin Keegan and John Charles.


On 1 July 1999, after 364 appearances and 66 goals for Liverpool, McManaman transferred to Spanish giants Real Madrid (then under coach Guus Hiddink and president Lorenzo Sanz). At Real Madrid, McManaman became only the second English player to ever play for the club, after Laurie Cunningham had played for them in the 1980s. He also became the most high profile English footballer to move to Spanish football since Gary Lineker moved to FC Barcelona from Everton in 1986. Thereafter he proved an instant hit with the fans at the Santiago Bernabéu stadium after scoring three times and creating several goals in his first few games for Los Merengues.

McManaman made his debut for Madrid on the 22 August 1999 in the 2-1 La Liga win over Real Mallorca at the Son Moix stadium, Mallorca, where he assisted Fernando Morientes in scoring the injury time winner. He scored his first goal for the club a week later on the 29 August in the 4-1 thumping of Numancia at the Bernabéu.

McManaman then established himself in the team that went all the way to the Champions League Final in 2000, under new coach Vicente Del Bosque, who replaced John Toshack. It was at this European Cup Final at the Stade de France in Paris that McManaman experienced his finest hour as a player- scoring a spectacular volley in a 3-0 victory over fellow Spanish side Valencia, where he was also hailed as the Man of the Match by the English press. His part in Madrid’s eighth European Cup win saw him become the first English player ever to win Europe’s premier club competition with a foreign club.

Having established himself as a player of true worth in his first year in Madrid, in a unique sequence of events at the club that also saw Fernando Redondo depart the club, McManaman was suddenly told he was surplus to requirements with the arrival of Luis Figo and a new President Florentino Perez at the club before the start of the 2000-01 season. However, McManaman overcame initial rejection, where Real Madrid accepted first an £11 million pound offer from Middlesbrough and then a 12 million pound offer from Chelsea that included the exchange of Tore Andre Flo, in the summer of 2000, both of which the player rejected. In spite of ensuing rumors that he had been denied a squad number, according to the English FA’s report on McManaman, it was reported that McManaman shone in his second season, 2000-01, as his club side challenged for the La Liga title, and won it by a 7 point margin over the previous seasons champions, Deportivo La Coruña. McManaman reportedly won over the manager by October, and managed to feature in two thirds of the club’s matches, becoming a first team automatic for the second half of the campaign, and where McManaman held a unique distinction of being described as the only top class football player from England playing overseas at the time.

However, McManaman increasingly saw his playing time reduced each year, as that same season, the club adopted an at the time unstated policy now well known as the Galáctico system, with world class names like Luís Figo, Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldo arriving each year and standing above him in the pecking order. At the time though, McManaman was known for his dogged determination to stay positive for the club’s cause, even if it meant he had less playing time. McManaman also turned down a transfer to Inter Milan at the time when he was made available for exchange as part of Ronaldo’s signing. It was widely reported in the Spanish media that McManaman’s resilience to the team won the respect of his fellow professionals like Raúl, Zidane, Guti, Iván Helguera, and his two best friends at the club, Figo and Ronaldo, who backed him publicly on several occasions in press interviews. McManaman was also twice voted as the Real Madrid supporters’ favorite player at the club in his tenure, and according to El País, in 2001, fans saluted him with their ‘white handkerchiefs’ (as a terrace favorite) after he acrobatically scored a ‘wonder goal’ against Real Oviedo that year.

Eventually, the Board, including Florentino Pérez relented, declaring that a “man like that would always have a place in my club”. Arguably his second greatest moment in the white of Madrid came in the 2002 UEFA Champions League semi-final against Barcelona at the Camp Nou on 23 April 2002. In this match of monumental proportions, due to “El Classico” being a massive game in its own right, but also the fact that it was a Champions League Semi-final, McManaman appeared as a second half substitute to score a critical goal in second half injury time to secure a 2-0 first-leg advantage, coolly chipping over goalkeeper Roberto Bonano after being played in by Zindedine Zidane, who had scored the first goal on 55 minutes. This victory helped secure their place in the final of the 2002 Champions League at Hampden Park, Glasgow, where he came on as a replacement for Figo - and thereby ensuring his second Champions League winners’ medal, after Madrid secured a 2-1 victory over German team Bayer Leverkusen.

According to certain critics in the Spanish press, McManaman and several other players became “victims” as the policy was based more on marketing and revenue generation, and sometimes meant players were picked not according to form, but because of their marketing potential off the pitch. To his credit, McManaman never spoke ill of the Galáctico policy’s effects on him during his tenure, only critiquing the policy and ultimately describing it in his autobiography in 2004 as the “Disney-fication of Real Madrid” upon his departure from the club; a piece of foresight that proved telling for the future- as the club never reached its heights in the period ensuing with the policy, and with the term becoming somewhat pejorative till this day.

