Thursday, 15 December 2011

LOOKING AHEAD TO LOFTUS ROAD AND THE CHRISTMAS FEAST OF FOOTBALL

Sir Alex has talked about using the depth of his squad over the busy Christmas schedule. No doubt that he has always used it to the club's advantage as statistics will show that we've usually done well over this period compared to our neighbours. In fact, since 2007, no club has taken more points in the six game December schedule than us.

Much as I respect the manager's take on this, if there is anything that we've learnt about this current Manchester United squad over the last few weeks is that we don't have a lot of depth in terms of quality. There will be a temptation of sending out a squad like the one we sent out against Crystal Palace---with all of 9 internationals but unable to get the result we shall need. Suffice it is to say that that is my major concern over this period. 

In the past, we've had the February effect of the Champions League forcing us to save over players' fitness over this period. This season however, is different because we're not involved in the Champions League and I'm sure there are quite enough Europa league games to go around the squad players such that everyone is happy. The Premier League is effectively the biggest trophy that we can win now---yes even bigger than the Europa League so I'd rather that we keep our best weapons for it.

Part of the temptation will herald from the nature of the opposition that we're up against during this period. Granted, it looks like, at least on paper, that we have the easiest run of fixtures in the festive period compared to our title rivals. However, as we did make our Champions League group, complacency could make these easy looking games nightmares. 

QPR have one of those old pitches that is a tad too narrow and the fans are right on top of you. The atmosphere can be a living hell for the opposition largely because it is likely to also influence the man in charge.
It means that you only do well there if you manage to silence their fans and cool their players by giving them nothing to work with. Chelsea for instance approached this fixture casually back in October and ended the game a goal and 2 men down. They left empty handed. Before their defeat at Stamford Bridge, City's hardest EPL fixture turned out to be at Loftus Road. The point being that Sunday may not be one of those games where we can afford to let the opposition build steam or take the lead hopping to mount a late comeback. 

We take on Fulham on Wednesday and needless to say we should know what they're all about. This is likely to be the first game where the manager will tinker abit but it has to be said that Fulham are a well established force in the EPL now. They are very much in that B team category in the league. They now have players that have European experience given their two campaigns in the Europa league so that makes them unafraid of taking on teams like us, especially given our recent run of form.

Wigan and Blackburn remain North-West derbies and are the only games where even on a bad day, we might just be lucky enough to walk away with the loot. However, stranger things than them beating us have happened in this sport.

With City hosting Arsenal and Chelsea away at Spurs, we really cannot afford to let this chance of putting pressure on City go to waste. Fans have been talking about a blip that City will face at some stage this season but that can only be engineered by us constantly putting pressure on them in the weeks we play before them. Sunday is one such day and this time, the pressure could be bigger than ever before as a win would take us top of the league by a point. It is very likely that if we cut them loose, we might never get as close for the rest of the season.
That underlines the importance of playing our best team in this period and showing the hunger to keep our trophy.




SO COME ON UNITED! 

Monday, 12 December 2011

MORE LIKE IT!

Yes the opposition wasn't the sternest around but at the moment, we've been limping regardless who we're up against so I have to say that it was more like the Manchester United we know that turned up on Saturday. Quite frankly, we couldn't afford anything less.

City have been close to perfect this season and that has meant that we've had to step up our title charge even earlier than we usually do. We've been moaning about how they've not yet really been tested domestically but December is the month in which they come up against the kind of teams in the league that make your afternoon longer than you want to. That we had the opportunity to pile pressure on them going into the Chelsea game was a blessing because we blew one such opportunity against Newcastle. I'm pleased that we can now watch them with our feet up.

It was great to see Wayne and Nani get on the score sheet again. Wayne has possibly started a run and I hope he keeps shooting at goal rather than looking for that pass in the six yard box. To be honest, the one reason why I adored Cristiano and still do is because regardless of how many players are in the box, he will shoot at goal, if not with the aim of getting a deflection. Against Basel the other night, there was obviously no way we were going to pass that ball through their 2 layered wall of a defence and expect to score. Such games need players that are willing to take advantage of the little space outside the box and shoot at goal. If anything, the keeper is likely to be unsighted and that can heavily determine the outcome.

Next up is the very hectic Christmas schedule that has, overtime, come to be a very good indicator of who will come out on top come May. I hope we'll traditionally be up for it.

Friday, 9 December 2011

THE NADIR!

Suffice it is to say that at the moment, it can't get any worse---or could it?

This late review is brought to you by the failure of a bus to hit me on my way home after the match and a couple of other failed suicide attempts.
It wasn't supposed to be like this but we made it be like this. Manchester United have the habit of doing things the hard way, but that comes with the danger that in the event those heroic stunts fail to come off, the disaster is as great as the success in times when they do come off.
Thursday morning's papers could easily have been filled with the great escape of United going two goals down but rallying late on to equalise, but it wasn't to be and as such, the club's name and reputation has taken a pummeling.

The Europa league is a competition that in the past we've taunted Liverpool fans about; Now we have to eat humble pie.
In truth, our only failure on the night was that we couldn't put the ball in the back of the net. But the one aspect of the game that I thought angered me most was the way we stood off Basel when they had the ball. It speaks volumes that both crosses into the box that resulted into goals against us, the crosser had all the time and space to pick out his man. None of our defenders made effort to close him down. We might be getting away with it at home but in Europe, against top class opposition, we've been punished heavily for it. That is as far as I'm getting into the game;

Moving on; it will be interesting to see the response that the players put up over the nest month as we have some winnable league games coming up. At the moment our season's saving grace is just the league title so you hope that now that our players have been given a harsh lesson, they'll be up for it. The one factor however that is determined to undo our season are the injuries that we're picking up. It's really bemusing that we went to America for pre-season, played six games, won all six games, with no player injured and then picked up a knock from the Community Shield right through to Wednesday. The Captain's season is now done with that Basel injury so we now have Mr. Evans and co to look to to keep our young goalkeeper sound. I think now is the time for Evans to show what he's made of---starting Wolves this Saturday.


   

Monday, 5 December 2011

NOTES FROM VILLA PARK WITH A LOOK AHEAD TO BASEL

Another win, another 1-0 win, another drub performance albeit with an exhibition of defensive solidity----Manchester United went into the tea-time fixture at Villa Park under pressure as City had opened up an eight point lead earlier. The challenge therefore was to get the three points, which we did to keep up the pressure.
It was our fifth away victory of the season--equaling last season's total but the harsh reality is that last season can no longer be used as a yardstick to win this year's title.

Thing is, we were ''okay'' last season and that was enough to win us the league. This season, as did happen in 2005 with Chelsea, City have raised the bar. It means that ''okay'' may not be enough for us to win the league this year. We need to up the ante a little bit.

It was nice to see Jones get his first goal for the cub. His celebration with the manager was the highlight of the game. The one worrying stat that possibly explains our goal drought is that Wayne Rooney spent more time in our half than in the opposition penatly area. Why he's dropping deep even with two holders in the middle beats me. It was sad to see Javier join an already long list of casualties but equally god to see Danny return. What a chance for him to once again stake a claim.

Got a crucial game coming up in midweek in Switzerland---a game we cannot afford to lose. It was unthinkable that we would fail to make the last 16 in Europe in 2005. I'm entitled to think that its impossible to fail again this time round so I do hope that the players do themselves justice and get the win.

