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Jan 202014

Chelsea 3-1 Manchester United
72383208 72383207 So Right, but So Wrong!How is it possible for Manchester United to get it so right and so wrong simultaneously? David Moyes was tactically daring in a manner I can’t remember before and his plan was actually working. Unfortunately, you have to have the horses and when you don’t–whether it be from the absence of Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney or the absent grey matter of his defensive line–you lose! What worked well was the placement of of Adnan Januzaj high up the pitch, usually a step in front of Danny Welbeck, with Welbeck dropping deep to draw the sting out of David Luiz or Ramires. This allowed Januzaj to drift and flit all about the left side of the field, giving Bronislav Ivanovic a heap of headaches.

With Jose Mourinho surprisingly reliant on the aforementioned Ivanovic to play like an old-fashioned sweeper to fill the holes caused by John Terry and Gary Cahill’s lack of speed, Moyes had United pour it on relentlessly down the left flank. Unfortunately, although the tactic worked, the Red Devils proved to be toothless. Ashley Young’s soft shot was saved by Petr Cech and, after a brilliant one-two with Welbeck, Patrice Evra fired into the side-netting. Unfortunately, because he no longer owns the ability to double-clutch on the run , tackle hard, or move laterally, Evra mostly doubled up the work Januzaj needed to do. Too Much of United’s play revolved around Januzaj. Twelve minutes in, he squared superbly for Welbeck, who couldn’t get the ball away from César Azpilicueta. His return pass was well hit, but Januzaj found nobody to pass to and the ball flew sideways past an empty goal.

For the first sixteen minutes United dominated but wasted their half-chances. Indeed, they owned the lion’s share of the ball and held their own against Chelsea’s technically superb midfield. Still, in spite of United’s midfield doing more than just managing to hang in there, however, there was United’s lack of concentration and fortitude at the back. The three three less-than-remarkable goals they conceded came about simply because of mistakes. The fact is that Chelsea never came close to penetrating United in open play. Jose Mourinho may indeed be an astute tactician, but there was nothing adventurous or surprising in the way Chelsea took down United. They were simply superior because they remained focused, relentlessly committed, concentrated and were fully prepared to do their jobs.

At any rate, a hat-trick by Samuel Eto’o kept United in the quicksand of no-Europe-next-season-land as they fell a full fourteen points behind the league leaders, Arsenal. Chelsea maintained the pressure on the Premier League pacesetters and surely ended Manchester United’s chances of retaining their title. Chelsea are now only two points behind leaders Arsenal and one adrift of Manchester City. And by February I predict the rest of the season will be a two horse-race between Manchester City and Chelsea. Meanwhile, United have their backs to the wall on Wednesday as they try to overturn a 2-1 deficit against Sunderland in the Capital One Cup semi-final second leg at Old Trafford without their suspended captain, Nemanja Vidic. who starts a three-match ban after receiving a late red card.

Chelsea took the lead after 18 minutes when a weak left-footed shot from Eto’o took an unlucky touch off Michael Carrick’s outstretched leg before squirming over United keeper David de Gea, who might have done better. Minutes later, United were still showing some sharp teeth. A Januzaj cross dissected the Blues’ defence, landing at the feet of Welbeck. Their left back, Cesar Azpilicueta, really did seem to catch the England striker’s leg as he took the shot, but the referee, Phil Dowd, was having none of it after Cech caught the loose ball. After that the determination seemed to fall out of United’s collective will to win.

Then, just on the cusp of half-time, Eto’o drove a dagger into United’s heart, doubling Chelsea’s lead as Cahill squared an easily interceptable pass that United’s whole flat-footed defense frozen. Everybody was a watcher as the Cameroonian striker zipped in to casually thrust home just past De Gea’s outstretched fingertips. Moyes’ half-time pep-talk seemed to do no good whatsoever, however, as, only four miserable minutes into the second half, dreadful marking at a corner allowed an unchallenged John Terry to nod the ball in the direction of goal. De Gea scrambled the loose ball away, but Eto’o was there again, casually tapping the loose ball for his hat-trick.

The remainder of the game was a matter of Chelsea more or less casually retaining possession and United in damage control mode. When Hernandez gave the scoreline a little respectability in the 78th minute, pirouetting only a foot or so in front of the goalmouth to push home a sloppily executed Phil Jones shot, the United fan contingent came to life. With that Mourinho shored up his tired defense by introducing the team’s prodigal son from Benfica, Nemanja Matic, and Hard Man Jon Obi Mikel so that any momentary United late threat was snuffed out for good.

Finally, for no perceptible reason, a clearly frustrated Nemanja Vidic, took out a sprinting Eden Hazard and received the red card the foul deserved. Further to that, despite his team being down to ten men, Rafael Da Silva got some payback on Chelsea’s center back Gary Cahill with a studs-up foul and was extremely fortunate to receive no more than a yellow card.

After the match, David Moyes had a very difficult time holding his head up. “What we don’t do is throw the towel in until we can’t get there. The job is to finish first and we’ll try to do that,” he mumbled.
David Moyes Manchester Un 011 So Right, but So Wrong!

Jan 132014

Manchester United 2-0 Swansea City

72225055 461811975 Another Tale of Two HalvesTalk about agita! After finally pulling ourselves together in the second half, everybody can forget about both the first half and, while they’re at it, the first part of the season. Looking more and more like a red-headed, ultra-exhausted Gollum from Lord of the Rings, manager David Moyes was still clearly very much relieved at the post-match press conference. The pressure he has undergone this week at the hands of the hungry pigs and dogs of Fleet Street has been unprecedented. Considering the tide of anti-United hatred and bile he’s been swimming against the current in, had the Red Devils not been purposeful enough to reverse last week’s FA Cup defeat, it may really have been the beginning of the end for him. 53 years have gone by the wayside since they last suffered the indignity of four successive defeats in 1961. Perspective-wise, that was when Bill Nicholson’s Tottenham Hotspur won the Double, which, in this day and age, at a club where the Chairman picks the team, is unimaginable. But anything is possible in football.

