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Bushido Football!

 Posted by on July 26, 2013 at 5:51 pm  Blogs/Media, England, Manchester United
Jul 262013

Cerezo Osaka 2-2 Manchester United
Wilfried Zaha 008 Bushido Football!The never ending soap opera that is Manchester United continued in Osaka. While the gossip factory back home in blighty belched out continuous yes/no rumor-mongering vis-a-vis Cesc Fabregas leaving F.C. Barcelona to become part of our brilliant crew, the Japanese celebrated the return of a native son as Shinji Kagawa was feted and celebrated to the uncomfortable point of idolatry. For anybody watching this match who doesn’t own a schoolgirl crush on Kagawa, the game took on all the bizarre glamor of a pay-per-view WWF grudge match. With 85,000 locals relentlessly making banshee-like shrieking noises, Our Shinji did it all: Scored a goal, missed a sitter, missed a penalty. I hope the crowd got what they wanted. The game was entertaining indeed, but it was hardly professional football.

At any rate, Our new young rising star, Wilfried Zaha, spared his more famous teammate Shinji Kagawa from much embarrassment when he scored an injury-time equalizer for Manchester United over J League heavyweights Cerezo Osaka just as it seemed like the Red Devils were about to suffer a third tour defeat against Prince Shinji’s old club. The grateful massed squeal of the crowd as Kagawa’s substitute tapped home n a low, beautiful cross from Anderson’s meant a final sense of yin equaling yang after Kenyu Sugimoto and Yusuke Maruhashi had scored either side of Kagawa’s equalizer.

United began with a lot of hustle and Cerezo’s South Korean goalie Kim Jin-hyeon was busy from the get-go after he made a flying save off a stinging left-footed Robin Van Persie shot inside the first minute. The Dutchman had been the victim all week of many panic ridden rumors about having an injured hamstring after being taken off early in the team’s loss to Yokohama. on Tuesday. Clearly, in spite of the Daily Mirror, he was okay! Indeed, Van Persie was in the mood for long-distance target practice as Kim was forced to make three diving saves off him in the first half. Quite a useful custodian, Kim made a string of fine saves, although he was extremely lucky that a spectacular diving Phil Jones header went over the bar.

It’s doubtful that they ever do this normally, but it was so humid and just plain hot that officials and coaches decided to take a drinks break midway through both halves. Meanwhile, as United began to wilt, Osaka improved. Anders Lindegaard was forced to make a series of quality saves before their forward Edno sent his header straight at the Dane from pointblank range. Any kind of nod in either direction would have put the hosts ahead, to be sure. But minutes later, clearly intent upon giving his blundering rival Jonny Evans a run for his money, Chris Smalling hesitated with the ball at his feet in the six yard box and a thieving magpie, Masahiro Sugimoto, was there to steal away the ball and fire home past Lindegaard to make it 1-0.

Late in the half, Van Persie picked up a loose ball after Danny Welbeck had failed with a beautifully powered rocket which hit the post. Normally, the lethal Rotterdam assassin would surely have surely scored himself. Instead, in some weird kind of reverse loyalty and Bushido to his teammate, RVP squared chivalrously toward Osaka’s venerated Home Boy Kagawa. Absurdly, ridiculously and almost unbelievably, Kagawa caught the ball on his instep and hit it with his laces high over the bar accompanied by Takashi Mike samurai-movie moans from the capacity crowd.

Still, United kept up their pressing game and that other legend, Ryan Giggs, narrowly failed with a chip shot over the bar before Welbeck came close as his shot beat Kim but curled wide by a bare inch or so. Kagawa then really blew everybody’s mind. After a sprinting Ashley Young was brought down in the box, Van Persie shrugged, bowed to his colleague and allowed Shinji to take the spot kick. Unfortunately, Kagawa hit it too softly and the goalkeeper guessed right, making a fine low save. This caused the embarrassed crowd to make even more bizarre keening noises. Luckily, ten minutes later, Kagawa was the recipient of a sweet lobbed Giggs pass into the box which Kagawa had all the time in the world to fire home.

