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Nov 062013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oct 212013

Manchester United 1-1 Southampton
67cf655ee347eece0980e422ddfcb6986714d6301 Moyes Muppets Bollix it Up Again!Disappointment again for Manchester United and their fans, as, having fallen asleep at the wheel toward the end of the match, the red devils gave up a soft goal from a corner with only one minute to go in regular time. Truth be told, it was nothing better or worse than the single point they earned and deserved. Maybe United were a tad unlucky having hit the post twice, but the level of concentration, desire and heart a champion needs is not being found, either individually or collectively by their manager David Moyes, his coaches or the players. When all was said and done, Moyes’ ‘tactics’ proved null and void, United did not play with any heart and their youthful opponents did.

Before the match, United’s 18-year-old wing wünderkind, Adnan Januzaj, inked a five year contract and had a press conference accompanied by Moyes and the club’s money man, Ed Woodward. This was about as good as the day was going to get. Januzaj made a fantasy day of his first start two weeks ago against Sunderland when he scored both goals; unfortunately, lightning did not strike twice. Although we all knew that the kid had helped temporally paper over some severe cracks in United’s team, especially a desperately poor defense, quality will tell and United just don’t have it. Having sat on the lead and squandered too many opportunities, it seemed to be an inevitable moment of justice when Adam Lallana wiped out United’s complacent lead with a tap-in after a late corner.

Januzaj was in the thick of things from the beginning, not the least of which was being blatantly sent flying by a studs-up Nathaniel Clyne. Still, aside from a lot of nice dribbling and a couple of killer passes into empty space, Januzaj and his partner, right winger Nani got little succor from their strikers, Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie. Januzaj’s third effort, however, did the trick. His perfectly weighted through ball found a slightly offside Wayne Rooney with only the goalkeeper to beat. The referee Michael Jones did not blow his whistle, though, and Southampton’s goalie Artur Boruc made a fine save from Rooney, but had no chance of retrieving when Robin van Persie moved wide and slammed home the rebound in the 26th minute.

It was only the third goal Southampton have conceded this season, which is pretty impressive considering the PL season is already eight matches in. The Saints showed grit and good organization, proving that the point they earned at Anfield before the international break was no fluke. Had they known how to score goals also, they might well have given United another hammering. Atypically, their sole big ticket item, striker Dani Osvaldo–repeatedly given the run of the box by a reticent Jonny Evans–botched a true sitter when Rooney lost possession close to his own box. Lucky for United, Osvaldo froze in front of goal and fired a mild shot that David De Gea saved easily.

Although there was some fairly decently entertaining end-to-end stuff from both sides in the first half, the second half was mostly flat and lame as both Rooney and Osvaldo missed more chances early in. How Rooney missed an exquisite Nani pass in the 73rd minute is beyond all ken. Then again, why Nani was denied a penalty after being yanked down by Luke Shaw in the penalty area on two separate occasions only referee Mike Jones will ever know. With bookings at a premium this season, one of the main differences between the two teams, was United’s team-wide reticence to get stuck in with their tackling. Marouane Fellaini, who was shouldered with much of the blame for United’s lame performance by assorted pundits, seemed terribly reticent to throw full force into his blocks and tackles. As this is the main reason the big Belgian was brought in, one can only conjecture that Moyes gave very clear instructions to his team not to foul. Unfortunately, manager Mauricio Pocchetino’s Saints/ showed no such squeamishness.

All in all, deep into the second half, the game was still in the balance, within Southampton enjoying the lion’s-share of possession, when Van Persie headed a Rooney corner on to the crossbar, Later, Januzaj executed a swerving shot from 25 yards that Boruc made a fantastic save of. Even the disappointing Marouane Fellaini missed a rebound after collecting a rebound on the edge of the penalty area. In between these efforts Southampton kept the ball and stayed in the game with nothing but hard work and much running. Indeed, over the last fifteen minutes or so–Fergie’s old squeaky-bum time–Southampton definitely finished the stronger. as Lallana and Clyne both forced fantastic late saves from De Gea. Thus when the super-lunged Clyne won a late corner, substitute James Ward-Prowse’s effort saw the centre-back pairing of Phil Jones and Jonny Evans standing around casually, leaving Southampton’s centre-half Dejan Lovren to divert it towards goal and the completely unmarked Saints’ captain Adam Lallana to toe-poke the equalizer home.

United are now eight points behind the league leaders Arsenal. This is not good! Moyes may well ponder the calm, relaxed manner in which Morgan Schneiderlin and Victor Wanyama pulled the strings in midfield, while the selfless leadership and relentless running from Lallana meant Saints always had the kind of options United never had. With all the fuss about the fiendish training methodology utilized by Moyes and Round, one can’t help but wonder about what keeps happening late in every game. United have only had two wins in seven matches. and the transfer window in January still seems a long long way away. A slow Stoke City are up next in the Premier League and, normally, a sense of cautious confidence would be the order of the day. Nothing could be further from the truth right now, however, as our perfidious old boy, Sparky Hughes, and his band of oversize warriors will be bound and determined to catch us at a low ebb.
Robin van Persie of Manch 006 Moyes Muppets Bollix it Up Again!

