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Ivor Irwin

Nov 042013

Fulham 1-3 Manchester United
Robin van Persie scores 001 Thirteen Minutes Of EcstacyUnited’s manager David Moyes will surely be delighted with his team’s thirteen minute spell of razor-sharp ruthlessness, expanding their unbeaten run to seven games in all competitions with a well deserved fourth consecutive win. Not bad at all, but we want more!

Victories featuring the fingers-crossed, gormless pairing of Phil Jones and Tom Cleverley in central midfield are bound to be as rare as hen’s teeth. Allowed huge mounts of space by the geriatric, stiff-upper-lipped London-Lad pairing of Steve Sidwell and Scott Parker, Messrs, Van Persie and Rooney had the run of Craven Cottage and enjoyed themselves tremendously. This season they will rarely get as easy a first half as they did at Craven Cottage.

It was hard not to feel sorry for Fulham’s embattled manager, Martin Jol; but, if it’s horses for courses, his team never stood a chance. A lackluster defeat at Southampton last weekend and a mid-week Capital One Cup exit to Leicester City in midweek have Jol teetering like a drunk on the North Face of the Eiger. After having made the footballing Lord of laissez-faire, Dimitar Berbatov, his captain for the day, it may be that the big Dutchman has given up the ghost already and is simply awaiting the whisper of the axe. The latest bookmaker free bets can be especially interesting.

Fulham fell a goal behind only nine minutes in as a sharp United effortlessly dissected the Cottagers anemic defense. Beautifully functional in execution, Robin Van Persie hoovered up a long Nemanja Vidic pass and swiveled exquisitely before playing in an unselfish Rooney, who cut the ball back to Valencia. The Ecuadorian winger took his time and expertly prodded home his chance.

With Tom Cleverley and Phil Jones quicker than Sidwell and Parker in the first half, who needed Michael Carrick or Marouane Fellaini? But having made a few useful plays, once relaxed, Tom Cleverley really does love to give the ball away to the opposition and Scott Parker seized on two telegraphed efforts. The first time, he, too missed with his pass, but the second time he put in a fine pass to Dimitar Berbatov. Fortunately, Rafael Da Silva made a clever, well-timed tackle to frustrate the Bulgarian striker. Moments later, however, United dismantled any sense of self-esteem the West Londoners had quickly built up, scoring twice more in the space of four minutes.

The brilliant Adnan Januzaj was the instrument of the second goal. After having been dispossessed by Parker, Parker went down in a dramatic heap after losing it back to the young Belgian. But the referee, Lee Probert, was having none of it and, while Parker jumped back up to argue, the baby-faced assassin was off to the races before passing to an unmarked Van Persie, who powered the ball home from 15 yards out. Two minutes more and Rooney made child’s play of a tap-in after a fine sweeping diagonal run made it 3-0.

In the second half, not helped at all by injuries to Rafael, Cleverley and Evans, United made three substitutions and suddenly turned promiscuously lax. It would be pointless to blame Chris Smalling, Marouane Fellaini or Shinji Kagawa, when collective vanity and complacency were the true problem. With Jones and Fellaini now policing midfield, United were too static to to think in terms of their usual counterattacking tactics. Apart from Rooney, Van Persie, and the ebulient Januzaj, United’s collective confidence seemed to suddenly drain away.

Fulham v Manchester Unite 011 Thirteen Minutes Of EcstacyRelentlessly sloppy, United looked all set to botch yet another match after the 65th minute, when a 20-yard shot by Alexander Kacaniklic pinged into the net after taking a deflection off Valencia. Still way too casual even then, United began to miss pass after pass and stopped chasing and pressing. And things really tightened up tremendously after Jol made a couple of wise decisions. First, in the 75th minute, the big Dutchman substituted Berbatov’s partner-in-sloth Bryan Ruiz with Adel Taarabt. Soon after, on came Darren Bent for a tired Scott Parker. The graft and passing prowess that Taraabt added to his team’s midfield almost paid off with a couple of headers from Bent and Berbatov that hit United’s upright.

The subdued home crowd were only roused when it came to booing. Letting Bryan Ruiz have it when he left the field and Darren Bent when he came on. There was also a serious confrontation between Marouane Fellaini and right back Sascha Riether after the Fulham defender clearly appeared to stamp on Adnan Januzaj. Clearly, Januzaj, with his amazing capacity to dribble, enrage his opponents and draw free kicks so well, is already becoming a special part of the Premier League.

Considering the concussion suffered by Tom Cleverley and the high number of foul and indignities perpetrated on Adnan Januzaj, it’s about time Marouane Fellaini was kept out on the pitch to serve and protect his teammates. This protection factor is, right now, essential!
70868974 708688961 Thirteen Minutes Of Ecstacy

Oct 302013

Manchester United 4-0 Norwich City
70790365 70790359 Januzaj Makes the Canaries Cry!Well, there’s no need to get hyperbolic, but United enjoyed a splendid rainy evening at Old Trafford as if they were guests in one of those Tahitian Tiki-type bars in one of the ultra-luxurious hotels they stayed in during their last money-spinning monsoon-and-muggy-heat tour of the Far East this Summer. Indeed, things went so swimmingly in the rain that it could, ideally, have been the whole season starting over from point zero. Three well taken goals and a lucky penalty definitely gave United their groove back. Led by a fearless Adnan Januzaj, United held their own in the middle of a Premier League park for the first time in more than a season. Januzaj may not be the passer the club desperately needs, but he took the game by the scruff of its neck against a low-energy Norwich and ran things beautifully, rarely using his comfort zone on the flanks at all. Very much over matched, led from the back by Sebastian Bassong and Leroy Fer, the Canaries lacked potency throughout, with only the tricky Nathan Redmond posing any sort of threat to United’s rickety old defense, featuring Vidic and Ferdinand as C.B.s.

With Januzaj a looming epiphany in the middle, holding the ball at will, whoever would have been picked as a striker had it all going for him. Moyes picked Javier Hernández on the night and the Mexican assassin had a fine night and a pair of goals to show for it. The fact is that he very much needed to big himself up after spending most of October misfiring for Mexico’s national team and getting splinters in his posterior from sitting on United’s bench. Used rarely by either Ferguson or Moyes as a starter, Hernández’s role on the big occasions is as an impact substitute a la Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. As such he is superb! There are however, more and murmurs coming from his camp–his agent, his mother and father interviewed on Republica Deportivo and friends in the Mexican press–that he wants desperately to be a starter. Unfortunately, this is not going to happen in his immediate future at Manchester United. One just hopes he will recognize the perfectibility in what he does right now and stays, but this is doubtful. At any rate, happy or unhappy, his ability to execute when not being pressed by big men was right there for David Moyes, his coaches and the fans to see and will give the Glaswegian much food for thought. More than a competent deputy for Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie, Chicharito has thus far poached an equal number of goals.

