Thursday, 30 April 2009

A GOOD WIN BUT WE ONLY WOUNDED OUR OPPONENTS--MAN UNITED VS ARSENAL REVIEW!


John O'Shea was the unexpected hero of he night as he scored the goal that won u the first leg home tie. Frankly, I was still questioning why Fergie selected him when he scored.
For now, let me just say it was a good result and a a wonderful performance--up there with our best this season. United however did not make Arsenal pay the full penalty for a lacklustre display. Credit to the keeper Almunia but we really should have taken at least one more of the many chances we made. It will be difficult at the Emirates, but at least we know know what to do if we are to make it to Rome.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

OLD TRAFFORD, IT'S TIME TO BELIEVE!--MAN UNITED VS ARSENAL, CL SEMI PREVIEW!


Is there a game played at Old Trafford in any season bigger than a semi-final of the Champions League? For me, there is none! Manchester United have definitely come up against bigger teams than Arsenal this season but you cannot deny that this is the most important home match of the season. It's a small matter of getting a good result at home that will help send us to Rome in May for the our second European Cup final in two seasons.
Unfortunately for my health, I've got a few worries ahead of this tie. It took United 9 years since '99 to make it to another CL final so you could see the desire and determination from the players in both legs of our semi against Barcelona. If it meant defending to get the result we wanted, we did. This season however, our players have suffered from a disease called complacency. It has cost us a few points but you feel the players always need an awakening in order to rise to the occasion. The past few games are testament to that. United might take Arsenal as fodder given that the club has never tasted Euro glory in its history, and yet statistically, they are currently the most difficult team to beat in England. They hold an unbeaten run of close to 20 league games and have not conceded a home goal since December. All that points to the importance of tomorrow's game. United need to do the damage in front of their own fans before they encounter the hostile atmosphere of the Emirates Stadium. United are capable of handing our visitiors a 4-0 thrashing but can as well suffer a hammering at their hands if they take them too lightly. The players we have have been there and done it so you hope that helps us. On the other hand, our opponents have bee there and failed to make it. It's what could inspire them more than us. You wonder if this opportunity has come too early for United--hopefully not!
Sir Alex has an almost full squad to pick from so hopefully he'll have learnt from Carlos Queiroz about how to handle the situation tomorrow. Walcott is threat number one for Mr. Patrice Evra. There is the now known Samir Nasri who is more than capable of taking advantage when defenders back away from him. If United defend well, then we could see this tie off in the fist leg. The Arsenal defence is not as strong as it will look--infact, they only defend by attacking! I feel that Sir Alex should not hold the fantastic 4 back if we are failing to hit the back of the net! Crucially for us, is the fact that if we try to beat Arsenal at their passing game, we'll lose--even both legs. We have the ability to put in a few tackles and play some 'air ball'. It frustrates Arsenal to the point of the white-flag. It's a mistake we did at the Emirates early this season and I hope we don't do it this time. We play he Manchester United way--and it's beautiful to watch but it's not the Arsenal way! Old Trafford, it's time to BELIEVE!

Monday, 27 April 2009

A RATHER SLOW MONDAY, LOOKING AHEAD TO THE CL SEMI!