One thing is for sure, United made us suffer before getting themselves together. They took their time and there were parts of the first half when, once again, this looked nothing like close to the erratic team which won the Premier League championship last season. Yet–in a peculiar way they now remind me more and more of the seesaw hijinx of the late great Tommy Docherty-managed Chelsea team of the late sixties’/early seventies–they suddenly shifted gears and cruised to victory after Antonio Valencia and Danny Welbeck scored brilliant goals during the opening 15 minutes of the second half. At the center of it all, an 18-year-old Adnan Januzaj casually moved all around the midfield, repeatedly toying with whoever attempted to snuff out his threat, daring defenders tostop him, causing panic at will and drawing fouls. Indeed, United so battered Swansea’s crew of normally confident young bucks that they spent the last fifteen minutes with ten men behind the ball in their own half, their complex passing system eradicated.

All the usual new hair-dryer jokes aside, one can’t help but wonder what was said at half-time. For all those who’ve taken cheap shots at Moyes for “trying to turn them into Everton,” as Alan Shearer put it on the radio last week, they looked awesome for a solid 25 minutes there. Of course, something similar happened against Bayer Leverküsen a few weeks back before the wheels fell off again. Considering the absence of Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney, not to mention losing Phil Jones just as he was having his first true purple patch for the club, and the sheer conjoined Manc-hating Rottweiler rage and joy in the club’s problems exhibited by the media, I felt proper proud for the Lads on Saturday. It’s a bit soon for us to expect too much against Chelsea next week, but Swansea City really are no pushover. Crisis? What bloody crisis?

Well, okay, we needn’t get too carried away, though. The raucous crowd were truly up for this one and it seems to be no accident that the fans really are that much more up for later games. Feeling up against the wall and under the cosh surely does have something to do with it. But neither the team nor the fans can carry on this way. At any rate, three important things happened that give me much hope.

No Tom Cleverley! I’m terrified Moyes will bring him back next week, but our new manager is a stubborn man. With Darren Fletcher fresh and fit in his place, United’s passing capabilities fall off a bit, but Daz’s desire and sheer love of playing in a Manchester United shirt makes all the difference in the world. The Scotsman should be a fixture on the pitch and I would prefer it if I was never forced to watch Cleverley’s mopery ever again in a United shirt. That is not to say, of course, that too much can be read into one result.

Kagawa as a second striker! Shinji is never going to be Wesley Sneijder, or a left-winger. I don’t care what he does on the Japanese national team, or those fans who insist he’s not good enough for the PL. His interplay with Lewandowski at Borussis Dortmund was exquisite and the team would have won it all had he stayed last season. There were glimpses of what he is capable of in his interplay with Welbeck and Januzaj against the Swans in the second half. They ran a kind of rolling diamond of bait and switch that repeatedly left Ashley Williams flat-footed, useless and marooned. Perhaps he’ll never be able to work well with Van Persie or Rooney, but Moyes should consider carefully before giving him the heave-ho.

Januzaj and Welbeck! I don’t want to hear one more word about United being so reliant on an 18-year-old. This kid is the real deal and we only need to worry about him getting hurt. I also think it’s no accident that Danny Welbeck is in his element when he’s flitting hither and thither, back and forth with other slightly eccentric accompaniment. His relationship with Daniel Sturridge for England promises much if they find a more consistent accompaniment. But what we saw against Swansea between Welbeck, Januzaj and Kagawa could yet turn out to be key in saving the season if we can acquire a quality passing midfielder and Rooney can adjust. Januzaj can even take consistently good free kicks, which means we’re less toothless if RVP, Giggs or Rooney aren’t around.

After a disastrous first half. United might have been without Wazza and RVP, but Swansea have a lot less bite of their own without the injured Michu in particular. Michael Laudrup’s team also had to contend with the early departure of Jose Cañas, but they still maintained 67% possession throughout the first half.Januzaj was made the fulcrum of everything in the second half.

To say United were flat in the first half is the understatement of all time. Repeatedly careless passing from Smalling, and even skipper Nemanja Vidic and an incredibly nervous Rafael had the crowd audibly upset. Repeatedly overmatched on the left flank, Patrice Evra got an early yellow card and seemed to be in a shouting match with Nemanja Vidic who, to his credit, repeatedly made it clear that he wanted him to hang farther back. Instead, Evra who is incapable of any mode of stasis, still ventured forward. This left huge amounts of extra work for Smalling and Vidic to do, although both rose to the challenge. Repeatedly blotting out Swansea’s swift but predictable style of tikki-tak attack, United did have a couple of quite simple chances but one was mishit by Rafael after a brilliant solo run and Welbeck missed yet another sitter after a fine set-up by Rafael and Valencia had left him alone in front of goal.

At half time, Moyes clearly did more than shout in the dressing room. With Januzaj switched over to the left against serial fouler Angel Rangel, United were now in business. Already on a yellow card, his feet probably sore from kicking lumps out of Kagawa’s back thighs, Rangel had to mute down his game. Only two minutes in, Ashley Williams failed to properly clear a loose ball off Januzaj. The ball bounced off his head and a cat-quick Kagawa was in there to head toward goal. Somehow, Swansea’s veteran goalie Gerhard Trammel shifted in mid-air and push the ball clear, but an unmarked Valencia was there to side-foot his shot into an empty net to make 1-0.

Welbeck scored the second United goal in the 59th minute and it clearly offered him a chance for redemption over the easy chance he had botched in the first half. A bad throw from Trammel toward a slow-witted Routledge was intercepted by Januzaj. The baby-faced Belgian double-clutched and made a sweet backward pass to a sprinting Evra. Januzaj and Evra made a lightning one-two, Januzaj hit it quickly on the diagonal toward goal and Welbeck was on the spot to stick a toe out and send the ball flying in the opposite direction into the net to make it 2-0.

Very much helped by the performance of Nemanja Vidic, who was flawless after a couple of uncharacteristic early mistakes, Wilfried Bony, who scored Swansea’s winner last week and really gave United a lot of difficulties with his raw physicality, was quiet throughout. Remarkably fluid and easy on the eye for the rest of the game, United would have scored at least four goals save for Chris Smalling missing a simple chance when he volleyed over the bar from five yards out after connecting to a superb Kagawa cross. And with minutes to go, Kagawa was also too generous to the Swans when he dribbled around goalkeeper Gerhard Tremmel but had his weakly hit effort cleared off the line by Leon Britton.

United can now, we hope, approach their next game against Chelsea, with less trepidation and a cautious sense of confidence.
72224493 461811927 Another Tale of Two Halves

Jan 082014

Capital One League Cup Semi-final
Sunderland 2-1 Manchester United

David de Gea 008 Fool Me Thrice!Bereft of all confidence, Manchester United conspired against themselves to lose a third match in a row to an anemically poor Sunderland team that has only won three Premier League games all season. After the match, having already poisoned the dressing room by having one of his coaches tell the Observer that Fabio Da Silva has played his last game ever for the Red Devils and that Sergío Contreao is still not coming to the club before the match, he then felt the desire to wax bitter about the match referee André Marriner.