Cerezo were not to be easily shrugged off, however, and after some sterling midfield work, Anderson lost the ball to Minamino. Minemino then executed a fine bit of dribbling, executing a deft run to the edge of the box before firing a bazooka which exploded into the top corner of the net.

With both sides clearly tired and wilted, the exhibition match began to take on the look of the final round of an old Rocky Movie as the two teams staggered all over the grass, the Japanese team desperately trying to hold the lead as United periodically worked toward a draw. Yet, after some marvelous dribbling artistry from Zaha, Cerezo almost scored a third as Lindegaard made a fine, flying. fingertip save to deny Maruhashi.

It was only in injury time that the Premier League champions managed to salvage their dignity as Zaha, the new young winger who has impressed the most on this three-week trip, ruthlessly took his chance from close range.

Yokohama Marinos 3-2 Manchester United
Read the usual blogs and you’ll see the usual fans are going at it, as per usual. The panic brigade is already considering collective seppuku while the usual Orthodox loyalism-obsessed jihadis want to behead anybody who hasn’t fallen into a state of instantaneous thrall to Davie Moyes and his new crew. All of it is stuff and nonsense, of course. As with any preseason match, much that’s useful can be learned by the coaching staff and pundits alike, but nothing significant; nevertheless, a vanity -beguiled Manchester United side suffered a second defeat out of three preseason matches when the J League’s Yokohama Marinos scored late for a well deserved win.

The good news is the same. Jesse Lingard scored another goal and, alongside the equally hungry Adnan Januzaj and Wilfried Zaha, United clearly own some impressive and potentially fruitful young attacking talent. Bad-news wise, Phil Jones and Jonny Evans were just as mismatched at center back as they were when paired together for Sir Alex Ferguson’s 5-5 farewell at the Hawthorns in May. Once Fergie’s blue-eyed Ulster boy–leading to the exit of a far superior talent in Gerard Pique–Evans, along with teammate Tom Cleverley, is the ultimate proof of the cliché that you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. Repeatedly positionally retarded, Evans is living proof that, no matter which videos you watch, or how much good coaching you receive, all the natural athleticism in the world can not render you intelligent. The opposite holds true for Cleverley. Although he is energetic and intelligent, he is shockingly slow and technically predictable. When scouts on the other side of the world can so readily prepare their less talented players to trivialize two of your starters, there’s a problem.

The United team which won the World Club Cup in its last appearance in the same stadium in 2008 clearly bears no resemblance to this one. Of course, the introduction to massive applause of Shinji Kagawa, was very moving for the locals and lucrative for the Glazers. Lots of Kagawa, Van Persie and Rooney replica shirts were sold. Yet Moyes started a youthful lineup. and was clearly happy early on as they fought back after suffering an early sucker-punch. Yokohama attacked straight away and David de Gea had to make an acrobatic save to deny Brazilian striker Marquinhos. But the ball was too desperately hacked-away by a leggy Patrice Evra, who is clearly just a shadow of his old self. Hanato then played the ball back into United’s penalty area for the 37-year-old Marquinos to streak past the flat-footed Evans, Jones and Evra, before slamming home. And all before a minute had ticked by.

But United tied it up after eighteen minutes as the 20-year-old Jesse Lingard played a pretty pass out wide to Wilfried Zaha,. Sprinting into Yokohama’s box, Lingard took a difficult return pass from the speedy Zaha. A desperate Masakazu Tashiro stretched to intercept the cross but Lingard was there to seize the loose ball and fire home

With United fairly bubbling with energy, Yokohama were not coping well. Repeatedly teased and trivialized by Lingard and Zaha, Tashiro went up to block a wickedly hit Adnan Januzaj free-kick. The ball glanced off Tashiro’s shoulder into the net and United took the lead in the 32nd minute.

Slowly but surely, however, the high humidity began to slow United down. With Michael Carrick injured, United have offered ample opportunities to Tom Cleverley and his partner Anderson to prove themselves. Their passing quality from central midfield proved to be awful, however. Yokohama seemed to pick off every pass. Steadily growing more and more fatigued. United still made more than a few good chances. only for the plodding Jonny Evans to squander them. How he missed a beautiful Zaha cutback which was dished right onto his foot, but which he blasted way wide despite an open goal.
Minutes later, United let it all slip as the crowd’s national hero Kagawa made his first appearance. In the midst of a wall of noise, Yokohama’s Brazilian defender Fabio leapt high and headed Nakamura’s precise curving corner home.

