Tuesday, 24 March 2009

A TALE OF TWO WEEKS IN MANCHESTER UNITED'S SEASON SO FAR!


Before I took an unwanted leave form this site, I wrote an article about how we were all dealing with the torrid week that Liverpool had put us in after that 4-1 drubbing at OT. The following Friday, we had the UEFA CL Quaterfinal and semi-final draw. Without exaggerating, that was the highlight of the week as far as positives were concerned for Manchester United. A tie with FC Porto in the last 8 and a with Arsenal being the strongest opponents we could face in the Semis, it was fair to say that the draw couldn't have gone better for Manchester United. The only worry for us now as far as the Champions League is concerned is that we have both second-legs away from home. We might have to seal our qualification in the first legs at home as away ties are usually not easy.
Then came the disaster that not even a Soothsayer would have seen! On the day we were supposed to be watching a United backlash, Fulham played us off the Park in the first-half and effectively saw off United with brilliant counter-attacking football in the second half. 2-0 it finished and United ended the game two men less. Scholes got his second red red card for United this season for a deliberate handball on the goal line (the first was in the Super Cup), whilst Rooney was harshly sent off for two yellows. Without wasting time on that issue, the ref was not as fair as he should have been.
It was the first time in 4 years that United had lost back to back league games in the league and what had been a mammoth lead at the summit of the league is now as slender as it could get. United now have only a game in hand as security for their table leadership and given that they will play their last game in hand in the last few weeks of the season, teh Dippers will almost surely enjoy a psychological lead over us if we don't defend our slender lead. If bouncing back against Fulham was too hard for the United players, doing it against Aston Villa will be harder. The other worry for United is that they have to do it without Wayne Rooney and Vidic plus Scholes and the usual absentees as far as injuries are concerned. It's a trying time for every United fan. United might still end the season in glory, but this is another example of why it is difficult being a United fan.

APOLOGY

I've been in a fix with my website hosts so I was not able to post a word about Manchester United in this period of all times, Don't hold your breath because one is coming up!

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

IN THE MIDDLE OF UNITED'S WORST WEEK THIS SEASON...


If there was one thing Manchester United players and fans would pay for, it's a mid-week game---the chance to put Saturday's disaster behind them and think a bit more positively. Understandably, fans and players a like seem to have hit an all time low. The press has not helped matters and one can argue that but for the press, Liverpool and Chelsea would have realised that the weekend's events barely help them. The men and women in the newsrooms have held nothing back in making people believe that United are actually feeling the pressure as far as this title race is concerned.
Incredibly, the Dippers went a month without winning a league game after Rafa's rant and found themselves needing to win at OT to stay in the title race. United go unbeaten in the Premier League for almost five months and then lose a game and suddenly they are cracking up? Give me a break! The only disheartening aspect about the loss on Saturday was that it was to our bitterest rivals. But the fact is that United have it within themselves to go and pick up the League crown come May without even keeping an eye on other results. Unfortunately, that cannot be said about Chelsea and Liverpool.
This talk of pressure that United is feeling is actually being believed by a section of fans and they have gone ahead to criticise some of our players. Such is the power of the press that they can turn one defeat in 5 months into a crisis. Personally I have to admit that I was kind of taking United's victories for granted. I was not even moved by the game against Inter at OT because I knew that we would win it. I had actually stopped being extra-nervous when United was playing--something that did not occur to me for the entire last season. People talk of United being under pressure this season and yet they quickly forget that we had to win the title last season on the last day of the season. We have more points at this stage than last season with a game in hand. Much as we might not notice it, United is in a position that is no better than any other team's position in England. The only thing that can cost us now is ourselves so that means that not even the press can deny us all titles if we win them on the pitch.
Sir Alex loves to call this time squeaky bum time and no one else is as experienced as him in this period. The week is dragging on as some fans still try to come to terms with what happened at the weekend but the reality is that there is no pressure in leading the league table--Jose Mourinho was not lying when h said that the pressure is on the teams below! Anybody cheered up?

Monday, 16 March 2009

AFTER THE STORM...


