Wednesday, 27 April 2011

UNITED PUT SCHALKE IN THEIR PLACE!



I blogged here in my post Everton notes that we had to go to Germany and remind Schalke 04 that they had gone as far as they could in the Champions League. I mean when you look at the teams that sat out the semi at their expense, you're thinking that they must put up a performance against United to merit their place in the semi and book one in the final.

But behold, we were treated to the most one sided Champions League semifinal todate. You must have read it on a thousand sites by now that but for Manuel Neur, this particular tie should have been excused for a second leg. If there's one game the neutrals are not looking forward to its the second leg on Wednesday week.

Just like many fans, players and manager alike, I was dismayed that the first half ended goalless especially given the number of clear cut chances we created. You thought that the Germans would get one chance or some luck their way and make it count. So the relief when Giggs became the oldest player to score in the Champions League was palpable. Some justice was done to the scoreline a couple of minutes later when Rooney scored a second.
Make no mistake that United, bar a minor miracle, are well on their way to Wembley.

What this does is that it gives us the breathing space and clear mind that we need to go into the weekend's league game at Arsenal. Sir Alex can now selected his strongest possible side at the Emirates in full knowledge that the second leg will not require as much effort as it would have required if the Germans had actually turned up.

Obviously it is not to say that its a done deal because if they win 5-2 at Old Trafford, that would be curtains for us so you hope that experience will help our players know how to see out the final 90 at home.

Just a stray thought; I struggle to remember a game in which nearly every United player had a chance to score a goal. Vidic, Evra, Fabio, Carrick, Park, Giggs, Rooney, and Hernandez all had chances in the game. As Sky put it; were we really that good or they were really that bad?

Sunday, 24 April 2011

LIKE CHAMPIONS!



In typical United fashion, Manchester United took a threshold of the League title with a late 1-0 win over Everton.

Javier Hernandez is increasingly giving Sir Alex little choice but to start him every week ahead of Berbatov by notching yet another vital goal--possibly his most important for the club so far.
Yesterday was one of those days when you feared that the ball wouldn't get sucked in--largely because Everton put up some fantastic resilient defending. Credit to United though for they kept huffing and puffing and in the end got their just reward.

I blogged prior to this post that the manager needs to select his best team for the league games because that is our priority. The team news was therefore disturbing and but for that late goal, we might have been starring at the real possibility of losing out on the title given the results of the evening. Thankfully though the manager's gamble did pay off--but that was not until some of those he held back made it on the field.

Anderson's passing was brilliant at times but I thought he did put as many to the wrong player. Gibson is paid to shoot so failing to nail it on target in four attempts means that he had a bad day a the office by his standards. Nani seems a better player on the right whilst I thought Jonny Evans needs to do away with a clumsiness in his tacking--not all refs will wave them away.

The gap at the top remains at six points with just four left to play. Victory at the Emirates next Sunday will mean that six points against Chelsea the following week could win us the title in front of our home fans.

For now though, how about we book our date with destiny by 'kindly' applauding Shackle 04 and reminding them that they've reached as far as they could go in Europe?

Onwards and Upwards!

Thursday, 21 April 2011

REMEMBERING OUR PRIORITY



At the start of the season, the media had us below Chelsea and Manchester City in their prediction of the final league standings. We weren't as active in the transfer window as we would have liked. The manager has since said that bothe David Villa and Wesely Sneidjer preferred to stay put in their countries of employment. Our most significant signing was a little known Mexican Javier Hernandez who we would only know about during the World Cup. Chris Smalling and Bebe were meant for the future so by and large, the team that finished second in the league to Chelsea by a point, in the last eight of Europe and Carling Cup winners was essentially the team that Sir Alex would entrust with the duty of winning us that 19th league title that would put up over and above anyone else domestically in terms of league titles won.

