How United downloaded victory out of left field
Baseball pioneered iPod tactic for technological coup in Carling Cup shoot-out
Tuesday 03 March 2009
Manchester United copied from baseball the idea of using an iPod to give Ben Foster tips on which way Tottenham's players would take their penalties in Sunday's Carling Cup final shoot-out.
Eric Steele, United's goalkeeping coach, adopted the research aid after studying the methods used in the American sport. He downloaded clips showing which way various Spurs players have taken penalties in the past – including Jamie O'Hara, whose effort was saved by Foster.
The video iPods were first used by the Colorado Rockies baseball team more than three years ago – after their assistant video coordinator Brian Jones was given one of the devices as a Christmas present, soon after they had gone on sale, and he realised it could be adapted to help in coaching.
Traditionally, players are given DVDs to study but the iPods are a more portable variation. In baseball, for example, clips of hitters' swings are downloaded on to the machines owned by pitchers, who can then use them when inside the stadium. Such was its success that the Rockies' idea was copied by many other baseball teams across the US.
Steele's use of the iPod – he took two on to the Wembley pitch for Foster to study – does not contravene any Football Association rules. "He [Foster] broke no laws of the game and as far as we are concerned we don't have a problem with it," an FA spokesman said. However, the FA will consult with Fifa, football's world governing body, as to whether a loophole is being exploited.
At the last World Cup, Germany's goalkeeper Jens Lehmann had a crib sheet in his socks detailing which way Argentina's players usually take penalties, but United's idea is one step on from that.
Ryan Giggs admitted that winning the Carling Cup was "last on our list of priorities" during a season in which United could win an unprecedented quintet of trophies, having already secured the World Club Championship.
However, he said that winning the trophy on Sunday was a key to the rest of the season. "It's a final and no one wants to lose a final," the midfielder said. "There were young players out there who will now know what it's like to win something. And it builds momentum into a big game on Wednesday [in the Premier League] at Newcastle. We won the World Club Championship just before Christmas and that built some momentum. We got a lot of confidence from winning that competition. We've got to keep the momentum."
Cristiano Ronaldo, meanwhile, insisted he should not have been booked by the referee Chris Foy for diving, following a challenge in the penalty area by Ledley King in which the Spurs defender appeared to stand on his foot. "If you see the replay you will see that their player kicked me in the foot," Ronaldo said. "The referee did not make the right decision then and he didn't give me a lot, all match. I don't know why."
Medal detector: Giggs can equal record
Ryan Giggs already holds the record for most games played for Manchester United, 791, and, after Sunday's Carling Cup glory, the Welshman is closing in on Portuguese goalkeeper Vitor Baia's record of most club winner's medals. The Welshman can win three more competitions this season.
1 Vitor Baia (Porto, Barcelona) 32 club winner's medals
2 Ryan Giggs (Manchester United) 29
3 Alfredo Di Stefano (Real Madrid) 27
4 Pele (Santos) 26
5 Paolo Maldini (Milan) 25
6 Phil Neal (Liverpool), Oliver Khan (Bayern Munich) 23
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