In the latter part of the match Ashley Young and Danny Welbeck each squandered chances repeatedly. Yet, instead of keeping up the pressure, United looked ready to settle for a draw
The Marinos tireless veteran midfielder Jim Hanato had other ideas. Hanato took the ball from the weak-tackling Cleverley and zigzagged his determined way toward United’s box. With United’s whole defense backing up, Hanato chipped a long ball straight to Yoshihito Fujita, who tapped the ball home past a a stranded David de Gea for the victory.

Aside from minor injuries to Robin Van Persie and Danny Welbeck, what Moyes called “wee worries,” United got away with no more than a loss. Yet with so much at stake back home in the world’s most lucrative league, and so many parallel changes in the Premiership at Chelsea, Manchester City and Everton, the new manager and his number two, Steve Round, have much to chew upon. With Vidic repeatedly injured, Evra’s legs gone and repeated lackluster ineptitude from Young, Cleverley and Anderson, they are running out of time to decide whether to cut them loose and sell them on the cheap or persevere with their presence. At worse,we should repeat last year’s Jekyll and Hyde model: Inspirational attack accompanied by a porous defense. If Moyes can find two or three pieces at the back and to bolster the midfield, United can still win it all again.

Jul 162013

Much ado about nothing thus far in the rumor mills. United seem to be interested in everybody but the new pope to solve the club’s squad problems. The biggest speculations concern United’s need for a midfield General. Moyes seems to have dithered over Thiago Alcantara too much, but the wily Scot clearly had doubts about the veracity of signing a 22-year-old and piling too much responsibility on his shoulders. At any rate, Alcantara has signed for his agent’s brother, Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich and may yet end up sitting on Bayern’s bench as he did at Barca.

Will Barcelona sell Fabregas after also flogging Thiago? It does seem far-fetched, but with Barca repeatedly lusting after Wayne Rooney and Wayne being told he’s more or less #3 in line if RVP or Shinji get injured, it looks like the club would like it if Wayne put in a written transfer request.

It does look like Moyes will pull the trigger and acquire Marouane Fellaini. Although the Belgian lacks pace, he is a true physical competitor, a fine tackler and will give us the kind of aggression we’ve missed in midfield since Roy Keane exited. Why we need a 29-year-old Leighton Baines at such a high price is beyond my comprehension. I would personally prefer a much younger Emilio Eyzaguirre of Glasgow Celtic.

Alternatives to Fabregas? I like Erik Lamella of A.S. Roma or Javíer Pastore, who seems to have sat on Paris St. German’s bench all last season. Then there’s Joe Kinnear’s favorite Yohann Cabaye of Newcastle United. The clock is ticking

Singha All Star XI 1-0 Manchester United
In spite of all the negative gobbledygook doing the rounds about “Moyes’ Disastrous Debut” (The News of the World), this one seems to have been pretty rewarding in the educational stakes for the club’s new boss. Teeratep Winothai: may make history for becoming the first scorer in the new Manchester United era but his 50th minutes goal, when he wrong-footed our third-string goalie Ben Amos, saw the Singha All Star XI captain being booed more than complimented by a local, but fiercely partisan pro-red devils crowd in the 65,000 sellout Rajamangala National Stadium, all of whom seemed to sporting United replica regalia.

A humid, broiling 97 Fahrenheit and a squad debilitated by both injuries and permission from the club allowing most international players to take their sweet time about returning to the fold did not help, either. Nine players short, missing David de Gea, Shinji Kagawa , Nemanja Vidic Nani , Chris Smalling , Wayne Rooney and Ashley Young, United, nevertheless, muddled through. Although there was one more injury when Alexander Büttner limped off in the first half with a tight hamstring “It wasn’t a brilliant result,” Moyes said after the match, “but I’m more pleased with the way they kept going. We gave one or two young players an opportunity. It was certainly a good fitness workout.”

