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Jul 222013

A-League All Stars 1-5 Manchester United
No matter what happens in his career from now on, 20-year-old Jesse Lingard will always be part of the vaunted history of Manchester United football club having scored the first goal of David Moyes‘ tenure as manager before a huge noisy crowd of 83,127 fans. With the game only eleven minutes old, the fleet-footed Warrington whirlwind hoovered up a crisp Tom Cleverley pass following a Danny Welbeck dummy, beating two defenders before firing home. Collectively were United were looking way sharper than they had during last weekend’s 1-0 loss in Bangkok to the Singha All Stars in Moyes’s debut. Lingard’s crisply taken goal relaxed the red devils, and they were the happy recipients of standout performances from Wilfried Zaha and Danny Welbeck.

22 minutes later, Lingard pushed a sweet short effort to Ryan Giggs, whose own weighted pass was casually slammed home off the side of Welbeck’s boot beyond Ante Covic. The anemic A-Leaguers, who were constantly kept on the back foot by the speed of United’s transition game, were simply overwhelmed. the rowdy crowd, as in Bangkok, were mostly clad in United red replica kits and not at all disgruntled about losing.

Still, just as with last weekend’s Thai defeat, United looked ridiculously vulnerable to being turned. Somehow, with Cleverley and Carrick passively retreating before Tom Broich, the Australian journeyman was wise enough to lob a defense-splitting pass over the too casual center back pairing of Rio Ferdinand and Phil Jones. Free and unmarked, their Albanian striker Besart Berisha, once Burnley’s property, picked up the ball, executed a one-two with Bruich before rocketing a shot over Anders Lindegaard’s goal which missed by only a fraction of an inch.

Ferdinand, huffing and puffing, clearly still feeling the effects of his vacation, was pulled at half-time for Michael Keane. Keane was clearly either too awed or intimidated by the occasion, however, and had the ball slipped off his foot by the marauding Berisha, who tapped a slow rolling flick past a flat-footed Anders Lindegaard to make it 2-1.

Two minutes later, the diminutive dynamo restored United’s two-goal cushion with a 25-yard bazooka which flew past new goalie Michael Theo. Then, five minutes later, Robin van Persie arrived like a hurricane. With his first corner, the veteran left-footed striker placed a perfect dish on on a high-rising Welbeck’s head for him to nod home. Then, as a last treat, Van Persie added a single flash of utter casual brilliance. After executing an elbows-out pirouette to make room inside the Aussies’ box to play home a hard-sprinting Anderson; unfortunately, the muscular Brazilian midfielder was too anxious and got caught offside.Still, the tall, ever-determined handsome Nederlander goal machine picked up a pass from Cleverley and missed with a soft shot at Theo. But the loose ball bounced back to him and he fired the fifth goal in the 86th minute.

Both Zaha and Adnan Januzaj showed off some dynamic footwork over the final five minutes, although Januzaj missed a wide-open sitter late on. Master David Moyes mat not have learned anything particularly new in this victory, although Wilfried Zaha looks good and ready to join the wing rotation featuring Valencia and Young. With Moyes’ making a statement at the pre-match Sydney press conference in which he insisted a preference for keeping the erratic, but sometimes brilliant Nani at the club, Andruzaj’s presence in the squad is questionable.

Football is rarely filled with genuine sentimental moments, but the post-match chit-chat with ever-aggressive Australian press saw Ryan Giggs at his most charming. Deftly avoiding their desire for banter about his personal and family life, Giggs raved about the local facilities and improvements since his previous visit. “Would you ever consider playing over here before you retire?” one journo asked.

“The only league for me is the Premier League,” he said boldly, “and my only club ever is Manchester United!”

