Friday, 28 December 2012

UNITED KEEP UP HOLLYWOOD SHOW OVER THE FESTIVITIES

Right from the start of the season, people have been going on about how Manchester United are yet to play their best football this season. If I remember quite well, the same was said about United THROUGHOUT last season till the final game of the season. You then wonder if United have out their best football away in the drawer and chosen to turn up for a couple of seasons below par.

I personally don't buy into it. I think United are currently playing to their abilities (as shocking as they are). For starters, many will tell you that great teams are built around a great back four and consistent goalkeeper. At United we don't have that. It is therefore not rocket science that United are letting in as many goals as they are at the moment. It doesn't matter how many times Fergie, Ferdinand, or Evans talks to the press about it; if we do not come to terms with a first choice back five that is only tweaked in the event of injuries, then we're as good as merely five players standing in front of our goal.

The part you have to credit United for though is the attack. I mean, even our defenders (Evra, Rafael and Evans) have found it meaningless to sit at the back and attempt the 'impossible' job of defending. They've thrown themselves in the box and at the ball more often than they've been doing cue the flood of goals that have enabled us top of the league.
Technically we can still be undone by goal-difference since we still win games by the odd goal but you'd think that we'll be safe if we score more than we can concede.

We take on West Brom in the league at home tomorrow in what should be another must win game, if only for the fact that its a home game. With a tricky fixture coming up this Tuesday away to Wigan, we should put ourselves in the best possible position to head into that without any pressure.
The 7 point gap we hold at the moment shouldn't blind the players of how quickly things can change in this league and so one hopes they go about their job less of complacency.

As far as players go, I'd like to see Kagawa back in the team now as its really been long and I feel we need to put his talents to best use early enough before we get into Europe again. I feel he's suited to the European game more than any other player we have and can therefore work best behind RVP as the perfect foil.

In the meantime, ONWARDS AND UPWARDS!




Monday, 17 December 2012

ANOTHER THREE GOALS, THREE POINTS!

Going into the weekend fixture, the worry was that United would ease off and let complacency get the better of them after the highs of the week before. Thankfully the players were well on the task and a blissful 60 minutes saw us build a comfortable lead that insulated us from the extreme nerves that come with our inability to keep a clean sheet.

The biggest highlight of the match was undoubtedly the return of El Capitano Senior Nemanja Vidic, but I would say that the most crucial bit of the game was the realisation that perhaps Carrick and Cleverley might just be the best midfield combinaton we've got at the club.They were as brilliant and efficient as they were against City last Sunday. It spoke volumes that the swagger we started with disappeared when the old guard Giggs and Scholes came on. One hopes that the manager gives Clev time in the side to stake his claim alongside Carrick.

My only disappointment on the night was the humanity and empathy that is creeping in Valencia's game. What happened to the ruthless beast that never cared if we were thrashing people for dead and still whipped in those balls? The one we have now will merely run to the corner flag or the edge of the box and stop. Snap out of it Tony, get the ball in!

Three points preserved our lead going into Christmas but we've got a couple of banana skins in there to negotiate our way into the New Year. The manager hopes that we can get to January still on top, but I do hope we get there with at least our 6 point gap intact. The reality is, we shall struggle to compete with City in Feb if we are as close to them as we were last year as we're involved in Europe. A comfortable lead will only serve to keep the players confident of their ability to challenge on both fronts.

Its a long break till Swansea away, but before then is a small matter of the Champions League draw. Anyone that we shall get will give us a game, given the opponents on offer, but there is still a couple of names that you'd rather face in a semi or final.

Happy Holidays Everyone!

Monday, 10 December 2012

BLOOD, TEARS, JOY IN THE DERBY!





Remember all that stuff you've read from Internet blogs, (including here) and heard on podcasts about how United had to do something about their defence before they come up against someone they can't outscore? Well that 'someone' as far as the domestic league is concerned was supposed to be Manchester City, not least because of that game that we do not talk about.

It has come to pass though that United's deadly attack can outscore City as well. Our screaming neighbours are the latest opponents this season to be on the wrong end of a 3-2 scoreline. This time though, there will be no apportioning of the blame as both of City's goals were as a result of the overwhelming quality in and around the penalty area. I mean if you are David De Gea, and you've made two brilliant stops, you'd hope that lady luck makes Toure shoot wide or that it fell to someone that would balloon it to the stands. For Zabaleta's goal, only once is ten attempts can such a shot go through a mile of bodies untouched and still find the only unguarded corner of the net.

Credit to Sir Alex for going for it at City this time. You now wonder what might have been had we gone for it against them in that decider at the Etihad last season. Perhaps it is a pointer to Sir Alex that even against the best of the lot, we are better off playing to our strength rather than trying to frustrate the opposition.

