Friday, 29 November 2013

TRIBUTE TO UNITED'S ALL TIME GREATEST PLAYER AT 40 AND A LOOK AHEAD TO SUNDAY IN THE CAPITAL

Manchester United have a plethora of legends in the true sense of the word. The question has often been asked that who of the lot is United's stand out outright to legend. From the class of the Busby Babes, to the survivors of the Munich disaster, to the Class of 92 that will be immortalized this weekend on DVD, to the individual brilliance of marvel players Robson, Cantona, Keane et al, it is really difficult to come up with a name that does justice to the term legend supreme at the club.

Recently, Manchester United fans were asked to vote on the club's official website on who they regard as United's all time greatest player. Ryan Giggs came out on top of that poll and it's really hard to argue with that result. The Welshman joined United at 14yrs and has been a part of United's first team establishment since 1991. It's a testament of Giggs' talent and fitness that he has been playing at the top level since, morphing time and time again to suit the changes that modern football has demanded of his body. He has scored the club's greatest FA Cup goal todate and has won more than any other professional to have played for the club. He also holds the club's record appearances total and you can bet that by the time he retires, the figure will be such that we shall not see another surpass it in our lifetime.

Ryan Giggs ticks all the boxes when it comes to the model Manchester United professional and the club has been lucky to have him in the dressing room for nearly 3 decades as he has been the inspiration of a lot of the younger players that have been at the club since. Seeing a man who has won it all still do the basics and the hard stuff early morning on the training pitch has helped the club avoid a situation of players slacking off just because the club has won a couple of medals.

It is testament to the legendary status of the man that on United's visits to big European venues in the Champions League, he has been given standing ovations from fans that owe him nothing and have no right to follow his career. The legend that is Giggs has been recognised in Rome, at the San Siro and at the Bernabeau and these are fans that have witnessed some of the game's greatest payers of all time. More recently, Wayne Rooney has spoken of how the Bayer centre-half  asked how Giggs managed to play at that level 2 days short of his 40th birthday.

Ryan Giggs is Manchester United's legend supreme. Admittedly, he cannot perform to top levels anymore---I mean he's now a 40 year old---but the fact that he has remained relevant to United's cause for the best part of 30 years is remarkable. Having the mental resolve to take to the pitch and risk his reputation even at the age of 40 is perhaps the biggest endearment to Ryan. He has allowed the club to get the best out of him for virtually all of his athletic life. If that is not sacrifice, then I do not know what is.

This weekend, a Ryan Giggs-less United travel to the capital to take on a Spurs side that is still smarting from that 6-0 drubbing at the Etihad. However, you'd imagine that they'll be fired up for this one, especially with United's problems well documented and Spurs in search of a morale booting win. What better than to beat the champions. United are likely to have RVP available for the tie which in all certainty means that Kagawa will give way for Rooney in the hole and Nani will probably be replaced by the Japanese on the left.

The result at Cardiff last week means that in order to stay in touch with the league leaders, we need to find a way of wining against a team from whom we only harvested a point last season. It will undoubtedly be a difficult game but Spurs have failed to score more than one goal on so many occasions in the league and we've just hit 5 away in Europe. Confidence should be sky high among the players but hard work, more than anything else will be required. Spurs enjoy fast tempo football at home, slowing them down could take the sting out of the fans and hence the adrenaline from their players.

The game kickstarts a December that will make or break our title challenge this season. The 6 winnable games therein are just what we need ahead of a tricky January. Anything less than the 15 points from the month will make the title run in down to the mistakes of our rivals rather than our own brilliance. Our league form at the moment means that we shall register about 75 points if the current trend is anything to go by and that is usually not enough to win the league. It can also be difficult to make the top 4 with that total these days so you do hope that the club starts shipping in more points that we're doing on average.

United have a good record at Spurs but their recent signings have made them more than a match for us in any one off. That they won at Old Trafford last season shows how the gap between us and them has reduced in terms of quality on the pitch. It is why hardwork and discipline will be the ultimate difference between the sides this weekend. Fingers crossed it's us.

ONWARDS AND UPWARDS!

