Saturday, 29 November 2008

SPARKY THINKS THAT IT'S GOING TO BE AS EASY AS IT SOUNDS--WHAT A SHAME!




I never intended to add anything to the preview I have already made for the weekend's derby but a little something has made it necessary that I rant again this weekend.
Speaking at a press Conference ahead of the Manchester derby, Mark Hughes said enough to suggest that: A. Citeh will surely do to United what they did to Arsenal last weekend and
B. The Bitters will surely be as big as United in the next two or three years.
Well how about that for total s**%t! Just to brush aside suggestion A quickly, United have never been an easy team to beat regardless of the opposition. Even the likes of Chelsea are forced to clear off their goal lines in the last second before they can celebrate a victory against us. So if City think this is another team with a whole load of problems in the dressing room, they are in for a spanking!
The second suggestion is rather more sensitive and delicate. It took Manchester United at least two and a half decades of sustained success to be as big a club as they are today. The success in the 50s and 60s certainly did come in handy and all that hard work has made the club what it is today. When I talk about a club being big, I mean having fans all over world--including the less popular destinations of the world. I'm not sure about elsewhere but here in Africa, you'd have to travel the entire length of the Sahara to find anybody clad in sky blue with the words 'Thomas Cook' imprinted on the shirt. In fact, I've been to most of the sub-Saharan countries countries but I'm yet to find a City shirt in any store on sale--I mean even the businessmen know where the money is--and it's not in Wastelands. It will take some kind of sustained success before some fans pledge their lives to such a club. In any case Sparky, I highly doubt you will be in charge when this happens.

Friday, 28 November 2008

IT'S THE CITY DERBY--MAN CITEH VS MAN UNITED PREVIEW!


United's third away game in 8 days is at the Wastelands. Manchester City have certainly proved themselves as formidable opponents for United in the past few seasons--hence adding more heat to a derby that needs no introduction.

The bitters did beat us last season home and away but all that was forgotten as United went on to have one of the most succesful seasons in the club's history. It must have hurt them, seeing us lift another European Cup and winning the league for a 17th time.

Forget last season, this season, the derby takes on a whole new meaning! Apparently, the arrival of Abu Dhabi has certainly given Manchester's rent boys hope of becoming the bigger team in Manchester. What a sorry lot they are!

Then there is the bit of landing one of the world football's best players in Robinho on the last day of the transfer market. It certainly has helped them as they are leading the bottom half of the table! HA HA HA !

Dimitar Berbatov senstionally chose to play for the red-half at the last minute instead of joining City. It was certainly a kick in the teeth for them--and how I would love it if the Bulgarian sticks one in the back of the net.

A lot has already been said ahead of this clash so I'll spare the verbal diarrhoea for now. What United do need though is a win that will see us pull away fro the immediate pack below us and move closer to the top two.

The other news coming out today is that we have secured a work permit for Torsc(sp). It's good to see that Fergie is still investing in this club--one wonders if he'll really quit in a couple of years as he claims. Chao!

THE WEEK THAT WAS....


I don't think I remember the last time United went on to draw 2 consecutive games 0-0. It spells a lot of 'shite' for a team to consistently come out with such results. So after 'escaping' with a point from Villa Park, United went on to play the same kind of' 'forgiving football' and let Villarreal escape with a draw on their own pitch. Much as we dominated them almost throughout the match, we should have punished them. We are in an era where the scoreline matters more than the performance--so that was disappointment number one!
Then there is the Nani question. This is supposed to have been the guy who replaced Cristiano Ronaldo this season (had the lad gone to Real Madrid). Nani is the only player in our ranks who can come close to whatever Ronaldo can do for United. He has all the skill available to him--the question is, does he have the brains? He did not justify his place in the line-up especially in the second half and I felt that he should have been replaced. I certainly know what Nani is capable of, it's just that he is not really giving it a go. His performace was disappointment number two!
Carlos Tevez is ideally the victim of Dimitar Berbatov's transfer to United. He has started more games on the bench, but I expected that he would at least be the first player off the bench for United. I do not understand why Fergie is constantly playing the other subs ahead of Tevez. I mean even Gibson gets off before him? Tevez and Rooney are as good as midfield players so it wasn't like he would leave the midfield depleted. That was my third and final disappointment on the night.
Otherwise I'd say that we did okay. Referees MUST start protecting Ronaldo as I get the feeling that his leg might just not hold out any longer one of these days. The punishment given to Capdevilla should be warning to those that go diving through the Madeira magician.
It's Citeh this Sunday! Somebody is going home with a bloody nose on the Sabbath!

