Thursday, 25 April 2013

POST SEASON NOTES--PART I!

Now that the title is in the bag, I thought I'd have a look back at some of the defining factors that have made us Champions Again. There's plenty of time in the summer to address the improvements we shall have to make if we are to retain our title or achieve Sir Alex's dream of another European title. Regular readers of this blog will however be aware that yours truly only rates the League title as the benchmark of a season.

The reason is simple----I find no logic in claiming to be the best team in Europe when we're not the best in England. So Cup success of any kind has to come alongside the league title itself. It's why missing out on the Cups this season has not rubbed me badly as we always had the league title under our control.

This season's title will no doubt go down to Mr. RVP. Whereas the likes of Carrick, Rio and Rafael can pat themselves on the back having had 9/10 seasons, the invincibility that came with RVP's signing was so huge that it rubbed off well on the rest of the players in the team. When Wayne got that nasty injury on his thigh against Fulham, you wouldn't have noticed that we were losing our best player for the best part of 2 months at the time. If that had happened last season, we might have considered the white flag in October. Up stepped RVP and the rest is history. That hattrick against Southampton in a game we should have lost lifted squad spirits so much so that there was an air of inevitablility that we would come back in any game that we went behind. In fact, the only time the trick didn't work was in that unfortunate 2-3 defeat to Spurs ( because of the wood-work--haha!) and down at Norwich when RVP (for once) failed to connect with a first time volley twice on the night.
RVP's influence on the title makes one wonder at what might have been had we invested a little more on a box to box midfielder to replace Pogba.

Make no mistake, this current United team will be talked about in seasons to come simply because it will be tough for any team in future to match the statistical records that it has conjured up.  The only reason it fell short in Europe is because of our limitations in the middle and hence our failure to retain possession as is required by the latest European style of football.

This is where Carrick needs the pat on the back as he has almost single-handedly ensured that we've had something close to a midfield this season. But what the signing of RVP did was to allow us play to our old fearless, no holds barred ways. That first half against Villa was reminiscent of our first half of the season. The manner in which we attacked Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, Liverpool at Anfield, Newcastle at St James' Park and City at the Etihad were much like the Busby Babes would have done in 1957. The peak of all that was the Boxing Day 4-3 win against Newcastle when we were behind three times in the match but pushed and pushed and pushed until that now customary last minute winner came. It was amazing!


Signing another striker when we already had Wayne, Welbz and Chicharito (God bless him) always meant that United were going to win this title by outscoring the opposition. The failure to improve defensive midfield meant that there was no point in defending. Attack was the only means at our disposal and boy did we have fun. Yes, we did not (at least not yet) register a 5-0 win but we had a few threes and fours in there that made for such astonishing games of you score two--we score three. We were all to glad to play this Busby game with just about any side in the league to the extent that after half an hour at Reading, they'd got three, we'd got four!

I don't know about many other Reds fans around the world but that first half of the season was some cable entertainment for me. It's not that I do not spill my drink in anger when we concede, but that whenever we did, my mid quickly focussed on RVP-ROO and in a few winces, all as well again! How Real Madrid survived a good thumping of goals in that home leg, I don't know but for all our weaknesses in the middle, we were not made to look as bleak as we were when Barcelona had us for dinner in those two finals.














Add Strootman, Rodriguez and Garray to this team and I tell you, we could be something to reckon with next year.

Enjoy #20 Reds, for it's been one of those rides we shall look back on with envy next season. It will be a much stronger challenge for us next season but I trust that the manager will read that second last paragraph over the summer to ensure that in the least, we shall still be Champions of England this time next year.

#20!

A little belatedly, but hey!





Monday, 15 April 2013

7 POINTS AWAY!

Manchester United have moved that one big step closer to a record 20th league title after a 2-0 win at Stoke on Sunday.
The performance was nothing to write home about but when you go to Stoke, you hardly expect to get a game of free flowing football. Credit therefore to the team that got stuck in and showed immense grit to grind out a win and put off any suggestions that United were going to let City back in the title race.

The moment of the match was undoubtedly RVP's hug with Sir Alex. It was such a relief for our player of the season that he ended his 10 game goal drought with a well struck penalty ad here's hoping that it sets him up for a goal-laden final finish to the season.

