Sunday, 27 February 2011

UNITED BAG THREE CRUCIAL POINTS!


Forget the Chelsea and Liverpool games coming up next week, the real test for United was to go to Wigan and take all three points and hence restore their four point cushion at the top of the EPL.
Arsenal's victory over Stoke on Wednesday meat that we went into yesterday's game under pressure and I'm thankful that we did just enough to seal only our fourth league away win all season.
Going to Stamford Bridge with just a point's lead would have only served to increase the pressure on us. Now we head there with the security of our lead and the pressure having all shifted to Chelsea.

If United win the league this season, Javier Hernandez will be the ex-factor behind it. The Mexican ace has been in the right place at the right time to win us games with the kind of goals that we lost when Ruud left. He's a natural finisher and hence makes it easy for the likes of Wayne and Dimitar to play with him. His two goals were the real deal yesterday because they virtually won the game for us. Rooney and Fabio's goals were borne of the white flag that Wigan had put up when Chicharito got the second.

I was chuffed to see Fabio get his first goal for the club. He almost failed to find a method of celebrating it. Now there's that twin stat that shows that both twins have scored against Wigan in the EPL.
There was something pragmatic about the way we approached the game yesterday and it probably accounted for the way Wigan pressurised us. We badly need Giggs fit for Chelsea and Valencia can't return soon enough.

Onwards and Upwards!

Sunday, 20 February 2011

POST CRAWLEY TOWN NOTES!


A win is a win---and that is all I usually ask for from Manchester United but something has got to happen among Bebe, Obertan, Carrick and Gibson if the are to stay at Manchester United for the long haul.

The lads have already received enough criticism from the press and the media alike for their 1-0 win last night that saw us book a place in the last 8 of the FA Cup so I won't go on about that a lot but those few players I've singled out might attract unfriendly attention from the manager. I feel that when you play in Manchester United's 'B' team, then you are as good as a first team player because more often than not you get to play a lot of senior games. I mean I've lost count of the number of games Sir Alex has gone without naming the same team. So you expect the likes of Gibson and the like to put in top class performances especially against inferior opposition five league below us.
That the Crawlely Town midfield passed the ball better than us in the middle of the park is appalling.
Wayne Rooney came on in the second half and the most significant thing he did was to pick up a yellow card. Valencia's return can't come soon enough for him.

We sustained a few injuries on the night that could cost us personnel for Wednesday night so hopefully Rafael and Anderson are fit for the flight to France.

We've turned winning without playing well as a theme song for the season so I won't be complaining much of we win the lot after playing poorly all season but that attitude will change when we start losing after playing badly.

Friday, 18 February 2011

MANCHESTER UNITED COMMENT!


So let's put a bit of the season into perspective here; we're still in the running for three trophies heading at the end of February, four points clear at the summit of the league, with a surely winnable FA Cup fifth round tie to come on Saturday plus another negotiable Champions League tie against Olympic Marseilles also on the horizon.

It's fair to say that so far, the season as gone pretty much according to plan---I mean we've only suffered two defeats in all competitions and yet we've had nearly 7 months of football. But it's that time the season again--squeaky bum time! A time when you have to get your priorities right lest you lose all. It all usually comes down to how large and effective a squad you've got.

As far as United is concerned, we have one of the larger squads in the league but its fair to say that our central midfield has not yet started their season. It remains a weak spot in an otherwise good team that you expect stronger opponents to exploit as the games become of more importance. I mean Fletcher and Carrick have been just below their potential whilst Anderson (and to be fair like most of the team) seems to play blinders only at home. Scholes has been injured but he remains irreplaceable in the team.
It's why the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City must be cursing how on earth United are top of the league and are this difficult to beat.
The one bit that has helped patch up the shortcomings of our central midfield is that we've got results from our wingers despite the long term injury suffered by Valencia. Nani, Giggs and Park have come up with the goods on such a consistent basis that we've not felt Valencia's loss as much as we should have---well, maybe Rooney has, but it's been a breath of fresh air for us that that trio has a brilliant tally of goals and assists for us this term.

Now with that in mind, it becomes gutting to learn that Park will be out of action for a month after injuring himself in training. That blow is softened by Valencia's return to training. One really hopes that Park does return fresh enough to spur us on in the final month of the season.
By prioritising what we need to achieve at the end of the season, we can avoid the nightmare of last season of playing three crucial games in a week. Last season, we were essentially done by playing Bayern away, Chelsea at home and Bayern home. Technically, we lost all three games but I wonder if at the time, the league game against Chelsea was an academic one whether we would find it easier negotiating past Bayern in the Champions League.
I think we have a better chance of doing that this year. I mean the priority is the league and we still have a relatively fragile lead but focusing on extending our lead against Arsenal to at least 7 points going into April will give us that much needed breathing space to, if necessary, divert more resources to the FA Cup or Europe. If the league remains as tight as it is, then I'd like to think that the manager will only direct his resources to ensuring we win that 19th title.
I'm sure the fans would take the league over anything else this season.

We've got ourselves a difficult run in in the league so we need to hold our nerve as Arsenal will be getting more motivated if the gap between us and them becomes smaller. This is the point in the season when I'd hoped that we'd have Hargo and Valencia to give us that bit of extra dimension to see us over the line. I really hope we can have them both between now and May.

What's for sure though is that it's going to be a bumpy stormy ride. Whether we pull through intact and dry is the question. We shall see.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

POST CITY NOTES!


