Tuesday, 27 March 2012

SCRAPPY 1-0 WIN WILL DO!

We might have got carried away with the 5-0 breezing past Wolves the other week, but Fulham are one of those mid-table EPL sides that 'know what they are doing'. They were never going to be on the end of a hiding from us in two straight games. However, at this point of all points in the season----squeaky bum time, a win of all sorts---comfortable, boring, scrappy, nervy, controversial. . . will do for Manchester United.

There was something in the air last night that spoke of a shock result from a fixture that every United and indeed City fans expected to be a formality. I mean when you dominate as much as we did, and fail to get off shots in the box or have them defending as obdurate as they did, after scoring a scrappy goal yourselves, then you know that something just wasn't right.

The players had eight days of rest before this one and yet we appeared tired towards the end of the game. Can do better.

As far as the penalty that was not is concerned, I thought it wasn't a penalty because Danny was looking for it all the way. Then again, I've seen them given. The manager spoke of Michael Oliver's desire to even out the fact that we should have had a penalty ourselves in the first half. When all is said and done though, Murphy will wonder if he could have taken another step and got the shot away instead of looking for a pen.

A win i a win though and boy, I'm I glad we held on. A three point lead over City with 8 games to go means that we really do now, more than ever have the destiny of the EPL in our hands.
Next up is a tricky game at Blackburn which we never seem to win these days--well we might just have to turn that jinx around.

ONWARDS AND UPWARDS!

PS...Jonny Evans is a *small legend*

Monday, 19 March 2012

FIVE STAR UNITED MOVE CLEAR!

Forget the Europa League exit, the one thing that was really on my mind this week was that Wolves away fixture. In 2010 we struggled to a 0-1 win and in 2011 we lost our unbeaten start to the season there. Whereas Wolves this season are much less a stubborn team than the side we faced under McCarthy, the fact that we had a chance to pull all of four points clear of City made me all the more nervous. I mean if we are to hope that City slip up in this tough run of fixtures for them, then making sure that they go into those games under as much pressure as possible is a minimum requirement on our part. The importance of the fixture therefore couldn't have been overstated.

At the start of the game, I would have taken a nice and easy 2-0 win. However, considering that they played for nearly 55 minutes with 10 men and we were 5-0 up well before the 70th minute, I thought we should have completely wiped out City's goal difference with an 8-0 win.
But again, if it were 8 I'd probably ask for 10 so 5 will do just fine.

I was pleased to see Jonny get his first for the club----a sort of poetic justice to the improvement that he's shown this season. Hopefully he can now start to chip in one or two like Vida does once in a while.
Wayne didn't score but I thought Welbeck and Hernandez were in more desperate need for goals given the number of games they'd gone without one.

At the end of the day, we can now sit back, put our feet on the coffee table and watch City battle with a resurgent Chelsea on Wednesday evening, in the know that only a win will keep them within a shot at the title.


ONWARDS AND UPWARDS!

Monday, 12 March 2012

TOP OF THE LEAGUE

I didn't think that I'd be writing this headline on Monday morning.
For all our problems in midfield this season, for all our troubles in Europe, for all the injuries we've suffered and continue to suffer this season, Manchester United, with 10 games to go, are top of the league.

Now forgive the optimism by me or any other United fan but it is close to unthinkable that as the finish line draws near, a team under Sir Alex will relinquish its grip on the title. The more damning reality is that since the start of the season, we've never been in a stronger position to win the league than we find ourselves today.
Whilst City have tough games including trips to Norwich, Stoke, Arsenal and the visit of Chelsea coming up, we play 4 of the bottom five in that period. If United are half as ruthless as they usually are at this stage of the season, it is very much possible that the trip to Eastlands on April 30th will be nothing more than an academic fixture or at least not as decisive as the media will have you believe.

As far as the game is concerned, we played better than we did on Thursday but again, West Brom don't quite pass it like Bilbao. Then again, I thought that Welbeck and Hernandez were a bit wasteful in finishing. We've got a game in which we need goals coming up next, so I thought that it would have been great if our forwards had put away the chances that they had. The goal difference that City have on us could yet turn out to be crucial so to see us blow as many opportunities to add to the 2 goals as we did was sickening.
I thought De Gea was once again in top form in the goal and it appears as though Anders Lindegaard is once again resigned to back-up keeper.


I was watching the game whilst keeping an eye on another screen to my right that showed the City game so you can imagine my delight at seeing Sian Massey flag Richards' would-be equaliser. That goal would have insulated City with belief and confidence heading into the final third proper of the season and you could see the same belief fade from the faces of City players after the final whistle. Their worst fears have just been confirmed and it is no longer media hype and illusion that they're in uncharted territory. Who knows what seeing United top of the league at this stage of the season, for the next 7 days at least will do to their resolve? What's for certain though is that they'll know for sure more than ever before that the Champions mean business!