United drew first blood in the 20th minute as Januzaj drew a fortunate penalty. The baby-faced Belgian was dribbling on the byline, with his back to goal when big Leroy Fer, who was attempting to badger him off the ball, used some rough manners, his left leg poking across the back of the young United player’s calves. It seemed to be a surprise to everybody when Kevin Friend, the referee, blew his whistle and pointed to the penalty spot. Hernández’s penalty was side-footed powerfully to the right of Norwich’s goalkeeper Mark Bunn who had dived the wrong way. The rest of the team may have felt relaxed about having the lead, not so Januzaj. He was ravenous for the ball. Those mazy dribbles of his do not always work but he showed relentless courage., his exquisite ball-handling a fine mix of balance and left-footed subtlety.

Less successful were Wilfried Zaha and Ashley Young on the wings. Zaha flitted about a lot in the first half and caused Norwich’s defense trouble. A nice set-up for Chicharito just missed and Nathan Redmond had to be pulled back to protect his vulnerable full backs. Meanwhile, on the left flank, Ashley Young saw plenty of the ball, but seemed almost painfully passive throughout. Constrained from diving, Young concentrated on plenty of pouting and wind-sprints with the ball at his feet.. At the end of each sprint he would pump the ball into the box, but never once came close to any of his teammates. Young’s corners–and it is to his credit that he won many–were all (every single one!) over hit, whether just past the penalty box or into the crowd.fabio norwich twitter tr16ia Januzaj Makes the Canaries Cry!

Tom Cleverley and Phil Jones Jones stayed away from trouble in midfield, making nothing but short square passes. On the night, it was exactly what Unitede needed. Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, both clearly trying to regain the sharpness they’ve lacked so often this season, may not have much left in their legs but there was enough juice on hand for them to keep the big, gormless Swedish striker, Johan Elmander, passive and contained.

The game was nine minutes into the second half when Alexander Büttner, who had his best game thus far in a United kit, showed Young how the passing thing is done. After a fine run down the left flank, his cross for Hernández was perfect. The Mexican’s header drew a reflex save from Mark Bunn, its rebound bouncing nicely for Hernández to nod home at a second attempt.

Shortly afterward, the Norwich midfielder Robert Snodgrass had to be taken off on a stretcher, breathing through an oxygen mask, after a clash of heads with Rafael da Silva. Eleven minutes later, play began again. The stoppage time served to temporarily revive Norwich as Redmond made a couple of nice runs before being dispossessed.

Phil Jones’ fine goal came three minutes from the end of normal time as a hard hit Rafael cross was diverted into his path and the rubber-faced England international blasted a volley home. Last, but not least, a fine jinky, head-down run by substitute Wayne Rooney was followed by a seeing-eye lob that his fellow sub Fabio Da Silva hovered up, controlled, steered around Bunn and then fired home underneath him,

Having suffered debilitating defeats to Liverpool, Manchester City and West Brom last month, United have won four and drawn two in October. The defending Premier League champions, eight points off the top of the table, play Fulham next Saturday before meeting current leaders Arsenal at Old Trafford on November 10.”You need to go on runs in this league and this club is the best in the business at building that,” United’s assistant manager Steve Round said after the match.Javier Hern ndez fires Ma 011 Januzaj Makes the Canaries Cry!

Tactics? Just Attack!

 Posted by on October 29, 2013 at 9:15 am  Blogs/Media, England, EPL, Manchester United, Stoke City
Oct 292013

Manchester United 3-2 Stoke City
Manchester Uniteds Wayne 006 Tactics? Just Attack!Drama of the first order at Old Trafford. In spite of United’s Three Stooges-like slapstick defending from Smalling, Jones and their fearless Laird of the custard pie, Jonny Evans, United still battled and clawed their way to a 3-2 victory over Sparky Hughes’ thuggish pseudo-neo version of the same old Stoke City. The only thing lacking was a more suitable outfit for the referee, Lee Mason, who ought to have been wearing outsized yellow Docs and a big red nose. It was a particularly gormless outing from Mason, as he repeatedly ‘cautioned’ the same players with what amounted to a nod and a wink. Mason spent much of the match bantering, winking and laughing so much with the thuggish pairing of Robert Huth and Ryan Shawcross that I kept expecting him to ask one of the pair to pull his finger. Mason’s biggest victim was poor pitiful Tom Cleverlerly. Probably the most tackle-shy United player since the days of Iain Moir. El Clevs spent much of the match trembling and wincing, not just in the vicinity of Stoke’s back line, but whenever he came in the vicinity of N’Zonzi, Palacios or the ultra-intimidating shaven-headed Stephen Ireland. Indeed, my friend Edgar who was in the third row for the match, messaged me that Cleverley did manage to deposit some vomit on both Palacios and Ireland in separate incidents as the game went by.

Nevertheless, to all you United haters out there, it’s not over till the obese lady sings her aria! Rumors of the imminent demise of the red devils are very much hyperbolically exaggerated. We have won the Premier League without a defense more than once and it is still within the realm of fathomable plausibility that many of the other clubs are still flawed enough that we can do it again! Sure it was only Stoke City led by Sparky Hughes–the Typhoid Mary of our club alumni–but with Moyesie finally having the wherewithal to get his substitutions right (“It’s our attack, stchoopid!”), the quick-quick frontal juggernaut of Chicharito, Rooney and Van Persie proved simply too much for Stoke’s knackered thugs as the clock ticked down. All United have to do now is keep doing the same thing consistently and the rest will be like falling off a bicycle!

Last Wednesday Our Dear Lads were a goal up in two minutes. This time we were one down after three. It all began when Stoke’s left back Erik Pieters picked up the ball, eased casually past Smalling and Cleverley and crossed to the ungainly Crouch. Crouch botched his shot and De Gea made a nice reactive save, before trusting Evans with a pass. Forever positionally challenged, Jonny Evans’ ineptitude as he attempted a point-blank panic ‘pass’ back in the direction of his stunned goalie really did seem like a slapstick gag when it somehow bounced off the bamboozled Spaniard into the goalmouth, crossed the goal line, got kicked away by Evans, but then ended up back in goal after hitting an equally stunned Peter Crouch.

70731692 70731689 Tactics? Just Attack!Minutes later, Nani completely overcooked a half-decent shooting chance from the edge of the box and began to be the subject of a torrent of verbal abuse from a section of United fans. The booing became even more vociferous after he made a dud pass outside his own box to Walters, who came close to setting up a Crouch volley that narrowly missed. Now with Nani clearly showing how genuinely upset he felt at being the butt of the cruel home crowd’s abuse, he almost caused another away goal as he gave away a sloppy ball to N’Zonzi, whose exquisite, precise diagonal ball was chested down by Crouch, before trickling away to Walters, whose hard effort was brilliantly saved by De Gea. Minutes later, De Gea pulled off one that had the whole stadium buzzing as he dived to his right to keep out a fifteen-yard thunderbolt from Marko Arnautovic.

Then a couple of real shockers. The second goal came three minutes before the interval as Van Persie scored his eighth goal of the season with a follow-up after Begovic had produced a one-handed save to keep out a Rooney header. But in only two minutes Stoke stole their lead back as Phil Jones fouled Arnautovic on the edge of the box. The Austrian then fired a free kick with the movement of metal-tipped whip. De Gea dived in time to reach the hard curving ball, but it was so accurately placed that it carried on off his fingertip into the top right corner of his net.