Oct 042013

Shakhtar Donetsk 1-1 Manchester United
Shakhtar Donetsk v Manche 007 Davieball At the DonbassManchester United got it done for the very first time this season. They may not have won the game and been only able to muster a single shot on the Donetsk goal; nevertheless, they acquitted themselves well. They were disciplined, communicative and full of fight: Everything they have not been since the beginning of the season. For the disgruntled United fans out there who don’t like new manager David Moyes’ tactics, it won’t be much of a comfort at all, but this is the kind of strategy that impressed his predecessor, Sir Alex Ferguson in the first place. It’s what my Everton fan mate, Stocker Stew, calls ‘Davieball.’ Led by a surprisingly motor-mouthed, tough tackling, well-rested captain, Nemanja Vidic, United were determined to get the job done away from home against the solid Ukrainian champions, and did so. Coming out of Donetsk with a point, in spite of the beautiful stadium’s loud, raucous partisan fans, was a fine achievement. Actually, save for the one superbly taken equalizing goal from the talented Taison in the 76th minute, United nearly got away with a cheeky bit of smash-and-grab.

United’s pre-match prep was not helped by another training-ground injury to Wayne Rooney. The club’s stand-out performer of the season thus far suffered a shin injury on the eve of the game. Rooney’s absence took the number of changes to the United team beaten by West Bromwich Albion on Saturday to nine. Only David de Gea and Michael Carrick remained from the third defeat in four Premier League matches. United kept it compact and disciplined from the start, clearly focused on muting Shakhtar’s high-quality Brazilian front line led by the buccaneering Douglas Costa and Taison. Fellaini, Carrick and Cleverley kept their shape in central midfield, although their dreadful passing patterns–so very, very predictable throughout–did them no favors at all. With Patrice Evra pinned back by the pure speed of Dario Srna and Taison, Danny Welbeck and Antonio Valencia were more auxiliary wing backs than support for a lonesome Robin Van Persie.

Shakhtar remained equally as cautious in the first half. The tricky Costa and Luiz Adriano each did well to dispossess Fellaini a couple of times deep in the Donetsk half, allowing the home side to break forward unimpeded. Rafael da Silva could barely cope with Costa and he found Adriano, whose low cross teased its way across De Gea’s six-yard box but found nobody, a handful also. Then United got a moment of maximum luck when Cleverley clearly caught Alex Teixeira late inside the penalty area. Fortunately, the referee, Pavel Kralovec, dismissed Shakhtar’s appeals for a spot kick.

70245734 70245537 Davieball At the DonbassCleverley created United’s first chance of the match when he chipped a high pass over Shakhtar’s central defence for Van Persie. The Dutchman shifted to his right and unleashed a trademark shot with his left, only to see the ball rise over Andriy Pyatov’s crossbar. Fellaini had problems keeping possession early on, but his presence began to tell later in the match as, playing with his back to the opposition goal, the Belgian warrior wore them down with his tackling and ability to fill in midfield holes. He may indeed not look like 30 million quid, but, once he gets used to his teammates, his kind of obstinate, albeit often awkward, determination is going to be a major factor in breaking down opponents late.

Eighteen minutes into the first half, Rafael’s throw-in found Fellaini, who muscled away his marker, crossing low to the near post where Shakhtar’s big awkward center-back Yaroslav Rakitskiy lost his footing. Welbeck then managed to slip inside unmarked and softly flick home Fellaini’s delivery beyond Pyatov into the far corner of the net. The loud Donbass Arena fell silent, except, of course, for the freezing United fans up high in the cheap seats.

The Ukrainians enjoyed the majority of possession without ever giving De Gea much trouble. Fellaini and Vidic both went into the referee’s book in rapid succession for professional fouls on Taison and Costa respectively, both fouls presenting Shakhtar’s captain, Dario Srna, with direct free-kick opportunities from 25 yards out. One that he smashed into United’s wall, another which was wasted. Fellaini was withdrawn shortly afterwards and his replacement, Ryan Giggs, playing in the 145th game in the Champions League surpassed Raul’s record number of appearances in the competition. The big-hearted Donbass crowd, in spite of their team loyalty, stood up and gave Giggsy a long round of passionate applause.

United held fast with nine men behind the ball and really looked like they might pull off a famous away victory until the 75th minute when the Shakhtar’s big central defender Rakitskiy, out to make up for his crucial early mistake, strode down the left flank and fired a cross into the heart of United’s box. Vidic managed to block it, but it got away from him, bouncing to Taison who beat De Gea with an unblockable rocket into the roof of the net from 12 yards out. Six minutes later, Taison almost scored again with a deflected shot off Smalling but De Gea reacted brilliantly, tipping it over the bar.

When the whistle blew, the relief on David Moyes’ ruddy face was there for everybody to see. A good, albeit not great, evening’s work.Shakhtar Donetsk v Manche 011 Davieball At the Donbass

Sep 232013

Manchester City 4-1 Manchester United
Marouane Fellaini David D 001 Hammered in AncoatsManchester United have now mustered only seven points from their opening five games. It’s the club’s worst start since their 2004-05 campaign when they had six and ended up finishing third, 18 points behind Chelsea. A downcast David Moyes put it this way to the gathered jackals of Fleet Street. “I just told the players the way I would have told players at any other club if I don’t think they’re doing it. They’re good players, they’re good pros, they know when they’re bang at it and when they’re not.” Say oo-what? “Every manager has bad results. I’m no different. Manchester City were the better team, they got control in the early part and we found it difficult to contain them. I thought as the first half edged on we started to get back into the game a little bit more but unfortunately lost the second goal right on half-time. I’m disappointed we didn’t perform because there was no reason.”