It's a Monday and we do not have any serious mid-week football so the press has what I'd say is a field-day as far as dragging United's name in dirt following our humiliating defeat on Saturday. Rafa and his boys have gone ahead to claim the pressure is on United---not that we didn't expect it but they might just not be aware of the team they are chasing. Guus Hiddink too sees a chance for his Chelsea side and suddenly the press claims it's a three horse race for the title.
Some papers claim that Fergie snubbed Sky for the 12.45 kick-off---and rightly so! Why should two clubs that have played tough European games play first on Saturday and two that never took part play on Sunday?
The news on Vida is a two game ban which is not that bad after all. Evans will play against Fulham and Aston Villa.
On our side, Sir Bobby thinks that the defeat will galvanise us for the title run in and I do agree. United lost a game as painful as this one around this time last season. It was Pompey in the FA Cup. A game that denied us a treble and one that we dominated from start to finish. Sir Alex rallied his boys after that and we ended up landing a magnificent Domestic and European double.
It's an experience that this team can draw. This game should have alerted our players that nothing is won yet but if we push a little further, we could actually do the impossible. This club is more than a disease and bigger than life. A set-back such as this should not be so much of a crisis that we should start feeling sorry for ourselves. We are still as good as we were before the game and that's a fact Rafa!

Saturday, 14 March 2009

A DAY TO FORGET---MAN UNITED VS LIVERPOOL REVIEW!


Anybody could easily bet against United for today's clash at OT but I doubt they would have dreamt of such a scoreline! A 1-4 defeat in the Premier League is not something that we United fans are used to so let me start by saying I'm disappointed but not shocked! That will come as a suprise given the name of this blog but you can tell who's been drinking alcohol.
Ever sine the Newcastle game, there has been a nervousness about our defending and I was only worried that this has happened at this point of the season. I was however more worried by the uncertainity of how we were going to be made to pay for this. We were going into a week where we had to play three different competitons and you only hopped that it was not the Cup ones.
Inter Lilan and Fulham could have niked crucial goals at vital moments in those games thanks to our now uncertain defending. There is no denying the fact that ever since our defensive record took a slight blow from Santa Cruz, there has been little assurance at the back. The good news for United is that they have been given a kick on the back-side with not so much damage caused as far as lifting trophies is concerned.
The only thing that Liverpool will get from this game is the bragging rights but there is nothing bigger, as far as United is concerned, than the League crown so that should set the tone for our approach to the title run in.
I'm not going into the details of how poor some of our players were today because one game cannot suddenly make world class player bad. It's just that the complacency of winning games so easily and routinely has got the players and corrupted their minds. In fact, United is very lucky to have a manager like Sir Alex who'm I'm sure will remind the players that nothing has been won yet!
For me, it only becomes a crisis if we drop points in the next game so until then, it will be a case of 'Has United woken up?'
The boss has already called for a response from his side so hopefully the lads will be up for the challenge come next week! It's a rare break for United as they are used to playing twice every week so hopefully the lads will be fresh with renewed energy for the game.
Vida was unlucky with the red but a few games off will do him good. The pressure that comes with being up there as a candidate for Player of The Year was probably catching up on him. His error was a turning point but if there is one player who United fans will forgive this season, it's Vidic! Jonny Evans will deputise in the meantime.
It's going to be a long week for United and their fans though but it will all pass!

Friday, 13 March 2009

LUNCH AT OLD TRAFFORD--MAN UNITED VS LIVERPOOL PREVIEW!


Well this was supposed to be the title decider but is now just another occasion when we renew our rivalry with our fellow North-Westerners. On the 28th of December, the Dippers were 10 points clear of United soaring high after a 5-1 victory over a hapless Newcastle United team. That was the day when even the non-believers were convinced that this was the year when Liverpool would win a 19th title.
What many failed to note was that that lead was heavily reliant on the fact that United had played three games less. It just couldn't get better for Rafa so he opened war against Sir Alex and to less extent, the FA. The rest is history!
Liverpool now come to Old Trafford 7 points behind United with the Champions having played a game less. It's a scenario that even Sir Alex never dreamt of. For them, it's a case of win tomorrow just to give themselves the slightest of hope as far as this title race is concerned. Even Chelsea right now look like they are best placed to challenge United. It's a testament to the dip in form that Liverpool have had since that infamous Rafa rant.
Enough of the Dippers, Sir Alex has reported no new injury concerns from Wednesday so that means the squad that beat Inter will be more or less the same to the one that starts tomorrow afternoon.
United have gone about 3 and a half months without losing a Premiership game so hopefully, that will spur us on.
I have a bad attitude towards Saturday early kick-offs because I think we have dropped points in each of them this season. Our only defeats so far have also come in such fixtures so hopefully this time, we'll come out on top.
Saturday will be about bragging rights for the North-West and a chance for us to deliver a knock out punch to Liverpool. It will also be a major blow for the likes of Chelsea if we win as that would cement our place as Champions elect! Lunch will be served quite early tomorrow in Manchester, but given the opposition, nobody will be complaining! This is a Special on the menu!