However, it was McManaman’s fourth season that really raised doubts, after only playing 21 games of which he started only 9 times, and making a meager 15 appearances in La Liga, questions arose about his ability and reasons for staying in Spain considering his diminished role, lack of first team action and international attention. Suggestions that McManaman had “sold out” for money and had grown indifferent and lackadaisical to his football were rampant in the British Press, with what was described as there being what “seems to be a selective media amnesia over McManaman’s time in Spain.”

According to Forbes Magazine in 2001, McManaman was listed as 6th on the list of highest earning footballers in the world. McManaman is believed to have pocketed an estimated 15 million Euros (just under £10,250,000) in his four years in Madrid. On top of financial rewards, McManaman also became arguably the most successful English football export to ever play overseas.


The signing of fellow Englishman David Beckham proved the last straw in eventually forcing McManaman down the pecking order at Real Madrid. In 2003, along with teammates Claude Makélélé, Fernando Hierro and later Fernando Morientes, McManaman headed back to the English FA Premier League, where first he was reported to either join Arsenal or Everton but eventually deciding to join long-time admirer Kevin Keegan on the 30 August at Manchester City FC, resulting in a reunion with several ex-colleagues including Robbie Fowler, Nicolas Anelka, David Seaman and later, David James.

He had scored 8 goals in a career spanning over 94 matches in the White of Real Madrid. His honors with Real Madrid (1999 - 2003) included:

  • UEFA Champions League winner: 1999/2000, 2001/2002
  • La Liga winner: 2000/2001, 2002/2003
  • UEFA Super Cup winner: 2002
  • Supercopa de Espana winner: 2001 and 2003
  • Intercontinental Cup winner: 2002
  • Trofeo Santiago Bernabéu winner: 1999, 2000 and 2003
  • Spanish Cup Copa Del Rey runners up: 2001

McManaman retired from his playing career after being released by Manchester City in 2005. McManaman has personally reported that he has been working on Goal! 2, the sequel to Goal!, a movie which stars Kuno Becker becoming a fictional superstar at Newcastle United. By the film’s release, McManaman had also become an Associate Producer of the film, and appears in the film as one of the coaching staff.

McManaman has since also been active as a media commentator and pundit, and has provided analysis for ITV media for the 2005 Champions League Final, and for ESPN Star in Asia in 2006, where McManaman’s experience both as a former Premiership star as well as in Spain have enabled him to analyze the game in Europe in depth.

In July 2007, McManaman was named executive director of the Hong Kong-listed company, Carson Yeung’s Grandtop International Holdings Ltd, which subsequently took a 29.9% stake in English Championship side Birmingham City.

As of 2007, McManaman has also joined Setanta Sports as a football analyst and until the beginning of the 2008/09 season, hosted a television show, “Macca’s Monday Night”, reflecting on life in the Barclays Premier League.

Steve McManaman: Gazza, Zidane and me

January 18, 2009

Steve McManaman: Gazza, Zidane and me

Questions of Sport: Steve McManaman on Liverpool’s title hunt, his time in Spain and Steven Gerrard’s music taste

Who was the best footballer you played with? Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid. There was nothing he couldn’t do with the ball. His vision was what you appreciated most. I played against Rivaldo when he was at Barcelona and he wasn’t far behind.

What was the most intimidating atmosphere you played in? I grew up as an Everton fan and played for Liverpool, so Merseyside derbies were special, but nothing compares with Barcelona v Real Madrid. It’s not two rival cities, it’s two rival countries, with political undertones. When we played in Barcelona, the coach to the Nou Camp went at 2mph because there were so many fans in the streets. There was an armed guard escorting us.

How did you find the language barrier in Spain? I made a point of throwing myself into the culture and trying to pick up Spanish. There were no other English players there at the time, which may have helped. It wasn’t all one-way stuff. I taught them a bit of Scouse and by the time I left most of the squad were into horseracing.

What advice would you give to anyone joining Real Madrid? Get to know the local players. You’ll help your cause immeasurably if you get them onside. If it looks like you don’t want to get on with them, you could find yourself ostracised.

Can Liverpool cope with the pressure of being viewed as genuine title contenders? As the end of the season nears, we might hear rival managers try some of the psychological warfare about whether they’ve got enough experience, but I don’t accept that. Yes, when I played for Liverpool we were short on guys who had won titles or played in big matches, but now you are talking about players who have reached two Champions League finals. I played with Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard so I would love it if they could end the 19-year drought.

Do you have the same musical tastes as Gerrard? Phil Collins, you mean? No. I had to laugh when I read that. Is it one of those things where if you’re old enough you’ll be back in fashion eventually? I hope not.

