Thursday, 15 December 2011

LOOKING AHEAD TO LOFTUS ROAD AND THE CHRISTMAS FEAST OF FOOTBALL

Sir Alex has talked about using the depth of his squad over the busy Christmas schedule. No doubt that he has always used it to the club's advantage as statistics will show that we've usually done well over this period compared to our neighbours. In fact, since 2007, no club has taken more points in the six game December schedule than us.

Much as I respect the manager's take on this, if there is anything that we've learnt about this current Manchester United squad over the last few weeks is that we don't have a lot of depth in terms of quality. There will be a temptation of sending out a squad like the one we sent out against Crystal Palace---with all of 9 internationals but unable to get the result we shall need. Suffice it is to say that that is my major concern over this period. 

In the past, we've had the February effect of the Champions League forcing us to save over players' fitness over this period. This season however, is different because we're not involved in the Champions League and I'm sure there are quite enough Europa league games to go around the squad players such that everyone is happy. The Premier League is effectively the biggest trophy that we can win now---yes even bigger than the Europa League so I'd rather that we keep our best weapons for it.

Part of the temptation will herald from the nature of the opposition that we're up against during this period. Granted, it looks like, at least on paper, that we have the easiest run of fixtures in the festive period compared to our title rivals. However, as we did make our Champions League group, complacency could make these easy looking games nightmares. 

QPR have one of those old pitches that is a tad too narrow and the fans are right on top of you. The atmosphere can be a living hell for the opposition largely because it is likely to also influence the man in charge.
It means that you only do well there if you manage to silence their fans and cool their players by giving them nothing to work with. Chelsea for instance approached this fixture casually back in October and ended the game a goal and 2 men down. They left empty handed. Before their defeat at Stamford Bridge, City's hardest EPL fixture turned out to be at Loftus Road. The point being that Sunday may not be one of those games where we can afford to let the opposition build steam or take the lead hopping to mount a late comeback. 

We take on Fulham on Wednesday and needless to say we should know what they're all about. This is likely to be the first game where the manager will tinker abit but it has to be said that Fulham are a well established force in the EPL now. They are very much in that B team category in the league. They now have players that have European experience given their two campaigns in the Europa league so that makes them unafraid of taking on teams like us, especially given our recent run of form.

Wigan and Blackburn remain North-West derbies and are the only games where even on a bad day, we might just be lucky enough to walk away with the loot. However, stranger things than them beating us have happened in this sport.

With City hosting Arsenal and Chelsea away at Spurs, we really cannot afford to let this chance of putting pressure on City go to waste. Fans have been talking about a blip that City will face at some stage this season but that can only be engineered by us constantly putting pressure on them in the weeks we play before them. Sunday is one such day and this time, the pressure could be bigger than ever before as a win would take us top of the league by a point. It is very likely that if we cut them loose, we might never get as close for the rest of the season.
That underlines the importance of playing our best team in this period and showing the hunger to keep our trophy.




SO COME ON UNITED! 

Monday, 12 December 2011

MORE LIKE IT!

Yes the opposition wasn't the sternest around but at the moment, we've been limping regardless who we're up against so I have to say that it was more like the Manchester United we know that turned up on Saturday. Quite frankly, we couldn't afford anything less.

City have been close to perfect this season and that has meant that we've had to step up our title charge even earlier than we usually do. We've been moaning about how they've not yet really been tested domestically but December is the month in which they come up against the kind of teams in the league that make your afternoon longer than you want to. That we had the opportunity to pile pressure on them going into the Chelsea game was a blessing because we blew one such opportunity against Newcastle. I'm pleased that we can now watch them with our feet up.

It was great to see Wayne and Nani get on the score sheet again. Wayne has possibly started a run and I hope he keeps shooting at goal rather than looking for that pass in the six yard box. To be honest, the one reason why I adored Cristiano and still do is because regardless of how many players are in the box, he will shoot at goal, if not with the aim of getting a deflection. Against Basel the other night, there was obviously no way we were going to pass that ball through their 2 layered wall of a defence and expect to score. Such games need players that are willing to take advantage of the little space outside the box and shoot at goal. If anything, the keeper is likely to be unsighted and that can heavily determine the outcome.

Next up is the very hectic Christmas schedule that has, overtime, come to be a very good indicator of who will come out on top come May. I hope we'll traditionally be up for it.

Friday, 9 December 2011

THE NADIR!

Suffice it is to say that at the moment, it can't get any worse---or could it?

This late review is brought to you by the failure of a bus to hit me on my way home after the match and a couple of other failed suicide attempts.
It wasn't supposed to be like this but we made it be like this. Manchester United have the habit of doing things the hard way, but that comes with the danger that in the event those heroic stunts fail to come off, the disaster is as great as the success in times when they do come off.
Thursday morning's papers could easily have been filled with the great escape of United going two goals down but rallying late on to equalise, but it wasn't to be and as such, the club's name and reputation has taken a pummeling.

