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Rooney Takes the High Road in Old Trafford Opener!

 Posted by on August 28, 2013 at 4:21 pm  Blogs/Media
Aug 282013

Manchester United 0-0 Chelsea
article 2403209 1B79B3E0000005DC 417 634x455 Rooney Takes the High Road in Old Trafford Opener! Although a lot of folks are complaining, this game was a pretty logical first game of cat and mouse between two cautious teams. It is way too early in the season for such a match to be any kind of masterpiece, anyway. The much heralded return of José Mourinho to Old Trafford was never ever even in the vicinity of the anticipated drama the gathered press had mooted. Both debutante United manager David Moyes and the Portuguese tacticians were remarkably quiet, whether seated or trolling the sidelines, neither one putting much of a crease in their expensive Saville Row suits.

It would be wrong to call this game boring. There were episodes of high-speed daring-do from both sides, but next to no clear-cut chances at all. Surprisingly, it was the very first 0-0 stalemate in 77 Premier League matches at Old Trafford, stretching back to April, 2007.

In a game played at a hiccup speed with sudden slow-downs and breathing breaks, it was more like a Welterweight championship bout without blood than full-tilt football. Preferring to go without a traditional striker like Torres, Ba or Lukaku, Chelsea concentrated on dominating a gummed-up central midfield, which forced yeoman, concentrated performances out of a United midfield featuring Cleverley, Carrick and a busy link-up-man-cum-striker in Wayne Rooney. Forced to work twice as hard against the relentless shifting gears engineered by the slaloming Oscar, Hazard, De Bruyne and Lampard, they were well up to the task. Had the three worked even half as diligently for Ferguson last year as they did for Moyes on the night, United would have clinched the Premier League championship much earlier. Of course, Juan Mata, who was omnipresent last season was on the bench for reasons only Mourinho knows; nevertheless., United played with the greater sense of swashbuckle between the two teams. Definitely more entertaining and attack-minded than Chelsea, United still lacked the kind of beautiful arrogance and composure on the bell that we expect to really make a difference in big games.

Neither Petr Cech nor David de Gea had to make a truly tough save. Out of the few chances created, United’s pressure was the more sustained. Yet Antonio Valencia could not dominate Ashley Cole as he has on other occasions. At the same time, a lackadaisical Eden Hazard had no heart for repeatedly dribbling his way around a spunky Phil Jones. With young Danny Welbeck playing on the left flank, his obvious discomfort level at having repeated bruising encounters with the Chelsea right back Bronislav Ivanovic was painfully obvious for the whole crowd. Forced to abandon the superb composure he showed against Swansea last week, Welbeck, having muffed a couple of clear-cut chances over the first fifteen minutes after superb set-ups from Rooney, never seemed able to get his mind into the game enough early, when it mattered most urgently. The stubborn enterprise he showed last week abandoned him against the West London team and he was more or less a passenger from then on.
United had a righteous call for a second-half penalty when Tom Cleverley fired a shot from the edge of the penalty box which struck Frank Lampard’s hand. Yet the referee, Martin Atkinson, waved away United’s appeals although the same offenses has already been punished multiple times this season and David Moyes referred specifically to the handball penalty Tottenham Hotspur won at Crystal Palace on the opening weekend at the post-game press conference.PA SOCCER Man Utd 2203139 6700393 5788490 Rooney Takes the High Road in Old Trafford Opener!

Both ‘new’ managers were offered massive applause by the crowd at Old Trafford and they spent a little time on the sidelines engaging in good-natured boyish banter. For Chelsea’s captain John Terry, having Mourinho along for the ride already seems to be paying dividends as the iron-hard old veteran was quietly competent alongside Gary Cahill at the heart of their defense. Their job, handling Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney, meant they had a job of work cut out for them. Rooney was a busy bee all night, covering every blade of grass–in spite of both sets of fans’ awareness that he has agitated for a move to the London club–filling in the spaces between United’s undermanned midfield and his Dutch partner. Indeed, despite looking grim all night, nobody could have doubted Rooney’s commitment on the night. Atypical of the Scouser’s will and desire was the play of the game when chased down a jinking Ramires in the 87th minute as, acting as a temporary left-back for a leggy Patrice Evra, he executed an exquisite slide-tackle, fully aware that the Brazilian was trying hard to manufacture a penalty out of losing possession. Unfortunately, his link-up play with Robin van Persie was null and void and it will be interesting to see whether Moyes will try them together again next week at Anfield or bring in a well-rested Shinji Kagawa. When football fans do the usual this Saturday and check football scores live they will certainly be hoping for a more exciting scoresheet than some of this weekends 0-0 results.

