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United Punish the Goalposts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oct 012013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scousers Stymied At Old Trafford

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Manchester Uniteds Mexica 004 Scousers Stymied At Old Trafford

Sep 032013

On the Transfer Debacle
fellaini marouane david moyes manchester united signing transfer carrington 2997534 United Endure Humiliating Weekend.I won’t belabor this and jump on the bandwagon that’s already piling on David Moyes. After signing only Marouane Fellaini for way more than original estimates said he was worth, United seem to have perfidiously gone about sticking it to their fans. Clearly there’s something more at stake than money and legal paperwork when a multitude of things have gone wrong in the so-called pursuit of Tiago Alcantara, Cesc Fabregas, Ander Herrera, Wesley Sneider, Daniele De Rossi, Sami Khedira, Leighton Baines, Luke Shaw and Mehsut Ozil. Players may indeed be pieces of meat in the eyes of so many agents, owners and managers, but there is already a kind of in-crowd protocol that Messrs. Moyes and Woodward are clearly clueless about. The Glazers were wise enough to leave well alone when Sir Alex Ferguson was running the club. As he was personally responsible for so many of the machinations that allowed the Glazers to step in and make a leveraged purchase, the Gaffer was a good soldier, espousing Knoxian rhetoric about “value in the marketplace” as long as they let him have a little money now and again for players like Berbatov, Van Persie and Kagawa.

An extraordinary man-manager and the last of a breed–along with Arséne Wenger at Arsenal–who was trusted by ownership, Ferguson was a beloved buffer between a bewildered fan base who really wanted to believe the cockamamie fodder he fed them about having the last word in transfers and our being the kind of mortal zombie fans who support Arsenal and other clubs who simply don’t give a shit what they think. None of it matters now, anyway. Clearly the money is there to spend on for someone like Cristiano Ronaldo, who will pay back whatever the club forks out for him back in merchandizing spades. Even the likes of Gareth Bale or Radomel Falcao would work for the gluttonous Glazers. Unfortunately, shopping for perceived ‘water carriers’ and prospects seems beyond the scope of Moyes and Woodward.

To be fair to Woodward–a man who has the kind of Mad Men flair that the Glazers can understand and has shown the ability to raise hundreds of millions in sponsorship money–he seems to have been thrown into the deep-end in rooms full of the kind of capricious oligarchs who inherit oil kingdoms, trust funds and laundered money and their lawyers. Woodward’s bargaining mentality, honed and sharpened in boardrooms, but still schooled in a world of old-fashioned bargaining that’s been going on in the Armenian carpet bazaar since the time of Genghis Khan, is out of his league when dealing with the modern football club. In Spain, for example, where clubs were confiscated after the civil war and their ownership given as prizes to amigos who were fellow soldiers or supporters by the dictator Generalisimo Francisco Franco, American-style buy low/sell high rules do not necessarily rule the football marketplace. Team lawyers expect suitcases full of laundered oil cash and drug money. Players are more often owned in percentages, not just by clubs who only nominally have their contracts, but also Russian and Colombian gangsters. It’s complicated. Whatever secrets the Gaffer is privy to, he has yet to pass them on to Moyes and company.

Depending on who you believe, United’s credibility has now been smashed into a million pieces. This may be so, but Juventus, for example, and now Monaco have survived far worse. Woodward would probably be fired by most clubs, but as he makes money for his friends (The American golden rule–see The Godfather), I’m sure he won’t. Next time Mr. Woodwood, you need to do your homework properly. Personally, I like Ander Herrera as a player and admire him for keeping his trap shut. Perhaps he’ll still go for it if we try again in January.

As for Marouane ‘Bogbrush’ Fellaini. It warms the cockles of my heart when a player really really wants to play for us, as was also the case with Robin Van Persie. He may be a bit slow, but he’s a gamer with a pair of elephant cojönes who likes contact, can score goals and will protect our sometimes awesome, but positively gutless, Michael Carrick. He’s brave and hard, and, although we let ourselves be suckered into paying 28m quid for him, will prove well worth the investment.

Liverpool 1-0 Manchester United
Liverpool v Manchester Un 006 United Endure Humiliating Weekend.It was right out of the Ferguson textbook. “I could see why we were champions today,” Manchester United’s new manager David Moyes said while his head panned the room like a Gorbals thug looking for a wee bit of aggro. “I thought we played really well.”

Right you are, Davey! Better in spades than putting four past Swansea on the opening weekend. Of course, he insisted upon being “more than happy” with the state of the squad. Indeed, should any dealings fail to happen at the close of the transfer window on Monday night he reassured the gathered Fleet Street Sports mavens. “After that performance, I wouldn’t be worried,” he said. “I thought we were really good today.”

“Pull t’other one,” my Gran used to say. “It’s got bells on it!”

Sure, the Gaffer always got dead prickly after a mediocre team performance, but Davey doesn’t own the moxy or luck to be able to run his mouth so contemptuously. Well, not yet. Even though they were clearly the far superior team in the second half, United lost because their central midfield is non-existent. This has been more or less the case since Roy Keane retired and the Champions Cup win of 2007-08 looks, in retrospective, like the Gaffer’s masterpiece, the finest job of papering over the cracks since Chamberlain announced ‘Peace in our time!”

Beyond the frustration United fans feel over the club’s dithering in the transfer market was the gobsmackingly nonchalant, vanilla display of pride in their own mediocrity shown by a gutless Michael Carrick and a painfully overmatched Tom Cleverley in central midfield. Indeed, although a different perspective might say that Carrick’s lack of physical courage may well be solved as a team problem if an enforcer-type player like Marouane Fellaini is signed from Everton to serve and protect him, there is no such hope for Cleverley. Inept in every way, devoid of courage and energy, he is just what the likes of Glasgow Rangers need in their bid to return to the SPL, but is not a Manchester United player.