United’ looked disjointed. Danny Welbeck, childishly desperate to impress after a poor previous season, tried in vain to execute step overs, dribbles and backless, most of which went comically wrong. Atypical was a shot that wobbled past the Thai team’s goalie Narit Taweekul’s right post as the striker fell over. like a pratfalling comedian. And with Tom Cleverley and Anderson unable to make more than a handful of accurate short passes, little seemed to go right beyond the sweating off of pounds.
A star was born in Bangkok, however. 18-year-old Adnan Januzaj, a sparkling blonde ethnic Albanian from Belgium showed wonderful skills. Quick-footed and a superb dribbler, Januzaj looked unfazed and bright-eyed despite taking fair amount of jostling and stick from the Singha defense. Comfortable in the slot behind striker Danny Welbeck in the spot usually taken by Rooney or Kagawa, Januzaj shone before getting leggy on the hour mark. “If he continues to play like that he’ll get more chances,” said Moyes.

63 minute in,United brought on Wilfried Zaha, Phil Jones and Jesse Lingard. A very sexy debutante, Zaha came closest to scoring for United as he speedily left defender upon defender in his wake, zigzagging hither and thither before dipping left and firing a beauty which easily beat the goalie Taweekul before hitting the right upright. Minutes later, a snake-hipped Jesse Lingard picked up a fine Giggs through-ball, beat two men easily before scuffing a shot at the keeper.

Thus, all in all, although it was no masterpiece, Mr. Moyes has surely learned a thing or two about what he has at hand and exactly what he needs to bring in,

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!


 Posted by on February 1, 2013 at 3:49 pm  England, EPL, Manchester United, Southampton
Feb 012013

Manchester United 2-1 Southampton
article 2271000 174258BC000005DC 843 634x424 Sanctified!Manchester United made hard work out of what should have been an easy victory at Old Trafford against Southampton. We have won pretty and won ugly this season. This win was something in between, a sort of zombie walkabout broken into periodically by Southampton’s awkward young team of blossoming journeymen. Like a sleep-deprived medical intern coming to the end of a 96-hour shift, United seemed to punctuate long bouts of shiftless indolence with flashes of inspiration and urgency. Nevertheless, they somehow got the job done, putting themselves seven points ahead of an even more lethargic Manchester City, who were held to a draw by Queen’s Park Rangers. Indeed, poor Mike Phelan, who seemed to spend the night shuffling between the Gaffer’s throne and the team technical area, spent a lot more time than usual barking out orders and looked just as knackered as his players when Lee Mason blew his final whistle. Better yet, with Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur also being held to draws, the status quo of two weeks ago was restored and Fergie’s boys find themselves well and truly in the driver’s seat.

United were stunned only two minutes in when a dreadful Michael Carrick back-pass was stared at and dithered upon by David de Gea as the Southampton striker Jay Rodriguez took control of the errant ball, swerved around the Spaniard and fired the visitors into the lead with a nice diagonal effort. Caught, bang-to-rights in the middle of singing ‘Glory Glory Man United!” the Stretford End went deathly silent for a pregnant minute before regrouping impressively. At that awful moment, the body language of De Gea, who has been relentlessly vilified by .his former teammate Gary Neville and an army of football journos was sad to behold.

Not that the Saints’ had long to enjoy their precious lead, though. Five minutes later United went level as Carrick wiped the sleepies from the corners of his eyes and, stole the ball away from Gaston Ramirez with a an uncharacteristically crisp, snapping tackle.He then executed did the kind of zigzag sprint fans are unused to seeing in our midfield these days and fired off a pass that was intercepted by Schneiderlin, but bounced away into the path of an advancing. The fleet-footed Japanese then slid a clever pass in behind their defense that Rooney confidently ran into before shooting gently past Artur Boruc and Carrick was redeemed.

Temporarily wide awake, United simply overran their opposition . And when a stupid Ramirez foul inside the box gifted Robin Van Persie a free kick 26 minutes in, Rooney was in the exact perfect spot to tap home the result of the Dutchman’s perfect high pass to Evra for him to head down.