First and foremost, congs to Ryan Giggs who for the first time in his all conquering career has been named the PFA Player of the Year for the season2008/2009. It was a such a shame that the League's most decorated player had never won it's top accolade. Thankfully, his peers have put that right. That however is not to say that it was an award given out of sentimentality as he has been United's secret weapon in their so far successful title defence. He has re-invented himself this season as our play maker and genius if you like and I must say that even in his hay days, I never bothered so much whether he was in the team or not compared to today. These days, you get a feeling of confidence when you see Giggs starting for us. It's not a surprise therefore that he has played in all our important games this season. The manager knows hos contribution to the team is invaluable. For instance, he left him out of the team all together against Spurs at the weekend, so you can bet your house that he will be starting when United host Arsenal on Wednesday in the CL semis.
The PFA Team of the Year is pretty much a United side. For some reason Rooney misses out but the entire defence including the goalkeeping position is United. Ronaldo, and Giggs complete the rout. Forget all the rubbish the Liverpool pundits utter weekend in weekend out, it's really some feat being recognised by the people you compete against. If the rest of the footballers in the league feel that Giggs and United have been outstanding, then that will do for me because they are the ones who come face to face with these players every week on pitch!
Rafael has signed a contract extension till 2013 which is good news. It's nice to see Fergie planning for futures of players like Rafael. They could be the ones who convince him not to retire as they will be too good to simply hand to another manager. I really hope that all our young lads get to commit their future to United as I think the fourth generation team is just about to be called for duty.
Now, after taking in all that Saturday teatime had to offer, United have a date with one of the world's most attacking teams in Arsenal on Wednesday and the prize for the victors is a place in the final of the Champions League for the second successive year. Now, we all know how hard it is to get to the semis of such a competition let alone the final. United have not really been consistent in the past in this competition but recently, we have made it a habit to reach the last four. The thing is, in such a competition, you never really know when your drought is coming. Look at AC Milan who used to win it as easily as a Carling Cup but did not even qualify for the competition this season. Look at Real Madrid, the record winners of the Cup but have spent close to 8 seasons without reaching just the last 8. United really have to make this opportunity count. Arsenal are by no means anybody's dream opponent, infact, they have already beaten us this season but if getting to the CL Final meant beating Arsenal, any United player would have taken it at the start of the season. Unfortunately for us, our opponents, as I mentioned earlier love to attack. It's the only way they know how to play. United have showed a bit of panic in recent games when the opposition reach their half let alone their penalty box. It's a disease that has spread quite fast in our defence and has consequently led us to conceding unacceptable goals of late. Somebody needs to get to Carrington to tell the lads that it is not a mortal sin to concede goals so defending should be done with a calmness that i we showed mid-season. For the full-backs, there is no shame in getting beaten by your opponent so pushing back when faced with a speedy winger like Lennon or Walcott on Wednesday is only suicide. Rather you time your challenge and try to halt him than giving him the perfect angle to deliver his cross. Hopefully, Patrice and Rafael or O'Shea will get this into their nuts! Meanwhile, there is a small matter of Chelsea and Barca to enjoy watching on Tuesday!

Sunday, 26 April 2009

IT'S NOT EASY BEING A MAN UNITED FAN THESE DAYS!---MAN UNITED VS SPURS REVIEW!


Let me first of all emphasise that it is not an easy job being a Manchester United fan these days. The month of April started in just about the same fashion as it is ending for United. After losing two back to back league games towards the end of March. United were starring at the real possibility watching Liverpool take their throne at the summit of the league having led from mid-January. We were conceding goals left right and centre and so you can imagine the mood inside OT when Aston Villa led us 2-1 with a few minutes to win the game. Somehow, we won the match. The FC Porto match might have just come too early for our players as the team nearly threw me into cardiac arrest with pathetic defending that had the Portuguese side take 2 away goals for the second leg. Somehow, we managed to get just about the only result that could take us through! We then had to negotiate past Sunderland in the lead but again United did not seem to be up for the challenge. Another late goal would ensure that we win the match though.
Yesterday was another one of those memorable game at OT bit how I wish we could start making it easy for ourselves. United defended so poorly in the first half that Spurs would have been too embarrasses not to put away the chances they got. Darren Bent got the opener when there were three red shirts free in the box. Vidic and Ferdinand both failed to connect with defensive headers. If that was a one-off, then the second was really a goal from schoolboy errors. Rafael was in centre half position when Modric got the ball unmarked in the six yard box! He couldn't miss from there. So there you had it, OT, shell shocked and I personally cursing the day I made a lifetime contract with the sport. Liverpool and their followers couldn't believe their luck. What a sorry half-time interval it was. United came out in the second half looking better and once we got the first goal, it was a case of game, set, match! Spurs might claim the penalty was a fluke but I guess it would be more wrong if it was not given. I don't think they could have seen out the match without conceding anyway given the performance in the second half.
The thing is, United do really have to work on their defending if they are to be a force in these last few weeks. Evra looks a little short of what he was a few months ago. But for as long as we continue to score more than our opponents, I won't be complaining much--just a little!

Friday, 24 April 2009

THE SECOND OF THREE MUST WIN HOME GAMES---MAN UNITED VS TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR PREVIEW!