 




Thursday, 28 November 2013

UNITED BAYER 05 LEVERKUSEN

Forget the title of this post. Sometimes United puts on performances in both extremes that make it rather difficult to come up with headings for blog-posts.
Last night was such a performance as David Moyes and his team ripped apart the script and turned in a master class of a performance to record the club's biggest UEFA Champions League result away from home.
David Moyes was might have been predicted to match a couple of records that Sir Alex set in his time, but setting his own records was not quite on the agenda. Such is the low opinion certain reds have of him.

Admittedly, United have put on a stinker in the league so far, but it was in Europe that they were really expected to come short. In a somewhat bizarre twist of the script, United have looked as good as they've ever been in Europe so far, going five games unbeaten from a group that contains sides fully studied in the latest styles of European football. That the club remains unbeaten after 5 games in the competition is worth a toast.

Last night, having RVP, Carrick and Fellaini injured and suspended accordingly, allowed Moyes to check out Kagawa in the hole position behind Wayne Rooney and what he has learnt about he Japanese in those 90 minutes alone will go a long way in helping him determine the shape of the side in the latter stages of this competition.

Wayne Rooney is an early favourite for player of the year. It's amazing the impact David Moyes has had on him. I've blogged it before and I'll do it again; in spending 2 months of the transfer window trying to keep Rooney instead of improving the side, David Moyes perhaps secured United's most important business in the last transfer window. With the injuries that RVP has had to deal with this season, you shudder to think how much worse off we would be without Wayne this season. Crucially, it wasn't just about keeping Wayne that did it for Moyes, because we had him last season, but it was getting him back to his best, to the player we won't mind paying a million pounds a month. Long may that form continue.

Last night was really the first time I watched United this season without losing a finger nail. How one wishes we would maintain that level of professionalism and ruthlessness in front of goal. But ah well....

A point on match day 6 will win us the group so that should be Europe done and dusted for now. The business remains very much in the domestic league with Spurs this Sunday in London. Our record in the capital has been good enough to warrant us confidence ahead of the fixture but alas, if only we were sue which personality United will show up on the day. At times we've been disgusting this season and the next week in fantasia. At least we've still got a semblance of consistency in the fact that it's now 11 games since we last tasted defeat.



 
  
  
 

Monday, 25 November 2013

SHAME!

It's a shame that Manchester United cannot see out close games anymore. It's a shame that Wayne Rooney still has one or two issues with his temper. It's a shame that we cannot seem to win games by more than just the one goal more often. It's a shame that we are not as ruthless in front of goal as we used to be. It's a shame that none of our midfielders yesterday could really up their game to levels that be-fit a Manchester United player. It's a big shame that on a weekend when the teams in and around us were playing each other, all we could muster was a draw at Cardiff. It's a shame that we've not built on that win against Arsenal to crack up the pressure on our rivals.

Sunday was a huge disappointment, that's not to run away from. In the grand scheme of things, it's not all doom and gloom as the 7 point gap between us and the summit is by no means recoverable. However, there is a feeling that given how we've done so far, the projections in the league are that we shall end up with 70 odd points this season and that will not be enough to win the title in this season of all seasons. It's therefore frustrating that we've not really put on a run of wins that is very necessary for a title challenge. I'm all for unbeaten runs and all but draws can be just as damaging as defeats. If we add those four points lost in the last minute to Southampton and Cardiff, we're suddenly looking at being in the top 2 at this stage. As it stands, we're left to rue yet another couple of points that could have come in handy in the run-in. I know Cardiff have beaten City, but City have made up for those patch away performances by being in superhuman form at home. I mean, if they keep thrashing teams 4, 5 and 6 goals at home, including United and Spurs, then they might just buy themselves a ticket into the reckoning.

The result leaves us needing three points at White Harte Lane next Sunday to avoid dropping into a double digit deficit. It's a tall order given the kind of football we're currently playing but one that the lads have put themselves into after that result.

Before then, we have to sort out our Champions League group. Admittedly, the same demons that haunt is in the domestic league are bedeviling our European campaign as we've persistently failed to kill off our opponents in the last 3 Euro ties especially the latter 2. Better finishing in Germany on Wednesday is all that this United  fan can ask for.

