Wednesday, 30 October 2013
David Moyes put out the expected side and it was great seeing the likes of Zaha, Januzaj and Chicharito bully the Norwich defence at will. It was always important that we remained in the competition just so as to keep our squad players happy with a run of games so I'm glad that we've made it to the last 8. You'd expect that the likes of Chicharito and Januzaj are pleased with the amount of minutes they've been afforded since the International break.
You can't read too much into the result but it was great to see the likes of Jones and Fabio get on the score-sheet as that can only improve their lives. The biggest take from this result is that it has kept the momentum going. A run of wins, regardless the opposition serves to work up the confidence of the team and that is exactly what you need to develop consistency that we so desperately need in the league to work our way up the table.
The only selection headache that the manager has is whether to consider the returning Vidic and Ferdinand for the next league game as Jones and Evans seemed uncertain against Stoke. Vidic seems a certainty, but Rio now has a question mark on his head regarding his ability to keep pace with opponents as they will have watched how West Brom exposed him.
Attention quickly switches to the weekend trip to Craven Cottage, a small tight venue that can turn into a mini-hell if teams go there when Fulham are up for it. Given that Arsenal visit in the next round of fixtures, it is all too important that we collect maximum points at the weekend.
ONWARDS AND UPWARDS!
Tuesday, 29 October 2013
That line-up featured Lindegaard, Fabio, Buttner, Evans, Smalling, Zaha, Young, Kagawa, Anderson, Chicharito and Welbeck/Giggs.
A lot of those players will feature tonight in the League Cup tie against Norwich at home. It is expected that the manager shall rest a number of first team stars, but it is also expected that we should be able to put up a side that can win the match---in normal time. The League Cup is never top of United's priority least every season but given the possible permutations of this season, we might need to play it safe and keep in a couple of Cup competitions to keep our season vibrant and relevant.
We have a large squad that could do with a run in the competition so as to get games and others to work on their fitness. It is imperative therefore that we progress to the last 8. Rather than treat it as a less important fixture, I'd like that the squad players put on a performance and use the tie as a means of showing the manager what they can do. Whether, they take the opportunity remains to be seen.
Monday, 28 October 2013
Think back to last season and remember that we started just about every game of the first half of the season a goal down. At one point we were even 3-2 down in a first half (vs Reading Away), but still managed to win the half 4-3. This season though, it's been much harder for us to out-score the opposition. It's why hearts sank when Stoke went 2-1 up. That we eventually managed to turn it around in the last fifteen minutes means that the players have summoned one or two traits of the Ferguson script and used it to overcome adversity.
You hope that that belief remains a part of the ethos at the club this season as well. It will hold them in good stead for the rest of the campaign.
In terms of the game proper, it was slightly worrying that we kept turning to the wings to score against a team that is full of 6ft plus players. In that respect, I thought Kagawa struggled to have the midfield-probing impact that he did in the Champions League on Tuesday. I still think the manager should stick with him, as given the game plan, it was Nani who turned out to be the biggest disappointment as he failed to turn in a decent cross. His inconsistency remains a trait that is yet to leave him. Valencia on the other hand seemed to carry his European form into the match and so one should understand if the manager starts him for the next league outing. The frustrating thing is that most of our players seem to play well when axed from the starting XI and perform incredibly poorly when restored. It's incredibly frustrating.
In the grand scheme of things, we're better off winning after playing badly. Evra has asked that we go on a 10 match winning run and I agree if we are to challenge for the title. We shall, however, need to play to greater urgency and fight than we've been showing up lately. I still think that the players need to play for the manager a bit more than they're doing. This season was never about wining anything, but about showing how the club responds in times of uncertainty. As fans we're not pleased when our side comes short of honours, but we're even more displeased by that failure to put up a fight, to show up the United colours. Even in defeat, our competition must know that we were there, not putting up a disappearance act in the middle of the league table.
The win keeps us 8th, but the placing doesn't matter if the points are being posted. Next up is Norwich at home in the league Cup---a home tie means that it should be negotiable; then its Fulham away in the league; a game whose importance I shall explain later in the week.
ONWARDS AND UPWARDS!
Friday, 25 October 2013
The above is part of the stick that rival fans have enjoyed throwing in the way of United fans as the club endures its worst start to a top flight league campaign in over a two and a half decades. As already poited out in the Real Soceidad review post, the measure of how far back we've fallen is evidenced by the fact that a win and defeat for all teams above us would still leave us in 8th place going into the 9th fixture of the season. It's a testament of the work that we have to put in between now and Christmas to get to near the top by New Years' Day. Sir Alex always spoke of the need to be at the top or thereabouts by the turn of the year to have a chance to challenge for the title so its imperative that we make up for our horror start these next few months.
We've been unlucky with our chances of late and so you feel that someone is due a hiding at Old Trafford. It would be a much needed hiding tomorrow. We're desperately in need of a run of wins and we must get that run started tomorrow. It is not yet too late for United to win the league even from this position, but you feel that only a run of wins can save us in that respect at the moment. On the flip side, you feel that we are just the one bad result from relinquishing our title. If that isn't motivation to kick-start our season, then I don't know what is.
