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!

Friday, 26 August 2011

FIRST 'BIG FOUR' TEST FOR NEW LOOK UNITED--MAN UNITED VS ARSENAL PREVIEW!


The past few weeks have eroded a bit of that 'big four' status from Arsenal but in my eyes, they remain one of those few teams that can come to Old Trafford and win regardless of the state of their club, for the simple reason that they've done it before.

Manchester United will not be adding any new players to their squad according to David Gill which means that we'll have to tighten our seat belts with the players we have and hope that they see us through the first half of the season with little or no damage to our title hopes. So far, so good but you're only as good as your last result, and much as this young team has been praised by all (except Jamie Redknapp), you can be sure that the same media Will tear them apart at the very instant they lose a game. Just a quick reminder here; the English media builds you up to bring you down. Its because of that that I hope that the young lads will not fade when the going gets tough on them. I'm sure Sir Alex has let them in on how success is not just expected at the club but demanded and the consequences of failure.

It remains to be seen for how long the manager will stick to his young squad but I think we shall get that answer this weekend. In all probability, Rio Ferdinand could start on Sunday meaning that one of Evans or Jones will have to make way. Then there is the return of smiling assassin Javier Hernandez that is surely going to relegate Danny Welbeck to the bench. Darren Fletcher is in the squad for the visit of Le Arse so that means Ando and Cleverly might not just be sure starters on Sunday. If they are picked over Fletcher, then they also have the hurdle of Park and Giggs for that central position. It was easy for the manager to leave out Park and Giggs for the opening two games for the simple reason that the opposition didn't require a major application of the tactical formations and all but you do have a feeling that Arsenal will provide the manager with the kind of test that will ensure that they pack the midfield a little more---in a formula that has seen us beat them on almost every occasion in the past few years.

Fans could point to the injury and suspension problems of the Gunners as incentive to keep it 4-4-2 but that could be unwise given that Arsene Wenger's teams usually benefit from less tactical games. I mean Kenny Dalglish last week was not about to be fooled by his opponent's weaknesses at the Emirates and chose to keep it tight until Arsenal were caught between frustration and fatigue. He opened up just in time to kill off the game and see it out.
It wouldn't therefore surprise me for Fergie to go for experience in this one, as the nature of the fixture requires so.

If the Gunners do live up to their supposed weakness on paper, then it would help that we kill off the game as soon as possible to save my finger nails the trouble.

SO COME ON UNITED!

Thursday, 25 August 2011

REACTION TO THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE DRAW 2011/2012



Quite obviously, I like many reds, is delighted that we've got the plum draw in the competition. Fair enough, we cannot afford to underestimate our opponents too much but you do feel that Sir Alex has got the European formula right these past few seasons so much so that a place in the last four every year is now looking like a minimum requirement.
I mean, forget the kids; the manager does have a perfect blend of youth and experience to see us over the line in tricky home and away Champions League ties. To think that we won more away games in Europe last season than in the EPL shows you what I'm talking about.

However I was least concerned about who we got in the Group stages because going through shouldn't be problem regardless of the group we're in. What I was bothered with most was getting opponents not so far from the United Kingdom. I mean playing a tie in Russia on Wednesday and then flying back immediately to prepare for a Saturday evening kick-off in the EPL the same week can take its toll on the players. Take a case of the 2009/10 season in which we lost every league game after an away match in the Champioons League in mid-week. You might remember that we had to go to places like Moscow in that season. So given that we lost the title by the odd point, I think it would also be fair to conclude that our European adventures cost us the title that year.

Regular readers of this blog know that I unlike Roman Abramovich, prioritises the league every season ahead of the Champions League. So its comforting to not that just about every after away game in Europe, we're home in the league. That does reflect in the long run.

Looking at the group, I'd like to think that Benfica will pose the greatest challenge but United have such a perfect record away from home in the Champions League that you feel that the Portuguese outfit will have to be at their very best throughout the six games to deny us top spot. If things go our way, we might just have qualification wrapped up by the end of October. What's for sure is that this is an easier group than the one we had last year.

We've got a load of players on our team who do not have Champions League experience so you feel that we've got a group that allows for them to get games without necessarily undermining our cause. I expect that the manager will call on the likes of Park, Carrick, Giggs and the like when he needs to be tactical and get a result away from home.

Finally, David Gill says that we shall input be making any more signings this summer---much to the disappointment of many fans. Fergie's Babes have given us reason to hope for a lot this season so hopfeully they vindicate the manager's decision to have faith in them.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

THE KIDS ARE ALLRIGHT----MAN UNITED VS TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR REVIEW!


