Saturday, 31 October 2009

BACK TO WINNING WAYS----MAN UNITED VS BLACKBURN REVIEW!


Berbatov, Owen and Obertan were guilty of missing chances that we would have looked back on if Blackburn had, in the end, managed to salvage a draw from the game. Thankfully, they didn't. United went into this game on the back of defeat to Liverpool in the league so we badly needed the points especially since we have a tough game in London next week.
Berbatov and Rooney got us the goals that won the game for us but you wonder if the Bulgarian will hit the 25 goal mark by only scoring spectacular goals. I mean he should also start putting away the cheap point black tap ins like the free-header he had today to boost his tally. It was another display of wastefulness from our attackers and when you compare the number of goals our rivals have racked up against Blackburn to our tally tonight, it's worrying.
Hopefully I'm not being too hard on him. Wayne is back to scoring so hope that lasts. We could really do with a goal from him next Sunday. I thought Obertan was too excited/nervous and so failed to put away a couple of chances. Owen is not doing himself any favours by missing the kind of chance he missed today but his goal in mid-week will let him off the hook for now.
I feel that Nani could do with a little bit of competition in the team so hopefully Obertan will start a few games. He seems to have the flash of pace and brilliance that we so desperately need. Valencia needs to start hammering in more crosses in the box than he does. I feel he is too elaborate with the ball. Anderson was my man of the match, shook off competiton from Evra.

In the most unchronological way I hope I have put across some of the things we need to work on to keep our chances alive of winning a milestone 4th league title in a row.
We did well in the Cup on Tuesday and have to deal with Tottenham at home at the end of next month to seal a last four berth! CSKA Moscow should not be a worry on Wednesday but how about the game on Sunday, there is everything to lose in that one! More on that later!

Monday, 26 October 2009

OOoops!----LIVERPOOL VS MAN UNITED REVIEW!




Yeah well, you should probably read the preview before this one (that's in case you missed it). I mean it was always going to be the curse of the form-book wasn't it? Any top club that was in Liverpool's form only needed such a big game to motivate them and deliver them from their blushes. It's that simple. We've had that curse working in our favour on a few occasions so it shouldn't be too hard to understand. Remember us ending Arsenal's unbeaten run back in 2005? Remember beating Jose's Chelsea 1-0 at OT--that Darren Fletcher goal? I mean it was already documented for me. I never expected, but hopped.

Good thing though that this is the league we're talking about and so it never matters if you lose to Liverpool every season home and away if it means that at the end you will win the title. Yes, the press will have a field day this week writing all crap about how we are missing Ronaldo---as if we don't miss Cantona, Best, Charlton, Law, etc---I mean is there any point in having them in our team now. Whenever they will learn that Ronaldo was not dismissed from OT?!
I still feel that if we can get the three points from the lesser sides in the league, we can still win the league. I mean we only beat a big-four opponent once last season--and considering that we've already beaten one this season, defeat to one of them should not mean doom.
Realistically, it will be harder for us this season--but this is United we are talking about. That we are distraught after what happened on Sunday is why I'm still confident in this season. If defeat is still sickening then I can only assume that we won't have many this season. You expect the lads to go on another run of wins that will quickly make us forget the game. I like the fact that whenever we lose, Sir Alex asks for a response from his players. That is what a team going for the the title does.

As far as the performance is concerned, well, it was not the worst of the season because with a better referee and a little bit of luck, we could have won the game. Our through balls were intercepted at the last minute by Liverpool's defence and the ref kept giving the home side soft free-kicks in the opening half whilst the likes of Lucas were let off a number of times. However, I thought Ferdidand was easily dealt with by Torres for the opener. The England centre half could and should have done better.
Vidic got his third consecutive red-card against Liverpool. The only concern there should not be for how long he'll be out but rather if that will keep playing on his mind for as long as he is in a game against Liverpool.
Valencia was unlucky as his hot came off the bar. EVDS survived a horrific tackle from that hyena Mascherano. It was really dramatic---nuff said!

