Monday, 30 November 2009

SECOND CHANCE FOR THE KIDS---MAN UNITED V TOTTENHAM PREVIEW!


First things first... Chelsea managed to restore their five point lead over us in the league by beating Arsenal. Many are now happy to declare them Champions but I really doubt that we shall relinquish our trophy that easy. We only have to keep doing our job--picking up maximum points!
Now on to tomorrow's game--Sir Alex has blasted the English media for their criticism towards our young players that featured in the defeat to Besktas. The official webs site will give you the mouthful that the fiery Scott gave them.
To be fair, I thought that the 'kids' did well and the experience will help them. I don't know how man sides in Europe can put out a team of under 22 that can challenge European opposition. It's a tribute to the guys who work with the young lads in the academy.
Thankfully for them, our second string side gets its chance to correct the wrongs of last week with a home tie against Tottenham in the Carling Cup quarterfinal. Spurs will obviously prove much tougher opposition for them than Besiktas but we have home advantage and so I really hope that the players can use that to their advantage.
It will be interesting to see who starts in goal because everyone thought that Tomas K did enough to earn a spot in tomorrow's game. He is for me, a better choice than Ben Foster--at least until the latter can regain his confidence.
Otherwise it will be pretty much the same team that lost to Besiktas last week. I only hope that Fergie can give Berba some game time to restore him back to match fitness. Park and Owen might also get a look in...and thence I ask the question--What happened to a certain United player called Nani? Does anybody know? Injured? Holiday? Sick...?
The other point of discussion today is the right back slot. O'Shea seems to have made that position his for now but he is hardly the best we can hope for in that area. I thought that Rafael would step up but he seems to play football as though he is starring in an Indianan Jones movie--that explains all the flying and lunges, and adventurous forays that have become a part of him---I'm not sure that's the best we can get either. Neville is way off the pace but he does know a thing or two about crossing that ball and he has the experience. I think that if or when Rio gets fit, Brown should resume his right back duties that served us so well in the season we won the biggest double in club football.
For the lads tomorrow, I think they can only do themselves a favour by striving to stay in the competition as I think it;s the only channel through which most of them will get an opportunity to impress. I mean only a few get to look in the first team so this is their Cup final. The FA Cup third round against Leeds or Kettering will be their next match if they blow this chance!

Saturday, 28 November 2009

A TALE OF PENALTIES---PORTSMOUTH VS MAN UNITED REVIEW!


Thank God for the points!
Now that I've got that out of the way, let me point out a couple of things about our latest result. First thing first--it was a great win! I mean Fratton Park has been a sort of bogey ground for us so to get four goals there is no mean feat.
Rooney bagged a hatrick, his third for United and Giggs scored another wonderful free-kick that installs him permanently in the Premier League Hall of Fame--100 goals not out!
On the face of it, it seems to have gone all well for United but it could just as easily have gone all wrong for us. Just how the ref managed to grant Pompey a penalty for absolutely nothing will always be a mystery and you could see the impact it had on our players. To put it mildly, it was plain cheating! I really wonder what Fergie would have had to say about the ref if that penalty had cost us maximum points--I mean there he was serving a match ban for insulting an official, watching another official practically rob us of the lead. It was disgusting!

Enough of that! I thought Fergie overworked our midfield today by playing Rooney as the lone striker. It worked but if you saw that first half and what the stats said about us, you knew we lacked personnel upfront. Berbatov should have started or at least come on. I thought Neville was poor, and his lack of pace would have cost us dearly against more capable opponents.
The stand out performers include Rooney, Valencia and Giggs. The one on top of that list however is none other than Tomas Kuszcack(sp). Regular readers of this blog should know that I've always rated him ahead of Ben Foster for the simple reason that he is confident. Yes he might get beaten but confidence is all you can ask from a goalkeeper. Today he pulled off saves that I thought kept us in the game. I counted five world class saves and given our position in those respective periods, those saves might have won us the game. He was for me the man of the match and I think its time Fergie granted him the number two spot. It will be gutting to lose a keeper of his quality.
Valencia was our best player in the first half and I think that today he used his pace quite well to our benefit. Scholes had a relatively solid performance in the middle of the park but you wonder if it is he that was picked to play behind Rooney as he hardly got past the centre circle!