Not so much as a game of two halves but Spurs will point to the fact that they were better off in the first half than in the second.

Given the line-up for this one, I wasn't about to be bothered with the performance if it meant that we get the result. As it turned out, our young team----the second youngest ever to take to the pitch under Sir Alex--put in a good shift and but for the brilliance of Brad Friedel, could have bagged an avalanche of goals. Not that I'm complaining, 3-0 will do.

Danny Welbeck, Javier Hernandez, David De Gea, Paul Pogba, Tom Cleverly, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, et al make you wonder just what could be in store for United when this team reaches their peak. Whilst that contemplation is for the future, there are some issues in the present that these brilliant kids are affecting.
Case in point; Dimitar Berbatov.

I had reconciled my mind to the possibility of Berba leaving this summer, not because I want him out but because his talents deserve a regular place in a team. He was our top scorer in our record breaking campaign and yet finds himself at best fourth choice among 7 strikers now at Fergie's disposal. You really wonder what is pacing through his mind these days. The player himself doesn't want to leave which makes it all the more painful because he fits into a rare breed of footballers these days that are not in it for the money.
It remains to be seen how Fergie uses him this season but Welbeck's man of the match performance yesterday and Chicharito's return from injury makes the competition that much stiffer. Ultimately though, its the kind of headache that Sir Alex would want.

Anderson has done a fine job of adding goals to his game. His level of accuracy has certainly improved and now what's left is consistency in finding the back of the net. If he keeps it up, then the manager would be right in keeping the cash for who know who. The bigger concern is whether Tom and Ando will have the balls to stand up and be counted against tough European opponents. If the manager goes ahead and buys you know who, then it will almost solely be down to this concern.

I had pencilled in 7 points for August, given the difficult start and the usual delay to click into gear but we seem well on our way for the total 9. Arsenal provide the challenge this weekend. Hopefully we can add more misery to them before we start feeling sorry for them.

Case

Friday, 19 August 2011

BIG TEST FOR 'FERGIE'S BABES'----MAN UNITED VS TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR PREVIEW!



Okay, ignore the 'Fergie's babes' reference in the title but it has to be said, Arsene Wenger (and Michael Jackson) will be 'pleased' with our starting line up on Monday Night's Football's fixture between us and Spurs.

Captain Nemanja is out for five weeks and the manager is not certain if Rio will make the starting line-up for this one, and has hence told the press that our back-line will feature De Gea, Smalling, Evans and Jones. Evra is the most experienced available in the defence. Add Cleverley, Welbeck, Anderson, Nani, Young and Rooney to that list and the age stats will make Spurs a team full of veterans.

Not to take anything away from United, this United team has impressed the manager and fans alike ever since that pre-season Barcelona game and the Community Shield win against City. The speed at which we play seems to have gone up a notch or two compared to last season and despite our alleged weaknesses, we've become a suddenly more difficult team to beat, if not for the fact that those young kids will keep you running for the 94 minutes.

The manager has spoken today of his excitement at watching his fourth generation Manchester United team take to the pitch and silence critics and I have to say, I too are. I mean despite the clock ticking away at the Hawthorns, I wasn't really bothered by the fact that the scores were level because this season, we seem to be playing a style that is full of goals. Yes, we could let a few but we're likely to out-score our opponents every game. That should mean that a season-ticket holder and regular arm-chair viewers are in for a treat of a season.

Spurs are yet to play in the EPL because their game against Everton was cancelled because of you know what and so I thought that we could benefit from having them relatively unfit as this would be their first game of the season. But having watched them last night break a few Hearts, I have to revise that opinion. They won 5-0 and although the opposition wasn't the strongest, the fluidity with which they went about their business was one that spoke volumes of a side that are eager to take to the pitch and kick-off their season.

In all probability, we're likely to have De Gea in goal for this one so you can be sure one or two set plays will require that our young centre-backs put in a shift on Monday night. They have to. I know Crouch and Dawson will be right in the nose of the Spaniard but I trust he's had enough of the same in training this week. The media just can't simply wait for Spurs to win a corner on Monday.

Manchester United vs Spurs at Old Trafford has had a knack of bringing up 'controversy' over the 90 minutes. Don't expect this to be any different. What we can be sure of is that this game will give us something to talk us through next week, but I won't care a jot if at the end of the match, we have bagged all three points!


Monday, 15 August 2011

OFF AND RUNNING BUT AT WHAT COST?----THE WBA REVIEW!


