Last updated : 19 January 2006 By Editor
Marina Hyde in the Guardian:

You hear quite a lot about good tourists in cricket. Your genial third spin bowler who'll have a pint with you at night and bowl gamely at you in the nets the next morning, who'll make you laugh in the dressing room and won't complain when he's not picked for the big ones, who'll keep the top players upbeat and free from homesickness. Yes, the good tourist is a cricketing stalwart. But in football? Well, not so much.

Still, all that changed last Saturday when Sir Alex Ferguson selected his side for the long journey to the City of Manchester Stadium. There is no word on whether newbie Patrice Evra sat next to a gentleman we may tactfully describe as a Manchester United third-stringer on the bus, but some time before the teamsheets were handed in the manager made a decision that will likely be reassessed one day as a brave new dawn in tactics.

“Maybe it was a bit of a gamble playing Evra," Sir Alex explained after the subsequent and still perplexing defeat, "and that's why I played Silvestre to try and help him through it, as he's French."

Ah, because he's French ... Consider the gamble laid, then! Whether the passed-over Wes Brown will now be regretting his failure to pay sufficient attention in French lessons at school we cannot say. Had he known that calamitous form was immaterial if you ran to a little more than “Où est le camping gaz, s'il vous plaît?", things might have been very different on Saturday.

In these days of multinational squads, though, maybe the mix must change. Five parts first-team players to five parts interpreters, plus keeper, may well be the best way to prevent sides speaking in tongues, and help foreign signings to penetrate the thickets of Sir Alex's Glaswegian accent as it wafts like a dovecall from the touchline.

So with the arrival of Nemanja Vidic, do not be surprised by any sightings of Wayne Rooney attending a crash course of night school classes in Serbo-Croat. Come to that, if he can't get to grips with the language within the required time frame, it is clear under the new policy that virtually any old Serbo-Croat speaker will do.

By way of a heads-up to the United scouts, Goran Ivanisevic may well have a bit of time on his hands, and boasts the twin advantages of an encyclopaedic vocabulary of expletives, the better to convey the subtlety of Ferguson's message, and form likely to eclipse Silvestre's at present.