Sunday, 23 November 2008

WE'VE GIVEN THE LEADERS A BIG LET-OFF--ASTON VILLA VS MAN UNITED REVIEW!


It's not often that the so called 'big-four' fail to muster a goal between themselves in the same weekend. One might say that then nobody should feel down as every other team dropped--but Manchester United will. Chelsea were playing (their shite) without knowing that Liverpool was doing the same at Anfield. Arsenal of course were, well, I'm speechless. United on the other hand knew that all their rivals had dropped points before kick-off at Villa Park. It was hurting therefore thatwe were almost fearing to attack the Villains or villagers (call them what you like). There was impressive record that United had at that ground heading into the match--so we all expected something of the sort....well unfortunately, football does not always go according to the form book.
Fergie paired Rooney and Tevez upfront--our starting pair in our very successful season last year--not bad huh! I must say Tevez was not exactly into shape as he wasted a couple of good balls. Rooney himself must be suffering from the 99th goal syndromme--when you get there, you take ages to add on. He had our best chance of the game and only he knows why he had to go for power and I mean POWER! He should have scored.
Ronaldo was not getting any protection from the ref and so that nullified our main route to goal.
Let me save you the verbal rant and just say that it was a frustrating day at the office.
On the brighter note, this might just be a point gained for United. This Aston Villa side is not like the one that put up the white flag before half-time for the last 11 years. Secondly Brad Friedel is one of those goal-keepers that will hardly put a foot wrong when United come to town--so any hopes of a mistake at the other end were as good as absent. And we cannot rule out the fact that Villa themselves certainly could have had the goal they wanted as they had a good measure of shots on target. Credit to the Minister of Defence--Rio Ferdinand and his Deputy--Nemanja Vidic. Agbonlahor has given most defences a terrible time at the office so it was good to come out with a clean sheet.
It's a tough call on any team to play 3 away games in 8 days. We have to fly to Spain and play on Tuesday and then play the bitters away on Sunday. Hopefully it will be week to remember for us. Till then, yours truly is out!

Sunday, 16 November 2008

A LOT ABOUT THE KIDS!


Sir Alex yesterday fielded a Manchester United side that, regardless of injuries, showed one or two hints about about what is to come in the future. For starters, I thought he got the tactics right. Basing on the performance of Rafael in the game at the Emirates last week, he could have been tempted to start the young Brazilian. Credit to him he didn't, for the simple reason that the kid is barely my height(5'9). Stoke's secret weapon is basically aerial, so a lot of height in your team only helps youi counter it. It's why the gaffer selected the Irishman and Carrick and Fletcher--all who are above 6ft. It's no surprise that it was O'Shea who got his head first to one of Delap's long throws. At this point, credit must be given to the groundsman for digging up the pitch at the sides to make it steeper and henceforth make it hard for Delap to perfectly execute his 'assists'.
Jonny Evans is one of our beneficiaries of the Carling Cup but the times he has come in the first team, he has been as outstanding as any other senior player. He was one of our best players in the draw at Stamford Bridge and he did equally well yesterday against strikers twice his size. A rock for the future. Danny Welbeck showed why he is highly rated in the OT ranks with a thunderbolt of a strike that Cappello must have taken note of. He certainly fits the Manchester United grade and should therefore be a regular soon.
Gibson's power is well above his age and his contribution will not have gone unnoticed. United have been drawn against Blackburn in the Carling Cup but the quality of the players coming through the Academy suggests that Fergie should not worry about fielding them in the quarterfinal clash at OT. And then Fraizer Campbell dumped the Scousers out of the Carling Cup and then scored yesterday off the bench. It would be foolhardy to lose such a talented player. At this rate, the national team of England has a brighter future.