SO COME ON UNITED!

Friday, 2 December 2011

TEA AT VILLA PARK!

Few things, if any, ever make my tea taste awful; In fact, I'd argue that just about everything in my life goes well  at tea-time. It's why I've always enjoyed United's 5.30pm games on Saturday. If we play as well as we did last week against Newcastle, I think I'll have another good round of tea tomorrow.

This weekend, we play last on Saturday and as a result, by kick-off, in all probability, we could be eight points behind City and third behind Spurs as well. Last weekend was one of those we should not have let pass without the three points and quite frankly, because of that result, neither can this one. In fact, we play teams at the bottom half of the table throughout December---a good opportunity for us to make up for the poor rub of form in November.

The manger has been talking about how he wants to be top or within a point or two of the top at the start of the year, so I guess that means he'll do all in his power to see to it that we do not let City off the hook anymore than we've already done.

We travel to Birmigham to take on Villa without Tom, Michael, Dimitar, Fabio and Rafael plus Anderson of course. That still leaves us with a strong enough team to get the three and still be in the right shape to travel to Basel.

Here's to a good evening's Cup of Tea.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

QUESTIONS FROM OLD TRAFFORD LAST NIGHT!

I'm not getting into the details of the game because by now, unless you live under a cave, you've learnt that United lost their Carling Cup quarterfinal fixture against Crystal Palace. The following is not a knee-jerk reaction to the defeat but rather a few 'interesting' questions that have been playing on my mind for the last few weeks. Firstly, I'd like to categorically state that the young lads who came in last night did a job to keep us hopeful for the future, but I couldn't help but notice that there were 9 internationals out there as well.

So here goes; Do United train these days? If so, I'd like to find out how much emphasis is put on ball possession. How fit are the Da Silva twins? Is it possible for them to play 90 minutes for 2 straight games? Was Fabio signed as a long term replacement for Evra? If so, why are we desperate to get a left back in to challenge Pat? Has Valencia been the same player to you since the Champions League final? When was the last time we won at Old Trafford? When was the last time we won a game of football? Do our players understand the challenge ahead of them this season?

Again, just to point out, these questions have been doing the rounds in my head over the last few weeks during the matches that we've been playing.

Fair play to Crystal Palace, and it will only make this less hurting if they somehow go on to win this Cup.

Monday, 28 November 2011

DAYLIGHT ROBBERY!

You get some, you lose some; Fair enough, but Saturday's penalty decision was all that much harder to take because the ref could and should have overruled the linesman's decision. Si r Alex quickly pointed to the game against Sunderland when the ref did overrule the linesman for what would have been a controversial penalty. I thought the ref was sure Rio got the ball and hence should not have bowed to the pressure of his assistant.

That said, we were bound to get punished for failing to be clinical infront of goal sometime. Winning 1-0 i great and says a lot about your defensive solidity but its never a safe lead. We missed the load of chances against Benfica and paid the price and did the same against Newcastle. After finding or feet at the back, I think its time we found that clinical touch infront of goal that we had at the start of the season.

It wasn't for a lack of trying though as Newcastle did defend resolutely when they could and rode their luck when they were dead cut through but that was after they drew level. Earlier in the season, we used to kill off games in the first half so that no sort of comeback was possible for our opponents. The number of chances that we put to waste before Ba scored the penalty came back to haunt us.

It was great that Hernandez got his first OT goal of the season but it speaks volumes that he got it in such lucky circumstances. Ultimately we've been lucky that this slip was not punished by City yesterday and we only remain 5 points behind. It will hurt that we could have been just three behind today.

The challenge remains for us to keep in touch for as long as possible.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

OF SWANSEA, BENFICA AND NEWCASTLE!

Two different results, two different performances.

United's fixture in Wales last weekend was pretty much like what we've been treated to in the past few weeks---a laboured show largely devoid of flair but with some grit at the back that has seen us on a run of five straight clean sheets. That run was also accompanied by the return of Captain Nemanja.

On Tuesday, against Benfica, the flair and mojo was back in the side and saw us post our best performance in over 2 months but the result was undesired. Vidic was suspended for the tie but seemed the grit of our game went with him cue the two gifts of goals the Portuguese outfit scored. The manager and coaching staff have to work out a way to keep our flair upfront without compromising the grit behind--you know, like its always been.

It has to be said that United deserve the position they find themselves in. At the conclusion of the Champions League draw, I thought, and indeed blogged here that we could have won the group by the end of October. Looking back now, I couldn't have been any further from the truth. It seemed the fact that the group was a plum one did get to the heads of those at the club. Sir Alex has so far, chopped and changed his side for Europe so much so that he himself has admitted that it has had an unsettling effect on the side.
It is sobering that we now have to go to Switzerland to book a place in the last eight and even then, we can only finish second.

The real punishment will be realised around February 2012 when you can surely expect a second round tie to look like this United vs Barca/Real/AC Milan/Inter/Bayern. . . when its not expected that such potential final fixtures should not be subject of a second round show.  

Back home, we've got Newcastle United in the league this Saturday. We've been moaning about how City have not really had a rough run of fixtures but they go to Anfield on Sunday---a day after we play. This is the part where no other result other than three points will do. We've had our est start to the league since the 1993/94 season but like Chelsea did in 2005, City have raised the bar so we have no choice but to either step up or watch them buy our title.
Newcastle United have done well enough to have us worried for this one, but I do hope that the players understand that if we are to be where the manager wants us to at the start of the new year, we cannot afford to drop any further behind the leaders for that will give them room to recover fro whatever blip we're hopping for without doing much to their title challenge.

SO COME ON UNITED!

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

LOOKING AHEAD TO THE WEEKEND!

Its been a long  but much needed International break---so long that the media has found it necessary to print stories like 'Vidic to Madrid' or Ferdinand to MLS just to keep up their sales.
Thankfully for them, and armchair viewers of the incredible series that is the EPL, the drought comes to an end this Friday.

We're back in action on Saturday against Swansea City with us having to make the trip to Wales. Now the importance of this fixture cannot be overstated. For starters, nobody has won there so we have a jinx to break come tea time Saturday. City and Newcastle United play each other just before our game so we have to make the fixture count because either way, we'll finish Saturday either clearer of Newcastle or closer to the summit.
City don't look like they'll be giving away any points that easy this season, so its up to us to make sure that in the games they have stern opposition, we make them count.

The biggest plus for us that we should reap from this break is that we get to have Ashley Young and Tom Cleverley back for us. The team has looked short of ideas at times without them and the absence of Clev has made Wayne drop to the middle which has in turn taken something away from our attack. I do hope that on Friday, the manager blesses us with the news that we'll have them both available.

Finally it's also been refreshing to have an International break with most of our players afforded a bed rest. Rooney, Vidic, Rio, Clev, Young, Ando, are among the many that have not taken part in International duty for one reason or the other so we should be fresh enough for this mid-season kick-off. You just hope that the rest does them a world of good.