Well sometimes, you sit and wonder how you can possibly explain to somebody, who hasn't seen the game, a goal of many superlatives. You wonder even where to start from because the goal is one of those we only get to see once in quite a while. It's a shame really that certain goals cannot be described within the confines of the English language. So hopefully you're not among those that missed one of the great Old Trafford goals.

Wayne Rooney, it has to be said, has struggled to justify the mammoth wages that he' been pocketing ever since his transfer saga and they were sections of fans, including yours truly, that demanded that he kicks on and starts delivering the performances that he held us on ransom over. A couple of goals against Aston Villa a week ago only granted him a stay of execution so after going AWOL at Molenuix last week, a defeat in today's derby would certainly have brought him under scrutiny once again especially given the contribution of Javier Hernandez so far.
The winner that he's just scored today has now reminded us of the quality that he posseses. To be fair to him, it hasn't been for a lack of trying but one hopes that THAT goal will finally kick start a run of consistency in front of goal.

The reality is that we badly needed that goal--for many reasons. The obvious one would be the three points that take us a step closer to reclaiming our trophy. The other would be to send a statement of intent to our rivals by illustrating our hunger for the title. The Wolves defeat was supposed to be the blip of the season---nothing more. A run of poor form would have given our closest rivals reason to challenge us with even more determination. Our win today more or less gives them a psychological blow. Even thought the gap between us and the rest of the league is still just four points, it damages their morale that we can beat so close a rival even at this high pressure stage of the season. The third reason is that the win obviously rules out City's title aspirations. They are, obviously, still mathematically in it but realistically, one ought to have his money on one of Arsenal or Manchester United.

Ultimately, today;s derby win further underlines the fact that Manchester is Red, and that City, despite all their investments are still way off the pace s far as competing with our squad. We've beaten them even more times in their 'rich years' than we'd have imagined following their frequent wins against us in the years just before Mansour.

It's 12 games to the title now, and right now it appears that its up to how well we do away form home that will determine the outcome in May. For some reason we seem to freeze away from OT. I just hope the manager can address that as we head into the final straight.

Onwards and Upwards!

Sunday, 6 February 2011

POSTMORTEM!


So the unbeaten run has come to an end and although the press is rather shocked at the opposition that ended it, I have to say that I always had the feeling that it would be ended by a side that is least expected to give us problems. I mean it's what the Premier League is made of---bottom of the table can beat top of the table three time out of 10!

The biggest disappointments on the night were that considering that Arsenal collapsed earlier at St. James' Park, we had a big big chance of going 7 points ahead of the chasing pack going into the Manchester derby next weekend. That would have deflated our rivals more than anything but as it stands, we've now given them more reason to believe and be consistent. It actually means that whilst getting a point next week would have been a good result, the only way we can smile after the derby is if we pick up all three points. I mean our position at the top is no longer as comfortable as it was a few hours ago. More dropped points before our rivals drop could put us under some pressure which we have handled down the years but the question will be can this group of players handle it?

I'd like that our coaching department work with our players on set piece defending because the mistakes at Blackpool were repeated last night. Johnny Evans and Darren Fletcher have for me, been the most disappointing players of the campaign so far. That is because of what we now expect of them. Fletcher seems to have forgotten what made him one of our best players in 2009. I'd like that we keep more clean sheets between now and the end of the season because at the moment, given how many we are letting in, our goal difference is taking a hit. Berbatov and Chicharito seem the perfect combination to the naked eye because Wayne is no longer as effective as he was a season ago. I thought the manager made a mistake in taking off the player of the season so far and leaving on Wayne. Maybe the couple of goals in mid-week gave him reason to trust him.

Ultimately though, it was a timely reality check that should see us through the remaining 13 games. Park and Valencia cannot be that far away and Anderson should start ahead of Fletcher now more often. Soon the manager will be picking his league team with an eye on a Champions League game but he has to get his priority right. The league is for me our chief target this year--the Champions League requires a lot more luck and so it fits the bonus category as far this season is concerned and as far as our player resources go this term.

Finally today we remember the Munich Air Disaster that claimed virtually our entire team in 1958. The Busby Babes--continue to play on in Heaven!

Thursday, 3 February 2011

POST VILLA NOTES PLUS A TRIBUTE TO RED NEV!

Besides the period when Darren Bent yet again found the net at OT for a third successive season in his third different team, the win against Villa on Tuesday had an inevitability about it. That could largely be due to the fact that the visitors were a goal down within the first 49 seconds of the match. If Wayne Rooney hadn't been just in time, the game could well have gone the other way given how well Villa played before we got our second goal.
It was nice to see Wayne hit the back of the net at Old Trafford again and the timing couldn't have been better given the events of the transfer window a day earlier and the sensational form of Javier Hernandez in his debut season. For some reason, Wayne's recovery seemed to dent Berba's confidence as the Bulgarian was a yard short of where he has been popping up lately to grab easy goals. That my initial reaction was that Berbatov had got us the second instead of Rooney says it all.

Captain Nemanja Vidic---what a hit! Name one forward in Europe who wouldn't be proud of that goal! He continues to leave us with no choice but to put him down firmly as a candidate for player of the season for the second time in three years. Victory kept us five points ahead of the rest of the league and extended our unbeaten record in the league to record equalling 29 games! That's 14 games left to play and you can't help but feel that with each win, we're getting closer to yet more history!

Gary Neville yesterday announced his retirement from football. He's called time on a Manchester United career that stretches back to 1991. A remarkable 20 year career in which he's won everything a player can dream of at the highest level. I hope the young players at the club can learn one or two things about determination and loyalty--two traits that define a man who bleeds United!