NOW THAT'S MORE LIKE MANCHESTER UNITED--MAN UNITED VS STOKE CITY REVIEW!


"It's good that we are making chances though, somebody is going to suffer"

Those were some of the words uttered by Sir Alex after watching his guns create firing opportunities but spurn all as United let Arsenal off the hook last Saturday. In truth, Manchester United has traditionally thrashed at least one team heavily each season they have played under Sir Alex and one can therefore understand the fiery Scott's confidence in the fact that United have been creating a lot of chances. I have been critical of the team recently for letting teams off the hook so easily this term but yesterday, United did not give Stoke a break. A 5-o scoreline is what many fans wanted as an 'apology' for what happened last week and it's exactly what they got--in some style too.
MATCH REPORT
Every time Cristiano Ronaldo stands over a free-kick, the majority of the Stretford End drop their shoulders. Ideally, we are used to the passing success of David Beckham so much so that we expect the lad to at least test the goalkeeper. This season though, the ball has come off the wall more times than the goalkeepers' gloves. So many could have been forgiven for taking off 5 seconds to look at their neighbours for the first time in the match instead of waiting for Ronaldo to let fly(for just 10 yards). The thing with the lad's free kicks is that when he gets them right, they are hard to stop--an inevitable goal at that. And wouldn't you just know it, Ronaldo scored his first goal for United from a free-kick and his 100th came from a free-kick. It was probably the perfect way to score it as it took the entire OT(including Stoke fans) by surprise. The Potters must be cursing their luck as to why Ronaldo got it right on two occasions against them. It was also good to see the Madeira magician re-ignite his goal-celebration zeal that many claim he had lost.
Many might not have noticed but Michael Carrick is certainly getting the feel of finding the back of the net. He has netted twice in the 3 games he's played since his injury. I've always admired an attacking midfielder who can create as well as score himself. If he keeps this up, then we shall reap big from another goal scoring threat on pitch. A well taken goal that, that won us the game before the break and made sure we came out from the locker room with other things in mind rather than a Stoke come-back.
Berba showed great composure and quickness to tuck a pass from Tevez away under pressure from a defender. It certainly does take a little pressure off him as many have questioned his failure to find the net regularly--as if there is anything wrong with creating goals.
It was wonderful to see Manucho make his Premier League debut alongside Danny Welbeck. And what a way to announce your arrival at the big stage--Danny Welbeck is certainly a class act. I've seen this guy and Campbell play and if they can share the goalscoring burden down the years for United, then we shall have Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke re-born! (And I'm not exaggerating). Ronaldo rounded off a memorable evening with goal number 101 to finally give United fans a scoreline they have waited for all season--5 without reply! Long may that ruthlessness continue! It will certainly take us places this season(as if Japan isn't far enough).
FLOM Man of the Match is Cristiano Ronaldo--the channel through which most of our attack was based, and of course for getting his free-kicks right twice in 90 minutes!

Saturday, 15 November 2008

MAN UNITED VS STOKE CITY PREVIEW!

After labouring to break down QPR at OT in the Carling Cup, Manchester Unted return to domestic duty on Saturday. After suffering a damaging 2-1 defeat against Arsenal last Saturday, United will be looking to bounce back with a victory.
For starters, it's kind of good that we are playing on Saturday at 3 o'clock. United fans rarely get to watch a game at that time. We have fared pretty well when we don't play an eaqrly kick-off of sorts. Livepool, Arsenal, Everton were some of the beneficiaries in our mid-week hangovers that needed a little more time to subside. So that should be good enough of an omen. The there is the small matter of Rory Delap's throw ins that hve terrorised almost each one of Stoke's opponents so far. Arsenal are the latest victims. Tony Pulis' side have so far thwarted Liverpool and Arsenal so they know how to handle the big occassions. United's defence that somehow let Bentdner have a field-day last weekend must be up for the high jump this time. Let me hope Vida and Rio are taking notes...
I heard that Scholes will be back for the City derby so that is a boost for us as Hargeaves will not feature for the rest of the campaign. Carrick and Anderson or Fletcher should meanwhile get their act together and support the forwards. I'll leave the team line up for Fergie as I have already given my views on who starts upfront and who takes right back. At the end of it all, I hpe that United do win because WE NEED THE POINTS!