Little can be said about the rest of the match which is worthwhile. Kagawa, Evra, Van Persie (twice) and the perpetual-motion-machine which is Danny Welbeck, all squandered easy-peasy chances, both before and after Rooney’s second. And when Kagawa hit Boruc’s right post from close range after Rooney dinked the ball through to him, Rooney’s verbal barrage of red-faced clearly vented frustration at the wanton, wastefulness of his colleagues was clear for all to see and hear. Of course, Southampton owed a lot to the first-rate goalkeeping of Artur Boruc, but United never seemed quite ruthless enough on the night to go beyond their two early goals. Indeed, the chorus of oohs and ahhs reached a frustrated crescendo as brilliant pirouette followed by a slick layoff from Kagawa fed Van Persie, only for him to put his foot through the ball, blasting it way high over the bar.

Mauricio Pochettino, in only his second game as boss of the Saints, must be well aware that his weak young squad is deeply mired in and around the bottom four teams in the the Premier League. Well aware that his side truly had their backs to the wall, the Argentine rang the changes at half time, replacing Jason Puncheon and Gaston Ramírez with Steven Davis and Adam Lallana in midfield. Very much encouraged by the reticence of both Carrick and Anderson to tackle in their own half, a speedy young Southampton side suddenly began exuding confidence as Rickie Lambert had a shot brilliantly saved by De Gea. Schneiderlin, Lambert and Rodriguez all took advantage of Patrice Evra’s inability to double-clutch and run. Luckily all three were equally inept at executing the final coup-de-grace. After Welbeck conceded a corner to Evra’s master, the brilliant young Natty Clyne , Rooney was forced to concede a second. Having shrugged off Smalling, Lambert leapt high over United’s defense but somehow miraculously conspired against himself to head down Schneiderlin’s beautiful floating corner ball and, still unmarked, with all the time in the world, blast wide of the goal.

With United truly on the ropes for the first 30 minutes of the second half, De Gea almost bollixed his job up again as Schneiderlin’s lightly hit 25-yard free-kick was bobbled and six Southampton players charged toward him for the rebound. Luckily, he recovered and when, minutes later, Robin van Persie looked to have put the Red Devils’ 3-1 up with a strike off a superb Wayne Rooney cross, there was a chorus of boos as the referee blew for a controversial offside after consulting with his assistants.

Last, but not least, was the moment of nail-biting drama as, with seconds to go, the gazelle-quick De Gea well and truly redeemed himself for Southampton’s opener with a fine reflex save off a superb Rickie Lambert free-kick.

“The truth is that they were the better side,” Sir Alex Ferguson said after the match. “They actually did us a service, because they showed up all our defensive deficiencies all at once.”
65609326 hi017083116 1 Sanctified!

Jan 292013

Manchester United 4-1 Fulham
Manchester Utd v Fulham 008 United Ease Past A Blasé Fulham!Funny club, Fulham. United have statues of the trinity, Busby and you-know-who outside Old Trafford. Fulham have a dreadful one of Johnny Haines and a gigantic thing remembering Michael Jackson, who is famous for many reasons, none of which have anything at all to do with football. Having flogged their two best performers, Moussa Dembelé and Clint Dempsey, for a healthy profit to Spurs, their manager Martin Jol picked up United’s sad-sack, capricious pseudo-striker Dimitar Berbatov, one of the rare expensive toys the Gaffer chose to toss out of his pram on the cheap. Beggars can’t be choosers, even if your owner is Muhammad Al-Fayed, when your London next-door-neighbor is Roman Abramovich’s oil cash Laundromat at Stamford Bridge . Hope springs eternal, whether you’re the manager or a Cottagers fan, but Jol’s claim at his Friday night press conference that Berbatov was “in the state of mind for one of his hat-tricks” was up there in the fantasy betting stakes of Google  locating  and mapping Shangri-La and Utopia.

It took but 45 or so seconds for  Berbatov’s face to take on that familiar 5,000 kilometer stare we’re all so familiar with as a probing Rooney shot caused instantaneous panic in Fulham’s back line and was deflected for a corner. Wazza’s corner led to Aaron Hughes getting all in a dither as Chris Smalling rose with him for the ball, needlessly raising a hand to divert the ball. Referee Mark Clattenburg wasted no time pointing to the spot. With Rooney still in the Gaffer’s dog house for an accumulation of missed penalties, it was left to the grizzled old Welsh wizard Ryan Giggs to calmly step up and slot the ball home.

