Outside the Box: Double vision for City while United have seen it all before


Having come through the fourth round of the FA Cup, the two Manchester clubs retain a chance of achieving the League and Cup Double, which would be City's first and United's fourth (one more than Arsenal), but only the 10th time the feat had been performed since the 19th century.

What is remarkable is how rarely it is done in any of the major football countries, even allowing for the fact that the domestic cup is considered less important than in England. Barcelona and Real Madrid have long been the dominant clubs in Spain, but have only five and four Doubles respectively; Barça, well ahead in La Liga this season, remain on course for another after holding Real in the Copa del Rey semi-final first leg on Wednesday.

In Italy, Juventus and Internazionale have only two each and Milan none at all. Elsewhere, Ajax can claim seven, Bayern Munich eight (all since 1969), Dynamo Kiev 11 (split between the Soviet Union and Ukraine) and Olympiacos 15 in Greece. Other than that, it is British clubs who dominate the list: Linfield 23 times, Rangers 18 and Celtic 13.

Meanwhile, following on from last week's item here, the TV companies decided they couldn't take the risk, slight though it may seem, of United's Double challenge ending at home to Reading in the next round of the FA Cup without the cameras being present. So the Berkshire club's supporters (no jibes here about Home Counties Man United fans) will be faced with an 8pm kick-off on a Monday night and a United FA Cup tie will be broadcast live for the 39th time in succession.

Teenage kicks and tricks

All Sunday-morning park players will be familiar with the occasional "ringer" turning out. But even though Stuart Pearce did so in his semi-professional Wealdstone days, moonlighting as goalkeeper "Yak Jensen" for Dynamo Kingsbury Kiev, it is less common at international level.

Suspicion was aroused recently when the Peru defender Max Barrios was sent off in an Under-20 match against Ecuador, whose players thought they recognised him as Juan Carlos Espinoza Mercado, a 25-year-old Ecuadorian. According to his documentation he was a native Peruvian, aged 17. His contract with the Peruvian club Juan Autrich has been cancelled and as investigations by the football associations of both countries continue, he has been warned he could face a long prison sentence.

Wolves left to wonder

A little late with this transfer news, but it appears that Wolverhampton Wanderers missed out on a player who might have transformed their fortunes with his amazing goalscoring exploits – 88 years ago.

The archive manager of Wolves' new club museum has been trawling through the boardroom minutes and came across this entry from 3 March 1925: "Enquire of Tranmere and Southend whether they were prepared to part with Dean and McClelland and if so at what price." The Tranmere player in question was William Ralph "Dixie" Dean, who signed instead for neighbouring Everton for £3,000. The next season, as Wolves pushed in vain for promotion from the Second Division, Dean knocked in 32 League goals for Everton.

It was two years later, having survived a serious motorcycling accident, that he recorded his 60th in 39 games as Everton won the League, before being relegated only two years later when he scored "only" 23 in 25 appearances. Immediate promotion followed (Dean 39 goals in 37 games) and by the time he left Goodison in 1938, his total was a remarkable 377 in 431 games. Wolves' interest was never made public.

The archives also state that in the late 1960s Wolves came close to signing Colin Bell from Bury. He, like Dean, made a shorter journey, to be a hero at Manchester City.

s.tongue@independent.co.uk; twitter.com/@stevetongue

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