Thursday, 12 March 2009

THE DREAM LIVES ON---MAN UNITED VS INTER MILAN REVIEW!


The Dream Lives On! I don't know about you guys but it was another tough night as far as being a Manchester United fan is concerned. Yes we got the early goal to settle the nerves but that's not the end of the tie! We went about giving stray passes, back-flicks that never met their intended targets and I daresay, each of the misplaced passes of Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs nearly cost us a goal. So close were the margins yesterday that you could barely take in the next breath of air when Ibrahimovic glanced a header on to the bar. Then there was that through ball that I thought was destined for the far corner from the moment he let fly. United were playing their usual suicidal game and Sir Alex noted it. It could have been a much easier night, but as always, United like it the hard and nervy way!
Other than that, we made a great start to a game that I thought was going to be very difficult as far as breaking defences is concerned. When Rooney and Berbatov kicked off and immediately spread the ball to Ronaldo in attack, I thought it was the perfect tone to start a game where our opponents would be favoured with a draw. The corner kick resulting were as a result of that pressure. What interested me was that Vidic has scored almost half his goals from corners taken by Giggs. The two must be having some telepathy-kind of communication.
From then on it was a matter of the second goal and boy did they make us wait for it. Ronaldo rose to head in his 16th of the campaign to all but surely book our place in the last 8. Interestingly, we scored at the start of both halves and I think that's what really took the gas out of Inter. EVDS had just a save to make since shots against the post are considered off target. On the whole it was a good job done because the end justifies the means.
Now I said, when the draw was made for the last 16 that if we beat Inter, then I would most certainly want the trophy as I think Inter are the strongest team we could have got. I still maintain that stand and hopefully, the draw will be kind to us come March 20. A second leg at home is all I ask for.
Sir Alex has spoken of his desire to win this trophy and I think he'll be confident from now till the end as United do seem to have mastered the European game to perfection. In my book, we are now favourites for every trophy until we are dumped out!

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

OLD TRAFFORD, IT'S TIME TO BELIEVE!---MAN UNITED VS INTER MILAN PREVIEW!


A lot has already been written ahead of what I think will be a better game than the eventual Champions League final in May this year--and it's not surprising given that Jose Mourinho is one of the managers involved.
Manchester United go into this game on the back of a master-class performance against Inter in the first leg. Truth be told--should United play as good a they did that night, then there is surely going to be one result.
Having said all that, let me just add that Manchester United became European and World Champions last year because we took our chances. If Barcelona had taken the numerous chances they had at the Camp Nou, we probably wouldn't have got past them. If Chelsea had taken their all their chances in that final last season, we wouldn't have been Champions. The difference between us and them was that they hit the post three times in that final whilst we didn't. Regardless of the fact that Terry sent EVDS the wrong way, his failure to hit the target cost his team the title. So at the end of the day, the trophy is given out to the team that takes their chances. Now after all that, you must realise that we are way behind as far as taking chances is concerned. We had Inter at the slaughter table countless times in that first leg but failed to drive the dagger into their chest. My prayer is that we do not come to rue those missed chances at the end of the day. Jose Mourinho is not a stupid man and will therefore have seen what his team was lacking in that match and will probably look to a better performance from his team come the second leg.
Ferdinand, as I expected, is fit and will start alongside Vidic. The only worry for me as far as our defence is concerned is the manner in which we have been sloppy at the back for the past couple of games. We have been solid for the last 4 months so it will be a major blow if we start giving away cheap goals at this stage of the season. The Christmas season is already past us so I suggest we stop being generous at the back. The goals conceded against Blackburn and Newcatle were charity gifts. The thing is tomorrow night, for every goal that Inter score, we must pay for it with two goals of our own! Every fan will probably look to the attack for something tomorrow but I think our defence holds more responsibility on the day. The longer the clean sheet remains intact, the longer we shall remain in the tie!
It's on nights of such importance that Old Trafford really turns up the volume and I hope that the fans will try harder than the Inter ones as far as intimidating the opposition. Our greatest weapon will be the will to BELIEVE! At Manchester United, it's all about BELIEF!

Sunday, 8 March 2009

MANCHESTER UNITED ARE FOUR-MIDABLE!---FULHAM VS MAN UNITED REVIEW!


