Monday, 28 November 2011

DAYLIGHT ROBBERY!

You get some, you lose some; Fair enough, but Saturday's penalty decision was all that much harder to take because the ref could and should have overruled the linesman's decision. Si r Alex quickly pointed to the game against Sunderland when the ref did overrule the linesman for what would have been a controversial penalty. I thought the ref was sure Rio got the ball and hence should not have bowed to the pressure of his assistant.

That said, we were bound to get punished for failing to be clinical infront of goal sometime. Winning 1-0 i great and says a lot about your defensive solidity but its never a safe lead. We missed the load of chances against Benfica and paid the price and did the same against Newcastle. After finding or feet at the back, I think its time we found that clinical touch infront of goal that we had at the start of the season.

It wasn't for a lack of trying though as Newcastle did defend resolutely when they could and rode their luck when they were dead cut through but that was after they drew level. Earlier in the season, we used to kill off games in the first half so that no sort of comeback was possible for our opponents. The number of chances that we put to waste before Ba scored the penalty came back to haunt us.

It was great that Hernandez got his first OT goal of the season but it speaks volumes that he got it in such lucky circumstances. Ultimately we've been lucky that this slip was not punished by City yesterday and we only remain 5 points behind. It will hurt that we could have been just three behind today.

The challenge remains for us to keep in touch for as long as possible.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

OF SWANSEA, BENFICA AND NEWCASTLE!

Two different results, two different performances.

United's fixture in Wales last weekend was pretty much like what we've been treated to in the past few weeks---a laboured show largely devoid of flair but with some grit at the back that has seen us on a run of five straight clean sheets. That run was also accompanied by the return of Captain Nemanja.

On Tuesday, against Benfica, the flair and mojo was back in the side and saw us post our best performance in over 2 months but the result was undesired. Vidic was suspended for the tie but seemed the grit of our game went with him cue the two gifts of goals the Portuguese outfit scored. The manager and coaching staff have to work out a way to keep our flair upfront without compromising the grit behind--you know, like its always been.

It has to be said that United deserve the position they find themselves in. At the conclusion of the Champions League draw, I thought, and indeed blogged here that we could have won the group by the end of October. Looking back now, I couldn't have been any further from the truth. It seemed the fact that the group was a plum one did get to the heads of those at the club. Sir Alex has so far, chopped and changed his side for Europe so much so that he himself has admitted that it has had an unsettling effect on the side.
It is sobering that we now have to go to Switzerland to book a place in the last eight and even then, we can only finish second.

The real punishment will be realised around February 2012 when you can surely expect a second round tie to look like this United vs Barca/Real/AC Milan/Inter/Bayern. . . when its not expected that such potential final fixtures should not be subject of a second round show.  

Back home, we've got Newcastle United in the league this Saturday. We've been moaning about how City have not really had a rough run of fixtures but they go to Anfield on Sunday---a day after we play. This is the part where no other result other than three points will do. We've had our est start to the league since the 1993/94 season but like Chelsea did in 2005, City have raised the bar so we have no choice but to either step up or watch them buy our title.
Newcastle United have done well enough to have us worried for this one, but I do hope that the players understand that if we are to be where the manager wants us to at the start of the new year, we cannot afford to drop any further behind the leaders for that will give them room to recover fro whatever blip we're hopping for without doing much to their title challenge.

SO COME ON UNITED!

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

LOOKING AHEAD TO THE WEEKEND!

Its been a long  but much needed International break---so long that the media has found it necessary to print stories like 'Vidic to Madrid' or Ferdinand to MLS just to keep up their sales.
Thankfully for them, and armchair viewers of the incredible series that is the EPL, the drought comes to an end this Friday.

We're back in action on Saturday against Swansea City with us having to make the trip to Wales. Now the importance of this fixture cannot be overstated. For starters, nobody has won there so we have a jinx to break come tea time Saturday. City and Newcastle United play each other just before our game so we have to make the fixture count because either way, we'll finish Saturday either clearer of Newcastle or closer to the summit.
City don't look like they'll be giving away any points that easy this season, so its up to us to make sure that in the games they have stern opposition, we make them count.

The biggest plus for us that we should reap from this break is that we get to have Ashley Young and Tom Cleverley back for us. The team has looked short of ideas at times without them and the absence of Clev has made Wayne drop to the middle which has in turn taken something away from our attack. I do hope that on Friday, the manager blesses us with the news that we'll have them both available.

Finally it's also been refreshing to have an International break with most of our players afforded a bed rest. Rooney, Vidic, Rio, Clev, Young, Ando, are among the many that have not taken part in International duty for one reason or the other so we should be fresh enough for this mid-season kick-off. You just hope that the rest does them a world of good.

To be fair, its hard to imagine that we could dip in terms of performances after the break because we've been very poor between this and the last one. So far, the manager has got us to the basics of keeping things tight at the back after the City horror show and that has yielded four straight clean sheets---a remarkable feat given that we've not done that since the 2008/09 season. Hopefully we can now combine defensive solidity with flair performances that saw us win 5 out of 5 at the start of the season.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

BRIEF NOTES FROM SATURDAY

Manchester United treated us to another limp performance on Sir Alex's 25th anniversary at the club. Perhaps the sense of the occasion and the celebratory mood ahead of kick-off could have had an effect on the performance but it's not like we've been doing any better recently.
Luckily for us, Wes Brown forgot the identity of his current employers to see us through. I guess the one positive we can take from the match, besides the three points is a fourth consecutive clean sheet. Nemanja Vidic has surely addressed the rot at he back---long live the captain.