Friday, 22 November 2013

BANANA SKIN WEEKEND IN WALES AND A LOOK AHEAD TO THE TRIP TO COLOGNE

It's a clear run of fixtures of here into the new year; no more international breaks to disrupt rhythms and add bodies to the treatment table. Manchester United left domestic business on a season high before the break after registering that important win against the league leaders Arsenal. The momentum that such a result carries is usually enough to take you through another four or five wins on the bounce but alas, the international break meant that we had to spend the next couple of weeks wondering what the next 2 months could have in store for United.


Five points off the summit heading into the 12th fixture has put United firmly back in the reckoning for this season's title. The name of the game so far has been developing a bit of consistency in our season. 9 games unbeaten in all competitions has put us in a position to turn the heat on those above us in the league. City and Everton have since given way and 8th place has become 5th. The next round of games in the league presents us with an opportunity to launch ourselves into the top 4 for the first time since the opening weekend of this season's championship.

With Southampton visiting Arsenal on the Saturday and City hosting Spurs in the early fixture on Sunday, we have the chance to leapfrog 2 sides late Sunday evening if we can negotiate past a slippery trip to Wales too face Cardiff City for the first time in 68 years.

United have been dealt a couple of blows on the injury front from international duty with Phil Jones for England and Michael Carrick having to undergo an operation for a troublesome Achilles that has left him on the sidelines for the best part of 6 weeks. It means midfield will be a sore headache for the manager for the trip to Wales and for that tricky Champions League decider against Bayer Leverkusen on Wednesday.

You'd still fancy United to get past Cardiff though given the quality that we have upfront, but after the shock City suffered there and the manner in which Spurs had to eek out a victory, it is not altogether impossible that we can come away from Cardiff without all three points. You'd like to think that the manager and players will appreciate the fact that beating Arsenal will have counted for nothing if we do not win at Cardiff. Winning a league title has always come down to how many 'small teams' you beat and not beating direct rivals simply because the supposed small ones are numerically more than the big ones and therefore mathematically the points tally from the bottom half teams will always outgun the tally from the top 4 or 5 sides.

Playing last has the advantage of knowing exactly what to do after knowing other teams' results but experience has also shown that it can work against you especially when all your rivals post positive results and the onus is on you to keep up. Ultimately though, the atmosphere down there will ensure that Sunday is feisty, so you hope that the players are up for a fight as that's what it could take to take all three points from the side that has fashioned itself as a potential banana skin for visiting top sides.

The Champions League resumes next week with a trip to Cologne to face Bayer Leverkusen in a match that will go a long way to deciding who qualifies from the group. Victory will guarantee us passage into the next phase of the competition, but defeat will make the final group game against Shaktar Donetsk at Old Trafford a play off final for the final spot in the group. We cannot afford to ourselves in that situation as we all know what happened last time we went into Match Day 6 with unresolved business. You'd therefore hope that in the least we grind out another draw if we cannot finish better than we did in Spain.

ONWARDS AND UPWARDS!  
 

Monday, 11 November 2013

OOOH ROBIN VAN PERSIE!

Sing along Reds, Oooh Robin van Persie! Oooh Robin van Persie!

Nine years ago, it was one Dutchman serving revenge on Arsenal for assaulting him the season before, yesterday it was another returning the favour to Arsenal for the disrespect they've shown since his move to United.
Robin van Persie chose not to celebrate last season's goals against Arsenal and the Arsenal fans returned that respect with jeers. Last night, there would be no letting back as the Dutchman let rip of a pile of emotion that this fixture has always conjured up. That, however, was only a minor plot to the whole context of the EPL's main event this weekend.



Manchester United's season was up for examination last night and they needed to tick all boxes to keep their domestic season relevant going into winter and boy did they ace it! In a performance that laid bare their mettle, United put a halt to everything about Arsenal that has made them the toast of English football in the early part of the season to haul themselves back into the reckoning for the season's title race.