Just how desperately the team needs Adnan Januzaj showed the second he arrived on the hour mark of the match, simultaneously accompanied by boos for Nani as the Portuguese winger made a sad exit. With Antonio Valencia now slotting in nicely at right back, the Ecuadorian second wave began to make the Potters defense bend in too many directions at once. He won a corner for Van Persie and Wayne Rooney was able to leap high and nod a hard, glancing header which the up to then perfect Asmir Begovic misjusged and allowed in over his head. Two minutes later Patrice Evra, barely noticeable for much of the match, charged all the way down the left flank and served up a delicious cross for Chicharito Hernandez to also nod home.

It wasn’t pretty and United in no possible way looked like champions. They did, however, pull themselves together enough to show a definite sense of determination and desire. It turned out to be the 25th Premier League game in which Robin van Persie has scored. United have won 20 of those matches and drawn the other five. This seems to be be a lot more than an omen.
Manchester Uniteds Javier 001 Tactics? Just Attack!

United Punish the Goalposts

 Posted by on October 24, 2013 at 1:10 pm  Blogs/Media, England, Europe, Manchester United
Oct 242013

Manchester United 1-0 Real Sociedad
Manchester United celebra 008 United Punish the GoalpostsNo doubt about it. The fans and pundits who complain about the lack of general ruthlessness in David Moyes’ new version of Manchester United do have a point. On a night when both Wayne Rooney and Shinji Kagawa were both brilliant, their general inability (them and their teammates) to fire that final coup de gráce was shocking. The margin of error in a 1-0 home is stressful to all and sundry concerned, especially when United really were so dominant throughout most of the match. The scoreline was surely not the one a deeply cautious Moyes would have liked after throwing caution to the wind during so much of the match. Nevertheless, United gritted their teeth and performed with verve enough to get the necessary three points.

Having been mauled by the pundits over his admittedly odd substitutions against Southampton in the PL at the weekend, Moyes came off as more of a jolly populist for starting Javíer ‘Chicharito’ Hernandéz and Shinji Kagawa. With Robin van Persie still suffering soreness from toe and groin injuries, the dour Scot had Hernández partnered with Rooney up front while Kagawa took over on the left from Adnan Januzaj and Ryan Giggs partnered Michael Carrick in central midfield. As the Basque team is small and built for speed, it was surely a relief for the tackle-shy Carrick to deal with the tricky but more finesse-oriented Sociedad and not have to hide behind Marouane Fellaini.

United’s nerves were soothed early as they got a second minute gift thanks to some Sociedad comedy defending. Indeed, it was wonderful to watch as a slick Wayne Rooney turned Markel Bergara inside-out deep in the penalty area, setting himself up exquisitely before blasting a bazooka which rebounded off the upright straight into the uncoordinated path of a panic-stricken Iñigo Martínez, who reached out tentatively with his right foot only to tip the spinning ball into his own net. Ten minutes on, United almost made it two as their goalie, Claudio Bravo made his first save of the game, stopping a Rooney shot on the line after a fine cross from Rafael Da Silva had set him up.

Passing with confidence, attacking relentlessly and running out every ball over each blade of Old Trafford grass, United really were sincerely in it to win it on the night. They were not, however, into the same kind of bullet-velocity wing play many of us have grown used to. Moyes is much more cautious than Ferguson when it comes to transitional play on the flanks, probably due in part to Patrice Evra’s inability to adapt his old legs to new realities. Atypically, Rooney was too high up the pitch to cope properly with an early Valencia cross. His cleverly improvised extemporaneous attempt at a scissors-kick to reach Valencia’s ball almost paid off, but a miss is good as a mile no matter what the cliché. And something identical almost happened again with minutes as Valencia let fly early with yet another shock early pass and finding an offside Hernandez. The Mexican assassin headed home, but was clearly adjudged to be offside.

Real Sociedad were not invisible, though. Luckily, the gifted shot-stopping abilities of David De Gea grow and grow. His one-handed save to prevent a Haris Seferovic shot from scoring definitely saved United because the whole team was standing around arguing, after the referee allowed the match to continue despite a blatant Martínez a foul on Giggs. United got even more fortunate as De Gea clearly wasn’t quick enough to reach a terrific free kick from Sociedad’s best player Antoine Griezmann which exploded off the crossbar. Why our defense keeps downing tools in these moments seems to defy all common sense! United survived a further scare at the start of the second half when Seferovic left Evra in the dust. His wicked shot fooled Evans, whose ugly clearance almost flew into his own net. 70674281 javierhernandezandwaynerooney United Punish the Goalposts

A quick caveat here. I can’t remember any game ever ever where the goalposts were hit so often. by both sides. Kagawa and Rooney both hit the goal posts three times. Valencia, Hernandez and Rafael once each. Bizarrely, early in the second half, Alberto de la Bella almost caught De Gea out of position with a shot that grazed the bar at one end while a wide-open Valencia badly hit a wide-open sitter against the post at the other. Valencia sensibly tried to make sure with his next opportunity, unselfishly squaring for a wide-open Kagawa goal. Unfortunately, the chance went begging once more as the Japanese took a soft touch in front of Bravo’s goal instead of shooting for power.

By the time Rooney blasted over the bar from six yards out in the 72nd minute, followed by Phil Jones header blocked by Bravo and Antonio Valencia’s low, angled shot ricocheting back off the post, United just seemed cursed. Exhausted, Sociedad barely put up a defense toward the end of the game and both Rooney and substitute Ashley Young failed to profit from a clean two-on-one situation four minutes from time, and, then, after squandering that one, as Giggs’ lovely chip found Kagawa flying again; unfortunately, alone and isolated, with only the goalkeeper in his way, the Japanese lost proper control of the ball and clipped it softly to Bravo.

Beyond Rooney’s whizz-bang display and his praise for the new manager after the game, and the voices of United’s brand-new ‘singing section,’ it’s also crystal-clear that Mr. Moyes can no longer afford to ignore Shinji Kagawa’s innate brilliance. Forced to start on the left wing, Shinji made do, working well with Ryan Giggs as they alternated positioninng in both central midfield and on the flank. When Chicharito was pulled late in the game for Ashley Young, Moyes moved Rooney front-center and put Kagawa in his favorite position, in the hole behind the striker. For the last fifteen minutes or so the industrious Japanese was an unstoppable force of nature.

It will be interesting to see if Moyes gives Robin Van Persie another chance to rest this weekend against Stoke. If the Dutchman is fit,I wouldn’t be at all averse to the boss putting a slightly withdrawn RVP on the left wing and Rooney as center-forward with Kagawa in the hole.
70674284 martinezowngoal United Punish the Goalposts

Oct 212013

Manchester United 1-1 Southampton
67cf655ee347eece0980e422ddfcb6986714d6301 Moyes Muppets Bollix it Up Again!Disappointment again for Manchester United and their fans, as, having fallen asleep at the wheel toward the end of the match, the red devils gave up a soft goal from a corner with only one minute to go in regular time. Truth be told, it was nothing better or worse than the single point they earned and deserved. Maybe United were a tad unlucky having hit the post twice, but the level of concentration, desire and heart a champion needs is not being found, either individually or collectively by their manager David Moyes, his coaches or the players. When all was said and done, Moyes’ ‘tactics’ proved null and void, United did not play with any heart and their youthful opponents did.