To be fair, its hard to imagine that we could dip in terms of performances after the break because we've been very poor between this and the last one. So far, the manager has got us to the basics of keeping things tight at the back after the City horror show and that has yielded four straight clean sheets---a remarkable feat given that we've not done that since the 2008/09 season. Hopefully we can now combine defensive solidity with flair performances that saw us win 5 out of 5 at the start of the season.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

BRIEF NOTES FROM SATURDAY

Manchester United treated us to another limp performance on Sir Alex's 25th anniversary at the club. Perhaps the sense of the occasion and the celebratory mood ahead of kick-off could have had an effect on the performance but it's not like we've been doing any better recently.
Luckily for us, Wes Brown forgot the identity of his current employers to see us through. I guess the one positive we can take from the match, besides the three points is a fourth consecutive clean sheet. Nemanja Vidic has surely addressed the rot at he back---long live the captain.

In truth, the International break could not have come at a better time for us. Between this one and the last, we've put up some limp displays but crucially picked up the points in those games (bar the City one). It bodes well for us that after starting the season in fine scoring form, we have come good at the back as well. What now remains is to find the right balance that we should carry along for the rest of the season.

So far, the team have looked anything but inventive without Tom Cleverely in the middle of the park so hopefully we get to see him in the side more often after the break. It is vital that he improves our midfield show lest the manager will have to shop in January to match the class of City---on the pitch at least.

Our main title rivals have recently faced stiff tests from minnows Wolves and QPR and the worrying thing is that they have gone on to win those games when it looked like they would drop points. At the moment you hope that we don't give them any more breathing space than we have already afforded them.

In the meantime, I can't believe that I'm saying this but, thank God for the International break; It gives us one last time to regroup and charge again---this time with no finger nails in the mouth.


Friday, 4 November 2011

SIR ALEX'S TOASTS TO SILVER JUBILEE WITH GUESTS FROM SUNDERLAND!

Old Trafford will be a party atmosphere tomorrow as the boss will be marking 25 years in charge of Manchester United---and you can't take that away from him. All the praise that he has been showered with this week is well deserved. All that is left is for the players to mark the occasion with a win.


Sunderland will not be overwhelmed by the celebration atmosphere inside Old Trafford tomorrow and you can bet they will want to steal the show by harvesting the points instead. United have performed so poorly in recent games that you can't help but feel nervous about the fixture. You feel that the players might take their minds off the most important thing tomorrow and that is the three points. Its not to take anything away from the Gaffer but we've had all week to praise him and I think we'll only do the occasion justice by claiming all the points on offer.

At the moment, and indeed according to the manager's press conference, we're a bit short of bodies. Anderson, Cleverely, Carick and Young are injured, while Evra has lost an elder brother. It could mean that Rooney may get to play in the middle again. Anyhow its useless trying to predict Fergie's team but I should think that the players owe Fergie a win in this one.

In all probability, we shall kick-off in third place because Newcastle don't look like they'll drop points against Everton and hence the need to be on top of our game tomorrow. City play later on so we need to put them under pressure ahead of their trip to QPR. We've got an International break coming up so hopefully we'll leave off with another win.

Congratulations to Sir Alex

So Come On United!

Thursday, 3 November 2011

UNITED TREAT US TO YET ANOTHER LIMP PERFORMANCE

I pride myself in being one of the most red bespectacled United fans around. That is because I usually take long to snap. I will defend a poor performance or a defeat because I think I'm patient enough to wait for the team to click into gear again.

The last time most fans appreciated a performance from us was that 5-0 away win at Bolton. Since then, we have slowly but surely moved our game to the away performances of last season. But for our sheer determination and resolve to post results, we might not be as healthy as we are both in the league and in Europe.
The injury to Tom Cleverly and the constant changing of our back line has given me reason to be patient with the team but I've reached that point where I cannot take another drab performance.

Last night, United had me nodding off for the first time in ages. Neutral fans that were watching the game with me thought that Otelul Galati played better than us on a whole. Whilst they didn't have much possession of the ball, they hurried us in possession and were fit enough to play a defense-attack game against us. They seemed better organised especially at the back and were unfortunate t concede more than the one goal.

United on the other hand, for all their possession, were forced to pass the ball around in their half and had no imagination of any sort going forward. It speaks volumes that David De Gea was more involved than Dimitar Berbatov. I thought Anderson, Berbatov, Nani and Valencia were complete let downs. Valencia seems to have lost that directness that made him a starter for 2 seasons. Nani has once again failed the inconsistency test and is as timid as Valencia on the wing as well. Anderson has also lost the spark that restored hope in us at the start of the season. It all seems to have got horribly wrong. It cannnot be that in our 25 man squad, it takes Tom Cleverely to make everyone else tick---I refuse to accept that. But if it is the case, then I hope we do get somebody in during the next window because as we are, we're only going to dread the knock-out stages of the Champions League. At the moment it takes just one organised team to make us look like a mid-table side.

The manager has pointed to injuries to a few players but every team has injuries and we pride ourselves in having a big squad so that excuse cannot stand. I was more lenient with the team after the win at Everton for the simple reason that we had not won there for the last 4 seasons but I did expect us to express ourselves more last night. That we failed to do so yet again kind of sends a chill down my spine as we prepare for the visit of Sunderland on Saturday.
Only Phil Jones stood out for me last night. I know Wayne was playing in the middle but he was too deep for my liking as well. His deep role made it impossible for Berba and Chicharito to get any sort of link from the middle.

Last night also had me wondering if it is possible for any of the Da Silva twins to maintain composure in the penalty box after a surging run. Its not to have a go at Fabio for his brilliant runs but it is the end product that really counts. I've seen Rafael make the same comedy when in the side.

Credit though to Galati who made us chase and work for every ball. For sure, there are no mugs in the Champions League but one hopes that by the time Basel and Benfica come around, we would have got our game together.




Sunderland at home is another chance for us to play like we've grown to love to watch United play.

Monday, 31 October 2011

UNITED DELIVER GRITTY WIN!

The swashbuckling response to derby day disaster wasn't all that as United put up a 2008/09-esque gritty performance to win at Goodison Park for the first time since 2007. I refer to the 2008/09 season in the above statement because of the numerous 1-0 wins we gathered in that season en route to creating a 14 game run of consecutive clean sheets.

The fans may not love it but Sir Alex says that he will take a dozen of those all day for the simple reason that such results show championship material. I can see where Sir Alex is coming from. After letting in six the week before, it was imperative to come away with a clean sheet at Everton. Also, scoring one and shutting out the opposition is testament to the defensive solidity of the team---a trait that was nowhere to be seen at home last week. The final reason is that throughout his time as manager of Manchester United, and for all the goals we do tally every May, our title triumphs have been built on a solid DE-FENCE. Its why the club has a few famous central defence pairings over the years.

That said, it must also be noted that we seemed to run out of ideas at the time Tom Cleverely pulled his ankle. For the remainder of the game, it seemed like we were down to ten men and yet Nani had actually come on for him. It really does make you wonder if Tom is very rapidly becoming an important member of our squad. In any case, for as long as the manager doesn't make that signing, he will be.

The pleasing thing for me on Saturday was that we've got all three points again at a ground we dropped two last season---that should make up for the three lost last weekend in a fixture we won last season and that our away form seems a tad more assuring this time round.
We've got a few winnable games between now and the dawn of the year, so you expect us to really put City under pressure. Frankly we have no choice if we want to win the league again.

Wednesday sees the return of Champions League football. Otelul Galati should not be a problem at home though. We need to win to assure ourselves of topping the group when Benfica come over later on. Nobody wants to finish second so I hope the manager will put out a side to in the game on Wednesday.
At the moment we don't have Clev, Young and Smalling but at least Rafael is on his way back.

