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.