The chalice Moyes inherited from Sir Alex Ferguson is not the poisoned one that follows naturally with, say, the England national team or the Spurs job. No one expected the job to be easy, and most of the club’s millions of fans accept that their piggy bank isn’t as big as the one supplied by an oil kingdom to Manchester City and PSG, or the well-laundered heroin, oil and natural gas money that fuels Chelsea and AS Monaco. We have lowered our expectations, although only slightly.

Sir Alex Ferguson, who refused to sign a quality central midfielder for seven seasons after losing Keane and Hargreaves, bears some blame. Although acknowledging the Gaffer’s faults simultaneously allows you to appreciate his utter wizardry as a manager for somehow papering over the cracks and still winning again and again, getting your head around the club’s current situation is still a sickening process. Having vented about Fabio’s perceived idiocy, the press and its rumor mills and the officiating, Moyes, it seems, has the hump about SAF, Bobby Dazzler and Bryan Robson following him to Wearside because someone has been talking to a reporter at the Guardian, too. Perhaps none of us would like to have Big Daddy staring us down from the back seat after we’ve just received a chauffeuring license, but the fact is that Moyes received a six-year-contract and a strong vote of verbal confidence from the boss when he first started the job. Despite just having his hips operated on and the relentless rain and the danger of a gale coming onshore somewhere around Harrogate, Scotland’s peerless Peer of the realm and best-selling memoir was there to bear witness.

At any rate, Sunderland take a one-goal lead into the Capital One Cup semi-final second leg and United are arguably in their biggest funk since relegation in 1974. Neville Marriner, another controversial referee with a vast ego and a crew of lick-spittle assistants may have made more than a few bad calls during the game, but they were truly against the interests of both sides and the penalty call against Tom Cleverley for a rough challenge on the tricky Adam Johnson was clearly righteous. Fabio Borini’s 64th minute penalty winner was the dull winner of an insipid match after Tom Cleverley was controversially penalized for a challenge on Adam Johnson. It was a rash attempt at a tackle and one more slap in the face for Moyes, who refuses to bench a player who repeatedly cracks under the minimum of pressure.

Out of the FA Cup already, United are 11 points behind the Premier League leaders Arsenal and pretty much left with ghost of a chance of making the PL’s top four and a Hail Mary for the European Champions League.

Sunderland were supposed to be a happy distraction and with three of their back line–Wes Brown, John O’Shea and Phil Bardsley–being old red devils who were tossed on the scrapheap by Ferguson, they usually tend to tense up against and flatter to deceive against their old team. Yet in spite 18,000 empty seats at the Stadium of Light, United still floated around with what’s becoming a consistent lack of energy we’re all getting used to now. One harbinger of things was when a 40-year-old Giggs had a well-hit 20-yarder shot ricochet off the crossbar via a slight deflection after a making a strong sprint from midfield.

Then the brilliant baby-faced bandit Adnan Januzaj made cool work of scoring, calmly firing the ball home after his initial shot had been blocked by Giggs, only for the same ferociously aggressive Welshman to be correctly flagged offside. To be sure, Giggs was trying to lead a cavalry that only Welbeck and Januzaj were interested in accompanying him on. It’s hard to find fault in a player for his wanton aggression, isn’t it? Giggs’ night then took an even more severe turn for the worse in first-half injury time when he diverted the ball into his own net as he deftly tried to prevent Bardsley from placing the ball home, after Brown volleyed a Sebastian Larsson deep free-kick back across goal.

Sunderland’s lead evaporated as soon as the second-half began when Vidic rose easily above above Brown and O’Shea to head Cleverley’s corner into the net in the 46th minute. Behavior that would have seemed enigmatic a few weeks ago now seems regular, however, and the Moyes Boys began to play a draw. Slowing the tempo to a slow canter, it was clear that they were asking for trouble.

Eight minutes on, after a hard Larsson volley was well saved by United’s goalkeeper David De Gea, Cleverley clearly fouled Sunderland’s brand-new substitute Adam Johnson and Marriner pointed to the spot. When Borini’s high penalty actually scored, the young Italian striker who has had two miserable seasons in England with Liverpool and Sunderland, looked so relieved and happy, I almost felt happy for him. That, as they say, was all she wrote!
Adan Januzaj right and Da 011 Fool Me Thrice!

Jan 062014

Manchester United 1-2 Swansea City
ALeqM5jvmkA2R0qXjDMYQhE4adPAJF4bOg TRa to the F.A. Cup!Anyone who’s seen the film Bridge on the River Kwai understands. And I have it on very good authority that David Lean’s film masterpiece on the absurdity of war is David Moyes’ favorite. Like the stubborn, class-bound POW Colonel Nicholson, dragged away from his suffering in ‘the box’ by the vicious Japanese camp commandant, Colonel Saito, in order to get his prisoners to become obedient workers, David Moyes will do it his way. After yet another disappointing performance resulted in a 1-2 defeat–Our fourth defeat over the last six games home at Old Trafford–he pushed out that stiff-upper-lip and told us yet another Pictish fib.

“We played quite well at times, got near the edge of the box quite regular, but didn’t make an opportunity to score the goal,” he said while avoiding all eye-contact.”I thought for long periods we had good control of the game. We were a bit unlucky to lose. We had some opportunities, not enough, and we were down to 10 men.”

United started with six changes from the 2-1 home defeat to Tottenham Hotspur. Lacking the fire offered up by the presence of Wayne Rooney, Robin Van Persie, Phil Jones and captain Nemanja Vidic, Moyes could conjure up no successful alternatives. With Javíer Hernandez left alone to look for crumbs up front and the consistently gutless, mediocrity that is Tom Cleverley left to float around central midfield doing nothing in particular, striker Danny Welbeck took it upon himself to be the link-up man as Rooney has been for most of the season. Having rested Carrick, who underwent a harrowing time against Spurs in his return to the first-team since injury, Moyes clearly did expect more from Cleverley and Kagawa in midfield but received very little in return for his good faith.