I thought Ashley Young finally came into his own on the day. He was as helpful as possible to the attackers and was incredibly unlucky to have his goal ruled out for offside. Evra's usual forward bursts ensured that the left wing, as well as the right wing were a menace to City who would rather have the ball in the middle of the park.
Sir Alex did troll the media though by ruling out Valencia. If Mancini took his word for it, I doubt he had prepared enough to curb the Eucuadorian's threat. My only criticism of TonyV is that he is making it a habit to stop and second guess the defender instead of sticking to the basics of whipping that ball in at every opportunity. It would serve him well to know that Beckham hardly tried to beat his marker before putting in a cross. He simply bent it in at every opening he got.

Finally Robin van Persie. Here is a player who is at the peak of his powers and can do no wrong at the moment. Increasingly, it appears that his signing was the tipping point of the 'balance of power' in Manchester again. It's not because of his 92nd minute winning free-kick yesterday but that he has stepped up to fire United past each of their title rivals this season. Wayne Rooney does have his fair bit of influence in big games, but Robin has consistently done it against the big boys for us this season by scoring in wins at Anfield, Stamford Bridge against Arsenal and now at the Etihad. That the last time we won at all three hostile venues was in 1913-14 season is telling of the impact that the Dutchman has had at United. Long may it continue.

A six point lead at the top of the EPL in December is something not even the most optimistic United fans had envisaged at full time at Goodison Park on that Monday night. We've fought our way to the best possible position to win our trophy back and now its up to the players to show that same heart and desire against the lesser teams in the league regardless of our records against them. Last season we fell into the trap of going to Wigan with an 8 point lead and a mindset of a default victory. Hopefully this time we kick on and try to give ourselves the best possible chance to win the league come May next year.
ONWARDS AND UPWARDS!

Cheers!





Monday, 3 December 2012

MADNESS! SIMPLY MADNESS!

So one thing that is for certain is that Manchester United cannot defend.

If Spain have invented the 4-6-0, then I think its only fair to say that United are close to patenting the 0-2-8. I mean what other explanation can you fathom for a team that just can't stop conceding and scoring in equal measure?



Displays like the one we saw at the MAD-jeski the other night beg a few questions. What sort of defensive training does United do at the training ground? How about they spend a week with Ashley Young whipping in crosses in the box and asking defenders to deal with it with pressure from RVP and Wayne or CH14? Wouldn't that make us better? Can they not figure out a way of defending corners without having to stand in front of the goalkeeper, effectively taking him out of the game?

The damning part is that the manager and indeed the players themselves have since post match Fulham at home, been banging on about how we need to sort out our defence, how we must avoid letting teams have a goals start, etc, but nothing has changed since. The same lines were uttered to the press after the Reading game but this time the boss cared to add that he'd play himself against City (God knows how many we would ship in if he stays true to his joke).

It all makes for fascinating build up to the Manchester Derby next Sunday. Journalists, fans and indeed neutrals cannot wait to see how a very poor defence and a very potent attack fare against City's organised defence but out of sorts attack.

At the end of the day, a three point cushion at the top is just about as much as we could hope for going into this fixture. It offers gigantic rewards in the event of a win but also offers a consolation in the event of a defeat. United and City have kept in close proximity of each other right from last season but at this rate of defensive errors on our part, we could do with a 6 point cushion to allow us breathe a little easier.

Before then though is a small matter of CFR Cluj in the Champions League. Nobody cares about the result at all but I do hope that we don't lose simply because we're home....and it sucks to lose at home.

Till then Cheers!


ONWARDS AND UPWARDS!

Friday, 30 November 2012

UNITED ZZZZZZ PAST WEST HAM AND A LOOK AHEAD TO READING!

This time United came up with something new for us to watch on Wednesday evening.---Take the lead within the first 30 seconds and try to defend it for 92 minutes.

The saddening reality about Wednesday is that West Ham were good for a draw and if one of those long balls had bounced kindly for one of their attackers, then we'd pretty much have no cause for complaint. Thankfully, in the end, we managed to get the sixth point of 9 in what is a crucial week for us ahead of the derby.

Reading Away is the next of those fixtures that we cannot afford to drop points in. The reason I say we cannot is because we've already lost three game already and so a fourth one before Christmas would put us in a position of 'no room for error' between now and May.

The reality is that City are virtually out of Europe (they might not even make the Europa League) and that leaves them with just the League and the FA Cup to distract them between now and May. It's unlikely that with the squad that they've got and the freshness they have, they'll find it hard to win every Saturday. I mean mid table EPL clubs thrive on such spread out fixture lists so much so that they give Champions League participating clubs a bloody nose the match day after.

The Manchester clubs seem to have pulled away from Chelsea (thanks in no small part to Benitez) so we can only measure ourselves in comparison to them. The table standings give off a very itchy look to a pessimist United fan---City, despite being below us and despite having scored more goals than them, have a better goal difference. Taking the lead within the first minute against West Ham told of an inevitable thrashing about to be dished out. But we could only get one, falling another goal behind them after their 2-0 victory.

It might be a tad too pessimistic to suggest that the title will come down to goal difference again but given how close we've been with them in the standings, you can't rule that out and God knows we cannot afford to lose another title to them in the manner in which we did last season.

Get the Business done at Reading and let the build-up begin!
  