In truth, the International break could not have come at a better time for us. Between this one and the last, we've put up some limp displays but crucially picked up the points in those games (bar the City one). It bodes well for us that after starting the season in fine scoring form, we have come good at the back as well. What now remains is to find the right balance that we should carry along for the rest of the season.

So far, the team have looked anything but inventive without Tom Cleverely in the middle of the park so hopefully we get to see him in the side more often after the break. It is vital that he improves our midfield show lest the manager will have to shop in January to match the class of City---on the pitch at least.

Our main title rivals have recently faced stiff tests from minnows Wolves and QPR and the worrying thing is that they have gone on to win those games when it looked like they would drop points. At the moment you hope that we don't give them any more breathing space than we have already afforded them.

In the meantime, I can't believe that I'm saying this but, thank God for the International break; It gives us one last time to regroup and charge again---this time with no finger nails in the mouth.


Friday, 4 November 2011

SIR ALEX'S TOASTS TO SILVER JUBILEE WITH GUESTS FROM SUNDERLAND!

Old Trafford will be a party atmosphere tomorrow as the boss will be marking 25 years in charge of Manchester United---and you can't take that away from him. All the praise that he has been showered with this week is well deserved. All that is left is for the players to mark the occasion with a win.


Sunderland will not be overwhelmed by the celebration atmosphere inside Old Trafford tomorrow and you can bet they will want to steal the show by harvesting the points instead. United have performed so poorly in recent games that you can't help but feel nervous about the fixture. You feel that the players might take their minds off the most important thing tomorrow and that is the three points. Its not to take anything away from the Gaffer but we've had all week to praise him and I think we'll only do the occasion justice by claiming all the points on offer.

At the moment, and indeed according to the manager's press conference, we're a bit short of bodies. Anderson, Cleverely, Carick and Young are injured, while Evra has lost an elder brother. It could mean that Rooney may get to play in the middle again. Anyhow its useless trying to predict Fergie's team but I should think that the players owe Fergie a win in this one.

In all probability, we shall kick-off in third place because Newcastle don't look like they'll drop points against Everton and hence the need to be on top of our game tomorrow. City play later on so we need to put them under pressure ahead of their trip to QPR. We've got an International break coming up so hopefully we'll leave off with another win.

Congratulations to Sir Alex

So Come On United!

Thursday, 3 November 2011

UNITED TREAT US TO YET ANOTHER LIMP PERFORMANCE

I pride myself in being one of the most red bespectacled United fans around. That is because I usually take long to snap. I will defend a poor performance or a defeat because I think I'm patient enough to wait for the team to click into gear again.

The last time most fans appreciated a performance from us was that 5-0 away win at Bolton. Since then, we have slowly but surely moved our game to the away performances of last season. But for our sheer determination and resolve to post results, we might not be as healthy as we are both in the league and in Europe.
The injury to Tom Cleverly and the constant changing of our back line has given me reason to be patient with the team but I've reached that point where I cannot take another drab performance.

Last night, United had me nodding off for the first time in ages. Neutral fans that were watching the game with me thought that Otelul Galati played better than us on a whole. Whilst they didn't have much possession of the ball, they hurried us in possession and were fit enough to play a defense-attack game against us. They seemed better organised especially at the back and were unfortunate t concede more than the one goal.

United on the other hand, for all their possession, were forced to pass the ball around in their half and had no imagination of any sort going forward. It speaks volumes that David De Gea was more involved than Dimitar Berbatov. I thought Anderson, Berbatov, Nani and Valencia were complete let downs. Valencia seems to have lost that directness that made him a starter for 2 seasons. Nani has once again failed the inconsistency test and is as timid as Valencia on the wing as well. Anderson has also lost the spark that restored hope in us at the start of the season. It all seems to have got horribly wrong. It cannnot be that in our 25 man squad, it takes Tom Cleverely to make everyone else tick---I refuse to accept that. But if it is the case, then I hope we do get somebody in during the next window because as we are, we're only going to dread the knock-out stages of the Champions League. At the moment it takes just one organised team to make us look like a mid-table side.

The manager has pointed to injuries to a few players but every team has injuries and we pride ourselves in having a big squad so that excuse cannot stand. I was more lenient with the team after the win at Everton for the simple reason that we had not won there for the last 4 seasons but I did expect us to express ourselves more last night. That we failed to do so yet again kind of sends a chill down my spine as we prepare for the visit of Sunderland on Saturday.
Only Phil Jones stood out for me last night. I know Wayne was playing in the middle but he was too deep for my liking as well. His deep role made it impossible for Berba and Chicharito to get any sort of link from the middle.

Last night also had me wondering if it is possible for any of the Da Silva twins to maintain composure in the penalty box after a surging run. Its not to have a go at Fabio for his brilliant runs but it is the end product that really counts. I've seen Rafael make the same comedy when in the side.

Credit though to Galati who made us chase and work for every ball. For sure, there are no mugs in the Champions League but one hopes that by the time Basel and Benfica come around, we would have got our game together.




Sunderland at home is another chance for us to play like we've grown to love to watch United play.