Before the match, United’s 18-year-old wing wünderkind, Adnan Januzaj, inked a five year contract and had a press conference accompanied by Moyes and the club’s money man, Ed Woodward. This was about as good as the day was going to get. Januzaj made a fantasy day of his first start two weeks ago against Sunderland when he scored both goals; unfortunately, lightning did not strike twice. Although we all knew that the kid had helped temporally paper over some severe cracks in United’s team, especially a desperately poor defense, quality will tell and United just don’t have it. Having sat on the lead and squandered too many opportunities, it seemed to be an inevitable moment of justice when Adam Lallana wiped out United’s complacent lead with a tap-in after a late corner.

Januzaj was in the thick of things from the beginning, not the least of which was being blatantly sent flying by a studs-up Nathaniel Clyne. Still, aside from a lot of nice dribbling and a couple of killer passes into empty space, Januzaj and his partner, right winger Nani got little succor from their strikers, Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie. Januzaj’s third effort, however, did the trick. His perfectly weighted through ball found a slightly offside Wayne Rooney with only the goalkeeper to beat. The referee Michael Jones did not blow his whistle, though, and Southampton’s goalie Artur Boruc made a fine save from Rooney, but had no chance of retrieving when Robin van Persie moved wide and slammed home the rebound in the 26th minute.

It was only the third goal Southampton have conceded this season, which is pretty impressive considering the PL season is already eight matches in. The Saints showed grit and good organization, proving that the point they earned at Anfield before the international break was no fluke. Had they known how to score goals also, they might well have given United another hammering. Atypically, their sole big ticket item, striker Dani Osvaldo–repeatedly given the run of the box by a reticent Jonny Evans–botched a true sitter when Rooney lost possession close to his own box. Lucky for United, Osvaldo froze in front of goal and fired a mild shot that David De Gea saved easily.

Although there was some fairly decently entertaining end-to-end stuff from both sides in the first half, the second half was mostly flat and lame as both Rooney and Osvaldo missed more chances early in. How Rooney missed an exquisite Nani pass in the 73rd minute is beyond all ken. Then again, why Nani was denied a penalty after being yanked down by Luke Shaw in the penalty area on two separate occasions only referee Mike Jones will ever know. With bookings at a premium this season, one of the main differences between the two teams, was United’s team-wide reticence to get stuck in with their tackling. Marouane Fellaini, who was shouldered with much of the blame for United’s lame performance by assorted pundits, seemed terribly reticent to throw full force into his blocks and tackles. As this is the main reason the big Belgian was brought in, one can only conjecture that Moyes gave very clear instructions to his team not to foul. Unfortunately, manager Mauricio Pocchetino’s Saints/ showed no such squeamishness.

All in all, deep into the second half, the game was still in the balance, within Southampton enjoying the lion’s-share of possession, when Van Persie headed a Rooney corner on to the crossbar, Later, Januzaj executed a swerving shot from 25 yards that Boruc made a fantastic save of. Even the disappointing Marouane Fellaini missed a rebound after collecting a rebound on the edge of the penalty area. In between these efforts Southampton kept the ball and stayed in the game with nothing but hard work and much running. Indeed, over the last fifteen minutes or so–Fergie’s old squeaky-bum time–Southampton definitely finished the stronger. as Lallana and Clyne both forced fantastic late saves from De Gea. Thus when the super-lunged Clyne won a late corner, substitute James Ward-Prowse’s effort saw the centre-back pairing of Phil Jones and Jonny Evans standing around casually, leaving Southampton’s centre-half Dejan Lovren to divert it towards goal and the completely unmarked Saints’ captain Adam Lallana to toe-poke the equalizer home.

United are now eight points behind the league leaders Arsenal. This is not good! Moyes may well ponder the calm, relaxed manner in which Morgan Schneiderlin and Victor Wanyama pulled the strings in midfield, while the selfless leadership and relentless running from Lallana meant Saints always had the kind of options United never had. With all the fuss about the fiendish training methodology utilized by Moyes and Round, one can’t help but wonder about what keeps happening late in every game. United have only had two wins in seven matches. and the transfer window in January still seems a long long way away. A slow Stoke City are up next in the Premier League and, normally, a sense of cautious confidence would be the order of the day. Nothing could be further from the truth right now, however, as our perfidious old boy, Sparky Hughes, and his band of oversize warriors will be bound and determined to catch us at a low ebb.
Robin van Persie of Manch 006 Moyes Muppets Bollix it Up Again!

The Kid is the Real Deal!

 Posted by on October 7, 2013 at 2:43 pm  Blogs/Media, England, Manchester United, Sunderland
Oct 072013

Sunderland 1-2 Manchester United
70303547 adnanjanuzaj1 The Kid is the Real Deal!Absolutely abject throughout, squeaky-bum time turned out to be two quick farts from a brilliant Adnan Januzaj to kill off a hard-working but painfully impotent Sunderland side at the Stadium of Light. Inept and completely void of communication, United were clearly intent upon losing a third successive league game in a row for the first time since December 2001 as Phil Jones, Nemanja Vidic and even Rafael Da Silva unleashed a plethora of comedy capers, as one embarrassing blunder at the back followed another. Had Sunderland owned the least iota of moxy vis-a-vis finishing, Kevin Ball would now have a full-time job as their manager. Unfortunately, still at the bottom of the table with just one point, caretaker boss Ball’s side missed a slew of sitters as United, collectively terrified of the bulk of the big Yank, Jozy Altidore, repeatedly avoided making even the slightest contact with him.

When Adnan Januzaj grabbed two clever goals in the second half, the hugs and kisses of pure relief planted on his forehead by Patrice Evra were those of a man pardoned at the last second in front of a firing squad. Making his first start for United, the 18-year-old enjoyed a dream debut. Save for Sunderland’s Adam Johnson, who took turns switching wings and humiliating both Rafael and Evra throughout the match until his puzzling substitution, Januuzaj conjured up a brilliant man-of-the-match performance and a plethora of comparisons to the likes of George Best, Cristiano Ronaldo and Ryan Giggs. Although he still looks only about twelve-years-old this little pocket Exocet–who we managed to nick from Anderlecht’s academy almost three years ago–absolutely oozes quality. He may not be the immediate cure for Mr. Moyes’ sack full of problems, but he at least seems to put us back to where we were at the beginning of last season: Ready to return to that persona of comeback heart-attack kids.