Then, 21 minutes in, Giggs had a second penalty chance disallowed as Damian Duff took a chance in sticking an arm out  when another one of his  passes caught Flham’s whole defense flat-footed.  Referee Mark Clattenburg, long up there in the F.A.’s refereeing pantheon of caprice with Howard Webb and Phil Dowd decided to let this one go. Yet, Clattenburg’s decison proved to be of no no consequence. Bad then turned to worse for Fulham. Their abject state of disarray lingered. Bryan Ruiz made a series of bad passes, two of which were intercepted by Giggs. Attempts to feed Berbatov were not so much badly executed, as, having been aimed about fifteen feet in front of the Bulgar prima-donna, invitations for the shiftless genius to run, which was never going to happen. Consequently, after other passes from the likes of Sidwell and Duff failed to land on his toe, Berbatov began to spend more onfield time bawling out his teammates in frustration than running..

Yet before United truly  began to dismantle Fulham with a surgical grace, in the second half, the Cottagers managed to hold on to their luck. Anderson and Giggs came close twice and three fantastic saves by Schwartzer from Rooney and Nani kept them in the game. The Cottagers ran out of lucky breaks once the second half began, however.

First, an exquisitely hit Anderson pass found Rooney just inside the box and the Scouser had no problem blasting it past a marooned Mark Schwartzer. Minutes on, Rooney turned schemer. After executing a lovely little step-over and foot switch that Ronaldo would have been proud of, Rooney passed to Nani.. Nani missed his shot on goal, but the rebound bounced back to Rooney off Schwartzer. This time, Rooney fed a short pass to Hernandez, who tapped home the third.

Minutes later, the cheeky Chicharito got his second of the day, as the hapless Aaron Hughes let a Giggs cross bounce off his knee, missed making a clearance, and watched in horror as Schwartzer, already committed to moving in the wrong direction, had no way to stop the Mexican striker’s nicely executed tap-in of a fourth.

Fulham did pull a goal back, as a sloppy United defense allowed itself to become lax again and an unmarked Hughes headed in a corner from winger substitute Giorgos Karagounis’s  with 15 minutes to go. And although they did not oppose United with much passion, Fulham may not really be quite as bad as they often looked. After all, on the day, Ryan Giggs and Wayne Rooney looked good enough to take on any opponent. Fulham are clearly not Real Madrid and neither will be Reading, who they face at home in the Sixth Round. Still, if United hope to have a chance against the Spanish champions, they will need Sunday’s Rooney and a far less lax back four.
65531280 manutd afp United Ease Past A Blasé Fulham!

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

A Really Dull One

 Posted by on November 30, 2012 at 1:00 pm  European Champions League
Nov 302012

Manchester United 1-0 West Ham United
Robin van Persie 008 A Really Dull OneOverjoyed that the team had avoided its season-long predilection for falling behind the opposition, Sir Alex Ferguson and a shiny-domed Mike Phelan grinned a lot after Wednesday’s yawn of a 1-0 victory over West Ham United at Old Trafford, Manchester United managed to avoid their season-long habit of conceding first by opening the scoring here, but the performance still stuttered enough to concern the Gaffer at the post match press conference to the point where he refused to rise to the bait of more than a few derogatory comments leveled by his pain-in-the-posterior sky-blue nemesis Roberto Mancini. Still a point ahead of our Abu-Dhabian rent-boy rivals, Manchester City, United can take a degree of comfort in their clean sheet and pride in what our old right back, Gary Neville, calls, “The wonky ones you’ve got to grind out!”

West Ham, managed by the Gaffer’s long time mate, Sam Allardyce, are a known quantity to whoever they’re going to play. Big, physical, lacking in finesse but never without hustle or bravery, the Hammers came to Salford to put nine men behind the ball, pray for miraculous counterattacks, and squeeze the oxygen and playfulness  out of a moody United team that has been more or less ruthless in attack while, simultaneously, lacking any kind of consistent concentration at the back.