Nemanja Vidic confessed that United were “Never in it. From the first minute, City tried to be aggressive and had more possession in the first 20 or 30 minutes,” the United captain said. “We didn’t really get in the game from the first minute. This is what we have to try to learn from. We can’t look back. It’s horrible to lose the derby. It’s always horrible. It’s worse when you lose in this way, 4-0 down. We were never close to winning the game.”

With striker Robin van Persie begging off with a groin problem, and Moyes choosing not to call upon Shinji Kagawa, Wilfried Zaha or Adnan Januzaj, there was the atmosphere of one of those ecstacy-fed zombie rave parties in the United camp after the match. Aside from Wayne Rooney and a captain who never once walked his talk in the slightest, United seemed neither upset nor humiliated. City’s captain, Vincent Kompany put it best,”Maybe the game meant a little bit more to us than for them. We were looking forward to this fixture. We need to win these kind of games. There was no reason why we should fear the opposition.”

The truth is that City’s key players on the day, Yaya Touré, Fernandinho, Jesús Navas, Samir Nasri, Alvaro Negredo and Sergio Agüero, simply humiliated United. In United’s new ‘system,’ featuring a pair of central holding midfielders in a 4-2-3-1 formation, is the notion that each one, depending on the vicissitudes of the game, will exchange roles when it comes to being more attack-minded. This was okay against Crystal Palace last week and even the fair quality midfield of Bayer’s Rolfes and Bender in the midweek ECC match, but was utterly useless against City. Moyes must clearly make his mind up in big games just who exactly will be his main holding midfielder. In these early days of Fellaini’s career at the champions, he appears to be a first choice for Moyes over Carrick. Fellaini who, in many ways, was bought as an antidote to the likes of Yaya Touré and Mohammed Diamé of West Ham United, who boss their teams as holding midfielders and yet are able to shift gears and exchange roles with Fernandinho and Mark Noble, there’s no comfort in this position yet. He’s a natural square passer, whereas Carrick is one for long probing balls on the days when his game is working. This will obviously take a while to gel, or, in a bad scenario like tonight’s match, may never work at all. Doubtless, City performed really well, especially in the first half, but Moyes needs to fasten his seat belt and place an airbag over his groin area because he is about to undergo a lot of serious scrutiny over the next few days, not the least of which will involve Sir Alex Ferguson as he finally enters the boardroom after recovering from hip surgery. The aforementioned baying jackals of Fleet Street who have already torn Paolo Di Canio to pieces, now have Jose Mourinho and Our Moyesie in their sights.

City played with great energy from the get-go. They were all movement and penetration, something United could not find. They pressed and harassed United when they didn’t have the ball and made their careful passing count, performing like a team who were embarrassed to have gifted the title of champion United’s way last season. They harried and chased and, when they had the ball, made great use of it. The humiliation began in the 16th minute with a fine example of Kun Agüero’s extemporaneous craft. When a lazy Antonio Valencia did not notice Aleksandar Kolarov’s overlapping run from left-back. Nasri’s clever little flick left a slack-jawed Chris Smalling marooned on his own in a ton of space at right-back. The clever little Argentine striker then twisted himself like a pretzel, raised his left foot and somehow volleyed home Kolarov’s cross.

United’s skipper, Nemanja Vidic, raged righteously at Valencia for making the most fundamental of errors, but then he did exactly the same thing himself as he and his sidekick, Rio Ferdinand, like an aging burlesque slapstick team trading custard pies to the mush made a bollix out of it all. With both repeatedly repeatedly losing the ball through risky passes executed in the six yard box, the lion’s share of coverage fell to the shell-shocked Marouane Fellaini and Michael Carrick, who, instead of shielding United’s defense, came a cropper in every clash with Fernandinho and Touré.

Yet, somehow, United hung in there. Playing like a Sam Allardyce team, making long boots out from the box and giving away scores of throw-ins. A second goal was inevitable, however, and in the 46th minute, just into injury time, they gave away their sixth corner. Nasri aimed for Alvaro Negredo and Smalling leapt sideways to intercept. Instead, he blocked off a jumping Vidic while Fellaini, who was supposed to be marking Touré, also leapt high for the ball. Free as a bird, Yaya Touré sprinted to the far post, and had no trouble tapping home Alvaro Negredo’s knockdown.

2-0 down at the interval, United were expected by all and sundry to come out with a war face for the second half. Instead they collapsed and capitulated. Three minutes in, Ferdinand seemed to be in the midst of a conversation with Samir Nasri, leaving Agüero completely unmarked in the midst of a packed box to make it 3-0. Then, seconds later, Evra lost Nasri, who had the presence of mind to feint on Smalling before meeting Jesús Navas’s cross and curving it home past a stranded David De Gea.