We take on Barnsley tomorrow in the Carling Cup--and all eyes will be on Gabriel Obertan's debut for United. Could he be the answer to our problems on the wings? It's a chance for us to quickly put the defeat to the Dippers behind us and I really hope that we do.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

THE CURSE OF THE FORM BOOK---LIVERPOOL VS MAN UNITED PREVIEW!


If there is one thing that makes me sick in football, it's the way in which it can turn around and give you a kick in the teeth. Ahead of this tie, Liverpool's problems are well documented. Four straight defeats in all competitions have left Rafa in a sort of job comma. The club has also failed to shake off the board-room problems. Injuries to their only two players (Torres, and Gerrard) have made it impossible to hide their weaknesses on pitch. One or both could return for this game and boy how they are desperate for a win.
I fifth league defeat by the start of November would only serve to remind me that Liverpool are back to being themselves---remember Geraard Houllier days when by the end of October, they had fallen so far behind that it was a case of who between Arsenal and United would win the league.

The one funny stat is that even during those troublesome Houllier days, the Dippers used to surprise United with one or two unexpected defeats. It was a trend that was ended by Diego Forlan (remember that X-mas gift from Dudeck).
You see the thing is, Liverpool has performed so poorly in the last four games that they can't do any worse tomorrow. That means we will probably have to be at our very best to keep out what I would in this case call a wounded animal. It's up to us to make sure thy remain with no teeth. The goals we conceded last season there were basically as a result of giving in to their hurried style. Giggs should never have done hat he did and you thought that EVDS and brown could have dealt with their equaliser much better.
The pressure is on them again to come at u and look for the win, and whilst it's also on us to get the win that returns us to the top of the league, a point would still be an improvement on last season's result (I mean we got nothing out of 6 against them!).
For the love of all that is good and holy in this world, I hope Fergie was just kidding when he hinted that Rooney still has to prove his fitness for the game. I mean we need him for this one. Giggs should start, and so should the likes of Fletcher, Carrick and Berbatov. I really hope that Fergie keeps the defence first choice. Now Vidic has been sent off in each of the last times we've met the Dippers so fingers crossed he does last 90 minutes for this one.
Obviously there will be a motive to avenge last season's defeats. This game is as to England what Madrid and Barca is to Spain--so I mean it when I say the stakes are high! That's why we the fans shall be doing our very best to sneak in with beach-balls and give the Kop end a good run for their....don't even know what to add there!

Thursday, 22 October 2009

UNITED zzzZZZ THEIR WAY PAST CASKA MOSCOW---THE REVIEW!




Yeah so it was not by any stretch a good game of football--blame that on the pitch, not on United at least! Sir Alex, as expected, flooded the midfield and let CSKA figure out a way past us. They didn't, and late on he brought on Owen, changed to the conventional 4-4-2 and with a few minutes left, a good build up involving Nani and Berbatov led to Valencia getting us the goal that won us the game and put us virtually through the group stages. It's three games left and we need only a point to be sure.

As far as our performance is concerned, I was not too bothered, but I still feel that our defence needs to be more certain. We seem to be shaky when the opposition has a go at us. I really hope that Rio and Vida can get more games together so that they rebuild their understanding. In times ahead, we shall need results similar to that we got in Moscow--where you rely on your defence to actually win you the match. We've done it so well in the last couple of seasons so I trust that we can emulate that solidity.

Many United fans and friends alike who were watching the game with me were calling for the head of Nani. They actually don't mind if we sell him off by January. Regular readers of this blog will also appreciate that I've been too critical on him these past few weeks but I've been watching a certain aspect of his game that has impressed me. I mean I got tired of waiting for some sort of tricks and flicks from Nani that I started noting what I should call, other facets to his game. Let's face it, he's not as consistent as we expect him to be but we can't say that we don't benefit at all from his presence on pitch. I been watching him closely this season and ow I can comfortably say that he really does try to get back the ball when he loses it. I mean if you sit and replay the game, you'd realise that the Portuguese was playing some sort of Darren Fletcher role. I know that is not what we expect of him but I'm not as disappointed in him now that I realise that he does add us something that even Ronaldo did not give us at all. I mean at least we can sit more comfortably when he loses the ball compared to when Ronaldo lost it. The fact that he has had a hand in our last two away Champions League games will improve his life, but you feel that he must start putting away some of the chances he gets. Valencia's two goals in two games have driven away the critics for a while. Nani should probably buy himself some time and notch in one or two.