Soccer Barclays Premier 002 United Endure Humiliating Weekend.All is not lost, however. Liverpool were driven on the day. Led by a ruthless, hatchet-faced Steven Gerrard in a way he never has for England, the red scouters were were completely amped up, especially in the first half, quicker to the ball and crunchingly harder in the tackle. Simply put, this fixture meant much more to them because they genuinely hate Us and Our relentless success over them for years.. Over the first 45 minutes, they attacked United relentlessly to which our only recourse was to simulate injury and repeatedly appeal to a disinterested Neville Marriner, who seemed to mistake them for Arsenal or Spurs or Chelsea. Yes, we were better in the second half, but when your two best performers are a knackered old Ryan Giggs and a pumped up Nan, you have no ammunition. Indeed, Nani, who seemed totally delirious just to actually be on the pitch, was so completely pumped up that he blasted a beautiful free kick opportunity high into the crowd. Due to sign a new contract and clearly feeling renewed by having Mr. Moyes woo him, he may yet be kinda/sorta like a new signing.

For a good proportion of the match, United were vapid. Strangely inhibited, unable to get any real momentum going: This kind of listlessness has become something of a recurring theme in their visits to Anfield over recent seasons. Truth be told, United have now lost six of their last seven visits to Anfield, and, as with Moyes’ Everton, they have flinched in just about every one of those matches. Derby rivalry? United just don’t get it! Giggs showed up, but he can’t hold the ball like he used to when faced with a hacking hyena like Lucas Leiva. Poor Paddy Evra tried so hard, but, was repeatedly, unavoidably legless on a day when the usually reliable tandem of Ferdinand and Vidic looked equally elderly and repeatedly made errors. United’s giving up of only a single goal was miraculous. Well, slightly miraculous, but mostly due to the cold-blooded bravery of goalkeeper David De Gea who took a hammering from Sturridge, Aspas and a host of others who were casually allowed a state of nonchalant carte-blanche in United’s box.

How did the pea-brained Ashley Young come to make the the fourth minute mistake that led to the corner for Liverpool’s goal, allowing Daniel Sturridge to celebrate his 24th birthday with his third successive winner of the season after steering in a close-range header off a Gerrard corner? Young has worn the United shirt for nigh upon three years now. He has not improved one bit since leaving Aston Villa. Like Cleverley, he does not deserve to wear that shirt. Indeed, when Nemanja Vidic tapped a soft back pass toward goal, it was a minor miracle that De Gea beat a thundering Glen Johnson to the ball. Only twice, you say. That’s not so bad. Better yet, minutes away from the whistle, Carrick passed the ball straight to Daniel Sturridge. The whole stadium gasped. Sturridge seemed so shocked that he hesitated and flubbed it.

Doubtless, United would have been better if Wayne Rooney’s forehead had not been split open by Phil Jones in training the previous day. Yet Rooney’s history at Anfield is not good. Where was Shinji Kagawa when we needed passion and ball control? Robin van Persie was well muffled by Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel throughout, squandering United’s best chance late on.

Reticent congratulations to Liverpool are due after they celebrated the 100th anniversary of the birth of their legendary Scottish manager Bill Shankly. Their current boss Brendan Rodgers is, I read, looking for a top four place fourth place this season and when suspended striker Luis Suarez returns they will be even tougher to beat.
As for United, let us all collectively pray for a few good breaks as the transfer window shuts.Liverpool vs Manchester U 007 United Endure Humiliating Weekend.

Reds Soar at Swansea

 Posted by on August 20, 2013 at 1:40 pm  Blogs/Media, England, EPL, Manchester United, Swansea City
Aug 202013

Swansea City 1-4 Manchester United
69342044 69342043 Reds Soar at SwanseaIt was a lovely day for the new Gaffer! In spite of driving wind and rain so thick it felt like sleet, David Moyes enjoyed a perfect start, his much criticized team making light work of a quality Swansea City side at the Liberty Stadium. Even Wayne Rooney, despite his sad-sack body language and the facial expression of a child forced to drink a pint of castor oil, made a fine 30-minute substitute appearance and was very clearly given a warm round of applause by United’s traveling entourage. Any idea that Our fans were going to encourage Rooney’s desire to leave the club did not show itself on the night.

It was a scrappy game and United were forced to play off the back foot for the first half hour of the match as the Swans attacked relentlessly. The Welsh club’s new signing Jose Cañas was particularly combative from the beginning, attempting a long shot and then careening into United’s winger Antonio Valencia for which he drew a booking. Soon after,Valencia , his hackles well and truly up. drew his own yellow for a reciprocal foul on his Spanish marker. What followed was a very sloppy, but very exciting introductory comedy of errors.

Minutes later, a sloppy clearance by United’s keeper David De Gea allowed Swansea’s burning-hot striker Michu an easy chance, which he botched. Seconds on, an equally careless back-pass by right back Phil Jones fell to Nathan Dyer, whose weak shot was smothered by De Gea. At the other side of the pitch, Jones, who was very aggressive in running the overlap with Valencia, had a fine shot finger tipped over the bar by Vorm.
It was all very tit for tat and somewhat slipshod until Swansea’s early industry came a cropper as Robin Van Persie and Danny Welbeck struck twice inside two minutes just after the half-hour.

The industrious Robin Van Persie, who seemed to be everywhere around the Swans’ box, picked up the ball after the cagy veteran Ryan Giggs found him with a superb lob. Out of nothing, with two Swansea defenders blocking his sightline, the Dutch genius fired off a fantastic rising strike in the 27th minute that had all the devastating beauty of a Roberto Duran uppercut. Two minutes later, Van Persie looked even more impressive as a creator when, fed by Giggs again, he supplied a long, loping curved pass which Danny Welbeck only had to slot home past a marooned diving Vorm.