“We gave away a terrible goal and needed David de Gea to keep us in the game, but apart from that we played some really good stuff,” the United manager said. It was yet another Moyesie ‘Say What?’ moment. And, as much as I refuse to jump on the bandwagon that wants to prematurely give him the heave-ho, I really question the shepherding abilities of someone who expresses himself in a manner that opens him up to such easy ridicule. Sometimes you can insinuate the most by saying the least!

United got off to exactly the sort of start Moyes must have been obsessing on avoiding all week during training, going a goal down inside five minutes through a defensive mix-up. When Emanuele Giaccherini’s cross went straight to Phil Jones, he had a panic-attack, half-heartedly pushing his clearance in Nemanja Vidic’s direction. This had the shocked United captain tripping over the ball, before it somehow trickled away from him and landed in front of Craig Garner on the six yard line. Gardner didn’t hit it cleanly, but there was enough venom on the twisting ball to carry it past a wrong-footed David De Gea. Three minutes later, the journeyman Gardner almost had a brace, nicking the ball off the feet of Jones as he made one of his patented funny faces by the penalty spot. Luckily, with Vidic screaming at him, Jones managed to launch himself out of his foggy fugue and retrieve the ball before Gardner could shoot.

Minutes later, Januzaj’s first attempt on goal went wide. A beautifully struck piledriver from the edge of the area, it only missed by inches. Nani then went even closer midway through the first half with a right-foot volley. On a day when his dribbling skills were all systems go, his decisions about what to do with the final ball were frustrating throughout. Unmarked at the far post just before half-time, the Cape Verdean winger should have made short work of one of Patrice Evra’s few good crosses but somehow botched it.

With Cleverley and Carrick firing blanks and casually letting themselves be taken out of the game by Lee Cattermole’s relentless pressing game, they were a non-factor in the first half. With Rooney and Van Persie forced to go back into midfield to collect the ball, United made heavy weather of imposing themselves on Sunderland. The two strikers worked hard, but had a tough time of it, trying to do two jobs at once. Indeed, the visitors would have gone two down just past the half hour but for a wonderful save from David de Gea. Giaccherini’s header from Adam Johnson’s excellent cross was text book, sending the ball back the way it came and bound for the inside of De Gea’s right hand post, before the catlike goalkeeper sprang back across his goal to claw it away. Nani also brought a fine save from Keiran Westwood before the interval as United continued to impress going forward. Still. they were repeatedly unable to cash in on these counterattacks and there remained every chance that another lapse of concentration at the back would undo their few moments of good work. The lively Giaccherini should have increased Sunderland’s lead on the stroke of the interval but shot wastefully high from a good position, set up when Johnson retained control on the left of the area after avoiding ineffective lunges from both Jones and Vidic. Five minutes later, an even better De Gea save from Adam Johnson stifled them yet again.

Maintaining a Belgian presence for United in the absence of the injured Marouane Fellaini, Januzaj looked absolutely confident and fearless. In a single moment of immaturity, the kid got himself booked by the referee for diving at the start of the second half, but then he quickly redeemed himself by scoring the equalizer. 55 minutes in, Januzaj fed Evra on the left, before moving up to accept the return and place a side-footed shot beyond Westwood. The baby-faced killer’s first ever Premier League goal was deliciously elegant in its execution.

Yet we only had to wait six minutes more to see something far more awesome for his second goal. It came after an awkward headed clearance by John O’Shea of a dipping Nani cross. It flew straight to the left corner of the penalty box where Janizaj was loitering with calm intent. A thing of hard, deliberate beauty, the ball came in on him at mid-thigh level and young Januzaj shifted sideways, cocked himself and calmly volleyed it right past Westwood into Sunderland”s net.

Most of the fortitude left Sunderland then. In spite of much running and being able to maintain the lion’s share of possession against an ineffectual Manchester United even then, the Mackems never looked like they could steal a victory over the last 30 minutes of the match. Stuck on one point, their owner Ellis Short needs to make some important decisions concerning the club quickly.

As for United, it was interesting to hear from Wayne Rooney the next day that he fault the team had very much let their new manager down. With all the relentlessly percolating gossip in the rumor mills about Rooney leaving for Paris St, Germain or Chelsea, it was good to hear what sounded like a verbal olive branch being offered by the England striker. On a weekend where Tottenham Hotspur lost at home and Arsenal were held to a draw, it became readily apparent that this season has a long way to go and that anyone who totally writes off Manchester United will live to regret it. Bad on the night? Yes! Comeback kids? Yes also. The season will surely get a lot stranger yet!
Manchester Uniteds Adnan 001 The Kid is the Real Deal!

Oct 042013

Shakhtar Donetsk 1-1 Manchester United
Shakhtar Donetsk v Manche 007 Davieball At the DonbassManchester United got it done for the very first time this season. They may not have won the game and been only able to muster a single shot on the Donetsk goal; nevertheless, they acquitted themselves well. They were disciplined, communicative and full of fight: Everything they have not been since the beginning of the season. For the disgruntled United fans out there who don’t like new manager David Moyes’ tactics, it won’t be much of a comfort at all, but this is the kind of strategy that impressed his predecessor, Sir Alex Ferguson in the first place. It’s what my Everton fan mate, Stocker Stew, calls ‘Davieball.’ Led by a surprisingly motor-mouthed, tough tackling, well-rested captain, Nemanja Vidic, United were determined to get the job done away from home against the solid Ukrainian champions, and did so. Coming out of Donetsk with a point, in spite of the beautiful stadium’s loud, raucous partisan fans, was a fine achievement. Actually, save for the one superbly taken equalizing goal from the talented Taison in the 76th minute, United nearly got away with a cheeky bit of smash-and-grab.

United’s pre-match prep was not helped by another training-ground injury to Wayne Rooney. The club’s stand-out performer of the season thus far suffered a shin injury on the eve of the game. Rooney’s absence took the number of changes to the United team beaten by West Bromwich Albion on Saturday to nine. Only David de Gea and Michael Carrick remained from the third defeat in four Premier League matches. United kept it compact and disciplined from the start, clearly focused on muting Shakhtar’s high-quality Brazilian front line led by the buccaneering Douglas Costa and Taison. Fellaini, Carrick and Cleverley kept their shape in central midfield, although their dreadful passing patterns–so very, very predictable throughout–did them no favors at all. With Patrice Evra pinned back by the pure speed of Dario Srna and Taison, Danny Welbeck and Antonio Valencia were more auxiliary wing backs than support for a lonesome Robin Van Persie.

Shakhtar remained equally as cautious in the first half. The tricky Costa and Luiz Adriano each did well to dispossess Fellaini a couple of times deep in the Donetsk half, allowing the home side to break forward unimpeded. Rafael da Silva could barely cope with Costa and he found Adriano, whose low cross teased its way across De Gea’s six-yard box but found nobody, a handful also. Then United got a moment of maximum luck when Cleverley clearly caught Alex Teixeira late inside the penalty area. Fortunately, the referee, Pavel Kralovec, dismissed Shakhtar’s appeals for a spot kick.