Wes Brown made an appearance in the game, coming on for Rio but I'm wondering when Sir Alex will finally restore him to the right-back slot that worked so well for him in our 'Double Champions' season of 2007/2008. John O'Shea remains just good cover for me and I feel that Brown can provide more of an attacking threat down the right.

Anyhow, it's the Dippers on Sunday and boy what prospects lie ahead for us. I mean imagine we inflict on them a, what, fifth defeat in a row? Oh and I forgot, this is really their year! Hah!

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

CSKA MOSCOW VS MAN UNITED PREVIEW!




An early preview for our next game! It's Moscow and most of us should remember the weird time for kick-off that Russian ties provide. It will be 5.30 pm in Manchester and 7.30pm where I am now when United kick-off at a venue we would all like to think of as our home! I mean when you consider the luck that we had on that pitch a couple of years ago, you'd think we had it charmed in our favour. Many of my friends have actually taken time off to look at the Champions League final video 2008, and it's still hard to believe that Drogba hit the post late in the second half at 1-1, then Lampard hit the bar in extra-time still at 1-1, then the Drog gets sent off before the shoot-out, and we think it's not advantage anyway, then Ronaldo (of all people) misses his kick, then EVDS can only help Ashley Cole's shot in, then Nani only just manages to keep us in the tie, and then the mother of all luck smiles upon us--John Terry misses Chelsea's clinching kick, then Anderson blasts us in the lead once again, then Giggs gives us match point and finally EVDS fools Anelka by pointing one way and diving the other way, the right way, then all of us forget our religions, customs, family and (for me) problems and unite in the heavenly glory of European Cup success! You can't say that Sir Matt Busby and the Busby Babes didn't have a hand in proceedings that night. Michael Carrick reckons that it was his best night and but for the miracles of '99, it would be top of my list as well!

Anyway, this is supposed to be a preview post---we are lacking a little over 5 senior players for this one and that must be largely because of the game on Sunday! CSKA are one of those sides that will punish you when the opportunity presents itself. They rarely let you off the hook. In that respect I won't see a point from this game as bad at all. Having said that, we still have the squad to win there, and it can only help that we go to Anfield on the back of a win!

Monday, 19 October 2009

SIR ALEX CHARGED, UNITED REVIST THE LUZHNIKI STADIUM!







I've deliberately been quiet about the Sir Alex and Riley rant that has been having rounds over the last couple of weeks, largely because I'm never surprised by Sir Alex's rants at referees. I'm at pains to actually remember the last time United had a season without the old Gaffer getting baned for at least a couple of games for surely the same reason. Let's face it, it's part of United's season! I mean isn't it a common image seeing Fergie in the stands on the phone instructing the assistants on what sub to make?
Anyway, we'll miss his influence if he does get as big as a 5 match touchline ban. No doubt about that!

On a more football front, we've got CASKA Moscow in the Champions League on Wednesday and it's gutting that Giggs, Rooney, Evra, and Fletcher are among the lads unable to make it there. You do wonder if Sir Alex has Liverpool in mind. I wouldn't blame him though as we only need four points to make it through the group--and who cares who finishes top, last season we got top and got ourselves a draw fit enough for the final at the last 16 stage!
United will be returning to one of the most historic destinations in the club's illustrious history. We'll certainly will never forget that slip by Mr Chelsea!

Sunday, 18 October 2009

HA! HA! HA!


THAT WAS MORE LIKE UNITED!---MAN UNITED VS BOLTON REVIEW!