On a weekend in which all our traditional rivals dropped points, the importance of a victory on the night was not lost on United who went about their business with the kind of professionalism that has typified them in games of reckoning. That we managed to win 1-0 was all the more sweeter since our defending has not been up to speed so far this season. Phil Jones was in particular exceptional both in his holding position and when he had to replace the Captain in defence. But it was Wayne Rooney's miles on the turf that made the difference in the end. David Moyes has been criticised for the manner in which United conducted themselves in the transfer market but it has to be said that keeping Wayne and getting the best out of him this season is something that even Sir Alex wouldn't have managed to do if he were still in charge. David Moyes is starting to make the team his own and he appears to have picked Wayne as the player around whom his first team will thrive. The England striker did play 'leader of the pack' by planting seeds of doubt in Arsenal ahead of the tie and backed that up with a performance that scared the daylights out of Arsenal's happy-party boys that have since been trick or treating on the doors of EPL sides for 3 points. Last night, they knocked on one of those doors where resident owner opens with a cocked gun.

Fifth place is by no means reason to pop the champagne but considering that we're having our worst season since the start of the EPL and that Manchester City who are title favourites are in 8th, we can't be too unhappy about how our new manager is coping. Wayne Rooney has laid bare the target is to be top or thereabouts by the turn of the new year and you get the feeling that if we soldier on to the top by January, we might be involved in a most unlikely title race.

Next up is the International break so there's a whole 12 days or so in which to package DVDs of the game and send to your Arsenal supporting neighbor, colleague and workmate!




Thursday, 7 November 2013

A TIME TO GET STUCK IN!---MANCHESTER UNITED VS ARSENAL PREVIEW!

October 24th 2004. Arsenal are on an unbeaten run of 49 games, United still smarting from a poor start to the league season. Arsenal to visit Old Trafford in their next league match to accomplish an unprecedented and record breaking 50th unbeaten league game. Lose their next game and that's the domestic season for them.

Full time: Manchester United 2-0 Arsenal.

That game will live long in the memory of many Reds who were fortunate to witness Old Trafford play 'party-crusher'. If Arsenal's unbeaten run and dominance the season made United lose their fear factor, that game restored the uncertainty teams had on their way to Old Trafford. The most damning verdict about that result was that it should have happened 12 months earlier when a similar game plan and performance ended with Ruud van Nistelrooy starring at Jens Lehmann from 12 yards in the 90th minute. One kick and there would be no unbeaten run. As fate would have it, Ruud, who was always the assured penalty taker, smashed his kick against the frame of the goal and given the venom with which the game had been played, Martin Kenwon literally hauled himself into van Nistelrooy's face and the rest of the Arsenal players followed suit. Arsenal had survived by a lick of paint and they would go on to make the most of it.

Arsenal would go on to bully the rest of the league into submission until the inevitability of going back to Old Trafford on October 24th 2004 caught up with them.

In that game, Sir Alex had to devise a means of stopping Arsene Wenger's fluent machine that had Jose Antonio Reyes as the lubricant of devastating football. The answers lay in old school football, a brand that Sir Alex is all too well versed with. He realised that teams gave Arsenal an easy ride in the game by not 'turning up'. It appears as though teams were so much overawed by the style of play of Arsenal that instead of playing against them, they watched them play and almost simply just stood by.

Sir Alex set his side up during the week to turn up. They were going into the game as underdogs, but by the end of the game, Arsenal would know that they had played against Manchester United---just as they did the season before.
In place of deploying another free-lance midfielder, the manager chose to ask Phillip Neville to make himself a physical presence in the middle of the pitch as well as Gary Neville to remind Reyes that he was actually playing in England---where the culture is to get stuck in, go hard in the fair tackle. Boy did it work like magic. Antonio Reyes didn't last the game, and quite frankly his career, despite not sustaining a major injury, seemed psychologically permanently injured to the extent that Arsenal had to sell their most expensive signing less than a year later. It wasn't just the Neville brothers though, United put in the miles on pitch and never allowed Arsenal to build any sort of momentum and rhythm to their game. The Gunners were hardly allowed the time and space that they had been afforded throughout their unbeaten run.