Did you resent the Spice Boys tag at Liverpool? It was water off a duck’s back but I’m not sure why some of us got labelled with it. David James was modelling for Armani and Jamie Redknapp was dating [the pop star] Louise and I got bracketed with them. But none of us were really into the London nightlife scene. We appeared in a few magazines, yet nobody bats an eye when players do the same now.

Have you seen Gazza lately? Not for a while. I try to get hold of him when I go up to Newcastle but he keeps changing his mobile number. I didn’t see the documentary on him and don’t know what has gone on in his personal life but for as long as I’ve known him, if you asked him to do something for you, he would do it at the drop of a hat. Let’s hope he makes a recovery; it would be great if he was involved in football again.

What’s been your best moment as a racing punter? I have had my big wins and losses like anyone who bets but actually owning a racehorse is something else. Robbie Fowler and I owned Seebald, which won the 2003 Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Celebration Chase. The problem was, we never got to see him because we were usually playing or training.

Steve McManaman is a pundit with Setanta Sports for tomorrow’s Merseyside derby

Madrid don't compare to class of '02 by Steve McManaman , 25 February 2009

Madrid don't compare to class of '02

by Steve McManaman , 25 February 2009

Make no mistake, Wednesday's clash with Real Madrid will be a really tough game for Liverpool – much tougher than many people would have anticipated a couple of months ago.

When the draw was made I think you had to make Liverpool favourites, they were flying high at the top of the league while Madrid were struggling behind Barcelona.

That’s all changed in the last two months though. Now Liverpool are scrapping for form, whereas Madrid have won their last nine games and are playing with a huge amount of confidence – scoring a lot goals.

Juande Ramos is doing a great job, all their injury problems have cleared up, they’ve added Lassana Diarra and Klaas Huntelaar (although only Diarra can play), and the likes of Arjen Robben are really turning it on.

The problem Liverpool may have is that usually they are the club with the great tradition – the greater expectation to win. This time they face Madrid, who have an even greater tradition in European football, and the fans will be up for this one.

The Bernabeu on Champions League knock-out night is a special place to be. At Madrid, the Champions League means everything to the fans, it’s very special to them and tonight you’ll see all the banners and the chanting – it’ll be a special night and a tough one for Liverpool.

Saying that (and I might be biased), I don’t think this Madrid side is anywhere near as good as the one I used to play in.

You have to remember, until recently, the fans have not been happy with how the side has been playing. They had been scraping 1-0s or drawing, and it was Barca at the top playing all the beautiful football.

Granted they’ve banged in the goals recently, scoring four at Sporting Gijon and then six against Betis, but they’re still not playing the flowing football that Barcelona play.

Until they win the league, and win the Champions League, whilst playing with style, the fans won’t be as happy as they were during the time I spent at the club, when we had fantastic individuals like Zidane and so on. That was a real golden period for the club and the fans still harp on about it now.

I’ve actually been to watch Madrid a couple of times this season and they haven’t been good, and the fans tell you how they miss old times when we were there.

It remains to be seen if things are about to change, they’re closing that gap on Barca, but Wednesday’s match with Liverpool is a big game.

Ince rues not having time to shine at Blackburn but insists he'll wait for the right new job

Ince rues not having time to shine at Blackburn but insists he'll wait for the right new job

By Laura Williamson
Last updated at 10:51 AM on 02nd February 2009

Paul Ince is determined to ‘wait for the right club’ before making a return to management.

The former Blackburn Rovers boss, sacked in December after fewer than six months in charge at Ewood Park, added he would be prepared to manage a lower League club again in order to build a regime of his own.

Paul Ince

Frustrating time: Paul Ince was sacked by Blackburn after fewer than six months in charge

Ince cut his managerial teeth at Macclesfield Town and MK Dons but his step up to the Premier League was thwarted after Blackburn managed just three wins in the 17 games he was in charge.

He said: ‘I’ve got to wait for the right job. I’m not too proud to go back into the Championship or League One.

‘I want to build my own team, bring in my own players – unfortunately I didn’t have the time to do that at Blackburn.’

The 41-year-old was back at Old Trafford on Saturday for Manchester United’s 1-0 victory over Everton, less than two months after standing on the sidelines and watching Blackburn lose 5-3 in the Carling Cup to Sir Alex Ferguson’s side.

Ince sat alongside former Liverpool and England team-mate Steve McManaman in the Setanta Sports studio and admitted being a pundit is more difficult when you have been a manager and have ambitions to return to the job.

He said: ‘It is harder. You have to be very political sometimes. Not to say I won’t voice my opinion, but some people can go a bit over the top. It’s a very fine line.

‘In the next couple of months I could have a manager’s job with those players in front of me, who they have seen me slaughter.’