First things first; David De Gea will not do himself any favours if he continuously lets in cheap goals. I know he's young and all but there are better ways to concede goals than he's doing. Sir Alex said he lost concentration for the goal which is a shame because at United, the goalkeeper is rarely asked to produce a top class save given the defence infront of him but the thing is you have to always be alert for that moment when you have to make that save.

To be fair to the lad, I personally think that he should have been eased into the league by starting Lindegaard ahead of him. Regular readers of this blog are aware of the praise I had for Anders when on tour in America. I think he has got loads of confidence and that is about as good as you hope to find in your keeper. We've got Arsenal and Spurs next so it will be interesting to see who Sir Alex starts in goal especially given the aerial prowess of the likes of Crouch.

We lost captain Nemanja and Rio to injury yesterday but we should have cover for them. It would be nice though to have Rio fit for a whole season. I mean looking at his injury record for the past few seasons, only Hargreaves probably has a worse record. The abilities and determination of the young Jones and Smalling could see him lose his place in the fold.

It wasn't all gloom yesterday as United started the season with the swagger of champions! That was good stuff to see. Rooney rightfully claimed our first goal of the season----a season in which he will be looked at as among the experienced players at the club at the age of 25. Ashley Young paid off part of his transfer fee by creating both goals and linking well with Rooney. Its a breath of fresh air that we can now afford creativity on both wings compared to last year when Nani wasn't as effective on left. We were almost predictable last season for our reliance on the right. Young will be a welcome distraction for Nani and Valencia. And when you win the Man of the Match award on your league debut, you know you did something right.

Given the failure of our rivals to pick up maximum points, it has to be said that this win as crucial if only for the fact that it gives us a two point advantage over our rivals.
We've got tough ones next and despite just 90 minutes of the season gone, we already have an injury crisis. The next few weeks could throw up heart-stoppers!

Saturday, 13 August 2011

HERE WE GO!----WBA VS MAN UNITED PREVIEW!


If last week didn't give you reason to put those finger nails in the mouth again, for he first time in 2 months, maybe this Sunday will.

It's kick-off time in the Barclays Premier League (much to the disappointment of my fingernails and my heart) and the banana probably couldn't get more slippery than at WBA on Sunday.
I know West Brom are one of the five teams we managed to beat away from home last term but those who watched that game will agree with me that we could easily have lost it by more than the one goal that we won it by. I mean if Gary Neville gets sent off and Peter Odemwinge converts that penalty, it would have been curtains.

Ever since Woy (Roy) took charge of them in the middle of last season, they've only lost two games there. They are a typical Premier League team that will take your punches to the shin and if they don't draw blood, will have a go at you themselves. Roy has made them a sort of Fulham team in 2009. According to what I'm hearing, they've offered Owen Hargreaves a contract. Thankfully, he won't make it in time for tomorrow.

The manager will use the second half display in the Community Shield to aid him pick a team. Evra, Hernandez, Fletcher and Valencia are out of this one but they should be easily replaced by Fabio, Berbatov/Welbeck, Cleverly and Young.
We've played some fantastic football right from the tour to that Shield game last Sunday----the kind of football that has given many United fans hope that we can actually cope without trying to replace Scholes from outside the club. I hope we start the season in that kid of form as well.

We play the top six teams from last season within the first two months of the season. It literally means that if things don't go our way, we could be out of the title race by October. We'll therefore have to collect all the points that we can and failing to get all three tomorrow will be something close to a disaster for me.

So come on United!

Monday, 8 August 2011

ANYBODY SEE A BLUE MOON? ME NEITHER. . .


At half-time, City led 2-0 and I was preparing to attach curse-words to just about every paragraph of my review.
Its not that United were playing badly because we were actually brilliant throughout the match save for those five minutes at the end of the first half. What really irked me was the apparent lack of confidence infront of goal in the opening half. We seemed to know our way past the City midfield but were guilty of over-playing when the killer moment arrived. Carrick didn't seem up for it in that respect.

Admittedly, De Gea could have had a better debut. Obviously its just one game so for now he can keep his shirt on but the sooner he gets to grips with the task at hand the better. At Manchester United, as he will learn, one mistake will win you the back page for all the wrong reasons. David Silva's free-kick was just as perfect as Young's in the second but I thought, he should have come out and punched the ball clear or stayed on his line on his feet. The inspiring thing he did was to come off his line and go down even before Lescott made contact with the ball.
The Edin Dzeko shot was evil in all sorts of ways but still, at this club, you're only asked to make one or two brilliant saves per match so regardless of when or how they come, you should be able to keep even the most wicked of them out.
He did have a more composed second period and made a couple of saves that redeemed him somewhat.