70245734 70245537 Davieball At the DonbassCleverley created United’s first chance of the match when he chipped a high pass over Shakhtar’s central defence for Van Persie. The Dutchman shifted to his right and unleashed a trademark shot with his left, only to see the ball rise over Andriy Pyatov’s crossbar. Fellaini had problems keeping possession early on, but his presence began to tell later in the match as, playing with his back to the opposition goal, the Belgian warrior wore them down with his tackling and ability to fill in midfield holes. He may indeed not look like 30 million quid, but, once he gets used to his teammates, his kind of obstinate, albeit often awkward, determination is going to be a major factor in breaking down opponents late.

Eighteen minutes into the first half, Rafael’s throw-in found Fellaini, who muscled away his marker, crossing low to the near post where Shakhtar’s big awkward center-back Yaroslav Rakitskiy lost his footing. Welbeck then managed to slip inside unmarked and softly flick home Fellaini’s delivery beyond Pyatov into the far corner of the net. The loud Donbass Arena fell silent, except, of course, for the freezing United fans up high in the cheap seats.

The Ukrainians enjoyed the majority of possession without ever giving De Gea much trouble. Fellaini and Vidic both went into the referee’s book in rapid succession for professional fouls on Taison and Costa respectively, both fouls presenting Shakhtar’s captain, Dario Srna, with direct free-kick opportunities from 25 yards out. One that he smashed into United’s wall, another which was wasted. Fellaini was withdrawn shortly afterwards and his replacement, Ryan Giggs, playing in the 145th game in the Champions League surpassed Raul’s record number of appearances in the competition. The big-hearted Donbass crowd, in spite of their team loyalty, stood up and gave Giggsy a long round of passionate applause.

United held fast with nine men behind the ball and really looked like they might pull off a famous away victory until the 75th minute when the Shakhtar’s big central defender Rakitskiy, out to make up for his crucial early mistake, strode down the left flank and fired a cross into the heart of United’s box. Vidic managed to block it, but it got away from him, bouncing to Taison who beat De Gea with an unblockable rocket into the roof of the net from 12 yards out. Six minutes later, Taison almost scored again with a deflected shot off Smalling but De Gea reacted brilliantly, tipping it over the bar.

When the whistle blew, the relief on David Moyes’ ruddy face was there for everybody to see. A good, albeit not great, evening’s work.Shakhtar Donetsk v Manche 011 Davieball At the Donbass

Oct 012013

Manchester United 1-2 West Bromwich Albion
The only nice thing about getting hammered by Manchester City was that it was a can of wupass which came with its own built-in excuse(s). Something about all the dosh City have spent, or the naiveManchester United woe v West Brom 3011412 Dem Home Town Baggie Blues! ref, the pile-up of tough fixtures. or Patrice’s legs have gone, or… But, now, the truth, the uncomfortable truth, and not the abstract truth, that David Moyes has to deal with after getting our noses rubbed in Baggie poo in our very own Theater of Dreams, is that Manchester United really are in trouble.

The team Moyes trotted out made a shrugging sort of sense as Alexander Büttner, Anderson, and Javier Hernández, were put out there by Moyes to test the waters. Javíer Hernandez was also enjoying a rare start because of both Robin Van Persie’s problematic hamstring, and as a reward for performing so well against Liverpool on Wednesday. Tinkering against a less risky opponent like West Brom surely seemed logical to the new United brains trust.

Yet Shinji Kagawa, playing on the left flank, repeatedly showed a dithering tendency to zigzag back and forth in a search for possession, looked both bemused and lost. Along with refusing to play Wilfried Zaha, whom he insists is not ready, Moyes has already badly bruised the fragile egos of two other players who are being stalked by Borussia Dortmund (Kagawa’s old club), Juventus and Manchester City in Kagawa and Januzaj. “We want Shinji to feel he’s getting an opportunity to show what he can do. His best position may be Number 10, but even for Japan he plays off the left as well so it’s not something which is strange to him or not his position so he’s used to that. But there’s a lot of competition here and we want to push each other on to give performances and improve.” Say what? Thus, despite all of Moyes’ verbal diarrhea, Kagawa was removed at half-time for another unhappy camper, the 18-year-old Adnan Januzaj. Moyes, confirming this was a tactical substitution after the game, added. “I just decided that I wanted to try and make a change, try and inject a little bit of something and I thought Adnan showed what he could do,” he said.

Unfortunately, Steve Clarke’s Baggies’ were more than up for a bit of diligence against the champions. Dominant in the first half, they pressed hard, gummed up central midfield and the flanks with pure, unadulterated hustle, and had both Stephane Sessegnon and Scott Sinclair come close to scoring in the first half. As fate would have it, with Scott Sinclair too hurt to return in the second half, Clarke brought on a young academy player, Saido Berahino, who, in switching wings and speedily, seamlessly shifting in and out of the box, gave Phil Jones, Alexander Büttner, Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Evans all fits. It proved to be a masterstroke on Clarke’s part.

Meanwhile, United, with Anderson wearing the face and body language of someone with his head elsewhere–probably the meat buffet at Fogo de Chao–and Michael Carrick simply unwilling to run, Albion’s perpetual motion midfield of Christian Kalumbu, Morgan Amalfitano and an absolutely superb Claudio Yacob, cleverly fired keen little passes hither and thither, all the while picking off each Carrick and Anderson pass attempt at will. Indeed, after Saido Berahino scored the winning goal, Carrick and Rio Ferdinand stood there scratching their barnets like a couple of aging heroin addicts waiting nervously for their fix. Having now fallen into twelfth place with only seven points, a sense of self-pity and helplessness was distinctly palpable.

W.B.A.’s goals were a masochistic pleasure to behold. First, in the 54th minute, Morgan Amalfitano took possession of a long clever pass from Gareth McAuley, bobbed and weaved around Rio Ferdinand, nutmegging the aging Peckham reprobate, before stutter-stepping towards David de Gea and then firing a sublime chip over the advancing keeper.

Yet, within two minutes United were level. Once again, Wayne Rooney, an angry focused bear these days, was there to fire home his fifth goal in six games. His free-kick bending exquisitely to the the left, flying round Albion’s fixed defense and totally freezing their goalie Boaz Myhill to tie things up. Another United on another day would have kicked into gear at this point, but this team went back to the same casual game plan, as if they already owned a huge lead. A few more duff Carrick attempts at supplying Rooney with long-distance pass attempts went for nought and he seemed to jack it in for the rest of the evening thereafter.

West Brom simply shrugged off United’s burp of a revival, though. Amalfitano nearly added a second with a perfectly placed howitzer of a free-kick that De Gea tipped over the bar superbly. Then, the Frenchman, on loan from Marseilles, picked up a clever short pass from Sessegnon in the 67th minute which he had the delicate eye to fire on into Saido Berahino’s path. The Anglo-Burundian, who showed a lovely, assured and delicate touch throughout the second half, took his chance ruthlessly, burying it under a diving David De Gea.