Monday, 26 November 2012

ANOTHER WORRYING SHOW AT OLD TRAFFORD!

First things first: Manchester United eventually got the job done against QPR with three points that in the end saw them return to the summit of the league table.

Other than the above; there is quite nothing else of awe to write home about United. Time and time again this season we have not been easy on the eye to watch and have looked like the proverbial accident waiting to happen. It all starts from the line-up sent out by the manager; Twitter then gets awash with worrying tales and shortcomings about the latest midfield combination that the boss picks (this time it was Scholes and Fletcher). Then the kick-off and suddenly the aura of an 'easy win' fills the air. Then the expectancy weighs down on the players as the clock ticks on, then the opposition realise that they've been up against the country's most successful side for over half an hour and haven't yet broken sweat. So they come at us, and the result is, more often than not, a goal for our opponents. Then United realise what the headlines will be the following day and finally start playing. If we get back into the game quick enough with time to spare, we quickly return to hibernation, till the final whistle. If the opposition is decently organised at the back and managed to keep us out, we end the game with the excuse of 'one of those days'.


There is a certain non-truth about our position in the league standings. It remains to be seen at what point the players and manager will realise it but it does exist. We're not yet at the level where we can comfortably say we're going to win the league and yet the standings might tell you so. If it finished as close as it is at the moment, other vital aspects such as goal difference are also not in our favour. It all points to the very likelihood that last season's lessons have not been learnt. At the moment, it is not inconceivable that we can go to Wigan and lose 1-0 (as happened last season, evidence of which is the unexpected Norwich defeat) or that we can go 4-2 up against as mid table side and still draw 4-4 (as happened against Everton last season, evidence of which is our current generosity at the back).

It's all the above stuff that makes me hesitate to celebrate some of the goals we've scored this season in our comeback wins. There is a dark cloud hovering above my head that speaks of a dark day on which we shall be made to pay for taking this season as a joke as we have showcased so far. Something has to be done, fast, to offset the 'tidings' that that cloud will come with. I really hope for some sort of minor miracle here, because God knows I cannot stomach another end to the season as did happen last season when we were as close to the title as we could possibly get but didn't win it because we took a tad too many games lightly.

West Ham visit on Wednesday, and hopefully we can still do the minimum of getting three points. The derby draws ever so nearer and because of our failure to pull away, it could decide who leads the table right into the run-in. We therefore need to keep ahead for as long as we're there, we're going to win it----with or without the problems we have at the moment.

So here's to another three points on Wednesday!
Cheers!

Friday, 23 November 2012

LOOKING TO STOP THE BLEEDING!

It's not common for United fans to endure a week in which they've seen their team lose twice. However, its fair to say that one of those defeats was fairly conceivable while the other was anything but.












The defeat at Carrow Road last time out meant that for the second time in this calender year, we've conceded leadership of the league table to City---our main rivals for domestic glory.
You do hope that we do not come to regret the fact that we've already lost three games and yet, they still remain unbeaten in the league.

The biggest task this weekend is to stop the bleeding that started last Saturday evening and pick up three point against the league's worst side at the moment. With Chelsea and City facing off a day later, its an opportunity to put pressure on the noisy neighbours by assuming leadership of the league before their high pressure encounter.
Therefore anything but a win on Saturday will have contemplating taking my own life for the first time since Basel knocked us out of Europe.

This weekend also sees the manager appreciated once again by the club who have chosen to immortalise him with a statute at the Sir Alex Ferguson end of the stadium. They've been many statues put around in honour of legends and the like but Sir Alex is right at the top of the list of those that deserve it. Full marks for his efforts and determination to see United at the top for as long as he lives.

We salute you Sir Alex!

Monday, 19 November 2012

BEHOLD; THE TRAGEDY AT CARROW ROAD

It appears that Manchester United this season, besides forgetting how to defend, have forgotten how to draw matches. It's either a win or a draw. By the end of the first half on Saturday evening, it appeared that Norwich weren't about to lose the match, so the only other result was a defeat for us.

It's still November and we've already posted three league defeats. At the moment, its hard to imagine that we'll reach may with less than 6 of them--which doesn't necessarily translate as title-winning form.
It's true that we've not had this total of points at this stage since 2002 but you can't ignore the fact that City have raised the bar a bit and we shall need to pick up at least a point in games that aren't going our way. It's why we've won more games than them but are still behind them in the league. Their ability to take a point in every game so far this season has kept them in touch and now in the lead.
Secondly, in just a week, they've wiped clean our goal difference lead with them by taking their chances on Saturday to post a 5-0 win. It's the kind of ruthlessness we shall need as well if we are to avoid the hurt of last season.

As far as the game-proper is concerned, it was gutting to see Ryan Giggs in the starting line-up when we have a dead-rubber on Tuesday where his experience would come in handy given the kids that will be on show. His presence in the starting line-up ahead of Cleverly and Anderson or even Scholes was baffling especially when you consider that Giggs and Carrick have never really worked out a relationship in the middle without the help of a third body. The saddest bit though is that its not the last time that we shall see them as a pair in the middle. Our midfield was a highway for Norwich and because of that, we never really looked like getting a foothold of proceedings.