Throughout proceedings, especially later on, the crowd chanted “Attack! Attack! Attack!” The problem is that, although United can still dominate for short periods, they own little desire and no cutting edge whatsoever. Similar, actually, to the Swansea City team they played. As with the 2-1 defeat against Tottenham Hotspur on New Year’s Day, Moyes’s side heard the final whistle while they were in the midst of laying siege to City’s goal. Too little. Too late. Unfortunately, their tactics have become so predictable and dull that defending against them is as simple as man-marking relentlessly and fouling at the edge of the box with the knowledge that none of United’s players can take a quality free kick.

Chicharito Hernandez in particular missed a handful of quality chances. Early on, he fluffed United’s first opportunity when a faulty back-pass from Routledge found him alone in his own half. Having done all the hard work and sprinted 60 yards, the Mexican striker had plenty of time to pick his spot, but his shot was weak and easily blocked by Swansea’s right-back Dwight Tiendalli. Later, Hernández had a far easier opportunity when the ball reached him from a toe-poke off Danny Welbeck close to the Swansea goal, but he scuffed the shot wide off his laces. As with Danny Welbeck, the desire, energy and graft was all there, unfortunately the kind of service they needed was not.

Seconds on, Hernández and his team-mates really regretted their error as Bony tapped the ball back to Alejandro Pozuelo. His first-time pass dissected United’s midfield like a sharp shiny macheté finding Routledge, who stiffed a static Cleverley, moved easily past an an exposed Chris Smalling, and casually lobbed the ball into the net over an advancing Anders Lindegaard to take the lead in the 12th minute.

The lead only lasted four minutes, though, as Hernandez finally located his goal-scoring touch with a nicely placed finish from close range after a superb curved cross from Alex Büttner. One couldn’t help thinking that, although a high percentage of Büttner’s crosses, passes and shots narrowly missed their mark, he can only improve if he gets picked more often. There’s an old cliché about nothing working if the center does not hold; but, if there is no center whatsoever, not even a soft one, what then?

All the way until half-time, Moyes’s side continued to create more start-up opportunities, coming close through Valencia and Büttner, yet Swansea played far superior, more deliberate football as they remained unchallenged in midfield, building up careful attacks from behind the raw physical presence of Bony.

Then, suddenly, in the 76th minute, United were shockingly reduced to ten men as, first, the visibly aged Rio Ferdinand, making his first appearance for a month, limped off the field after two hard encounters in succession with Bony and Routledge. Then, his replacement, Fabio Da Silva lasted only four minutes before receiving a straight red card for a studs-high late challenge on José Cañas.

Fortunate or not, United hung in there and the stadium was quiet enough that everybody could hear Moyes repeatedly screaming for his jaded team to “wake up!” It took until the 90th minute for the still speedy Wayne Routledge to fly past a tired Darren Fletcher down the left and flick a high ball up off his laces that the mighty unmarked Bony headed powerfully past a stranded Anders Lindegaard for Swansea’s deserved winner.

With Messrs. Moyes, Woodward and the United hierarchy announcing a zero-sum January transfer window what happens next in the Glazer era seems woeful to contemplate. The player I felt most sorry for was Fabio Da Silva, whose horribly late tackle will surely place him on the lowest line of our manager’s shit list, which is a pity because some lucky club will doubtless pick him up for next to nothing and he can observe the Moyes project enter its next sad phase at a distance. Maybe his tackle would have been better timed if Moyes had played him more previously. I doubt that we’ll ever know now.

Dec 292013

Norwich City 0-1 Manchester United
1545202 562898357130535 1461771227 n Welbeck Nicks OneIf there was any one thing David Moyes made Everton good at, it was the art of smash and grab. Even when there was no money and a dearth of talent, the Toffees were always good for nicking at least five wins a season they didn’t even come close to deserving.. On an afternoon where it was clear that Wayne Rooney has been carrying the club on his back, his absence made itself conspicuously felt throughout proceedings. Wazza may indeed never be loved as much as he deserves to be, but, to malapropize Niccolo Machiavelli, “it’s better to fear losing him than loving him after he’s gone!” With Rooney left to sit at home in Cheshire to rest what the manager called a “minor groin strain” and the double-threat of Adnan Januzaj and Danny Welbeck left on the bench to, hopefully, get some rest, United put out a physically small, weakened line-up against a desperate backs-to-the-wall Norwich City club who are in the midst of plummeting into and then propping up the relegation zone.

Led by the doubly anemic Javíer Hernandez and Shinji Kagawa, United lacked any attacking threat whatsoever throughout the first half. Hadn’t Kagawa scored a delicious hat-trick against the Canaries last season to announce himself to the Stretford End faithful? Well, this time the Canaries’ manager Chris Hughton played a high line and fed the Mexican striker a diet of tight marking and relentless petty fouls. At any rate, both Shinji and Chicharito were easily physically dominated by mediocre players, although Phil Dowd’s usual desire to let his capricious personality run a game–in a style which is second only to the megamaniacal refereeing of Howard Webb–didn’t help much either. Norwich dominated casually. Not through any brilliance, though. The fact that a couple of hack ham-and-eggers like Robert Snodgrass and Wes Hoolahan dominated possession was more a tale of the dissipation of a once-great Patrice Evra and the utter dysfunction and disinterest displayed by Tom Cleverley than anything. Exhausted from appearing in four matches in a row, Tommy Boy made it clear to all and sundry that he had no interest whatsoever in the night’s proceedings. Truth be told, leaving a fresh Anderson and Fabio Da Silva on the bench seems rather foolish, but second guessing one more stubborn Scotsman when you win is pointless, right?

Early on, Norwich’s crude but patient passing game saw, first, Robert Snodgrass slipping the ball into the path of Russell Martin, who squeezed behind the peripherally challenged Patrice Evra. Martin’s vicious shot was well gathered by De Gea as he dived, cat-like, to his right. Gary Hooper, swiveling in the penalty area, shot straight at De Gea, and Robert Snodgrass, cutting in from the right, curved his effort wide. Then, after Giggs was booked for upending Snodgrass, a Sebastian Bassong header was the next to keep De Gea busy. Indeed, when Hoolahan created space in the penalty area, only to fire a soft powder-puff of a shot against the legs of Evans, it became very clear that the Canaries were toothless at best. United fans only had to worry about own-goals with such comical impotence in ascendance for Norwich. Only Michael Carrick, shooting high from outside the Norwich box, bothered Norwich’s goalkeeperJohn Ruddy at all.