69342048 69342047 Reds Soar at SwanseaUnited were never again under serious threat. With Welbeck and Van Persie playing with such passion, everybody else’s performance seemed a mere afterthought. Vidic and Ferdinand, who both seemed happy to turn back the hands of time looked genuinely chuffed to be playing in tandem again. And Ryan Giggs, in spite of being beaten to the ball a number of times in 50/50 tackles that he would once have sped away from, still showed some sublime moments of skill, not to mention jinking runs that almost got goals on two separate occasions. First, he broke clear of a lead-footed Ashley Williams, but his speed has deserted him and he was caught by the Welsh pivot just as he was about to shoot and, even better, he was able to slalom around three Swansea defenders before firing across the face of goal after Vorm did a fantastic job saving a vicious Welbeck shot.

A third goal was inevitable as United completely dominated the second half and Robin Van Persie fired another rising, awe-inspiring beauty past Vorm in the 72nd minute after he was cleverly played in by substitute Wayne Rooney.

Minutes later, United, having become a little sloppy, allowed Swansea’s new striker, their record £12m signing from the Ivory Coast, Wifried Bony, on as a substitute, to gather a small degree of recompense when he picked up one of Danny Welbeck’s more idiotic attempts at a clever back-pass before bulldozing his way into creating a little room before firing a fifteen-yarder home past De Gea in the 82nd minute.

Yet United did not allow themselves to fall into the same lax patterns they showed last season. The defense tightened up again and the red devils added a fourth goal in injury time as the conundrum that is Danny Welbeck–brilliant at times and then error-prone in others–had an exquisite moment of creativity, showing off some incredibly subtle technique as he beat two defenders before firing a difficult chip at an extremely obtuse angle over an advancing Michel Vorm.

Though United still have the same passing and possession problems in midfield that will clearly be tested next Monday against Chelsea, there was much to cheer about in the team’s level of commitment and effort. Atypically, Patrice Evra, whose legs are now more or less gone, still showed his usual penchant for tackling and getting into the opponent’s box that will surely make Davie Moyes ponder deeply before selling him. With some wicked fixtures upcoming against Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City, United’s squad will definitely show what it is made of over the next month, one way or another. This was an excellent start!69342321 utd pa Reds Soar at Swansea

May 142013

Manchester United 2-1 Swansea City
Sir Alex Ferguson 004 There’ll Never Be Another His Like: Goodbye Sir Alex!It was a lovely day at Old Trafford as the faithful gathered to celebrate the momentous retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson and Paul Scholes and a 20th club championship. The genteel crowd was loud without being raucous and everybody seemed to have brought a banner to wave in lieu of becoming too drunk with passion on an obviously emotional night. Indeed, the only thing that threatened the Hollywood, fairy-tale-style story was the upstart-type rudeness of Manchester United’s guests Swansea City. Superior by far to United’s jaded team of played out carousers–especially in the second half., manager Michael Laudrap’s team almost stole away with the cup that had long since runneth over. Fortunately, United own more than one wizard and its Dutch one, Robin Van Persie, waved his magic wand in the 87th minute, supplying a fantastic pass that Rio Ferdinand, who rarely ever scores, was on the spot to volley home for the winner.

It was the kind of last minute coup-de-grace United’s fans have grown used to this season. Nothing surprising to Fergie and his Ginger Prince, of course, although both were jumping up and down in their seats.This had been Scholes’s 498th Premier League appearance, during which he helped the club win 11 titles during a brilliant career .Scholes, the quiet master of the probing midfield pass balls, has been a performer of integrity, lauded by the likes of his contemporaries Xavi, Edgar Davids, Kaka and Zinedene Zedane as the greatest English footballer ever, Scholes has always shrugged his shoulders and let his football do the talking..

Indeed, so momentous were these goings-on that Wayne Rooney’s Mother’s Day decision to announce that he wasn’t going to play and announce that he had just submitted a second written request for a transfer seemed to affect the proceedings not a whit. as Ferguson picked a mixture of old warriors like Ferdinand, Evra, Scholes and Carrick next to De Gea, Kagawa, Welbeck, Jones and Hernández. How funny it was to see our joyous Anderson conducting the Stretford End as they sang. “We won our trophy back now Mancini’s got the sack!”

At any rate, it was a fairly staid first half as United retained possession over a seemingly overawed Swansea team, and played a surprisingly slow kind of tiki-tak passing. Evra, Scholes, Van Persie and Welbeck all missed chances. It took until the 39th minute for United to finally execute. After an injury break to treat Welbeck and Neil Taylor after a clash of heads, United were awarded a free-kick. Van Persie’s kick landed awkwardly by Ashley Williams who pushed his clearance straight into Hernández’s path. Chicharito being Chicharito, he blasted the ball home from six yards out. Man Utd v Swansea 010 There’ll Never Be Another His Like: Goodbye Sir Alex!

After the break, united suddenly began missing their passes. With Jones playing right back, Carrick did not get the protection he likes from a tiring Anderson. Much harassed by De Guzman and Brittan, Carrick’s passing game evaporated. The first-rate Pablo Hernández helped himself to an Carrick feed and which forced Ferdinand to clear for a corner. Williams climbed high to nod Hernandez’s ball across goal where it landed at Nathan Dyer’s feet. The titchy winger’s inswinging pass was missed by a diving Jones before the fantastic goal-machine Michu managed to volley the ball past a stranded David De Gea.