Finally; special mention to Ole Gunnar Solsjaer for winning the league with Molde for the first time in the club's centenial existence. Even bigger mention goes to Sir Alex for making it 25 years in charge of the World's most popular Football club.

Friday, 28 October 2011

ANOTHER TRIP TO MERSEYSIDE!

Manchester United make the short journey to Mersyside for the second time in a fortnight---this time under pressure to win after the massive disappointment last week.

In truth, Everton away has proved to be a tough fixture for us in recent seasons although the stats point to a routine United win when the whole EPL era is put in context. Goodison Park is known for its vicious crowd that is too close to the pitch and usually rallies their players in games against top opposition. However, the context of last week's defeat means that United have no choice but to battle at all cost for all three points.

It is a doubt if Ashley Young will be fit for the midday kickoff whilst the media is rife with reports that Evra and Rio will also miss out for an entirely different reason. The good news though is that Tom Clev is back and should therefore make our midfield look more like the one we saw at the start of the season when all talk of a playmaker died down.
Not surprisingly, in the week following our derby defeat, we've been linked to just about all playmakers in world football. Tom Clev is one bad performance away from justifying that speculation.

So Come On United!

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

SECOND STRINGERS DOING WELL

I know it just Aldershot in the League Cup but hey, credit must be given where it is due. The likes of Owen, Berbatov, Valencia, Fabio and Amos have not put a foot wrong in that banana skin competition called the Carling Cup. Sometimes you do see shocks in the FA Cup coming but not in this one; For starters, because of the remoteness of the fixtures at times and their inconspicuous midweek schedule, many a fan usually do not know that the club have a game and so wake up to the news that United lost 4-0 to West Ham United in the Cup (as was the case last season).

Moving on; it was nice to get the City result somewhat out of our system as we can now safely say we've won our last game.....and they say you're only as good as your last game. It was also pleasing and relieving to see Tom make his way back from injury with an hours' work-out. He was all over the midfield last night and it showed what we've missed in him.
If he plays with a foiler or holding midfielder next to him, he can certainly be as good as anyone in that position. However, that we currently lack a natural holder in the middle does sometimes take something away from his game. I mean even David Silva would struggle if you take Barry, Toure and De Jong out of the equation. So unless the manager asks Anderson or Carrick or Fletcher to sit, then we might continue to allow the opposition to get more than a sniff of our goal every game.

We've got Everton away in the league on Saturday, and whilst we would go to Goodison Park in a modest way in any other season, we simply  have to win there this time. Given the result we posted last week, anything other than a win will enable the British press make record sales of papers with Doomsday articles for United.
We've now gone five points off the summit so quite frankly, City should drop the next points, not us; We cannot afford to give them enough breathing space to address whatever blip comes their way and still remain on top.

Over the course of the season so far, we've been moaning about a difficult start to the season; well the next 12 games provide us with an opportunity to really put City under pressure and illustrate for them how difficult it is to win the league.
Whilst it would be demanding too much of the team to go on and win their next 12 games, it must be evident to us by now that if we want that 20th title, we're going to have to fight for it even harder than we did for the previous one.

Sir Alex is not knew to challenges from rival clubs, but just hope we don't take a season or two to raise the bar as we did when Chelsea were then in-thing in town. As far as responding to bad results goes, none put up a better response than United. The fans will be expectant this weekend.  In many ways, therefore, our season really starts on Saturday at Goodison Park.


Monday, 24 October 2011

?!

Manchester United and City were involved in a derby on Sunday. That's it for the review....on to the next game. . .

Saturday, 22 October 2011

A LITTLE MORE THAN A DISAGREEMENT; MAN UNITED VS MAN CITY PREVIEW!

It's way much bigger than a small dispute between neighbours. Well, it used to be, but come Sunday lunchtime, a lot more than that will be at stake. The biggest prize of all will be t spot in the league.

City and United have been neck and neck so far this season, and have swapped places at the league summit more than once already. Sunday is an opportunity for both sides to settle the question of supremacy for another while yet.

United head into Sunday's crunch game with an astonishing home record that stretches back to April 2010. In that time, we've come up against all sorts of opposition in all competitions but we haven't lost at home---and bar West Brom's lucky point at OT last season, teams have left our patch empty handed. It has therefore become expectant that whilst at home, we fans expect the win. It shouldn;t therefore phase us that City are visiting on Sunday.

The irony is that in the last few seasons when City have been with all these resources, their record against us has been abysmal to to put it mildly. We've won nearly every encounter against them. It can also be argued that  but for Berbatop's early gaffes in that FA Cup tie last year, we could have beaten them with or without Wayne Rooney. However, at the start and in the middle of the last decade, we couldn't buy a win against City. For some reason, the likes of Darius Vassel, and Shaun Goater used to find their way around our defence much easier than the likes of Barry and Co are doing. I remember that those players played with passion in that fixture for they understood the occasion. For all his footballing abilities however, I'm not o sure Sergio Aguerro knows much about this derby.

Anyhow, what we can be certain of is that City will provide us with the toughest test we've come up against this season so far. We've had a very difficult start to the season, but we've done a good job sending out messages in the games against Spurs, Arsenal and Chelsea. It's time we send out that final statement of intent that should force the rest of the league to raise the white flag. Victory over City, even despite being at OT would be ominous for the rest of the league.

The manager has played down talk of a big deal if City win and go five points clear. Whilst it would be gutting to give them a five point head start, I'd like to think that it's still early days to make much of such a lead. Our strategy at United has always been to be in touch right up to Christmas and then we can take it from there.

Tom Cleverley is back in training with the first team but you wonder if the manager will throw him in the deep end after so long out. The fans though want to seem him in because we've been terrible in the middle since he limped off. I will be happy if he even makes the bench. City have such an array of midfield talent that we cannot afford to look pedestrian in the middle again.
It is very likely that the second half team in that Community Shield will play on the manager's mind overnight, but I think if we have both Rio and Vida in then the kids should play, I mean after all, aren't they the reason we're where we are in the league?

SO COME ON UNITED!

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

GALATI PAY THE PENALTY!

Its a bit intriguing that ever since Tom Cleverley left the pitch in that 5-0 win at Bolton, our style of play has somewhat become less of an entertaining spectacle. I personally can't wait to have him back and running so that  I can confirm one or two things about the impact that he has on our team.

United put up yet another uninspiring performance last night but in the end got the job done. Sometimes its easier to play against the bigger teams than against the smaller ones. This season so far, we've found life jolly against Spurs, Arsenal, Chelsea, and even Liverpool in that second half. But when the likes of Norwich, Stoke and FC Galati who know their place in the football hierarchy play 9 men behind the ball at nearly all times, then you know you have a job on your hands. Firstly, it means that at some point your defence will be caught napping given the amount of possession they'll have and little threat from the opposition. Then it also means that as the game wears on, if you haven't found the opener, frustration will take its toll on some of your hot headed players.

Thankfully for us in the end, we managed to work Galati into some sort of submission. The handball that granted us our first penalty was borne of fatigue from the Galati captain and so was the trip on Rooney that got us the second.