It was only in the second half, once Moyes brought on Welbeck for an already leggy Giggs, that United began to play with any sense of honest fluidity. A clearly tired Ashley Young, his crossing radar mostly duff, now had a capable partner to accompany him in his speedy foraging along the flank. Instantaneously better, Young drove just over the bar in the 47th minute. Yet with Martin and Snodgrass still repeatedly skinning Evra, Norwich predictably and repeatedly kept pumping balls into the space created as Evans tried to close off the gaps created by the desperately static Frenchman. A bad pump upfield from Bassong went wrong, however, and Smalling fired it directly back. Ryan Bennett should have cleared, but Welbeck closed him down quickly. The bounce put the ball at Welbeck’s feet and he was able sprint around Ruddy and fire the ball at an angle past the spreadeagled custodian for the only goal of the match in the 57th minute.

The rest of the night’s proceedings were dull and only Norwich’s Josh Murphy came close to an equalizer as his shot flew high over the goal. Interestingly, Moyes’ tactic of holding onto the ball and running down the clock put a lot of faith in the brazen determination of both Januzaj and Young to keep possession and draw fouls. It worked well, although it often has not. Another good sign that the lads are getting used to Moyes’ tactics.

Some games, as I said in my intro, just have to be a grind. Moyes is actually better at this kind of thing than Ferguson. What I’m wondering after this game, however, with the transfer window about to open up, is just what he will do about the unreliable Patrice Evra. With an error-prone Alexander Büttner clearly too impatient to stick around and an unwillingness on Moyes’ part to pick the injury-prone Fabio Da Silva, the left-back problem is bound to bite us back by the time the season’s late run-in begins. This connects to tonight’s return of Michael Carrick. The anti-freeze-blooded Geordie midfielder was a happy sight to see after recovery from achilles tendon surgery. He is, however, meant to be metronomic passing machine, not a box-to-box midfielder. Without Rooney, too much responsibility is heaped upon Carrick’s shoulders. With Evra and Cleverley all but redundant, Carrick, a Rolls-Royce of a role-player was forced to run long distances to plug holes like a poor man’s Lambretta. This is just plain wrong!

Did Nemanja Vidic convice today? He was splendid for much of the match, but looked withered by exhaustion at the end. Really well and truly scorched! Getting Phil Jones back to accompany Evans will be awesome. Getting by till the end of the season at center-back with Jones, Evans, Smalling, a fading Vidic and the burnt-out case which is Ferdinand would be miraculous!

Clearly we all look forward to the New Year’s Day test against Tottenham Hotspur. Spurs have spent lots of dosh, but still not been able to compensate for the loss of Gareth Bale’s ruthless goalscoring habits by being overloaded with youthful midfield talent. How Moyes deals with the threat of Moussa Dembele and Sandro in Midfield and the passive/aggressive threat of the eccentric Emanuel Adabayor should make for an interesting holiday contest.
71982867 welbeck ap Welbeck Nicks One

Dec 212013

Manchester United 3-1 West Ham United
Manchester Uniteds Adnan 006 Never More Cleverley!One thing is for sure. Having been in charge at Everton for over a decade, David Moyes will not let United’s ridiculously easy victory over West Ham United go to his head. Even though the newspapers and bloss are full of prognostications insisting that Manchester United’s crisis of confidence is over, common sense says that having the juju to meet four mediocre sides in a row just before the transfer window does not mean the fat lady is about to sing. Don’t get me wrong. Four straight wins in different competitions with only one goal conceded is nice. Still, a way past-it Carlton Cole’s ability to drift through United’s pathetic back four’s comedy version of the offside trap as Chris Smalling and a particularly gormless Alexander Büttner stood there shrugging at each other definitely gave food for thought. Any notions that posit Jonny Evans as the new Vidic or Ferdinand are ridiculous. Papering over the problems Gaffer-style, with string and glue, may or may not work. Making it into the top four of the EPL is possible. Nicking the Capital One or FA Cup is possible. Reaching the last four of the ECC would be awesome. We still own the same problems, however. Confidence-building matches against Hull City and Norwich will help, too. Nevertheless, the overweight diva has not opened her big gob yet!

The New Year’s home game versus Tottenham Hotspur will be a perfect acid test for Moyes’ tactics and the desperate wishes of Ashley Young, Anderson, Rio Ferdinand, Alexander Büttner, Nani and Tom Cleverley to stick around.

Tom Cleverley is becoming a conundrum within a conundrum. Repeatedly found to be both physically and psychologically ill-equipped for the better part of two-and-a-half seasons, Cleverley, close enough to smell the blood off the guillotine blade and envisage what the rest of his career might be like wearing a Stoke City or West Bromwich Albion kit, has temporarily fought his way out of a stupor of narcissistic self-pity. Indeed, only one minute into the game, his splendid little rising snap shot was saved gloriously by the Hammers’ custodian, Adrían. Sharp enough to avoid the primitive tackling of Mark Noble and avoid West Ham’s Yaya-Lite, Mo Diamé, Cleverley ran and ran all night, firing off pass after pass, which, although they didn’t always find their intended mark, were full of mustard and vigor. His was just one of many displays of confident mastery unleashed against an overmatched West Ham team by the Yorkshireman, a returning Wayne Rooney and United’s new Boy Wonder, Adnan Januzaj.

Subdued in a good way, Rooney sat back, sprayed passes hither and thither and seemed more like a zen cross between an Anglo-Irish Buddha and Andrea Pirlo than the older image of the Great White Hope of an Ingerland striker willing to take the futile job of wearing Alan Shearer’s mantle. Always a danger and a relentless distraction for West Ham’s poor back four, Wazza repeatedly set the table for the energetic juggernaut which was Valencia, Welbeck and Januzaj. Always dropping back in search of the ball before distributing it with what seems like a new low-pulse confidence, Rooney finally may be on the verge of the true greatness that may put him up on the plynth with likes of Bobby Charlton and George Best.

Was this the same central midfield–Cleverley and Phil Jones–which Newcastle had so effortlessly humiliated? Mediocre opposition to be sure, but clearly both were spunky and resilient, both making solo runs again and again. And after Jones let loose with a cannonball which pulled another fine save from Adrián, with the game already ebbing away, Cleverley was twice hit with cheap shots by McCartney and Noble. Such behavior has shredded Cleverley’s nerve previously. More intent on appealing to the referee’s sense of mercy than playing the game, Cleverley has repeatedly been an embarrassment. Not so tonight, however.