May 082013

Manchester United 0 -1 Chelsea
2013 05 05T171237Z 1 CBRE9441BT700 RTROPTP 2 SOCCER ENGLAND Shameless on the field of Our Dreams!It was, according to my old mate and midfield partner from the Prestwich Heys team, Rob Cockcroft, in the message he sent me from Pnom Penh, the very worst single display of a team at its worse in at least 34 years. An exaggerations, perhaps, or else an apt clarification of just how mediocre the football has been in the Premier League this season. Having been crowned champions, however, good, bad, or mostly mediocre, as I would have it, the players of Manchester United have quit. All well and good for them. It’s nice to be a millionaire. But, really, for the season ticket holders, satellite dish owners and suckers who order a la carte from their cable supplier, expecting the lads to at least give enough of a damn to try just a bit seems too much. Why is this asking so much? Worse yet, is the sound of my Spurs’ fan acquaintances’ sarcasm, as, humiliated by 63 years of the F.A.’s favoritism, they sincerely wonder why United’s players would prefer not to have them in ECC instead of Spurs. Even the guys on Republica Deportivo posited the idea that not qualifying for the top four will cause Spurs’ owner to flog Gareth Bale to United(and thus why we would let them win!). That, of course, is ridiculous, but no less ridiculous than the fact that Danny Levy would rather sell the Welsh chimp boy to Les Gooners than Us.

Not that Chelsea were particularly good. Going into their 65th match of a long long season, the royal blues had to do without an injured Eden Hazard. Yet, even minus the slick Belgian playmaker, Chelsea were far more creative than a jaded United, who were bound and determined from the get-go not to score at Old Trafford for the first time in 67 league matches, and didn’t. Adding another piquant soup con of insult to treating their millions of fans around the world like a roll of one-ply toilet paper, the red devils appropriated their very first red card of the season as a dimwitted Rafael Da Silva let himself get suckered into retaliating against his fellow Brazilian tormentor, David Luiz.

Yet none of any of this would have mattered a whit had not the indefatigable Oscar not located Juan Mata with an absolutely exquisite pass four minutes from full-time. With Patrice Evra’s elderly legs having given out somewhere after the beginning of the second half, he was a frozen, grinning twit of a witness as Mata seized the moment. Firing a curving left-footer at the bulk of Phil Jones, Mata was like a sniper doing maty in his head, calculating wind and spin and the manner in which United’s goalie Anders Lindegaard–who had virtually nothing to do throughout the game–would angle his dive for the ball. And even though the goal will be credited as a Jones own goal, we’ve all seen enough of these clever Mata deflected masterpieces that they may soon deserve a category all of their own.

Hard to say much about the rest of this match. Chelsea were marginally better in a yawn of a first half. Mata missed twice after nice passes from Demba Ba. Moses shot over the bar and Lindegaard made a single save, smothering a fine shot from Oscar at the post. United’s single tactic seemed to involve always locating Robin van Persie after too many tiki-tiki-tak short passes. Indeed, only Ryan Giggs manage to surprise the flat-footed Chelsea back four as he stole the ball off RVP’s toe and shot past a diving Peter Cech, only to see the ball waylaid by a bump and go a centimeter or so past the post. The old wizard also came close with a header off a Vidic cross, but Cech was there in the way with plenty of time to to smother it.

Poor Tom Cleverley, slow on the uptake as ever, was well set up by both Anderson and Giggs, and allowed all the time in the world on the edge of the box, but twice he hammered the ball on the edge of the area, yet with a better opportunity than he possibly realized the fringe player lacked the composure to take advantage, shooting early and blazing over the bar. Those of you who are as utterly exhausted by the mediocrity of Cleverley and puzzled by Roy Hodgson’s penchant for picking him for England must remember, he simply is not very good and has regressed rather than improved. As he was such a hit under the tutelage of Roberto Martínez at Wigan Athletic, I suggest we put him in a parcel with a bow and pawn him off in some kind of part-exchange for Jamie McCarthy.