Captain Nemanja was unfortunate to be sent off for what seemed at best a yellow card offence. Its easy to understand why the manager will not appeal the decision--- I mean look back to 2009 when a bad decision of the same sort cost Fletcher the final. He also lost the appeal. Unfortunately for Vida, his bad week took another twist in this week. He should view it as an opportunity to be fresh for all the league games. Besides, we'll need him more when we get to the knock-out phase.

Now, the build up begins; Sunday is one of those days when United will have to be at their very best because its time for us to silence our noisy neighbours once again. 
More on that in the preview.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

NOTES FROM ANFIELD WITH A LOOK AHEAD TO OTELUL GALATI

A somewhat belated review and preview but what the heck;

Liverpool have recently bought a reputation of bullying United out of their skins at Anfield and that has accounted for our poor form on the day in the last three fixtures on that ground. Its therefore good to note that on this occasion, our boys dd not let the bullys have it all their way as we had our best game there since 2007/08 season.

The first talking point was the team news; Now Sir Alex has built a reputation of shocking us with team news every now and then when we least expect it and I must say I wasn't too surprised by the side he chose to start with. In any case, I had initially hopped for Welbeck upfront alone as I think he's much better equipped for the role than Rooney who will usually shift office to the midfield when the supply is at a minimum.

Individually, at '90 minutes, it was hats off to David De Gea, Chris Smalling and Danny Welbeck in that order. I think its refreshing that more than the veterans, its our U-23 team that has contested the man of the match awards so far this season.

Javier Hernandez came off the bench to score the point winner that made him statistically, the best substitute in United's history---what a lad!
Finally on that game, we need to address the issue of the wall parting in free-kick situations. I mean Gerrard scored the same goal in the OT game last season---this time Fletcher moving from the wall. It sucks to concede  two from the same mistake so pull it together guys. I know a lot is at stake given the area where the ball will strike but hey; that's what the weekly cheque is meant to compensate---so your hands should be enough cover.
Oh and Suarez is a disgrace to football--end of story!

We're in action in the Champions League tonight and for goodness' sake; get the 3 point tonight; Hell the team even owes us a performance of some sort in Europe. The irony is that the team tonight could be stronger than the one that started on Saturday---so if you believe Wayne's tweets; he and a host of other big name players were being rested for the game against Otelul Galati tonight.

Till then; Ciao!

Friday, 14 October 2011

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

Welcome back from that very much needed break---at least from United's perspective.
However the return of EPL action could not have demanded more focus from us.

Liverpool provide the opposition on Saturday lunchtime in what is going to be the most watched game of the weekend. This one will get nasty.

For the first time we walk into Anfield as England's most successful club. That this is a rivalry borne of jealousy means that we're already one up.
The Dippers tend to play their best game against us and that perhaps explains our poor record there recently but you do hope that the manager and his staff have addressed the concerns at the back that we've documented recently.

Liverpool vs Man United is one of those fixtures that needs no introduction. A win tomorrow will, for me send out another strong message to the rest of the league about our intentions this season. With City  next up, it would make them pee in their pants.

Monday, 3 October 2011

UNITED LABOUR PAST NORWICH CITY

The International break couldn't quite have come sooner for us. The last time our season was interrupted by a similar break a month a go, the sentiments could hardly have been any different.

Thankfully though, we haven't been made to pay seriously for putting our foot off the pedal a little but. Norwich City could have easily taken all three points from us at home as could have Chelsea, and as could have Basel.
Right now there seems to be nothing particularly wrong with going forward but the rate at which our opponents are finding it easy to cut us to shreds is sickening. We badly need the Captain now because October is going to be our most difficult month of the season. A trip to Liverpool on 15th then the derby at home plus a trip to Everton with a must win Champions League tie in Russia in between means that the next ten day break could be crucial in terms of how our coaching staff figures out a way to stop the rot at the back.

Until then though, we can reflect on what has been a near perfect start to the season. Indeed, for as long as we are above City in the league, we'll be all right as far as winning that 20th title.

Friday, 30 September 2011

CHANCE TO REDEEM FACE----MAN UNITED VS NORWICH CITY PREVIEW!

Ideally, Norwich wouldn't want to be visiting Old Trafford after a couple games in which United have been relatively starved of victory and had their performances questioned. The game in midweek has drawn its fair share of criticism from the press and I'm sure the Canneries would rather have us complacent in the same demeanour that Basel found us in and exploited.

Instead, they have a team that has been sternly warned by their manager against further complacency and for the first time this season asked to find a balance between attack and defence. United have scored a glut of goals at the start of the season but have been very porous at the back as well---at least in terms of chances created by the opposition if not goals conceeded. Its something that we finally paid for on Tuesday night and you hope will be addressed sooner rather than later.

Norwich City are in good form at the moment but it will be expected that United win tomorrow---anything less and the media will have a field day on Sunday. I certainly hope too that those going to the game will out-sing a very vocal support that the Canneries will bring with them.

Sir Alex has pointed out that both Wayne and Hernandez will be fit for this fixture and that the likes of Vidic, Smalling and Cleverley will be available for the game at Liverpool after the Internationals. We're in a mini-battle with City for top spot at the moment and it would really leave a sour taste in the mouth if they were to spend the ten day International break at the summit of the league. That therefore makes victory in this one paramount. I'd like to see Wayne paired with Welbeck ahead of Chicharito at the moment. They seem a more deadly pair. But that is the manager's headache---all we expect is a win alongside a good performance.

SO COME ON UNITED!

Thursday, 29 September 2011

ITS GETTING WORSE---MAN UNITED VS FC BASEL REVIEW!

The start of the season has seen Manchester United display some brilliant football that the team will now provide the yardstick for when we actually perform well or when we don't.

The draw in Lisbon the other week was the first real taste of a poor performance that we've treated to this season. The draw at Stoke was slightly worse than the one in Lisbon and yesterday seemed to top it all up.

Its not that we were poor all through yesterday but that we put up a show of amateurish standards at the very top level of European football.

It all started with the manager for me; That 4-5-1 policy in Europe is indeed what its worth and no doubt it has helped us over the last few years in Europe but I'd rather that the manager kept it for the knock-out stages. I mean our opponents came to the fortress Old Trafford and started with two forwards; United--the home team on the other hand, would opt to start with one in Welbeck supported by a host of midfielders. I thought that made it easier for their defenders as Welbeck had to drop deep to link up with the midfield. It really bothers me that such opposition can force us to pack the middle. Was there really anything to protect ourselves against by playing one upfront. To think that we have up to seven strikers available at the club, makes you wonder why the manager would hold them back in games that beg for attacking football.

Whilst the formation made it all the more difficult for the forwards, I thought we still acquainted ourselves well going forward. However though, the defence, possibly expecting to be up against just the one striker, had their hands full as Basel kept two upfront. It meant that Jones and Ferdinand had their hands full for just about the entire match. That Basel could have scored three in the first half is testament to how we can't really claim to have dominated that first half.

On the plus side, Danny Welbeck seems he's ready to challenge Chicharito seriously for that first team place alongside Wayne. Ashley Young, Jones, De Gea were among those that hadn't yet tasted European football this season so you hope that as the season goes on, we'll warm up to the competition. The manager said it was a wake up call to them and you do hop they take note.
On paper, its an easy group that we could have won by the end of October but if we keep toying with reality and fate, we might find ourselves in the position we were in in 2005 going into match day 6.