71897250 020413585 1 Never More Cleverley!Indeed, it was a Cleverley pass that led to the first goal in the 26th minute after he found Welbeck who in turn found Rooney with a clever flick. What followed, an exquisite, superbly weighted little gem of a return, set up a sprinting Welbeck just in time to avoid the offside trap and let loose with a perfectly accurate left-footer past Adrián.

Ten minutes later, after Januzaj was cheated out of a penalty when Mark Noble clearly got away with a body barge in the box, we saw just how ruthless and resiliant our baby-faced assassin really is. Seconds later, with the Hammers reeling, Januzaj hovered up a pass from Welbeck, casually humiliating McCartney while switching feet, before dragging the ball backward to make a space and firing past Adrían. Gorgeous! It was a sweet moment of inspiration, but has to be tempered by an awareness that the young winger is beginning to acquire a reputation for going to ground, like his teammate Ashley Young. While it wasn’t actually a dive in the 43rd minute, Januzaj got himself booked by the referee Mike Jones for an over-theatrical fall after avoiding a meaty challenge by Collins. Seconds later, Valencia, after setting himself up with a sweet-looking one-two with Rafael da Silva, blasted a perfect chance over the bar at point-blank range.

The visitors looked a little better in the second half, even it was only because they heightened the intimidation factor by upping the ante on the number of brazen fouls committed on Cleverley and Welbeck. United made a patient wait of it until the 72nd minute when Ashley Young, goalless for eighteen months till last Wednesday in the Capital One Cup against Stoke, did it again as Rooney refrained from taking his own shot in the middle of the box, shifting it to Young who rocketed home.

Although Moyes screeched at his players for bollixing up the offside trap as the Hammers caught them with too many men upfield nine minutes from time, their relentlessness of attacking purpose on the day surely has to be applauded. For Carlton Cole, dumped by his club in the Summer, then brought back when no other strikers could be found, it was surely a moment of happy irony. The big, lumbering Cole picked up a desperate clearance by Diamé from his own box, and, kept onside by substitute Alexander Büttner, raced clear of the flat-footed triumvirate of Evra, Evans and Smalling, before calmly slotting the ball home through an advancing David de Gea’s legs.

Now just a point off the relegation zone, West Ham have only won just two of their last 16 Premier League matches, a run that has included nine defeats. Was this the team that has beaten Tottenham Hotspur twice handily?

Meanwhile, at the post-match press conference, David Moyes was all business: “We played well today. I’m a wee bit disappointed we didn’t take some more opportunities and I was disappointed not to keep a clean sheet. The job is to keep our head down and keep winning games.”
Adnan Januzaj 2772824b Never More Cleverley!

Dec 192013

Stoke City 0-2 Manchester United
Javier Hern ndez of Man 011 Evra Gets it Right!In the midst of a night of torrential rain and competitive caroling from the two sets of cheery fans, Manchester United eased into the semifinals of the Capital One Cup against Sunderland thanks to a couple of surprising, timely strikes from Ashley Young and Patrice Evra. Before the match, knowing that Robin Van Persie is already out for a month and that Wayne Rooney seems to have hurt his hamstring, too, was a downer to match the miserable weather for any United fan. Who would have expected Ashley Young, who has been a footstep short of pitiful all this season and last, to be the hero? Well, just as the actress said after stepping out of the casting director’s trailer and spitting out her mouthwash, “Football is a funny game!”

The torrid, relentless rains prevented the game from having any kind of flow throughout the first half. When the hailstones began to ping off players’ foreheads, it all became too much for the referee Mark Clattenburg, who wisely suspended play in the 29th minute. Normally this kind of weather might offer a minuscule advantage to the home team, but, truthfully, neither side really was able to regroup or play with any kind of rhythm. With neither side standing out amidst the wind gusts, and hail, the mostly intoxicated fans came up with some interesting if not obscene alternative lyrics for ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’ that made the Britannia stadium reverberate.

The break lasted about eight minutes or so. It was arguably a blessing for the players because they were given the chance to regroup midway through a dull first half during which no one stood out, though the men on the pitch could rightly point to the gusts and heavy rain pouring down enough to make their lives difficult. Certainly, before Clattenberg blew his whistle the match was dreadful. Each side lacked even the slightest hint of technique or finesse, especially at any point where they reached the final third of the field.

The most confident player on the field, the Potters big Irish warrior, Jonathan Walters, seemed to thrive in the mud and soaking rain, nearly inspiring a Stoke fightback, the striker first launching a dangerous cross across the box, which Chris Smalling had to head away, before subsequently wasting two great chances to restore parity. Ultimately, Stoke paid the price for their profligacy in front of goal.United might have broken the deadlock a number of times, especially when a Cleverley corner from the right was touched on by Smalling to his fellow center-back Jonny Evans who couldn’t get his feet coordinated in time to take the shot. And although United’s midfield of Anderson, Jones and Cleverley studiously avoided tackling entanglements with Wilson Palacios and other members of the Potters’ burly midfield and defense, they held their on the muddy surface, nevertheless. Anderson may no longer have the confidence he once had in his passing, but he was able, nevertheless, to put his body about. Still, it was surely a consolation for David Moyes to see Cleverley who–clearly knowing that his career is floating on a bubble–actually carried on after being hit by a number of clattering tackles without creating a passion-play’s-worth of drama out of his predicament. Indeed, with Jones running interference on his left, Cleverley was able to pump more and more useful, Carrick-type passes in Rafael’s direction as the field dried.

The game desperately needed a goal. Thus Moyes tossed the dice in the 58th minute, replacing a largely ineffective Anderson with Chicharito Hernandez. Three minutes later the move was vindicated when the striker laid off an exquisite tap which Young blasted mightily past Sorensen for his first goal in nearly two years. Young’s relief at scoring was beyond simple joy. Sliding before the traveling Red Army, he tore off his shirt and embraced a number of fans, much to the chagrin of the local police force and the referee, who gave him the expected yellow card. Another one whose career, like Anderson, is truly on the bubble, Young had been so amped-up since the beginning of the match that he resembled a ferret trapped in a box and was pumping(and squandering) both corners and free kicks far from their targets, repeatedly skying balls into the crowd.

Now United took charge of matters. And beyond Walters coming close for Stoke with a couple of 30-yarders, including one that deflected off Evans for a corner, they failed to profit. Otherwise, United dominated and the final payoff came in the 78th minute as an unmarked Evra had time to cock himself like a revolver and use his normally redundant right foot to fire the ball home past Sorensen after Young had dazzled his way into the box before beautifully setting up the left-back.

