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!