In the end, massive three points that put us within two points of Chelsea and hence puts them under some pressure to get a result tomorrow. It's the sort of pressure that works against the teams above you hence my emphasis on the need to win today. We've got Spurs in the Carling Cup on Tuesday but for now we can sit back and sip a lemonade or beer if you like as we watch the action unfold from the Emirates stadium. I heard that Ancelloti was supporting Rafa when we went to Anfiled a couple of weeks back. No marks for guessing who Fergie will be supporting tomorrow! cheers!

A TEST FOR UNITED'S TITLE CREDENTIALS---PORTSMOUTH VS MAN UNITED PREVIEW!




So far, not bad, as far as United's title aspirations this season are concerned--but for all their ability to spring into gear in the second half of the season, I can't see United as Champions come May if we fail to beat bottom placed Portsmouth today. For me the league champion is that side that inflicts the most psychological injury to their rivals. So far we've had one chance to do that (against Sunderland) and we've not taken it. When your rivals are clashing a day after you play, there is nothing better than winning your game a day earlier and watch them drop points the following day. Had we beaten Sunderland at home, I feel that Chelsea would have been more nervous going into their game with Liverpool. Instead, they went about their task comfortably and in the end won the match without breaking much sweat. We're now five points behind and for many we can't afford to drop any more before Chelsea do.
This weekend gives us another opportunity to eat into Chelsea's lead and watch them travel to the Emirates under all sorts of pressure to restore their advantage. The logic here is that our failure to beat Pompey will only encourage them to extend their lead even further and an eight point deficit in November is the last thing we need right now.

Now that I've made the essence to win clear, how about we assess the difficulty of the task.
On paper, it should be a straight win for United given that Pompey are mathematically the worst team in the division so far. However, they changed manager in mid-week and that, as we have come to learn does change teams radically--usually for better! It's an old foe this time--Avram Grant aka 'The Frog' will be in the dugout today. We have a little history with him as we were probably responsible for his sacking when we won the European Cup two years ago against Chelsea. The British media will love to think that this is his chance to get revenge and possibly do his old club a favour.
Sir Alex has already pointed out the effect that Grant could have on the players but I feel that we United are above that and so should be able to get the points at Fratton Park even with a spirited performance from Pompey!
The regular absentees are absent but Berba will be fit to start.
Just in case I've not made my point, here it is---this is a must win game for United!

Thursday, 26 November 2009

NOT EXACTLY HOW WE PLANNED IT TO BE!---MAN UNITED VS BESIKTAS REVIEW!


Yeah so well if you read the preview, you might just as well accuse me for complacency but I made it very clear that any result bar a defeat was acceptable. In the end, we lost and in turn lost our 24 match unbeaten run at home in Europe. Well who cares! United is good at 'firsts' but we are not the kind of team that thrives on making records. Contrast our form at home in the Premier League with that of Chelsea and you'll know what I'm talking about--but who ends up with the league title more often? It was gutting to lose our record against a team that is way below us in the European rankings (no offence to Besiktas) but at least that is out of the way so we can play with a bit less pressure when tougher teams come to OT in the following stages.

As far as the game is concerned, I thought that we learnt one or two things from the players on show---Gabriel Obertan can give us what neither Valencia nor Nani can provide us with in the first team--penetration! Quite simply, I think we might benefit more from him in the first team--I mean he seems to have the 'finishing' problem that Ronaldo had when he joined us so I think more exposure could turn him into a gem just like it did for Ronaldo.

Secondly, I think that we have a 'finishing virus' in our team this season--I mean I thought it was just a problem of the first team but if you look at the chances that Besiktas had in the game and look at ours, especially in the first half, you could say that they were the likely team to score each time they attacked! When you come to think of it, they could have been two up at half-time albeit against the run of play.
They had a lethal touch when near our goal compared to our lads who were only willing to find a route through their defence or to pass the ball till the six yard box. If we are to challenge for major honours this season, we need to work on that---fast!

Hard luck on Macheda who by all logic should have beaten Rustu at the death. When you think of that chance as well as his header against the post against Wolfsburg, you wonder what we would all be making of his potential.

A point would have granted us the leadership of the table but now we have to earn that in Germany! You only hope that this defeat will not disrupt heads ahead of the game at Portsmouth--which now stands out as a must win for us--reasons in the preview!

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

A TIME TO RELAX----MAN UNITED VS BESIKTAS PREVIEW!