Manchester United have become only the second top-flight English champions, after Blackburn in 1995-96, to begin the following season with three (or more) defeats in their opening six matches since Leeds did so in the 1974-75 season. All is certainly not lost, to be sure. The forward line will start scoring goals in bunches eventually, but the mental and physical vulnerability of our back four, having twice been casually burgled and humiliated, can not be fixed by switching personnel. Blaming our full-backs for advancing and ‘marooning’ whoever plays center-back is ridiculous, too. Last season our defense was a perpetually leaky sieve, too, but counting on scoring more than we let in this season is only going to work with a handful of opponents this time around. To be sure, I’ve been saying that Rio and Evra are both past it and sliding backwards down a slippery slope.

As much as this is true, there can also be no doubt that it’s a tactical issue, too. No team ever proved this better than the geriatric, injury-prone defense fielded by Carlo Ancelotti’s AC Milan from 2002 to 2007. Somehow the noble old guard that formed a defensive back line featuring Alessandro Nesta, Paolo Maldini. Kaka Kaladze, Alessandro Costacurta, and, for a shorter period, the ex-United star, Jaap Stam, all got it done. Indeed, despite being the source of much amusement to the pundits of the game, the team won two E.C.C. finals and lost another. Slow as molasses, they were all, nevertheless, collectively intelligent and almost religiously dedicated to their fitness and careers. Unfortunately, only Nemanja Vidic and Rafael Da Silva show this kind of dedication for United. Patrice Evra is still capable of inspired moments but refuses to realistically adjust his game now that his legs are gone. Although Rio talks the talk, he is far more dedicated to his career in the media(last week it was his football awards show!) than getting it done in the field. Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling are fine athletes who have not improved and the jury is out on Phil Jones. Time for Moyes and Phil Neville to come up with something strategically practical for the defense now!
Manchester Uniteds Wayne 006 Dem Home Town Baggie Blues!

Scousers Stymied At Old Trafford

 Posted by on September 26, 2013 at 11:24 am  Blogs/Media, Liverpool, Manchester United
Sep 262013

Manchester United 1-0 Liverpool
Manchester United v Liver 004 Scousers Stymied At Old TraffordNo doubt about it. Manager David Moyes was ecstatic after this win. Seconds after the referee Mark Clattenburg blew his whistle, Moyes was out on the pitch, shaking hands with every single Manchester United player before standing in front of the Stretford End nodding, bowing and grinning in a manner that bellied his usual gruff, Caledonian reserve. No. No doubt about it. Losing to both Manchester City and Liverpool in four days would have been unbearable.

Moyes certainly bollixed up the night for the ravenous jackals of Fleet Street. The big story was supposed to be Luis Suárez’s comeback after a ten match suspension, but the Premier League’s most press-worthy racist cannibal, although clearly very fit, was not at all sharp. Instead, a more collectively gutsy United abandoned the self-absorbed kind of sloppiness that has stunted so much of the football they’ve played thus far this season for something more disciplined. Led by captain Wayne Rooney and Ryan Giggs, who is a few weeks short of 40, they hustled and pressed. Indeed, they reminded me of a hustling pressing team like Swansea City… playing against Manchester United. “The whole club were hurt by the game on Sunday,” Moyes said.

Let’s get this straight, though. This is not a great United side. Hustle can only go so far when your technique is limited by the quality of true soldiers you have available. The same old problems still show themselves off at the back like galvanized neon and though it was nice to see a fit Jonny Evans back at the back, his lack of positional sense, along with the relentless panic that repeatedly seizes Chris Smalling, did the hard working full back pairing of Rafael and Alexander Büttner no favors. Liverpool were allowed way too much possession in United’s penalty box and, although the tricky dribbling of Sturridge and Suarez plagued Evans and Smalling as we knew it would do, the usual supply of killer passes they get to feed on from Coutinho were sorely missed. Having Phil Jones around as a sweeper didn’t hurt either. Evans and Smalling are faster than the usual pairing of Vidic and Ferdinand. Both fine athletes, they could be a marvelous pairing if they had just a little more savvinness about them. With Jones playing the fixed role of water boy between them, neither of the Liverpool strikers got the kind of time or space they tend to feed upon like vampires.

70123949 70123948 Scousers Stymied At Old TraffordUnited made eight changes from the Sunday team, but this was not the usual cobbling together of reserves and youth-team kids that all the top six of the PL normally put out for this competition. Too many problems for that. Moyes used the fixture well. Nani can drive you crazy, but he was mostly full of derring-do and energy. Clearly superior to either Valencia or Young, Nani looked positively majestic later in the match when he was joined on the field by Adnan Januzaj. And although Moyes moans about his not being fit and in spite of being played totally out of position on the left, Shinji Kagawa can do so much in small isolated spaces, engineering chances out of nothing, that it’s essentially Moyes finds a way to play him more. Atypical was an exquisite bit of business where Kagawa, boxed in by three defenders, still gave them the slip, managing to make the space and time to flick an absolute ooh-ah 20-harder beauty that, sadly, hit the bar.

Manchester United v Liver 005 Scousers Stymied At Old TraffordSizzling up front and competent at the back, United always looked like they had it in them more to score than the Red Scousers. Having ceded the middle to Liverpool, United relied on stifling Liverpool’s misfiring attack and cavalry-like speedy counterattacks performed with gusto by Rafael and Nani and the constantly dangerous pairing of Wayne Rooney and– substituting effectively for Robin Van Persie–Javíer Hernandez. Indeed, with Rooney captain for the night, the groove he has now found, even against City, may be the best football he has ever played. Rooney, always at his best when allowed to roam all over the pitch and given no help whatsoever by an ineffective Anderson, was United’s best player throughout.

There were a number of near-misses for both sides, but when Hernández struck, a minute into the second half, it was a clever, beautiful goal. Rooney’s corner was not especially well taken, but it was clear that this was a play he and the Mexican assassin had worked on before. As the ball arced its way in, Hernández spun away from his marker, José Enrique, altered his body to suit the trajectory of the ball, rose, his instep all the way up to his chest and fired his shot past goalkeeper Simon Mignolet. A striker of his ability, underrated even by his own boss, Chicharito only needed the one moment of being unmarked by a generous Liverpool defense to administer the dagger. His beautiful coup-de-grace will surely give Moyes food for thought after observing too many episodes of Danny Welbeck’s dithering.

Liverpool fans will surely moan that they played well and lost. The brilliance of David De Gea had something to do with that and more than a few chances were wasted by Sturridge, Henderson and Suarez. The Spaniard’s fine save from a fantastic Victor Moses header certainly showed what an innately brilliant a shot-stopper he is. Liverpool losing after controlling the ball for more than 60% of the game surely shows that United did something right, too. The next fixture against West Bromwich Albion, a decent but very beatable opponent, will also offer Moyes the opportunity to tinker with his line-up.

Manchester Uniteds Mexica 004 Scousers Stymied At Old Trafford

Sep 232013

Manchester City 4-1 Manchester United
Marouane Fellaini David D 001 Hammered in AncoatsManchester United have now mustered only seven points from their opening five games. It’s the club’s worst start since their 2004-05 campaign when they had six and ended up finishing third, 18 points behind Chelsea. A downcast David Moyes put it this way to the gathered jackals of Fleet Street. “I just told the players the way I would have told players at any other club if I don’t think they’re doing it. They’re good players, they’re good pros, they know when they’re bang at it and when they’re not.” Say oo-what? “Every manager has bad results. I’m no different. Manchester City were the better team, they got control in the early part and we found it difficult to contain them. I thought as the first half edged on we started to get back into the game a little bit more but unfortunately lost the second goal right on half-time. I’m disappointed we didn’t perform because there was no reason.”