As fate would again have it, with the scores yet again tied at 0-0 between the sides, Ruud van Nistelrooy found himself 12 yards from Jens Lehmann with a chance to bury the ghosts that had haunted him since that penalty miss a year earlier. Three steps later, and Lehmann dived the wrong way, van Nistelrooy burried it, relif, and a cry of joy filled the Dutchman as United went 1-0 up against the North Londoners.
Twenty odd minutes on and  Wayne Rooney' close range finish later  and Arsenal were, in the words of commentator Jon Champion, bowled out at 49! Manchester United had tamed a beast that was threatening to consume English football and take their place as the dominant force of the Premier League era. It was a result whose shock waves are still felt to-date for since then, Arsenal have not won the league title.

Fast forward to this Sunday and there are plenty of similarities between this season's tie and then. Arsenal have earned similar status to that side given their impressive start to the season and the grim reality that United will be faced with if they are beaten on the day. 11 points behind them will just about put paid to United's hopes of defending their league title. Sunday's game is, like that famous tie, a must win game at Old Trafford.

Our ties against the other big sides in the league so far have seen us come worse off without even turning up on the day. Sunday has now become a must turn up game for us. David Moyes needs to ask that much more from his team on the day because allowing Arsenal to play has not helped the cause of any other team that has played them so far. The only side that has really dealt perfectly with Arsenal's fluid movement this season has been BVB Dortmund, and that is not because of the beautiful football that BVB play. It is rather down to the pressing system that makes Jurgen Klopp's sides chock the life out of their opponents.
Whereas there is a tendency for us to fall back when we lose possession, Sunday will require that we hurt Arsenal without the ball a lot more than we've been doing in games. We need to hurry them in possession as they will surely do to us and get stuck in the tackle when we have to. We can talk tactics all all but the reality is that nothing seems to have puzzled this Arsenal team more than not being allowed to play and get into their rhythm.

Manchester United, being England's first club means that they remain the biggest sellers of the old British system of hurrying the opposition and going in hard on the tackle. Arsenal need a dose of the same. It is noticeable that teams are now playing Arsenal at their own game and expecting to win by virtue of the club's underachievement for the last 8 years. I think it is time that teams revert to stopping Arsenal playing and succumbing to their own raw styles. Arsenal cannot certainly complain of being treated harshly on pitch when their own players assaulted Ruud van Nistelrooy for missing a penalty. We can only promise that we will not return the exact favour.

*Of curse the assumption is that David Moyes is a reader of this blog which in all probability is wrong, so do not expect a character filled United on the pitch on Sunday but I really hope the lads bleed for three points as the reward for getting the win on the night will be a return to the glory days of being in the mix for the league title. It certainly is a game to break a leg for. And in some of the last words of Duncan Edwards on his death bed in that Munich hospital, Let's 'get stuck in'!

SO COME ON UNITED!  

          



Wednesday, 6 November 2013

POOR FINISHING COSTS UNITED LAST 16 PLACE....ALBEIT FOR NOW


In the first game of the double header against Real Soceidad, United had 18 shots at the Basque side's goal, none found the net, and it took an own goal for us to get the breakthrough. Last night, United had 6 shots at Soceidad's goal, none found the net despite the fact that those 6 included 2 open goals and a penalty.

This is not a critique of our strikers for it is trite that all strikers miss chances, but this is quickly becoming a theme in our season so far that has already cost us a number of points in the league. Given that a shot against the frame of the goal is considered off-target, I'd like to think that it's therefore not ill-luck but poor finishing that is at the moment responsible for our lack of goals in games. A couple of games come to mind: the chances we had whilst leading Southampton 1-0 including hitting the frame of the goal twice and the chances we had at Anfield when for the entire second half we attacked their goal but failed to make the openings count. There was a time when a missed chance was not so much of a disaster but teams all over Europe and indeed in the country have improved and hence a missed chance is almost certainly going to come back and haunt you in a game. It's no wonder why leading 1-0 or 2-0 these days is not as comfortable as it used to be.