So where do we go from here? Well, right now the Otelul Galati fixture has to be a must win one. Then we'll take it from  there. As far as the league goes, you'd hope that sooner rather than later, we do get a consistent back five. Injuries have not hlped us build that this season and a lot of our play does depend on the strength of our back five. The manager has pointed that out so hopefully in the near future, we do get more consistency at the back. It does help the goalkeeper as well.
Our midfield seems unable to do with any sort of combination bar Anderson and Cleverley. Nobody else adds that drive that we'd got spoilt with at the start of the season. I'm thinking Tom hasn't lost his place in the side despite a month out.

We've got Norwich at home in the league on Saturday (for the first time at 3 o'clock). It will be expected that we finally return to winning ways!

Monday, 26 September 2011

LOOKING BACK AT STOKE AND AHEAD TO BASEL

Well it was always going to happen sometime, wasn't it? Manchester United have finally dropped points at Stoke City---joining the rest of the top six sides in England by doing so. It was always a minor suprise that we seemed to have it all our way there given the difficulty of coping with their play but on Saturday we got first hand experience on the bullish actics employed by Tony Pulis' side.

The biggest blow on the day ahead of the match was that Wayne Rooney would miss out because of a hamstring problem and that was only made worse when Chicharito was forced off ith injury early on. That's the second successive game that the Mexican has been had done by the officials. I hope this doesn't reflect on the kind of season he's going to have for us.

Nani wants to be the best player in the world; it has to be said that if he keeps up his level of influence in proceedings during games, the world will start to take notice. It was a brillinatly worked goal albeit the fact that we've failed to build on it.

There was nothing he could do about the goal but it has to be said that once again David De Gea showed us why he was signed by Sir Alex. He's now made it a habbit that he'll come up with saves during the game that will either keep us in the game or protect our leads. He has what it takes to beccome a club legend and its only to our adantage now that we have two very wonerful goalkeepers.

FC Basel provide the opposition the Champions league tomorrow night. Its an opportunity, as usual, for us to return to winning ways---given that you're good as your last game. We did a credible job in Lisbon the other week so hopefully we can build on that tomorrow---scratch that---we must build on that tomorrow.

We've got a near perfect home record in the Champions League and no side in our group this season is entitled to even a point at Old Trafford. I know the manager will make wholesale changes to the side but that shouldn't be an excuse for failure to get the maximum three.

SO COME ON UNITED!

Friday, 23 September 2011

AWAY DAY AT STOKE!

Whilst the rest of the Premier League has found life rocky at the Britannia Stadium, Manchester United can safely jot it down as one of their  'happy venues'. Its a little intriguing that we've never left the Britannia with a bloody nose given how 'cocky' the build up can be.

Rio is expected to be back in the team whilst we can expect up to 11 changes from the side that beat Leeds United in midweek. Chris Smalling is out for a couple of weeks whilst Nemanja Vidic is still another week away from duty. Danny Welbeck should return to the starting line-up in place of Javier Hernandez. In the end, you expect that we should have enough of a team to see off Stoke even on their own pitch.

We've got Basel in the Champions League on Tuesday so there are enough games to go around for the entire team.
Priority should right now be vested in the EPL to see us build a strong lead at the summit of the league as we stroll into another tricky round of fixtures. Liverpool and Manchester City are round the corner, and we'd only want to get in those when we're on a roll.

So COME ON UNITED!

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

INTO THE FOURTH ROUND!

Manchester United easily booked their place in the fourth round of the Carling Cup with a very comfortable 3-0 away victory over Leeds United.
Just as I posted in the preview, even with as many as ten guesses, you couldn't possibly predict the team that Sir Alex was going to put forward on the night and indeed the manager did raise not one, but both eye brows with his starting 11. It wasn't in the alleged weakness of the side to take to the pitch but rather in the unavailability of defenders on the pitch. Fabio was the only recognised defender on pitch given that many didn't know who Fryers was.

Michael Carrick and Valencia took up their makeshift positions in defence whilst the likes of Macheda and Diouf were asked to track back more often than not in a bid to help out with wing defensive duty. As such, we had four natural strikers in the starting line-up and ended the match with Dimitar Berbatov playing centre-half.

It really did highlight the defensive problems we're having at the moment. I mean right now we can only name one back four and after that, we're a little short of bodies. You do hope that Captain Nemanja and Rio do return in time to help lift the burden on the young wall that is keeping us safe at the moment.

That aside, United's old guard did pull off an energy sapping display that in the end saw them ran out comfortable 3-0 winners. Its becoming a nice habit that we seem to have at least three goals in us in just about every game.

Michael Owen did stake a claim for himself last night with two finishes that typified his predatory instincs as well as eye for goal. Ryan Giggs silenced the hostile Leeds crowd with the third just before the break to all but seal progress to the next round of a competition that seems to be the one that will provide valuable game time to some of our squad players.

Thankfully though, Sir Alex didn't have to call on anyone you think he might use for the Stoke City game this weekend so hopefully we'll be fresh for that one.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

CARLING CUP QUICKIE!

Barely 48 hours since Phil Dowd blew the final whistle at OT, Manchester United return to action tonight as the Carling Cup campaign for 2011/12 is launched. Bitter rivals Leeds United provide the opposition and no doubt many a fans will expect United win if only for the simple reason of exacting revenge for our 2010 FA Cup exit at their hands on our own pitch.

Even if you tried ten times, you might not come up with the side that SAF will start tonight but at least we are certain that Paul Pogba will make his very first competitive appearance. The Frenchman has been dubbed the replacement of Scholes/Keane for the future so he gets his chance to show the world what he can do infront of the unforgiving Sky sports cameras at the hostile venue that is Elland Road.

Besides Poggy, I do hope that Berbatov, and Lindegaard get the '90 minutes as both players are desperate for game time, whilst I'd also expect the manager to go for Park, Giggs and Diouf in the team. Valencia could use another game under his belt as well. Regardless, you do expect that the manager will name a team strong enough to win us the game whilst staying clear of all those that took part in the memorable win over Chelsea on Sunday.

The good news from Carrington today is that according to Chicharito's agent, the player will be back to training as soon as Wednesday as there was no serious damage to his left leg.

Monday, 19 September 2011

UNITED COME AWAY WITH ALL THREE POINTS IN 'BASKETBALL GAME'

You couldn't possibly make up what we were treated to in yesterday's United-Chelsea clash at Old Trafford. Let's just say, that we might never see a game of the sort ever or at least between the twoo sides.

For starters, contrary to what we've grown used to between these two sides, there seemed to be a distinct shortage of negative tactics. I struggle to remember when we last saw as open a game between United and Chelsea as we did. I mean, it could really have finished 9-5 last night. Wayne and Torres could have each walked away with a treble of goals and quite frankly the three points seemed to dangle between United and Chelsea for just about the entire match despite United soaring into a 3-0 lead at the break.

Fernando Torres did have a good game but of all the chances he passed up yesterday, I thought THAT ONE was inexcusable. If he nets it, United are under pressure for the last ten minutes or so and who knows, his team could have hustled a point. When your club dishes out £50m to sign you, there are certain things you're expected to do, and failing to hit the target with an entire goal at your mercy is not one of them.
Wayne Rooney was gulity of missing the penalty (in John Terry style) to seal the game for United but when you've got 9 goals in five games, it does buy you some leverage to have one or two off days. It that leverage that Torres lacks and therefore is due all the criticism he can get despite the good game he had.