“Manchester United Football Club are used to winning trophies, it’s just business as usual, but I’ve got to say we’re all delighted that we’re in the semi-final.”

Moyes was his usual subdued self after the game, but was sure to have gained some satisfaction from observing the desperate energy put into the game by both Tom Cleverley and Ashley Young. It’s obvious that both would prefer to stay at the club then be sold on elsewhere. The nearness of imminent death is said to concentrate the mind splendidly, especially in the case of Young who will soon be 29 and has always flattered to deceive when the big-time beckoned. At any rate, although Anderson seems to have played his last quality football for United in September, 2011 and seems bound to move on if any interested club can afford to match his high wages. With approximately six weeks to go before the transfer window closes, don’t be surprised to see Young and Cleverley finally playing as a if there’s more to playing football for Manchester United F.C. than being a millionaire and having a buxom girlfriend!
phil jones peter crouch Evra Gets it Right!

Dec 122013

Manchester United 1-0 Shakhtar Donetsk
Manchester United v Shakh 017 Jonesy Gets it Done!Ricky Cockcroft, my old, sad-sack, City-supporting mate since 1969, was all set for a rip-snorting party after this match followed by a day off work. The very idea of it: With fifty-one years having passed since United last experienced three consecutive defeats at Old Trafford on the eve of the Cuban missile crisis–even considering just how Manchester City, Burnley and Blackburn Rovers could have all left the Theater of Dreams victorious is unthinkable to me. Anyway–sigh!–even though his Abu Dhabian sky-blue mercenaries won in Munich and he called in sick as a dog anyway–the Red Devils somehow fashioned a win.

“You lot are finished, anyway,” he said. “It’s over. You lot are done.”

Nothing warms the wee cockles of my still-beating heart than deeply embittered City, Liverpool and Arsenal fans predicting, beyond, you know, our imminent temporary demise, that it’s over forever! Which isn’t to say that I haven’t been involved in a fair bit of binge, cringe and vomit of my own of late; but, as I say, having become a fan in 1957, I’ven repeatedly paid my fare at the turnstile and loved my red devils through thick and thin. This too shall pass, and whether it’s under the spiritual aegis of David Moyes or not, everything will ultimately be all right.

First things first, however, and this win over the Ukrainian champions, Shakhtar Donetsk, gives David Moyes a few hours breathing room before his feet are put in the fire again against Aston Villa on Sunday…

The strike that gave United their first victory of December was a moment of will-fuelled, half-volleyed inspiration from our dough-faced warrior Phil Jones in the 67th-minute. With our awesome crew of strikers undergoing a temporary collective crisis of form and confidence, just who gets it done hardly matters, provided the fatal deed gets done.

Although the seven point gap that lies between United and City for fourth place looms large in the Premier League table of the moment, we can only work our way back one match at a time. A win over the Ukrainian champions meant we did ourselves a huge favor, however, because now we will not have to play against any powerhouse favorites in the next round.

“We had a disappointing five days here at Old Trafford,” Moyes mused before kick-off, blinking repeatedly from the attention of photographers. It all gave me a certain daydreaming of a certain Dutch boy in red-white-&-black painted wooden clogs, standing there awkwardly looking at the press corps, who are all staring at his finger trapped inside a crack inside a dyke wall which no one acknowledges. “Prior to that we’d been on a healthy run and we now need to work hard to put together another sequence of good results. We are fully aware that we need to play better but on several occasions we have lacked a little bit of good fortune.”

Nice speech, ey? As with Dunkirk, the best British way is to act like nothing’s wrong and tap stout fellows like Phil Jones on the shoulder and tell them. “You’re it, bay-ba!”

Moyes, who Rio Ferdinand does himself no favors in publicly criticizing, picked his line-up just over an hour before kick-off. Robin van Persie was left on the bench, Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra, Chris Smalling, Danny Welbeck and Marouane Fellaini, and the long crocked Michael Carrick, who has an achilles injury, were all left out. With Januzaj, Kagawa, Young, Giggs and Rafael stroking the ball around there was reason for confidence. Phil Jones, partnering Ryan Giggs in central midfield, had an early go at goal, but Shakhtar’s goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov found it easy to collect.

Manchester United v Shakh 005 Jonesy Gets it Done!That would be more or less the last attack United managed to mount in the first-half. Incapable of holding the ball and plagued by an inability to make a successful pass, United once again fell into a state of collective apathy. Shakhtar’s high-quality Brazilian core midfield led by Taison, Teixeira, Fred and the ever-dangerous Douglas, repeatedly ran United’s wobbly defense ragged, particularly right-back Rafael Da Silva and a perpetually marooned Rio Ferdinand. Just how and why Shakhtar’s technically brilliant Brazilian contingent couldn’t put the ball in the net is not simple to explain, but Rafael, Evans and De Gea were a bulwark of determined fortitude, despite the fact that the twinkle-toed, fleet-footed Teixeira managed to give the Brazilian right-back a torrid time. Perhaps it was because there were so many club and national scouts in the crowd watching the four virtuosos who were later joined by the winger Bernard. Their dribbling runs and trickery earned and deserved much applause as United’s midfield and defense were repeatedly caught in flat-footed lapses. Luckily they were unable to conjure up that final blow in much the same way our own strikers have done of late.

Only Wayne Rooney managed to operate successfully, but he was repeatedly surrounded and double-marked by Shakhtar defenders. His sole highlight after drawing a foul was a 25-yard free-kick which hooked almost perfectly, but tumbled perhaps an inch too far left into the side-netting. Directly afterward, though, having picked up a loose ball from Andrey Pyatov’s goal-kick, Rio casually gave away the ball to Teixeira and shrugged ridiculously as the Brazilian dynamo took off. After turning Rafael around twice, Teixeira inexplicably decided not to go it alone and fired a sweet pass to a surprised Fred, whose wicked shot was blocked by Evans and De Gea.

Manchester United vs Shak 016 Jonesy Gets it Done!Something way beyond sarcasm and rage was surely unleashed on the team by Moyes on the team at half-time, though. Once back on the field, United actually began ratcheting up the tempo. First, Wayne Rooney then Young (twice) had chances but these only came close. One was almost wonderful, as Ashley Young took a leaf out of Douglas’ book, dispossessing Darijo Srna, shimmying this way and that before streaking past an advancing Pyatov, but then unfathomably firing his gentle lob over the goalie but wide of the goal. Young’s other miss, when he was left completely alone at the edge of the box and allowed to blast the ball a foot wide of an empty net was just one more nail in the coffin of his disappointing career in a United kit.