Forget the fact that there was role reversal towards the end whereby the away side was looking for a late equaliser at Old Trafford, this league is not as easy as many think it is. United, nonetheless did play like United. I mean you only have to look at the video of the game against Sunderland and compare with that of yesterday to appreciate what I mean. Right from the first whistle, our lads clicked and went in search of goals and I must say that but for Jaaskalenean, it could have been a more comfortable afternoon for United.
The goals came from a Zhat Night deflection and a first for the club for Mr. Antonio Valencia who must have read one or two things about him on this blog and thence upped his game. His speed was vital for us as it complemented Giggs vision and intelligence on the other side.

Now this is not for a full match report, but rather to make one or two notes.
You have to feel for Berbatov because this lad does really make us tick upfront and yet the goals do not flow for him as much as he and all of us would like. I don't know how many point-blank chances he had to score in the derby but Given somehow kept him out. He was so good yesterday that you thought he deserved a goal. First Owen unfortunately got in the way of what could have been a superb goal in the first half, then the Bolton keeper somehow kept out his acrobatic volley in the second half. I really think the team is more like United when Berba is in. He does complement the talents of both Owen and Rooney.

Anderson did well in midfield--he tends to blow hot and cold these days. Ferdinand more like himself at the back--whether this was because of the return of EVDS is something that we'll never know. It was gutting not to keep a clean sheet, but when you consider what the likes of Chelsea and Liverpool went through in their respective games, we'll take the win as edgy as it was.
Top of the league again! One really hopes that we stay there much longer than we did a couple of weeks ago.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

A FEW MORE NOTES...


I've been quite engaged in my work this past week and so I have not had the time to follow our players on International duty. There have also been one or two reserve games that were important for various reasons.
Regular readers of this blog might be aware of the concern I have voiced towards our wingers given their inability to provide regular service to the attack. I thought that maybe the pressure is so much on Nani and Valencia to perform. I suggested that it was time that Fergie took a chance on another youngster in Zoran Tosic. I know the public opinion is that he still needs to grow some physique before he can get in the grove but I disagree. I mean I think this lad will not go down as much as Ronaldo did when he was touched in 2004. Besides, sometimes that physique is built by being involved a lot. Take a case of the likes of Walcott and Fabregas when they joined the Arsenal first team, what doesn't Tosic have physically that those two had.
Sometimes I look at the way he performs for his country and I wonder how good he can be if he had ten other good players around him every week! He, unlike Nani and Valencia seems to have a better goals per games ratio.

Gabriel Obertan made his comeback for the reserves as well and his brilliant touches as well as speed mark him down as one of those players we can't wait to see play for us. His arrival was not so much hailed--in fact, the arrival of Michael Owen was hailed even more than his, and yet he could be about to rock Old Trafford with his brilliance.
The return of Rafael and Hargo means that United should be stronger towards the half-way point of the season. In the meantime, we can only hope that the players we have remain fit. The only problem is that this will make Fergie rotate the squad more often than he has ever done, and though this has it's plus points, it can sometimes turn against you.
We the fans can only hope that it is onwards and upwards for United!

A MUST WIN GAME FOR UNITED---MAN UNITED VS BOLTON PREVIEW!

Let me just get this out of the way; every game is a must-win for United. I wrote in my preview for Sunderland that we could drop points in this one if we had won against Sunderland, so considering that we didn't, this game stands out as a very important league fixture, especially when you consider that our next stop is Anfield. We do have the beating of Bolton but there is something in our ranks that has not quite clicked yet. I really hope that for starters, our players can pass the ball to each other more often than we witnessed against Sunderland. I also pray that the likes of Nan and Valencia can put more crosses into the box more often than they have been doing all season. This could turn out to be one of those games where we need somebody to stand up and provide the enthusiasm that Wayne provides. He's ruled out (f*** luck) so we don't have him available till next week. Owen is back, but I wonder if he will be up to the task of playing the entire match. Berba will be our focal point of attack. There is no reason as to why Giggs shouldn't play, but perhaps Fletcher could miss out because of a bruise in midweek.
Thank God that EVDS is back! That's one goal less conceded when he's around. We've missed him! Our home form and our defence have won us the title over the last few seasons so I it's imperative that we don't let in more goals at the back and that we don't show the visiting sides the respect that we've showed the likes of Birmingham, Sunderland and even City!
We also can't afford to get any further back behind a Chelsea team that looks to be the real threat to our trophy. So Come on United!