In truth though, the end of the season cannot quite come soon enough for us as the side looks short of gas. Its just as well therefore that we have a double digit lead over City. I cannot imagine that we would had the legs to withstand the nerves that would have come with a close finish. This perhaps is just reward for the efforts that we put in in the first half of the season--a perfect illustration of making hay while the sun shines.

We've got West Ham away on Wednesday with an opportunity to get 4 points closer to the title. If the three results we've posted against West Ham this season are anything to go by, we're in for a very tough evening at Upton Park. United need to be up for it from the start as quite frankly this is becoming a very boring wait for that title. It would be fantastic to for RVP to get a guard of honour at the Emirates and for the European Champions to give us a guard of honour next month.

The manager has asked his players to take the last 6 games as though they're the first 6 games of the season. Here's to that sinking in.



ONWARDS AND UPWARDS!

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

UNITED CONTINUE THE LIMP TO THE FINISH LINE

Okay, the ref got it wrong in the Real Madrid game, but that doesn't excuse the kind of football and results that Manchester United have served since the 56th minute of that tie.

The manager said that we performed well yesterday, but I beg to differ. What we had on the night was passion and zeal which is okay and expected given the occasion, but when it comes to evaluating the type of football that we played, then I'm sorry, we'd still be beat by Athletic Club Bilbao if we turned out such a performance. There is a continued lack of possession and control of games and an absence of a link between   the midfield and attack. That is all down to having a midfield that can easily be bossed by most sides.
The other issue is a continued reliance on the wings for service to the attackers. Whatever happened to playing through the middle and varying the play just to give us that other option.

It therefore begs the question as to why Sir Alex continues to bench Shinji Kagawa and yet he is the one player in our team that is comfortable with playing through the middle and hence supporting the striker ahead of him.

Anyhow, as it stands, we remain on course to win that 20th title. City last night simply showed how good they can be on their day and its a level that we shall have to match next season if we are to hopefully be in the position as defending champions.
It's a 7 game limp to the finish line, but you wouldn't bet against United to make it an entertaining finish for the neutrals.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

UNITED PASS UP CHANCE FOR A DOUBLE!

I've always blogged here that the League title every season would do just fine for me. The difference this season however is that we've had the title in the bag so early on (excuse the hubris) that we could have easily bagged more than just the one trophy.
Granted, that's being greedy and spoilt but what's the point of progressing so far in domestic Cup competitions if its not to win it.


I was hence disappointed (not with the team line-up) but with the energy and desire on display at Stamford Bridge on Monday. It spoke volumes that the boss himself couldn't see us scoring a goal. To be fair Chelsea deserved to go through but we didn't make them sweat as much as they should have. I thought the player played as though the league was just enough for them while Chelsea knew that could be the only trophy they win this year. I don't think we would have turned in such a performance if we were in their shoes.
I mean for all the talk at the start of the season regarding how the players wanted to win the Cup, you thought they'd play with heart and desire for it, but alas, we wait to be treated to the same old tirade next season.

Thankfully though, we remain with a title to cling to this season. That should just about save face for another season but it's increasingly appearing that we will need a better winger than the current crop to challenge better next season. It's amazing that David Beckham still rates higher than Nani, Young and Valencia for what they contribute on an average day out. It wouldn't be so much of a bother if we were not such a wing-based team. It is apparent for rival managers that United rely heavily on their wing play and that has made us vulnerable in the Cups. There was no way Benitez (the Cup man) would have let that one detail past him. As it was, he virtually ensured that we were pointless out-wide and in effect dealing with just about every attack we could muster. The couple of crosses that went through failed to materialise into goals and that was that. This is where you hope the manager would have introduced Shinji Kagawa to open up Chelsea from right down the middle. It would have caught them out by surprise and would have added that little variety to our play.

Ultimately though its just the league for us now. We've been very poor since the Real Madrid game and so I hope we really step it up to the finish line. The City derby is up next on Monday and what a perfect opportunity for our players to redeem themselves from what has been so far a lifeless start to the month.
Let's show Mancini just how many points he is behind us.