It's no mean feat that we have had our best football this season at home--I mean look at Liverpool whose fans have witnessed more failures in their own backyard than successes. United lost just five points at home all season last year so given that we've already lost five there this term, I'd like to think that the remaining home games are must wins. Easier said than done though. Tottenham are the visitors to the European Capital of trophies this this weekend and it bodes for a very tricky fixture for a United team that has not engaged fifth gear all season. We've already played Harry Redknapp's men twice this season and both occasions have ended goalless after 90 minutes. Apparently Hurelio Gomes is one for the big occasion and you think we shall have to improve our finishing, from the evidence of Wednesday, if we are to finally get past him. He's a keeper in the mould of David James who will make a howler here and there but in the next minute will pull off an impossible save if it means that he will not concede.
For United, this is the first of many tricky fixture ahead as they bid to retain the league. Spurs, Arsenal, Middlesbrough and Manchester City are some of the sides Liverpool will look to to take points off United. Also, Manchester United are in another make or break week as the Champions League semi-finals loom. The Spurs game will be our second on the trot at home and then we play yet again at OT on Wednesday in the Champions League semi-final against Arsenal. Victories in both games will go a long way in ensuring that OT remains the undisputed European Capital of trophies!
Wes Brown or Rafael should come in at right-back and Berbatov or Tevez should start alongside Wayne Rooney in attack. Park or Nani should stand in for Giggs while Carrick will replace Scholes. I'd like to see Anderson in this game as he is the only player close to a holding midfielder's position whilst I think that the manager will keep Fletcher for mid-week given his work-ethic. Fingers crossed, United will stroll through. This fixture will be played when we know Liverpool's result with Hull so the lads should know what to do!

Thursday, 23 April 2009

13 POINTS AWAY!---MAN UNITED VS PORTSMOUTH REVIEW!


Well, in the end, I guess we can all do with three points as they are never guaranteed at this stage of the season. United were supposed to put on a performance last night as Pompey showed that they were not up for the challenge--instead, Ryan Giggs and co. contrived to miss several one on one chances that made us nervy until Carrick scored the killer a few minutes from the final whistle. United's problem in the past two months or so has been negotiating a second goal to kill off opponents and you feared that the goal would never come yesterday when our most experienced player failed to score on three occasions when only the keeper was between him and the goal. If anything, this was supposed to be the day when we improved our goal difference in case the title comes to that. In the end, Wayne Rooney did enough to spur us to victory and I hope he is in the mood till the very end of the season. Paul Scholes marked his 600th appearance with an assist that won us the game but the ginger magician will do well to reduce the number of stray passes he gives these days. Anderson looks more and more his natural replacement and I thought he was our man of the match yesterday. His pass to Giggs for our first goal was something next to Brazillian magic. He tends to lose concentration in games but he is essentially still a young player so you'd think that with time, he'll make the first team grade.
It was a vital win that will go a long way in delivering us that 18th title. As it stands, we could still lose 2 games and lift the title come May so I'd like to think that 13 points out of 18 will do for us.
From now till the end of the season, it's a matter of concentration and consistency and we'll be fine. If we negotiate pat Arsenal, we could find ourselves with a good chance of defending our two big trophies! O'Shea and Garry are injured so I guess it's up to Rafael and the returning Brown to sort us out at right-back!

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

CHANCE TO GO THREE POINTS CLEAR!---MAN UNITED VS PORTSMOUTH PREVIEW!

The task tonight is very clear! Win the game and take a threshold of the league title. The next two league games are at home so you'd think that United should get 6 out of 6. It6 will be a minor crisis at OT if we fail to capitalise on the slip up by Liverpool last night! The thing is, we will play Arsenal too and they will be much stronger than last night so we can't really feel comfortable about the 4-4 draw unless we drive our advantage home! It's that simple for United. After getting knocked out of the Cup on Sunday, the league remains as our best chance of lifting a major trophy this season to add on to the other two of course!
I expect no less than 7 changes to the side that started at the weekend, Hopefully Rooney will be fit to start. The only thorn in our opponents should be James who could put on a blinder of a performance tonight. Crouch is another potential part crusher given his height.
Fingers crossed from now till May!

Monday, 20 April 2009

SEMI-FINAL AGONY---EVERTON VS MAN UNITED REVIEW!