Who would have predicted, however, that on a bitter cold night, the only goal of the game would come 32 seconds in. as a quick-witted Michael Carrick, hit one of his seeing-eye, low Bangalore passses to Robin Van Persie as the Dutch striker executed one of his unstoppable diagonal runs into the penalty  area. channeling sweet Georgie Best, Van Persie listed to his low left before firing toward goal. The shot–spinning and rolling–hit West Ham’s center back James Collins on the shoulder as he moved to block it with his chest, before wrong-footing an unfortunate Jussi Juskulainen and flying into the net.

It wouldn’t be quite fair to say that Manchester United quit at this point. Suffice to say that everybody’s concentration fell by the wayside. Yet, with the whole Hammer midfield, reliant upon repeatedly lobbing balls toward a a big, clumsy out-of-form, Andy Carroll, chances for the East Londoners occurred rarely. West Ham’s best performer, Kevin Nolan, had a  nice chance after a Ryan Taylor free kick which he back-heeled into the waiting arms of Anders Lindegaard. 23 minutes in, Nolan again came close to profiting from a later Taylor delivery. Then a long Collins kick away from his own half, tested Jonny Evans, before ricocheting off Andy Carroll’s left foot just wide of the post.

For United in the first half, nothing much was clicking. Although both Anderson and Rooney had good statistics, anything that transcended a short pass was cut off by the hard-working Mohammed Diamé. There seemed to be even more verbal exchanges between Cleverly, Rooney, Anderson and Valencia in the second half. Both Rooney and Carrick, with Ferguson screaming from sideline wasted long distance shots they’d had so beautifully set up for by Anderson.
Within seconds Mohamed Diamé found himself on the angle to Lindegaard and the midfielder’s shot was saved for a corner. Further pressure then came when Diamé moved down the right and United were forced to clear.

Rooney did get a cheer out of the crowd with a give-an-go with Van Persie, but the Dutch Master hit it way wide. Then Ashley Young and Chicharito hit gentle shots wide after excellent setups. roamed into the area but failed to find a teammate, while Hernández’s clever run ended with a tame attempt. It was flat all over throughout and United, although the machine never quite clicked, can at least take away the pleasure of not conceding any goals and collectively owning the wherewithal to not back down against the large likes of Mohammed Diamé in this game and Marouane Fellaini and Sandro in others.

Nov 272012

Manchester United 3-1 Queens Park Rangers
64360774 darren fletcher getty TRa Sparky!More nail-biting thrills and white knuckle theatrics are beginning to turn this year’s Manchester United defensive soap opera into possibly the club’s greatest drama ever. Since the beginning of the Premier League United fans have thrilled to the Cantona karate kick. The treble. The celebrity era of David Beckham avec entourage and his sale to Real Madrid. The sticky end of Roy Keane. The shocking sale of Jaap Staam. The training ground war between Ruud Van Nistelrooy and Cristiano Ronaldo, which led to, first, the exit of RVP; but, inevitably, the sale of Ronnie to Real Madrid. There is more. Too much more to go over in the here and now. Yet the one we have now, even though the problem is sort of abstract and involves far more than one or two players could turn out to be more circuitous, scandalous and full of oo-ah than a DVD boxed-set of Coronation Street shenanigans.

Before the game, the press did some phony hand-wringing about the sad fate of United’s ex-striker, Mark ‘Sparky’ Hughes, fired after collecting only four points since the beginning of the season by Q.P.R. Shed no crocodile tars for this perfidious prevaricator. Having repeatedly failed to undermine the Gaffer as boss of our Abu Dhabian crosstown rent boy rivals, Manchester City before getting fired, Sparky quit on Fulham–a club he was certain ‘had no real future,’ at the behest of his Persian hustler agent Kia Joorabchian. Having wasted  Q.P.R.’s billionaire owner Tony Fernandes’ money, the sack was inevitable foe Sparky. Spending the rest of his lfe coaching the Welsh natonal team now seems apt; well, short of a spot managing in Dubai!