There must have been a slight sense of resignation among the fans at half-time when they saw Sir Alex withdrawing three of his senior players for 'rookies'----given the circumstances under which they came on. But much to the awe of fans and ABUs alike, United produced a stunning second half fight-back that will live long in our memory. Only the 4-3 derby result a couple of years back would compare with what was on show yesterday.

Chris Smalling seems one of those players that has proved to the manager that he can do a job whenever called upon. But for the impressive form of Javier Hernandez last season, he could have been the signing of the season as well. His touched in effort gave the team a new belief.

The goal of the game was scored by Nani after fantastic link play between him, Cleverley and Rooney. We shall struggle to come up with a better team goal this season. I mean, after that went in, a got a call from an Arsenal fan that claimed that for a moment, we looked like Barca. Martin Keown writes for the Daily Mail that we played the Barca way for the entire match. Well, they do look good when they come off, but I'd rather we shoot when we have to and leave the fancy flicks for when we are 2-0 up.

Nani showed great willingness today. This is a player that has every reason (well, more reason than Ballotelli) to sulk at having unfairly missed out on a PFA award late last year, lost his place in the team to Valencia when he was on top of his game, and eventually missing out on a starting berth in the Champions League final last season despite being the team's most creative player. As if that wasn't enough, he saw his manager go out and sign another wide player in the summer hence increasing the competition for a starting berth. He has however, taken all that on chin and worked his way through an impressive pre-season that included netting a goal against Barcelona and now he's claimed a man of the match accolade in some style against what many perceive to be our main title rivals next year. Well done boy!

Special mention goes to Tom Cleverely for giving us reason not to dread the retirement of Paul Scholes and Danny Welbeck for staking a claim for himself as a forward to reckon with. Two cheers for the Academy!

Now that we've ensured that there will be little or no noise from our neighbours over the next couple of months, its rather a conducive atmosphere, I would think, to go about preparing to take 3 points next week at WBA.
Before that though, expect one big addition to the Manchester United set-up this week.
Cheers!

Friday, 5 August 2011

LOOKING BACK AT PS18's TESTIMONIAL AND A PREVIEW OF THE COMMUNITY SHIELD DERBY!


Paul Scholes was given the perfect send off today with a 6-0 testimonial win oer a select New York Cosmos XI. It was perhaps most fitting that the Ginger Prince was the one to open the scoring in the 8th minute with the trademark piledriver that he has served to the club for the best part of 2 decades.
It was great to see Pele endorsing Paul's greatness as one of the best players to ever grace the game. His former manager Sir Alex was certainly right in saying before the match that Paul is one of Manchester United's all time great players.
A true model professional that I've already labelled a one-off; if you don't believe it, try finding a player who doesn't have an agent.

It has been an emotional evening for all concerned at Old Trafford but attention quickly turns to Wembley on Sunday for the traditional curtain raiser of the League Season---the FA Community Shield. We've come to get used to playing against a team in blue for this one in the past 5 years but this time, it won't be Chelsea or Portsmouth---its our noisy neighbours.

Now, the manager and some fans alike will let you know that the game carries minor significance for us. True; because win or lose, you can be sure that Manchester United's resolve for the coming season will not be shaken one bit. But I have to say that we've had enough bad days at the New Wembley and regardless of the level of competition, I wouldn't want to see us walk those steps first. Granted, its a derby and for the players, what an opportunity to give themselves that crucial shot in the arm that they can take into the big kick-off next week. No doubt City will be looking for the same so on that note, it should make for a cracking game for neutrals.

The manager has already pointed out the absence of Carrick, Chicharito and Rafael but we do have more than enough cover for all those positions so hopefully our lads carry their pre-season from into the season proper.

OLD TRAFFORD BIDS FAREWELL TO A LEGEND AS UNITED


Later today, Manchester United will take on the New York Cosmos in a testimonial for Paul Scholes.

It is set to be an emotional evening for both the player and the fans as the man known to be the Ginger Prince, not unlike his manager for the past 20 years or so, is a one-off in football especially in the current era.
The press is ripe with reports of how United are trying to replace their creative genius but in truth, its impossible to replace him.

Replacing Paul on the pitch is one thing but doing so off it might be too much to expect from whoever gets the nod to attempt to fill his boots. The 'family man' kept such a low profile off the pitch that at times, you'd forget that he was part of the Manchester United first team.

That the likes of Del Pierro and Eric Cantona will grace the event only serves the function justice.

Thankfully for us fans, we get to keep him in our coaching set up so maybe all is not yet about PS18.