Friday, 9 October 2009

LETTER TO SIR ALEX!


Okay, this is nothing next to an official letter, but I feel there are a few things that I feel Sir Alex has to address before we get into another chapter of the new season. Without wasting any more space on this blog, here goes...

Ben Foster needs some time to get back his confidence and the 'big stage' is not the best place for him to recover it. The lad needs some time off--another loan spell could do for him. Tomaz K is a more confident goalkeeper and even though he is not the best, he could do a job for us as EVDS's deputy. This season we've already let in a third of the goals we conceded the whole of last season so we need to tighten up a bit at the back if we are to maintain our status as title challengers.

Antonio Valencia and Nani are not yet at the level where they can command places in our team, I therefore feel that even Zoran Tosic should have a go on the wing as he might just turn out to be our answer. Forget his age, because we forgot Giggs and Ronaldo's ages when they joined the first team. Secondly, we seem to lack that little bit of creativity when Giggs is not in the team. What does that say about our creative players? In the same breath, I have to add that Berbatov has really carried the creative spark for us even when Giggs is not around. He deserves a pat on the back. It must be obvious now that until the rest of our creative midfielders click, we cannot afford to have both Giggs and Berba out of the team at the same time.

We...well...I do appreciate the fact that you have rotated our squad. However, I feel that the defenders, when fit should stay the same. You see defending is a little bit more complex than any other thing in football. You probably know that, so I wonder why Ferdinand and Vidic cannot continue their fruitful partnership when both are fit. I thought that at Sunderland both should have played. Throughout the game, we seemed as though we couldn't defend.

As far as the attack is concerned, I think Berba and Rooney will work for us.
Hope this letter reaches you!

Sunday, 4 October 2009

POST MATCH NOTES.




Sir Alex, in his post-match notes, reckons that Alan Wiley is unfit. He also says that there should have been a fifth minute of stoppage time given the goal celebrations for our equaliser.
Come to think of it, he's right on both counts but we had 90 minutes to get three points and we wasted half of the time sleeping. The moral for United should be that the first half is also pat of a football match.

WRONG DATE FOR AN OFF-DAY---MAN UNITED VS SUNDERLAND REVIEW!


Well, well, well, what can one possibly say. I mean I posted in my preview that I really hoped that we get the win this weekend and possibly save the dropped points for the visit of Bolton or for the game against Liverpool. It would have made it ominous for our rivals playing today. As it sands now, they really can't feel the pinch of dropped points regardless of what happens today.

As far as the game is concerned, I thought that Fergie picked the wrong team. Why leave out the likes of Carrick and Valencia when we have an International break coming up? Welbeck is more effective upfront rather than on the wing, and of course I'd rather have Tomaz Kuszczak in my goal rather than Ben Foster. Unfortunately, I doubt the latter concern will ever change, but I thought that he should have come in harder on Jones for the second goal. It was a very soft goal to concede.
John O'Shea was at fault for their opener as he showed too much room to Darren Bent.
Berbtov took his goal well, and thought he was one o few at the races yesterday. It's a shame his wonderful volley featured in a game we would want to forget. The lucky deflection from Evra's drive could yet prove crucial this season, but I feel it was two dropped points.
A neutral observer would probably question United's ability to spark without Ryan Giggs. The bad news for United though was that Fletcher revisited his past form and Scholes couldn't get his passes right this time.
Additionally, it seemed as though our defenders had forgotten how to defend. Sunderland looked like they would score every time they attacked, and but for a few last minute challenges, would have.
I doubt Fergie's wisdom in changing the back four as often as he does to the midfield and attack. More on that later.
The result is bound to cost us our leadership of the table, depending on what happens today.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

NOTHING MUCH


We could really do without the nail-biting we endured last season in this particular fixture. Thank God for Vidic!