ONWARDS AND UPWARDS!


Friday, 9 March 2012

ANOTHER HORROR SHOW IN EUROPE

Forget the fact that two of Bilbao's goals had issues with the rules of the game; Manchester United, not for the first time in Europe this season, turned in an unacceptable performance.

It's hard to tell what has gone missing from as recent as last season when the side knew how to play effectively in Europe and still keep it flowing in the league. This season, we have approached European games in the same way that we play Saturday league football albeit with a little more complacency.

For instance, in seasons past; after Wayne Rooney gives us the lead like he did, we play keep ball for a while and let the opposition soak it in that they're playing at Old Trafford and they're a goal down. After boring them into submission, we hit again. This season however, we've been Arsenal like in Europe---you attack, we attack approach that has given the opposition reason to keep coming at you and threading balls past your back four with relative ease.

The saddest thing about it all is that even in our 'gang-hu' approach, we would still be much better off in the tie if our defending was a tad more up to the task. I mean Rafael's defending to let Muniain stab that third goal home as he was unaware of his surroundings is miles short of professional. That kind of stuff adds fuel to the argument that too many players may not be good enough. I'd like not to believe in that last statement, but sitting in the pub watching the game with neutrals makes it hard to make a case for such defending at European level.

As it stands, we'll have to put up our best European performance this season to advance from the away leg. Playing as they did at Old Trafford makes you wonder how good they can be at their ground nicknamed 'The Cathedral'.

As far as European honours go, the players have to do justice to themselves in Bilbao next Thursday, however me won't be complaining much if this result has no effect whatsoever on our league form. The league remains priority and is fast looking like our best shot at silverware this season. We've got West Brom at home on Sunday, so we'll have to put this behind us as quickly as possible.

ONWARDS AND UPWARDS!

Monday, 5 March 2012

UNITED 'SURVIVE' THE LANE

A week ago, Sir Alex stated that we would have a massive shot at the title if we survived the fixture at White Harte Lane. I reckon that a 1-3 victory fits within the definition of 'survive'.

Goodness me; what an important result that was yesterday. To be honest we didn't have the best of displays but I thought the smash and grab approach that we used was quite simply the only way we would have left the Lane with all three points. Spurs are a side that work with the tempo and atmosphere of the crowd, therefore our measured approach and refusal to get caught into the you attack-I'll attack approach took the stuffing out of them and ensured that we frustrated them to submission.

That was a professional performance from Manchester United and I thought that with a little bit more of concentration, we would have come away with a clean sheet. I cannot possibly imagine the disappointment that we've put City through these past 2 games---we've not played well enough and yet we've picked up all the points. I mean what could they have been thinking at half-time watching United be dominated throughout and yet get the opener at the cusp of half-time. To borrow famous few words ''With the greatest respect, who cares?''


The gap between us and City is back to 2 points incredibly despite having played Stoke, Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea, Norwich, and Spurs. With 11 games to go, you have to fancy United for it especially given that City now have it all to do with 6 of their games coming against sides from the top 6 of the table and with United's coming from sides in the bottom half of the table. If we go on the kind of run that we went on just before and after Christmas when we put mid-table sides to the sword, I doubt we'll still be behind City when the April 30th heavy weight encounter turns up.

The irony with football however is that you can do as well as you've done against the top teams with all the pressure on you, and yet you slip up against relegation fodder. The one thing that United fans will not expect from their side is complanceny. We're out of the Champions League and FA Cup and quite frankly have reached a stage where we have the league within our sights---a chance to claim that 20th title and suddenly make what could still be a trophless season a memorable one---for the mere fact that we're on course for a record points total that would see us stop our noisy neighbours from sitting on our throne in the country.

After 27 games, we've already got more points that we did than with the sides that won the Champions League in 1999 and 2008. It has been a massive effort by our injury ravaged squad this season in the league, so  I hope that the players do themselves justice and win yet another title for club.

We've got the last 8 first leg of the Europa League on Thursday. Athletic Bilbao are no pushovers butt I'd like to see the manager give game time to those that did not take part in the action yesterday. The reality is that we can still put out a strong side without Scholes, Giggs and Carrick or even Ferdinand. We do have plenty in reserve. I'd like to see us treat the league with all due respect. The Europa League, like the Champions League, is a bonus to the league. It makes no sense to claim a European title when you can't claim to be the best in your own country.

ONWARDS AND UPWARDS!