Well, after predicting wholesale changes to the team that beat Newcastle in mid-week, Sir Alex made just two for the trip to Fulham in the FA Cup. Ronaldo and Berbatov were rested with Inter in mind and suddenly we had a very strong line-up taking to the pitch at Craven Cottage. It's a system that I've always hopped Fergie would adopt. In the past, the gaffer chose to name a second string side with a strong bench when he wanted to rest a few players. What usually happened was that we would get our best players on when we are chasing the game. That approach hardly ever paid dividends. Remember West Ham at OT in the Cup in 2000/01 when Di Canio scored and then Fergie made a triple substitution starring Andy Cole, Dwight Yorke and Ole G Solsjaer? How about Exeter City in the Cup a few years back when we drew 0-0 away and got ourselves a needless replay. Besides the Derby game away in the Carling Cup, Fegie has chosen to play a stronger team than every one of our opponents and rest the senior players when we are winning comfortably. Yesterday, two changes were never going to hurt us given that the tea remained incredibly stronger--infact bar the absence of Ronaldo, that was the side that pretty much did the double last season.
The last thing on our minds was a replay and given the fixture congestion we've got, a defeat would be welcomed more than a draw. You didn't have to be told that, the team Fergie put out reflected that particular view!
Tevez once again reminded Fergie of what we shall miss if we let him go with a fruitful display of energy. Two goals--one that was a cracker--settled the early nerves given that Fulham had started strongly. Wayne Rooney curled in a third and Park continued his good run of form at the Cottage with a fourth goal late on. It was a demonstration of strength from United.
There is a group of fans that noticed the fluidity of our game in the absence of Ronaldo. That's not for me to judge but I doubt we were flowing like this early in the season when the lad was injured.
The win books us another trip to Wembley in mid-April but again that's another Premier League game called off. We already have one against Pompey so one can only imagine what the schedule will be like if we are still in the Champions League come next month!
Now a lot is going to be said between now and Wednesday evening--including reports that Jose wants the United job--but on our side as fans, it's time to BELIEVE!

Thursday, 5 March 2009

UNITED GET THERE IN THE END---NEWCASTLE UNITED VS MAN UNITED REVIEW!


It certainly will not go down as one of our best performances of the season but last night, it was all about United getting all the three points as it would be fatal to hand the chasers momentum at this stage of the season. It's always difficult when you play after all your challengers especially when they both won their games a day earlier.
Newcastle United is one of those teams that can easily get going when they have 40,000 fans behind them. It's why for the first 20 minutes we looked like the team fighting relegation while they looked like title contenders. Obviously they had to raise their game given the visit of the Champions but United should have seen it coming. It's one thing conceding an equaliser on an away ground like this but it's another conceding the lead. We were lucky to be just a goal down when Rooney got the equaliser as the Magipies rallied.
Fortunately for us, a mistake by Steven Taylor allowed Park to feed Berbatov with what proved to be the winning goal. It was one of those goals we've been missing since the departure of Ruud van Nistelrooy so nice to see Berba alert around that box.
Now, Ronaldo, as usual, got the best of Taylor's studs throughout the match and there are reports that the two of them fought in the tunnel at half time. Anyway, the Portuguese was not impressed with his treatment throughout the match and I was wondering how long it would take before he kicked out again at somebody. I've got no sympathy for the lad because he said 99% of defenders are fair to him and he also said that opposition fans should boo him more as it brings the best out of him! That's Ronaldo for you!
Then there is the small issue of a rare EVDS blunder that pegged us back almost from the on-set. I'll take Fergie's view on this one: You always hope that such blunders are made in the games you win!
Rooney took his goal well but I liked the way he covered up for Vida when the Serb was of the pitch receiving treatment. That was the instinct of a natural leader.
I was really pleased to get this win because it means that we can now handle a defeat next week better.
Before you complain about my pessimism, let me just say that I would very much prefer us to lose games against tough opposition than weaker opposition. It's why I was happy this time round that we didn't lose games against Bolton, West Ham, Man City and the like. The reasoning is simple, there are more weaker sides than strong ones so you collect more points from those teams than the others. Look at Arsenal for instance--they have beaten almost all difficult opposition that has crossed their path. They have the best record in the 'big four' standings this season but they have often times failed at lesser opposition!
The win sets us nicely for the big game at OT next week against Liverpool. Before that however, there is the small matter of an FA Cup quarterfinal against Fulham and then Jose is at OT!

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

UNITED PREPARE FOR A VERY CRUCIAL 7 DAYS!--NEWCASTLE UNITED VS MAN UNITED PREVIEW!