Friday, 2 October 2009

THE FIRST CRUCIAL POINTS OF THE SEASON---MAN UNITED VS SUNDERLAND PREVIEW!

Many will question my wisdom in selecting such a tile for this post for a game that should be a straight forward win for us.
Well, it's not that I doubt United's ability to beat the likes of Sunderland, but rather the ramifications of failure to do so.

United, for the first time this season I think, get to play before their major rivals for the title, and more importantly, have the chance to go clear at the summit of the league or at least gain another advantage over their major rivals given that Chelsea and Liverpool play against each other on Sunday!
Quite frankly, this is an opportunity that we cannot afford to let slip, if we really want to defend our trophy for the third time in a row and win it for the forth time in a row.

The boss has already confirmed that Owen will be available as early as next week, Rafael is recovering well and EVDS is not far away. It means we will only need Hargo to return to be at full strength for the first time in over a year. Fergie claims it's becoming more difficult for him to select the team but I'm thinking, isn't that a better problem to have?

What could make this game very difficult for us is our inability to make full use of the chances that come our way. We were fortunate not to pay the price for this against Stoke and Wolfsburg but you feel that at this rate of wastefulness, somewhere down the line, we will pay; and given the way football can give you a rude awakening, what a blow it will be if we pay this weekend of all weekends.
The thing is we shall do a good job of deflating the confidence of both Chelsea and Liverpool if we actually win tomorrow. One might argue that we rather drop points next week than this weekend because whilst the difference won't reflect physically, it will psychologically.

When you come to think of it, you feel that we should actually win both of our next two games as they are, above all, home games against weaker beatable opponents. Six pints from these games will set us on our way to Anfield in better spirits than our last visit there.

THE WEEK THAT WAS!

It's just one of those days when I fail to make a preview and a review due to factors that I must say are beyond my control. Anyhow, after the win at Stoke, United were preparing for a tough Champions League encounter against Wolfsburg--who by the way are the German Champions!
After watching that game on Wednesday night, I thought that we wouldn't get a tougher game than what the German outfit provided.
You have to feel for Sir Alex, he cannot maintain the same players throughout the season because he has to avoid player burn-out, but you feel he ought to start Berbatov and Rooney in important games. I think Owen will do well of the bench rather than starting the game. The reasons are obvious. He no longer has the pace that got him away from defenders back in the days but if he gets on with a quarter of the game left, you feel that fatigue in the opposition defence will enable him get past them and poke in winners. Afterall, he will be fresher.
I think that Berbatov is the creative spark at United and so we really look lifeless and toothless without him in. The groin injury suffered by Owen that night must be a blessing in disguise. All who have eyes did see the way Berbatov made our team click when he came on. Perhaps it should not be a foregone conclusion that the team should be built around Wayne. The Bulgarian does bring a handful of players into the game with his brilliant link-up play and it has to be said, it's beautiful to watch him make deft touches and buoyant passes.
You really have to appreciate his contribution to Michael Carrick's winner!

The only worry for United should be what we shall do when Ryan loses his unbelievable form at the moment. Obviously we cannot expect him to keep it up till May and of course there will be days when even he is not enough to get past teams. This is why Valencia and Nani should step up. Nani's problem is well documented. Valencia has this problem of thinking that he has to speed past a player before making that all important cross into the box. You wish he adopted the David Beckam mentality of hoofing balls into the box regardless of who is there--you only have to see our winner against Arsenal to know that it doesn't matter who heads the ball, it can still end up in the net.

The Defence: Has Rio Ferdinand become too big to defend? He seems almost afraid of the ball at times and I wonder if he is still as effective as he was for us a couple of years back. I'll give him the benefit of doubt though as he has been on this unbelievable run of injuries lately.

Tomaz K did well in goal and there is something about his confidence that I like which I don't see in Ben Foster. There was little he could do about the gaol but he did pull off some great catches that took the pressure off us. I prefer a keeper who makes a catch more often than a punch. It does increase confidence in the defence.

At this point, let me just make it clear that I am not be-heading our players but quite simply assessing them as they proceed to give us what we need this season!