It was a painful three points to lose after working so hard to be in this position. I talked of the next four games being winnable if we put our minds to it, but we've now allowed City the initiative again. It will be crucial to go into that derby with a certain level of confidence but at the moment, its increasingly looking impossible that we'll be able to keep out City at the back or out-score them at the other end. Winning all our games up to that game would have planted one or two seeds of doubt in their minds, but now they'll look at that result and wonder if we really are a true reflection of our position in the league table.

We've got a dead-rubber CL game tomorrow, but you hope that the manager doesn't put out a side that can defend the shirt of the club. That said I'd have taken a 4-0 hammering tomorrow if it meant that we won at the weekend 1-0.

Sigh!

Saturday, 17 November 2012

PRE-NORWICH QUIKIE!

You score two, we score three.

Week after week, I've ranted about the need for our defence to show that they are actually paid but it seems the new found philosophy about Manchester United is that we shall out-score our opponents. One hopes that we can concede the customary two goals early enough for us to have plenty of time to come from behind to win again.
I mean, we could just score two quick own goals and get over with it and then start the comeback.

The manager is intent on starting Chicharito tonight but I do wonder whether the Mexican is better off the bench rather than from the start. His ratio from off the bench is certainly better than when he starts, but to be fair to him, he deserves the start today. What he should work on is now doing what he does best---notch those goals in so frequently that the boss will see no reason but to play him alongside Wayne and RVP. It's a position that Welbeck has lost recently because of his poor finishing so anything but could see Chicharito back to Number 4 in the pecking order. His game play has gone up a notch or two so that's a plus but at Carrow Road, it will be all about taking the chances that come to him. Hopefully he performs better than he did last time at that ground.

In all probability, we'll be second on the table when we kick-off, so the pressure will have already set the game up nicely. It's why today we cannot afford to give our hosts a headstart as they could pull off a performance out of the hat akin to what Arsenal and Stoke and Spurs have experienced there. Norwich have had one of the best defences in the league for the past five games on which they've been on an unbeaten run.
It is hoped that the players will not take the occasion as lightly as they did at Villa.

ONWARDS AND UPWARDS!

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

HAVE UNITED FORGOTTEN HOW TO DEFEND?

Whereas the press was over the moon with yet another Manchester United comeback at Villa, I couldn't help but wonder how we are going to cope with this generosity at the back in the knock-out stages of Europe or even against better EPL opposition. I mean you'd think that we've learned our lesson when we allowed Spurs the freedom of our goal at OT earlier this season since we ended up being punished, but no, United only play football when we're a goal or two down.
It's laughable that since the Southampton game, Sir Alex has always pointed out in his post match interviews about the need to keep it tight at the back but behold, we're getting into December soon and the same old problem persists. Forget that midfield crisis you'll read in the papers, our defence looks second best against any EPL striker at the moment.
Sigh!

In the grand scheme of things though, we managed to get the job done in the end, with yet another three goals. Chicharito played himself into the starting line-up at Norwich with a brace and another via Vlaar. He's started the season as fourth choice and now he's well on as third choice forward.
Bar him ad RVP, you'd struggle to come up with another player that had an enterprising game. Scholes assisted a goal but he was way below par for most of the match while Wayne Rooney and AV7 seemed a tad too one dimensional and hence predictable.


We've got four winnable games coming up but if we go with the mentality of assured winners in them, we'll get a shock similar too what we got at Villa Park. A two point lead at the top is nothing to be pompous about in this era. Look at Chelsea; a couple of weeks ago, they were top of the league by four points, now they're three off the summit. It's largely because they started to believe their hype. Hopefully the players will use last season's experience to get all their assignments right and head into that Etihad derby in the right frame of mind---TO WIN!

ONWARDS AND UPWARDS!

Friday, 9 November 2012

WHERE THERE'S A LIGHT, THERE'S A WAY!

Manchester United might have to thank the floodlight failure for their eventual victory in Braga and ticket to the last 16 of the Champions League. The team that went out before the lights failure was markedly different from the one that came out after the 10 minute forced time-out.

It was another lame performance in Europe (thank God we're not in THAT GROUP) but given the nature of our group, we still managed to come away with all three points. To be fair to the players, Sir Alex played a lot of them out their natural positions. Valencia, Giggs, Welbeck, Rooney were all not in their natural swag because of where they had been asked to play so that did have an effect, but thankfully the manager made the right changes just in time for us to claw back a goal and win it eventually.

Special mention must of course go to Robin van Persie who came on and 'turned on the light' for us. He took his 11th goal for us with some confidence that made yours truly marvel at the quality that he is. I know a lot of strikers in world football that would have taken one more touch even after seeing the goalkeeper out of position (I mean Hernandez took another even after beating the goalkeeper for his and in the process nearly missed his chance) so for RVP to have the confidence to beat the keeper from that angle and that  far out was real quality.

