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The best of times

George Best is regarded as one of the greatest footballers to ever spring from this island, but how does he rate against the international competition?

Tony Cascarino, 07 Nov 2005

Well, that’s Chelsea’s season gone pear-shaped. Two dropped points at Goodison and a humiliating League Cup defeat to a side that, added all up, cost less than Michael Essian. It’s obvious that Jose Mourinho has to go!

Sorry for being facetious, but that’s the only way to react to the so-called experts who’ve been prattling on about Chelsea suffering a “wobble”. A draw and an early exit from a second-rate cup competition won’t stop the average Premiership side shitting themselves when they have to go and play them.

Yes, Everton imposed themselves physically, but that didn’t stop Chelsea scoring two good goals, the second of which was ruled offside by a referee who I’m sure cringed the TV replay afterwards and realised he’d got it wrong.

Any team that tries to “rough them up” will soon discover that Chelsea are more than capable of being physical themselves. It’d take a brave defender to continually clatter into Didier Drogba, and no better man than Michael Essien to slow down your playmaker with a couple of slightly-too-late tackles.

The only scenario in which I can see Chelsea being caught is if Manchester United do the double over them, which is possible, and then win all of their remaining games, which is highly unlikely.

Whether he admits to it or not beforehand, Alex Ferguson knows that anything less than three points against Chelsea on Sunday and it really is ‘game over’.

Given that a draw’s of absolutely no use, I think Alex will do what most other teams haven’t when they’ve played Chelsea, which is go 4-4-2. They need Rooney in the middle with Van Nistelrooy rather than out on the wing.

Giggs is a big loss, but they’ve still got the pace of Park and Ronaldo to test the Chelsea defence, who’ll be told by Mourinho to avoid giving away silly free-kicks in the final third. If they do, United have the quality to punish them from dead ball situations.

At the time of writing, that greatest of Old Trafford legends, George Best, is seriously ill in hospital. Hopefully I’m not penning an obituary, but either way I’d say the same thing about him, which is that in terms of natural ability he had it all.

I saw him live a couple of times playing for Fulham and, even though he’d put on a stone-and-a-half, some of his touches were outrageous. He entertained and put bums on seats,

What stopped him being truly world class is that he wasn’t prepared to work on those God given gifts and make himself an even better player. Maradonna, Platini, Van Basten, Pelé, Beckenbauer, Cruyff and currently Zidane all improved as they matured whereas George hit a plateau that, even if he hadn’t quit, I think he’d have remained on.

I remember being in a jacuzzi one day with five of the younger Marseilles lads and being shocked that none of them had heard of George Best. He’s a household name in Britain and Ireland but because he never graced a World Cup or played for Manchester United in the modern mass media era, it’s only absolute football connoisseurs that’d know him in, say, Italy or Argentina. That to me is a big, big shame but George made the decisions he did and by all accounts has never regretted them. Whatever happens, he’ll always be remembered in this part of the world as the finest player of his generation, which is a great epitaph.

As I predicted, the FAI chose not to renew Brian Kerr’s contract and are now being linked with just about every out of work manager you can name, plus a few employed ones as well!

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