Meanwhile, Mourinho, well aware of the lack of mobility in Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand, played no strikers, hoping United would be vulnerable to the speed and trickery of Andre Schürrle, Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Oscar. Clearly, the Poruguese master coach feels no faith in Demba Ba or United’s long-time tormentor, Fernando Torres, making it very clear why he wants Wayne Rooney so much. For Davie Moyes it was somewhat of a tactical triumph in a game where possession was of the essence. And when ‘The Special One’ finally altered course an hour in, it was to bring on Fernando Torres instead of the callower powerhouse that is Romelo Lukaku. Having failed to even bring Ba along in the squad, Mourinho seemed like a bit of a ditherer. I look forward to the Stamford Bridge rematch when both sides’ kinks will have been ironed out.

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

Aug 122013

Manchester United 2-0 Wigan Athletic
Manchester Uniteds Nemanj 008 Manchester United Win the Community ShieldEverybody can say anything they want about United’s brand-new manager David Moyes. A mixture of fair, bad and indifferent may be all that the Glaswegian former Celtic center back has to recommend himself after the usual moneymaking tour, the relentless eggs-to-omelette journo drudge about the future of Wayne Rooney and the circus of rumor mill hijinx involving Thiago Alcantara, Cesc Fabregas and Cristiano Ronaldo. Instead, although the Lads did not play at all well, Manchester United got done what needed to be done and claimed their very first trophy of the 2013-14 season with a 2-0 win over a direly stodgy and physical Wigan Athletic side. It wasn’t pretty and most of it wasn’t United’s fault really. Wigan played like the guerilla warrior championship side they are now, fouling, packing the box, smothering the red devils every way they could. Thank Jah for United’s talismanic striker, Robin Van Persie, who actually had a pretty invisible game when he wasn’t there to do his brilliant predator’s job. Indeed, although these two goals don’t count toward the Golden Boot, the sleek Netherlander looks to be already on the correct mental track to retain his goalscoring award for a third consecutive season.

Van Persie only needed just six minutes to cheer the crowd with a beautifully taken header off a beautifully directed pass from Patrice Evra that left Wigan’s goalie Scott Carson, only just back in the Premier League from two seasons away in Turkey, clawing at empty air.

After so much riveting action in the first few moments, the game went awry. It was a stodgy performance at times from United and, after such an encouraging start, probably a surprise to Moyes, too. Michael Carrick was his usual elegant self, but the pass-and-move coupling of Welbeck and Giggs did not work. United have definitely missed the tempo supplied by Kagawa(or Rooney) behind whoever has been picked as the main striker thus far this season. Giggs, now into his 24th season, often looked like a Lost Boy, his aging legs not so much unequal to the task, but, rather, unable to work up any kind of understanding with an immature Welbeck, who can’t seem to get past his own on-field issues. With an aimless, sloppy Tom Cleverley giving the ball away repeatedly, all of United’s exploration and finesse fell to Evra, the fleet-footed Zaha, and, later, Januzaj.

Tenacious at least, Wigan had a new Scottish manager of their own and a mostly different line-up from a year ago. Wigan were even gifted a couple of clear chances thanks to the shockingly lax largesse of Chris Smalling and Phil Jones. Unfortunately, neither James McClean nor Emmerson Boyce, each left holding the ball, alone and unmarked, could get it together enough to attempt a proper shot on David De Gea’s goal.
The most rambunctious moments of the day involved a running handbag war between the large, testy Grant Holt and Nemanja Vidic. With the referee Mark Clattenburg clearly feeling benevolent and philanthropical after a few months off the job, Vidic got some payback for the series of cheap-shot elbows Holt thrust into the faces of Smalling, Jones and Evra. Holt may just be exactly what the Latics need to stay hungry in the Championship, but one can’t help be amazed that he didn’t land himself in more trouble during his sojourn in the Premier League with Norwich City.