City took their foot off the accelerator then and were content to gum up the midfield and stage sporadic counterattacks. Luckily, David Silva was injured and City’s new striker, Alvaro Negredo, who took turns giving fits to both Vidic and Ferdinand, missed at least four sitters. Their heroes for the day, beyond the unstoppable presence of Yaya Touré, was the shifting partnership of Jésus Navas and Nasri who traded positions at will. While Chris Smalling, clearly uncomfortable at right-back, simply quit early on, poor Patrice Evra simply played like an Alzheimer’s victim, unable to compute Navas and Nasri’s adaptability. As Moyes clearly doesn’t trust Alexander Büttner or Fabio to play at left-back, Evra is just as clearly now sport for even the weakest clubs in the PL.

United did get one back from an exquisitely taken Rooney free kick late on, but his lack of celebration said it all. His beautiful free kick made him the leading scorer of all time in Manchester derbies with eleven. Rooney carried United’s burden alone and no one was surprised when he got too emotional and was booked for an unnecessarily hard challenge on City captain Vincent Kompany. Rooney has been criticized a lot over the past few months, not least by yours truly, but he burned with an overt desire absent in everybody else on the team.

Although there was a certain kind of one-off freaky-deakiness about United’s horrible 6-1 loss at Old Trafford two seasons ago, there was no such aura here. Manchester City and its new boss, Manuel Pellegrini, gave David Moyes a nose-rubbing in his own poo. Moyes, who never won a derby at Liverpool in all his eleven years as Everton manager, will surely prove to own a few virtues in the coming weeks against more ordinary opposition. Clearly also, unless the club makes a complete nose-dive, he will not be fired in the immediate future. The minority of fans who already have a Facebook page demanding his ouster will not get much attention or satisfaction for the time being. What concerns me far less than losing to good teams is the team’s lack of bottle and grit for the games against Liverpool and Manchester City. It really is worrisome!
David Moyes 008 Hammered in Ancoats

Sep 192013

69902634 69902633 An Improving United Battle Past BayerNever mind Wayne Rooney reaching the landmark of 200 goals for Manchester United or the new manager David Moyes making a victorious start start to his first Champions League group play. This was the Manchester United we know and love. Score four goals: One dead jammy! Give up two home goals out of sheer bloody-minded laxity. Moments of utter bliss coupled with pub team slovenliness. “Who’s that team we all adore?”

Although Wayne Rooney may be a pain in the arse: Someone we see a train wreck in wait for somewhere in the infinite distance. All is now definitely forgiven! After all kinds of soap opera machinations at the start of the season–not all of which were his fault, to be sure, Rooney has gone into the second month of the season on fire. On the night, while covering every slippery blade of grass at Old Trafford, he was downright inspirational. 4-2 looks simply like a successful win, but the truth is that Bayer Leverkusen really were comfortably beaten. The main reason was the Scouser striker. Still covering up a head wound with a toweling bandage—an injury that had kept him out of the club’s defeat at Liverpool and England’s draw in Ukraine–Rooney put the red devils ahead in the 22nd minute.

Leverkusen felt Van Persie was offside by the corner flag in the build up, but then had a mass hissy-fit when, with the referee’s assistant standing directly in front of of the incident, he failed to spot Valencia, standing in a clearly offside position as he tried to block Bayer’s keeper Bernd Leno’s line of view. This allowed Rooney to charge in and push a Patrice Evra cross home. And despite Bayer’s righteous protests, the referee allowed the goal to stand.

69902694 hi019338987 An Improving United Battle Past BayerThis was Rooney’s 200th goal for United, he now stands fourth in line as part of the clubs goalscoring history behind Jack Rowley at 211, who he will certainly catch this season, Denis Law at 237, and, at 249, Sir Bobby Charlton.

United were uneven for the rest of the half, still prone to give the ball away to the German team’s hard-pressing midfield. Indeed, Leverkusen showed signs of life after Rooney’s goal, although Simon Rolfes seemed to miss the presence of his usual sidekick, Sven Bender, who stayed on the bench until the second half. Still, despite some ragged passing, it was definitely United, with Marouane Fellaini patrolling midfield with a kind of effortless majesty on his full debut, who were well in control and creating the better chances, as Rooney went just slightly off target with a free-kick and Shinji Kagawa’s shot was deflected just wide by Leno.

Still, nobody was even slightly surprised when a casual United defense made a hash of getting a loose ball out of their penalty box in the 54th minute. A slipshod pass from Rio Ferdinand didn’t make it to Patrice Evra and Leverkusen’s captain, Simon Rolfes, was there to volley home beautifully from fifteen yards out to make it 1-1.

This was just the bit of a scare United needed. It took a while, though. Another sixteen minutes before Robin van Persie’s acrobatic volley allowed them to grab the lead again, It was only justice after United had attacked the Germans in wave after relentless wave. The sitter Rooney missed after collecting a long De Gea kick and casually rounding Leno was a gob-smacker. The two wide open, gaping chances Van Persie missed after exquisite set-ups from Valencia and Carrick were a shocker, too. But then Rooney did it again, twice. Firing one home at the near post minutes later after ghosting past a tired but static Bayer defense as a clever Valencia pass found him. Rooney then set up another for Antonio Valencia with a pass weighted to perfection, allowing the Ecuadorian winger all the time in the world to make long diagonal strides into the box before firing home in the 79th minute.