Chelsea might have had a penalty at the start of the second half when Giggs hauled down David Luiz as he entered the area. Howard Webb waved away their claims, however, which seemed reasonable as the offense seemed to originate outside the box, though it appeared overly generous of the referee not even to award a free-kick or a red card after Luiz managed to simultaneously take the kick and dive forward as if wounded from behind my a high caliber bullet.

Even introductions of Wayne Rooney and Fernando Torres as substitutes didn’t work. Both seemed distracted. Rooney looked particularly enfeebled. All the repeated rumors of Rooney’s transfer requests to leave for new partnerships with Lewandowski at Bayern or Ibrahimovich at Paris S.G. may have been deemed absurd, but there clearly is something wrong once again with Wayne Rooney. His losing of the ball to the aggressive Ramires in his own half is clearly understandable. Goes with the territory? Right! But Wazza’s attitude, having only just arrived on the pitch full of pizzazz, was, one might reasonably expect, to give chase. Ramires, clearly Chelsea’s best, most consistent player this year, was off to the races but clearly exhausted, puffing as he looked all around for someone to pass to. Our stocky little Scouse should have easily been able to run him down, but he did not.

Consequently, although United and Chelsea had each looked deliriously happy enough to settle for a draw. Ramires urinated in the punch bowl. Ramires to Lampard to Oscar who found Mata before the Spaniard fired a masterpiece of a left-footed beauty fit to deflect in off Jones’ back and wrong foot Lindegaard at the far post.

Any last second hope of a last-second United miracle comeback evaporated as David Luiz made easy sucker-work out of his Brazilian compatriot Rafael Da Silva after elbowing him twice and then falling down tragically once again “like a dying swan,” as Fergie put it. United ‘s hotheaded right back really ought to know better now that he is no longer an adolescent. Sure, Luiz was seen all over the world smirking at the referee, Howard Webb, after he sent Fabio off. It was indeed sad for the club to receive its first red card of the season over something so petty. Yet the collective naïveté of the team is not at all touching as it is in a club full of kiddiwinkies like Paul Lambert’s Aston Villa. Nothing cute at all, just embarrassment.

Ferguson was clearly not best pleased when he made his post-match appearance before the press. With his face fixed in a sort of gargoyle state of rictus, the old veteran looked as devastated as he had more than a year ago after the club took a 6-1 home hammering to Manchester City. “The desire was not there,” he said from between pursed lips. “It just wasn’t there.”Chelseas Juan Mata and a 008 Shameless on the field of Our Dreams!

Rooney’s Rough Return

 Posted by on January 18, 2013 at 12:20 pm  England, F.A. Cup
Jan 182013

Manchester United 1 -0 West Ham United
65336426 rooney afp1 1 Rooney’s Rough ReturnFootball is funny game. Rife with ironies and sometimes implausible behavior from many of it’s millionaire performers. Who would have gone out on a bitterly cold Wednesday night in Salford if they’d have known they’d get fifteen minutes of superb, speedy hell-for-leather football followed by 78 minutes of utter drudgery? Still, it was surely nice for Sir Alex Ferguson to win get a second clean sheet in a row. Kudos for United’s back four, especially as they have been the subject of so much scorn and derision this season, especially when Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic have been missing in action. United’s back four–Rafael, Büttner, Jones and Smalling–got a little awkward and panicky every now and again, but acquitted themselves more or less well.

It was a particularly strange night for Wayne Rooney. Having recently suffered a knee problem and then the terrible loss of his wife’s Colleen’s sickly younger sister, Rose, Wazza did not seem to have his head fully screwed on. His ninth minute goal may have been all United actually needed, but he also skied a 79th minute penalty into the Stretford End. It was Rooney’s fourth penalty miss this season and the Gaffer was visibly apoplectic, still angry enough at the post-match press conference to dwell upon it at length. Still, although Robin Van Persie is the likeliest player to take over penalty-taking duties, the old warrior clearly misses having Dennis Irwin oe even Ruud Van Nistelrooy to rely upon. My Aunty Joan has already sent her email messages out to the appropriate authorities insisting that Anderson be given the dirty job. It’s actually a good idea, if the lad is fit enough to play.