We've won the group with two games to spare. so finally we can see a lot of the focus shift to the league. A one point lead is nothing in this division (especially when you consider that last season we lost an 8 point lead) so we need to consolidate it before the dark clouds of December gather. We've got quite a number of away games before we play at home again but all those fixtures are winnable to be fair. It'll be gutting to throw away any of those points in the circumstances.

The first of those games is a trip to Villa Park. Or rivals have tricky Sunday fixtures on the menu, so it will be great to win before them and throw another nerve or two in their systems ahead of those games. Given the squad selection for Braga and the International break coming up, it will be expected that the manager sends out his strongest possible team to get the job done.

P.S. It was great to have Smalling back but hopefully that doesn't mean that Jonny replaces him on the treatment table.

ONWARDS AND UPWARDS!

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

TOP OF THE LEAGUE!

For the first time since Steven Pienaar made it 4-4 at OT last season, we're top of the league!

Admittedly, Manchester United have fashioned a culture of being come-back kings throughout the season and not neccessarily leading from the off as it can create uneasy tension and pressure that could in the end become our undoing. Some people would like to think that last season for instance, we clawed back City's lead a little too early and gave them enough time to come back and draw level with us on points. I imagine that if in 1999, we still had a handful of games to the end of the season, Arsenal would have probably overtaken us. In the end, I can only speculate.

All that notwithstanding though, if there was a position the league table that any fan would take hands down is the top of the table--unless of course you're Arsenal who turned up at Old Trafford for a sort of tourist day out or something of the sort.
I mean I struggle to recall the last time Arsenal came to United with no intention whatsoever of winning the match, let alone troubling United.
We've got into the habit of beating lesser teams in the EPL in first gear but it was really a jaw dropping affair seeing us virtually stroll away the afternoon on our way to three points without any objection from Wenger's team.
Fascinating!

Anyhow, we'll take the points against them any day and the importance of the win would sink in after the evening late kick-off that confirmed that non of our rivals had won that day, allowing us to open up a lead at the top of the league. A one point lead isn't heaven on earth for us, but hey, after playing 6 of the top 7 teams  last season already, its something!

Next up is a tricky Champions League tie away to Braga. A point would guarantee qualification to the knock-out rounds in super quick fashion while a defeat is undesirable at this point as you'd hope that the manager uses the last two games to give games to fringe players now that we're out of the League Cup.
Therefore, the agenda should be; first team out tonight and then use the squad players for the last two fixtures.

Finally congratulations are in order for Sir Alex who won the manager of the month award on his 26th anniversary in charge! October was a brilliant month and if we get the gong this year, we shall have to look back on those unprecedented victories over Newcastle, Chelsea and Arsenal.

ONWARDS AND UPWARDS!


Friday, 2 November 2012

A MUCH STRONGER ARSENAL VISIT!

Anyone at the 8-2 result in this weekend's corresponding fixture last season will know that the Arsenal team that took to the field that day would have also struggled to beat our fringe players.
We did manage the double over them last season. but the Gunners pose something of a different threat this time round.

They have the best defence in the league---something that Arsenal have not been known for lately, and pose a deadly combination of attacking prowess in their midfield in Santi Cazorla and Mikel Arteta. The midfield is where we're weakest as a team so it will be interesting how the manager lines up his team to curb that particular threat.

Last weekend saw Fergie play largely to our strength and it worked wonders as Chelsea, for all their strengths, had their weakness at our strongest point---the wings.

Over time, the manager has devised means of playing against Arsene Wenger's team as we have fathomed a decent record against them lately. Given that their style never changes, you do hope that Saturday lunchtime will be a case of more of the same from him.

We rested just about the entire team that should start tomorrow, so we should be as fresh as ever to take on Arsenal. It's a home game, and therefore a must win game. Victory takes us to the summit of the league for the first time since Everton made it 4-4 at OT last season while anything but will see us undo the achievements of last week.

I have blogged in the past that our inability to hassle teams in possession against us makes us very susceptible to conceding goals. Granted, Sir Alex doesn't read this blog but I do hope that somehow we adjust to merely falling behind the ball when we lose possession. Arsenal are one of those teams that will hurt you real bad if you back off them and yet they are one of those few teams that will crumble when you get in their faces.
Hopefully, the lads will be up to speed with the challenge tomorrow.

ONWARDS AND UPWARDS!


Thursday, 1 November 2012

Monday, 29 October 2012

UNITED PULL OF AN ITALIAN JOB AT THE BRIDGE

Wow!

During his press conference on Friday, the manager joked about an 80 year old lady that phoned in during a programme on the club's in-house MUTV Channel. She was disgusted by the diamond and blamed it on our porousness at the back. She literally threatened Sir Alex if he played the diamond on Sunday.
When the team news came out an hour to kick-off, Sir Alex had bowed to the lady's pressure after all as we lined up in a traditional 4-4-2 that would occasionally switch to a 4-4-1-1.