Ultimately though, we're a lucky bunch to have come away with another vital three points. This was one of those weekends made for drama in the league (just take a look at the full result list) so to come away with maximum points was priceless. The reward is that we're now clear at the top of the league after City found it difficult to balance Europe and the League.

Individually, I thought the ypung players got a bit of stage fright and a dip in confidence at times in the match. Two of them however seemed unbothered by the nerves and stage; they were David De Gea and Phil Jones. I thought De Gea's stunning save to deny Ramires in the first half was as vital as they get and was my turning point in the match. United were 1-0 up through Smalling but if Ramires equalises, Chelsea get all the confidence in the world and United's youth might not have recovered. It was similar to what happened in the Arsenal game. If van Persie scores the penalty, Arsenal are thrown right back into it and who knows what happens from then.
As did happen in that Arsenal game, after De Gea's stunning save, we almost imeediately went 2-0 up. This time, through FLOM's man of the match Nani. Its fair to say that his solo effort stunned the United bench. To be fair to the lad, he did have a good game besides his goal and right now I'm thinking the club should start negotiations for a new contract for him. His performance toay might have ensured that Valencia will warm the bench for another week yet.

Phil Jones is the other player that I thought seemed unnerved by the level required of him yesterday. It didn't bother him one bit that we were playing against Chelsea and kept powering forward in the same way that he's done this season. One of those runs got us the third goal through Rooney. His form has made it impossible for Sir Alex to leave him out of the team. A great array of defensive talent at our disposal now!

I said in my preview that a win for United would be ominous for our title rivals and I think despite the performance yesterday, we've really sent out a strong message to our rivals. Its a given that United will eventually slip but we're putting ourselves in a position whereby that that slip will not do much damage to our title chances.

Also on the negative side ast night, we lost Chris Smalling to a groin injury and Javier Hernandez to a horrendous tackle from Ashley Cole. That Vida and elbeck are soon returning should soften the blow but its alarming the rate att which we are losing these players. Its gutting that the young players who have established themsleves in the side are seeing injury rob them of their opportunities. Hopefully injury doesn't disrupt their form.

Next up is that (match-fixed) Leeds United tie in the Carling Cup---a chance to avenge our FA Cup exit to them two years ago.
Onwards and Upwards!


Saturday, 17 September 2011

BENFICA POST MORTEM AND LOOKING AHEAD TO CHELSEA!

A lot of Manchester United fans around the world were not pleased by the performance in Lisbon on Wednesday night----and that is largely because the first four games of the season have spoiled us with the sort of entertainment that made us fall in love with United in he first place----Not me;

To be fair to Sir Alex and the team he selected, I thought there was no urgency at all to spend a lot of our energy and risk vital personnel for a Champions league Group stage game, in a group that we will, in all probability top. I mean you only have to look at last season's opener to know some of the permutations that were playing in Fergie's head. Antonio Valencia started that game against Rangers in the Champions League last season and broke a leg that ruled him out for 5 months. Given how Nani and Young have started the season, can you possibly imagine us going the next five months without Young. Its bad enough that we have lost Cleverely for a month so I thought the manager had a point in not including his vibrant blend on young talent in the squad when there is a need to put up a great performance on Sunday.

Secondly, Sir Alex has all of 30 gentlemen to employ at the club and yet he can only play 11 at a time. Given the great start by the young team to the EPL season, it was always going to be the case that the manager wold employ the same team for the Chelsea game having given the youngsters a breather in midweek.
People have to understand that the same formula will not take you places in this day and age. Whilst it would be great to watch the kids twice  week, the manager knows the effect such a run could have on the side by April. Ref: Arsenal.
The only qualm I have with the manager is why he didn't give Berbatov a few minutes of pitch. I mean why play Rooney for the '90 when the Bulgarian is clearly a better lone striker given his hold up play and distribution?
So in my book, we did well to rest a load of players and yet still come away with a point in what will be our most difficult fixture in this group.
The 4-5-1 adopted by Sir Alex has been dubbed boring by many but its the reason we're statistically the most difficult team to beat in Europe.

So United, on the back of their firs criticism of the season, take on perennial rivals for the tile, Chelsea. Andres Villas Boas will become the 8th manager in 8 seasons at Chelsea that Sir Alex has shaken hands with. No doubt this fixture is the litmus test of AVB's reign at Chelsea and it could be the blue print that starts a memorable career.
On the other hand, Sir Alex will be desperate to turn on the pressure on him by outwitting him on Sunday. Whilst the result will not determine the destiny of the title, its is no doubt that neither team will want to lose ground at this stage of the season to their rival if only for the slightest of advantages.

The manager reported no new injuries from the game in Lisbon so that makes us essentially at full strength despite the absence of the captain Vidic, Cleverely and Welbeck. Chelsea played their Champions League game on Tuesday but it will be interesting to see who AVB goes with upfront, given the record Fernando Torres has against United and the form pf Danny Sturridge.
Its clear that Mr. Roman will judge his employee on his ability to overcome the best in Europe after this fixture so he'll send out his players for the win but I'm not so sure he'll be as disappointed as United if they don't come away with all three.

Chelsea are the only side that boast a better head to head record against United in the EPL but the Champions have since built a run of wins at Old Trafford, in all competitions, that stretches to April 2010. Chelsea were the last EPL team to come away with all three from the M16 so if anybody can break the jinx, its them.

A win for United would send out another statement to the rest of their rivals but more worryingly for Chelsea, would mean that United will go 5 points ahead of them in September.

So COME ON UNITED!
 

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

ROAD TO MUNICH 2012 BEGINS!

Genuine United fans will remember that the club suffered its darkest day todate in the 1958 Munich Air Disaster---a tragedy that has gone on to define our club.
European competition has since been taken to mean a lot for United as  we were the pioneers of it in England at the time.
It is therefore easy to seee why Sir Alex has bemoaned our measely three trophies in European competition. However, that we won it in 2008, exactly 50 years after the crash that claimed 8 first team players and 15 others, it was a fitting tribute to our gone heroes.

The 2012 UEFA Champions League final will be held in the German capital this year, the scene of our grief about 55 years ago. Its therefore easy to see why this season's European road will be an emotional ride which we hope to at least be one of the teams that will contest the final next year; and hopefully go on to win it.

United have been handed the plum draw of he Group stages and you do feel that we should have qualification wrapped up by the end of October. Having said that, we start off with our most difficult opponents of the group; Benfica---our opponents in the 1968 European Cup final which we won as the first major tribute to the Busby Babes.
A win tomorrow night will surely make it ominous for the rest of the group as its is expected that if United are to slip in Europe, this is as possible as it will get for the group phase.

At the time of the draw, I was particularly pleased that we don't have the kind of tricky opposition in the group that can make striking a balance between European competition and the domestic league difficult. The draw should now give Sir Alex the perfect opportunity to utilise his players in Europe as well maintain the ethic in the team that has seen us lead the league from the kick-off.

The one surprise from the team that has travelled to Portugal is the absence of Rio Ferdinand. I'm only hopping that the manager has saved him for Chelsea on Sunday. Otherwise, United are set to name a string of experienced players for the game. It's therefore likely that we'll see the likes of Park, Giggs, Carrick, Valencia, Fletcher and the like play a huge part in this game.