Sunday, 9 November 2008

A CASE FOR DIMITAR BERBATOV


The Daily Mail and other Sunday papers have been running a story concerning Manchester United's Dimitar Berbatov. Apparently, Sir Bobby Robson is not impressed with the Bulgarian's performance so far. I mean it's amazing how fickle some people can be as regards to the game. It does not surprise me that one of the greatest causes of WW2 was the English press! In England, they people are paid to fill newspaper pages rather than for reporting valid information.
Sir Bobby claims that Berbatov did shite at the Emirates on Saturday and that his one goal in the league is not enough for a club as big as Manchester United.
Well for starters, Sir Alex did not sign Berba solely for goals--but for that extra bit of creativity about him. We have goal scorers at United and that is why we won the biggest double last season. The stats show that United are now finishing games with a record number of attempts at goal compared to last season. Berba has added a lot in terms of creativity. He is already our assist leader this season and if that is what he can add to United then so be it, we'll take that!
It will be Sir Alex and not SIr Bobby that will deal with Berba if he is under performing. Sir Alex is not the kind who will field an under performing player for 9 straight games. It shows there is something he's doing right. This talk of Berbatov being Cantona is what could probably be misleading people. Berbatov is not and will never be Cantona and the vice-versa is true. Berbatov is Dimitar Berbatov--end of story, the fat lady sings!

A CASE FOR OWEN HARGREAVES




During the summer of 2007, Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson splashed out 17 million pounds and signed long term target Owen Hargreaves from German giants Munich. The Enland International was delighted to join United and said that his desire to move to the NorthWest was probably the worst-kept secret in football. Hargreaves however played just half the games of the season--spending most of his campaign in the hospital room giving company to Loius Saha. His tendinitis problem had been bothering him whilst at and kept on recurring month after month at United. He would probably have had a century of caps for England if he was as fit as David Beckham.
Despite his injuries, Owen did play a vital part in Sir Alex's search for the Holy Grail that was another European triumph. The times he played, United were lifted. He scored his first goal for the club--a free-kick against Fulham and then went on to score one of the most important goals of our season--another stunning free-kick that sent Arsenal down the drain and kept us well above Chelsea. United fell into an injury crisis toward the end of last season but Hargo came in and ably deputised in the right-back slot. Interestingly, he had his best game for United whilst playing at right-back in a 1-0 home victory over AS Roma in the Champions League.
He was also part of the heroic starting 11 that won United their third European crown.
This season however has not been any different for Hargoas he has made just three appearances. His persistent knee injury is beginning to frustrate the fans and surprisingly the journalists. It was only last week that we heard reports sugesting that Fergie wanted to get rid of the Englishman--lazy journalism for me!
This week Hspecialistwill visit a specilaist in the USA to try and solve his knee problem.
My take on this one is--we should give him a chance. I mean if Fergie can be as patient as he was with Louis Saha then why not for Owen? He is one of those players who plays with a passion for the club and he has that priceless experience about him as he has played at the very highest level. I trust that Sir Alex will not let go of a player if he still sees value in him so I'm hoping that Hargo makes a return that will silece all his critics for good!

THINKING ALOUD AFTER THE ARSENAL GAME...