In many ways, this defeat hurts but again, when you look at the line-ups and the performance, you feel that the United kids performed to expectation. Sir Alex took the gamble of resting senior players and calling upon the young lads to get us to the final but unfortunately, it was not to be. Firstly, Mike Riely turned down a legitimate penalty that would have won United the match and then Berbatov and Ferdinand missed their penalty kicks when I expected both to find the net from 12 yards. Penalties are a lottery! There is no way a team can be blamed for losing on penalties. The only frustrating thing about yesterday's team was that we used a better team to get where we were and I thought that would be the policy throughout the competition. In the end, it's fair to say that Fergie prioritised and the FA Cup loss will not be as major as losing our grip on pole position in the league. United's position right now is clear. Firstly, there will be no more talk of a quintuple! Then, I think the league from now on is top priority as it is our most realistic chance of lifting more silverware. The Champions League will be a bonus but league matters should not be put at risk in favour of the Champions League. As far as I'm concerned, Liverpool's match with Arsenal tomorrow will define this run-in as they are their strongest opponents till the end of the season. United need maximum points from their next two games as they are at Old Trafford. Frankly, we cannot afford any more lost home points! The Everton match will have taken a bit of confidence from the lads but if we carry on defending the way we are doing at the moment, we could still defend the big two trophies that made 2008 another Manchester United vintage year!

Saturday, 18 April 2009

LOOKING AHEAD...


So the final word is that United will meet Chelsea if they get past Everton tomorrow and book a place in the FA Cup. One thing is for certain--it will be a difficult match if if materialises. There is something about Guss Hiddink that make his teams hard to beat. More on that if we get to the final anyway. About the semifinal, it seems to be almost certain that Wayne Rooney will be missing for us against Everton. He must have broken something in the game against Porto and it's unlikely that Fergie will risk him when he has options. I think that Fergie can rotate all he likes in the middle and in attack, but he should keep the defence as consistent as possible. Young Rafael has returned to training so he should cover for Brown instead of O'Shea. The Englishman himself is almost ready to come back so that would give us our strongest defence for the first time this season going into the the very hectic final lap of the season. We have an important league game on Wednesday so hopefully, the Eerton tie will not take a lot from the players. The thing with United's schedule over the next few weeks is that it's a bit tough on a team that have played the most football in Europe. With games against Arsenal and tough EPL opponents like Spurs and Boro in between, it might turn out to be a test of character. If by any chance we hit top form for the first time this season, we are likely to see ourselves through the remaining 3 competions. Hopefully that will be the case. In short, United are now not far for an historic achievement. The quintuple has never been easier than winning 12 matches. Not many teams would turn down the offer if they were told to win 12 games to bag every trophy on offer! Easier said than done eh?
But Berbatov has reminded us that WE ARE MANCHESTER UNITED!

Friday, 17 April 2009

CHANCE TO CONTEST ANOTHER CUP FINAL--EVERTON VS MAN UNITED PREVIEW!


The mood in the Manchester United camp is probably at a season high so far. After Wednesday night's achievement, you cannot fault them. Two Cup semis and leadership of the league arguably makes us the best positioned team in the world right now. I mean, we can still win everything going into the final month of the season. I was kind of hopping that the players don't get carried away with things ans it only takes a moment of complacency for the dream to be buried. Sir Alex Ferguson revived some nerves in me this morning when he uttered that he was going to freshen things up for Sunday's crucial Cup semi against Everton. I really do not understand what he meant by that as I fear he might be taking the game a little too lightly! Does he mean no Ronaldo, no Rooney, no Ferdinand, no Berbatov, what does he mean? I know United have such a big squad that can rise to the challenge anytime called upon but if there is any incentive that Everton are looking for ahead of this game, it's that United will not be at full strength. In case anybody needs reminding, we are playing the strongest side in England outside the big four on current form! Everton have been scoring goals of late and have players that will not be overwhelmed by the Wembly occasion. I'd like to think Fergie knows this and for what it's worth, is aware that this is the side that over two legs, eliminated the other side of the big four 'family'--Liverpool! It is not beyond them that they can eliminate United from this semifinal and contest the Cup Final themselves! Sir Alex will probably give a game to Park, Nani, Foster, and the like but hopefully, he reminds the lads the importance of this game. Among all the trophies we are contesting for this season, this is one whose ultimate hangover will not be felt as after this game, the final will be the last game of the season--even after the Champions League final! Imagine what it will do to our team to go into this run-in knowing we are already in our third final of the season. We've been short of the FA Cup this decade more than any other Cup so hopefully, this is the year! If United can overcome complacency on Sunday, we will surely overcome the romance that goes with the weaker sides in this competition.
If I was Sir Alex, I would stick with the winning team as it allows them to build on their confidence and get themselves comfortable in the winning formula. If a different team loses the match--even a slightly different one, it could damage the confidence built in mid-week!