If this caused disquiet in the United ranks, worse nearly occurred soon. Wayne Routledge got in behind – precisely where Ferdinand did not want him – but as the forward pulled the trigger Ferdinand got back close enough to make him miss to De Gea’s left. With the score tied, the Stretford End suddenly went quiet as City enjoyed almost twenty minutes of outright domination. Luckily De Gea made two great saves from the Spaniards, Hernandez and Flores.Man Utd v Swansea 013 There’ll Never Be Another His Like: Goodbye Sir Alex!

Luckily, having weathered the storm of an attacking single-minded. Swansea, United’s elderly brains-trust of Giggs and Van Persie were bound and determined to make a happy ending. And when Ferdinand volleyed home his first goal in five years in in the 87th minute, the victory/retirement party began in earnest.

After the match, Sir Alex Ferguson picked up the microphone and paid tribute to players, supporters, all of those, he said, those at United who had supported him in troubled early years Thus he segued into requesting We all give our full support to new manager David Moyes. the Gaffer then took off for ten minutes before returning with his triumphant squad (including Wayne Rooney) to celebrate this by-now familiar ritual of joyfully lifting the Premier League trophy, having reclaimed it from Our nemeses Manchester City.
Man Utd v Swansea 014 There’ll Never Be Another His Like: Goodbye Sir Alex!

May 012013

Arsenal 1-1 Manchester United
Robin van Persie Arsenal 008 1 Arsenal: If it Wasnt For No Class, They Wouldnt Have No Class At All! The story behind the story. My dream. Friday at the Arsenal training ground. Theo Walcott is staring at his opened locker door. Scotch-taped to the door is a carefully cut out newspaper photo of Rio Ferdinand. Theo is making his war face.
“You talkin’’ to me?” he says in his thin Berkshire boy-soprano mockney. “Are you talkin’’ to me?”
Rio just stares back, which makes Theo madder and madder. “Are you talking to me?”
He feints and then throws a left hook just short of the photo. Doesn’t want to dislocate his shoulder again, does he?
“We-ell I don’t see anyone else in this room,” he says real Yardie-like. “So I’m gonna have to kick your arse.”
Next to him, on the left is Gervinho, his funny, string and real hair toupée-cum-extention do making funny noises as it taps against his forehead while he swears in French at a photo of Jonny Evans. To his right, Per Mertesacker, lovingly referred to as “Der Meatsack” by his teammates, keeps staring at Wayne Rooney and calling him “Shkausser Schweinhundt!”
Meanwhile, behind them, an old skinny Alsatian named Arséne is smacking a riding crop against a bench while his even dourer assistant sucks his teeth. “Zey got our little gift on Sunday, right Steve?” Steve Bould, nods repeatedly.
“Venez sur mes garçons de poupée lttle. Montrez-leur ce qui, dans le coeur d’une poupée, est un guerrier.!” *
Theo does not know what his silly French boss is talking about. He never knows what his silly French boss is talking about. But he does know he’s going to beat that bloody Rio Ferdinand all the way back to Pinner or Peckham, or wherever he comes from.
A dream? How else can one explain Sunday’s comic draw? Arséne Wenger, Nick Hornby and Piers Morgan with their simpering platitudes about their team being on its best behavior proved to be about as sincere as a pregnant nun. One more desperate, tragic attempt to seize an early advantage. Sure, the crowd booed at Robin Van Persie and, sure, the Dutchman looked sad. The full human comedy had to be played out, however, and, at the end of the game, Robin Van Persie had scored 25 league goals for Manchester United, 29 in all competitions, and taken over the lead for the Golden Boot from the hungry one, Luís Suarez of Liverpool. Arsenal fans went home even more miserable than they had when they arrived

Nevertheless, the goal he scored against Arsenal may turn out to have a truly resonant impact. Should Les Gooners miss out on a top four place in the Premier League and thus the Champions League next season, it will be the first time they have gone without the most lucrative of cash cows for the first time in fifteen years. Let me reiterate. You know the cliché–the one that says revenge is a dish which tastes much better when served cold–it was one Arsenal fans had to swallow in a state of deeply deserved anguish on Sunday. Having booed their former hero throughout the first half, they got their comeuppance. Yes, irony was well noted on all sides as Robin Van Persie stepped up to rocket home a well deserved, icily dispatched penalty in the 42nd minute while the fat lady sang.

United versus Arsenal matches are by their very nature ugly affairs. Not ugly in the vicious sense of United’s tactically ugly matches with Liverpool are. They are, rather, emotional, slapdash, petty, often badly behaved matches on both sides, full of sneaky off-the-ball encounters, relentless speed races, shocking mistakes and always always always too chock full of drama for mortal referees to handle. In this case, with Howard Webb’s favorite assistant Phil Dowd running things, veteran United fans were all well aware that if anybody was going to make sure He was going to be the star of the show, it would be Phil himself. And so it came to pass!

Arsenal were shockingly dominant for the first half hour. Testing Dowd with every single tackle, ankle-tapping and rabbit-punching off the ball, the Arse were the 2005 team temporarily reincarnated, minus the purity of talent and finesse, though. Much quicker to the ball, playing with width, sprinting to fill every space, repeatedly taking turns kicking Wayne Rooney as if he were a sort of Scouse Guy Fawkes dummy, they kept United pinned back while repeatedly, relentlessly daring them to retaliate for a series of cheap shots. Yet United did not retaliate. It all being part and parcel of a season of ridiculously good behavior. Yet the crew of officials seemed to blow everything Arsenal’s way. It became pretty clear once they’d received their fifth yellow card in a row after Rooney collided 50/50 with Arteta and Rafael Da Silva took umbrage after receiving a throw-in in the mush, that Phil Dowd was not in a state of empathy.