So United have failled to register a win against any of their title rivals on foriegn territory--surely it can't be that bad, can it? I mean let the pundits start yapping when we fail to win against them in our ow backyard. Getting a win against Liverpool last season at Anfield does not mean that United will win there every season. A defeat at the Emirates is not something to worry so much about because it's not one of those results you automatically expect.
It's incredible what a result can do for a team in the space of a week. Last week, the press was all over Wenger when his side lost to Stoke City. Some fans even questioned Wenger's policies for the first time in 12 years! And yet after yesterday's result, suddenly Arsenal are out of crisis and can now win the title. The truth is, it's still early days as far as this title is concerned. United have now played all their rivals away from home already and are realistically 5 points off the top( plus the game in hand). That cannot be cause for concern as we still have to play each of them at OT in a period when United are traditionally in fifth gear. So the points gap is not worth talking about anymore.
Now Garry Neville is clearly past his best and there were one or two signs that told so at the Emirates yesterday. It's not that he had an unfortunate hand in Arsenal's goal rather that the impact Rafael made on a substitute overshadowed 80 minutes' work. He already has to contest the right back slot with Brown but I should think that he should be kept out of the fast paced games--such as encounters against teams that play the Arsenal way. Not that Fergie had a choice today as we would have raised eyebrows if the youngster had started.
It will be interesting to see how Fergie handles the whole affair.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

A CASE OF "JUST ONE OF THOSE DAYS"--ARSENAL VS MAN UNITED REVIEW!


Manchester United made the trip to the capital after coming away from Parkhead with a valuable point in mid-week. Arsenal, given their problems, was supposed to be a sure three points for United. But if football was as predictable as that, it probably would not have as many fans as it has.
Garry Neville led out United as injury to Wes Brown has left United light-weight at right-back. Otherwise it was the best possible line-up that Fergie could send out to the Emirates. United did start well enough--Michael Carrick firing wide after an indirect free-kick in the box. But for some reason, Nicklas Bendtner kept getting free headers in the box. Vidic and Ferdinand were clearly not up for the aerial challenge posed by the Dane.
And then all hell broke loose--Samir Nasri fired in a Berbatov clearance that, but for a wicked deflection off Neville, would probably have been saved by EVDS.
United should actually have taken the lead earlier. Wayne was perfectly set up by Ronaldo but somehow, he shot wide. It's becoming tricky for him. October has ended and one wonders if it's a case of 'wait for next October'.
But he cannot take sole blame for the result. Nothing came off for anyone. Rooney, Carrick, Berbatov, Ronaldo , Anderson, etc all had their chances to put away but the Arsenal goal was living a charmed life. The second Arsenal goal did kill it for us but one wonders what could have been if we had made it 2-1 a little earlier. Anyways, it was good to see Rafael get his first goal for United--a well taken strike at that! We've had our problems in London, and maybe this was just another one of those "London days".
The result does leave us in an unusual position. It's not often that United are eight times behind Liverpool in the league. It will now take another run of wins to keep us in touch with the leaders till Christmas. Hopefully we shall bounce back in the same way we did after Anfield. For now, it's QPR in the Carling Cup on Tuesday.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

UNITED REAP BIG FROM WEEKEND--RIVALS WATCH!




Inspite of our very own problems(complacency), I'm glad that Manchester United have been the biggest beneficiaries of this Premier league weekend. Our lads held on firm for a 4-3 victory over Hull City at home. The incredible series that is the Barclays English Premier league is surely not for the faint hearted. Such is the strength of the league that anybody is capable of beating anyone!
Much as we can read a lot into United's failure to beat Hull City comfortably, it's not often that United have come up against teams that will continue to play 4-3-3 even at 4-1 down. You have to give the tigers a lot of credit for their determination to get something out of games.
If Sir Alex is going to scold his players for winning 4-3, then you wonder what Arsene Wenger will say to his lads after drawing 4-4 with Spurs in mid-week and then losing 2-1 to Stoke City(of all teams). What about Rafael Benitez who watched his side easily beat Chelsea last week and then take an early lead against but still come away with no points?
I'm particularly glad that the Scousers have now really invited the doubters for a field-day! The talk of it being their year will now be hushed for quite while. They have been fortunate enough to be leading at this point but it's not just luck that wins titles. At the start of the weekend, I said that I was having trouble calculating how far off United was from the summit but at the end of it, it seems we now have top spot in our sights--if only we had played our game in hand by now! United now need that little bit of consistency to make it to Christmas while still in contention--and when they get there in touch, the result is usually a league title to lift come May!

SOMEBODY PLEASE TELL UNITED TO DO AWAY WITH COMPLACENCY--MAN UNITED VS HULL CITY REVIEW!