ONWARDS AND UPWARDS!
Thursday, 24 October 2013
The biggest concern though on the night was the result as it will serve us well to get the group sorted as soon as possible given the attention demanded by our domestic form. In that respect though, we did well to get to within three points of qualification; you'd imagine that given what we saw on the night, we should be able to complete the job in the return leg of the fixture in a couple of week's time.
RVP missed the match through injury but it was nice to see Javier Hernandez start a game and I thought he did well to press the opposition from attacking positions.
Tuesday, 22 October 2013
The other scenario of course is that United could lose today and in effect throw the group into a frenzy of some sort as suddenly all four sides will have a very realistic chance of making it through. Winning the double header against the Spaniards effectively eliminates them from the competition so you can expect a hell of a challenge from them. Soceidad were unfortunate to lose in the last minute in Germany last time out, but they remain Spanish opposition which United have failed to beat on the last 4 occasions at Old Trafford.
United on the other hand yet again head into European competition on the back of a disappointing league result. This is the second of 4 straight league games at home; we've disappointed in our first, fingers crossed we do the job in what has so far been a successful European campaign.
The worry on Wednesday is that Soceidad are a Spanissh side and hence are very capable of causing an embarrassment if we're not up for it. It's the type of game where you feel that Kagawa could thrive on so you do hope that he starts. Everything else will be up to the manager.
ONWARDS AND UPWARDS!
Monday, 21 October 2013
Being the better side at Old Trafford has never guaranteed anyone even a point. So despite the good performance by Pochettinho's side, we should have been able to see out the game. Many reds have criticised the boss' changes while at 1-0 but I can't remember a manager making too many attacking changes whilst they're trying to see out a game. Moreover, in Saturday's case, Moyes brought on Welbeck---an attacking change that should have merited a goal if he had found Rooney late on.
The one thing many will overlook on the day was the sheer ill-luck before that 'sickener'. We hit the bar twice at 1-0 up through efforts by RVP and Wayne. You then start to think that its one of those games where a second will not go in. The question then turns to whether you can keep a clean sheet and to be fair, De Gea was hardly troubled for all of the Saint's good inter-play and attempts at goal. That they finally scrambled one in at the death was in many ways down to ill-luck rather than any fault from the players. On the whole, I thought we gave a better account of ourselves than we did against West Brom. The only flaw in the side is a sore lack of a killer instinct---the one we showed when Swansea got a goal back or the one we showed against Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League.
It's 8 games in now and its becoming a recurring theme from the club that after a bad result, we move on to the next game. I'd like the post-match comments have a little more reflection of how good we performed more often. As a fan, I cannot say that this slow start was somewhat very unexpected and all, but I surely can't have been expected it to be this slow. My interpretation of slow is losing the difficult games that we did at the start of the season then beating the likes of West Brom and Southampton at home.
In my points table that I usually draft before the start of the season, United are currently 5 points off the pace and its easy to see where those 5 points have been lost. It's perfectly understandable to lose points against Chelsea, City and Liverpool but not quite at home to Southampton and WBA.
The next good result cannot come sooner enough.
Thursday, 17 October 2013
As far as basic business is concerned, one of the league's in-form teams and the very difficult to beat Southampton provide the opposition this weekend. At the moment, the club is yet to get out of gear one as far as EPL business is concerned. We've not won 2 on the bounce as yet and yet we're soon getting into double-digits in the column of games played. David Moyes has to get the team in the habbit of getting results and hence points on the board as we risk falling too far behind in the grans scheme of things. I know it's just a 6 points gap off the top, but there's 8 other sides that have done better than us so far in the league. It's worrying that even if all results goo our way this weekend, we cannot get into the top four in the middle of October. That is the concern for us---that we've found the likes of West Brom a very tough proposition and made Sunderland appear better than their league position suggests.
It all bodes for another nervy afternoon at Old Trafford as one wonders which United team will turn up against Pochetinho's side. Southampton currently sit in fourth and have already beaten Liverpool at Anfield this season. We desperately need the points and you only hope the manager will have worked out a way to take all three points on the day by negating the attacking threat of the Saints as well as a side capable of getting the job done upfront. One thing that we need to sort out quickly is the defending. We've so far leaked a hatfull of goals and even though its better than last season, the goals last term meant that we could still out-score the opposition. At the moment, we're finding it hard to do both tasks of defending and bagging goals. It's why we might still need to start Adnan in a fxture like this because of the defensive organisation of the opposition.
The money in the league right now has made the gap between the 'small teams' and bigger teams is now considerably reduced. Freak results will now be more frequent than ever but surely United have served their time under that particular jinx with the defeat against WBA. Now is the time to get stuck in and do a job.
We've got 4 straight home games and as such you feel that everything is i place to build that little bit of momentum to take into the first clear run of club football. Whether the side capitalises on this though is a matter of finger nails, teeth and David Moyes.