Omer Toprak’s late second goal for Bayer was the result of another slipshod pass from Rio Ferdinand coupled with a slow-witted lack of concentration from an otherwise faultless David De Gea and an accidental deflection off Carrick. One of these years the defense will get it together early in the season, I pray.

Along with finally seeing a return of confidence and form in Antonio Valencia and witnessing the superb quick feet and awesome passing skills of Shinji Kagawa, Moyes will clearly feel happy to be finally receiving the benefits of United’s truculent refusal to do business with Chelsea. Here was the evidence that the club’s early season stance was righteous in spite of much criticism. It was also good strategy for Moyes to substitute Rooney late with Hernandez. The two clearly did not act out any kind of rapprochement as the striker left the field, but the crowd, which stood up en masse for him, and its passionate applause lasted for minutes and surely reiterated to our sensitive Scouser that he really is truly adored by the majority. Well, of course, there was crusty Sir Alex Ferguson, who remained glued to his padded seat, but he’s just had hip surgery!
38891b15 8e82 4710 9b70 a24542fee75b 140x841 An Improving United Battle Past Bayer

Januzaj Makes Scorching Debut

 Posted by on September 16, 2013 at 11:02 am  Blogs/Media, England, Manchester United
Sep 162013

Manchester United 2-0 Crystal Palace
69846755 rooney pa2 Januzaj Makes Scorching Debut

All hail the new wonder kid! On the Fiftieth anniversary of the day when a fine-boned Belfast B’y by the name of George Best made his debut for Manchester United against West Bromwich Albion, a new kid with the number 44 on his back popped up like a mealy worm out of an apple. Having witnessed both miracles in the flesh (so to speak!), let me tell you, dear reader, that this new kid, a certain Adnan Januzaj, a brilliant Belgian winger of Albanian extraction, is about as the Real Deal as the Real Deal can get! Barring some horrific injury or accident Adnan Januzaj is going to be a Superstar!

Anyway, more on that later. Manchester United were more or less mediocre on the day. Not particularly bad on a day when they collectively gave their new manger, David Moyes, the gift of his first win ever at Old Trafford, just plain old mediocre. Although Robin Van Persie had a smashing time in midweek, scoring twice for the Netherlands, making himself his country’s highest goalscorer ever, he has been a bit of a dud for United of late. Still, he showed the kind of calm ruthlessness we have come to expect of him when he stroked home a penalty kick right on the blessed cusp of half-time. Paired up with his partner Wayne Rooney again, in spite of the high number of chances they were selflessly dished up by their teammates, nothing would go in, No big deal, though. Nothing troubling. It was ringingly clear that this was just a temporary status quo and that soon the floodgates will open and they really will both score goals galore. When Wayne finally did take his chance in the 81st minute it was from a dead-ball free kick, and it was very pleasing to see the Scouser dance happily after scoring, his arms both raised to the home crowd in a gesture of joy and supplication.

Awkward and disjointed in the first half, United genuinely improved in the second half after the introduction of Januzaj and their new club-record buy, Marouane Fellaini. Those famous ‘Bog Brush’ Afro-wigs, so popular with Everton fans for so long, were pulled out of thousands of pockets as the smiling Belgian midfielder was gifted the unilateral joy of 76,000 clapping fans. After that happy moment, United really never looked back.
38891b15 8e82 4710 9b70 a24542fee75b 140x84 Januzaj Makes Scorching Debut
In the first half, United simply couldn’t do anything fluid. Moyes’ pairing of Anderson and Carrick in central midfield simply couldn’t get going: Repeatedly missing passes and letting themselves get caught in possession. Only one chance fell Palace’s way as Dwight Gayle caught Rio Ferdinand badly out of position, running in diagonally from the left, only to clip his shot over an advancing David de Gea but wide of the far post. Otherwise, Palace never looked even slightly like scoring. But, having dodged innumerable counterattacking bullets, the Londoners blew it big time as the big, lumbering Kagisho Dikgacoi, after numerous warnings and a yellow card from one of many attempts to stifle Ashley Young, let his frustration get the better of him and drew a second yellow. It was definitely a foul on Young, but, the United winger actually received the illegal tackle a foot or so short of the penalty box. A clever player with the ability to control his body well, Young fell far and fast forward, his momentum taking him into the box before referee Jon Moss blew his whistle and pointed to the penalty spot.

Young may have been successful in drawing a penalty, but, over all, it was not a good match for him. With Young fighting desperately to retain his place on the team, and, no doubt looking over his shoulder to see Nani, Valencia and now Zaha and Valencia breathing down his neck, he did himself no career favors by adding one more demerit to his already fat portfolio of diving offenses. Repeatedly reprimanded by Sir Alex Ferguson for being the sort of conniving ham who gives United a bad name, his latest offense, when he dived with his leg waggling after receiving a slight touch by Dikgacoi smacked of the kind of shameless theatricals relentlessly used by Robert Pires, Thierry Henri and Patrick Vieira in the Arsenal team of the late-nineties. Yet Palace barely threatened De Gea’s goal, either before or after they were down to ten men.
Manchester Uniteds Ashley 008 Januzaj Makes Scorching Debut