The Europa league is a competition that in the past we've taunted Liverpool fans about; Now we have to eat humble pie.
In truth, our only failure on the night was that we couldn't put the ball in the back of the net. But the one aspect of the game that I thought angered me most was the way we stood off Basel when they had the ball. It speaks volumes that both crosses into the box that resulted into goals against us, the crosser had all the time and space to pick out his man. None of our defenders made effort to close him down. We might be getting away with it at home but in Europe, against top class opposition, we've been punished heavily for it. That is as far as I'm getting into the game;

Moving on; it will be interesting to see the response that the players put up over the nest month as we have some winnable league games coming up. At the moment our season's saving grace is just the league title so you hope that now that our players have been given a harsh lesson, they'll be up for it. The one factor however that is determined to undo our season are the injuries that we're picking up. It's really bemusing that we went to America for pre-season, played six games, won all six games, with no player injured and then picked up a knock from the Community Shield right through to Wednesday. The Captain's season is now done with that Basel injury so we now have Mr. Evans and co to look to to keep our young goalkeeper sound. I think now is the time for Evans to show what he's made of---starting Wolves this Saturday.


   

Monday, 5 December 2011

NOTES FROM VILLA PARK WITH A LOOK AHEAD TO BASEL

Another win, another 1-0 win, another drub performance albeit with an exhibition of defensive solidity----Manchester United went into the tea-time fixture at Villa Park under pressure as City had opened up an eight point lead earlier. The challenge therefore was to get the three points, which we did to keep up the pressure.
It was our fifth away victory of the season--equaling last season's total but the harsh reality is that last season can no longer be used as a yardstick to win this year's title.

Thing is, we were ''okay'' last season and that was enough to win us the league. This season, as did happen in 2005 with Chelsea, City have raised the bar. It means that ''okay'' may not be enough for us to win the league this year. We need to up the ante a little bit.

It was nice to see Jones get his first goal for the cub. His celebration with the manager was the highlight of the game. The one worrying stat that possibly explains our goal drought is that Wayne Rooney spent more time in our half than in the opposition penatly area. Why he's dropping deep even with two holders in the middle beats me. It was sad to see Javier join an already long list of casualties but equally god to see Danny return. What a chance for him to once again stake a claim.

Got a crucial game coming up in midweek in Switzerland---a game we cannot afford to lose. It was unthinkable that we would fail to make the last 16 in Europe in 2005. I'm entitled to think that its impossible to fail again this time round so I do hope that the players do themselves justice and get the win.

SO COME ON UNITED!

Friday, 2 December 2011

TEA AT VILLA PARK!

Few things, if any, ever make my tea taste awful; In fact, I'd argue that just about everything in my life goes well  at tea-time. It's why I've always enjoyed United's 5.30pm games on Saturday. If we play as well as we did last week against Newcastle, I think I'll have another good round of tea tomorrow.

This weekend, we play last on Saturday and as a result, by kick-off, in all probability, we could be eight points behind City and third behind Spurs as well. Last weekend was one of those we should not have let pass without the three points and quite frankly, because of that result, neither can this one. In fact, we play teams at the bottom half of the table throughout December---a good opportunity for us to make up for the poor rub of form in November.

The manger has been talking about how he wants to be top or within a point or two of the top at the start of the year, so I guess that means he'll do all in his power to see to it that we do not let City off the hook anymore than we've already done.

We travel to Birmigham to take on Villa without Tom, Michael, Dimitar, Fabio and Rafael plus Anderson of course. That still leaves us with a strong enough team to get the three and still be in the right shape to travel to Basel.

Here's to a good evening's Cup of Tea.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

QUESTIONS FROM OLD TRAFFORD LAST NIGHT!

I'm not getting into the details of the game because by now, unless you live under a cave, you've learnt that United lost their Carling Cup quarterfinal fixture against Crystal Palace. The following is not a knee-jerk reaction to the defeat but rather a few 'interesting' questions that have been playing on my mind for the last few weeks. Firstly, I'd like to categorically state that the young lads who came in last night did a job to keep us hopeful for the future, but I couldn't help but notice that there were 9 internationals out there as well.

So here goes; Do United train these days? If so, I'd like to find out how much emphasis is put on ball possession. How fit are the Da Silva twins? Is it possible for them to play 90 minutes for 2 straight games? Was Fabio signed as a long term replacement for Evra? If so, why are we desperate to get a left back in to challenge Pat? Has Valencia been the same player to you since the Champions League final? When was the last time we won at Old Trafford? When was the last time we won a game of football? Do our players understand the challenge ahead of them this season?

Again, just to point out, these questions have been doing the rounds in my head over the last few weeks during the matches that we've been playing.

Fair play to Crystal Palace, and it will only make this less hurting if they somehow go on to win this Cup.