Make no mistake whilst reading the title of this post--we have to preserve our proud home record in Europe for as long as it lasts. United face Besiktas in the Champions League tomorrow and, well, it's one of those games where a preview is not needed! I'm just doing routine work here.
So the whole world expects Sir Alex to make wholesale changes for the game. I reckon that the likes of Obertan, Macheda, Welbeck, Owen, Gibson, and the captain Neville, will get a start. Unfortunately, our defensive crisis means that we cannot afford to change the back four.
Park is back so I'd think that this is the perfect stage for him to get some match fitness.
This is our last group stage home match and a win will surely grant us top spot(not that it guarantees anything given last season).
A good run of games can only do the system good so I hope that we don't upset the winning momentum that we built on Saturday for a long time to come!

Saturday, 21 November 2009

EVERTON SUFFER BACKLASH!----MAN UNITED VS EVERTON REVIEW!


I doubt we have performed any better than today at home this season in the league. In the City derby, we defended like a Championship side, against Arsenal, we got lucky and the rest were pretty much close shaves.
The 3-0 scoreline today wasn't flattering and I think we could have got more. The main concern for us now should be the difficulty we are facing in getting goals. I mean we have created enough chances in our last two games to win four games comfortably but we only have three goals to show. The number of goals we have compared to the ones Chelsea and Arsenal have goes to show our weakness upfront. I wish Valencia could adopt the philosophy he took on in the second half today---shoot on sight. It's an old cliche that if you don't shoot you don't score and I hope the deflected goal he got today will show him that. Having a defender infront of you should not hinder you from taking a shot because it might as well be the reason as to why you'll beat the keeper! The same pretty much applies to Carrick who also got his reward today.

Now, today, Old Trafford witnessed one of its best goals of all time---yes, of all time--from Darren Fletcher. From the moment that ball hit the back of the net, I was reminded of Zinedine Zidane's goal in the Champions League final of 2002 against Bayer Leverkusen. It was that good and it goes to show how much the Scot has improved in the last couple of years. He was my man of the match.
I thought we did well defensively and mention must go to Evra, who ran his socks off on the left and kept trying to create the much needed spark we needed.
I thought Giggs was a notch lower than his average performance for us this term. Owen was a bit too heavy on his touches and too slow to react to situations.
In the end though solid performance, clean sheet, three points that should kick start a long run of wins. We're second now but it remains a five point gap to eat into.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

A TIME TO SOW----MAN UNITED VS EVERTON PREVIEW!




It's an early preview for the weekend's game but what should one do if all he can get from Skysports news is Thierry Henry's handball last night?
After a two week break, club football resumes for the long haul this weekend and it couldn't have re-started any sooner for United. We are a club that thrives on wins so it's sickening when your last game reads 'L'! The defeat to Chelsea was hard to take given the way we played and the fact that we went five points behind means that we have it all to do between now and the new year to address our position in the league. The Champions League is not an issue now that we are into the last 16 and the Carling Cup has it's hungry players; what we really need to do now is push on the league and go on a winning run, the kind that sent us to the top of the league last season.
The players and fans alike have been talking about going on a winning run but I really hope that they realise it's not a given right that United will win all its games until the visit to the Emirates.
If we can build on the quality we showed at Stamford Bridge then we can pick up those thirty points, and I'm quite sure we'll be top then. We seem to have maintained our poor run of results against the other members of the 'big four' in the league so we cannot afford to lose points against the lower league sides.

Sir Alex's ban starts next week so he will be available to give the fourth official an earful in the Old Trafford dugout. Most of our players have been away on International duty so I hope the fitness levels will be high. You fear for the likes of Evra who played for two hours on Wednesday. O'Shea picked up a knock so it will be interesting who Fergie picks to replace him in case he fails to recover. Berbatov broke the Bulgaria goal scoring record for the national side in mid-week and he should make his return alongside Wayne Rooney. Park played for Korea in mid-week and should therefore be available and so will Nemanja Vidic. I doubt if Ferdinand will be fit till next month.
Other than that, the manager has the freshness of Owen, Giggs, Scholes and Neville to count on if he wishes so.
United have not yet started winning league games convincingly and that is largely down to the poor finishing we've shown of late. I hope we really get into the mood of finishing off teams early and taking our chances because that is what will determine our run in into the new year.
Chelsea's lead is not unassailable, but it largely means that we cannot afford to drop any further behind. That is the mentality that our players should have from now till May.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

A LOT ABOUT THE WEEK!