The second half was more of the same as the first. What we call the Salford Grind. Finally, after much frustration for United, Evra, clearly trying to prove himself and prevent Moyes’ flirtation with Leighton Baines at Everton from being consummated, was involved in the second goal also. The Frenchman picked up the ball after Cleverley and Welbeck worked the ball down field and Evra, stranded far away from his allotted left back position, screened the ball for Van Persie. The ever ruthless striker hovered up the ball, pirouetted like thetre was radar in his head and let loose an awkward shot. The ball whizzed up at an awkward angle and it was unfortunate for Wigan that the ball bounced off James Perch, fooled a wrong-footed Carson and flew into the net. Manchester United v Wigan 005 Manchester United Win the Community Shield

That was all she wrote save for a number of failed stutters from both sides.The bad news of the day was a hamstring injury for Rafael Da Silva, who was only on the pitch for fifteen minutes before Chris Smalling was brought on and Phil Jones switched from centre-half to right-back. Unfortunately, he could be out for five weeks. Wilfried Zaha was also limping as he left the pitch in the second half after yet another short-lived Jeyll and Hyde performance. Zaha is shaping into something equal-parts awkward and brilliant. Always chasing the ball, he was aggressive, flash and repeatedly willing to take on men and use flicks and tricks to fool hos often much wiser opponents. Brilliant and frustrating in equal parts, be forewarned that he is bound to make dire mistakes in tandem with moments of utter sublimeness.

With the Community Shield now won, done and dusted, Moyes has now won the second trophy of his career after winning Division 1 with Preston North End in 1998-99. Nothing for it this week but training and tactics before next Sunday’s crucial starting match with Swansea City and–fingers crossed!–a wit bit of shopping.
Manchester United v Wigan 009 Manchester United Win the Community Shield

Sloppy in Sweden

 Posted by on August 8, 2013 at 1:42 pm  Blogs/Media, England, EPL, Manchester United
Aug 082013

AIK 1-1 Manchester United
1071027 17095790 640 360 Sloppy in SwedenForgive your old mum, but she’s right when she says this is not your father’s Manchester United. This is a different one! With all the gossip before the match focused on an ‘injured’ Wayne Rooney and the capricious flirtations of Cesc Fabregas, the match seemed to be barely an afterthought, which was a shame because the stadium was packed with Swedish United fans in their red devil regalia. United weren’t altogether bad, per sé, but their collective disorganization against a far less talented but tactically savvy AIK team already well into their season, did not lift the heart. With so many coaching changes, yet so few alterations in the basic playing squad, the pressure to succeed often and early in a season which begins with matches against their big rivals Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City piled up early, fans are very very nervous.? What they saw from Sweden was not comforting.

When the game finally started, it was played at a surprisingly frenetic tempo with both sides keen to exploit the flanks and AIK’s wingers particularly focused on exploiting Patrice Evra’s aging legs and lack of mobility. Their Kenyan workhorse, Martin Kayongo-Mutumba, repeatedly switched flanks and gave both Evra and his partner Rafael a terribly torrid time. Ironically, United were using the same tactics and Nani–the subject of thousands of transfer rumors these days–was at his sharpest. Dribbling hither and thither and more aggressive than he’s been in years, the Cape Verdean tortured his markers also and was the first to create a chance as he found Wilfried Zaha inside the box. Unfortunately, the nervous new boy blasted his shot way wide of the goal.

A hungry Robin Van Persie then came close, zipping in off the right flank after being found by Rafael, but chipped a low shot inches wide of the post. Another beautiful run by Nani then set up a speeding Van Persie, but his left-footed shot was brilliantly saved by a flying Kenny Stamatopoulos. Then, with the game going end to end, it was United’s keeper, Anders Lindegaard’s chance to make a spectacular save as the bothersome Martin Kayongo-Mutumba did good work to pick up a long clearance from his goalie before firing a vicious corkscrew of a shot which the Danish custodian had to stretch his full body to stop. In turn, Lindergaard’s long clearance was then carried into the box by Evra, who passed neatly to a lone Van Persie who fluffed a simple chance by hitting it off his laces.

AIK v Manchester United Robin van Persie 2983432 Sloppy in SwedenAs the first half came to a close, United’s midfield triumvirate of Anderson, Carrick and Giggs seemed to lose their energy. And when a sloppy Giggs allowed Kennedy Igboananike, to steal the ball off his toe and make a fine, jinky run into their penalty area, United’s back four looked slow and exceedingly weak. Luckily, with Lindegaard advancing to block him and with all the time in the world to score, Mutumba blasted the ball way wide. Indeed, AIK carried their aggression into the second half and took a shocking lead out of nowhere as Robin Quasion swiveled around from twenty yards out and let loose a stunning howitzer of a shot which left United’s substitute goalie Ben Amos stranded before hurtling into the net.

At this point, United woke up from their nap. The goal appeared to snap United into action and they responded almost immediately when Vidic rose to meet a clever Giggs corner. missed scoring by just a whisper as Vidic rose to head home. His powerful header bounced on the six yard line before ricocheting back into the upright and over the crossbar. Then after, Davie Moyes brought on three different substitutes, United tied the match up as a Zaha pass across the face of goal was forced home by a sliding Angel Henriquez. And minutes later, the Chilean wunderkind almost scored his second as, all set up by Robin Van Persie, he tried to switch feet before shooting and got his footwork mixed-up before flubbing a weak shot.