Javier Hernandez missed a couple of sitters in the League Cup against Norwich but his 2 goals and the nature of the game meant that that did not come under scrutiny. I do like the boy and think that he is destined to end his career as a goal scoring legend, at least for his country. However for what his contribution is on the pitch, you expect that he puts away the vital chances more often than he does for us. Ruud van Nistelrooy didn't do much in terms of inter-play and hold-up play up-front, but boy didn't he always bloody finish it when it was in that 6 yard box.

To be fair to Chicharito, the ball bubbled up just before he hit it but such is the expectation of world class strikers of which he is among. Given that his job is essentially to tap in goals, you'd think he's known about all sorts of ways of effectively dealing with balls at that pace. Just to be clear, the issue is not his goals per game ratio (which is very good by the way), it's his goals per chance ratio. Whereas he's come off the bench too score a few one chance winners for us, he does often get more than the one chance. In the same breath, it is also vital to note that RVP has one of the worst chance conversion rates in the league, but unlike the Mexican, RVP bring a load more to his game that excuses that particular fault. Hernadez however doesn't need all those other traits if he can perfect the art of putting away not just the routine goals (which is is already good at) but even the vital ones more often. It's a trade that was mastered by football greats Fillippo Inzaghi and Ruud van Nistelrooy before him. He is perhaps the only striker in world football (and that is some complement) that has the ability to be as great as the above names in terms of simply putting the ball away no matter the height, angle, or fixture. You do have to feel sympathy for him given his place in our hierarchy of strikers, but something tells me if he had scored last night, he'd have made the selection for Sunday that much harder for the manager simply because fans would not want a striker that puts away just about every crumb that comes his way on the bench. Now its easy to drop him without incurring dissent from the fans.

 In the grand scheme of things, the point leaves us needing a result in Germany against Bayer Leverkusen to make it to the last 16. We've got 2 games against the trickier sides in the group and we have to win one of them. That cannot be too much to ask from the team.

Attention shifts to Sunday in what is our biggest game of the season to date. Arsenal are 8 points ahead of us in the league and just like it was when they visited us in 2004/05 season looking to make it 50 games unbeaten, we simply have no choice but to win the game by the final whistle come Sunday. More on that later in the week.





Tuesday, 5 November 2013

OFF TO SAN SEBASTIAN

Manchester United have been different proposition in the Champions League so far this season. It's only Match Day 4 but a win tonight in the Basque County of Spain will ensure that United will have negotiated a path to the last 16 of Europe's premier club competition.

However, being a trip to Spain, and against a side that has re-discovered its form of late, the tie dictates caution on United's part. Whereas victory will virtually see us though, a defeat will make the last 2 trickier ties harder to negotiate as it would mean both Bayer and Shaktar will still be able to make it through the group if both can beat us.

David Moyes parked the bus in Ukraine, very understandable in the circumstances, but you wonder whether he'll ask his players to go for it at the Antone stadium. We've got a bigger game this Sunday in the league so you'd imagine anything other than another flood of injuries like we had at the weekend will, in the grand scheme of things do for us. We don't have Evans or Rafael at the back so you'd imagine that Rio and Vida will take up the central defence positions. It remains to be seen which central midfield pair will be chosen but given the nature of the game, I expect Kagawa to start the game in a midfield 5 that should also comprise of Antonio Valencia. Playing just 2 in the middle is suicide in Europe these days, let alone in the league.


Ultimately, it is important not to upset the momentum in the squad with a poor performance and result tonight. We need to make winning the habit so that games like Sunday are within our means to win even when we do not deserve the victory. A win tonight will certainly give Arsenal something to think about on Sunday.

ONWARDS AND UPWARDS!

Monday, 4 November 2013

SLOWLY, BUT SURELY

Critics will point to the fact that United have picked up their form against the also-runs of the league and dropped points at the start of the season against stronger opposition. Be that as it may, the reality is that football is largely a game of confidence. Case in point; Aaron Ramsey has always had the talent in him too score and be what he is for Arsenal at the moment; but injuries and a drop in confidence meant that for the last one and a half seasons, he was one of those players Arsenal fans wouldn't care a jot if he was not in the team. The early season goals this term--against the also rans--have instilled in him such levels of confidence that he is playing like and attempting to score goals reserved for Arsenal legends.