Monday, 7 October 2013
Ultimately though, Saturday was all about three points as we're quite short in that respect. Forget what the media have been saying recently, if we hadn't gotten the result on Saturday, we would have thrown ourselves into a real crisis of sorts. We really need a result to build on a run of wins to keep us in the mix at the top of the league. We're currently 6 points off the top and so considering our start, we're not that badly off, but that gap tends to be harder to make up as the season goes on. For instance, 6 points behind in October is not the same as 6 points behind in February. Point is, you don't want to be that many points behind when the finish line comes into view.
The faster it gets sorted out, the better for all.
In the main, it would have been hell spending this International break mulling over another FAIL performance from the team. We can now thankfully look ahead to putting our home form right as we have 4 straight home games when we re-start. It's set up perfectly for us to go on a run of a few wins that could make October the month that really spring-boards our season.
Enjoy the break reds!
Friday, 4 October 2013
Sunderland have since fired Paolo Di Canio for guiding them to a horror start so with care-taker management comes the possibility of putting up a show for the new boss and seeking a scalp of a victory from which to build on their rest of the season. It's why in some ways Saturday's teatime clash could be the worst possible fixture for David Moyes.
Regardless of what Sunderland have to offer, Manchester United cannot afford to come away from the Stadium of Light short of all three points. We're all of 8 points off the summit after 6 games and yet even in the bad times, we had a knack of keeping in touch with the table leaders right up to the new year and then hitting form when it really matters. As it stands, we risk losing that touch with the leadership at the table if the gap gets to double-digits.
We've got an international break coming up after this one, so you'd like that we're not left to moan about a result for 2 weeks like we had to do in the last international break.
Being Manchester United means that we can't languish in the bottom half of the table and use the excuse of ''transition'' etc. It means that we can still make our presence felt right at the top of the league in spite of being a ''crisis''. The tough start is done so its time we start making up for points dropped within the first 6.
That time starts at 5:30 on Saturday!
Thursday, 3 October 2013
Ahead of the game, we were dealt a huge blow with the news that Wayne was unwell and hence unable to make the squad. Danny Welbeck took his place and thankfully for us managed to get himself another big Champions league away goal. Turns out that he might never be a great goalscorer but could yet be a scorer of great goals.
We lost our advantage largely due to a poor second half display that robbed us of any real attacking impetus. In absence of attacking play though, we still managed to defend well. The goal conceded was more of an accident than anything else as the otherwise excellent Vidic was surprised by the cross-shot that came out to him.
In the end though, we did just enough to keep us top of the group after MatchDay 2 and as long as we're there, we can't really complain. You feel though that we have to beat Real Soceidad to take advantage of the meeting between our two challengers in the group; Leverkusen and Shaktar.
Attention will now turn to that trip to Sunderland which became a very important fixture from the momet West Brom scored a second goal last weekend. We can't afford anything other than a win there. For all our problems and apparent 'crisis', we still have enough in us to get the points against the also-runs in the league. Last weekend is the kind of weekend we must shed blood to avoid, if only for the fact that we are Manchester United.
Tuesday, 1 October 2013
The Ukrainian Champions are full of Latin American players and have caused one too many top sides huge embarrassment in the competition in recent times. It therefore makes for painful viewing that United are hobbling to play against a well drilled, well organised machine when we cannot even break down mid-table teams in the league at the very large Old Trafford pitch. Football however follows no logic.
So it's three points on the board and search of 7 more to seal progression to the last 16. Given that Old Trafford is unlikely to be our fortress this season, it means we shall need to bag an away win in th group to put ourselves within contention for progression. Germany, Spain and Ukraine are hardly trips you'd fancy to pull off an away win but perhaps this one could turn out to be our best shot at an away victory, simply because we're not in the shape to seek results against any Spanish or German opposition away.
Regardless of his thoughts about whether we can win it, Moyes will go with a full strength side seeking a result to ease what is becoming a hurricane of pressure on him, the players and the club at large. It is evident to all that we shall struggle to beat any top side this season, but he'll win himself some slack if he can keep bagging the results against the also-runs. It's why the defeat at the weekend against West Brom could cost us more than the defeat at the Shittyhad. If I were a Manchester City fan, I'd be gutted beyond repair that one week, we play United off the park and the next we get beaten by an Aston Villa side missing Bentenke. Whereas drawing or losing to United can be explained, the same cannot about Villa or Cardiff or Stoke.
It's the same with United. Whenever the fixtures are out, regardless of their arrangement, we never pencil in 3 points at Anfield or the Shittyhad. One thing we definitely do is pencil in the three against West Brom AT HOME. Losing those three therefore means that we have to win at a place like Stamford Bridge to make up for them over the season. It all falls within the logic of trying to maintain the points accumulation stats that make you a title challenger.
It's going to be a little odd watching United tomorrow. The feeling is that United fans would rather see the team spend all efforts this week preparing for three point at Sunderland and then the next league match and then the next league match, because defeat to another also run could condem us to a fight we shall not be able to recover from.