Anyway, to be sure, United’s defense has been as porous as a rice paper colander all season. In match after match the pattern has been set. United begin the game abysmally, fall behind 1-0 or 2-0, pull their socks up, usually late into the second half, and begin a comeback. Our brilliant front line of Robin Van Persie, Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck or Javíer ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez usually arrives like the cavalry and saves us. Well, there were a couple of occasions, against Spurs and Norwich City, when the blueprint didn’t work, but the fact that we’re at the top of the league by two points must count for something! This time, having been more or less dreadful for app. 62 minutes, United exploded into passionate action for ten marvelous minutes before returning to a state of vegetation. Indeed, had Rangers’ caretaker manager Mark Bowen not chosen to bring on Anton Ferdinand for Armand Traoré this comeback might not have flourished for the ten minutes it did.

For Sir Alex Ferguson, perhaps still basking in the joy of having a statue dedicated in his honor on the day before the match, it was a day for a Stoic With Paul Scholes usually dexterous sense of synchronicity way off, he was an angry firecracker, missing with too many passes and seemingly bound and determined to cull a yellow card from an empathetic referee after at least half a dozen dangerously mistimed tackles. Time is clearly catching up with both Scholes and his longtime colleague Ryan Giggs. Had Jamie Mackie not scored in the 52nd minute and then Scholes not committed a foul born of frustration following it, Ferguson might not have brought on Anderson which altered the match completely. Conjecture is weird, isn’t it?

“We have to be concerned at the number of times we are giving teams leads,” Ferguson said. “Though you have to say we fought back with great determination. For 15 minutes we were terrific, but that was all. For the rest of the game we were lethargic, a bit careless with our passing, and the game was slow. We’re better than that, as we were finally able to show. Once we started to play there was no question who was going to win.”

The first half was a plain dreadful. The soul glimmer of light early on was Jamie Mackie run onto a sweet Djibril Cisse cross that he was very unlucky to be judged offside upon. after heading past a stranded Anders Lindegaard. Lethargic throughout, United looked like a jaded team who wanted to go behind, just for the sheer kick of it. Woeful, United have never looked as flat as they were at Old Trafford on Saturday  since the dull dull days of the late, but little lamented, Dave Sexton.

Neither a bored Ashley Young nor Danny Welbeck could make it out from behind Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie. Scholes, Young, Welbeck and Rooney made attempts at a slovenly Julio Cesar (another aging master whose reflexes appear to have slipped). It was simply more of the same in the second half. Five minutes in, Rangers won a rare corner and a Kieron Dyer shot was only softly finger tipped away by a slow Anders Lindegaard, and an unmarked Mackie was a waiting by the goal line to push the loose ball in

Wasting no more time, Ferguson brought on Anderson and Javíer Hernández in place of Scholes and Young. The game wastransformed immediately, with Welbeck heading down a high twisting Rooney corner which Evans calmly nodded home. Five minutes later, it was bang! bang! Ronnie’s next corner was an exquisitely hit bit of business for Darren Fletcher to hammer home with his head from the six-yard line. Then, three minutes after that, the stadium went into Theater of Dreams-mode as Fergie’s two subs combined. Substitute Javíer Hernández then ensured a United victory, racing at a high canter on to a through ball from Anderson and completely fooling a clumsy Julio Cesar before firing home.

“We only played for 10 minutes and those 10 minutes were brilliant. The crowd got up and I thought Anderson changed the game for us,” Fergie said after the match. “We expected an improved performance from Q.P.R., it always happens when a side loses their manager. They fought very hard and had some good counterattack play.

Congratulations are in order for Darren Fletcher for his full return to the Premier League. Yet despite some fine tackling and linkup play, the Scotland captain still shows the same gut-wrenching tendency that led to Sir Alex Ferguson’s fatal in-house fight with Captain Roy Keane seven seasons ago. His repeated habit, that of recovering the ball with fine footwork followed by a panic attack as he takes a single touch and then repeatedly passes to the opposition, must stop. And although the back four tend to make an equal number of mistakes, Fletcher’s job as defensive fulcrum does not allow for the same number of mistakes to take place. Will a consistent Darren Fletcher please step forward?