So the fortnight without football continues but the English press--being the English press will not run out of ideas to right. We therefore have one or two decisions to discuss about what has been going on in the press recently.

In no particular order, I'm starting with what I found the most, well, interesting.
According to new EPL rules managers will be forced to talk to rights holders post match. Established United fans will know that Sir Alex has been ignoring the BBC for six years following the comments made about he and his son in 2004 for the transfer of players. Can anybody wait to see Fergie in front of the BBC cameras? Will it materialise? Roll on next season!

Darren Fletcher is maing all the right noises in the press about his desire to play for United. This is where I think the older players influence the younger ones. I mean at United we have the likes of Vida, Fletch, Rooney, Berba, O'Shea and Rio who have all taken the example of Giggs and Scholes and Neville by committing their long term future to United. You can see what Fergie is doing by granting the likes of Scholes and Giggs extensions to their deals. Scholes is 35 on Monday but he will be given a new deal----I just hope he's kept away from the big games, like Neville is.

Then there is the Nani question---One wonders which manager has the key to unlock his talents. He had an outburst about the way Fergie has been treating him and although he stated he will not be looking for a move, the manager might be. Very rarely does one face off with Sir Alex and win. You only have to look at Fergie's recent signings to determine the confidence he has in Nani's position.
Speaking of Sir Alex, he got banned by the FA for the Sunderland comments directed to Alan Wiley. He'll be on phone for Everton and Pompey. A further two game ban is suspended until nexts season (as of they are sure he'll still be in charge). There is also a 20k fine which I think he can take care of from his pocket.
We have 10 of our next 11 games against teams from the bottom half. I think if we really want our tile back, it should be at least 30points out of 33!

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

NOTHING MUCH

Doesn't one just hate International breaks? Especially if you really want to get the sour taste of defeat from your mouth!

Monday, 9 November 2009

THE POSITIVES----CHELSEA VS MAN UNITED REVIEW!


As the title of this post suggests, I'm not going to dwell much on the negatives--the fact that we were beaten yesterday but rather the positives. All who wish to have a read at the positives in their most exaggerated form can take a look at any of the British papers today.

I was really impressed by the performance yesterday and any Chelsea fan will tell you that United have so far given them the sternest test. That the Chelsea fans were nervy towards the end, hopping for the full time whistle at Stamford Bridge is testament to how good we were. I mean those very fans thought that yesterday was the opportunity for their side to put two or three in United's net! In spite of our injuries, it didn't happen, and but for the injustice of hurling Wes down, I think we could have left the Bride with at least a point.
The partnership between Evans and Brown, was for me superb. I don't know if it was in response to the critics or the fact that they raised their game because of the occasion but they did look like our first choice defenders. If they can keep it up, we are safe with such cover. I mean who would have known that Vidic and Rio were out?
I thought that Anderson did well in the middle. He seems to be developing into the holding midfielder we lack at the club. If only he could run a little faster and finish better. I thought Rooney did well on his own upfront. Him and Giggs can only be faulted for a couple of poor decisions that could have otherwise led to goals. EVDS should never retire!
In short, what I'm saying is that we shall win the league if we play as good as we played yesterday for the rest of the season. The five point gap that Chelsea has over us is not too big to overhaul. All we have to do is do our job. I like the fact that the players are talking about a long unbeaten run. It will do us good, and given that one or two stars are likely to return after the 10 day break, we should be okay by Christmas--or so I hope!

Saturday, 7 November 2009

THE NEED TO WIN!----CHELSEA VS MAN UNITED PREVIEW!


Manchester United sold their leadership of the league when they got beaten at Anfield. Sunday, however, provides us with the opportunity to regain the summit crown. All we have to do is win a game of football.