Ultimately, despite seizing the initiative, United’s late pressure game could not produce the expected winner as substitute Danny Welbeck botched a simple toe prod past sub goalie Patrik Carlgren and Persie overdid a simple header from six yards out that went over the AIK bar.

Thus far toothless up front and exceedingly lead-footed at the back, United’s brain trust of Phil Neville and Steve Round behind David Moyes has its work genuinely cut out. Losing Jonny Evans and Nani to injury during this game was not useful, especially as Nani looked like a player who has finally decided to put aside his predilections for cynicism and selfishness. There’s never been any doubt about his talent, but, on the night, he genuinely looked like a committed member of the team who does not want to ply his trade elsewhere. An injured Jonny Evans means more playing time for Chris Smalling and Phil Jones next to Rio and Nemanja. With money clearly not available to buy Ezequiel Garay, these two need to turn it up a notch or two if they wish to remain at the club.AIK v Manchester United Anderson 2983434 Sloppy in Sweden

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 222013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 102013

Sir Alex Ferguson 002 Sir Alex Ferguson: Goodbye Big Boss Man & Amen!
A lot of pundits and so-called football experts have been composing what are tantamount to eulogies and obituaries. Well, let me tell you, the rum old bugger is not dead yet and, even though his successor, David Moyes, might wish it so, it’s never far from the boardroom to the manager’s office. I’m not going to bore you with one more inventorial itemization of the honors he’s won. If you need stats and facts go to your search engine. What’s amazing to me is the way he outlasted all the other great ones. Of course, the ultimate swan song is dying on the job. like Jock Stein being stretchered off while managing Scotland with our young dearly beloved Fergie at his side as assistant. That was what I hoped wouldn’t happen to him, and didn’t. Jock Stein was 62, but it seems all of Fergie’s other influential elders and contemporaries jacked it in early. Matt Busby quit at 62, Bill Shankly at 60; fired by Everton at 60, Harry Catterick died an embittered geezer of 65; Bob Paisley killed by the stress of success at 64; Brian Clough, an alcoholic wreck of 58. Take a look at photographs of any of them after their pomp, and , like being the President of the United States, the stress of the job shows on their faces early. Being a manager then was hard. The money now is much bigger, but being a manager now is even more debilitating. Yet, at 71, despite carrying a pacemaker in his chest and a looming hip replacement, “Mr. Glaswegian hatchet-face” as journo James Richardson likes to call him, looks bloody good. Anyone who’s ever watched a United match knows that Ferguson could clearly be a nervous or angry man. Yet he always had a sort of zen-like gift of being able to compartmentalize his feelings in a manner the his aforementioned colleagues couldn’t.

I try to imagine these last few days before his final match as he drives into Old Trafford past his own statue and that of Sir Matt Busby. The Routine. 6:50 a.m. every morning. As regular and reliable as clockwork. I think it’s going to be a lot harder on him than us. And the temptation to be be like Sir Matt in dealing with McGuinness and O’Farrell. You can talk all the talk all you want about “my door is always open,” but all the well-meaning rhetoric in the world more often than not clashes with the reality of that old cliché that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Indeed, Mr. Moyes may leave his door wide open, but that doesn’t sincerely mean that he wants a visit from the Gaffer. So what will He do? Married to a job for that long and so bloody good at it. What will He do?

My cousin in Glasgow has already messaged me predicting the imminent resignation of wee Gordon Strachan. One last campaign looms, he insists, where, like William Wallace, the old general reunites the clans and having failed to qualify for the World Cup tournament in Brazil, leads his national team to glory in Qatar at 80 years-of-age. Nice idea if you’ve got the horses, of course, but I fear Scotland barely has the carts these days. Sad!

I think the picture of Sir Alex Ferguson that I want to keep in my head is the one of his sadness after losing to Real Madrid at Old Trafford in March. Never mind the ref being bent, or the lads desire disintegrating almost instantaneously after Luka Modric’s fabulous equalizer. What I see now in armchair retrospect is the disappointed loss of a defeated gambler, one who already knew that this was his very last game ever in European competition and that he’d have to settle for only winning it twice.