The Red Devils were dead jammy for certain, although West Ham threatened a lot in the second half, but always seemed too anemic up front and even Rooney’s spot-kick miss went for naught. With a fourth round cup tie looming against Fulham, even a striker as shiftless and stupor-bound as the one-and-only Dimitar Berbatov will surely be yearning to show something special to his old colleagues. Never in my memory have United been the beneficiaries of both pure luck and equally dreadful defenses throughout their division. A quick holiday frolic in bankrupt Spain might be nice, but, if the Gaffer can’t get his boys a dose of sunshine, Mike Phelan standing by with some oxygen and a mask might have to suffice.

Rooney’s ninth goal of the season came in the ninth minute as Anderson, yet another player back from injury, fired a perfect left-footed seeing-eye laser pass, splitting the complete Hammers defense as if it were a rotten apple. Perfectly placed to Javíer Hernandez, the ball was hoovered up by the Mexican striker. Caught at a questionable angle, Chicharito took one deft touch before tapping the ball into the six yard box where Rooney hared in, sliding forward at exactly the perfect moment to push the ball home off his studs past goalkeeper Jussi Jaskalainen.

United sparkled for another five minutes or so, but then the blown bubbles West Ham fans like to sing about abandoned the champagne. West Ham were utterly lackluster and poor Anders Lindegaard, back after more than two months on the sidelines, had nothing to do whatsoever between the sticks. Although United were definitely the dominant force on the pitch, only Nani truly came close to scoring when West Ham’s newly-blooded right back, Daniel Potts, blocked a beautiful rocket from Nani. after it beat Jaskalainen. The Finnish goalkeeper did do a little better just before the whistle, however,when he made a clean save of another Rooney pile driver.

Just how bad the second half was going to be became obvious almost instantaneously. When Chicharito stole the ball from Alou Diarra in the middle of the box, all he had to do was tap it past Jaskalainen. Instead he blasted a sitter over the bar.

Meanwhile, Sam Allardyce’s relentless caterwauling from the sidelines started to take effect at around the hour mark. Like a man waking from a coma, Ricardo Vaz Té, for four seasons the greatest thing that almost happened at both Bolton Wanderers and West Ham, started to dribble like the proximity of the Welsh wizard, Ryan Giggs, was a call to magic. And with both Alexander Büttner and Rafael Da Silva trying to shore up the mediocre runs into empty space on the flanks by a mediocre Nani and a distracted-looking Antonio Valencía, the Portuguese forward was free as a hummingbird to flit and flicker about. None of it came to much, although a loose ball he failed to control around eight yards out accidentally touched the arm of Rafael Da Silva. It surely gave the crowd a scare and had Allardyce close to an apoplectic fit, but it was never on for the referee Phil Dowd to call it a deliberate handball. Minutes later, when Phil Jones botched a pass, an advancing Matt Taylor scooped it up but failed to pass to a lonely Carlton Cole as he waited in vain, unmarked at the far post.

Rooney then made a bollix royale of a penalty United were extremely fortunate to receive when a clumsy Jordan Spence handled a Ryan Giggs cross. Subsequently, Rooney botched his task, but, in all my years of observing Ferguson going about his business, I have never before seen him react with such unfiltered anger at one of his own players as in that moment. At any rate, despite United seeming to be collectively tired out and bereft of all ideas, Ferguson did not succumb to what must have been temptation to bring on Robin Van Persie to sharpen his attack and West Ham just did not seem to own the will or moxy to press the Red Devils’.

Clearly, every game from now on is an important one if United hope to stand any chance of winning a fantasy treble. Getting some get back against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane is a tall order, but not impossible. Sussing Wayne Rooney’s state of mind before this big big game will be a challenge for the fiery old Scot.Manchester United v Liverpool Robin van Persi 2885345 11 Rooney’s Rough Return