The one goal Arsenal did score came in the second minute and was so clearly offside that United actually took it well, seeming to sort of collectively shrug their shoulders. Ironically, Van Persie was the culprit as he carelessly gave the ball away to the thieving magpie Rosicky. The Slovak schemer was quickly off to the races before firing a fine pass into the box which Walcott sped onto from an offside position before firing a finish at an obtuse angle past a stranded David De Gea, who had no chance.

And from then on, until about the 40th minute, Arsenal played well. Still, led by Lucas Podolski in place of the suspended Olivier Giroud, although they attacked relentlessly, they were mostly ineffective. In spite of the relentless energy displayed by Rosicky, Arteta, Ramsey, Cazoría and, later. Wilshere, they were simply never looked capable of executing that effective last ball in United’s third of the field.

To say United took a long time to get going is a copious understatement. The boys were obviously hungover, many said. But these young millionaires really are quite fit and surely young enough to shrug off what might well hinder lesser men. Yet how did Rafael da Silva and Phil Jones both end up passing the ball to an invisible teammate and out of touch under no opposition pressure? Sure we expect De Gea to drop a clanger under pressure, but how did he simply drop a corner kick he caught cleanly and make a bollix out of a subsequent clearance? Wayne Rooney was fine in the second half, but in the first half he seemed to spend a lot of time admiring the hue of his boots. Nani and Valencia were more or less invisible beyond passively absorbing cheap shots from Arteta and Ramsey. With Ferguson letting loose a very audible string of invectives at the fourth official and a grinning Phil Dowd, United’s ‘hangover’ seemed to be more of a case of narcolepsy. The kind of body-snatched stupor associated with absinthe, not champagne!?

Yet, as bizarrely un-United as they so often seemed early on, they still created a couple of opportunities of their own before Van Persie’s equalizer. Phil Jones, as cumbersome and awkward as he seems, was a more and more of a menace in midfield as Arteta and Ramsey’s off-the-ball bullying upped his ire. Well set up by Evra and Rafael Da Silva, he headed two gaping sitters wide of the goal. Then, having botched a series of half-chances, Nani sold Arteta an exquisite dummy, lifted a breathtaking cross into the path of Van Persie as he sprinted into the box. How Szczesny saved his shot is hard to know.

But, minutes later, Van Persie shrugged off the cobwebs again. In fairness to Dowd, his judgment was impeccable for the penalty because, at the speed the actual play was made at, it was anything but a straightforward decision. Picking up a Valencia pass, Van Persie took off at speed down the left-hand channel, leaving right back Bacary Sagna flat-footed and humiliated. Having made a mistake, Sagna swiveled and gave chase. In an attempt to make up for his mistake, he slid in on Van Persie’s ankles and threshed him down well inside the box. Dowd, who had already forgiven an identical foul by Sagna on Evra earlier, grinned back at a caterwauling Ferguson, blew his whistle and pointed at the penalty spot. Many in the crowd were amazed. A wall of boos accompanied that penalty, but Robin Van Persie is made of strong stuff. His shot, a piece of raw, pure, beautiful left-footed power, beat Wojciech Szczesny easily.

Whatever did go wrong on the day for United, I think none of us or them have any idea of what it was. Absinthe drinking offers up as silly a reason as any. The sad reality is that they had a fine opportunity to set a record and overtake Chelsea’s 95 points, from José Mourinho’s first title-winning side in 2005, but that chance is now gone. The game could have gone either way in the second half but it was an erratic performance from the champions. Indeed as monentous as some of the bad moments have been this season, it’s rare occasion when they look as disheveled and disoriented as they had in the opening 40 minutes.

I don’t mean to belabor this issue again and again, but, really, how is it that, despite being so close to London, the ruling class at the F.A. and by virtue of always having their noses up in the air and always out of joint, and thus, by implication, closer to God, why do Arsenal have no dignity or class? Poisoning Spurs’ buffet on the night before a crucial last match of the season over fourth place in 2007 typifies how they operate. Their willingness to form a guard escorting the champions on to the field was, their manager said, a sample of just how sportsmanlike they were. Yet any good will ended there as, clearly having noticed what everybody else has also clearly taken advantage of this season, that this current United squad, although massively talented, is both physically and emotionally the weakest Manchester United have fielded ever. Indeed, having been beaten up plenty this season, winning the championship surely is even more of an achievement. Taking one’s lumps goes with the territory. We understand that. Nevertheless, the petty acts of sly, underhanded , off-the-ball skulduggery perpetuated by Les Gooners and willfully turned a blind eye to by Phil Dowd should be duly noted by United fans. No matter what, I pray that Sir Alex Ferguson buys at least one player who is familiar with the dark arts of the game for next season. Those who doubt me might tune in to Bayern’s Champions Cup steamrollering of Barcelona. The natural toughness and adaptability of a certain Javíer Martinez they bought for 50m euros from Athletic Bilbao had made a world of difference to them which the Gaffer shouldnote

And so, finally, picture Theo in his parents basement in Compton, Berkshire. Still staring at the same newspaper cutout of Rio, only now it’s attached to a mirror and he’s wearing boxing gloves.
“You talkin’’ to me? You talkin’’ to me, Rio? Offside? Rubbish.” He throws a combination at the mirror. “Is there anyone else in this room?”
Arsenal v Manchester United Premier League 1858663 1 Arsenal: If it Wasnt For No Class, They Wouldnt Have No Class At All!

*”Show them that inside the heart of my doll-boys is the heart of a warrior!”