Goodbye Gaffer, but not farewell. Work on your golf swing and your French. Buy some more gee-gees! Count your dosh and then make some more. I’m going to miss you! And for the Haters. Those who didn’t like him because of his success or because he didn’t tolerate fools or maybe because he wasn’t the world’s nicest person or any of a thousand other reasons… You’re going to miss him! Indeed, I think you have no clue at all as to just how much youre going to miss him.
Sir Alex Ferguson patrols 002 Sir Alex Ferguson: Goodbye Big Boss Man & Amen!

May 092013

143252584 1876000 Changing Tracks at Old Trafford

After spending two hours drafting an article on Manchester United last night I thought I had a good bead on the team’s emotions and where it would be going after the season. I had felt that this season that they were a tad too businesslike, that the shine of winning the Premier League had lost its luster. The reaction of the team and its fans at the end of the Aston Villa match was subdued, nowhere near the same level of hysteria that I had seen in previous years. I was going to write at length about how the team had almost grown beyond the Premier League, that only Champions League glory would satisfy Sir Alex Ferguson and the squad. That of course all went out the window yesterday morning with the retirement of Sir Alex. While it would be easy to say that Manchester United will simply hire one of world football’s top managers and keep on trucking, it is not that simple. The Manchester United that we have all come to know and love (and some of us hate) is gone. It is now David Moyes turn to run the Red Devils and his ability to cope with the expectations and history of this club will dictate their ability to move on from the era of Sir Alex.

The closest thing that I can remember for a lion of the game retiring was when Michael Jordan retired from the Chicago Bulls in 1994 and in 1998. When a team loses such a staple there are only two options: try to replace the piece and keep pushing or rebuild. During Jordan’s first retirement, the Bulls made a go of it making it to the Eastern Conference Finals before finally losing to the Knicks. After his second retirement, which also saw their Head Coach Phil Jackson and future Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen also leave, ownership decided to rebuild and the team finished with a record of 13-37, one of the worst in NBA history. This is the price of success. While Manchester United has been able to cycle through players through the years and rebuild when it is necessary, it was always done under Sir Alex’s watch.

Although I do not think that Manchester United will see a drop-off of the level of the Chicago Bulls, the fact of the matter is that there will be a drop-off. No one can do what Sir Alex Ferguson did for 27 years. Managing the demands of an ownership group like the Glazer family, while dealing with the expectations of a storied club like Manchester United is difficult. When you add in the egos of players who earn tens of thousands of dollars a week, it can be almost unbearable. Finding someone who can meet all of these challenges is difficult. It requires a certain type of personality. I may loathe the New York Yankees, but I have always thought that Joe Torre was probably the best baseball manager I have ever seen. It takes a certain sort of personality to manage a team like the New York Yankees or Manchester United. You have to be cool under pressure, able to work with difficult personalities that do not always mesh, and deal with ungodly expectations. These are billion dollar franchises that have fans in every continent that expect championships. Not a winning season, championships. Joe Torre knew this, Sir Alex Ferguson knew this. Does David Moyes know this? Time will tell.

While this club has too much talent to not finish in the top four next year, and probably the year after that, it is their long-term future that is in question. Moyes’ relationship with the Glazers will be critical in how this team evolves. This is a team whose core is aging in all of the wrong places. Patrice Evra is 31. Nemanja Vidic is 31 and has been devastated by injuries. Rio Ferdinand is 34. Ryan Giggs is 39. Paul Scholes is 38. In the coming years, United will have to replace all of these players through their youth system or through transfers. But how does one replace Ryan Giggs? How do you find playing minutes for all of your veteran players? Is Tom Cleverley the future for Manchester United at midfield? These are the types of questions that the next manager will have to answer.

The other question is how much time will the next manager be given to create their own system within Manchester United? Most managers that coach a club like Manchester United work on a very short leash, and can be fired on a coach’s whim. During Sir Alex’s time with the club, Real Madrid has had 24 managers, Inter Milan has had 19, Chelsea has had 14, Bayern Munich has had 14, and AC Milan has had 14. Every decision that the next manager makes will be compared to Sir Alex Ferguson and what he would have done. It appears based off of the Glazers history with the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers (only four coaches in 16 years) that they do show patience with their managers and allow them some time to implement their system. But this is still a results-driven sport and whomever takes over will not only have the expectations of the fans and ownership to contend with, but the legacy of one of, if not the, greatest coach in professional sports history. Moyes was given a lot of time to develop his vision of Everton Football club and managed a team that had far lower expectations.

With Manchester Unite, David Moyes is going to have the opportunity to coach some of the best players in the world and will have access to infinite resources to win titles both in England and Europe. They will also have to contend with tremendous egos and a fanbase that expects a victory during every match. Replacing Sir Alex Ferguson as a person is easy. Replacing his history and his C/V is another story.