We simply had to Believe especially given that the likes of City spent heavily revamping their squads. Somewhere somehow, you felt comfortable in the knowledge that we had a team composed of players who wanted to play for us. Its why the Wayne Rooney saga really rocked us fans in October---a lot about that saga showed that he was in for the money.

After ending the year unbeaten in the season proper, suddenly thoughts of a treble started surfacing--and those thoughts would only grow stronger until last week when of all teams, the Bitters knocked us out of the Cup. We've got a dark horse for opposition the semifinals of the European Cup so that means if we take them as seriously as we should, it could be another Wembley day for us and another Champions League final, another shot at making this season, a vintage United season.

But halt! Think back in August. The most biased of United fans probably only had the league as our target at this time of the season--simply because it is our trophy and its only right that we win in. I mean getting knocked out of Europe and the Cup sucks but nothing beats the sick feeling of seeing another team claim domestic gold. It kind of does us an injustice because we're by far, the best club in the country in all aspects.
It's why I think we've been too generous with our title challengers. We've given them so much room to recover quite a number of times and I fear that we're losing track of our primary target each season. The two points dropped at Newcastle have made Chelsea--not Arsenal, our main title rivals. That could mean that we've been on some bit of 'Arsenal form' lately whilst Chelsea have gone about winning their games quietly. A six point lead is still a healthy one given that of the five games left, three are home and two away but that means we cannot afford to prioritise the Champions League.

For instance it will be taking a great risk if Fergie were to rest his stars instead of going at Everton full throttle. Failure to register three points on Saturday could mean that we've blown open the title race and hence endangered our position at the top which we've held for the best part of 7 months. I still feel that the Champions League is a bonus and so we shouldn't risk throwing away what we have in hand in pursuit of what we're not certain of winning. More still, we have a second leg at OT to correct whatever mistakes we make in Germany on Tuesday so hopefully the Everton match will take precedence over anything.

Onwards and Upwards!

Saturday, 16 April 2011

OUCH!


That kind of hurt. Our treble dream disappeared between EVDS, Carrick and Berbatov. Pointing fingers is never smart but given how well we played especially at the back, it would be harsh on those that kept it simple and never put a foot wrong.

City have had problems when they have gone behind this season but they have been equally good when they have taken the lead. So I feared the worst when Toure gave them the lead.

One couldn't help but wonder what might have been if Berbatov had put away one of his three chances in the first half. Make no mistake, those were the kind that a striker of his calibre should put away. It was a shame that he wasn't at his lethal nest for the game.

City scored from a defensive error that was in part due to EVDS's poor attempt at a clearance nit largely because Carrick couldn't make a pass past Toure. In the end, that mistake ensured that the payers let themselves down and I hope Tuesday will be the day they bounce back from today's disappointment.
We have the league and the Champions League to play for now but I'd suggest that we ride home our advantage in the league and the Cup will only serve as a bonus. We've invested more in the league this year so hopefully we don't throw it away in the manner we've thrown the FA Cup away.

The saddest thing about today is that very many of the current crop of players lack the FA Cup winners medal and its sad that EVDS will retire without one. Shame for a player of his calibre.

We return to the bread and butter of league football on Tuesday at St. James' Park in need of a win to bounce back.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

AND THEN THERE WERE FOUR!


Manchester United deservedly booked their place in the last four of the UEFA Champions League after a 3-1 aggregate victory over Chelsea.

I say deservedly so because over the two legs, United have proved to be the better team. In fact as testament to that, it can be argued that Marseilles put up a better fight over the two legs than the London club did.

The win means that we've made it to the last four of Europe's premier club competition four times in the last five seasons. It's increasingly likely that we'll face Shackle 04 in the semis and I doubt they merit a scalp over us. Our success this season has meant that we've had to keep playing twice a week so hopefully the lads will not let their guard drop. The Champions League semifinals are sand witched between crucial league games against Chelsea and Arsenal so it will help a lot of we maintain the gap we've built between ourselves and Arsenal.