United came only really close once in the first half when Van Persie smacked a right-footed volley against the crossbar in the first half and Julián Speroni only began to have a busy afternoon once Adnan Januzaj, looking like an 18-year-old blond waif, made his Premier League debut as a substitute. Confident and relaxed, Januzaj sprinting along the wing line with the ball seemingly glued to his foot in a Messiesque manner, proceeded to give fits to a number of hapless markers. Having brought on Fellaini in the 62nd minute for Anderson, Carrick began to find more passing corridors opening up. With Evra bringing up the rear, Januzaj kept pumping in crosses, forcing throw-ins and drawing fouls. The latter proved crucial as he was clattered by on the edge of the penalty box by Jed Moxey, winning the 81st minute free-kick which Rooney wickedly span around the wall, three inches too low for a diving Speroni, who had guessed right, to reach. It was an exquisite clincher.

Tuesday at Old Trafford sees a visit from the Bundesliga‘s number three team, Bayer Leverküssen. A youthful team full of hungry academy players led by Sven Bender, a box-to-box dynamo with relentless energy, they will be a good season opener to the altered tempo of the Champions League.

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.

May 022013

Unfortunately for you, this weekend’s Merseyside Derby is being played on Sunday May 5 instead of Saturday May 4. The latter has become an international holiday for nerds (like me) all across the globe.

But a single day won’t stop me from having some galaxy-hopping fun!

Here’s a preview of Sunday’s match with some inspiration from one of the greatest films of all time.

Philippe Coutinho = Luke Skywalker

In the film, Luke winds up becoming the “hero” (more on that in a moment) at a fairly young age after discovering his aunt and uncle were murdered by the evil Empire. Eventually he winds up resurrecting an ancient religion that had almost been completely wiped out, but not before some trials, tribulations, and one really awkward kiss from his sister.

Coutinho is the “Luke Skywalker” of this match because he’s young and ultimately holds the key to Liverpool’s success. He’ll need to weave his way down the Death Star trench that is Everton’s back line and set up his teammates to try and beat American keeper Tim Howard, who is so good you only get a two meter window to score against him.

Steven Gerrard = Han Solo

Much like Han shot Greedo first, Steven Gerrard would never hesitate to pound the DJ who dares play a song he hasn’t approved.

Han Solo is the real hero of Star Wars. He’s the one who came back and took a shot at Darth Vader that ultimately freed up Luke to take the game winning shot. Captain Fantastic will emulate the performance of the Millenium Falcon’s Captain and free up Coutinho to do his thing by tracking back more in defense and playing as a true box-to-box midfielder.

It’s not as sexy, but don’t tell him that (or the odds of Liverpool winning for that matter).

Marouane Fellaini = Chewbacca

This one is about the hair more than anything else; stature too that I think of it.

Yes, Fellaini is technically a “bad guy” in this rivalry and Chewbacca is Han’s loyal best friend, but I’m trying appear neutral because I’ll never truly hate Everton the way native Liverpudlian supporters in red do.

Also, the Belgian midfielder looks like the sort of guy who would pull your arms out of their sockets if you beat him in a game of cards.

David Moyes = Darth Vader

Perhaps the greatest villain of all time, nothing is more synonymous with the Empire than Darth Vader. Moyes is second only to Sir Alex Ferguson in terms of the longest tenure at one EPL club so he has become synonymous with Liverpool’s hated rivals.

Moyes is also incredibly terrifying to watch on the sidelines and his quiet intensity allows him to get the best out of what some would consider “less than stellar” individuals. The only thing that sets the two apart is Vader’s ability to choke the life out of those who fail him without lifting a finger.

Jamie Carragher = Obi Wan Kenobi

Carragher is the grizzled veteran of Liverpool Football Club. He’s a shining beacon of what it means to represent Liverpool in the same way Kenobi was a shining example of what it means to be a Jedi Knight.

Jamie Carragher is looking possibly riding off into the sunset before taking up a career in management. Obi-Wan rode off into the twin sunset before eventually fading into oblivion in the middle of a duel with Vader. Perhaps Carragher will wither in front of David Moyes on Sunday if he is fortunate enough to score the game winner.

Kevin Mirallas = Boba Fett

Despite being an evil bounty hunter, Boba Fett was kind of a badass. He had a cool ship, cool weapons, and a cool suit of armor.

Although he plays for the Enemy, Mirallas is lots of fun to watch and seems to have all the right tools to score goals. Of all the players on Everton’s squad, Mirallas might be the one whose services Liverpool would most like to acquire.

Liverpool fans can only hope he turns  his back to Daniel Agger at some point during a set piece and falls into a Sarlaac Pit.

Daniel Sturridge = Lando Calrissian

I know, I know! I’m being racist!

But in all seriousness, there’s a legit comparison here. Lando has a ton of swagger and he briefly worked for the bad guys (in this case, Chelsea) before coming to his senses and joining the good guys. Lando was easily the coolest and suavest character in Star Wars and I think it’s pretty obvious Sturridge has the coolest and suavest goal celebrations of anyone in this match.

Stewart Downing = C-3PO

Annoying. Easily Mocked. More trouble than he’s worth. More expensive than he’s worth.


Jordan Henderson = R2-D2

Henderson came over to Liverpool in the same summer as Downing. R2-D2 was purchased by Luke Skywalker’s Uncle Ben at the same time as C-3PO.