It didn't take long into the game for us to know what this formation was about. Sir Alex had set his team out to 'steal the points at Stamford Bridge'. A squad that told the story of 'going for it' and yet the reality was sit back and hit them hard on the break.
It therefore came as a surprise to most betting men that United were 2-0 up within the first 20 minutes of the match, for the simple reason that the script initially read United would be the one a couple of goals down the first few minutes because of their leaky defence.

The talking points of the game were undoubtedly the 2 red cards Chelsea suffered but this i what I'll say in regard to that:

I was still a high-school kid when I watched Ruud van Nistelrooy and Paul Scholes score in that 3-0 win at Stamford Bride in 2002 Since then I've endured a decade f harsh decision go against United in the league at Stamford Bridge. To list them all here would serve to re-open the wounds I've since nursed, but I trust United fans know too well ow many times Chelsea have got the rub of the Green against us. I mean it should suffice that in hos post match interview, Sir Alex said it was the first time he'd got lucky there in a decade.

I therefore feel no sympathy whatsoever in regard to the decisions that fell our way last night. Ivanovic can have no complaints about that sending off, while Torres shouldn't have been on the pitch that long anyway as I thought his chest stamp on Cleverley was a red card all day. The only luck we had therefore was the Chicharito goal that was offside. But again, it was nowhere as blatant as the one Drogba capitalised on in 2010 at OT to score the winner in a season Chelsea would go on to pip us to the title by a point.

My thoughts going into this game was that we couldn't afford to be beaten as I thought a 7 point gap---even in October would be a mountain for us to climb. To come away with all three has had me thinking about what we could actually achieve this season if our attack keeps banging in an average of 3 goals per match.
The next 33 points on offer in the league are well within our means to get, so one wonders where we could be if we go on a run throughout November to the end of December before the City game.
We shall see, but at the moment, it appears that our best shot at anything will be down to how fit and sharp our forwards are on the day(since we've proved that we can't defend anymore). So far, they've been terrific and long may that continue.


ONWARDS AND UPWARDS!

Friday, 26 October 2012

REVEALED---WHY UNITED ARE LETTING IN SO MANY GOALS!

We take on Chelsea this weekend in a top of the table clash in the EPL but this past week has seen me do a little inquest into why I get to choke on my drink every time I take a seat to watch a United game.

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past four months, you should be aware that United have so far this season been generous enough at the back to afford opponents at least a goal or two every other game. The reason as to why this has been happening has been attributed to the lack of defensive cover. The manager on the other hand seems lost for words at every post match press conference when asked about the same old question. Evidently he's baffled by it.

With the nano-hope that Sir Alex reads this blog, here is my opinion as to why I think we're letting in very many goals.

The reason has nothing to do with the injury to Vidic or Smalling because we weren't any tighter when we had the captain for instance against Fulham. Rather, I had to take a little dig into how the game has been adopted to be played by teams from the start of the new decade. Barcelona were arguably the creators of this change. It's not tiki taka mind you---it's simply hassling the opposition when you don't have the ball. The reason Pep Guardiola became so successful at Barca is because he not only taught Barca how to play with the ball, but he also taught them how to play without the ball.
You'll notice after watching a few Barca clips with Pep in charge that they ran and hassled the opposition when they lost possession instead of simply falling back and waiting for their opponents to make a mistake.


Manchester United, like many teams, have traditionally fallen back when they lose possession instead of hassling the opposition with the ball. However, I also took time to notice that teams across Europe and indeed good student managers on the game in England have adopted this philosophy and are hence making it tough for opponents. You'll notice for instance how Everton hassled us on the opening day of the season, so much so that we hardly bothered Tim Howard for the majority of the match.
Falling back is essentially zonal marking in many ways because the philosophy of the team is to get behind the ball and not necessarily keeping an eye on the forward players of the opposition. The weakness in this is that given the improved ability of teams across Europe and in the EPL as well, it is very easy for an averagely creative player to pick out a pass and find their man regardless of the number of bodies you have at the back. You'll notice that for Alan's second goal for Braga on Tuesday, he stepped in to the box against FOUR United defenders but was easily picked out and almost unchallenged slotted the ball past De Gea. The falling back philosophy is essentially an invitation to the opposition to have a go at you for the simple reason that you allow them all the time and space to get as close as possible to your box.

On the other hand, hassling the opposition means that you may even re-gain possession from an already attacking formation and hence improve your chances of scoring or at least quickly regain possession. The other advantage with hassling is that in the worst case scenario, the free-kicks that you'll give away are less likely to be near your box as you'll not wait for your opponents to get so close to your goal-keeper.
It explains why a team like Schalkle 04 can go to the Emirates and restrict Arsenal to ONE attempt on target. Now we all know that given the fluidity of Arsenal's play, it's near unlikely that they'll have such few shots on goal. Try and contrast that to the number of times United allowed Braga to shoot at De Gea.  Dortmund did the same to Man City the other week and of course we all know too well that the Spanish clubs are masters of the hassle.