So let's get the facts straight, in more ways than one, we are in a somewhat similar position to that Liverpool was in when we visited Anfield last month!
Don't get me wrong, defeat to Chelsea will not blow away our chances of winning the league this season---it's just just you feel that we cannot afford to be as many as five points behind Chelsea. They will be chasing their dinner on Sunday so we should be running for our lives! That is the enthusiasm and determination that we should carry into the game on Sunday. I think that this is one of the few games in the league where every small mistake could be punished. We've had a poor run of results at the Bridge lately because of Chelsea's rise into a force that knows how to punish every mistake that the opponent makes.
The defending for instance has got to be a notch or two higher as the Drog will not be in any mood to spare the team that cost him a Champions League medal. Anelka, Lampard, Essien, Malouda and Joe Cole are among the names we have to keep quiet tomorrow alongside trying to get ourselves a goal or two. It's tough alright--I mean this is the strongest possible side we can face in the league so we can't afford to be any complacent.
If we play as good as we did in the Community Shield, we have a chance, because I think they scored out of the weakness we had in goal (sorry Ben)! Team news, we have Vida, Berba and Giggs back. Rio misses, Fary is suspended. The rest are available for selection.
I'd like to see Fergie go with two strikers as there is no reason as to why a defence as good as theirs needs only one problem. Then Scholes should not start in midfield, I'd rather he goes for two of Anderson, Giggs, Fletcher and Carrick. Fetcher is a must start so possibly Ando may miss out again. Giggs might be pushed to the wing to acccomodate Carrick. What I really hope for is that our midfield does support the attackers even when we are defending. They need to be close enough to hit on the counter. Chelsea use their full backs a lot so that means Evra and O'Shea might have to keep back more often. I think that Fergie should be bold enough to start with Obertan as he could give us a break when we are under pressure. Having said that, he probably won't start him. He'll only see my sense when we are a goal or two down (not so pessimistic I'm I?).
The rewards for victory are great and so I hope we reap them; So Come on United!

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

INTO THE LAST 16, BUT....MAN UNITED VS CSKA MOSCOW REVIEW!


So since when did our defenders become referees? I mean how could Wes Brown and co. blatantly let a CSKA player score because they judged that he was offside-- What happened to paying to the whistle? And just when you think it couldn't get any worse, practice of marking the guy at the far post is trashed. 3-1 to CSKA Moscow!
I'll make my point now...If we defend like we did yesterday against Chelsea, we don't stand a chance!
Good thing for us it was Old Trafford and we were attacking the Stretford End, looking for at least two goals. They did come in the last 6 minutes. A Paul Scholes header and a Valencia dive that took a wicked deflection leaving the otherwise impressive Ankifeev helpless. Michael Owen got our first goal and we can now safely say that if he remains fit for the rest of the season, he will get at lest 15 goals for us. He really still knows a thing or two about poaching goals.
I thought Fletch was unlucky with the booking he got and given that UEFA don't accept appeals, we can only hope that yesterday's card does not come to haunt him in the latter stages of the tournament.
I must commend the players for the effort they put in to ensure that our proud home record in the Champions League remains intact. February 2005 was the last time we lost at home and I think we'd have to go back to Deportivo La Corunia in 2002 for the last time we lost a group stage game at home.
Sir Alex did a good job of resting his best players for the game so you think that they will be ready for Sunday. Chelsea are the strongest possible opposition we can face in the league so we'll have to be at our best. It's one of those games where an off-day is unacceptable!
Gabriel Obertan for me, has shown enough to merit a starting berth in our team. I mean there is nothing that Nani gives us at the moment that he can't. He's worth a punt in team. It was early experience that helped Ronaldo be what he is and I really hope that the young Frenchman gets more than just cameo roles in games. He has what it takes to complement Berbatov and Rooney in attack. Enough said!

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

ONE POINT AWAY--- MAN UNITED VS CSKA MOSCOW PREVIEW!


A quick preview for a game that should not be of major concern for United. We've got Chelsea on Sunday so you feel that this is only a minor distraction for bigger things ahead.
My main concern though is that Sir Alex has got this habit of hoarding players for minor games and resting so many of them for a big game. What I mean is that not up to five or six players need a rest for Sunday. I mean we play on Tuesday at home and so have all week till Sunday fir our next game. You feel that even those who will have played today will be ready. It does affect the team and a case in point must be how our well rested players failed to turn up at Anfield!
Giggs, Vidic, Ferdinand, Park and possibly Berbatov will possibly sit out tonight. I think Fergie will opt to start Owen and Obertan as well as Scholes and Fletcher. The latter should play apart as he will need match fitness before we head to the bridge. I also have this feeling that EVDS will be left out. Gary will most probably start.
CSKA have got a new coach and we all know too well what that could mean as far as their need fr a result is concerned. We have a proud home record in Europe so I hope we at least defend that tonight. A point will put us through while a win will almost certainly guarantee us top spot.
You feel that we need this win to go into Sunday on the back of a win. It really does help!