It was a fantastic performance by the team yesterday, and one that will encourage many to rethink their stand about the ability of the current United team. It seems that the more they are dismissed, the more they come back fighting hard against all odds. You could see it in the face of ABUS when Drogba hauled them back into the lead but talk about taking the wind out of your sails! Park killed them.

Javier Hernandez might just turn out to be Sir Alex's greatest coup in the modern transfer market. Fernando Torres must be wishing he was worth 6m quid!

We've got the Bitters in the Cup at Wembley on Saturday. It ought to be a fantastic day out for the fans at the national stadium for the first of a possible three visits to the stadium in a month. Fingers crossed.
Onwards and Upwards!

Saturday, 9 April 2011

UNITED SLEEP THEIR WAY PAST FULHAM!


Well it wasn't all sleep but I think our players broke more sweat against Crawley Town than this afternoon. I mean the formation that Sir Alex started with didn't do us any favours because we were the home team so the onus is on us to 'entertain' our guests but we let Fulham do the passing a and pretty much have a good share of the possession whilst we sat back and waited patiently for that chance to break.

Thankfully we did take two of those chances the first half and from the moment Antonio made it 2-0, I had a feeling that unless Fulham were to awaken us with a goal, that was pretty much it as far as scoring was concerned. In fact, I'm sure the manager would gladly have accepted the final whistle at half time---and I wouldn't blame him because when chasing a treble, its difficult to maintain a generous application of all resources in all the legs. The big task for United now is to make that first leg win at Stamford Bridge count so it was important to keep his 'best men' available.

As far as the league is concerned however, the win today was just about as vital as the one we got last week because it puts us in an ominous position. I'm thankful that we're making the easier games count so that means we shall not be as desperate when we travel to the Emirates or meet Chelsea later on. Our form right now also serves to take the win out of our opponent's sails. Even with two games in hand, I'm sure Arsenal are looking at that ten point deficit with a sort of constipated face.

It's 6 games to go for the league now and we're in good shape to make it to the last four in Europe.
Onwards and Upwards!

Saturday, 2 April 2011

UNITED TAKE THRESHOLD OF TITLE!


What a day in the EPL! Where does one start from ? I was particularly disappointed with the starting line-up or at least the formation because playing Rooney upfront alone against relegation candidates only served to hype the spirit of the West Ham players. I mean of we go 4-5-1 at West Ham, then we might as well go 6-4 at Stamford Bridge in mid-week! I understand that Hernandez might have been fatigued by the International break journeys (as Evra was) but Berbatov had a 2 week rest so I thought he should have started alongside Wayne. That we had the likes o him and Nani on the bench could only point to resting players ahead of Wednesday. It looks ridiculous questioning the manager's starting XI now that we have the win but at halftime, I did see a few cursing the Great man himself. Manchester United have a tradition of overcoming adversity or coming back from the dead. However, as a fan, you do get the odd thought that somedays it won't happen. I mean how often do we see a ref give two penalties against you--regardless how blatant they are. So when Mason pinted to the spot twice in the same half, I feared that wemight be on the end of another drubbing at Upton Park. Yes I still had the faithin the lads but the last thing you want to do at this point of the season is give a relegation candidate like West Ham the initiative in a match. So to come back in the manner that we did in the second half was simply UNITED! It sort of reminded me of th e2007 comeback win at Goodison Park after going 2-0 down only to win 2-4. It happened again today in almost similar fashion and that is why I cannot help but see us as virtually league champions. That's three times this season that we've come from a two goal deficit so you have to believe that this is our season. And just when you thought that the day couldn't get any better, Chelsea and Arsenal drew their games to leave us 7 points clear of our nearest challengers with 7 games left! I think that its reward for having made it out of difficult games against Bolton and West Ham with maximum points. Before today, we had 7 games in April; it's a good start ahead of a testing month. Finally, in case of an incoherence or anything such-like, I've written this in the heat of the aftermath of the game, intoxicated so Cheers!