Much like the little droid who could, Henderson has been finding ways to make himself useful when needed most lately.


Okay, I’m out of steam at this point and I need some dinner before I explode like the Death Star.

Prediction: Liverpool 2-2 Everton




United Thoroughly Dominate Everton!

 Posted by on February 12, 2013 at 1:42 pm  England, EPL, Everton, Manchester United
Feb 122013

Manchester United 2-0 Everton
65810959 65810957 1 United Thoroughly Dominate Everton!“I can sometimes be a slow learner,” Sir Alex Ferguson said in a rare interview with the BBC broadcast on Thursday. It was an interesting comment, not so much because it showed the old warrior’s unique mode of integrity or the hurt he feels at only having won only two European Champions’ Leagues. The utter humiliations of last season’s second-place finish to Manchester City accompanied by a 6-2 home loss to the Abu Dhabian sky-blue rent boys genuinely left a scar. United have a 12-point advantage with just 12 games to go, but last season’s choke at the very death of the season seems to have genuinely pushed Britain’s greatest veteran manager to reassess his status and methodology as a coach. The loss at Old Trafford to City was painful, but, worse, in its own way, was a humbling draw at home to Everton after his team had been leading 4-2 going into the last five minutes of the match before finishing 4-4. That game and a nightmare first fixture this season at Goodison Park in which the Toffees were allowed to bully and intimidate a passive, mentally detached United team still slowly awakening from a Summer of sloth. Even the most vocal pro-United pundits, like The Guardian’s Daniel Taylor began pushing the panic button early this season.

Well, it has taken awhile, and United have been far from brilliant all season, but on Sunday night Everton were comfortably dominated and defeated by a team playing like a team. The cliché may indeed be that there is no ‘I’ in team, but United were well and truly kept on a tight leash by their boss. And for those expecting something sloppy and lackadaisical after last week’s shoddy victory over Southampton, it was no such thing. With Phil Jones given the single, urgent errand of marking the awkward, troublesome Marouane Fellaini, Everton’s star performer never got into the game. Indeed, the Moroccan midfielder was so frustrated that he was hacking down any United player in his vicinity and more than a little fortunate not to see red from the referee Mark Halsey. Forced to drop deep to see any of the ball, he was not a factor in the game at all.

Meanwhile, playing out of his skin, the awesome 39-years-young Ryan Giggs ended up scoring for the 23rd season in a row. A thorn in Everton’s side all day, the wise Welsh wizard was, like Wayne Rooney, all over the field throughout proceedings. Taken along with Manchester City’s defeat at Southampton, United did not look like a team capable of self-destructing and losing their twelve point cushion at the top of the Premier League. And although many fans are praying  for United to self-destruct once again, no such thing is going to happen.

Sir Alex Ferguson and Dav 005 1 United Thoroughly Dominate Everton!United dominated from the very beginning. and the Toffees were never even close to finding their rhythm when their usually foolproof offside trap went awry only ten minutes in as Phil Neville went after a hard-running Wayne Rooney a second too early, which allowed Robin Van Persie the time to round Tim Howard and stare at an open goal before forcing a massive collective ‘Ooooh!’ out of the crowd by shooting awkwardly with his weaker right foot and hitting the outside of the post. But, only three minutes later , John Heitinga, only playing because of a late injury to Sylvain Distin, failed to stop a header from Valencia after a superbly passed set-up by Rafael Da Silva. The ball fell to Van Persie who tapped it sideways to an unmarked Ryan Giggs who rolled the ball in off the post with a neat poke from his right toe.

Still, even though they were severely blunted without the bustle of Fellaini up front, Everton were still a threat and both Leon Osman and Kevin Miralles forced yeoman defensive work out of David De Gea and Nemanja Vidic. Then, right on the stroke of half-time, United beat Everton’s offside trap once again as a beautiful seeing-eye pass, again from Rafael beat Neville, found Van Persie and the ruthless striker rounded Tim Howard again, making no mistake this time, firing home despite a desperate diving move from Heitinga to block it.
United held on to their lead well in the second half, playing a superb game of reactive football throughout. and both goalkeepers made a series of splendid saves throughout. Instead of worrying about Real Madrid on Wednesday I am relishing the prospect of a football feast. Now that they are playing their best football in two seasons, United are clearly about as ready for this fixture as it;’s possible for them to be.

As Everton’s manager David Moyes put it after the match. “It’s only our fourth league defeat this season and I would say it is the only game where a better team has beaten us.“Ryan Giggs scores the fir 008 United Thoroughly Dominate Everton!

No Bottle, No Glory!

 Posted by on August 21, 2012 at 6:16 pm  EPL, Manchester United
Aug 212012
Marouane Fellaini

Everton 1-0 Manchester United
Fellaini 57
To begin a new season Everton and Manchester United went at each other for 45 minutes like a pair of red-meat starved pit bulls. Unfortunately, one dog quit early. Led by their gutsy Belgian midfield warrior, Marouane ‘Bog Brush’ Fellaini, Everton pummeled a weaker willed Manchester United into submission. And when Fellaini finally powered home a header in the 57th minute shunting aside a passive, petrified Michael Carrick, it was a reward he had earned with a mixture of bullying and enterprising hard work.