Apr 182013

W e s t H a m United 2 -2 M a n c h e s t e r U n i t e d
67074426 robin vanpersie getty1 De Gea Gets Hammered!Is there anything left for Manchester United to play for? United only need some combination of their own wins and losses and Manchester City losses and draws that make seven points to clinch the Premier League championship. Rhetorically, however, the players say that they want to win the Premier League in historic style–despite these dropped points–and overtake Chelsea’s record of 95 points in 2004-05. So there was plenty to play for when Sir Alex Ferguson’s Red Devils stepped out from the tunnel at the Upton Park Cockney noise cauldron against the claret-and-blue kings of the Mile End Road. The fact is that’s never easy at the Boleyn Ground. Those who think Planet Ingerland goes soft South of Wolverhampton need to think again.

West Ham were definitely intent on making it difficult for the Red Devils. Well managed by the veteran Sam Allardyce this season, they have bounced back from a season in the Championship Division with a visible hunger. Performing with a consistently visible edge, the Hammers play consistently well at home, maintaining a position in mid table. Allardyce, maintaining his same-old predilection for putting teams of overachieving, long-ball bruisers out there, just as he has previously done in stints at Bolton Wanderers and Blackburn Rovers and much less successfully at Newcastle United, gets the job done by recruiting cheap veterans and young big club rejects. And although West Ham are not at all easy on the eye for their fanatic fans, their lack of finesse has been countered by the kind of ruthless acumen which keeps the fans fear of relegation at bay. A lot of Hammer fans don’t like Allardyce’s style but beggars can’t be choosers in the ruthless jungle that is the Premiership and, more importantly, his players are behind him. Big Sam’s tactics against his old friendly rival, Sir Alex Ferguson saw Mohammed Diamé and Kevin Nolan play high and hard against United’s defensive midfielders, Phil Jones and Michael Carrick, while their loan striker, big Andy Carroll, used his huge body as a battering room against United’s goalkeeper David De Gea and an aging center back combination of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic. Allardyce has made West Ham both truculent and competitive. With the referee Lee Probert not even the slightest bit interested in blowing his whistle, Carroll went ruthlessly about feeding the three a diet of head-butts, elbows and WWF-style grappling. Accompanied by an aerial bombardment from wingers Ricardo Vaz Té and Matty Jarvis, who took turns humiliating United’s past-it left back Patrice Evra to the point where he resembled the Gimp in Pulp Fiction, United realized they were truly up against it from the get-go.

Indeed, Carroll lads put the stick out there so ruthlessly well that Ferguson spent much of the match verbally haranguing the match’s fourth official, André Marriner, and his cloth-eared boss, the referee Lee Probert, especially after Carroll rendered him glassy-eyed with a sucker-elbow after a 45th-minute corner. Indeed, De Gea had his busiest day ever in a United kit after an early Carroll shot smashed the outside of the far post and venomous snakelike machinations of Vaz Té saw the Spanish custodian make two brilliant saves.

United were not so much on the ropes as being calculatedly lazy and laid back early on. Such tactics are always risky for a team schooled to play in a run-and-gun-style, however. Seventeen minutes in, after a lackadaisical Rooney lost the ball in the opposition box, Diamé stole away with the ball, and played a pair of one-twos with Jarvis, who fed Carroll. Carroll steamrollered Ferdinand, simply shrugging the veteran defender off before slipping the ball back out to Jarvis on the wing. The clever ex-Wolves winger then fired it back toward De Gea’s far post. Diamé met the ball, but fired only a mistimed chip toward goal. Meanwhile, brushing aside Evra, Carroll charged in, pushing the loose ball low toward Vaz Té, who dived to ground and forced a header past a flailing De Gea..

United were never on the ropes. per sé, but with Rooney poor up front and seemingly much less comfortable than in his masterful midfield display against Stoke at the weekend, Phil Jones and Michael Carrick were simply out hustled by Diamé and the ageless Kevin Nolan. When the equalizer did come, in the 30th minute, it was a bit of a surprise and definitely against the run of play. Mostly wasted on the left wing, Shinji Kagawa was finally cheeky enough to dance his way inside and pirouette hither and thither with the ball before flicking a perfect dish for a simple side-footed finish by Antonio Valencia from two feet out

In the second half, clearly coached by Ferguson to maintain their slow-build tactics with a view to wearing the Hammers to a frazzle, United slowly began to dominate the rest of the match. Yet football is a game full of ironies and despite owning the lion’s share of quality and possession, Fergie’s boys walked into a custard pie in the 55th minute when Vaz Tê and Guy Demel shucked and jived past a jelly-legged Evra before working the ball to a waiting Mohammed Diamé at the corner of the penalty area. Diamé spun in and around Rooney before casually firing an exquisite curved left-footed shot past De Gea to make it 2-1.

Dominant from then on, it was just a matter of time before Van Persie scored his 25th goal of the season. Just how Shinji Kagawa managed to nip into the box in the 77th minute and give Reid, Collins and Nolan the slip it’s difficult to tell. Nevertheless, a Kagawa shot bounced off James Collins, ricocheting off both posts before a marauding ever-so-slightly offside Robin Van Persie blasted home the equalizer. It was a bad call from the assistant referee but clearly far less shocking than the decision by the collected officials to repeatedly let Andy Carroll try to turn David De Gea into a vegetable. Indeed, it was sort of amusing to watch Sam Allardyce impersonate a red-faced toddler dispossessed of his toys in a way that we are more used to seeing happen with the Dark Lord Ferg on occasions.

With a Monday home game looming against Aston Villa at Old Trafford, United will be facing yet another team fighting for survival with its back to the wall. Coupled with a looming trip to the Emirates to face another favorite of the officials in a schizophrenic Arsenal side. Reaching a goal of 96 points still, somehow, seems to the least of our worries.

Most encouraging of all on a so-so day, however, was the splendid bravery of David De Gea. Battered and humiliated by Everon’s Marouane Fellaini in the first match of the season, the young Spaniard has gone through the process of a ruthless apprenticeship this season. Well and truly bullied by the gorilla-style tactics of Andy Carroll, De Gea took his punishment well, avoided retaliation and stood his ground. Still doubted by a few cynical blowhards, no doubt, De Gea looks to now have earned his laurels as an apt successor to the legendary Edwin Van Der Sar.