Nemanja Vidic confessed that United were “Never in it. From the first minute, City tried to be aggressive and had more possession in the first 20 or 30 minutes,” the United captain said. “We didn’t really get in the game from the first minute. This is what we have to try to learn from. We can’t look back. It’s horrible to lose the derby. It’s always horrible. It’s worse when you lose in this way, 4-0 down. We were never close to winning the game.”

With striker Robin van Persie begging off with a groin problem, and Moyes choosing not to call upon Shinji Kagawa, Wilfried Zaha or Adnan Januzaj, there was the atmosphere of one of those ecstacy-fed zombie rave parties in the United camp after the match. Aside from Wayne Rooney and a captain who never once walked his talk in the slightest, United seemed neither upset nor humiliated. City’s captain, Vincent Kompany put it best,”Maybe the game meant a little bit more to us than for them. We were looking forward to this fixture. We need to win these kind of games. There was no reason why we should fear the opposition.”

The truth is that City’s key players on the day, Yaya Touré, Fernandinho, Jesús Navas, Samir Nasri, Alvaro Negredo and Sergio Agüero, simply humiliated United. In United’s new ‘system,’ featuring a pair of central holding midfielders in a 4-2-3-1 formation, is the notion that each one, depending on the vicissitudes of the game, will exchange roles when it comes to being more attack-minded. This was okay against Crystal Palace last week and even the fair quality midfield of Bayer’s Rolfes and Bender in the midweek ECC match, but was utterly useless against City. Moyes must clearly make his mind up in big games just who exactly will be his main holding midfielder. In these early days of Fellaini’s career at the champions, he appears to be a first choice for Moyes over Carrick. Fellaini who, in many ways, was bought as an antidote to the likes of Yaya Touré and Mohammed Diamé of West Ham United, who boss their teams as holding midfielders and yet are able to shift gears and exchange roles with Fernandinho and Mark Noble, there’s no comfort in this position yet. He’s a natural square passer, whereas Carrick is one for long probing balls on the days when his game is working. This will obviously take a while to gel, or, in a bad scenario like tonight’s match, may never work at all. Doubtless, City performed really well, especially in the first half, but Moyes needs to fasten his seat belt and place an airbag over his groin area because he is about to undergo a lot of serious scrutiny over the next few days, not the least of which will involve Sir Alex Ferguson as he finally enters the boardroom after recovering from hip surgery. The aforementioned baying jackals of Fleet Street who have already torn Paolo Di Canio to pieces, now have Jose Mourinho and Our Moyesie in their sights.

City played with great energy from the get-go. They were all movement and penetration, something United could not find. They pressed and harassed United when they didn’t have the ball and made their careful passing count, performing like a team who were embarrassed to have gifted the title of champion United’s way last season. They harried and chased and, when they had the ball, made great use of it. The humiliation began in the 16th minute with a fine example of Kun Agüero’s extemporaneous craft. When a lazy Antonio Valencia did not notice Aleksandar Kolarov’s overlapping run from left-back. Nasri’s clever little flick left a slack-jawed Chris Smalling marooned on his own in a ton of space at right-back. The clever little Argentine striker then twisted himself like a pretzel, raised his left foot and somehow volleyed home Kolarov’s cross.

United’s skipper, Nemanja Vidic, raged righteously at Valencia for making the most fundamental of errors, but then he did exactly the same thing himself as he and his sidekick, Rio Ferdinand, like an aging burlesque slapstick team trading custard pies to the mush made a bollix out of it all. With both repeatedly repeatedly losing the ball through risky passes executed in the six yard box, the lion’s share of coverage fell to the shell-shocked Marouane Fellaini and Michael Carrick, who, instead of shielding United’s defense, came a cropper in every clash with Fernandinho and Touré.

Yet, somehow, United hung in there. Playing like a Sam Allardyce team, making long boots out from the box and giving away scores of throw-ins. A second goal was inevitable, however, and in the 46th minute, just into injury time, they gave away their sixth corner. Nasri aimed for Alvaro Negredo and Smalling leapt sideways to intercept. Instead, he blocked off a jumping Vidic while Fellaini, who was supposed to be marking Touré, also leapt high for the ball. Free as a bird, Yaya Touré sprinted to the far post, and had no trouble tapping home Alvaro Negredo’s knockdown.

2-0 down at the interval, United were expected by all and sundry to come out with a war face for the second half. Instead they collapsed and capitulated. Three minutes in, Ferdinand seemed to be in the midst of a conversation with Samir Nasri, leaving Agüero completely unmarked in the midst of a packed box to make it 3-0. Then, seconds later, Evra lost Nasri, who had the presence of mind to feint on Smalling before meeting Jesús Navas’s cross and curving it home past a stranded David De Gea.

City took their foot off the accelerator then and were content to gum up the midfield and stage sporadic counterattacks. Luckily, David Silva was injured and City’s new striker, Alvaro Negredo, who took turns giving fits to both Vidic and Ferdinand, missed at least four sitters. Their heroes for the day, beyond the unstoppable presence of Yaya Touré, was the shifting partnership of Jésus Navas and Nasri who traded positions at will. While Chris Smalling, clearly uncomfortable at right-back, simply quit early on, poor Patrice Evra simply played like an Alzheimer’s victim, unable to compute Navas and Nasri’s adaptability. As Moyes clearly doesn’t trust Alexander Büttner or Fabio to play at left-back, Evra is just as clearly now sport for even the weakest clubs in the PL.

United did get one back from an exquisitely taken Rooney free kick late on, but his lack of celebration said it all. His beautiful free kick made him the leading scorer of all time in Manchester derbies with eleven. Rooney carried United’s burden alone and no one was surprised when he got too emotional and was booked for an unnecessarily hard challenge on City captain Vincent Kompany. Rooney has been criticized a lot over the past few months, not least by yours truly, but he burned with an overt desire absent in everybody else on the team.

Although there was a certain kind of one-off freaky-deakiness about United’s horrible 6-1 loss at Old Trafford two seasons ago, there was no such aura here. Manchester City and its new boss, Manuel Pellegrini, gave David Moyes a nose-rubbing in his own poo. Moyes, who never won a derby at Liverpool in all his eleven years as Everton manager, will surely prove to own a few virtues in the coming weeks against more ordinary opposition. Clearly also, unless the club makes a complete nose-dive, he will not be fired in the immediate future. The minority of fans who already have a Facebook page demanding his ouster will not get much attention or satisfaction for the time being. What concerns me far less than losing to good teams is the team’s lack of bottle and grit for the games against Liverpool and Manchester City. It really is worrisome!
David Moyes 008 Hammered in Ancoats