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