It is widely believed that Sir Alex has long given up the hairdryer treatment to his players, but if I could get into that dressing room right now, I would give the team the team a hell of a telling off! I certainly cannot remember the last last time United conceded 3 goals at Old Trafford, but that is exactly what happened today. Hull came from 4-1 down to lose 4-3 when we could have actually won the game 7-0! What was Vidic thinking when he pulled King's shirt without any serious reason to do so? And Evra should have been aware of his surroundings by the time he flung himself in the air to head a diagonal ball! Ferdinand could and should have dealt with the ball earlier--instead, he chose to go for a ride with the an opposing player in the box! Ideally, all the three goals we conceded were, for lack of a better word, cheap! Instead of bolstering our goal-difference, we worsened our defensive record! I mean Chelsea who scored 3 on Wednesday at Hull got a better result than us who scored 4! They have just beaten Sunderland 5-0--that's thirteen goals for them in 4 games with just one let in! It will be certainly difficult for us to challenge them at this rate! It's hard to believe that we were 4-1 up and yet it could have ended 4-4! The same disease that attacked us at Everton and against West Ham is still well within our ranks. Ronaldo had 5 good chances on target but could only make use of 2! Berbatov was once or twice caught in sloppy possession while Rooney--well October is over, but we really do appreciate assists as well, not just goals.
I'm also finding it incredible that we just cannot defend well in the air! Martins scored against us with a header and so did Fellani, Kalou, and now Cousin! We need to work a lot in that department as most of our opponents have set-pieces as their best option up front!
Having said all that, it was nice to get the win anyway, Ronaldo is now finally over his ankle operation ( I think) and Berbatov has finally arrived at OT. He got two wonderful assists today. It was nice to see Carrick mark his return with a goal and also nice to see Vida score for United without using his head! The win lifts us into third place going into the weekend clash against Arsenal at the Emirates. The Gunners seem to be suffering from an epidemic right now so it's not the worst time to face them, for now however, it's Celtic away in the Champions League!

MAN UNITED VS HULL CITY--PREVIEW!


The week that was saw United win a training session against West Ham United on Wednesday to record another three points for themselves in the board. And then there was the talk about Fergie winding up Calderon. Apparently, the United manager is said to have said that signing Heinze was part of Real's plan to sign Ronaldo from the European Champions. Then the press goes about claiming that Fergie likened the Spanish club to Spanish dictator General Franco(which the fiery Scott has denied). And what do you know--Calderon has had it--he calls the United manager 'senile' (a cheap shot for me)!

Now, in yesterday's press conference, Sir Alex smacked it back in the face of the Real President, asserting that a lot of 'hot air' comes out of Calderon and that in the end, he is glad that Ronaldo is still a Manchester United player. Calderon better take note of the fact that he is no match for Fergie when it comes to war of words. The gaffer has been there with the best and is still the best, so unless he wants to wound up till he drops, he better shut up! Why do I get the feeling that in this season's Champions league, it's gonna be United vs Real somewhere in between--and God knows that the press are going to have a field day!
Anyhow, United get back to business this weekend. Now in any other season, I would advice Fergie to rest a few classy legs on a day when we are playing against any of the promoted sides--but not this time! Hull City is one of the 5 teams above us in the league and nobody needs a reminder as to how they've got up there! More importantly, a victory would allow us to go above them in the standings--closer to the summit! Many a times, we fans have wanted to calculate how many points we are off the summit but have had our view blocked by the Tigers! Hopefully, after today, it will be a lot easier.
United will go into the three-o'clock kick off without Wes Brown who picked an ankle injury. Gary Neville should however come in to bolster us in that department. Carrick is vying for a place in the team--and my word, we have missed him! He deserves a starting berth after showing off a few accurate passes in his cameo role on Wednesday. EVDS will return in goal while Giggs is probably fresh enough to win a staring berth after missing out completely in mid-week. And as for the forward, Fergie will have to sort out that part! I'm not risking another headache So here's to hopping for a 5-0 win!...(I WISH HUH...?)