Unfortunately, the whole team, save Kagawa and De Gea. proved to have no battle, either. The lessons that should have been learned against Basel and Bilbao did not sink in. The disgrace of losing to the Swiss, who take pride in their neutrality and lack of emotional commitment, has been neither sussed nor absorbed. When both Phil Neville and Jamie Carragher both laugh at United and insist we own no bottle, somebody needs to listen!

It was, to be sure, Fellaini’s day, but some accolades ought to be saved for the tactical nous and man management of Everton’s cunning manager David Moyes. Outgunned on paper and still clearly missing the energy and moxy of  veteran Tim Cahill, Moyes seems to have taken a leaf out of the book of Roberto Mancini and converted a defensive box-to-box midfielder, like Yaya Touré, into a second striker. As both Moyes and his brave captain Phil Neville noted after the game, there’s zero mystery about Manchester United’s game. They aim to imitate Barcelona and Borrussia Dortmund’s one-pass game at breakneck speed, utilizing Shinji Kagawa as a sort of fulcrum. It’s a great idea if you’ve got the horses! Stop that passing game and United simply cannot cope.

Although Everton chose to shut up shop for the last fifteen minutes or so and put nine men behind the ball, it did not help an exhausted, sloppy, undisciplined United. Even the late arrival of their shiny, brand-new purchase, Robin Van Persie, proved frustrating as his teammates failed to make any passes to him.

Predictably, for Sir Alex Ferguson is never generous beyond clichés after a comprehensive defeat, like this one (and who among us would be any more generous?). The Gaffer reiterated the fact that his back line is depleted, and that our over matched, gutless midfielder Michael Carrick was obliged to be a stopgap center half while Rio Ferdinand, Jonny Evans, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and others are injured. Truth be told, however, that Carrick was pitted against Fellaini last season while partnered with Rio Ferdinand and the same humiliation took place. Was there an alternative? Could the kiddiwinkies Ferguson so distrusted, Ryan Wootton or Michael Keane, have done better? Possibly not, but the fact is that, whether it’s the P.L. or the E.C.C., Carrick’s lack of character and bravery has been duly noted-repeatedly!

Never solid at the back, United were like a barren wife from the get-go, laying back with her legs wide open. Indeed, only fourteen minutes in, Fellaini drove past Valencia and Vidic off the left wing before hitting the post with a pile driver. And yet, having given United due notice to the Red Devils’ defense that he was hot to trot, Fellaini, was repeatedly left to his own devices while  Carrick retreated and United’s skipper Nemanja Vidic had his hands full taking care of Milan Jelavic. David De Gea, simply brilliant on the day, made two saves each from Fellaini and Jelavic, before the aggressive Steven Pienaar hit the post in the 32nd minutes.

Having struck twice at Old Trafford in the last seven minutes for a 4-4 draw in April, the sheer visceral shock of that defeat has still not been forgotten by Ferguson or United. When asked if the arrival of attackers Shinji Kagawa and Robin Van Persie has helped United, the Everton skipper Phil Neville said he felt that his old boss was counting on winning a lot of high scoring games. The club’s new Japanese midfielder Shinji Kagawa was actually, along with the goalie, De Gea, the only player to give Everton’s defense consistent difficulties. Playing with his back to goal, Kagawa was superbly slippery. Unfortunately, his midfield partners, Cleverley, Scholes and later Anderson, simply could not find him as scores of their passes were repeatedly picked off. And with Wayne Rooney simply looking hung over for ninety minutes, while his teammates Danny Welbeck and Nani swapped positions and repeatedly lost loose balls, United only made three truly legitimate goal scoring attempts over the whole match. So that when De Gea tipped away yet another Leighton Baines free kick, United were already playing like a team of subjugated squaddies.

Then, twelve minutes into the second half, United finally winced one time too many as Fellaini casually sidestepped an impotent Patrice Evra before climbing on Carrick’s shoulder and powerfully heading a Darron Gibson corner home to drive the loud Goodison Park crowd into a state of ecstasy. With Fellaini jumping up and down like a Moroccan jack-in-a box, one couldn’t help but notice Darron Gibson and Phil Neville squeezing one another .with the utter joy of the vengeful reject as goalie Tim Howard roared encouragement from the back.

.66 minutes in, after so much frustration, Tom Cleverley who will want to forget this match for ever, put in United’s one really superb shot of the might, only to have it blocked on the goal line by the brilliant Phil Jagielka.

Finally, again, I want to praise Marouane Fellaini. Very much available throughout the Summer at a reasonable price because his contract was up next Spring, Fellaini only signed an extension two weeks ago. Yet by by virtue of this fantastic display, the Toffee’s beloved Bog Brush has joined the elite of the league. Although Sir Alex Ferguson accused Everton of playing a game of primitive long ball and “just lumping the ball forward” to Fellaini, who he wrote off as “troublesome because he’s big and gangly” there was clearly more going on than a Sam Allardyce-imitation. Clearly United will be okay in the long run, but one really wonders if Fellaini can carry on producing this way for Everton just how successful they can be this seasonMarouane Fellaini 004 No Bottle, No Glory!.

“We could’ve had him!” my mate Jonesy said yesterday. And cheap, too!