Manchester United might have only registered wins against the Premier League minnows but their start to the season never afforded them time to build confidence especially at a time when the club was under new management in all departments of the club. The worry therefore was not in United's failure to pick up the points then, but in their failure to win winnable games. It's why the West Brom and Southampton points remain the biggest loss to United's season. If we had bagged those winnable 5 dropped points, we would be within 3 points of the league leaders. As it is we've nearly completing a month in 8th place.

On Saturday, United had to overcome one of those teams that they should beat and credit to the team for those 13 first half minutes that saw the team get three goals and virtually seal the points half-way into the first half. It must have been the easiest United game to watch in quite a while. I certainly cannot remember the last time we took a three goal lead in the Premier League. True to form this season, United still managed to make a 3 goal lead look vulnerable by dropping off the pace in the second half. It was by no means aided by the 3 injuries and substitutions but you'd expect that in the least we keep a clean sheet as we've not been good at that for a while.

Anyhow, Rooney and RVP seemed to find their mojo whilst Adnan Januzaj put on yet another impressive performance that should see him play in the Champions League soon. Sloppy passing in the second half contrived to make the game a little nervy but it's still about the three points given where we are in the league.

I blogged in the preview to the game that the three points would be massive simply because the fixture list dictated that a lot of the teams above us would drop three points. We've therefore done ourselves a massive favour by moving to within 3 points of second placed Chelsea. It means the prize gets even bigger for our next league outing, but more on that later in the week.

In the meantime, we should look to seal Champions League last 16 qualification in Spain this week so as to give the squad a chance to the squad members to per-take the last 2 games of the group stage.

ONWARDS AND UPWARDS!  
    

Friday, 1 November 2013

COTTAGE TEST OF UNITED'S RESOLVE

It's a testament of United's start to their title defence that we're in November and the club has not yet put a couple of wins together in the league. It is however notable that the Reds have gone through October unbeaten in 6 games, including 3 wins on the bounce in all competitions.
With a foot into the last 16 of the Champions League and progression into the last 8 of the League Cup, United's real concern this side of Christmas is their league form and position.

It's an 8 point gap between United and the summit of the league. You'd like to think that by the end of November, we shall have a clearer picture of United's league status this season. Experience shows that the table hardly changes at all after November. That is essentially because by December, most teams have played each other at least once, and so the second half of the season usually tends to reflect the results of the first round. For instance in November, the likes of Southampton, Everton, Tottenham, Liverpool and Arsenal which are unusually occupying positions ahead of us in the league will have played each other and hence taken points off each other.

It means after November, the chances of moving a place up the table become increasingly slim. An illustration of this is that currently, United can only move a place in the log if  they better Manchester City's results at the weekend. That is usually a battle for the summit of the league, but given that both Everton and Southampton are a mega 4 points ahead of United, it means a win and a defeat for the two mid-table sides, will not change United's position until similar results are posted the following weekend for the same clubs.

Therefore, given that Spurs and Everton face off  this weekend, and Liverpool and Arsenal meet at the Emirates, it means that United's fixture at Fulham tomorrow is far more important than people realise. Unlike other weekends, it is for certain that a few teams  above them will drop 2 or three points. It means United will substantially move themselves into the reckoning with another league win this weekend of all weekends.
In fact, if results go their way, United could find themselves within 2 points of Arsenal by the end of next weekend when Arsenal visit. Obviously it doesn't mean Arsenal will still be top but it does show you how the league table can be manipulated to suit you if you strategise over just a couple of wins.

With that in mind, you'd expect that the players should bleed to the three points in London tomorrow. Fulham are not at their tricky-best but all you need is a bit of complacency and teams in this league will take maximum advantage. I'd like to think that after the shock against West Brom and the sickener against Southampton, United will know all about the wages of not turning up.

The position we're in in the Champions League means we need to prioritise the game ahead of the trip to Real Soceidad on Tuesday. It is by all means, a big game for United.


So Come on You Reds!