Thursday, 16 April 2009

UNITED ANSWER THE PORTO QUESTION!---FC PORTO VS MAN UNITED REVIEW!




Well, if there was a time for Cristiano Ronaldo to come up with a magical goal, it was last night and boy what a goal it was! After eating away all my finger nails with barely five minutes gone in the match, the World Player Of The Year scored a wonder goal that was in the end worthy of sending United into the last 4 of Europe's Premier club competition.
Going into this game, a lot of questions were asked about United's form going into the season finale--the biggest of which questioned our ability to keep a clean sheet. I watched the remainder of the game in cardiac arrest as United failed to score a second yet I was almost certain that Porto would score to maintain our conceding record. In the end, I guess I should have put more trust in the return of our first choice central defence. Rio Ferdinand barely crossed the half way line yesterday and it has to be said, he has brought confidence back to our back four. United have not defended as good as they did yesterday for quite while and that is probably won them the match. Forget Ferdinand, he's paid to do so, what about the contribution of Wayne who played as a makeshift winger and basically nullified the threat of Hulk, who gave us a torrid time at OT. The England striker provided width and defence and probably was the unsung hero of the night. He was my man of the match!
The good news for United fans nowadays is that we don't just talk about Ronaldo's goals only. the lad did some good tracking back when he lost the ball, unlike in the past so he's becoming abit more mature and great things lie ahead for him if he keeps it up this way. Sir Alex got his tactics spot on yesterday although I feel that O'Shea is running out of steam as he has played more football than he ever expected this season. If Rafael is fit, the Irishman should take a break. I would have spent a whole load of lines praising Ron's goal but the press has already done justice to it. The important thing is that we are through to the semis and have set one or two records on the way! This is the furthest that a team defending the crown has gone for the best part of 10 seasons. It's looking more and more possible for United as the games drift by. This was the second test passed as far as our make or break week. The final test is on Sunday when we play Everton in the FA Cup semis. given the other side of the draw, it would be a shame if United did not win this!

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

THE SMALL MATTER OF WINNING A FOOTBALL MATCH---FC PORTO VS MAN UNITED PREVIEW!


Part 2 of United's make or break week takes place on Wednesday night in Portugal where the reds have to almost certainly win to progress to the Champions League semifinals. Elimination at the last 8 stage has never been shameful as the competition deals with only the best that Europe has to offer, but given our opposition, you would think that this tie should have been over in the first leg. No disrespect to Porto but United are technically a better team but if that can be proved by United in one night is another matter. The thing is that United are wobbly given their performances over the last month and any team almost looks as if it stands a chance against us. Porto are Portugal's best team so you'd think that they can easily ride home their advantage much better than Sunderland and Aston Villa. Given that it's hard to picture a three all draw in this one, I'd think that the only route for United is victory.
As far as tactics in this game are concerned, I think we need to attack till we drop. I mentioned that United cannot buy a clean sheet at the moment so it may come down to how well we do in the final third rather than how well we defend. Ferdinand should start so we virtually have our best defence over in Porto. Giggs will replace Scholes in the middle so that means creativity is guaranteed. I wonder however how Fergie will use his attackers. If we fail to score by half-time, I'd like to think that Fergie will put out the fantastic 4 all at once---besides, what have we to lose. If this game had come in the middle of January, we would all hope for a goal and the defence would have done the rest. Unfortunately, that may not be an option tomorrow as we are most certainly to concede. That means we might as well concede 2 goals for as long as we score three!
The last time we lost in Europe, we had the second leg away from home. Since then, we've always had the second leg at home and have made it to every other round unbeaten. Tomorrow, however, we have to call on the travelling support to BELIEVE and get the players going if we are to avoid another premature exit from Europe. As a matter of fact, I do not think we will get a better chance to get to the final than we do have this season. Evra, EVDS, Ronaldo will start after missing all or part of the action on Saturday. Come on UNITED!