In short therefore I know it is cultural that Sir Alex has built all his teams to fall back when they lose the ball until they regain it. But times have changed since. In order to remain a European power, we might have to adapt to the same as well. Whereas falling back shouldn't necessarily be done away with, there is a method of falling back while trying to win the ball that I think we should exploit. That way, we should be able to retain a foothold of games and not allow our opponents all the time in the world to settle into the game and pick out whatever passes they please.

I'd like to see us hassle Chelsea when they have the ball on Sunday. I mean you can't fall back and wait for Hazard or Mata or Oscar or Ramirez to pick out a pass because they will.

Alas, if only Sir Alex read this blog!

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

NEW GAME. SAME OLD PROBLEMS!

Manchester United are truly a special team. I cannot really point to another team in Europe that can get about their job and pinch wins with a porous midfield and defence. It's getting to absurd levels now that it is customary for us to start a goal or two down in every game we play, so much so that one of my mates, at the start of the game, thought that we should just put the ball in our net from the start so that we get that part out of the way and start playing from the off. My mates worry was that Braga might take long to score and hence limit our time available to launch yet another comeback.


Thankfully for him he only had to wait a minute and a half before we were down, but this time, United thought they'd make the comeback extra special by going 2 goals down--cue the attackers we have at our disposal. This time, it was Javier Hernandez that claimed the headlines ahead of RVP and Wayne but it has to be said, his only role last night was to put the ball in the back of the net. That's essentially because the Dutchstar and the Wayne were all about doing the creativity for him.

In the end, its still worth a toast that we've won all three group games and are now on the brink on qualification to the next stage.

Next up is a small matter of going to Stamford Bridge this Sunday. But seriously, in training, the coaching staff owe it to the fans to devise a method of defending or at least making us less porous in the middle. We cannot hope to outscore Chelsea on Sunday and we could be looking at a humiliation if we don't tighten up.
Something's got to be done...and fast!

Monday, 22 October 2012

ANOTHER POOR SHOW AT THE BACK, ALBEIT WITH A WIN

At the moment, it;s fair to say that we're winning games in spite of our lacklustre defending. The manager was right to point out that its the forwards that are digging us out of a hole at the moment. I mean where would we be without the attacking talents we've got?
Wayne Rooney was also right to point out that if we do not find a way of shutting up shop, of avoiding conceding first in just about every other game, then better teams will punish us.
The striker's comment is supposed to be a warning about an event that could happen but hasn't yet happened and yet if memory serves us right, we've already been punished for it.
Spurs did just that a few weeks ago at OT and claimed all three points in a fixture even the worst possible United sides have won.
So then how many more warning do we need before we can put our house in order?

It appears that at the moment, the diamond formation, employed at Newcastle is perhaps the only way we can dominate a game. It is therefore in order that the manager perfects it while we still can before top European opposition  does another 'Barcelona' on us.

On the lighter side of things, it was good to see yet another opponent fail to contain the dynamic trio of Welbeck, Rooney and RVP. Admittedly, we could have scored more goals and we shall when Welbeck improves on his only weakness--finishing. But nonetheless, if the manager keeps the trio in the side, we shall give most teams a hell of a time.

Next up in the league is Chelsea away. The pacesetters have an army of creative players that can and will punish us if we put up similar lacklustre defensive displays so hopefully the manager and players will get things right for then.

Before all that is the Champions League clash with what should be our toughest opposition of the group in SC Braga. The former Portuguese champs have not had it all their way at home lately but you just have to take a look at other groups to know that in this era, when you take off your eye off the ball, any opposition can make you pay heavily for it. A win therefore is in good order tomorrow. It would be nice to qualify early such that we don't have any real urgency going into December to make it out of the group.


Thursday, 18 October 2012

BACK TO BUSINESS AGAINST STOKE CITY

What a load of a nagging wait that International break was! We were on the back of a very excellent result at Newcastle the last time out so the biggest hope, heading into the return of the domestic schedule will undoubtedly be that Manchester United resumes domestic duty from where they left off.

The England players of the squad played later than the rest and yet we still have Chicharito and Valencia to come from South America. It means the manager will have a busy Friday trying to sort out which players are fit and able to take on the challenge of  a very fit Stoke side that will be relishing the opportunity to get stuck in.
This is where you ideally hope that the rested players like Scholes and Giggs hit the ground running as they will be fresher than the rest.

On the injury front, we're thankful that so far no injuries have been reported form International duty. There is an outside chance that we'll have Ashley Young and Chris Smalling available for selection on Saturday---confirmation of that will be from the manager's press conference on Friday morning.

The other big headache for the manager should be what formation he'll use for the game. After trying as many options since the start of the season, the only time the performance of the team has drawn praise was last time out against Newcastle. On that day, we didn't have our traditional wingers Young, Valencia or Nani starting. It therefore begs the question if the manager will stick to the diamond formation with a plethora of attackers as opposed to our wing play that usually leaves us porous in the middle. I know in games like this Sir Alex selects basing on outside issues like height to combat the aerial prowess of our opponents.