Followers of articles on this blog will soon get tired of me calling games crucial as I've branded about 5 games already as crucial to our season. The reality is that as the team goes on chasing silverware, especially on all fronts, games continuously become crucial. For instance, by this time next week, we could be talking about United being in just two competitions rather than three at the moment and a day later, we could be talking about the Premier League only! So unforgiving is the schedule for Manchester United this term that games are not only too many but also must wins.
Failure to beat Newcastle tomorrow could breathe new life in the title race and suddenly a trophy that looked as good as won last weekend could slowly but surely slip away. Those who doubt the impossible can glance at the Spanish Primera League table 2 months ago and then look at the current one. It's incredible how football can kick you in the teeth so I really do hope that United can maintain their concentration at least for another week. We play in the league tomorrow and then have an FA Cup last 8 tie with Fulham away before the biggest of them all--Inter Milan at OT! Such is the task ahead that you can bet that Fergie will try to rotate his team alittle bit. If I were him, I wouldn't take so much of a risk as far as rotating the team is concerned. Fulham have only lost once on their home turf so that could be an interesting game. Newcastle are the only team to deny us three points at OT so we shouldn't take them lightly. At least I'd assume that the side going to St. James' Park will be stronger than the team that started at Wembly. For the likes of Rooney, it's almost as if he's injured. Seven minutes at the San Siro and then no appearance in a Cup final that would eventually take 2 hours! Hopefully, he'll be given the chance to burn all that energy tomorrow. He has a good record against Newcastle and so will have goal in him throughout the match. This Newcastle team no longer has Shay Given in goal so a repeat scoreline of last season is very much possible if the lads can battle complacency all the way! Ryan Giggs has done well to remind them of what football can do to you.
Then there is a joke in the press today about AC Milan wanting to sign Nemanja Vidic--well, and I thought lazy journalism is saved only for the off season!

Monday, 2 March 2009

TWO DOWN, THREE TO GO!---THE CARLING CUP FINAL REVIEW!


Firstly, let me just repeat myself once again and say that it's not easy being a Manchester United fan. Yesterday's League Cup final was supposed to be one of those few finals when our hearts never increase the pace at which they are beating---something like Milwall in the 2004 FA Cup final. Instead, we had to settle for a nervy encounter that lasted even longer than many of us had anticipated.
This is not an understatement of United's efforts in the match because to be fair, Spurs are probably the most difficult opposition we've faced outside the top four this season. They make it very difficult for players to get shots off. Harry Redkanpp knows how to build a compact and stubborn team.
Unfortunately, I my electricity failed me just when the match was about to kick-off. I had to rely on Internet feeds for the opening half and according to what I've read, we didn't do so badly in the opening half. Spurs dominated the last few minutes of the half and in the end we probably deserved to go into recess level.
The second half was more evenly balanced but I thought that O'Shea was lucky to escape with just a yellow card after a series of fouls. I for one thought that Chris Foy would not hesitate giving the red as he is a well known Scouser. Having said all that, Ronaldo was unlucky to be booked when in fact he had been brought down illegally in the box by Ledley King.
Tevez and Anderson were then guilty of missed chances but the biggest gasp of all was saved for last when Ronaldo beat Gomes with seconds left in normal time but failed to beat the frame of the goal. It was slowly but surely turning out to be a replay of the 2005 FA Cup final which could have gone on for the whole day and we still fail to get a goal.
Extra time was the last thing on my mind because we clearly need our players fresh enough going into the business end of the season. It's one thing losing a trophy after 90 minutes but it's another losing it after 120 minutes! So going into extra time for me meant that our season would take a major blow if we failed to lift it. After another half hour of missed chances to reflect upon, penalties were now the yardstick. Our record at the right goal (TV view) has not been great as far as I can remember. Infact, we lost our last shoot out there---the 2005 FA Cup final. Interestingly, we have won all our shootouts at the goal on the left side. So I was alittle bit worried when the kicks were to be taken at the right. Fortunately, ours went in and they missed a couple hence the victory.
There are a couple of things that deserve mention after this game. Firstly, the performance of Ben Foster was man of the match material! Three times in the match, United were desperate for him to pull of a save and he did not disappoint. Some of the saves he pulled off did really show us what a goal-keeper we have in the making! England should be happy about that as he's only 25!
If he can learn a few things from EVDS before the veteran retires, then that's another position secured for a long while. I had reserved my opinion about Foster until I saw him perform on the big stage so now I join the millions backing him to succeed in United colours--at least the manager does think so!
The next big thing for United now is to turn attention to Wednesday when we play away to Newcastle. They robbed us of two points at the start of the season so hopefully we won't let others drop there. It will also be encouraging to keep our distance from our title rivals. Lampard reckons United will drop points so we ought to show them that we mean business in this title race. Every fan will want us to wrap up the title a little earlier so as to keep ourselves in the mood for more Cups. Having said that, we United fans don't usually get it that easy!