Sunday, 12 April 2009

VITAL THREE POINTS, BUT...SUNDERLAND VS MAN UNITED REVIEW!


Quite literally, Manchester United just can't buy a clean sheet at the moment. Just when you thought that this was the game when United would put on a show and restore their confidence, they concede yet another avoidable goal.
There has been a slight dip in our ruthlessness of late and that has kept teams in games we have somewhat dominated. Sunderland rallied briefly in certain periods but we had two or three good chances to make it 2-0 after Scholes' goal that we missed. For as long as the opponents are still a just a goal behind, the will come at you for an equaliser. It's what has cost us leads against Liverpool, Aston Villa and Sunderland. Luckily for us though, Kiko Macheda was at hand to stab in another vital winner that has now re-defined the title race for us. Nobody in Manchester will care a jot that the winner was courtesy of a touch of fortune because it doesn't matter how they get in, they all count! United were once again not at their best and constantly gave the hosts reason to atatck! Cisse and Jones were proving to be a nightmare for Evans and Vidic. I feared the worst when Jones poked in the equaliser. Thankfully that goal came early in the second half so we had the time to manufacture an equaliser. Interestingly, of late, United have only been upping a gear when their back is against the wall--another example of how they like it the hard way! If only they could start in top gear and slow down when the game is already won! Berbatov--a surprise inclusion, got another stamp on his ankle and was replaced by Federico Macheda who needed only two touches and 46 seconds to get us what proved to be a winner. It must be said that whilst it's true the goal was sponsored by fortune, the kid did stick out his leg on purpose to re-direct the shot. On that note, I'd like to say that I was pleased United players did shoot a lot outside the box yesterday. Wayne and Carrick did give it a go and given that Kiko benefited from Carrick's shot, tactic did win us the game. It's a case of buy the ticket if you want to stand a chance of winning the raffle!
FACT; The rest of the big four did score 4 goals yesterday, but for as long as United continue winning their games in the craftiest of fashions, nobody else is going to win the league!
Personally, I'm only calling for an improvement in performance for the sake of the Champions League and the FA Cup where one has to be at his best to advance but I will not be spending sleepless nights if United stagger throughout the remainder of the league season with narrow ugly wins! The win means that the opposition now has less games (6) to overhaul United!

Saturday, 11 April 2009

A TIME TO STOP CONCEDING CHEAP GOALS!---SUNDERLAND VS AMAN UNITED PREVIEW!


They say that in life, there is time for eveything. These past four weeks have indeed been a time for United to concede stupid goals after setting up a record for successive games without conceding. I'd like to think that we've had our fair share of goals this season already. After going so many games unbeaten at the back, United have let in close to a dozen in four games! In previous seasons, our title challenge has been built on a strong back line that let only few past them. This season, we've not been at our best defensively especially when teams come at us. Sunderland will not provide as much attacking threat as the likes of Liverpool, Aston Villa and Porto so hopefully, a clean sheet will be first priority. It's interesting that United would have won more games in these past few weeks if we had kept a clean sheet in those games.
Ferdinand is out so O'Shea will deputise if Evans fails a late fitness test. The rest of the team, minus Berbatov, is more or less our first choice. We'll be playing one again after Liverpool so any slip ups and we could spend the next ten days off the summit. United do have to start clicking and by this I mean give less stray passes to our opponents. given the difficulty of some of the games coming up, if we do not go to the Stadium of Light and get the three points, then we'll be running the risk of giving away our title.
How about this. Fergie laughed when the Rafa question was put to him at his press conference---I laughed too! The FSW is the one feeling the heat!

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

DEFENCE AND RONALDO COSTING UNITED DEAR---MAN UNITED VS FC PORTO REVIEW!


Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez did get the two goals that Fergie wanted from this tie but at the other end, sloppy defending and constant loss of concentration cost United what would have been a healthy lead. Instead of going into the second leg 2-0 up, we will go there 2-2 level. Firstly, it's not ideal to go to Porto without a in as they hold an unbeaten record at their own home home turf. We will have to break a record to qualify. Then secondly, we've let the visitors take 2 away goals back home. That means that three possible results can eliminate us from Europe in the second leg; 0-0, 1-1, and a defeat of course. It also means that if we are to stand any chance of making it into the quarterfinals, we have to keep a clean sheet away and or out-score our opponents next Wednesday.
After breaking defensive records for the best part of three months, United can now barely finish a game without conceding at least 2 goals. That we have conceded 10 goals in our last 4 matches is testament to how far we have dropped as far as defending is concerned. Porto yesterday must have known the weakness in United's defence as they set about bombarding EVDS with pile driver after pile driver. Their first goal was gifted to them by Ronaldo who made no effort to chase after a ball he had carelessly given away. That's 2 goals he has given away in 2 games. Evans would have had it easy defending it if Ronaldo had tried to make up for his error.
Sir Alex has got some addressing to do as far as our defence is concerned. A poor defence nullifies our attacking threat so hopefully that will be rectified.
Yesterday was just on of those days when our midfield was not up to the task. Scholes an Carrick must have made over a dozen passes to opponents between them. There was a certain fear that gripped the team whenever Porto was in posession and you'd think that the Portuguese side was the home team. We improved in the second half and but for their goalkeeper, the ti would have been put to bed. However, in the end, the visiting team were the winners as they have finished the hard part of the aggregate tie with only a few scratches.
United meanwhile know what to do if they are still interested in this competition. Firstly though, there are 4 days to prepare for a vital league match this weekend. This time , fatigue will not be an issue!

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

THERE IS NO MORE ROOM FOR COMPLACENCY!


So unforgiving is the stage of the season we have reached that a small lapse in concentration can cost a team victory. United have been victims of complacency in the past few weeks and after winning in the manner they did on Sunday, one can hope that that is behind them. Wins are not got by right but they are worked for. If United players take to the pitch today and expect Porto to play as the away team then they might as well not turn up and save the club an embarrassment. Porto famously knocked out United from Europe in 2004 and there is every reason to fear them just as much tonight. Even though they may not have the charismatic Mourinho on their touchline anymore, they do have a couple of dangerous South American players and they also play as a unit. That will make them harder to beat. The fact that they are also the top team domestically will give them the confidence of playing as Champions when they come to OT. One thing is for sure, they have played in more intimidating stadiums than OT so the players should not be fooled into thinking they will be overwhelmed by the atmosphere at OT. In short, we are up against an experienced European team and so we should give our all if we are to avoid an upset. The other thing is that we are home first, so every goal they score will push us closer to elimination. The defending tonight has got to be ten times better than in the past few weeks. If 3-2 was an unbelievable result at the weekend, if we win 3-2 tonight, it will be an almost unacceptable result. We must not give away goals at home if we are to stand a chance in the second leg. In this competition, a 0-0 home result is better than a 1-1 home result. Hopefully, the players will be up for it. e have Vidic, Rooney and Scholes back so hopefully, it will be a better performance than Sunday. I'd like to see Carrick get into the groove once again as his performances have dipped lately, Fletcher and Anderson are at he moment, doing better than him. JS Park will start in place of Nani whilst I expect Fletcher to make way for Scholes. The Captain should retain his place and O'Shea should be given a rest at last!

Monday, 6 April 2009

TO HELL AND BACK IN TEN MINUTES!----MAN UNITED VS ASTON VILLA REVIEW!


When Gabriel Agbonlahor netted Villa's second goal yesterday, I wondered what it would take before we see the real Manchester United back in the groove. Clearly, the team was not as strong as we would have liked but United is not the kind of tram that needs all players available to put on a show. There were at least eight world class experienced players on the turf so that was no excuse. I blogged it here earlier that United is not the kind of team that will do things the easy way. They seem to do better when they are under pressure and one can only imagine what the press and rival fans were going to do to had the scoreline not changed after 80 minutes. Credit to the likes of Giggs and Neville who never gave up anything but kept urging their teammates on. I thought that Giggs was our man of the match. Neville, O'Shea and Evans are not our best defenders so I was never going to blame them for whatever they failed to do but Evra was somewhat close to his best. It's our defensive frailties that kept him back at times otherwise, we were on course for another good display from him. Ronaldo had a pretty decent game but his sluggishness and lack of heart caused Villa's second goal. His two goals kind of make up for that so not many will remember that error.
Old Trafford is called The Theatre of Dreams because of what happened in the last ten minutes. United finally got their act together and scored two goals to seal a potential title winning three points. The most important of those goals was scored by a certain Mr. Federico Macheda who is only 17 but can now look forward to more stints with the first team from now on! Welbeck could have been the hero, but it was probably fate gave the headlines to the kid whom people didn't know about! It was a result that will surely restore the confidence that United had lost for a while and hopefully shoot us to the finish line first.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