Then both Kagawa and Rooney blasted over Pyatov at more or less pointblank range and hearts began to sink. Moyes did get it right then, however. Van Persie and Cleverley were more than adequate replacements for the ineffective Young and Giggs in the 63rd minute. Van Persie is still notably wrapped up around the right thigh and a little hindered in his usual mode of sudden lateral sprinting. Nevertheless, his left foot is always a lethal weapon. Having only been on the pitch for four minutes the Dutch striker instantaneously sewed panic in the Ukrainian champions’ box. after a desperate Srna clearance. Van Persie’s corner dipped before Pyatov could commit to diving into a melée to receive it. Jones charged in to meet it, moving sideways to avoid connecting with Stepanenko, his left shoulder out to break the fall, his big head tucked into his left shoulder, he threw himself to his left and fired a sweet right-footed half-volley into the net to kill the will of the Ukrainians for the final twenty minutes.

Moyes’s men finished their group campaign with an impressive 14 points and four wins from six matches. Yes. On paper, we still look very very daunting in Europe.

“You lot are s%i*,” Rickey emailed me. “You’re not going to win an egg cup!”

“Enjoy your Christmas now,” I replied, “because only Manchester United celebrate Christmas in May!”
Manchester Uniteds Young 012 Jonesy Gets it Done!

Nov 062013

Real Sociedad 0-0 Manchester United
article 0 19370E8400000578 807 634x431 Frustration in Spain

Not a bad result, to be sure, especially if you’re part of the “wouldn’t you have gladly settled for a draw?” crowd. After all, United are still top of their Champions League group. Sociedad ground out an ugly draw and the rest is conjecture. Had the red devils scored from Robin Van Persie’s missed penalty after yet another sleazy dive from Ashley Young, fans might have kinda/sorta felt bad about it, but the three points would have taken the club into the next round. Indeed, there was a lack of both moxy and luck on the night. Gaping sitters were missed by Van Persie (twice). Rooney (twice) and Hernandez (thrice), Young and Valencia. After winning at Old Trafford via an early Inigo Martínez own goal in the first dull battle between the two teams two weeks ago and Shakhtar Donetsk and Bayer Leverküsen also playing to a draw, United could rue their squandering of at last a dozen missed chances to reach the last 16.

Ashley Young has finally used up his last ounce of personal respect and forgiveness from fans after one dive too many. Having ignored the remonstrations of at least a half-dozen quality coaches over the years, it’s time for David Moyes to rip off the red shirt he disgraces and encourage him and his agent to ply their trade elsewhere. And for those of you out there who think he’s no better or worse than the likes of Sergío Busquets or Luís Suarez, please point out exactly what he’s done for his team over the last two years. The fact is that the incredibly arrogant and selfish Young brings more unnecessary and unwanted scrutiny Manchester United do not need.

It was a poor a first half. Only Kagawa really stood out early on for United. Playing on the left wing is not exactly an ideal showcase for him to show off his considerable skill set, but he was nevertheless the only visiting player who truly troubled Sociedad’s anemic defense. Kagawa linked well with Patrice Evra, and the French left back, mostly untroubled by Pardo or Prieto, did well to set up number of slick combinations with his temporary partner. Indeed, after a flick from Rooney, Evra’s screen presented fast-footed Shinji with a delicious chance. Unfortunately, his low shot flew wide of Claudio Bravo’s goal. Minutes later Kagawa turned provider when he beat Carlos Martínez to the byline and fired a very precise cross towards Hernández at the near post that Inigo Martínez intercepted. Minutes later, alone, unmarked and only six steps from the goal line, Hernandez smashed the ball over the bar after a perfect Valencia set-up. For all of United’s ability to control the the game in the first half, those attempts and a couple of weak efforts from Rooney proved to be the sum total of their somewhat indifferent threat .

70933725 70933721 Frustration in SpainClearly chewed out by their boss Jagoba Arrasate in the dressing room, Sociedad were far less subdued in the second half. Miguel Vela, once the pearl of Arsenal’s academy, gave center-back Rio Ferdinad much trouble. Released by Inígo Martínez, Vela nipped in behind Evra but was exquisitely dispossessed inside the area by a Nemanja Vidic tackle as he waited in vain for support from Agirretxe. Alberto de la Bella also went close after fooling Antonio Valencia on the left, but his shot was beautifully saved by De Gea.

United improved a lot after Van Persie and Young came on for a tired-looking Rooney and Hernandez in the 63rd minute, allowing Kagawa to move into a more central position. The Dutchman hit the post almost as soon as he came onto the pitch after receiving an Ashley Young cross. Only minutes later, Van Persie hit the same section of goalpost from the penalty spot after Young recycled his infamous diving swan act after a bit of glancing contact with Bergara directly in front of the referee, Nicola Rizzoli.

Ultimately, United really were indeed their own worst enemies. Beyond Young’s unseemly behavior was the red card United’s central stalwart Marouane Fellaini received in injury-time. Although he’s still settling in at United and having difficulties with his passing game, the big Belgian played the Basque team tough, putting in his share of rough borderline tackles and body blocks. Booked early for a so-so challenge on Markel Bergara, Fellaini received repeated verbal warnings from a reasonable Rizzoli. Fortunate not to get sent off earlier, Fellaini took his lumps late. There is no doubt that Moyes loves his new, expensive guard dog simply because United are distinctly lacking in aggression when he’s not placing. Having received a red card for a foul on David Zurutuza, though, Fellainii will definite be missed in their next ECC match against the bigger, brawnier Bayer Leverküsen. With Phil Jones dressed and ready to play, the question really does need to asked: Why Moyes didn’t substitute him much earlier? It’s beyond me.

The game against Arsenal at Old Trafford looms large on Sunday. Can our weak midfield cope? Arsenal are in a rich vein of form right now, having only lost their opening match of the season To Aston Villa in August. Always psychologically fragile, however, they will be counting on overrunning the least talented midfield United have put out in two decaclose tyodes. The situation is serious, but not hopeless. A quarter of the season in, Moyes owes it to the fans that the team be better prepared than they were on Tuesday night.
article 0 1936F80D00000578 629 634x405 Frustration in Spain

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