Apr 032013

Chelsea 1-0 Manchester United
cesc 1702785a The Wages of Apathy: Manchester United Stumble Out of the F.A.Cup at Stamford BridgeAfter playing a dire, miserable game of low-risk football, Chelsea and their manager Rafael Benïtez look forward to an F.A. Cup semifinal against Manchester City while a yawning Manchester United, clearly complacent about having the Premier League Championship completely locked up, looked hungrily toward returning home to their Cheshire mansions where they could text-message their brokers and read travel brochures. Outplayed and intimidated in equal parts, the whole nightmare scenario for millions of United fans worldwide was repeatedly personified in the way which both Michael Carrick and Tom Cleverley winced and turned their bodies aside rather than challenge Chelsea’s dynamic midfield enforcer, Obi Mikel Jon, who gave neither one any quarter in midfield. To fold, mutilate and spindle an old cliché: It’s not the fight in the poodle, but the poodle in the fight! And this poodle was a pussy!

Did somebody say this was going to be a classic dog fight? With Chelsea only 22 points behind United in the P.L.? As Russell Brand put it, Roman Abramovich had a harder time getting a crew of his thugs to help Boris Berezovsky hang himself than United gave Chelsea. Indeed, having given away a two goal lead to United in the first F.A.. Cup Quarterfinal game at Old Trafford, they deserve a lot of kudos. Such endurance is applaudable in a young team in transition, especially considering the disheartening loss of its fine young manager Roberto Di Matteo. and despite the hiring of a sad-sack yes-man hack manager in the rotund shape of Rafael Benitez, they have persevered. More often than not left to try and fail minus the presence of old-school leaders Frank Lampard and John Terry, they have found a new backbone in the tough-mindedness of Brazilians David Luiz and Ramires, who perform with a passion alongside the underrated Mikel. I mention all this not because I’m a Chelsea fan but because, by comparison, although United have a more or less an equal number of high-quality performers to the much celebrated Oscar, Eden Hazard and Juan Mata, we have no warriors of our own save a worn-down, psychologically-troubled Patrice Evra and the tiny Rafael Di Silva who can be admired when there is so much negativity swirling around the club.

Although others my disagree and find the winning of a 20th championship plenty of reward, any absurd notion that this United squad is up there by comparison with the treble-winning team of 1998-1999 is imbibing opiates.

One thing is for sure. It was an absolutely out of this world goal by Demba Ba which turned Stamford Bridge’s Easter Monday into a party and basically saw United instantaneously throw in the towel. Thus, four minutes into the second half, Juan Mata, who had looked tired and jaded throughout the first half, shimmied about with the ball in the left central corner of the box before firing an exquisite tumbling floater as he simultaneously ghosted his way around Rio Ferdinand. As good as this chipped beauty was, just how Ba managed to stretch his full body diagonally to reach the ball and manage to hook it on the volley past a fully extended David De Gea is amazing to contemplate.

Just how totally United capitulated after the goal was scored is shocking to contemplate, yet no more surprising than the aftermath of surrender against Real Madrid after the issuing of a red card by a nakedly biassed referee. The incident, although it’s only a few weeks back. seems like it has turned into United’s customized version of the movie Groundhog Day.Is it possible that our beloved club has been overwhelmed by the ascension of a dominant group of weak-minded quitters? Indeed, the post-match rantings of the team’s captain Patrice Evra, “I was certain we could not lose and I still do not believe it,” are the words of a man unfit for leadership, not the skipper of one of the world’s top football teams.

My bread and butter comes from analysis, so looking back at the first half surely offers clues. One is that Chelsea’s goalie, Peter Cech, made a stupendous save off Javíer Hernandez that defied the laws of gravity. How so sweet a cross from the otherwise consistently awful Nani reached little Chicharito after some deft interaction was put together by Carrick and Cleverley was marvelous to behold. The little Mexican’s header was an arching work of art, so how could it be that vast bulk of Cech was able to twist like a one-handed reflexive human pretzel and, miraculously, save the day(dare I say it?) like a captain.

And thus it was Cech’s monstrous hand that wrote on Sir Alex Ferguson’s wall. United have not won the F.A. Cup since 2004 and this showing has to have yanked the old man’s reality chain. I am not one for using the tiredness excuse but both Cleverley and Carrick have been forced to play too much now that Scholes seems to have finally lost the ability to play more than twenty minutes and Anderson suffers from the same problems of stamina and repeated injury. No wonder Carrick looks wiped out! Valencia, too, looked exhausted and Nani seemed intent on acting the fool, a sort of Cape Verdean manifestation of latter-day Mr. Beane. Phil Jones, who always looks like he’s on the verge of somehow doing something seemed lost in midfield, perhaps so intimidated by the effortless power and bullying assurance of Obi Mikel Jon that he became a passive observer.

Our brilliant puppy striker Danny Welbeck was all enthusiasm and no bite. As with playing for England earlier in the week, every time the lad would scoop up the ball and enter into his long stride, it felt like this time would be different. A lot is being made of Robin Van Persie’s run of bad luck in front of goal and perhaps he shouldn’t have started against Sunderland, but the kind of hard work and pure graft his attacking teammates put out there for him in the first two-thirds of the season is gone. Indeed, although there are already whispers that he will not be missed by the Gaffer if he leaves, the passion of the injured Wayne Rooney is irreplaceable. Without Rooney on his shoulder and no consistent service from Carrick, Young, Nani or Valencia, RVP seemed lost in search of balls that were never coming his way me. His one good chance was a volley which he blasted over the bar into the crowd in the 87th minute. Too little, too late.