SQUEAKY BUM TIME INDEED!


It was gutting watching the Dippers snatch victory in United fashion yesterday. They now lead us by a point going into our game with Villa today. The good news is that unlike last week, we know too well what we have to do today so hopefully, there will be no complacency--the kind we've showed for the best part of last month.
Apparently, Sir Alex has rallied his players and you cannot help but expect that the experience of being involved in many title run ins will help United recover from this blip. It's a case of putting our act together and we shall be home and dry.
Then there is the issue of Ferdinand being captain after the departure of Giggs and Neville----well who else would I or anyone pick? If he can captain the side in the CL final then he can!
The reports suggesting that Ronaldo will leave for Madrid in the summer will not go away. If the News Of The World is to be believed, Real will table up to 70 million and then there is the Frank Ribery bit. He is, the moment, a better all round player than Ronaldo. It would be good business if that can happen but again, if that doesn't materialise, we can always have faith in our Madeira magician!

Friday, 3 April 2009

A CASE OF KILLOR BE KILLED---MAN UNITED VS ASTON VILLA PREVIEW!

Let me start by welcoming all faithfuls from the International break. It's really a boring weekend when there is no club football to look forward to but I bet that United, for once needed, this break. After assuring ourselves as champions yet again, we suddenly started cracking up in a fashion that can only be likened to Arsenal. Newcastle United and Liverpool. Thanks to our two consecutive defeats, the title race is just about as wide open as any neutral would have hopped. Suddenly and rather traditionally, United will have to do it the hard way if they are to retain their crown for a third season in a row. Forget the game in hand as we shall not be on equal terms with the rest of the league until May 13th! That means we shall have to endure the gruelling exercise of swapping league positions with Liverpool for as long as they keep playing and winning before we do. A case in point is this weekend. Liverpool play on Saturday whilst we play on Sunday evening. That means that by the time we play Villa, we could have dropped to second for the first time since early January. That may not sound a big as a problem as it is but the reality is that you play under more pressure than you did when you were top.
Unfortunately or fortunately for us, our opponents are on a bit of a sloppy run as well and that could play into our hands. However, it's a double edged sword so you cannot rule them out seeking salvation of their own by getting a result from us.
Our biggest problem this season has been indiscipline and I think we have been lucky on a few occasion not to get suspensions when our players are blatantly guilty of kicking out at opponents. This weekend, we do not have three first team players because of suspension. Vidic will be missed at the back, Scholes in the middle an Wayne's complete absence could mean that should we start the game like we did against Fulham and Liverpool, we might not get out of the slumber. United need to step up and show their quality. We have had 10 players out before and still won matches so this cannot be an excuse.
I do not know if United players have realised but we are at the unforgiving part of the season where a slip can be the difference between being a Champion or not. If Liverpool get official top position, there will not be enough games for us to chase them and overtake. It's a situation that won us the title last season. Chelsea simply ran out of games to atone for their past mistakes. Wining the title is as easy as winning the next 7 games, but if that is to materialise, United must look at each game as a must win and start every game minus complacency.
Berbatov is injured for two week so we have a minor crisis upfront. Ronaldo or Welbeck should be available to partner the Argentine who as I write this is yet to land in Manchester. Carrick and Anderson or Fletcher will line-up in the middle but Fergie could opt for the rested Ryan Giggs. Park will occupy the left wing. Ferdinand and Evans will line up in central defence whilst Gary and Evra take the other defence positions. Unless otherwise, EVDS will tart in goal. United have leaked so many goals since their defensive record was halted and the sooner they start on a new one, the better for all of us. Failure to win on Sunday will cost us our LAST advantage in this title race!