Whatever the team, I'd like to see United take on Benfica with the same mentality that we've started the season with; Show no mercy, Take no Prisoners!

So COME ON UNITED!

Monday, 12 September 2011

UNITED HAND OUT YET ANOTHER THRASHING!

It's not bad being a United fan now because at this rate, they might as well hand over the trophies to United.

The 5-0 away win at the Reebok ensured the critics will be put away for another 7 days at least until United host Chelsea this Sunday. In the meantime, though, we can revel in the sheer entertainment value that United have treated us to this season. A start like no other I can remember in the Premier League era and one that has seen us record a record stunning 18 goals in the first 4 matches of the season. Given that this wasn't supposed to be an easy start, at least on paper, we ought to recognise the effort of the players and coaching staff for taking the task on, hands on.
Ultimately, this period ensures that whatever blip we suffer from hereon, will be greatly mitigated by the start we've made.

Many will point to Chelsea's early season form last season as evidence to show that United shouldn't get carried away an rightly so; but you feel that given the number of vultures waiting to devour the team at any slip, we might just end up being a team that is too scared to lose a match that they don't lose one.

The litmus test for this team is yet to come and we may get a little insight into the importance of Clevereley in the next one month given his absence. I thought Carrick slowed down the team when he came on---a feature that distinctly differentiates our experienced team from the young lads. Whilst the young lads would like to carry on the scoring even at 4-0, the older heads might prefer to see out game. I'm glad Sir Alex sticks with the younger when he has the option to do so.

It was nice seeing Hernandez getting his first couple of the season; he was dead unlucky not to bad a hat-trick of his own. Its nice to note that so far we've got all six points on offer away from home. If we can get in more away wins and protect our home record, then that will do for the league.

Before Sunday though is a small matter of a Champions League tie with Benfica away. They'll expect to be the next best thing in the group after us. They are the kind of side that will tear you apart if you take your foot off the pedal so hopefully the manager goes for experience to see us post the first three points of the Group phase. A point wouldn't be bad either given the permutations but being spoilt for success like we are, we always want to win regardless of the circumstances;

Roll on!

Saturday, 10 September 2011

QUICK PREVIEW FOR THE AWAY DAY AT BOLTON!

Club football returns this weekend with Manchester United providing the tea-time fixture this evening away to Bolton Wanderers at the Reebok stadium.
The Reebok has notoriously been a tricky ground for United but more often than not, especially recently, we seem to get the job done.
Its the physicality of the opposition that has usually caused us problems and what better time for them to use that weapon than now. I mean the last place David De Gea wanted to re-start his career so far is the Reebok. You can be sure that Kevin Davies will not need a team talk to know that he has the job of getting under DDG for the whole 90 minutes. The media is rife with reports that Fergie is set to drop him for Anders Lindegaard who is more built for the occasion but knowing Sir Alex, I doubt it because a good show at one of the most hostile venues of the EPL would earn the young Spaniard a load of confidence.

United have been lucky not to have any new injuries after the International break. That is just about as big a bonus as you can get because for most of the team, it was more or less a holiday. We have a bulk of players that did not represent their countries so you feel that the manager will finally get to utilise his entire squad for the next busy schedule of fixtures. After Bolton, we've got Benfica away in Europe and then Chelsea in the league on Sunday. That means in all probability, the young team that has so far given no reason to be dropped will take some major breaking up to accommodate experience.

Speaking of experience, now would be a good time to have Vidic in our team but at least we've got Rio available for today. However, the manager pointed out yesterday that he will not drop the team that has got us to the top of the league and rightly so because they've not given him reason to. The one exception should be Danny Welbeck who might not be ready for today and will, in all likelihood, be replaced by Javier Hernandez. The manager does have Cleverley fit again but now with the added headache of selecting either Carrick or Fletcher ahead of Anderson and Clev. Antonio Valencia is in the squad for Bolton so Nani possibly won't last the '90 today. Park and Giggs might be saved for the Champions League and or for Chelsea.

At the end of the day we seem to have the right  blend of players to pull us through just about any fixture. It's always going to be a case of whether the manager got his selection right at the end of the day.

Last season we dropped two points in this fixture in a run of games that hardly saw us win away from home. This season the target is to improve our away form whilst maintaining our home form. Three points today, will go a long way in showing that we mean business this time away from home.

So, COME ON UNITED!

Sunday, 28 August 2011

UNITED OBLITERATE ARSENAL---THE REVIEW!



Brilliant! Absolutely brilliant! I think we'd have to go back to 1999 for the last time United scored 8 in the league but I'm not sure how far back we'd have to go for the last time United destroyed the opposition with 8+.

First things first; Sir Alex Ferguson was aware of the number of players the Gunners were missing for this game and despite the fact they still had quality about them, I think he couldn't pass on this opportunity to give his young team a sort of litmus test against a side with the pedigree of Arsenal. I was therefore pleased that he maintained the same squad that beat Spurs on Monday night. But it has to be said, not even he would have thought the they would go on and produce a performance that would steal all the headlines from their noisy neighbours when it seemed dead certain that after the weekend, all the positive press would be saved for the blue quarter of Manchester.

I struggle to think of a better performance I've seen lately from United. I mean even the 7-1 rout of Blackburn last season was not particularly as enthralling as what we saw today. Our young lads seemed to have that hunger in them that made them unwilling to settled for any scoreline till the final whistle was blown. I've known United to customarily back off when the opposition raises the white flag. Arsenal raised it within the opening half hour but this United side were having none of it. They relentlessly attacked with brute force and class that made it impossible for Arsenal to digest proceedings. I mean at some point of a thrashing, you're allowed to toy with your opponents, well not today at Old Trafford. United went for the kill each time they went forward. Its therefore no wonder that Sir Alex told the BBC that we could have scored more goals despite harvesting 8.

Individually, there weren't enough balls to award the more than one outstanding player in the side. Wayne Rooney's hat-trick (that saw him overtake the 150 goal mark) obviously helped him claim it in the end but Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Ashley Young, Tom Cleverely and David De Gea could, on any other day have walked away with the champagne themselves.

Critics will point to the weakness in the Arsenal team in a bid to tone down United's victory, but for how long shall we watch this team before giving them the benefit of the doubt. After that stunning comeback in the Community Shield, we've hardly been in any sort of danger on the pitch with this team. They seem to be up for it; and its a testament to their efforts that, until Welbeck's unfortunate hamstring injury, this team had kept out Javier Hernandez, Dmitar Berbatov, Park Ji Sung, Ryan Giggs and the like.

I certainly hope they continue to give the manager reason to trust them when the stakes are higher as the season goes on.
I blogged in my preview that this was a big test for Fergie's fledgings and boy did they pass it with flying colours.

We've got a very difficult month of the league out of the way with maximum points so far. Our difficult start will continue with a stern test at the Reebok after the International break and then the visit of Chelsea at Old Trafford. On this form, we should go in confident but we know too well the effect Internationals can do to one's rhythm.
On the upside, its good to see Tom, Phil and Chris get called up for National team duty.

Finally, let me just point out that the FA fixed the League Cup draw and gave us rivals Leeds United at Elland Road. What I'm sure of is that Leeds will not want to play against the youngsters on this form.

Take a deep breath everyone, August has gone by with no damage suffered!