Thus, a week from now, the derby game against Manchester City looks like it looms more important in the minds of its fans than their team. A loss to the sky-blue Abu Dhabian rent boys would definitely, at this point, hold more dread in it for those who truly love the club rather than those ho see it as just a receptacle for a paycheck.
cesc 1702785a The Wages of Apathy: Manchester United Stumble Out of the F.A.Cup at Stamford Bridge

Mar 192013

Manchester United 1-0 Reading
Rio Ferdinand 0061 Rios Revival!Manchester United’s match against Reading was like taking a duff date to dance. Could be your sister, your mother, your gran, your stepmother, Lidia Bastianich, Reading, Ragi Omar in drag or Dame Judi Dench. Well, yes, they did what was expected and played poor sad-sack rictus-riddled Reading, but, after a pathetic performance by Manchester City against Everton at Goodison, perhaps a bit more oomph and emotion had been expected. It was an easy, albeit plodding victory over a depressed, poor Reading side. Still a 1-0 win was enough. Enough to put them 15 points ahead of the sky-blue Abu Dhabian rent boys and two steps closer to a 20th League title. Of course, there are nine games left and a City comeback is still mathematically possible, but barely probable nevertheless. Should United win their next game against a relegation -zone mired Sunderland and City lose to a lowly ranked-but-resurgent Newcastle United, the red devils could feasibly clinch in the Derby match on April 8 at the Al-Itehad..

And United’s star of the evening? Well, David De Gea didn’t put a foot wrong; unfortunately, he had nothing top do but work on his English conversation skills with fans behind him in in the Stretford End. No, the galvanizing lord of the light and good was a certain veteran named Rio Ferdinand. The Peckham Kid, well and truly buoyed, it seems, having been recently recalled to the England squad after being involved in a long Wagnerian opera with its current and previous managers, Fabio Capello and Roy Hodgson, was involved in most of United’s clever connective play throughout. Indeed, having bemoaned Father Time’s slow asphyxiation of Rio’s capabilities as probably the most mobile centre-back in the world over the past fifteen as his wonky back and hamstrings have repeatedly betrayed him this season, I’ve been shocked at his recent return tio form andfitness.

Seven minutes in there was a sprint worthy of his mate Usain Bolt, as Ferdinand nicked the ball off Jobi McAnuff’s toe, took off, and then put in a superb fifty-yard seeing-eye-pass for a flying Ashley Young whose shot only narrowly went wide of Stuart Taylor.

Then, however, he took it to the next level when he created Wayne Rooney’s goal in the 21st minute. Indeed, his 20th minute energy surge, a 34-year-olds clever bit of stop-start running, as he backed up Gareth McCleary, surged past Mariappa, tapped a sweet ball to Wayne Rooney and bounced happily on his toes as the Scouse striker fired a bullet at goal which was deflected into the goal off stranded defender Alex Pearce. It was a sweet little ooh-ah moment for Rio, instant nostalgia as, like Ryan Giggs, he seemed to effortlessly throw off the shackles of age, back pain and jelly legs, for a fine minute or two of beautiful purity.

There were eight changes from the side which drew with Chelsea. Only Rooney, De Gea and Ferdinand took the field against nineteenth-placed Reading. With next week’s international break looming, United’s manager, Sir Alex Ferguson surely felt a sustained break could do the likes of Michael Carrick, Rafael Di Silva and Patrice Evra good. Much of the usual chit-chat on British sports radio has been taken up with discussion of just how much both physical and mental tiredness affected United’s Real Madrid and Chelsea results. Yet beyond the usual giggles about millionaire lifestyles, Wayne Rooney’s pack-of-fags-per-day habit and Ryan Giggs’ sex-life, there was something sad about pundits and fans on Talk Sports, et al ,whinging about the whinging coning from the Gaffer and Chelsea’s Rafa Benitez about players being tired. But with so many younger players from bothe clubs playing for G.B. at the Olympics, in international competition and the usual lack of a British winter break, there has to be a grain of truth in their exvuses. Are the squad all knackered, many fools ponder. If so, what’s the point of having a squad? And how come the constantly injured Anderson and Phil Jones seem exhausted also?

At any rate, aside from Hal Robson-Kanu’s 25-yard effort flying way wide and referee Lee Maon failing to blow for a Nemanja Vidic penalty area pushing foul on Adrian Mariappa. during a Nicky Shorey corner, Reading were mostly invisible. Named emergency manager after the firing of Brian McDermott in mid-week, Eamonn Dolan was like a man looking for a needle inside a haystack that had been tied to his back. Thus burdened, Dolan was smart enough not to get too excited when the warrior of the day, Rio Ferdinand, made a shamefully bad pass back to De Gea which Gareth McCauley picked off, but then, after a fine, tricky run, McCauley gave the ball away when faced down by Vidic and De Gea. That moment was Reading’s high water mark of the day: Welcome to the Premier League!

The second half was simply Dull. Much had been expected from Alexander Büttner and Anderson, but the only thing they were consistent about was giving the ball away. Büttner, Welbeck and Young all took shots before Robin van Persie botched a free-kick that Taylor saved. easily. Sir Alex Ferguson had only one uncomfortable surprise left up his sleeve when, after Ashley Young got into a painful collision with McCleary, he brought on Michael Carrick to shore up the midfield. Having told the press all week just how tired his midfield master was, the boss was worried enough about Reading stealing a draw that he took the route of least resistance and shut up shop.

“We must be vigilant,” Ferguson said after the game when he was asked about bringing on Carrick. “Horses for courses. We let our guard down collectively this time last year. I won’t allow it to happen again.”66434457 wayne rooney getty2 Rios Revival!