Ultimately though, we'll be expecting a comfortable home win that should put us in good stead for the UEFA Champions League game with Braga on Tuesday evening.

ONWARDS AND UPWARDS!

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

HUGE RESULT FOR UNITED!

This is a bit late but anyways...

If there's one fixture that I was dreading in these last few weeks, it would be this one and rightly so. I mean suddenly, we had forgotten how to defend and had got into the habit of giving teams a head start of a one goal lead minutes into the game.
We did manage to recover against Fulham, Southampton and Cluj but you can't get yourself out of that mess if you're up against top quality as we found out against Spurs. Newcastle United fall into that category of teams against whom you can't afford to defend the way we've been defending.

I was therefore thankful to see us grab a threshold of the game and go 2-0 up within the first quarter of an hour. We were 7 points behind the leaders going into this game, so the faster we found a way to get all three points, the easier our afternoon was going to get.


Just about all our players were up for it but a lot of that credit should be down to the new diamond system that Sir Alex employed. It hurried our opponents so much so that it dis coordinated their moves.
Special mention to Wayne Rooney who has once again taken the hit for the team by moving deeper to ensure that we maintained a dictatorship over the play.

The result is so huge for Manchester United. It's important to retain a less than 5 points gap between you and the leaders if you are to keep tabs on them to stand a chance at the title. It's unfortunate that the International break has come at a time when many fans thought we could build on this win for another run.

Tough games are coming up after the break, but perhaps for the sake of ironing out complacency, you do feel they are the type we need.
Hopefully last weekend was the start of something special.

Oh and Tom Cleverley meant it!

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

ANOTHER WORRYING PERFORMANCE BUT THREE POINTS!

As far as improvements go, last night was as minor as they come from Manchester United. The only area that we did much better compared to the Saturday game was in midfield where Darren Fletcher and Anderson got a better hold of proceedings than the men on show at the weekend.
Worryingly however, we've failed to actually put up a mean defence. It beats my understanding that it only takes a cross in the box and one opposing striker to find a way past all of our defenders and get a goal. Last night's conceded goal has further dented my confidence going into the game on Sunday. We've been poor up against average forwards an now we're up against two of the most deadly strike partnerships in the EPL. Goodness knows how that's going to go.

There is an apsect of our play that I'm yet to come to terms with and that is sitting off teams when they win possession from us. I've noticed it for quite a while now and it is my considered opinion that it allows teams to get much closer t our box and get shots away. It possibly explains why De Gea ended up with the highest shots per save ratio in the league----I mean how is it possible that a team that attacks as much as we do also ends up with one of the highest tallys of shots against. I'd like to see the manager encourage the players to press up the opposition and not simply fall back.

On a lighter note, it was great to see RVP get his first Champions League goals for us. He's really paying back that transfer fee bit by bit. He was brought for the now so its important that he gets the goods now.
Wayne Rooney seemed not to have an issue playing with the Dutchman. The next question however is if those two can play together with Shinji Kagawa also on pitch.

Ultimately though, the win is all important because we're now four points away from qualification and yet at this stage last year, we only had a tally of two.

Right now though we need to get our thoughts tuned to Sunday and find a way of defending.

Monday, 1 October 2012

UNACCEPTABLE!

Harsh title you say? Well it's unacceptable that Manchester United at the moment cannot defend. It's unacceptable that we go into some games thinking its a divine right that we'll come away with the three points without even trying. Quite frankly, as far as defence is concerned, its been coming throughout the start of the season. We were poor at Southampton defensively and against Fulham. Spurs only served to expose that at the weekend so our fears were only being confirmed.
You didn't have to be at the stadium to notice the gap in our defence that Vertogehen (sp) dashed into for the first goal. Any quality team would have punished that lacklustre defending.
Then Gareth Bale was suddenly given the freedom of the park to race from his own half to our penalty box and put away a chance. The question begs; do we have a midfield?

I don't buy into that talk of how well we played in the second half because quite frankly, we'll win nothing if we only play 45 minutes a match. The only positive we can take from Saturday is that this realisation has happened quite early in the season---possibly early enough for us to save our season. But you bet all our opponents will have been watching that DVD and they'll know quite well how to get the better of us. Unless the manager can work our a defensive solution to the back line quite soon, the Demba twins will have a field day on Sunday.
What that first half performance has done is that it has knocked a great deal of confidence out of me going into games. If I were a manager coming up against United now, I'd know one or two ways to go about beating them. Get a player running at their defence or boss the midfield (which is not hard to do currently). That is a pretty worrying picture especially heading into Europe where the difference between victory and defeat comes down to a team's weaknesses.

We head to Romania to take on CFR Cluj and God knows they'll punish us if we head into that game with an aura of favourites. The more worrying upcoming fixture is on Sunday at the Sports Direct. United have to put on a bit of a show tomorrow to convince us that Saturday was just one of those days that has to be written off.
Anything less and we'll be the subject of mockery for the next few weeks. It doesn't help that this reality check has come at the time we are in the middle of a terrible fixture list so its really up to the boss and the players to stick their finger up.